Day 15 28th June 2009

Dahab: 5 miles (on foot)

A: Dahab....wow, what a great place. Everything is so cheap here in comparison to Jordan and once we finished breakfast we decide to spend a few hours looking for a nice place to stay for the forthcoming week.

After a little searching and plenty of bartering we have settled into what we think is the best place ever, we have a sea view, A/C and breakfast for a mere 8 pounds a day for the two of us!! It's cheaper than camping here!

Q: I'm really looking forward to a week of relaxing on the beach, kite surfing and sleeping as much as possible.

Day 16 to day 20; 29th June until the 3rd July 2009

Dahab: 36 miles (between the lagoon and Sphinx Hotel + a few dive sites)

Q: Dahab has so far been the best week pre our great trek through Africa. We have not done much more than have breakfast (hard boiled egg, sweet bread roll, cucumber and yoghurt with honey) kitesurf (a patient couple of hours on the sunbed for Angel c thanks babe), some diving (snorkeling for me), horse riding in the mountains followed by sitting in the Funny Mummy for supper. The most stressful part of the week has been defending our food from the sneaky cats over a cold Sakara and mint and apple sheesha. Not bad living for all that for about 20 GBP per day all inclusive.

The kiting was great until I left my favorite kite on the beach for a while longer than I should have. As it is so hot, the air in the leading bladder expands and the valves broke rendering it useless unless you carry spare valves not likely on this trip. After trying to fix the problem unsuccessfully with aroldite I could not kite for the last 2 days which made me a little stroppy c apparently this is common problem with North Kites. I was wondering why all the other people there were using Cabrina c Hopefully I can fix it in Kenya which should be the next time we see the ocean. Anyway, I ended up spending the last few days reading my book and snorkeling along the reefs that were close to where Angel was diving. I saw Nemo cquite a few times, with his whole family.

When in Dahab and you are hungry and in need of a wholesome meal cI recommend King Chicken. For the handsome sum of 22 EP (2.2 English) you will eat half a scruffy chicken, koushari rice, sweet hot soup with some noodle type thing in it, bread, salad and tahina. It is good c plus you can give your bones to the friendliest dogs and cats that hang out with you for company while you eat. Delicious.

A: Andrew was the most patient companion, sitting reading his book while I did several dives over the period of two days. The diving was just amazing and the fish were so so colourful, it was like swimming in a tropical fish tank.

We have to admit, this was the most relaxing part of our journey so far and we couldn't have picked a better spot to spend a week of 'us time'. Kiting for Andrew was pretty good and I could see just within those few days how much he had improved but the lagoon where they hung out was particularly shallow in parts with plenty of coral. After the first day or two with exceptionally raw feet and a sand graze on one knee, an investment in a pair of coral shoes made life much better. While the kiting was in progress, I made my way sneakily onto the private beach at the Hilton around on the calm side of the lagoon! If my stealth moves were unsuccessful I would have had to sitting on a windy beach, fighting to keep the pages of my book down, avoiding the towel whipping me in the face and ensuring my blinking and yawning was only done in the intervals when the wind wasn't blowing the sand towards me!

Oh to be a kite surfing widow!!

Thankfully this wasn't the case and my days were spent on a comfortable lounger under a brolly with a good book..........so many thanks to the Hilton Group!! One evening was spent horse riding in the mountains above Dahab to watch the sunset. There was a lot of open space which the horses translated as 'RUN, so we did.....but two hours we were definitely walking like Egyptians!!

