1.3: Egypt - Dahab
Dahab was once the deep-sea-divers' well-kept secret. Today it attracts many casual tourists, divers as well as some of the hippie Goa crowd that encouraged the Baba Cools of the middle east to make the place their home.
The town begins, like every other Egyptian settlement in the Sinai, with a stretch of building sites, half finished houses and blocks, not exactly a pretty sight. Then, just before you reach the beach, there is a street of souvenir shops selling clothes, jewellery, perfumes, cards or real English chocolate to the hordes of tourists that visit every summer.
"Hélló?! Welcome!", "Héloo! Good bike! Good.", "Hello, héllo! Stop! Good bike. Welcome!" The welcome assault from the shopkeepers and their aids was followed shortly by the shouts, greetings and calls from the Egyptian waiters of the restaurants on the beach front.
Back in Cairo the Street Machines had attracted some attention and we had been bid welcome at every encounter and by many passers by in the street. In front of the pyramids, kids had run behind us, the soldiers had smiled broadly and an old man in traditional dress had mounted my bike but failed to ride it.
None of this had prepared us for the kind of attention we received as we rode straight through the tourist centre of Dahab.
The place was full of people, either tourists or Egyptians on the look out for some, and every single person who saw us, followed us with his gaze, most calling out. "Hello! Bike! Where are you from? Welcome." We stopped only twice and each time people were upon us like flies on a fresh heap of camel dung.
We couldn't find the place that our man in Cairo had recommended. So when we reached the end of 'the promenade' Bram went scouting and I stayed behind in the company of just a few kids who had been behind us on their little up-right and brakeless cycles.
We had only two choices, ride back over the hectic promenade and face being welcomed again or turn into the smaller streets here at the far end of the village. We chose the second and at the next place we came across, the Dahab Divers Lodge, we inquired once more.
The explanation we received was so full and helpful, the questions about our bikes so sincere and friendly that we liked the place instantly and asked about safe storage for the bikes. We were told in no uncertain terms that at the lodge we could not take the bikes into a room but would be able to store them with the diving equipment which was very close to the manager's heart and would always be kept perfectly safe.
Despite - for Dahab - considerable room prices we were instantly convinced. We were tired and knew we were not adapted to life on the road yet. Keeping the machines safe was a priority and we had been told that Dahab was probably the most risky place on our route. We felt we had found a much needed safe haven - under German management, just like the bikes' makers, that had to be right.
When Bram noticed the big bump where I hurt on my lower spine that night, it was most worrying. We concluded that the only good thing would be to swim and there was plenty of sea to do it in. Nevertheless, we combined the second day of snorkelling with an unloaded, off-road outing for the bikes.
The way up to the magnificent 'Blue Hole' where we would swim, was a dust-track made by the many jeeps and pick-up trucks that bring divers to two glorious (and notoriously dangerous) diving spots. The heavy machinery for new tourist complexes being built along the coast adds its own special signature to its gritty surface. The exposed land of the first half of the ten kilometre ride had us facing another bad head wind. I didn't believe I would be able to get anywhere, it was very heavy going. As Bram helpfully pointed out, I was not going fast enough to make it through the gravel and sand. I was constantly being put to a halt. Then the road got just a little more solid, while it was bumpy it was negotiable.
Relaxed from the swim with yet another meal of beans and bread and lovely mint tea in our stomachs we started on the way back as the sun began to set. It was beautiful, the wind pushed us along and what had been a struggle one way was a joy on the way back. The bike's suspension does its job well, it provides stability and comfort even on gritty roads like this.
Nevertheless, hitting the tarmac again as we rode back into town was gorgeous. The smoothness and the ease of the ride made it clear for once and all why these things are called Street Machines.
Read more on Agence Future's adventures in Egypt: