Thursday 21st October/day 17 – Libya/Egyption border: Odometer – 76829 km.
We arrived at the Libyan border at 7.50am, Mahmoud did his stuff with the guys who looked liked they were left over extras from Starsky and Hutch and we were through in about 45 mins.
It was a relief to be through the gate into Egypt! We were processed through Egypt in about 2 hours which we thought was pretty good. Yes, it does involve lots of stops, paper checking and stamping and hanging around but all in all, we got through with no hitches.
Tooth ache seems to have gone which is good.
Distance travelled -43 kms.
Friday 22nd October/day 18 – Salma Camping: Odometer – 77074 km.
Via El Alamein onto Cairo, quick stop in Carrefour to find beer only to discover they only stocked alcohol free so hasty retreat and onto Camping Salma.
Only us which was a bit of a surprise as we were hoping to meet up with some fellow overlanders at this site. However, one bite into a cheesy coissant and Sarah’s tooth decided to split which was a bit of a surprise and now the pain can be justified. Another uncomfortable night for Sarah.
Beer but no food. Beer = 15 EGP.
Camping 30 Egp pppn per night which includes electric. Hot showers. Be sure to find the most modern showers tho’!
Distance travelled – 245 kms.
Saturday 23rd Oct/day 19 – Salma Camping:
Lazy day on campsite as weekend and no embassies open. A French couple in a camper with two young boys arrived also travelling to South Africa (http://www.africaventour.fr).
Dave and Donna arrived in their Toyota (www.armuinnamuice.com) travelling down from Alexandria, our first contact with true overlanders in days! A few (ahem) beers and lots of chat followed.
Sarah’s tooth was much better but just loose.
Distance travelled – 0 kms.
Sunday 24th October/day 20 – Salma Camping, embassies and Museum:
Taxi into Cairo. The guy at the campsite has a friend who will taxi you in. To the UK Embassy and back he charges 45 EP one way for two people. We shared the taxi with the Irish guys thinking we would split the cost, but not to be! He charged them more as their embassy was further.
We had heard from Touring Ted that visas were taking a week, but the taxi driver confirmed this was due to a computer failure at the Sudanese embassy which had broken but now fixed which was great news for us!
We got our Letter of Introduction from the UK embassy at 10am (no earlier!) and paying the 275EP for the pleasure.
Along to the Sudan Embassy with the LOI, 2 passport photos. At the Sudanese embassy you then complete the application form: Note – you will need your blood group. Also, the British Embassy can be used as your sponsor. Take the app form, LOI and passports to the guy in the corner who will photocopy these for 5EP.
Take all the photocopies back to the first man, who does something, not sure what, and then directs you to the booth next door to pay ($US100 pp). Once paid, you return to the first booth again and this time he retains your passports and tells you to come back at 10am the next day.
Headed for the Egyptian Museum once we had worked out where it was. There is very limited signposting in Egypt which made it a delight to find. The museum was packed solid, so between dodging coach loads of every nationality possible, we had a look at various dusty display cabinets but there is very little info available as to what things are. Tutankhamun is currently on tour so we didn’t get to see the ‘really good bits’, but did see bazillions of other artefacts which was very interesting.
Had hoped to make it to the Dentist today but the taxi man who had offered to call the dentist on my behalf said they were closed.
Back to the campsite via the expensive taxi man to find we had been invaded by 17 campervan loads of Germans.
Later Doro & Jupp arrived in their fantastic Mercedes 911 overland truck (www.monster-worldtour.de). They’ve been on the road for the last 5 years or so and have endless interesting stories and a great outlook on life. It was fantastic to spend a few days with them.
Distance travelled – 0 kms.
Monday 25th October/day 21 – Camping Salma:
Off to pick up visas which were ready when we got there at 0930. Still confusion over the dentist so Sarah rang and managed to get an appointment at tooth hurty pm – couldn’t quite believe Sarah got this appointment time!! 🙂
Taxi man then charges us 120 EP for the return trip to the Dentist. Went in just after 2.30pm and some 30 mins later, came out less half a tooth, one filling, x-ray and prescription. Good news is that it was all relatively quick and pain free, bad news is that it lools like root canal treatment when I get back to Sooz next April. Sooz – if you are reading this, I need an app for the first week in April to see you!
