Egypt was country number 28 on our Trans Africa trip, and what an amazing place to end our epic journey. Egypt is one of the world’s great civilizations, and it is mind boggling to contemplate that the phenomenal ruins still visible today are a mere fraction of what was on display in Egypt during its heyday. We entered Egypt via Lake Nasser from Sudan, and arrived at the chaotic port city of Aswan. The temple of Abu Simbel is not to be missed, nor is a felucca ride on the Nile. From Aswan, we headed north to see the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu, before continuing onward to Luxor, which was our base for the next few days. There, Karnak steals the show, the Luxor Temple warrants a look, and a visit to the Valley of the Kings is almost obligatory. Our highlight of Luxor though, was an early morning hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings…simply unforgettable! A visit to the Luxor Museum impressed, and we left Luxor for Hurghada, where several members of our group went SCUBA diving in the Red Sea. The trip continued at warp speed as we drove in to Cairo, where we stayed at the poshest accommodations of our trip thus far (Havana Hotel) and woke up on the last day of the Trans for a visit to the Egyptian Museum and Giza Pyramids. Then it was time for our farewell dinner, a hearty goodbye to our fellow passengers, and that was it, 40 weeks on the road culminated in the bustling capital city of Cairo. We headed off to Israel and returned to Egypt to take in the other pyramids (Saqqara, Dahsur and the former Pharaonic capital city of Memphis.
3 Aug: At around 11 pm, Nancy came by to tell us that the immigration official was stamping us into Egypt, so she needed everyone to come downstairs immediately to get that sorted out. It was a fairly pain free process, although we had to walk the gauntlet of men to get down to the lower deck and some of them harassed a few of the girls who weren’t appropriately attired…Goodbye Sudan and Welcome to Egypt! After getting stamped into the country, it was a quick hike back up to the top deck for a bit more shut eye and all of us fell asleep wondering what time the ferry would pull into Aswan tomorrow.
4 Aug: We were in no hurry to wake up and face another boring couple of hours on the ferry, so it was with great effort that we finally roused ourselves awake at around 8:30 am. Aswan still wasn’t in sight, although we were making slow but steady progress. Despite the buffeting winds, we managed to dig out some pita bread and make a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. At around noon, we finally pulled into Aswan, and little did we realize that the more difficult part was still to come. It was four hours of mayhem before we were finally off the ferry, past customs inspection and onto an air-conditioned bus. While we waited to disembark, we watched as Chris managed to hop off the ferry to attempt to drive Nala off another barge (she had arrived the day before). The Africa Trails driver was standing by (his truck was stuck behind ours), so it was a team effort as the first attempt was an absolute fiasco. Chris reversed the truck at such a steep angle that Nala got stuck and refused to budge. The Af-Trails truck came to the rescue and used a wench to pull us out. Then it was an exercise in patience as Chris attempted to direct the barge captain to reverse closer to shore…the barge kept drifting backwards and forwards and round and round in circles, but never any closer to the shore! Damien and Sean hopped off to assist, and finally after what felt like forever, the barge captain finally started his engine and reversed closer to shore. Chris immediately drove Nala off followed by a happy Africa Trails driver (his group had been in Luxor for well over a week now and they were quite anxious to continue their journey). Meanwhile, we were finally given the signal to disembark, and it was utter chaos as locals tried to elbow us out of the way (there was nowhere for us to go so we furiously stood our ground and several arguments ensued). Poor Katherine and Ally had their passports confiscated, so a highly irate Nancy stood her ground and demanded the return of the passports. She was directed to go up towards customs where “it would all get sorted out”. We trudged uphill towards the customs area and it was an absolute zoo trying to get pass an armed (and angry) guard who was guarding a tiny gate, into a narrow hallway where we had to shove ourselves through a single door frame, and then finally to a chaotic and fluid queue where our bags were inspected. Of course the machine was constantly scanning bags, so our fragile computer equipment ended up tumbling a good two feet to the ground…it was highly irritating