Until we meet again.
I woke up early with both excitement and anticipation for the crossing into Egypt , I was to meet Mazaar later in the morning to hopefully load Victoria and I on the same ferry , as well as process all the paperwork . So I went down to the restaurant to have my morning tea , as breakfast in The Sudan only kicks off after 11 in the morning . I met a father who had been give child minding duty while his wife tried to get some sleep , so we sat , chatted and the children took a shine to me , so we sat three in a row tea and bread in hand and let the time tick by.
I packed up and rode down to the harbour to meet Mazaar who was running a little late so there I sat drinking tea with the officials once more chatting and answering many questions.
I met Mazaar at around 11 to get the bad news Vic and I had to part ways , it was to be a solo crossing for both of us . The paperwork done both at immigration and customs it was time to board . This is when I got the second blow , that the cabins had been booked up and Mazaar was only able to get me what is loosely referred to as second class seating , rows of benches at hull level .
We boarded and Mazaar found a place for my luggage and we went to the dinning room to cool down and have something to drink . As I boarded the ferry I was met with both shock and horror at the conditions on this vessel , I don’t think it has been cleaned since the day of delivery decades ago , I am not sure it is equipped to carry so many passengers or cargo . It is only 18 hours I told myself and followed Mazaar to the place of refuge .
Mazaar left around 13h00 and I setteled in to enjoy my book and ferry life . After a while I needed the loo so off I went for a little orientation around the ferry , I found the washroom and yes you very much do need a wash after you have been in this room , never mind once you have used this room , I also walked past the first class cabins and yes they are a first in their class , then off to where I was meant to sit , I think it was designed to carry livestock but then converted into a space to fit a lot of people , this second class area was also a first in its class . Time for fresh air , so onto the deck I went , people everywhere , sleeping in the walkway , inside the lifeboats they made a home , under the life boats for shade , if there was a gap or a space it was filled with a human or their goods . I thought it better to return to the dining car and read my book to pass the time . The ferry only set sail around 17h00 so I had been in her bowls for hours even before we set off . The dining room had filled up by the time I got back , it was now a die ing room filled with smoke , spitting and the mixed scent of man and must . So began my sail across lake Nasser to Aswan .
In true Sudanese style soon I had been drawn into conversation with various tables around me , answering many , many questions , some directly others through interpreters, in no time many friends I had made , many different conversatins I was having and I was so loving the warmth of my fellow travellers .
I met a young couple from Khartoum , recently married after saving up for ten years , their dream finally realised as they sailed towards a honeymoon in Egypt on this Dreamliner . He from Darfur , where he hardly goes anymore due to the situation back home , to scared to take his radiant bride to visit his family for fear what the soliders might do to her , his father and brother absent from his day of celebration , their lives taken by conflict . Yet his face filled with beauty and happiness for he has married his dream girl who he has loved for so long , a dream realised , the boat the means to complete the circle . I loved the way they looked at each other his eyes gentle as he takes in her beauty , her smile wide and complete as she returns his gaze , his words strong and proud as he tells of their future together . Her dream to work for the UN one day , his peace for his family and country , so we spoke , so we sailed into the night . We went on to the deck for some fresh air , as we took in the stars she sung for me , a beautiful Arabic lullaby and he spoke of his love for Miriam Makeba all on the Dreamliner.
My next conversation with a young human rights lawyer currently doing her masters , sailing to Cairo to spend a month interviewing Christians on life surrounded by Islam . Her mind free in thought and her dreams bold for a better life in The Sudan for her and her people . Yet with a heavy heart she tells me of the restrictive life she leads , she has to be careful of what she says , how she behaves and how she lives . She dreams to be free to love who she chooses , to feel equal in a world that is dominated by the male , she dreams of freedoms we take for granted , a young mind paralysed by a way of life she did not choose. Her beauty of mind incredible , her face one second radiant with the thought of freedom the next a vale of sadness falls over her striking , hypnotising beauty as reality returns . The Dreamliner taking her to Cairo her mind taking her around the world. Thank you for our time together .