Great dentist though and spoke very good English. Also rather good at pulling out teeth. Back to the campsite where our Irish and German overlanding friends were eager to hear the outcome of the adventure, but were all pleased with the final result.
Now the good bit…Rob had found a flyer in the UK Embassy for a company offering free delivery of wine and beer so we took them up on their offer. One hour from the order, a van turned up with beer and wine for us and some of the Germans. Sakara Gold Beer 500ml 6.5EP/76p vs 15EP on the campsite. Wine 43EP or 50 EP so about the same price as the UK.
Distance travelled – 0 kms.
Tuesday 26th October/day 22 – Camping Salma:
As the dentist had said to stick around for 24 hours just to make sure all was ok with Sarah, we made the decision to aim for the 8th November ferry so a quick call was made to Mr Saleh and fingers crossed we and Dave and Donna are both booked on with 1st class cabins.
Another lazy day followed.
Distance travelled – 0 kms.
Wednesday 27th October/day 23 – Camping Salma:
We ventured out to the Carrefour today and found it with no problem. Still no beer though but bought lots of other goodies. Rob doubts they’ll last until the ferry. He also didn’t post his brother a birthday card, but sent an SMS instead. Technical whizz, or cheapskate? 😉
Distance travelled – 0 kms.
Thursday 28th October/day 24 – Camping Salma – Eden Garden Camp: Odometer – 77625 km.
We broke camp bright and early and were on the road by 07:30 Arrived at Eden Garden Camp at about 13:00. Had a quick squint around the town and set up camp under some trees for some much needed shade. The facilities are superb with a finish that was in complete contrast to Salma back in Cairo. The fact that Talat employed 18 people was evident in the quality of everything. There’s a pool (of the swimming variety) filled with brownish water that turns out to be a mineral spring. Very relaxing after a session sat by the fire chatting, drinking tea (or beer) and munching dates. If you are heading the western desert route, it’s well worth a visit N28 18.064 E28 56.391 www.edengardentours.com
Distance travelled – 551 kms.
Friday 29th October/day 25 – Eden Garden Camp – Camping El Forsan hotel: Odometer – 78042 km.
After a late start for us (9am) we cracked on towards Mut – Dakhla Oasis Camping, but TFA took us up a really unused track to nowhere where we got mobbed by kids in El Qsar where they destroyed the wind deflector on Sarah’s window. We decided to head to the El Forsan Hotel (N25 29.277 E28 58.653) in Mut where we camped in the “beer garden” out back.
Halfway through the evening we were approached by a few girls from Luxor University studying Antiquities History and Archaeology and were over visiting the local Romano tombs and a temple. They had a bit of a photo session with us and the cars before they returned to their party.
Distance travelled – 417 kms.
Saturday 30th October/Day 26 Camping El Forsan hotel – Mahdala Sahara City Campsite: 78579.
Gentle start to the day, followed by a stop at a tomb which was marked on the map about 15kms south of Mut. As normal, once the locals had spotted us, we were approached by a man on a motorbike offering to show us the tomb. Have to say as this point the sat nav said we were spot on with the location, but there was no hint of a tomb-like building. Rob thought it best to stay put in the car whilst Sarah, Donna and Dave headed off across someone’s front garden, backwards through a fence, over a wall, down some steps and then we found the door. Egypt like to keep some things hidden. The lights were switched on and we were in 3 small tombs with carvings. It was at this point the very helpful man presented us with the entrance ticket, therefore, a very hasty exit was made! (25EP pp) We gave a small donation and headed back to the cars.