and not a good impression of Egypt at all. We had one heat casualty as Gin felt lightheaded and passed out, only to have an aggressive Marie pull her up and strong arm her up to the front of the line, furiously barking orders to the officials to let Gin through. When we finally stumbled out into the parking lot where our a/c bus was awaiting us, we felt a huge wave of relief at having passed through one of the most ridiculous border crossings ever. From the Aswan port, it was a short drive to our hotel, the super welcoming and friendly Orchida St George Hotel. What a perfect location in the center of Aswan, and we were greeted with refreshing cold drinks of chrysanthemum juice before checking into our double room (204). We immediately discovered that the hotel offered free wifi, and after sorting our room out, we dressed into our swimsuits and headed for a rooftop pool swim. The swimming pool was more like a wading pool, but it had powerful jets that we used to massage our aching backs. Afterwards, we linked up with Damien and Anna for a walk into town so that we could get some Egyptian Pounds ($1 = 5.95 Pounds). A waterfront McDonald’s lured us in so we grabbed some refreshing milkshakes and soaked up the a/c before scoring some cheap water (two 1.5 Liter bottles for 5 Pounds) from some dubious street sellers. They kept trying to scam us with a 50 cent note, first swapping the 50 Pound note we gave them for the 50 cent note when they said they had no change, and a second instance where we gave the seller the exact amount and he claimed we had given him too much money (the 50 cent note emerged again). We called their bluffs in both instances as it was obvious that they were up to a scam. It is easy to see how newbie tourists could easily fall for such a simple trick, but thankfully we were jaded travelers by this point and hurled furious insults at the scam artists who meekly accepted their verbal lashing. Back at the hotel, we had dinner at 7:30 pm (included for free) which consisted of salad, soup and a main meal of chicken with rice. Nancy informed us that tomorrow morning’s Abu Simbel trip ($45 including transport, entrance fee and guide) had an early pick up of 4 am.
5 Aug: It was an early 4 am wakeup for Abu Simbel, and about a third of the group overslept and we had to go aknocking on doors. The hotel provided a box breakfast (bread, cheese, juice and boiled eggs). It only took us about 3.5 hours to drive from Aswan to Abu Simbel in the convoy, and our guide let us sleep for the majority of the journey, only interrupting our sleep to inform us that the temple was built by Ramses II and relocated in the 1960s due to the construction of the dam. The massive temple was broken down into chunk sized pieces and painstakingly moved section by section, an amazing feat for only 4 years of labor! We were given a quick overview of the two temples we were about to visit (the Great Temple of Abu Simbel and the Temple of Hathor). The great temple is famous for its four seated 20 meter high figurines of Ramses II during various periods of his life. An earthquake damaged the second figure from the left and is today, still in its crumbled position. Interspersed throughout the seated Ramses II figures are some of his children and wives. The Temple of Hathor was built for Ramses II’s favorite wife, Queen Nefertiti, and there are 6 statues carved into its rock face (4 of Ramses II and 2 of Nefertiti). We had to be back on the bus by 10 am, and everyone was on time. The convoy back took just under 4 hours and we were back at our hotel by 1:30 pm for a late lunch of salad, soup and beef n’ rice. Nancy told us that our Nubian Village dinner was scheduled for 4 pm, so that left us with just a few hours to relax. Luke wanted to borrow our computer to book his onward travel but he didn’t show up until it was too late. Robby went with Damien and Anna in search of cheap beer but came back empty handed. Our dinner at Nubian Village on West Bank of the First Cataract. We had a leisurely boat ride past Elephant Island, the Old Cataract Hotel where Agathe Christie wrote her novel “Death on the Nile”. Our captain gave us about an hour to go swimming in the Nile and it was awesome to cool off. Later in the afternoon, we headed over to the Nubian village where we were greeted with chrysanthemum tea (delicious) and were surprised to see that every house in the village had a stuffed crocodile over its entrance portal. Dinner consisted of rice, potatoes, bread, chicken, beans and salad. Our meal was quite tasty and thankfully, there was plenty of it. Just before leaving, Nancy and Lars opted to get henna tattoos for a bargain price of 10 Pounds. We left the village around 9 pm to head back to the hotel.