Time passed , the die room emptied and I asked the manager if I could sleep the night there . He finally agreed and around one in the morning the room went dark and I found myself on my back staring at the ceiling as my fellow companions and I tried to find some sleep . The bench not to comfy , my camel pack no pillow , sleep ran away more than stayed , by 4h30 the die room was alive and kicking , by 5h30 the first passangers found their way to the coffee and tea and my day began.
I took my tea and headed for the deck to catch the sunrise and stretch after my night as a contortionist , I felt like I had not washed in weeks , the grime my second skin and my eyes burning from time in the smoking room. I found a small space among the bodies to put my feet and waited for dawn .
After being witness to this spectacular sunrise I returned to my space with book and tea only to be joined by the family from the day before at the hotel . Father once again being given the task of child minder . The girls came to sit alongside me and the next thing I knew there I sat hand in hand with the youngsters , not a word passing our lips , just sitting holding hands as the Dreamliner sailed closer to home.
Dad and I spoke of his dream to try and find work in Cairo as a driver , Sudan the country of his birth not able to offer him the life he wishes for his family . A tall dark powerful man with a strong will and gentle eyes he tells me of his life in The Sudan . As we speak I find myself drawn to his strength , inspired by his dream , taken by his unwavering faith , I felt we had been friends in a previous life that we had stood side by side and faced the world and its challenges . As he stood to take his leave , those strong hands taking his daughters in each , I found myself praying that he found more than his dream that his life would go beyond expectation and he would find all he dreamed of . As he walked away tall and proud my heart went with him and those two beautiful children of The Sudan.
The Dreamliner found port yet it was to be a further two hours before she laid anchor , it would be a full 24 hours before my feet found terra firma . I was met by Kamal my fixer on the Egyptian side who whisked me through immigration while the rest of the ferry queued in the blazing heat , we got through security and he then found me a ride to my hotel . Was I glad to be on my way to a three hour shower , water , soap , toothbrush and mint to wash the ferry away.
Wow what a ride .
Until we meet again.
I booked into the Philae hotel in Aswan , the staff a total delight from the outset , I could not get into hot shower fast enough , scrub , rinse , scrub , rinse , I was turning pink from applying so much pressure , but damn it felt good , then I brushed my teeth for so long that I feared gum damage , finally the ferry washed off . I went down stairs to book a tour to Abu Simbal , which we had sailed past and it looked really impressive from the boat , I was told that I would be collected at 3 am yes AM to join the convoy that left Aswan at 4 am to drive the 300 kilometres to Abu Simbal . Oh what the hell , what harm would it do , another night of hardly any sleep . My wake up call felt like a cannon going off next to me , I jumped up showered and out. The drive is long and straight and we arrived just after 7 in the morning .
We had two and a half hours to explore until the convoy left back to Aswan . What makes Abu Simbal interesting is that it was saved by a joint venture between Egypt and Unesco from disappearing under the water once the Aswan dam construction was completed , so the entire temple was cut into huge blocks and moved to take its place above the water line . Very impressive to say the least , we humans can be extraordinary on occasion cant we ?
After exploring , it was back to the mini bus to take the trip home , by the time we got back I was shattered , I took a shower and jumped into bed and slept like the dead .
I was to spend 4 nights in Aswan waiting for Victoria’s arrival in Egypt , so I spent my time walking the corniche , once bustling with the tourism trade now just dust and litter with hawkers of every kind not letting up . My friend , my friend you want , you want and so it goes , not making for a relaxing stroll along the Nile . I hardly saw any other tourists at all except for those I would meet in my hotel two days into my stay. The Nile river boats parked four deep all moth balled , looking as if the world had come to an end and they the only proof of civilisation . Aswan really felt forlorn , I kept thinking to myself , Egypt made famous by its ancient ruins and now seems to be falling into ruin . The vanity of its Pharaohs still alive with the act of keeping their town neat and tidy beneath the locals . I felt saddened by what I saw.
