Vamos! Cyclists who rode from Cape to Cairo set sights on Spain

10 July 2019 - 11:16 By Zoé Sinigre
Abdullah Aragoneses and Nathim Cairncross in Madagascar.
Abdullah Aragoneses and Nathim Cairncross in Madagascar.
Image: Instagram/@2guys2bikes_

Two cyclists who set out from Cape Town last August have made it to Cairo.

But for Nathim Cairncross and Abdullah Aragoneses, the journey is not over. They are flying to Turkey before continuing to Europe, aiming to arrive in Spain in mid-2020.

Teacher Cairncross, 38, rode from Cape Town to Mecca with his friend Imtiyaz Ahmad Haron in 2010, and told TimesLIVE from Alexandria in Egypt: “It’s hard to get back to the normal routine life.”

His second expedition with Aragoneses, 23, has taken them through Madagascar, Mauritius, Kenya, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

They aren’t travelling with a wallet full of money or spending time in luxurious resorts. What they are looking for is a real connection with local people.

“People opened their places for us as soon as we met. We slept in mosques, churches or people’s places,” said Cairncross.

Abdullah Aragoneses, front, and Nathim Cairncross in Khartoum, Sudan, with locals.
Abdullah Aragoneses, front, and Nathim Cairncross in Khartoum, Sudan, with locals.
Image: Instagram/@2guys2bikes_

They were in Sudan just before the start of the military insurgency. “We saw a lot of military presence and a few protests, even the banks were closed down,” said Cairncross.

“But we didn’t see any violence. It came after, when we went up north of the country.”

The cyclists crossed Sudan during Ramadan, so it was difficult to find food and water during the day. They carried noodles so they could make a fire and cook them.

When they asked for water, villagers gave them rainwater stored in metal containers or sheepskin.

“It was so hot outside, the temperatures could reach 45°C in the desert. The rainwater was brown, but people were so thirsty they had to drink it anyway,” said Aragoneses.

Having cycled around 10,000km through Africa, he said the cyclists’ were overwhelmed by the warmth of its people.

“Unlike other countries or even continents, it is still blessed with people of heart, kind and warm, welcoming people. And they love each other, there is some brotherhood left, and humanity too.”

Abdullah Aragoneses takes a break in Kenya.
Abdullah Aragoneses takes a break in Kenya.
Image: Instagram/@2guys2bikes_

The biggest difficulties the men faced involved visas, a shortage of money and lack of infrastructure and water.

“In north Madagascar, from Sambava to Ambilobe, there was no road for 300km through mountains, only sandy paths. We couldn’t cycle and we had to push our bikes with the sand over our ankles,” said Aragoneses.

“It was not only challenging in itself, but it was also difficult to find food and water. The only source was the river.

“Sometimes we are tired and we felt weak for some reason. But we must travel, because our only way of transportation is our bicycle, so we must cycle.”

Cairncross said: “The biggest challenge by far is to travel without money and have certainty that all will be well.”

You can follow the cyclists’ adventures on Instagram or Facebook.