6 Aug: After breakfast, we visited the Sharia as-Souq which runs one block parallel to the Corniche. There, we stumbled across a LP Middle East guidebook and rechargeable batteries which we bought for $55 after some serious bargaining. Dates were a decent deal at 10 Pounds for 0.5 KG, so we bought a KG of them. Becky bought a long sleeve cotton cover up shirt for 30 Pounds and we stopped by McDonald’s for a shake before realizing that it was closed until 11 am. Since we had time to kill, we took some money out of the bank (enough to get us through Luxor, Hurghada and Cairo) and got our shakes which we decided to enjoy back in the hotel room. We bought 4 bottles of water from the shiesty street vendors, and a couple bottles of Miranda for the felucca ride. Damien had kindly purchased 3 cans of beer for Robby (10 Pounds each) and we were packed and ready to go by noon for our felucca ride. Since our group was large, we split into two groups and we ended up on the same boat as Matt, Lisa, Fi, Sean, Sara, Naomi, Lucky, Ally, Damien and Anna with the party animals on the felucca with Nancy. Chris drove the truck onward to Luxor where we would meet him tomorrow. The ride was brilliant, although the breeze was strong and we weren’t sure if our boat could turn on a dime (apparently it can). We had to stop for police registration, and afterwards, pulled over to an area where everyone swam in the Nile to relax and cool down. After lunch, we leisurely made our way down the river banks and it wasn’t until several hours later that we realized there was absolutely no way we were going to reach the first temple complex, Kom Ombo, tonight. It was only after several questions were posed to the staff that we realized our “felucca trip to Luxor” actually consisted of a felucca trip to the outskirts of Aswan (the city was still visible on the horizon), followed by an overnight siesta on the felucca, and a bus ride in the morning to the two temples and onward to Luxor. Several folks on our felucca were a bit upset when it dawned on them as to what we were actually signed up for, but there was nothing that could be done at this stage. The other felucca meanwhile was partying it up, drinking beers and laughing and joking the afternoon away. Dinner was around 8 pm and consisted of rice with zucchini and a small serving of succulent beef. It was a miserly portion, but afterwards, the chef ladled out more vegetables and rice for all (Luke scored with a plateful of extra meat after he was the only one to ask for it). We all did our own thing after dinner, and our felucca guides were extremely loud and inconsiderate as the night went on. Finally, at 1 am, Fi and Anna had had enough of their incessant chattering, cooking and gossiping and they angrily told the staff off that it was 1 am and we were all trying to sleep! Things got quieter after that telling off, and we managed to get a bit of shut eye. The evening temperatures plummeted, and we were actually feeling a bit chilly as we laid down on the felucca for a bit of sleep. Finally, around 2 am, Ally figured out that we could snuggle beneath the seat cushion’s cover so we all followed suit, becoming snug as a bug under the covers.
7 Aug: We slept comfortably under the cushion’s covers and woke at 6:30 am for a quick pee before tea and breakfast. It hadn’t been the best night’s sleep and everyone remained sleepy as our two feluccas were tied together and we slowly drifted under the bridge. A simple breakfast of fruit, bread, cheese and boiled eggs was served on our felucca, and along with several cups of tea, we were all bursting at the seams to pee. After what seemed to be an interminable journey, we were finally ashore at 9:30 am and rushed off to relieve our bladders. A bus was standing by to take us to Luxor, with stops at Kom Ombo and Edfu temples. It took about an hour to reach the first temple which was Kom Ombo’s “The temple of Sobek and Haroeris” (entrance 30 Egyptian Pounds). Young boys were terrorizing the girls as they would “accidentally” brush up against their breasts offering to sell bracelets, necklaces and other assorted junk. The girls were getting increasingly infuriated, with everyone loudly proclaiming they weren’t interested in buying anything and for the boys to leave them alone. The harassment was relentless and there were about to be physical blows if the boys kept touching the girls and Robby finally complained to security and told them the boys needed to be handled as they were being extremely disrespectful. The temple complex is famous for its numerous crocodiles (mummified ones now remain as they are the only remnants of the crocodiles that used to inhabit the Nile), and we really enjoyed wandering around the entire complex by ourselves and admiring the amazing carvings. We had 30 minutes here before rushing off to the second temple complex, Edfu’s “The Temple of Horus”, and it took over an hour to reach our second destination. Entrance to this site was 50 Pounds, and again, we were amazed to have the entire site to ourselves. It was phenomenal, with a gigantic temple complex looming in the horizon with perched birds appearing to guard the entrance. We read that the temple took over 200 years to complete, and its gargantuan size makes us believe this claim to be true. The gigantic columns were full of hieroglyphics from top to bottom, and we really enjoyed admiring the beautifully carved figures on the temple’s interior walls, especially the carved figurines “walking” up the staircase (carved into the walls). From Edfu, we had a further 90 minute drive into Luxor, reaching the city by 2:30 pm. Our campsite for the next two nights was to be the Rezeiky Camp, which was just a block off the Nile. Since Damien and Anna were joining on with the Africa Trails truck straight away, we had to get into the deep fridge so that they could retrieve their tanzanite. We opted to get our second passports and tanzanite out of the fridge at the same time, and while Robby was handling key duty, Becky decided to set up the tent until we heard of the upgrade prices (25 Pounds per person for an A/C room). It was a no brainer to upgrade to a room since it was under $10 per room…well worth it! We ate some snacks in the room before heading out for a bit of afternoon sightseeing, which consisted of visiting the temples of Karnak. Entrance to the complex cost 65 Pounds, and we entered via the sphinx lined footpath. Since this was our second visit to Karnak, we opted to just wander around on our own and Matt joined us. It was great to hang out on our own without a guide as we simply walked to wherever caught our eye. The annoying guards who would offer to point out a hidden corner or remote statue annoyed us with their calls for baksheesh, which we refused to give as we were constantly declining their “help”. The entire complex of Karnak is impressive, but our favorite section remained the gargantuan columns (134 of them in total) which make up the Great Hypostyle Hall. Karnak is a popular destination and deservedly so, and even in the late afternoon, there were hordes of visitors. However, we had timed our entry just right, as the crowds were dwindling as we entered at 4 pm. Since closing time was scheduled for 5:30 pm, we had 90 minutes to explore to our heart’s content. The last 30 minutes were magical, as all the huge tour groups were back on their buses and we had the whole place to ourselves. Mel ended up joining our group and after we lingered as long as we could until closing time, we all headed back to the Rezeiky Campsite, where the inviting pool beckoned us in. Pure bliss! The water was heavenly and after about 30 minutes, we were sufficiently chilled. Cook group 5 (Itchiyo, Laura and Gin) had to make dinner tonight which consisted of a vegetarian stew served atop rice. It was OK but rather bland, but we thanked them for their efforts. After dinner, we relaxed in our room as it was to be an early morning tomorrow for our Valley of the Kings trip.
8 Aug: Our alarm sounded too early at 4:45 am and we longed to sleep longer, but it was time to get up to get ready for our early morning excursion to the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Workers (150 Pounds including guide, transport and entrance fees). To our dismay, it appeared that the hotel’s water supply was on the fritz as none of our rooms had any water when we awoke. We had a quick breakfast of fruit salad and tea, and after breakfast discovered that the water issue had been resolved. Two minivans showed up at 6 am to take us out to the Valley of the Kings, and we picked up our tour guide just before the entrance to the valley. Amazingly, we were the only tourists here at this ungodly hour, so it was nice to get a briefing on the tombs (a total of 63 due to a new one that was discovered in 2007 a mere 20 meters away from the famous King Tut’s tomb). A model replica showed us which tombs had long, intricate tunnels and which ones were simple, short one-roomed tombs. Of the 63 tombs, only 9 are open to the public, and of those 9, 2 require an additional entrance fee to visit (King Tut’s is a whopping 100 Pounds more to visit and from what we had been told, its not worth the extra expense). Thus, we had only 7 possible tombs to visit, from which our 80 Pound entrance fee allowed access to only 3. Our guide explained that this valley necropolis was chosen due to the nearby Al Qurn Mountain whose tip resembles a pyramid. The burial chambers were actually designed to prepare the pharaohs for the underworld, where several guidebooks would guide them through the various portals or levels of the underworld. The “book of the dead” gave the pharaohs detailed instructions on how to fend off monsters or answer riddles to allow access from one level to another, so that eventually all 9 levels were successfully passed through and the pharaoh reached “heaven”. The first tomb, Ramses IV (KV 2), is a well preserved tomb that had a fabulous ceiling painting of the “book of the heaven” showing a goddess eating the sun and giving birth to a new sun, and a massive sarcophagus dominated the interior of the tomb. To our immense surprise, we discovered that photography is no longer allowed in the tombs, and we weren’t even allowed to bring cameras inside the tombs. As a result, there were fewer crowds, and people actually moved on quite quickly, allowing everyone to get an eyeful of the tombs. Apparently, cameras were banned last year, and there were numerous signposts throughout the valley reminding tourist not to take photos of any of the sights. Our second temple was to a tomb that was started by Sethnakht and completed by Ramesses III (KV II). We were told that the workers built a long tunnel down to the burial chamber, only to discover that it actually intersected with another pharaoh’s tomb (KV 10, The Tomb of Amenmeses). The workers were at a loss of what to do, but Ramses III ordered them to take a sharp right and continue digging, which is exactly what they did. We were able to see the various rooms within the burial chamber and noticed that the rock was quite rough-hewn, especially to the rear of the tomb which actually looked like it had collapsed over the years. The last tomb was of Ramses I (KV 16), which was a steep descent down 84 steps into a simple tomb complex. The paintings were quite vivid and we felt that the three tombs had given us a good impression on what the rest of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings looked like. Becky had visited this sight years earlier and had been underwhelmed by her first experience, but she felt that the return visit was much better as she could get a lot more out of it. The entire complex was filling up with bus loads of tourists, so we made our hasty departure for the Valley of the Workers. Here, we were allowed to visit two tombs, which stood out due to their vivid colors and paintings of everyday life. The tomb guards were quite annoying, as they quickly latch on to any tourist who descends in the tomb, mumbling some garbled information and pointing out some highlight in broken English. However, when it comes time to tipping, they make it quite evident they expect baksheesh, so we quickly informed them either we weren’t interested or else we had no money! Our last sight of the day was the Colossi of Memnon, which are two massive (18 meter high) statues that are on the periphery of the Valley of the Workers. Several of us were keen on getting dropped off in various places about town, so we had our driver drop us off at the Luxor Museum, which was highly recommended by our guide. Entrance was a whopping 80 Pounds, and a brief video presentation gave us an idea of what to expect from the museum. The artifacts on display here are presented in a fantastic manner, and Becky was instantly impressed by the layout of this museum. It is far superior to the Cairo Museum which she had visited many years ago which had its artifacts thrown about in a haphazard manner. The Luxor museum had beautiful displays and excellent English captions, so no guide was necessary. It even had two mummified remains, so we opted to skip the Luxor Mummification Museum. By the time we had strolled through the museum, it was lunch time and we were quite keen on our first McDonald’s meal since Morocco, so we headed there directly, passing by the Luxor Temple enroute. After ordering our meals, we headed up to the top floor for a panoramic view over the Luxor Temple, and were soon joined by Lars, Matt, Lisa and Lucky who had all paid a visit to the post office to mail some of their (and Dowelly’s) gear home. It appeared that most of the Luxor Temple could be viewed from outside its walls, so we headed over there to take a few photos before making our way to Snack Time, an eatery which boasted the finest views over Luxor Temple. We had to take their elevator to reach the top floor, and the views were quite nice. Robby ordered a chocolate drink so he could get the code for free wifi and we relaxed in the first floor lounge while he briefly checked his emails. Becky was feeling a bit off, so we headed back to our campsite for a bit of a siesta in our a/c room, watching “Couples Retreat” before snoozing the afternoon away. Cook group 6 (Naomi, Sara and Lars) made a falafel hummus dinner for us, but our numbers were in decline as Ally, Lydia, Laura didn’t show up due to stomach problems. With Dowelly, Damien and Anna gone, it felt like a small group as the rest of us ate quickly before calling it a night. We hung out on the truck to pack the extra bag we had received from Dowelly for Luke to carry for us to Saigon. It took us a while to sort our gear, and we quickly realized that extra bags would have to be purchased so we would be able to lug all of our gear off the truck once we arrived to Cairo.
