There are a lot of stories that we can get inspired by, but there are only certain ones that can make us rethink our purpose. Hamsa Mansour, “adventurer, aspiring documentarian and storyteller” as she describes herself, decided to break the usual and set new boundaries to be broken later. She decided that she will solo-cycle the Red Sea and Sinai and aims to use the trip to share stories both of the trip and the people she’ll meet while traveling.. A young lady who decided to beat the odds.
Why did you choose cycling as your adventurous medium?
Cycling isn’t my only adventurous medium, it is one of many. I love climbing mountains, hiking, kayaking and I have goals in each of those mediums too. My upcoming adventure is cycling because it is something I’ve dreamed of doing for a very long time. Years back, I was traveling to Sokhna and I saw a cyclist on the road and this is where it started. At first, I only dreamt of cycling to Sokhna then years later, I met Galal Zekri Chatila and Nour El Din Sherif who both solo-cycled around Egypt and they both became very close friends. Their stories inspired me to dream bigger. I solo-cycled to Ismailia last March and it didn’t feel enough, and I can’t wait to embark on this adventure.
Based on what do you set your goals/next adventure?
Nature will always be a factor. After it comes what I feel passionate about and challenged with at the time, there is a certain factor x that pushes you to a certain adventure. Fire in your stomach sort of thing. Also, every time I accomplish something, I feel that I can do more and accomplish bigger things.
What experience did you gain working in Omar Samra’s Wild Guanabana?
I honestly learned A LOT working here. I fill 2 different positions; the first is Muricata Manager, which means I manage the brand that caters for students aged 6-16 (camps, events, trips, educational programs, etc). The position comes with an aspect that is far from my character, office work, budgeting, sales, dealing with clients and a lot more. The second is an adventure trip leader which means I lead trips to take individuals on challenging adventures; be it climbing mountains, hiking and camping in the desert for days, kayaking or mountain biking in the desert and so on.
Despite the fact that the 2 positions are kind of different, there are common things that I’ve learned from both. I learned that it is always mind over matter, the challenge is 80% mental and 20% physical in any given situation, I learned that we set limits for ourselves and I learned about the wonderful things people can accomplish when they believe in themselves. I learned that you can change a person’s life in a day and it is one of the most valuable things in life.
How did your parents react to your dreams/goals?
It always goes through phases. I remember walking in the room and telling my mom: “I just want to remind you that one day, when I do this, you would feel good if you had had a good initial reaction. You’re looking at the girl who will solo-cycle around Egypt, unsupported.” And I jumped up and down. I received zero reaction. It is always a “I’m not even going to react to this” at first, followed by complete freaking out then acceptance and complete support. I remember a couple of times when I was anxious minutes before venturing on an adventure and I told my mom and she would only say “I have zero doubt that you will be able to do this” and everything just melts away.
She would be freaking out about something and still call me the day before I travel saying “I have your gear drawer open, tell me what to pack because it is getting late and I want you to sleep well.”
Why did you choose solo-cycling the Red Sea and Sinai?
This adventure is part of my training to solo-cycle around Egypt in 2019. Generally speaking, I do this for 2 reasons. First, I want to use my own body to move from one place to another, challenging myself, mentally and physically and putting myself out of my comfort zone. Everything that happens out of the comfort zone is basically magic.
Second, I hope I would inspire others to see that there is an alternative way of living. I want to use the exposure I’ll get from this trip to create stories using videography and photography. As I hope through my adventures, society will see that what seems impossible is in fact within reach. I hope others will get inspired to see the beauty of this country and what its roads have to offer.
Do the safety measures differ from one adventure to the other?
Of course they do. You first plan the adventure, do a risk assessment and then risk control. It differs according to the activity, place, time and facilities. In some places you will have connection and the place itself is accessible so you know someone will be able to reach you within a certain time, in other cases, you won’t have reception and you would know you will be on your own for a period of time and you have to plan accordingly.
What are the safety measures you’re taking for this trip?
While I believe the roads I’ll take are safe and I’m actually excited about meeting people on the road, we always prepare for the worst. I’m blessed to have 2 adventure cyclists Nour El Din & Galal Zekri Chatila, who solo-cycled around the country, help me plan for the trip and act as an integral part of my emergency response team. Their combined expertise, knowledge and even their connections in each city gives me confidence that my trip will be as safe as theirs were.
A Cairo based team will have a very detailed agenda of the point I should reach in each day and the time it will take me to get there and they will be following up with me on hourly basis.
The trip will be tracked using a Spot Device, that regularly updates the team of my location, when I stop and when I move and sends a distress signal with my exact coordinates in case of an emergency. I have an emergency contact person in each city who will be on call on the days I’m cycling to and from the city; this person will be able to reach my location in a max time of 45 mins. I’m personally first-aid trained and will be able to deal with my own injuries as a first responder.
How will the trip go?
The trip starts at Cairo toll station. I will start cycling to Sokhna then to Zaafarana, Ras Ghareb, Gouna, Hurghada. I will take the ferry from Hurghada to Sharm El Sheikh then start cycling again to Dahab then Nuweiba and ending in Saint Catherine.
Saint Catherine has a very special place in my heart and I’ll end the trip by climbing Egypt’s highest summit, Mount Catherine.
I will be staying in hotels most of the days except for the final day where I will camp in the desert mid-road between Nuweiba and Catherine.
What is your next goal? And why?
I have two upcoming goals, the first is to solo-cycle around Egypt unsupported, this trip has never been accomplished by an Egyptian woman and I want to be the first to do so. I’m looking forward to seeing the roads I always travel from a different perspective. I also hope to change the society’s perspective that adventure sports is a man’s domain. I hope women wouldn’t have their gender dictate what they think they can do or even think of it as one of the factors.
The second goal is to kayak from Aswan to Damietta unsupported as well. This is something I’m planning with Nour El Din; we will be stopping in different locations everyday. I’m actually really excited to venture on this trip as it is different from everything I’ve tried before and I believe it will allow us to see the country in a different light.
What kind of experience do you get from your adventures?
I believe that we grow the most within nature; the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt in my life were while hiking in the desert or climbing a mountain or so on. I learned to trust myself and believe in myself, I’ve learned to not give in to exhaustion and I’ve learned that my mind will always tell me that I’m too tired or that my body can’t handle it, I’ve learned to not listen to this and to push through.
Other than the physical benefits, what mental and psychological benefits do you get from your adventures especially the one around Red Sea and Sinai?
The physical benefit is actually of less importance. When you take yourself out of your comfort zone and away from your support system and you put yourself in a challenge, you learn about who you really are. How you take challenges, react to frustration and to obstacles, and how you feel when there is no one around to witness it. And most importantly how will you motivate yourself? It pushes me to learn about who I really am and motivates me to work on myself to reach the image I would love to be.
Taking time to just connect with nature and absorb the beauty of it puts things in perspective for me; I learn what is important and why we’re living and where I want to go in life. I want to be a documentarian and an explorer one day, anything else that I do, I do to get there. I need to be reminded of this every once in a while. Living in the city can get overwhelming sometimes with all the materialistic things and so on and I need to get out and remember than none of this matters.
Follow her on her Instagram account: @hamsa_mansour to be with her every step of the way. She will be posting pictures and videos of her trip as she goes by. She needs all the support she can get, as she aims to be a source of support and inspiration to those who need it.