Day 21: 4th of July 2009

Cairo: 263 miles

Q: We left Dahab for St Catherine's Monastery around midnight to arrive at the base of Mount Sinai with enough time to get to the top to watch the sun rise at 5am. After paying the entrance fee and meeting our bedouin guide we were marching up the mountain still in a dazed and sleepy state. Out of the darkness you stumble across numerous bedouins who in a quite and inquiring tone say camel c would you like a camel? These camels work harder than any others I have seen so far in Egypt. Its a long way up with a large passenger on your back c

A: The trek was pretty grueling but worth it for the beautiful sunrise we saw from the very top. It was also exceptionally cold up there and even with a sweater,scarf and trousers we were still cold. Prepared for the obvious the Bedouin folk come around offering blankets and mattresses to use which all have a distinctive musty smell of.........Camel! We stayed up there for a little over an hour and then headed back down but this time taking another route along the steps that were built by one monk as penance........the knees didn't like that too much. On the way down we came across children sat at little makeshift stalls trying to sell bits of rock and information booklets for $10.........needless to say we passed on those!

Andrew drove from Mt Sinai to a little after half way to Cairo where we stopped at a resort called Moon Beach in Sud Bir (Camilla's recommendation) for a swim. I managed to get some sleep en-route so I took over from there and drove to Cairo via the Suez Canal. Ships steaming through the desert is not something you see everyday.

Never Drive in Cairo!!! Its as, if not more chaotic than Damascus. Andrew's navigation skills are second to none so luckily we weren't lost for too long and found the Camp Site which is OK but riddled with mozzies as Andrew found out within a few seconds!

After a very quick supper of rice and chick peas we were in bed by 7 and didn't wake for 12 hours......this camping thing is a breeze!

Day 22 : 5th of July 2009

Cairo: 0 km

A: I have to be honest, we've felt like two walking wallets since we stepped foot in Cairo. The inflation of the price when a tourist is disgusting. We are now fully informed on what we should pay for items such as a bottle of water, bread and a can of coke so when asked to pay more we simply walk away.

Cairo isn't somewhere I'd recommend to anyone to visit for more than the two days and all you need to see is the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. I'm looking forward to getting out of here. Thankfully the pain free process for both the Ethiopian and Sudanese visa applications have been completed so we should leave as early as lunch time tomorrow.

Q: Cairo, well what can you say. It is not the place for the meek and mild cin everything you do there is some Egyptian trying to get you to part with your money. I find that we are constantly arguing with someone about money. My new rule is to divide everything by 3 immediately. In one day we have had taxi fare arguments, tickets to Giza and Sakarra price arguments, bread, water, beans and melon price arguments c absolutely everything. I find it hard to believe that there is an Egyptian shopkeeper living in Cairo that would be happy to just let us pay what the next Egyptian customer is going to pay. The best place to be in Cairo is back at the Salma Camp where no one bothers you.

Besides all this, we did spend the afternoon in the desert walking around the pyramids of Giza and Sakarra. We saw Tito's tomb and the step pyramid in Sakarra but these are not that impressive in comparison to the pyramids at Giza. They are very big and very old.

There were not many tourists on the Giza plateau when we got there as it was close to closing time plus some visiting foreign minister was coming to have dinner in the complex so it meant that it closed even earlier than usual. The camel mounted tourist police chased us out just after 6pm and we made our way back ... by camel, to our guide's home/ office for a felafel dinner with cold bottled water (more haggling).

A camel is an interesting creature. My Giza camel was called Micheal Jackson because he could dance well. I would have called him Stench given the unpleasant aroma I had to endure for over 2 hours. Perhaps it is something that you could get used to, but a camel with one hump is not the most comfortable thing to ride on. Overall, Michael Jackson was a well behaved and righteous creature who was not shy to remind me through a prelude of grunts and moans that I was a heavy burden for him to carry each time we got started.

We watched the sun setting from the desert just beyond the walls that enclose the Giza pyramids before making our way back to the camp site. I am very weary of our camping site ... I seem to be the favored one when it comes to attracting the swarms of mosquitoes that have feasted plentifully over the past 2 days.

Tomorrow we should have our visa's which will get us moving again. 3 days here has been enough.

Day 23: 6th July 2009

Cairo, 0 miles

Q: Nescafe with flat bread and apricot jam has been our morning starter for the last few days. I think that it has stayed this way so as to avoid another frustrating argument about the price of an egg or mini yogurt. Eating what we have in the larder c ie: bread and jam, makes life so much easier.

