Day 41 – 12 July
3rd day at Wadi Halfa. The bikers arrive. They have endured temperatures of 47 degrees with a wind as hot as a blast furnace. The day is spent in the sweltering heat catching up on the news. We have our last braai together. Tomorrow we get onto the ferry.
Day 42 – 13 July
Lunchtime arrives and at last we get everything ready for the barge. We, teams Icevan, Bulldog and Lipstick are lucky as we have 1st class cabins booked on the ferry. The bikers, unfortunately have only 2nd class as they arrived late. 2nd class allows them to sit on benches in an open area one deck down. We all pile onto a bakkie and are transported to the authorities at the harbor. Our fixer (without a fixer it is almost impossible to get through), takes us through customs and immigration, but the big wait is still on. We sit patiently(?) in a big hall for about another hour before we are taken outside and with various forms of transport are delivered to the ferry. Getting on is not too much of a problem and we are shown to our cabins. Unfortunately for team Icevan we have an inside cabin without a porthole.
This is where as the saying goes “The A has gone out of adventure and E for experience has taken its place”. The cabin is about 2mx2.5m and is filthy, with some type of bed cover that hasn’t sent soap and water in its life and the pillows are solid concrete. At least we do have aircon. Denys throws a sheet, which he has carried with him for the last few days, over the bed. We decide that tonight we will sleep in our clothes so that we have as little contact as possible with the beds. Denys and Paul are both suffering hundreds of bedbug bites from Wadi Halfa and do not want more.
We now wait for the grand send off which is supposed to happen at 5.00pm but we don’t cast off until 6.40pm. The setting is beautiful with dead quiet waters and the sun going down and all our team members are on the top open deck taking photos and enjoying the moment. The bikers have decided to opt for sleeping on the top open deck which is clean and at last has a breeze to cool things down. As it starts to get dark all the muslims gather on the deck for prayers and there isn’t space left for a mouse. After prayers things settle down with bedrolls, carpets, sleeping bags, pieces of cardboard and all other forms of covers put down on the deck for sleeping. The whole deck is literally covered in human beings. We decide not to eat the food on the ferry and go to our cabin for our meal – provita and tinned mussels, followed with a desert of oranges. We try to stay awake for as long as possible before retiring to our first class cabin.
Day 43 – 14 July
We are both up early and Denys has coffee in the dining room and then we are up on the topside again in the open air. The ablutions are something to behold with the local people washing every part of their anatomy in the basin, needless to mention the stench. The next few hours are spent quietly anticipating the arrival at Aswan. We dock at 10.30am Egypt time. Although we decide to wait until the rush is over, when we go forward we see very few people so we go down to the exit – what a mistake! As we are about 7m from the exit, with the doors still closed, the hoards of people flood the passage to the exit. The crush is so severe that we physically have to keep from being pushed and trodden on. One door is opened and some luggage is passed overhead but we are still not allowed to exit. We are locked into where we standing with no air and are constantly be pushed. This carries on for half an hour, with the sweat pouring off us. Some local men start getting off and we find out that all the Egyptian men are allowed off first – so much for being a first class passenger and being a visitor. Eventually we are allowed off, dripping with sweat and needing water badly.
Next we are off to the immigration and customs in the “immigration hole” as the sign read. We have a “fixer” who sorts out everything with customs and the police. We expect to be here for 2 days according to all reports, but are extremely lucky as we seem to have the right “fixer”. Within 4 hours all customs and police are cleared and our vehicles are released, thanks to paying the correct fees and having the right attitude.
The “fixer” then takes us into Aswan town. On the way in we are expecting the worst as the road to town is no better than Wadi Halfa. What an absolute pleasant surprise when we arrive at our hotel which is situated on the Nile. The hotel turns out to be a fantastic hotel with aircon, crisp white sheets and spotlessly clean. Hooray, we are back in civilization again. A quick shower, which works, and we are off down the Nile to have a cooling beer or two on one of the many floating restaurants along the waters edge. One can only guess as to how much money is being lost as literally hundreds of the most magnificent Nile ferries stand idle. What a pleasure to be able to sit down and wash away the “E for experience” with an ice cold beer! After a lovely supper next to the Nile we walk back up to street level where there is a total transformation. The streets are busy, people everywhere and all the shops are open. We even find a little ice cream vendor. We spend a pleasant hour strolling along the streets looking at all the lovely little shops with goods from electronics to spices. Needless to say that we have a very pleasant sleep in our clean beds.
Day 44 – 15 July
Refreshed and after a good breakfast we set off for Luxor and the Valley Of The Kings. The road takes us along the Nile until we turn off for The Valley Of The Kings. After visiting 4 tombs and many statues we decide there is still enough time to get to Hurgarda, the capital of diving on the Red Sea. It would appear that our camping days are over and we settle on the Magawish Hotel on the beach.
Day 45 – 16 July
Hulgarda turns out to be very modern and after breakfast we are off to the new shopping centre to check on the way the people in Egypt live. The shopping centre is modern and very westenised. After a few purchases and a good cup of coffee we hop into a taxi and head back to the hotel. The afternoon is spent on the beach and swimming in a beautiful clear and warm sea. A few beers and a hearty supper sees the day out.
Day 46 – 17 July
Our travel plans have changed due to the situation in the middle east and we now have to be in Alexandria by the 19 July to clear customs and get our vehicles loaded onto the ship heading for Venice. We are not allowed on the vessel so will have to fly from Cairo. We really do not have much time so have to set off travelling up the Red Sea hoping to find another reasonable hotel a few hundred kilometers away on the way to Cairo. We find the Swiss Hotel, part of the group who own the Magawish where we stayed last night.
Day 47 – 18 July
A slow start, with sitting on the beach before breakfast. Then the great race is on again. We need to get to Alexander by tonight to enable us to see all the customs, police, clearing agents etc tomorrow. We go via Suez hoping to see the canal but unfortunately we are turned away by the army. The defence force is all over the roads and towns. We then carry on to Ismalia which is higher up the canal and luckily find a hotel on the Suez where we manage to take a few photos. Right now it does not seem as if we will make Alexandria by tonight as all the roads in all the towns are so confusing that we are going round in circles. Book into a hotel eventually at11.00pm and have supper by 12.00 midnight – it has been a long day.
Day 48 – 19 July
This morning the drivers of the vehicles have to do all the paperwork and police clearance for the freighting to Italy. The rest of us go to the airport to book our tickets to Rome. The afternoon is spent looking for the hotel Sheridon where we have managed to get in. one cannot imagine the traffic and the way people drive here. The evening we walk down the beach front for supper and get a surprise to see how many people are still out and about on the beaches and the beachfront at 10.00 at night. It is a real education.
Day 49 – 20 July
Free day for sightseeing so we are off to El Alemain to see the war graves and museum. The traffic is horrendous and we take 2.5 hours to get out of Alexandria. The memorials are very interesting but as usual time is not on our side so we have to cut out visit short. We do however manage to have our last braai in Africa before setting off back to Alexandria. Tomorrow we are on our way to Cairo.