About to leave?
22 May 2013- Port Said, Egypt
We have been busy bees! Lets see what has been happening? Sickness, sightseeing and organising. Our first day in Cairo we decided to get a few bits done at camp and then try to organise a few small things for landy (a new u joint and a wheel alignment). The hosts of our camp gave us the number to a British expat here who is into landies and a group of them have a workshop. Anyway Olly rang Sam who straight away said they had a mechanic at their workshop that day, come along. We made our way over the River Nile in the mad mad traffic both very tense and arrived in an expaty looking area, suddenly more trees, less rubbish (none burning) and bigger houses. We turned onto a street and a bit further on saw four landies parked- we had found the workshop. We were welcomed by James, another Brit and shortly after Sam got back and also welcomed us and introduced us to the mechanic, Mohammed.
I went for a walk while they sorted landy stuff and while I was out Olly rang me and said James and his partner Lee had invited us to go on a felucca on the Nile, why not?! The mechanic needed to finish what he was working on before starting on our landy so off we went. Before we left Olly was offered a beer which he finished as we left. It was the start of his undoing! Four of us jumped into a taxi which started and stopped and lurched down the road at one point my door swung open as we went round a corner through traffic. As we arrived at the river Olly said he felt a bit nauseous but would be fine. We got on the boat with about six others and chatted as we sailed along looking at the Cairo sky line. Olly started feeling worse and worse and by the time we got back to the shore he was grey and very unsteady on his feet. James and Lee could see how unwell he was and insisted we stay the night in their spare room which we gratefully said yes to. After taking us to their place (around the corner from the workshop where landy was) the others went off to the pub and I settled Olly in, he was very sick by this time- a fever, shivering and dizzy. Mohammed, who was replacing the u joint came over to the unit and said there is a problem, the part was wrong. He had already removed the old one and couldn’t put it back on. Olly was too unwell to deal with it and it was getting late, I just said leave it we will deal with it the next day. Just as well we were invited to stay over, as by this time Olly was really sick and we couldn’t drive landy anyway! He was not well through the night but by morning his fever was gone, thankfully as I was quietly keeping an eye on his symptoms for malaria. He ended up spending the whole next day in bed.
In the morning I went to the workshop to see if anyone was about and start seeing how on earth I could find another u joint for landy in Cairo and how I would get it if I did. I was hoping to find someone who could instruct me where to go in a taxi and what to get (I’m not on familiar terms with u joints!). I found Sammie, a Finnish expat who was tinkering away on a motorbike and said no worries and rang Daryl (a Canadian expat) who had the part and was happy for us to buy it off him. What a great group of people! We literally just met them the day before and within an hour were on the Nile with them and invited to stay and were helped with landy. Mohammed (mechanic) was nowhere to be found but Sammie assured me he would keep ringing him until he found him. I went back and forth between the workshop seeing if there was any word from Mohammed to the unit to make Olly drink more water and went on a few walks around the area as well, only short ones though, its HOT. I was confident Mohammed would turn up, he works for them on his days off from his job at a garage and we had paid him for the work, I just figured it would be in his own time and sure enough that evening we got a call from Sam saying Mohammed was there and the work was done. Around that time Olly started to surface and join the land of the living again. Weak and tired but feeling much better although still a bit wobbly. As it was later in the evening we stayed at James and Less place for a second night and this time I joined the others at the pub (which is really a ‘club’ that doesn’t sell alcohol but sell raffle tickets that you always ‘win’ a drink with if you present them to the bar!) after putting Olly in front of the TV with lots of water. It’s by far the sickest either of us have been on the trip and we were so lucky to be in Cairo- plenty of chemists had we needed them and such nice people around and mainly a cool comfortable place with a toilet. Olly would have been a lot more uncomfortable if we had been in landy or checked into a hot dirty room with a squat toilet somewhere! Anyway the next morning we picked up landy and spent most of the day getting a wheel alignment, took us ages to find the place and then the power went out so they couldn’t do it etc etc etc. Finally we headed back across the river to our camp, two days after we left for what we thought would be the afternoon!
