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Stowing Away I stood between two facing mirrors & almost caught a glimpse of infinity, but my bloody head kept getting in the way

We got ourselves a Convoy...

EGYPT | Monday, 19 November 2001 | Views [3689] | Comments [4]

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Then it was off to Wadi Rum, a desert region of sand dunes and impressive vertical rock mountains made famous by the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia, who used it as a base during WW1, and also lived there for some time after the end of the war. It wasn’t long before our 4wd truck got bogged in the fine dry sand. Despite it’s large tyres and a lot of digging, we were stuck fast until some local Bedouins drove by in their 4wd and towed us out of the super soft sand patch.

Dusk was falling and they invited us along to their campsite not too far away in the wadi, sheltered beneath a huge rock formation. We stayed the night in a Bedouin tent, and they cooked us up some of the tastiest chicken I've ever had - KFC watch out! Desert hospitality for you!

The next day Iain & Jana took the freed truck headed back to the main road and the long way around Wadi Rum to Aqaba, and we went in the bedouins' 4wd straight through the desert (just like Good old Lawrence did, but why use camels when you've got a landcruiser!), stopping off at various places that our Bedouin driver thought would be interesting to us. They were, especially Lawrence of Arabia's house & surrounds, and many of the natural rock formations. Apparently much of the movie starring Peter O Toole was also shot on location here.

After leaving the Wadi, our Bedouin driver took us into town in his ancient rattley Landcruiser, coasting down the looooong steep downhill to the coast - with the engine off and in neutral (to save petrol), & with a broken handbrake, but still overtaking semitrailers & dodging oncoming traffic. I did get slightly worried when he opened up the door and stood on the doorsill – one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand going through his stuff on the roof-racks. However we made it to the port of Aqaba and found our little truck again (just in time to catch our ferry to Egypt...)

Ramadan arrives (the Muslim holy month of fasting and late night parties), causing havoc with travel departures and eating during the day. Places start to open about 10am-ish, close again about 2-30pm onwards, and open up again about 6-9pm. Restaurants and street vendors won't serve food during the daylight, but are jammed full of locals as the sun starts to set, who attack their plates in a frenzy of eating the moment the sun falls below the horizon. The streets are almost totally deserted while this occurs, but they emerge later to continue on late into the night.

Due to this, our ferry to Egypt, originally departing at midday, eventually left at about 9.30pm, arrived in Egypt about 2am, and we cleared customs a bit after 4am.

Made it to Dahab on the shore of the red sea at 6am, so a sleep sounded like a better idea than exploring. Whoever named the red sea must have been colourblind, as it is very obviously a rich deep blue, not red.
(* further research by well known Egyptologist Dr Arthur Dodgy has since revealed that the name actually came from a bad-english translation of ‘the sea of Reeds’ – due to the amount of reeds along the shoreline.)

Spent a few days lazing about in the sun at Dahab. Hundreds of palm tree lined beach front cafes/restaurants/hotels in a row. As a tourist resort it must be jammed packed in summer, but is almost deserted at the moment. Went diving in the red sea, at a (world famous?) location called the blue hole - a large hole in the coral reef, 5 metres offshore, 105 metres straight down. Did my deepest dive yet (must do my deep diving course when i get back), and was chased by a huge turtle that seemed nearly as big as me!. Brilliant visibility to boot.

Driving onward through the desert of Sinai, we naturally stopped to climb Mt Sinai to watch the sunset. It's freezing up there as the sun goes down, and we stumbled back down the mountainside in the darkness and eventually found our tents again at the bottom.

After trucking it through the Egyptian desert for a while and driving under the suez canal (i didn't know they had a tunnel there), buildings started appearing and the manic traffic of Cairo engulfed us.

Visited the Egyptian museum and have now seen enough mummies to last a lifetime. Rameses II (the main man) was still in pretty good nick, though looking a little weather beaten.

Many of the other mummies were really showing (and acting) their age. They all looked liked they could do with a good feed too, as they were getting close to skin and bones.

Time to head further down the red sea coast to Safaga, and next day down towards Aswan. At least that was the plan. To drive south from Safaga to Aswan, the government requires you to join a convoy of other tourist vehicles, guarded by submachinegun toting police, 'for your protection'. This was started after the tourist massacre at Luxor in 1996. Strangely, heading north from Aswan to Safaga along the same road does not require a convoy as it is 'quite safe'. Go figure...

We were told the night before that the convoy left at 9am. Arriving at 8.15, we were told that the convoy left at 7am (or 6am, depending on who you talked to). After much arguing, pleading, waiting, arguing again and shuffling between police checkpoints, we were told a 'special' escort would be arranged. After a 2 hour wait we realised this wasn't going to happen, so it was off to the police checkpoint to haggle again.

No convoy till 3pm was the answer. More waiting. At 3.40pm the 'convoy' (just us) finally left (with heavily armed escort car). Phew, that's over.

But wait, there's more (a free set of steak knives???)

