So my time was rapidly coming to an end (my flight back to the states was less than 7 days away!). I was calculating how much time it would take to cycle to Cairo and assuming everything went smoothly, I could probably arrive in Cairo the day before my flight departed. But the thought of ending my trip in a smog congested chaotic city seemed rather anti-climatic...I wanted to cycle through a proper finish line with applause, champagne, ribbons and those olympic steps for 2nd and 3rd place. Then I would put on my sponsor hat, swig a Sprite and finish it off with a point to the sky. So I decided to just cycle to the beach and spend my last days relaxing on the warm sand, snorkeling over coral reefs, eating proper food (anything other than hummus and falafel). I would still drink my victory Sprite and I would still be wearing my Kyrgyzstan hat (the fact that the hat is still with me is amazing).
So I did just that, I spent the night in a bungalow directly on the beach in Nuweiba (serenaded to sleep by crashing waves for all of $2/night).
Then I cycled what was to be my last real day on the bike, from Nuweiba to Dahab. I cycled up and over a mountain pass and then continued straight to the Red Sea. It wasn't exactly the crowd I was hoping for, just a few windsurfers and some sea birds. I spent a few minutes somewhat mesmerized by the crashing waves, warm sun, and people riding the wind while grazing the top of the water. I sat down at a restaurant and ordered my victory sprite and a pizza.
Could I really be finished? It's hard to believe I won't be continuing to the next village on my bicycle, hard to believe tomorrow I'll be wearing box briefs under my zip-off pants instead of those lovely padded shorts, hard to believe it's been nearly 11 months since I left the states (before Obama even took office) with two duffel bags, a backpack and some new shoes (you should see my shoes now). Which brings me to a reflective moment. Thinking back on this trip, one word that comes to mind and probably best describes my cycling adventures is EPIC!
Let's see....I crossed the equator twice, barely able to sleep in only my boxers without wetting the bed with sweat, I've had my chest, fingers and toes hooked to suction cups in an Indonesian hospital only to have the nurse tell me that I was 'very tired', I drank moonshine with a Chinese man over lunch, had a Tazmanian devil plague my stomach in western China, shivered in my 15° F sleeping bag (wearing every layer of clothing I owned) at 16,000 ft in India, stank up a Pakistan bus so bad the driver stopped and sprayed everyone with an aerosol can, had my rainfly completely torn off my tent by wind on the Tibetan plateau, went 2½ weeks without a shower in the Pamir mountains, climbed a 18,500 ft pass on my bicycle, covertly slept in a military watch tower in Tajikistan, had my bike completely caked in mud laying atop 3 sheep struggling to breath in the back of a station wagon in Kyrgyzstan, spent the night huddled over a hotplate with a 75 yr old Turkish guy while the snow fell outside, fought a fever and potential malaria in 120° F weather by pitching my tent in a hotel room, which led to 3 days in a rundown Tajik hospital, had my rainfly completely demolished by kids throwing rocks in Jordan, held a dancing tribute to Michael Jackson in Tajikistan, avoided Pakistanie bombs by 1 week and missed a Kashmiri hand grenade by 3 hours.
I've slept all over the place...with local families in their houses, in yurts, apartments, schools, gardens, abandoned houses, random fields, restaurants, mountainous meadows, snowy plateaus, gas stations, highway medians, hostels galore, roofs, bed bug infested mattresses, you name it. My poor stomach has fought a never ending battle with every bacteria in existence, I've witnessed cultures ethnically morphing as I traveled from country to country, I've mastered the art of communicating with my hands, learned how to wash my clothes in a bucket and dry them while riding my bike, bargaining has become second nature (although the Indian post office still ranks as the weirdest) and it will be quite the shock when I start to argue over the price of a sandwich in America ('sir...I'm just a waitress and the price is fixed'). I've exchanged smiles with nearly everyone, shook hands with about a million different people, my body has slowly morphed into a cycling machine (thighs and buns of steel), my tires have rolled over 15 different countries, 11,000 km (6,835 miles) on 3 different continents, over desert, jungle, mountains, snow (and still without a single puncture!). I've climbed over 118,520 vertical meters (388,850 ft). That's enough to climb the Empire State building 311 times or enough to climb Mt Everest from sea level 13 times. I've spent over 685 hours with my butt atop my Brooks saddle (my butt cheeks are clearly imprinted on the seat). Which brings me back to my initially question: Could I really be finished? I'm walking away from this experience with such a positive impression and optimistic outlook on life, I've grown so much on this trip, gaining experiences and perspective that will be with me for the rest of my life! With my mind constantly scheming each time I see a map, I know it's only a matter of time before my feet get restless and my wheels are rolling again.
At this point I'm disassembling my bicycle and putting it into a box, consolidating my panniers into one big duffel bag, and trying to see as much as possible before my flight in only 3 days! I hope you all enjoyed reading this blog and I hope to see you all very soon.
I love that Cornflakes have to say' Free from Pig Products and it's Derivatives'
Mosque in Cairo