|Final Statistics: Alex & Maz||Total distance: 93,550km|
|Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ||Now settled in Sydney, Australia|
|Final Statistics: Martin||Total distance: 79,698km|
|Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia||Now settled in Bristol, UK|
The cat and Maz chase....
Egypt, Country 12, Diary entry 1st - 5th Oct 2005, Total distance in Egypt: 5428 KM
Following on the theme, more of what’s good and what’s not on the cars…
Thumbs up: Side awning for Tinfish – even though we had to modify it before leaving, we’ve used it a few times now and it has saved us from getting wet on one of the many rainy days we’ve had! The shower - we’ve enjoyed many hot showers in the blistering sunshine. The only downfall is that we have to refill our water on a regular basis – it can be quite a challenge finding it!
Thumbs down: Camel pacs - having bought 2 camel pacs to strap to the chairs for easy drinking while driving as well as to take hiking with us, I took them back to the UK with me as they tasted so 'plastiky' that we couldn't use them!
It was a strange feeling leaving the boys and heading back to the UK, but exciting all the same with the prospect of catching up with lots of people. With all the sights and experiences we had had to date, it felt a distance memory leaving the UK even though we had been gone only 2 months. Having left a somewhat basic airport in Cairo I wondered whether my bag would actually reach the UK, however, I should not have worried…… having landed on time, I was soon sucked back into the western world at Terminal 2, with only a one and half hour wait for the luggage to be unloaded from the plane!
First port of call for the w/e was back to our UK HQ – Andy and Pips house. Andy and Pips have done a sterling job of organising things back home for us when we’ve needed help from the UK. Everything we had shipped home broken had been sent back to theirs (hopefully repaired) along with a few other things we’d bought for me to pick up. It was like Christmas come early there were so many packages!!! Andy had warned me to bring a big bag as there was so much stuff and I’m glad I brought Alex’s rucksack with me and not mine.
I was hoping for a relaxing w/e break, but it turned out to be a very busy time! Having borrowed Pips Audi to dash to Luton to pick up a new set of specs for Alex, I revelled in driving a fast car which could handle corners much faster than our steady Land Cruiser! Playtime (sensibly of course!)….. then off to the pub to meet Dave, Jill, Nic & Jon for the obligatory UK food and beer… bangers and mash washed down with a rather tasty Belgian cherry beer and the obligatory game of Yahtzee!! Then back to Pips for her to kit me out with some clothes smart enough for a wedding. All I had was a choice of plakkies, shorts and t-shirt or walking boots, 3/4 length trousers and a cardy :o)
Up early the next morning to make sure I wasn’t late for the big day, I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Emms and Matt who had conveniently just moved round the corner from the church where the wedding was. The wedding itself was fantastic, not just to see one of my best mates getting married (that goes without saying!) but catching up with friends, acclimatizing to UK temps although the weather was very kind to us, dancing the night away to great music and finishing with a spectacular fireworks display. OK that was a small white lie…. Finishing with a party back at the accommodation in mine and Tracy’s bedroom with a ‘how many can you fit in a bed’ game! Up again for 7am to catch breakfast with Emms and Matt before dashing South to meet Niamh for the traditional Sunday roast lunch and a quick supermarket stop to stock up on ‘English foods’ to take back for Bashar’s family, who we had arranged to visit on our return journey through Syria.
Back at the airport, I managed to call most family members to at least say ‘hi’ before boarding the plane. All-in-all a productive w/e. Having spent 3 days dashing round Southern England and catching up with friends and family, I was exhausted by the time I returned to Cairo!.......
……After waving goodbye to Martin, it was nice to at least see the pyramids from afar and after Alex had introduced me to Cairo’s pedestrian/vehicle choreographed dancing system; it felt safer to be out of the city.