We decided to head for a campstie approx 3kms north of El Kharga and were sucessful getting through various police points, but events soon changed…ho, ho… Soon we could see the police in our mirrors and realised they were following us. Approaching a round-a-bout Dave decided to go one way and Alfie headed off in the other direction. Police not amused. Police stopped both cars. We were ‘told’ to follow them into a compound. Have to also say at this point Alfie decided to stop half-way across a road, jammed up against a curb and was refusing to start. 10 mins later and we had convinced the police that all we wanted to do was camp so they agreed to ‘escort’ us to the campsite. All going well until again we were flagged down and told we couldn’t go any further and we had to follow the police from now on. We were 1 km away from the campsite. Anyway, after much debate with the policeman and with each other (could we make a run for it?), we had to make a u-turn and follow him back to the police station where all our papers were checked once again (prob the 5th time in the space of an hour). We were also shown a another piece of paper listing a load of names but we didn’t appear on any of these, but that’s no great surprise as Egyptian paperwork must be about 3 years behind. Alas, we then had be escorted to the campsite the police chose for us some 20 kms south of El Kharga. Low and behold the German touring group had also been taken to this site as well. The police stayed at the gate all night either to stop us leaving or to protect us, who knows.
The evening conversation consisted mainly of the events of the day and reasons for why we were not allowed to camp at the initial campsite. The stories becoming ever more elaborate as more beer was sipped.
For other overlanders, this campsite could not have been open as the owner was away and we had to negotiate rates over the phone. We settled on 60EP down from 70EP for pitch, shower and loo but really not worth it. The campsite did have a pool which I expect was quite nice once, but now in a very poor state. As with all but the Eden site, a little bit of money would do wonders for these campsites. (N25 17.001 E 30 30.570)
Distance travelled: 237 kms
Sunday 31st October/day 27 – Mahdala Sahara City Campsite – Rezieky Camp, Luxor: Odometer 78816.
An early start and away by 7.30, partly due to poor campsite but we had also found out that the German touring group for heading for Rezeiky so we wanted to get our towels down first and ensure we got a pitch. 17 campervans would swamp any average sized campsite out here.
The drive was good, with fantastic desert scenes through another day of sand. Scenes of sand, impacted sand, wind-blown sand, sand mountains, we saw it all.
Arrived at Rezeiky early afternoon and low and behold 3 of the campers were already there. How?! Anyway, we got a good spot under some trees and settled in. By early evening most of the overlanders who we had met in Cairo had also made it to Luxor so the evening was spent catching up.
Distance travelled: 339kms
Monday 1st November/day 28 – Thursday 4th November/day Rezeiky Camp:
Rezeiky is a good location for visiting all the main tourist sites around Luxor. It was an easy walk from the camp to the Temples of Karnak and Luxor. Also, an easy walk to the ferry to cross to the west bank to visit the Valley of the Kings and Queens which were spectacular but the entrance ticket only allowed entry into three of the tombs so we took a bit of a gamble but we were all happy with what we saw. Blimey, it was hot though. We also visited the tombs of the workers which were a lot smaller but by far more vibrant in colour and reflected more of the day to day life of the times. The steps down are much steeper and you have to duck down to get underneath some of the arches but once in, we could all stand up, albeit Rob’s head was jammed up against the ceiling. Adjacent to the workers tombs is the ‘Deir al-Madina’ which is also spectacular with rich carvings still very much intact. Have to say that this is not sign-posted and it was only by chance that we went wondering that we came across it! We had the temple to ourselves.
We also visited the Mummy Museum which was small, but ever so interesting and had air-con so we lingered even longer.
Info: Once off the ferry, we negoiated a rate with a taxi driver called ‘Mr Kind’ (hmmm, some how we didn’t trust him) and yep, after about 15 metres, he stopped the car and another driver got in, who did actually turn out to be quite good and ferried us around all the sites. The sites are all quite expensive so maybe but well worth paying. For some of the tombs, you will have to pay extra, we didn’t and didn’t feel like we had missed out.
We had enough time in Luxor to try out a couple of restaurants, and even found ‘Arkwrights Open all hours store’ altho’ it closed shortly after 2330. Owned by a couple of English people, it is a good place to stock up. There is a chinese and Indian restaurant just up the road which are both very good. Also, there is a new bar above the chinese which has been opened recently by an English couple. Therefore, we thought it was only appropriate to support this bar, altho’ have to say the keyboard player was left over the 80s but made us all giggle and Sarah even got a request in (Misty – that’s one for Tony Bateman).