9 Aug: It was an early morning pick up for our hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings. Thankfully, our 4 am ride was on time, so our sleepy group simply trudged over to the awaiting vans and piled in for the short ride to where a felucca was awaiting us. There, a breakfast of juice and a twinkie awaited us. We haven’t had a twinkie in years, so it was rather funny having one for breakfast in Egypt of all places! While on the felucca, the hot air balloon captain gave us a quick briefing on what to expect, and had us sign indemnity forms. Then it was a quick ride to the other side of the Nile where two more vans were awaiting us for a drive to the loading site. Our balloon had a basket that could fit 20 passengers if we tightly squeezed in together, so each quadrant of the basket accommodated 5 people. Since the basket was off balance, we were asked to swap over to a different quadrant and this finally evened us out. Then it was up, up and away. The views over Luxor and the Valley of the Kings were absolutely amazing, and we couldn’t believe what good value this excursion was (550 Egyptian pounds for a 45 minute ride). Our captain was able to expertly maneuver us all around the area, and everyone was amazed at the incredible vistas…this is undoubtedly one of our highlights of Luxor if not all of Egypt! It was around 6:30 am when we were dropped back off to the hotel, so we took a short cat nap before breakfast at 7:30. Afterwards, we hurriedly walked into town to see if we could find a cheap “Chinese suitcase” to pack up all our gear off the truck, but unfortunately due to Ramadan, the stores were still locked up for the morning. We met a friendly guy who offered to take Robby around to various shops on the back of his motorbike, but it was a fruitless quest. On our return trip back to the hotel, we saw several large rice bags and bought 4 for 30 Pounds, which was great considering that all we really needed was something large, sturdy and spacious for our extra gear. We had just enough time for a quick dip in the pool before our 10 am departure to Hurghada. Our truck lunch consisted of tuna sandwiches, and by early afternoon, we arrived to the ritzy Senzo Mall for cook group shopping. Becky, Lydia and Nancy were able to quickly shop for dinner and breakfast ingredients, and the McDonald’s “6 for 6” (6 meals in 6 days) people – Lars, Marie, Kendra, Matt and Mel were happily stuffing their faces as the corner McDonalds. We were tempted but resisted the urge for more junk food, and instead loaded back on the truck for our short drive to a nearby dive shop. Poor Chris had a hell of a time trying to navigate his way around Hurghada, and in the end, he had to call up the dive shop for them to send a vehicle out to us so we could follow them over to the dive shop, Funny Divers. We were issued dive gear, and paid for tomorrow’s excursion (2 tank dive incl lunch and equipment for 47 Euros). The snorkelers fare much better, getting their gear and lunch for only 15 Euros. The only folks who opted to skip out were Ally, Sean and Sara who wanted to upgrade to a hotel tonight, and Laura, Lydia and Gin who weren’t keen on the excursion. Afterwards, we drove out to a bush camp in the desert where cook group made shrimp satay which was quite tasty. They used over 4 KG of shrimp and 4 packets of rice noodles so there was plenty leftover but since seafood wouldn’t keep overnight without refrigeration, all the leftovers had to be thrown away. Surprisingly, it was quite a pleasant night out in the desert, with everyone either sleeping under the stars or with their tent flaps wide open.
10 Aug: It was impossible to sleep in with sunlight at 5 am, so cook group decided to get breakfast ready a bit earlier than scheduled. It was a simple meal of toast, baked beans, cereal and kiwis. By 7:30 am, we were on our way to the dive shop and since Lydia, Laura and Gin decided to hang out in town, Nancy tasked them with the responsibility of cook group shopping. The rest of us went to the dive center but since we were early, killed some time in the nearby convenience store and bought some postcards for 1 Pound each. Our 8:30 am pick up was on time, and we squeezed in to a tiny van for the drive to a nearby harbor. It was evident that Funny Divers is a popular outfit, as there were lots of people already on board but since it was a huge boat, there was plenty of room for all. Our gear was loaded and we hung out in the sun, catching some rays on the boat ride out to sea. Our first dive was about an hour away at a place called South Abu Ramada, which was OK. Our dive group consisted of us, Lucky, Katherine and Naomi and everyone was a decent diver. Lucky kept sucking his air, so our dive master had to share with him. Two minutes into the dive, Becky spotted an octopus curled up against a rock, so we checked that out before continuing with our dive. Other marine critters we spotted included a crocodile fish, lionfish, lots of huge moray eels, and several spotted rays. The diving was decent and our total bottom time was 58 minutes. We had a long surface interval during which lunch was served…it was a self-serve buffet meal and we ate plenty. Our second dive site was a drift dive which was fun in the strong current. There were turtles in the deep blue, lots of reef fish, plenty of puffer fish, a moray eel…it was a colorful dive with decent coral. Afterwards, we hung out on the boat for about an hour waiting for it to take off, but we were back in time to meet Sara, Sean and Ally who were patiently waiting our return for the 5 pm departure. Since it was late afternoon, Chris simply drove back to the same campsite as last night and cook group 1 (Kendra and Matt) made a delicious mashed potatoes with minced meat (tasted like lamb, labeled as beef but possibly camel meat?)…yummy regardless of what meat it was. We packed our gear into the rice bags after dinner, and couldn’t believe that our lives for the past 10 months fit into 4 bags!
