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Pyramids of Nubia- My Sudanese Experience January 30 2014

We have completed the first section of the 2014 Tour D'Afrique through Sudan. Named the "Pyramids of Nubia"  due to the historical landscapes we road passed. I have decided to break down the countries we visit into the 5 senses; sights, sounds, smells, touch and tastes, and perhaps a random category for other interesting experiences that have occurred.  

The sights of Sudan have been magnificent. From amazing sunsets to camels touring through the desert, we have been exposed to a part of this country that many tourists have never seen, and many Sudanese people have never travelled through. Each morning begins with darkness, surrounded by more starts then I thought possible in the universe. Often riders do not even need their head torch when in search of a nighttime bathroom run.  

One of the best memoires I will have of this section of the tour was taking off on my bike just as the sun peaks on the horizon and continues its journey, rising above me. Riding in the deserts of Sudan, there are no building in sight, nothing blocking your view of this daily, but amazing occurrence on earth. As we ride along the road many buses wiz passed us headed for the next town, anywhere from 400 to 10km from away.

 

Frequently we will see camels in the distance. It is a beautiful sight to see a Sudanese man riding on a camel, wrapped in a white dress, with a bright turban on his head. At times we have seen small villages with children close to the road waving and looking at us with questioning eyes, wondering what on earth we are doing. Once we arrive in a city, the organized ciaos begins, tuk tuks, donkeys, horses, motorbikes, cars, trucks, buses, and people are within feet of our bike tires. To date no one has hit anything, but we have over 100 days to go! Our campsites are generally outside of towns or cities in order to have a bit of privacy and silence. Once it is realized that camp is within site you begin searching the horizon for it, hoping over the next hill the alien looking settlement is to be found. Our camp equipment consists of two big trucks, a land rover, an SUV, over 30 tents and a just as many bicycles. Hence the reference to an alien landing, we are a strange site in the middle of the desert landscape, perhaps even a mirage to some.

 

As the sun sets over camp, we are all exhausted after an amazing but challenging day of sand and wind, or both.  Despite this feeling amongst most riders, we are all able to marvel at the magnificent African sun, setting right before our eyes. The colors of the sky are like I have only ever seen on Nat Geo or in photo competitions, but for us they are a reality, and they will continue to amaze me throughout this journey.

Sudan is a predominantly Muslim country, thus they take part in a call to prayer three times a day. Whenever we are staying close or nearby a town that is our morning wake up call. In Khartoum, the sound of the prayer call was a thrilling experience and a beautiful way to wake up. After two weeks, I am excited to hear the sounds of the morning wake up in Ethiopia.

While riding the sound of horns beeping and buses driving by are helpful but also make you jump in fright as they wized passed at record speed. Although much of Africa has a reputation for being slow, my feeling is that the buses must be on time given the speed at which they travel. When arriving at the half waypoint of our ride, we will come across the awaited lunch truck with Steven, a kindhearted Tanzanian man, ready for the hungry tigers to attack. He will have African music playing out of small speakers, which gets our heads out of the road, and back to the reality that we are in Africa.

 

At times I embrace the natural sounds while riding, the wiz of my tires as they spin down the road or through sand. However, I really enjoy getting lost in my African beats. I have waited for the moment when I biking that these special songs will be playing in my ears as motivation to keep peddling. I often will cheer when one of my favorite songs comes on and will attempt to sign along. For those of you who have heard me sing, you will know I should be doing this is alone!

At varying times throughout the afternoon, riders will get to camp and the chatter of people talking about their experience, how they felt at certain points of the day, who they road with and what type of noises their bikes are making is endless. Once the sun goes down, so do the campers. The silence of the night is often tremendous, except when the dogs are barking or cars drive by and honk at our alien settlement. Often in the middle of nowhere, we enjoy the sound of the nothingness that surrounds us.