The next morning at breakfast I met up with the Russian contingent driving their Chevrolet around the world in a year and David riding his bike south , so we hung out for the day trading information and doing what over landers do when together, chat , chat and chat. That afternoon we decided to enjoy the Nile powered by the wind so we set sail and took a boat out to enjoy the sunset and have a traditional Nubian dinner which was spectacular . I so enjoyed the company of other travellers and we spent the next two days in each others company.
I was up early , Victoria had arrived and Kamal was coming to collect me so we could free her from customs , this was to be one of my most frustrating days in living memory , dealing with Egyptian bureaucracy is torture , even with a fixer it took 6 hours to free Vic . What makes it so frustrating is that it took 6 hours to complete two forms of which I filled in one and to get a stamp in my carnet. This process in the past took around 5 minutes at other border posts , just unbelievable . Kamal then had to go to the traffic department get my registration plates , insurance and finally we could leave .
Finally back at the hotel , I did a routine check up on Vic and then took another long shower before meeting David for dinner . Off to bed to get ready for our ride up to Luxor .
I woke up early , packed the scooter and was on the road by 8h30 , it was cool and I only had just over 200 kilometres to ride . Then my ordeal started it took me three hours and around 60 kilometres of riding to find petrol , which I eventually found way past the airport on the road back to Abu Simbal , the entire town was out , I must have tried close to 20 fuel stations , finally now 11h30 we rode out in the heat of the day with Luxor in our sights . I took the road up that runs along the Nile which was to prove very slow due to the fact that it is full of very long trucks and speed bumps every couple of kilometres that bring you to a grinding halt . Some so steep they tickled Vic’ s under carriage . If this was not enough I must have been pulled over 5 times to check my documentation , what a long day it was .
Finally we arrived in Luxor , it would be another two hours before I finally got the scooter unpacked and the reams of paperwork completed to park Victoria with hotel security and me checked into my room . Showered and changed we watched the sunset over the Nile not even enough energy to go up to my room to get the camera to capture the moment . Enjoying the orange of the sunset I matched it with the orange of my Fanta . Dinner and off to bed .
Until we meet again .
After a good nights rest , I woke to a picture perfect morning , indulged with the array of vanities at my disposal and then down to breakfast to complete the extravagance with pastries , fresh coffee , a fluffy omelette and the chilled fresh fruits , mmmhhh. What a start to what was going to be a very lazy day , complete with slops , board shorts and a little sun screen .
I spent the day around the pool trying to secure a boat from Africa across the Mediterranean to Italy , which is only weeks away so I thought it prudent to get cracking . I am currently waiting for confirmation that I can get a spot aboard one of the container ships that sail the route .
Later as the heat of the day subsided I thought I would go for a walk along the Nile past the Luxor Temple and then back to the hotel . This was to be as relaxing as Chinese torture . Luxor although not as empty as Aswan still sports the 4 to 5 deep Nile river boats tied and locked , the corniche empty but for me and the ever near and present danger of the Felucca skipper offering you a trip around the bay. Luxor is far better kept , much cleaner and greener .
The only real difference between walking around Luxor to Aswan is here I am not referred to as My friend , My friend good price felucca ride , but rather moustache , moustache good price felucca ride .Even though in my heart of hearts I understand the desperation of the situation , trying to make a living with so few tourists , they really can wear you down with the one hundredth offer of the same thing with the same words . Eventually running the gauntlet frayed my patience and nerves so I made a run for the sanctuary of the hotel poolside to sip on ice cold water and enjoy a latte in a world where the sounds of the great composers fill your ears and the ever present colourful cocktails pass by on trays held high .
The sun started to set , I enjoyed the last rays from inside the pool before the day came to an end . I have decided to spend another night here and go ballooning before sunrise .
Until we meet again .
My wake up call sounded spot on at 4h40 my pick up to be 5h10 and off I set in the morning darkness to see Luxor by flight . The moon full my fifth on the trip I think , I have lost count but I do recall the first in Namibia , so I just knew I was in for a treat . Enjoy Luxor from above , enough said .
Until we meet again .