As there is only one direct road from Cairo to Luxor, we were under the illusion that it would be a main(ish) road as Luxor was a fair distance. How wrong one can be ……
I tried to catch up on sleep as Alex began the drive south. I managed an hour or so and I think that’s because I was so tired I fell unconscious, however, even the best sleepers would not have been able to sleep much more on the road we were on. That fast, straight, dual carriageway, tarmac covered road we were hoping for was not to be. Surprising hey! With the Nile snaking down the length of the country and a sole water source for many, there was not a patch of land untouched along the river route we had taken. Coupled with the manic Egyptian driving, pedestrians still walking anywhere they wanted and speed bumps entering and exiting each village every 20kms, this was going to be a LONG journey.
From what we saw in Egypt, it’s common place to have a car overtake a car, overtake a car on a single carriageway. Whilst this is frightening enough in daylight hours, the stakes are raised considerably at night as none of them seem to feel the need to turn their lights on whilst haring down unlit roads. You only see them when you try and overtake and they flash you to say ‘hey, I’m here get out of my way!!’ The ever presence of unmarked speed bumps, pedestrians, donkeys and tractors makes for extremely tiresome driving. This was the worst and most exhausting journey we had ever driven.
We managed a fair distance before our first police check and confused as to why we had our headlights on, they kindly informed us lights blinded them and they were unnecessary!! This meeting then became a regular date with the police asking the same questions each time; “Where you from?” – “England” “Passport” (We gave our passports) “Where you go?” – “Luxor”
This continued for the next couple of hours before we were stopped at one check point, handed our passports over and that was the last we saw of them for about 10 minutes. Alex went to enquire what the problem was and from what we could understand, they were getting a police car to escort us to Luxor….. NOOOO! That’s not what we wanted. However, we had pulled off into a fenced area and therefore trapped; they weren’t taking no for an answer anyway! Eventually a pickup turned up with 2 men in the front and 2 men with machine guns sitting in the very uncomfortable looking back. We began to follow.
Now with it late in the evening, the first few kilometres of following the police car at a turtle’s pace of 60km/h was OK however, with Luxor still being over 300km away we still had a LONG drive ahead of us. We had previously been managing to cruise along the few clear open roads between the villages at 100km/h, although still slow going we had been making steady progress, so, I decided to take the matter into my own hands and speed up the pace a little……
I began to pull out to the side as if to overtake the police car and pulled up along side to it , I leaned out of the window moving my hand in the forward direction and shouting ‘yala, yala’ which means ‘go, go’, hoping they’d drive a little more quickly. In response, I was met with a cheesy grin and the the closed hand with the tips of the fingers pinched together pointing upwards like an upside down squid with a downward movement meaning ‘Shway, shway’ - ‘slowly, slowly’! It was all extremely friendly banter, but I was not going to be ‘slowly, slowly’ for the next 300kms……
After a few attempts of pretending to overtake they got the message and increased their speed. Feeling chuffed with myself, you can imagine my horror when after 15 minutes (please note: this speed training had already taken 10 of these minutes) they pulled over to change tag team! The police sections seem to have jurisdiction over a small area and once they reach their boundary, the next pickup takes over. So….. back to square one…definitely a snake!
With a teaching method proven, I worked my magic on the next few teams and we began to make some progress. I even had one policeman step out of the car after his shift and shake my hand, I’m not sure if this was because he was impressed or shocked with my driving technique! All this speeding up and slowing down for the police checks and escorts had rocked Alex into a deep sleep and I entertained myself by the waving policemen. With yet another change of shift a couple of hours later I encountered a student who needed extra tuition……
Not learning from the ‘pretending to overtake scenario’, I actually overtook him to see if that would prompt a reaction. Within a nanosecond, the blue flashing lights were on with siren blaring but they still trundled along at escort pace – I’m not sure the beaten up pickup could actually move any faster. With both parties cruising along at their respective speeds, we happened to reach the next police check first. With confused looks, the guard came up to the car and asked, “where police?” to which I shrugged my shoulders. While still scratching their heads in confusion, the pickup rolled up with the police looking a little bewildered, to which I pointed and exclaimed, “there you are!!” By this time I think the message had got out about our driving antics as we had been guided into a penned area to stop us making a break for it!