The lingering smell of a dead animal is like nothing I have ever experienced before. Whether  it is a camel, goat, donkey, dog, or fox, the stench is worse then the oldest rotten egg you have ever smelt. Depending on where we are riding road kill will vary. After being in the desert for six days, with little to look at or smell, the scent of the freshly squashed dead animals, was outrageous. We eventually realized that these poor animals were headed to the local Saturday animal market and their herders would most likely be devastated by their death, as it meant a reduction in the price of their herd.

 

The Sudanese cities, we have ridden through, have similar smells of all developing cities: exhausted fumes, open sewers, dust, and garbage pits. But they do have an amazing waft of freshly fried falafel, kebabs, and donuts- our staple local foods while here in Sudan.

Although a terrific feeling for the first hour of your day on the bike, your handle bars often will become very tiresome to touch. At varying points, your hands go numb and start to throb, wondering why on earth they have been in the same position for hours on end. The visible dirt that you pick up on your fingers within a short time while camping is astounding. What is more worrisome is the dirt you do not see. Many people on the trip so far have already begun to suffer from gastrointestinal issues and colds. No matter how much you wash your hands, it seems you cannot get all the dirt and bacteria off. Especially when an endless supply of soap and water is really not available. I do love to get my hands dirty cleaning my bike and working off some of the day’s dirt, but it does become a hassle trying to scrub off the dirt.

Despite the limits on our resources in terms of cooking equipment and food options, our cook has created some of most amazing meals on this trip that I have certainly   ever had while camping. Marconi and cheese, bread pudding, grilled eggplant, bean stuffing, are just a few of the wonderful meals our cook has prepared, all by hand, on a open fire and in huge cooking pots! Breakfast normally consists of oatmeal/cereal, bread with nutella, peanut butter, and bananas. A mid morning snack will be a PBM bar, a protein bar of sorts, that certainty does give you enough energy to make it to the lunch truck, where fresh fruits, sandwiches and the night before left overs are up for grabs. When we arrive at camp we have fresh soup waiting for us as a post work out snack. In terms of local food, falafel has been my staple food while on rest days. The other food option is fool, a local bean stew that is also quite good and does give some protein.   

Overall, I have been impressed by the kindness of many of the local Sudanese people we have come across. Often times they welcome you to Sudan, and want to know where you are from and why you are visiting their country.  It is hard to explain that we are biking to South Africa, and when that is understood, they clearly do think we are crazy.

Some men and young boys have been quite rude at times and have touched and grabbed at some of the female riders when they are travelling alone. Often when walking with a man the Sudanese males will leave you alone, but when walking as a female, without a male companion you do get several shouts, whistles and kissing sounds. It is definitely advisable for women to dress very modest and cover up shoulders, knees and more. Women here are all in a headdress and sometimes a total hijab. Men wear long white shirts and turbans, and schoolboys and girls roam around in what looks to be pj’s from the 1980’s.

The houses in the city are made with cement, while on the outskirts of town they are made with mud, or cloth. There have been some small camps, totally in the middle of nowhere, where Saudi herders live in tent camps. In the desert these people are very far away from a water source and food. So I am not sure how they survive.  In other villages, near a water source, they are much better off, as they can grow vegetables and often will have herds of animals as their main assets. These houses are still made out of mud from the water cannels and people are not prosperous by “our” definition.

 

Nonetheless, people regardless of their possessions do seem happy and without the mass consumerism and commercialization it seems they do not really know what they are missing. There has been very little tourism in Sudan, which for me means that foreigners and their gadgets have not tainted the locals view of what they “need” in life. Most towns are still very market based and have a few shops with electricity for water and cold drinks.  There are a few phone stores, but only in Khartoum did we see cameras available to purchase.

It seems fascinating that depending on what country you are born into your options and opportunities are so far apart. In Sudan, from what I have seen your options are not very vast. I have had conversations with a few men who really want to leave Sudan and many young men who are really unhappy with their country, and government. They will ask, “What do you think of Sudan?” Often our response is very PC and we will say, “Beautiful, and people are very nice” They will response by, “No. Government not good” and, “People are poor”.

I have also been surprised how many people speak English and want to share with you what they know!