Rezeiky Camp – expensive:
85EP per night for car and two people.
Wifi – 25EP for 24 hours.
Washing machine 25 EP but you need to provide own washing powder, load it and unload the machine so quite a lot for electric!
Beers 18EP and wine 85EP. Too much to pay so we found the only shop which sold beer in Luxor and stocked up on our own. For anyone who is interested it’s up by the railway station. As you come out of the tourist information, turn left, walk about 40 m and the shop is on the right.
Swimming pool – great idea but so bloody cold! So hardly anyone got in.
Rezeiky food – not very good and quite pricey, either walk or get a cab into the centre of Luxor for much more choice.
We didn’t find anything to buy in Luxor unless you want the touristy stuff. The market was worth short visit but once you passed the meat shop/stall, it was enough to put you off any further.
I (Sarah) was quite shocked by the number of people just asking for money. The worst example being a small girl, about 5 years, who had just come out of school and ran up to us saying “mister mister…dollers’ with her hand out. Who teaches these 5 years olds to do this!
Distance travelled: 0kms
Thursday 4th November/day 32 – Rezeiky Camp – Adam’s House, Aswan: Odometer 79155.
Having now parted with enough money at Rezeiky we decided to head south to Adam’s camp at Aswan, following the Nile which was a lovely drive and passed through many villages with plenty of waving from on-lookers as Alfie trundled through.
We made a stop at the Edfu temple (50EP) and again the temperatures just felt a few degrees hotter again. The Temple was enormous, both in height, and number of rooms all of which were all covered in carvings.
We arrived at Adam’s camp about 5pm. We had heard some very poor reports about the campsite and wasn’t too sure it was fully open, but the site has recently been bought by ‘Mo’ who is starting to upgrade the place. So far, is has painted the courtyard in side and provided seating areas which are cool areas to retreat to. For any roof-top tents, you still have to park out the back, but it didn’t matter at all. The views of the Nile and the suspension bridge are fantastic and to be honest, the courtyard was just a huge sun-trap. Mo knows he needs to upgrade the loos and showers but these are ok, just.
Friday 5th November/day 32 – Adam’s Camp:
A lazy day around camp, Rob fixed the fuel overflow pipe, Sarah washed clothes (a pink job). As this is the last of the popular campsites at Aswan for everyone bidding for their place on the infamous ferry, we were joined throughout the day by other overlanders. So much so, there were 7 trucks parked up and just when we thought we couldn’t fit any more in, a Dutch family arrived in their DAF-converted truck. Believe me, there was no missing them, they just drove up and stopped when they couldn’t get any further! It was great though, everyone was buzzing and the atmosphere was fantastic. Conversation was mainly focused on the ferry crossing and the need to get to Mr Saleh in the morning.
Saturday 6th November/day 33 – Adam’s Camp:
It had been agreed that we would all head for Mr Saleh’s office for about 9am, despite him not opening until 9.30am. Not sure why we all did this, must be the sun, anyway, it meant we all sat outside Mr S’ office for half and hour! ho hum.
At 9.30am we all formed an orderly queue, not really sure what we were to expect, but slowly we were all called into Mr S’s office where he checked your name name and wrote this down on a piece of paper. I would like to say he was organised but it is all done from memory. Although, Sarah had rung twice to check we were on the ferry with a 1st class cabin, we were still told to wait again.
Soon after Mr Saleh took us all into the street and asked us to count how many vehicles we think needed to be shipped…comedy moment.. you need to see how 6 nationaties can count, or not! Anyway, about 15 mins later we finalised on 11 vehicles (yes, only 11). Scary counting.
Back we all went into his office (biggish office by the way), where Mr S made a phone call and soon after confirmed ‘Everyone can go’ – hurrah! Off we went to the traffic police to check to see if Rob had any traffic offences. Again in convoy, and let’s just say, if you think the ability to count was a challange, you try parking 11 vehicles and then trying to find the traffic court! Pied piper moment but the very unofficial building was found in the end. Much confusion followed, forms signed, altho’ I think Rob signed a form of one of the other guys! We were then told to return at 5pm for the verdict. All good news, Rob had no offences and one step nearer the ferry.