Our Ethiopian visas were ready at 10am as promised so we headed off to the Netherlands Consulate and the British Consulate to pick up our letters of recommendation that will enable us to apply for a Sudanese visa. Being Dutch is clearly better than being British. I had to pay 270 EP for an unimpressive photocopy of an official looking letter from the British Consulate which asks the Sudanese Consulate to allow me to travel through Sudan c something that is already written in the passport. Angel got hers for free plus her letter was headed correctly and had a better looking stamp. Cairo's money fever must have taken over the British Consular in Cairo because charging 25GBP for this letter is amusing. Unfortunately I had to hand it to the Sundanese Consulate otherwise I would have it framed.

The man at the Sundanese Consulate was really nice and helped us get the visa application sorted out quickly. 200 dollars later we were free of admin for the morning and could go and explore some more of Cairo. However, we only walked out of the internet cafe 3 hours later just as the city started to come to life as the evening set in.

A: It was roughly 5pm before we set off from the three hour long stint at the internet cafe. The City had come alive and the cafes were beginning to get busy with the local crowds drinking tea and smoking sheeshas. Supper here doesn't seem to come into the equation until well after 10pm so we were a little limited with where we could eat. We ended up in a very basic kebab shop where the stray cats had become a little too smart and quick for their own good, and we ended up having to guard our supper with one hand while trying to eat it with the other!! Once finished, Andrew decided to brave the loos.....he didn't even make it beyond the toilet door...time to leave this fine establishment!!

We stopped off at what appeared to be the most happening cafe in the Downtown area of Cairo. Completely exhausted of the constant wallet draining attitude of the locals we sat down to have some tea. A gentleman sat next to us began to talk to us about the sights of Cairo which immediately made us wary of his intentions. After telling him how we knew that we were constantly paying massively inflated prices on such things as food and taxis, he insisted he show us the way to the bus which would take us straight to Salma Camp Site for 2 EP per person. True to his word he took us there and also bought us an ice cream on the way too. I think we have discovered the only honest man in Cairo.

Day 24: 7th July 2009

Baharia Oasis, 367 miles

Q: I am sure that the water we have been showering in at Salma Camp in Cairo is being sucked straight out of the nearby canal which looks as though it has a regular visit from the rubbish truck. It has this strong iron taste to it and I am sure that it smells like manure, so I squish my mouth closed as tight as possible when washing. Other than the swarms of hungry mosquitoes and the water than smells peculiar, I have really enjoyed the tranquility of Salma Camp. Any respite from the sensory overload of Cairo is good.

I managed to get hold of Mr Shah today of the Nile River Transportation Company who has booked us and Donkey onto the Monday morning (possibly afternoon) ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa. There are only 2nd class tickets available for our 20 hour ferry cruise to Sudan but hopefully we will get an upgrade c air conditioning and a bed would be a bonus.

After collecting our passports from the Sudanese Embassy at 10am we went straight for the Egyptian Museum to see King Tut and a few of his mummified friends. You could get lost in the museum exploring the hundreds of rooms full of Egyptian treasures, but we gave ourselves one and a half hours to see all the best bits as we wanted enough time to get out of Cairo via Carrefour to fill up on food and water for the journey through the Western Desert on our way to Luxor.

Carrefour is a great place c they have Starbucks with moca frappacinos. I know that this is very boring, but it was a relief to be in a place where everything had a marked price (in English) no chance of having an argument with the store keeper. I could imagine nothing worse than having to haggle about the price of each item in our shopping trolly. 2 hours later we had water, chicken, pineapple juice (on of my favourite drinks at the moment), eggs, milk, bread, cheese, snickers (only one), nutella (to keep Angel sweet in the morning) and loads of fruit and veggies.

On the way out of the city we were hoping to stop in the Giza car park and take a picture of Donkey (and us) with the Pyramids in the background c unfortunately we were not allowed to as the SOS Children's Village sticker on the back panel is considered an advertisement so we would require official permission from the authorities to take such a picture. This could take days to organise so slightly irritated we left Cairo and headed into the desert. Too bad c it would have been a nice picture but I am sure that the picture of us at Cape Point in a few months time will be just as good.

