On the road (water) again
10 June 2013- Somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea (nearish Cyprus)
It’s a lovely sunny afternoon and we are sitting by Landy in the shade watching the beautiful blue Med pass, its like we are on a lovely cruise except the shade is from a truck and when we look around we see all the big trucks surrounding us, this is our little oasis on the ship.
On Sunday we went to the shipping agent office in Port Said at noon as instructed and they told us to come back at 2pm and wait across the road outside gate 20 until Faourk (a guy who works there and was sorting the extension of our visas) brought our passports. No worries, we expected that, just not sure why they couldn’t tell us things like that over the phone. Nothing could bother us that day, except not getting on the boat! So we had some lunch and then took our bags and stood on the street corner, next to one of the gates to the port and watched street life race by. Two o’clock came and went as we knew it would, and we decided we would ring and check up on things. Our fixer came and gave us our carnet, which means landy is stamped out of Egypt and he said Faourk from the shipping agent would show us how to get landy on the boat when we arrived with our passports, Faourk should arrive in 30 minutes. The fixers job was over so we paid him the rest of what we owed. He said to ring him if we need anything else. Its funny, we are still not totally comfortable with 30 minutes not even remotely resembling 30 minutes. Thirty odd years of thinking 30 minutes in somewhere in the vicinity of half an hour overrides our experiences of the past 7.5 months in Africa. So an hour or so later we rang to check on things again, after all we didn’t have our passports or know how we were getting landy on the ship. No luck, poor Faourk was given the only English speaking customers and he doesn’t speak English. So asking him over the phone when he will arrive with our passports was futile, although as is so often the case when you know someone can’t understand you still chat away, us asking him in English when is he coming and telling him we were still at gate 20 and him chatting away in Arabic saying who knows what.
We stood around for about three hours people watching on that busy street, the mad driving, the banging on gas cylinders as the sellers passing with their donkey cart selling gas to homes and businesses, the shouting of people coming past selling fish, fruit and veg and of course the constant, never-ending blaring of horns and building works, this is the sound track of Port Said and one we are very familiar with. Suddenly the gate opened and they started to let people trickle in, there were not many passengers waiting as this is primarily a trucking route so all the drivers had been waiting with their trucks. There was a handful of Syrian families and a few of us tourists. Suddenly we had to go in and start the process of getting on the boat but had no idea how to get landy or where our passports were. From here it got a bit stressful. We frantically rang the agent and the fixer over and over, both no answer. It was starting to look like there was a chance we wouldn’t get on the boat (we couldn’t go without landy and there was nobody around to ask anything). Earlier a Turkish guy had spoken to me and I remembered he spoke really good English so I found him and asked him for help, we rang Faourk together and he translated. Farouk had no idea that we were waiting for him to help us get landy on board (landy was in customs storage), this is not the agents job, it’s the fixers who had told us that he had spoken to Farouk and arranged for him to assist us with our car. Anyway Faourk arrived and was busy but took pity on us and with the Turkish guy translating our desperation, Farouk suddenly motioned for us to get into his car. We just had time to grab our bags and say a very quick thank you to the friendly guy who translated for us, I have no doubt we would not have got on the boat without him, his answer to our thanks “You’re my brother and sister, it is my pleasure”. Next thing we knew Faourk zoomed us to landy and we quickly jumped in and followed him through the massive port area to the boat. Thank god for that! We were pretty stressed by that point! We were told to wait for some trucks that were loading, we didn’t care how long we had to wait by then, we were getting on! Around 6pm we drove up the ramp and were directed to the top open deck, we were onboard!! We sat around on the top deck near landy happy to have her back and be finally onboard. We watched the sunset over Port Said from the ship then went inside. It’s a nice enough ship, but we wont discuss the toilets. We chatted to some of the Syrian people that we had met outside and made friends with a few sweet little kids who were daring each other to run up and touch us, before sprinting away. One man, that we met a week earlier in the agent’s office, was returning home with his family to a country that is at war, it’s heartbreaking. He solemnly told me there is no school in Syria now and his children attend school in Egypt, they have now run out of money so they must all go back to Syria. Things are very bad there he told us, very bad. I felt a lump in my throat and squeezed his hand when he left saying I hope his family is safe, he squeezed mine back and said thank you. We spotted each other amongst the people waiting outside the gate before getting onboard and I met his wife and kids. His wife was covered from head to toe with only her eyes showing, funny how that really makes you look at someones eyes. We couldn’t speak to each other but with a few smiles and hand gestures said hello. Anyway we spent the first few hours on the ferry drinking tea, chatting to people and children coming up and saying over and over the one thing they know in English “My name is…” Onboard is a Lithuanian couple who have been hitching around the world and an English guy, Richard who has been in Africa for a few months and is desperate to get home now. We met him the other day in town and straight away recognised the wide-eyed frustration of a fellow overlander in Egypt. He was stuck in Aswan coming in from Sudan for 11 days and they dented his vehicle. He was fed up with Egypt!
We waited onboard not knowing when we would leave, at one stage someone said it would be the next morning. We were not really bothered now we were onboard, and had given up guessing when we would arrive in Turkey! Dinner was served, rice with meat and potato soup thing and bread. The bread is recycled, when you take your tray back whatever bread is left on it, they scoop up and pile it up and put it back into the serving line, so you are just as likely to get a bit of bread with teeth marks in it than not. Poor Richard didn’t notice it at dinner or breakfast and has just found out this at lunch today, the look on his face was priceless! After dinner we went out on deck to landy and happily got into our own bed, we are both so happy to be back in our landy! About midnight we noticed we were moving, we slowly started to glide away our last look at Egypt and Africa was out of the window of our pop top from bed. Once we were away from the lights of the city we could see the stars from bed, we love that. For safety and security you are not usually allowed in the vehicle area of any boat, as was signposted all over the ship, but in this case they didn’t take seem to take notice of that so we have spent most of the day sitting outside landy. We are on the top deck, tucked in surrounded by dozens of trucks and the Turkish drivers sitting around smoking sheesha and drinking tea. Its nicer than being inside with the TV blaring, just hours of reports of the protests in Turkey in Turkish. The trip is supposed to be around 28 hours so in theory we should arrive about 4 am but it will take ages to get into port and off the boat so we will just sit tight until we are told to drive landy off.