11 Aug: We woke up at 6 am. Marie and Lars battled foxes all night and Marie lost her flip flops to them but was able to recover one of Lar’s. Breakfast was a feast this morning with cherries, peaches, apples and oranges, along with muffins, leftover mince meat, and scrambled eggs. We were packed up and on the road by 7 am for our last drive day on Nala! It was a surreal feeling as we reflected on the past 10 months on board this truck…our stuff was mostly packed and we were ready to get off. Robby handed out everyone’s fridge contents and offloaded his key to one of the folks continuing on to Jordan. We were making good time on the road from Hurghada to Cairo, but Nancy forewarned us that once we entered Cairo, the roads would worsen with bad traffic. Our lunch stop was fairly early (11:30 am) as we were just on the outskirts of Cairo. It consisted of a tomato/cucumber and feta cheese salad (yum), along with yellow watermelon and oranges. Great last lunch. Cairo is every bit as insane (traffic wise) as we imagined it. The drivers on the road are aggressive, heavy on the horn, and slightly out of control as they careen around corners. Chris had several near misses on the road, and he was having a hell of a time making his way through the chaotic roads of Cairo. A view of the pyramids looming in the distance is unforgettable, and we eventually pulled into a truck staging area where Chris parked the truck. An a/c bus was awaiting us, but first we had to lug all of our gear off the truck and onto the awaiting bus. Becky borrowed Nancy’s phone to call the Cairo Travel Plus office, finding out that they are open daily from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm. Since it was already 3 pm, there was no way we were going to make it there today, so we ensured that we would be able to pick up the tickets either tomorrow or Saturday. Our bus drove us directly to the posh Havana Hotel in downtown Cairo. We were greeted with a welcome drink and in exchange for our passports, were given our room keys. We ended up in room 110, which was completely adequate for our needs. The room was small but clean with a/c and we lugged all our gear up to it and started packing our bags. Nancy wanted a celebratory drink at the bar but we were more keen on repacking our gear to ensure that it was the correct dimensions and weight for Qatar Airways. Around 7 pm, we joined Lucky, Naomi, Matt, Itchiyo, and Ally at a nearby Chinese restaurant, Chopsticks, where we had a decent dinner. Afterwards, we stopped by a supermarket to get some groceries and were back in the room by 9 pm to get ready for tomorrow, our last day of the trans!