Other than coming across the occasional sand storm driving on the desert highway towards Bahariya Oasis was not too exciting. The landscape changed quite dramatically as we we got closer to Bahariya. Arriving at a patch of palm trees happily growing in a sea of hot sand must have been the greatest thing in the world if you were travelling by camel across the desert a few hundred years ago.

A: It was utterly bizarre, all the crops were flourishing and there was an abundance of free flowing water. We arrived at the Desert Safari Lodge at about 8pm and the owner welcomed us with open arms. We were offered supper which was gladly accepted and the icing on the cake.....cold beer!

Day 25: 8th July 2009

White Desert, 148 miles

Q: I seem to wake up every morning a few hours before Angela ... not sure why. We must have looked like we needed a good scrub as our landlord for the night in Baharyia was quick to suggest at breakfast that we go to the cold spring for a dip? I know I was clean ... he must have been sitting to close to Angel.

A: Swim time. The lonely planet boasts about a wonderful cold water spring in the middle of the desert with swaying palm fronds and a vista to die for ... well, not quite as described that's for sure. It was rather nice to be able to go for a swim in the midday heat but it certainly wasn't for the faint hearted. The water smelt a little like the water at Salma Camp back in Cairo and to add a little interest also had ominous greeny/brown floaty things in it!! A quick dip for me was sufficient, Andrew however was befriended by four kids who roped him into dive bombing and an underwater hand stand competition. We set off from Bahariya a little after 1pm and headed south to our next port of call. When we arrived we headed off road into the heart of the White Desert. There was a well trodden path previously made by other vehicles so we followed them until we came across a sign that lead us deeper into the desert and to the most spectacular rock formations that had formed over millions of years of erosion. They all took on some strange shape and some almost looked life like, all were pure white and stood out beautifully from the red sand that lay at their base.

Several hours later we found a good camping spot and set up our kitchen, living room and bedroom all within a record time of 15 minutes. Supper this evening was a real treat, chicken skewers with veggies, yum. Sending a plume of chicken aroma across the valley, we attracted the attention of a little desert fox who to begin with was a little shy and kept his distance. As we ate our dinner his confidence grew and he was soon just a couple of feet from us eye balling our juicy kebabs. We didn't share, Andrew told me I couldn't feed the wild life!!

Day 26: 9th July 2009

Luxor, 543 miles

Q: I think we overslept after being kept awake by the howling desert wind most of the night. I did not mind the violent shuddering of the tent too much but I did find it hard to sleep as the odd particle of sand would disguise itself as a hungry mosquito by swirling around the tent tapping me all over my body. I only had to leave the safety of the tent once to rescue the washing up tub as it was swept off by the wind into the desert night.

Muesli with yogurt and honey plus fresh brown bread (from Carrefour) with cream cheese and cucumber for breakfast whilst hiding from the morning sun in the White Desert is not the worst way to start any day. I think that we could have stayed for a few nights exploring the desert but we need to get to Luxor and Aswan to see all the good things before leaving Egypt on Monday on the Ferry to Sudan. On our way to Luxor we stopped at an oasis village called Al Qsar which seems to have been lost in time. It is just as you would imagine an oasis town would be a few hundred years ago with mud walled houses and mosques packed around narrow dusty streets in amongst the palm groves. We found the hot spring of Bar Geber to take a quick dip.

A: This was much welcomed as the drive from the White Desert was pretty dry and desolate so a little fresh (ish) flowing water and green vegetation was just the ticket. The spring was located just next to a small camp where the owner invited us for a refreshing glass of lemon water after our swim.

Distances are not the Lonely Planet's strongest point, as far as we knew we were roughly 150km from Luxor but after asking the local tourist police, soon discovered we were over 340km of long straight deserted road away from arriving in Luxor. We arrived late into Rezisky Camp in Luxor and had a beer by the 'pool' before going to bed.