We set off again, this time with policemen who weren’t so jovial however, this could have been due to the fact it was now nearly 2 o’clock in the morning. Luxor was still over 100km away and getting extremely tired ourselves, there was no way we were driving through the whole night. Next problem; need to find camping without police. Indeed a difficult task!
Timing it to perfection, we overtook the police who were not playing ball in the ‘drive a little faster’ game and drove off leaving the flashing lights and sirens in the distance. We decided we needed to turn off the main road quick smart to find camp before either the police caught us up or we reached the next check point. With all the land being farmed 20km east and west of the Nile, it was difficult to find a little bit of dirt to park our car on for the night. We eventually parked up in a field on a patch of land which didn’t look like it had a crop on it. It was now 2.30 in the morning and we had been driving for over 16 hours.
In true early morning style, we had our wake up call. A man on a donkey had strolled past and wanted to know what we were doing. Having originally thought we were Israeli’s he soon let us get back to sleep once we’d put his mind at rest. Unfortunately that didn’t last long as within 30 minutes he’d brought back about 10 of his mates! We got up and began to pack the tent away while they read the flyer explaining what we were up to. While I was talking to some of them in sign language, Alex was signing with the man who originally woke us. From what Alex could understand, the man was trying to explain someone was looking for us. 2 hands crossed at the wrist and a finger slit across the throat was graphic enough for us to grasp that the police had been looking and someone was in trouble. Either us for giving the police the slip or the police that had lost us.
Deciding to go and find our fate, we bid farewell to the men. Bleary eyed and with little room to manoeuvre (well that’s his excuse anyway!) Alex promptly drove the front left wheel into a ditch! Feeling like the car was going to topple, the men, along with Alex jumped onto the side of the car and whilst perched at a precarious angle, I slid across to the driver’s seat, engaged low ratio and backed out perfectly! :o) These cars are marvellous.
We reached the next check point and were immediately greeted with; “where you go last night?” “to sleep” we replied, “where?” “the tent” and pointed to the top of the car.
After much scratching of heads and not really sure what to ask next, we showed them our documents and they let us on our way, WITHOUT an escort!! Nice as it was, we wondered why we had had to endure the previous nights fiasco when they weren’t bothered about escorts now. The rest of the journey was straight forward with one last section where we thought we were having yet another escort, but they just wanted to make sure that we navigated the right way as we had to cross over to the other side of the Nile. With a shake of hands, we were allowed to drive on our own again and we entered Luxor a day and a half after leaving Cairo! Quite an epic journey.
Our first point of call was to find food but with Ramadan just started this was proving to be a difficult task. We eventually found a restaurant and with bellies full headed to the Temples of Karnak. Actually finding it was not too much of a problem, however, trying to get into park was another matter altogether. We could see the ruins, so opting to drive in their direction seemed like a sensible idea. Our first attempt was almost successful being a mere 10 metres away from our goal, but as we’d taken an unofficial route, we were turned around and redirected back the way we came. Trying the next viable road, we were immediately stopped by guards and once again redirected indicating we should drive just round the corner. Trying this option we were met with further guards yet again indicating to drive just round the corner … This time we were eventually allowed into the cark park. Having parked the car once, we were jumped on by the guards telling us it was not a good place and we were directed to another park a few yards ahead of us! Yet again emphasising the Egyptians peculiarities about parking and official access to places.
Having visited enough ruins up to this point, we knew opting for a guide was a good idea so we understood what we were looking at. With Hassan demonstrating his knowledge on the Temples of Karnak, we decided to hire him for the next day’s sightseeing too! With the day coming to a close, we went to find Rezeiky Camp which had been recommended by Alex’s sister Maxine after visiting Luxor a few months previously. Treating ourselves to an air-conditioned room, we settled at camp for the night. We spent most of the night talking to Johannes over a beer, who had driven from Germany and was about to embark on circumnavigating Africa! The camp does delightful traditional Egyptian food which we devoured rather too quickly. After splashing out on the air-conditioned room, we soon found that it was extremely noisy and actually warmer than outside so switched it off and promptly fell asleep.
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