Sunday 7th November/day 34: Adam’s Camp.
Another visit to Mr Saleh’s office, this time we arrived just after opening time to pay for the cabins, again, another paper filling exericise excuted by many many people…a theme we will see again tomorrow.
Once done, we needed to find an internet cafe as we had heard that we needed a letter of introduction from the Brittish Embassy for Ethiopia to say we were law abiding UK citizens. Email sent, back to camp.
Monday 8th November/day 35 Adam’s Camp to Aswan Port:
In a true Pan-European agreement (if only it was that easy in reality), we all decided to head off at 8.30am to the office to return the Egyptian number plates and get passports stamped. We were now quite good at convoys and nothing was going to squeeze in betwen us! Another 2 hours spent watching Egyptian office work and realising that there must be some great job creation schemes out here. Sarah was chomping at the bit and heard to be quoting ‘efficiencies/processes’ before Rob soon shut her up!
Having handed in our plates we couldn’t drive anywhere until a man appeared and said ‘follow me’! Which we did all in…yep, you’ve guessed it..convoy to the port. Customs made a pathetic attempt to search the vehicles, in fact all the guy wanted was 20EP and he didn’t even bother, Egypt is so corrupt.
The ticket was then paid for and the carnet handed in for stamping, but as there were so many of us the man couldn’t cope so sent us all away for an hour. More money was exchanged to the get the carnet back (again, not too sure this was legit), and then a fight to get another stamp on an immigration card and yep, more money.
But we were soon in the vehicles and heading for the ferry at last. Then the penny dropped…there was no way, that 13 vehicles and 8 motorbikes were going to fit on the car ferry. Keep calm/don’t panic/all will be fine but however many times people walked down to the car ferry, it wasn’t getting any bigger. About 2 hours later, Alfie was on, Rob and Sarah had fought their way onto the passenger ferry only to see 4 of the overlanders reversing up the jetty.
Now to the ferry, the best approach to get on was to use the scrum tactic which was only made worse by the locals saying ‘push push’, so not very British, but when in Rome or what ever the saying is, push we did and finally got to our cabin squeezing through people with computers, tin trays (why?), and bags on every size going.
Hmmm, it would be very naive of me (Sarah writing) to expect luxury but blimey, I thought we would get something better than an indoor shed! It did have air con which was good but no lock on the door which was not so good. We stayed in here quite a while and hatched a plan for how to keep people out. Also, a plan should there be a Titanic moment and Rob decided the best exit was out through the port hole! Sarah unpacked the rations which could have fed all the crew. Sarah found the rest of the European contingent camped on the very top of the boat, frantically watching what was happening to the four stranded cars. To everyone’s relief another boat/barge turned up and the cars were loaded onto this and then promptly surrounded by yet more boxes.
We set sail about 7.30pm and decided it was best to stay in the indoor shed, apart from one exploration each to the loos, something you really didn’t want to do more often. Apart from a man offering us a free mango drink (something for free in Egypt!) and a French lady trying to get in the cabin half-way through the night, we survived until morning. Although, if the French lady had been to the loo in the night I can excuse her for being confused, those loos which disarm almost everyone’s senses.
We both enjoyed Egypt and I’m (Sarah) really pleased that I finally made it to Cairo and Luxor, having first wanted to go soon after leaving school.
Some thoughts and observations…
* Egypt is expensive relative to other African countries we have travelled through. People are not shy about asking for money and be prepared to pay over the odds.
* Women are more visable than Libya but in burkhas. There seems to be a huge number of children or we just seemed to time it really badly and hit home time every day!
* Villages still seem half-built, but at least there is colour here compared to Libya.
* In between diesel bellowing trucks and coaches, men are still seen driving wooden carts led by donkeys and the occasional horse carrying food and harvest from the fields.
* Men are often seen sitting at cafes drinking tea and coffee watching the world go by. Women are at home cleaning and cooking.