Biking through Sudan has been a wonderful glimpse into the parts of Africa that we are going to witness. Areas of the world that are often not your normal tour through the African savanna. I am excited for what Ethiopia will bring! 


Khartoum to Cape Town Briefing Highlights! January 08 2014

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Arrived in Khartoum January 07 2014

Well, the journey has officially began.  The days leading up to the departure were filled with making lists for last minute items and getting four months worth of gear into three bags. Eventually everything was all packed and ready to go; off we headed to the airport! 

After waiting for an hour or so in the Ethiopian airline line, we realized that the plane had been over booked and there was no way I was going to be flying out. I found an Ethiopian airline flight attendant who was able to get me onto a Qatar airways flight departing at 830am the next morning. 

Back home we went so I could rest for a few hours and then head back to Suvarnabhumi for the new flight to Khartoum. Not knowing that the baggage allowance was less on the Qatar flight than the Ethiopian flight I was dinged with an over baggage fee of 350 dollars.

I arrived in Khartoum without any further issues and have put by bike back together, it is ready for the trip! Many of the riders have arrived and are putting together their bikes before we head out! 

I am so happy to be back in Africa! The past two days have been spent touring around Khartoum. The people here are so friendly and always up for a chat. One of the main questions from the Sudanese has been, "Why you are visiting Sudan?".  When I have explained that I will be biking to Cape Town, they really look at me strangely and ask, "Are you crazy lady".My response has been to smile and nod. I am sure this conversation will happen several times over the next for months. 

We start biking on Friday morning, not sure to where or how far, but I am pumped to get on my bike and get started! 

Below are a few photos of the tour we did around Khartoum. 

 

Snake skin and a baby crocodile at the marketin Khartoum. Thought about buying them as mascots, but then realized any item I purchase will need to stay with me until Cape Town. The reptile skins well not make the cut. 

Sudan is a lot bigger than I thought! We will spend three weeks biking to the Ethiopian border. 

 

 

Nubian temples that have been excavated in put into a museum in Khartoum. Many of the other foreigners in Sudan are archeologists working on excavation sites around the country. 

XX

Some much-deserved thanks... December 31 2013

As this year comes to a close, there are a few people who volunteered their time and expertise to Peace by Piece.  We are beyond grateful for all of their support as they have helped us tremendously along the way...  

 

LHWH Advertising in Myrtle Beach, SC volunteered their time and expertise to design our wonderful website!  We love the end product and would highly recommend their services!! Thank you!!  http://www.lhwhadvertising.com

David Smith Associates spent many patient hours helping to keep our books in order and filing our taxes and we are so appreciative of their time and help! http://www.davidsmithassociates.com

Studio 303 Inc. designed our fantastic logo, on which we get complimented all the time.  Thank you!!  http://www.studio303inc.com

We are also grateful for Color Incorporated ProPhotoLab for their assistance with printing photos for our recent fundraiser- check them out!  http://www.colorincprolab.com

 

2014 promises to be a big year for Peace by Piece as we plan to build a dormitory and begin funding school scholarships for the 2015 school year.  Thank YOU ALL for helping us to reach these goals!!

 

Peace and love,

Susan

 

 

 


A successful fundraiser! December 18 2013

Thank you to all who attended our fundraiser in Atlanta on November 23rd, 2013!  And huge thanks to our hosts, the Bender family, who graciously opened their home and hosted a fantastic event!  We raised over $10,000 towards the dormitory construction, bringing our total to $35,000 thus far.  We hope to break ground in the near future.  Our goal is to have the dorm complete by the end of 2014, ready for its first residents in 2015, when we will start providing secondary school scholarships for the kids.  We only have $10,000 more to go to put a roof over these kids heads and furnish the dorm.  Holiday gift anyone...? :)


Meet Jennilea... December 03 2013

I want to introduce Jennilea Hortop, one incredible, adventurous, and caring chick.  She too, fell for the amazing kids at Peace Matunda Orphanage and wants only the best for their future.  Jennilea is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime- all for a great cause. This is from Jennilea- she will be posting about her adventures along the way on this blog and on the PbP facebook page. ~Susan

 

From Jennilea:

Thinking about Africa gives me goose bumps of excitement and a longing for adventure. In two months time, I will be in Khartoum Sudan embarking on what I know will be some of the most amazing experiences of my life. Riding 12,000km, in 120 days, through 10 countries I will join fifty other riders from around the world, as we travel by bicycle from the North to the South of Africa.