Day 27: 10th July 2009

Luxor, 27 miles

 

Q: Temples and antiquity all day today – temple complex of Karnack on the East bank and the temple of Hatshetsup and the Valley of the Kings on the West bank. It has been an impressive tour of all that is ancient in Egypt over the last few days, but I am now looking forward to taking a break from walking around temples and museums. Sudan do have a few ancient Menroes (pyramid type things), but nothing quite like what you get to see here in Egypt. I am looking forward to meeting the people and spending time just moving slowly from village to village along the Nile. It will be hot though.

 

 A: Tomb and Temple overload in roughly 45 degree heat! Even the locals were in agreement that it was particularly scorchio.

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Our ticket for the Valley of the Kings allowed us into 3 tombs so we had to choose carefully. Unfortunately Tutankhamon was taking the day off so we couldn't pay him a visit but Thesmosis lll and Ramses lV were most welcoming. The chosen tombs were set deep underground and as our ticket was stamped on entry we were handed a cardboard fan to help with the overwhelming heat inside. It was like a Swedish sauna and when I turned to look for Andrew I found him attached to the only small fan offering any kind of ventilation  to the rest of the tomb.

 

Everyone here wants 'bakshish', a tip. This can be for almost anything, the cardboard fan a torch to shine inside an empty tomb, even the Tourist police have jumped on the band wagon and ask for bakshish to simply take a photo which they absolutely insist on taking. I wouldn't mind but who's going to argue with a man with a AK47! When we make it clear we aren't going to dish out the cash they still remain very friendly and just take  the opportunity to talk to you and find out which football team you support. Chelsea seems to be the favored team here in Egypt.

 

In the evening we strolled along the East bank of the Nile for sunset. There were plenty of touts here trying to sell trips on the felucas. We're saving our sail boat card for when we get to Aswan, the Nile 200km south of here is supposed to be even prettier so we thought we'd wait until then. Supper was half a chicken, rice, Tomato salad, tahina bread and for dessert, traditional rice pudding all for the grand total of 55 EP ( 5 pounds). We then updated the blog and later ran the gauntlet at the souq.

 

We took a ride on a horse and cart back to Camp and as we climbed aboard we noticed a little girl who couldn't have been more than 5 years old hanging on for dear life underneath the carriage hitching a free ride out of sight of the owner, beats walking clearly. The town was just beginning to come to life as we were heading back, butwalking around all day in this heat really zaps you of energy so zzzzzzing time for us now.

 

Day 28: 11th July 2009

 

Aswan: 178 miles

 

A: We set off from the camp at 10ish and headed for Aswan. The drive was quite interesting and as we neared Aswan we noticed several vehicles passing us in the opposite direction loaded with cattle and camels. Not such a strange thing you may think but try and imagine that the vehicles were not lorries but small SUV's and the camels were sitting 3 besides one another with their heads peering over the passenger cabin.

 

As we got to Aswan early we thought we'd try and get the majority of the paperwork completed for getting Donkey through customs so that we could enjoy the rest of the day. It was a rush as most government officials stop working at 2pm and it was almost 1pm when we arrived into town. After visiting the very helpful Mr Shah at the Nile River Transportation Company we made our way quickly to the regional courthouse to get a slip of paper to declare that we were free from any accident in Egypt. By this time it was almost 2pm and because they processed it for us just as they were packing up to go home, the official wanted money, this of course was no surprise and we gave him 50% of what he wanted and drove off. We have finally learned the game the day before we depart!!

 

Our hotel here has to be the best budget Hotel in Aswan, the rooms are very clean and and to make life sweeter, there is a roof top pool with the most wonderful view of the Nile. We are beginning to like Egypt again now we are here in Aswan, people still want your money but they are just nicer about getting it!! After a quick dip we took a stroll along the river and found a great place called Emy, a restaurant on a boat that also sells the amber nectar!! We were in heaven, the cool breeze off the nile with an ice cold Stella (the local brew) was the business.