12 Aug: The breakfast buffet of the Havana Hotel was amazing with eggs to order, hummus, a cold spread of various cheeses and meat wraps, boiled eggs, and pancakes/toast/muffins and yogurt. It was one of the best breakfasts we had seen on the entire trans trip! We woke up early enough to finish some last minute packing before having breakfast and getting ready for our 8:30 am departure for the Egyptian museum (a staged protest was scheduled for this afternoon so we had to visit first thing in the morning). No cameras are allowed inside the museum and the display signs inside are still pretty atrocious. Nevertheless, the showcase of King Tut’s tomb artifacts was amazing (especially his two sarcophagi and his golden face mask)…pretty impressive for a 19 year old King! The mummified animals section was also interesting, and we had about 45 minutes free to explore on our own after our guide gave us a detailed lecture on King Tut’s section. Afterwards, we headed over to the pyramids, and were given some free time to walk around The Great Pyramid (the biggest one whose entry is a whopping 100 Pounds so no one signed up for that pricey optional). Next up was the panoramic lookout point where everyone took a bunch of cheesy photos with the pyramids in the background. Our third stop was to the smallest of the pyramids, the Pyramid of Menkaure, where several of our group paid 30 Pounds to enter it. Then it was onward to the sphinx, where everyone posed with the obligatory photo of “kissing” it. We were back to the Havana Hotel by 2 pm and opted to head directly over to Travel Plus Tours so we could pick up our Cairo – Tel Aviv – Cairo tickets. Itchyo came with us as she was keen on booking a desert tour for tomorrow. Luckily for us, the travel agency was within walking distance, and we were able to get our tickets, but poor Ichiyo found out that she needed more time to book her tour as it wasn’t possible to coordinate one at the last minute due to the necessary escorts needed out in the desert. We then walked over to the Qatar Airways office together to see about getting a free hotel voucher, but it was closed early for Ramadan, so our next collective stop was at a shawarma joint but it was closed due to Ramadan, so we eventually made our way back to the Metro Supermarket where we bought some lunch ingredients instead. Naomi and Lisa let us borrow their room key to retrieve our stored luggage and a hotel concierge hailed a taxi for us (30 Pounds) to the other side of the city. The Mesho Inn staff was super friendly and we were shown our large triple room (no a/c but they did give us a fan) where we hurriedly got ready for tonight’s farewell dinner. We were a bit late in getting back to the Havana Hotel when Robby realized he had forgotten the tip envelopes for Chris and Nancy so we backtracked to our hotel to retrieve them and were on our way. Thankfully, Chris held off on playing the DVD until we arrived to we didn’t miss anything except a Skype session with Dowelly. The DVD was funny and we enjoyed it. Our last group dinner was buffet style in the restaurant and it was decent, with the chicken and tomato sauce an especially tasty meal. We said our goodbyes shortly after dinner and promised to come back tomorrow to drop off our questionnaires and pick up a copy of the DVD that Chris had prepared for us. Surprisingly, there was a lot of traffic on the road at 10 pm but we managed to get back with no major issues (15 Pounds). We slept well tonight as both of us were shattered.
13 Aug: Becky had a hard time sleeping in this morning and was up at the crack of dawn. We had no major agenda today except to work on the website a bit and pack for Israel. Our free breakfast consisted of bread, cheese, jam and tea and we worked straight through until 10:30 am when we took a break for a short taxi ride to the Havana where we gave Nancy a copy of P90X and dropped off the questionnaires/tip money before saying goodbye to everybody. It was sad saying adios but we were ready to go. It was a quick drive back to the other side of town but Becky distracted our driver by talking to him so he got in a minor accident when another taxi side swiped him. The rest of the afternoon was pretty chill as we had no other plans for the day except to get caught up on our journal and website. We did coordinate a taxi ride to the airport for 6 am tomorrow morning, using one of our drivers (Mohammed) that we enjoyed earlier in the day. Dinner was a McDonald’s meal and we packed all of our extra gear into luggage storage at the Mesho Inn before calling it a night.
14 Aug: Mohammed was waiting for us bright and early and with no traffic on the road, it was an easy drive to the airport. Flying on Air Sinai from Cairo to Tel Aviv is quite a tricky affair. It is almost impossible to find out information about this flight online…it is almost as if the flight doesn’t exist! We figured out that we needed to head to Terminal 3, and once there, were pointed to the Egypt Air counter. The friendly staff immediately processed our ticket, but for some unknown reason, routed our bag to LHR (London Heathrow). Becky caught the mistake immediately, which saved us countless hours of aggravation on the Tel Aviv side of the luggage carousel. Getting stamped out of Egypt was a breeze, and with that simple flick of her wrist, the immigration official ended our Africa adventure. 44 weeks and 31 countries (we spent a month in Algeria before the 40 week Trans Africa trip kicked off), we were sad to say goodbye to Africa but excited to visit a new part of the world. Adios Africa…we have some of the best memories of you and will never forget the great times we have had here!