While on this journey I plan to help a cause that is very close to my heart, Peace Matunda Orphanage and School. I first came to know Peace Matunda in June 2009 when my friend, Sarah Patriquin, and sister, Kayleigh Hortop, headed to Arusha to meet twenty-one young Tanzanian children. We immediately fell deeply in love with the children who lived and attended school at Peace Matunda. Living for six weeks in the foothills of Mount Meru, was a life changing experience and I knew that I would be back to this magical place.


In 2010, I traveled with a group of eight high school students from NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand to share this special community. The students helped to develop some of the projects that the director of the organization, Kaaya Unambwe, was working on at the time; a new school building for Standard Five and Six, and a lunch program for all students at Peace Matunda. In both 2011 and 2012 more NIST students traveled back to Tanzania to learn from the amazing children at Peace Matunda and the surrounding community. Again in April 2013, 12 more students and teachers will travel to the foothills of Mount Meru to spend time learning about Tanzania culture and visiting the orphanage.


After four years of watching the small children of Peace Matunda grow up, they are ready for the next step in their lives; secondary school. In collaboration with Peace by Piece I plan to help provide the children of Peace Matunda with a secondary school education. My goal is to raise 1 USD for each kilometer that I will bike through Africa to help sponsor these children to have a secondary education. On the Peace by Piece donor page, the are many options for how you can donate to Peace Matuada, specifically there are links that say "Donate for education" please select the amount you would like to help to provide these beautiful kids an education.


On the Peace by Piece Facebook page, I will be updating my bike journey through Africa; If you haven't already please like this page so you can follow my story.

Jennilea


Santa's on his way... November 12 2013

We just hope he arrives in time for the holidays!!

 


How Poor We Really Are August 02 2013

One day a wealthy family man took his son on a trip to the country so he could have his son see how poor people could be. They stayed one day and one night in the farmhouse of a very humble farm. On the way back home at the end of the trip the father asked the son, 'What did you think of the trip?'

 The son replied, 'Very nice, Dad.'

 The father then asked, 'Did you notice how poor they were?'

 The son replied, 'Yes, I guess so.'

 The father then added, 'And what did you learn?'

 To this question, the son thought for a moment and answered slowly, 'I learned that we have one dog in the house and they have four. We have a fountain in the garden and they have a stream that has no end.

 'We have fancy lanterns in our garden, while they have the stars. Our garden goes to the edge of our yard, but for their back yard they have the entire horizon!' At the end of the son's reply, the rich father was speechless. His son then added: 'Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we really are.'

 ~Author Unknown~


Did you know... June 02 2012

-89% of the population of Tanzania lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 per day 1

-While 71-75% of Tanzanian children attend primary school, only 8% continue on to secondary school 1

-26% of children in Tanzania, under the age of five, sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net 1

-There are 3,000,000 orphans in Tanzania, ages 0-17, 1,300,000 orphans due to the AIDS crisis 2

-A Tanzanian with primary school education earns 75% more than one with no schooling. A secondary school graduate earns up to 163% more. 3

-Fertility rates in Tanzania for females aged 15-40 years: with no formal education: 6.9 births per woman, with primary education: 5.6 births, and with secondary and higher education: 3.2 births 4

 

1 UNICEF: State of the World’s Children report 2011

2 UNAIDS, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, 2010

3 Post-Basic Education and Poverty in Tanzania, Ruth Wegwood, July 2005, based on information from World Bank 2004/Integrated Labour Force Survey

4 The United Republic of Tanzania, National Population Policy, Ministry of Planning, Economy and Empowerment, 2006