That night we were both tired, I woke up with a sore throat and Olly was still weak and tired as well as wheezy, Cairo air has really flared up his asthma with all the burning rubbish everywhere especially in the evenings. This is the first time we have both just been generally tired, a bit weary. We made some dinner and decided to go to bed early. The mozzies were awful, swarming us and we both felt fed up! Between the heat and the noise we have not had two good nights sleep in a row for what feels like ages and we both feel like its caught up with us. As we went to bed it was hot and so noisy with the mosque across the road blaring (!) out the call to prayer and we could hear several others as well. Add to that the constant tooting of horns, fireworks and the odd gun shots (which we have been told not to worry about, its people celebrating, weddings etc) and dogs, goats and people talking we just so wanted to sleep. We both eventually fell into a fitful sleep, there is always that very brief time in the night when most people are in bed and before the first call to prayer of the day- its brief and its the best sleeping time! I just don’t know when people sleep here!
Anyway we woke up the yesterday a bit groggy but ready for some sightseeing. We hired a guide for the day and it was great! Going through Cairo in someones else’s car is fine! His car so his problem if we get in to an accident! Driving in landy is really tense in Cairo and we have been told by several people if we get into an accident expect to have to pay regardless of whose fault it is (which has been the case all along in Africa). Several weeks sorting out an accident in Cairo is not the plan not at this stage in the trip. Anyway we decided we wanted to see the Sphinx so we went there first. The pyramids must be one of the most full on tourist attractions in the world to visit. People literally jump on your car when you arrive- to sell you things and camel rides. Literally jump on it! We know that because they did it to us in landy when we were going past the main entrance. Crazy! This time we went in a different entrance and it was fine and only few people there, I was expecting it to be mobbed. The sphinx is cool! I was impressed with him (her?) and seeing it and the pyramids is pretty surreal. After visiting sphinx we went into the city to the Egyptian Museum and then to a local place to try koshari which is a mix of macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, rice, chic peas, lentils and tomatoes all mixed together with a little broth of sorts added to give it a bit of moisture. It was good! We had a little look around the downtown area, Tahrir Square and saw some of the buildings burnt out in the revolution and a small protest in front of a government building. We had decided the night before to cut the day short and go to Port Said in the afternoon as we heard from the ferry company the ferry should be leaving on the 23 or 24th. The fixer in Port Said he needs two days to clear Landy through customs, and one of those days might be a Friday – when everything is closed here. The ferry is in Israel at the moment, so we will be lucky if it leaves on time, but we want to make sure we are on it whenever it leaves.
Our favourite pyramid experience was about an hour south of Cairo at the Dasher pyramids. There are two large pyramids at the site the bent pyramid and the red pyramid. It was just amazing to drive up to these unbelievably big structures (both are 105m high and are the third largest pyramids in Egypt) sitting on a gravelly plain at the edge of the desert. A fraction of the cost, not a camel or horse ride or anything for sale in sight and literally no other people, except the guard. We went down there a few days ago and spent the day seeing pyramids and tombs at Dasher and Saqqara. We even went down into two pyramids, the Red Pyramid is entered by going down 65 metres in a narrow passageway with stale air. I was feeling a bit unsure about going down (hate being in enclosed spaces) but made my way down slowly and was glad I did, the rooms at the bottom are nothing special but it pretty amazing being inside a pyramid and wondering about all the other people who stood there over the past 4000 years! How many people have passed through there and what were their stories?
We have gotten a lot more used to Egypt, its noisy, its dusty, its busy but it’s really an interesting place and we have met such lovely people. The hassle of people trying to sell you stuff is really only in limited areas (although its full on in those areas) and outside of that Egyptians are proud, friendly, intense and welcoming people. The amount of people who have shouted out to us Welcome to Egypt! is amazing. On the way into Port Said today a guy drove past us tooting frantically (which we ignored at first at everyone does that constantly) gave us a thumbs up then further on up the road stopped when we did so he could get out and introduce himself to us and say Welcome to Egypt. You just wouldn’t get that in Australia! He then followed us for ages tooting, waving and smiling until he turned off when he pulled over so he could wave as we went past! This in a country that has had tourism for a thousand years! We have had school kids come up to us to practise their English and ask us our name, that is the only thing they know how to say so they dissolve into giggles once you answer and don’t know what else to say. Cairo is sensory overload- the sights (seeing the pyramids itself is so surreal driving through a city), the noise is unrelenting and the smell of animals, sewage and burning rubbish is ever present but 20 million people living in one place is nothing short of incredible.
L and O