Less than an hour into the 6hr trip, the escort car pulls into a tourist rest stop (designed to cater for many busloads of tourists all needing to go to the loo within 5mins and having to pay dearly for the privilege). So, loo break & back in the truck. The escort car informs us that they are not leaving till 7pm (so they can have their Ramadan feast at sundown, ages away yet). More arguing and we head off without police escort until we are stopped at the next police checkpoint. Yet more arguing, red faced police captains, bored guards staring into the distance or moving spiky logs across the road, AK47 waving plain-clothed guys. This goes on for about 45 mins and the traffic we are blocking with the truck is backing up in both directions. Finally, the captain agrees to let us go (to get rid of the traffic jam), without escort (curse those stupid foreigners), if we apologise to him (for attempting to undermine his authority in front of his subordinates). This is easily done and we cheer as Jana drives away under our own control.

But these ain’t just ordinary steak knives...

We drive into the night with a huge fat red sun sinking slowly in the west and glowing across the desert. We get to Luxor, about halfway to Aswan, skilfully avoiding police checks by driving as fast as possible through the slalom checkpoints, where the guards are too engrossed in eating their first meal of the day to pay much attention to the traffic. This lasts for a while, but one must have realised and radioed ahead to the next checkpoint, who had the spiky logs and barricades out as soon as they saw us. The Captain at the last checkpoint had said to us that we didn't need an escort past Luxor -maybe just to get rid of us). Shee, and this police force was set up with the specific task of looking after tourists! More arguing was to no avail, with much AK47 waving going on, so we turned around and found a hotel in Luxor. (double bed luxury with onsuite for only $5 Australian!)

So here I am in Luxor, on the banks of the Nile river. Luckily we were planning to come here at a later date anyway. Visited the big Temple of Amun at Karnak, the Luxor temple (*best viewed from 3rd floor of McDonald's next door, if you don't want to pay to get in), and some more Egyptian-type-stuff (suprisingly enough).

The next day we went to the valley of the kings (king tuts tomb & many others) on a donkey. Always wanted to go there and it was truly excellent & well worth it. I always thought it was waaaay out in the desert, but it's just the other side of the Nile from Luxor. The trees and vegetation disappear less than 100 m from the riverbank, and it's desert again. We spent the day riding donkeys from tomb to tomb, saw Ramses II, King Tut's (very small and plain) and a number of others before hoofing it over to the valley of the queens to see Queen Nefertari's tomb, which is probably the most impressive one remaining - stunning paintings & carvings on the wall, still in near perfect condition. Also saw some of the artists tombs (who painted/carved the pics in the royal tombs).

The information signs for the tourists which are at the entrance to the tombs are often rather amusing, as the writer’s English translation skills are somewhat questionable. One example starts with “the fourking 19th Oynesty”. The best one reads “The wall is Oecoratd with the Book of the DeadBook of the Book the Book BookBook”.

My bum is still sore from riding a donkey all day - donkey rides are definitely a pain in the ass.

We did manage to catch the 3pm convoy to Aswan ok (just us again), and from there caught another convoy at 3:45 in the morning (with lots of tourist busses for a change) to Abu Simbel to see the temples that were relocated in the 1960's to prevent them from being lost under the rising waters of the Aswan dam. They were re-assembled into a man-made hillside, airconditioned to prevent decay of the paintings, and now overlook the waters of Lake Nasser.

And then the hordes of tourists were ushered back into their busses and the convoy departed to head back here again, leaving the majestic temples in peace & quiet once again.

to be continued.....

Tags: abu simbel, bedouin, bedouin, cairo, egypt, lawrence of arabia, on the road, pyramids, ramses, wadi rum

 

Comments

1

Wow - you've been busy!! I thought organising a seminar was a pain in the ass but for testing ones patience I think your story wins out.

Life has been great - work is extremely busy but good - not long now till the holidays!!

I'm heading off to Nowra this coming weekend - not as great as heading off to Egypt mind you - still you take what you can get!! Looking forward to catching up with friends there and probably checking out the
meat raffle at the local bowling club!!!!! who says I don't experience other cultures.

In two weeks I'm heading to Noosa for a my girlfriends wedding (on the beach) which will be lovely and another good excuse to have a little holiday/piss up etc etc

I have been invited to spend New Year in Salamander Bay - have never been there so should be interesting too. See I'm travelling around almost as much as you are!!

Anyway, keep well and have a great time in Egypt - wishing I was there!!

K
P.S I love the links - its good to see what you are talking about.
Keep those stories coming!! I want a camel!! bring me back a camel!!!!
how exciting!!

Look after yourself - when do you get back!!

Keep well. K

  Kate Nov 27, 2001 9:19 AM

2

Keep those stories coming!! I want a camel!! bring me back a camel!!!! how exciting!!

Look after yourself - when do you get back?

Keep well. K

  Kate Nov 29, 2001 10:50 AM

3

Why a camel??? I'm not sure it would fit in my backpack (with all the Turkish delight and all), and that's giving me enough of an extra hump.

e

  stowaway Nov 29, 2001 4:46 PM

4

I just think camels are cute is all.....
when do you get back!! K

  Kate Dec 3, 2001 10:43 AM

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