 

Q: We took the road that follows the Nile the whole way to Aswan. Good idea if you want to take in the scenery and get a better idea of how being a farmer living along the nile can be like BUT it is a bad idea if you don't have airconditioning and it happens to be the hottest place on the planet. The 135km road took us over 3 hours get through as we were constantly slowing for village traffic, pedestrians and real donkeys carrying farm produce. It was a very pretty drive and I am glad that we did it.

 

Day 29: 12th July 2009

 

Aswan: 18 miles

 

A: I had a pretty dreadful night sleep so when the alarm went off this morning I was like a bear with a sore head. The night we spent in Luxor at the camp, I was eaten alive by bed bugs and I've counted 40 bites on one leg alone not to mention both arms and my bottom. The room last night was particularly hot and the AC was less than efficient so at 4 am and after 2 hours of itching I went to the lobby and insisted we move to a cooler room. The room we are in now is sitting at a comfortable 20 degrees, 26 less than outside.

 

Q: In Luxor we met a Russian family (6 strong) who are also on the ferry with us to Sudan tomorrow. They are travelling in a Toyota people carrier that has been converted to 4WD with higher suspension. The leader of the pack – Alexander (and his wife) have travelled to pretty much every corner of the globe (it seems like this is all that they have done for the last few years). They also have zero luggage. I think I saw one bag between 6 of them. I wonder what they must think of us in a truck for two full of toys, tents and camping equipment.

 

Anyway, as we had finished off all the admin of getting ready to go on the ferry yesterday we met up with Alexander to help them get their car papers organised. It is good to have fellow travellers on the boat with us. We are going to split up from them when we arrive in Wadi Halfa as they are heading straight to Kartoum while we are going to follow the Nile for a few days. I am sure that we will bump into them again as they are following pretty much the same route as we are all the way to Cape Town.

 

Donkey also got new blood too today. We have done almost 6000 miles since leaving the UK (in 4 weeks) so I thought it best to get the oil changed before heading into the Sudanese desert. We are carrying all our own spares and oil so to change the oil and filter in Aswan cost only  5EP for labour?? Nuts. Sammy at the CO-OP (petrol station by the train station in Aswan) was super helpful as he negotiated the price of a replacement 5ltr bottle of oil for us to carry which was one third of the price from the original quote of 240 EP.

 

With the oil changed we only needed to pick up some water and food for the first 5 days in Sudan. On the hottest days through the Western Desert in Egypt we have been drinking around 8ltrs each so we needed to find a shop that would sell 4 boxes of water at the non tourist prices. Good thing we had made friends with a store owner next to the regional courthouse who I promised to sell us 4 boxes at a reasonable price. He smiled as we drove off so I assume he milked us on the price anyway. This water should last us a good week unless we get stranded.

 

This evening we got on a felucca to take us up the Nile for a couple of hours where we watched the sun set and popped a bottle of champagne that we brought with us all the way from London just for the occasion. There was not much wind so the 2 hour trip only took us about 100m from where we started but it was lovely all the same. If anyone reading this comes to Aswan and would like a sea worthy felucca to enjoy a sunset on the Nile, you must ask for Abdulla the felucca captain of Aswan – good guy with good chat and he also knows where the best falafal place in all of Aswan is (dinner).

 

We had a last beer at Emy on the river before going to bed. Egypt has been interesting and exciting, but also good to be leaving. Tomorrow is going to be another long day before we get onto the ferry and start our journey to Sudan.

 

Misc facts about Egypt

 

1} Not all Egyptians are trying to reap the tourist of all their money, however quite a few are. The further from Cairo you are, the better it is for travelling.

2] A bottle of beer from a shop in Dahab costs 7EP (6.5EP if you take the bottle back) and between 10-35EP depending which city you are in.

3] Be careful of the bed you sleep in as it may enjoy you as a midnight feast.

4] Diesel is cheap at 1EP per litre.

5] Bottled water ranges from 1.7EP (in Carrefour) to 5EP in some dirty sheesha and chicken cafe on the back streets in Cairo