Dan: Leaving Cairo was predictably mad, and we seemed more to stumble across the right roads out of the city rather than navigate. We had a late start after picking up our visas for Sudan and saying good bye to Niek and Karin the motor bikers we’d met.
The further out of Cairo you get the more and more poverty of Egypt hits you. If I’d have thought of Egypt before this trip I’d picture friends talking about great diving trips, ancient Egypt sites, posh hotels and the occasional Nile cruise. And I guess these are reality here...but the other side to this reality is starkly different; a country under a 30 year long state of emergency, failing infrastructure and a divided society. ..the poverty here is comparable with India in many ways. People are commonly living in mud huts surrounded by the rubbish and from talking to people many live off $1 a day.
Claire: As we left the suburbs of Cairo we entered the lush green valley of the Nile, with on both sides of the river a thin strip of farmland and behind that the sand-coloured desert hills. It’s incredibly green, with fields of growing vegetables and palm trees in between them. They flood their land with Nile water every night, so it’s very fresh and lush. Great to camp in, but a bit wet! There are loads of villages along the road, as 90% of the population lives in the fertile valley strip, so we had plenty of Fanta and Cay stops every day. The people again are very friendly, inviting us for tea and lots of ‘whats your name’ and ‘how are you?’ everywhere. In one village we sat drinking tea in a local bar while the shisha-smoking men were trying to get the group of 20 giggling kids that surrounded us to leave us alone (we didn’t mind but in many cafes we’ve seen them chase away the kids). Lots of fun and when we cycled off they all waved us goodbye shouting and running with us. These little bits of mentalness are fantastic on a long, hot cycling day and immediately give you new energy. We’ve been cycling 100 km days again (sort of left that regime in Bulgaria when we left the Danube) and that means we need to go for it a bit because it gets dark at 5 pm and between 12 and 2 it’s really too hot to cycle. So there’s not many hours in the day.
We felt free and happy cruising along in our own pace until we hit the umpteenth police check point after 350 km and they suddenly said: ‘wait, tourist police needs to go with you’. After about 10 minutes of arguing we gave up and set off with a car full of bored policemen 10 meters behind us. I don’t think they realised what they had gotten themselves into, because after a few stops of buying water, having Fanta and going for a pee they were getting very impatient and kept asking how long until our destination, shouting ‘jalla jalla’ (let’s go) etc. But of course we were trying to annoy them a bit more coz it is so frustrating to have a noisy car behind you on your nice cycle trip in the fresh air! And every time you enter a village they would let their sirens of very loud so no one dares to speak to you anymore. The first time I went for a pee they stopped the car got out waving their hands and asked ‘what?’. I said ‘pipi, don’t look’ and walked towards the bushes but they went all panicky and shouted no. One guy took me by the arm and walked to the nearest house, where about 10 people were busy in the courtyard, and asked if this lady could use their toilet. When I came out the audience had multiplied and everyone was giggling... The most annoying of all was that every 20 km or so the police convoy would swap with the next one and we would start all over again with trying to explain that we didn’t want noise or shouting jalla and that we really didn’t need police. Bit difficult to communicate when none of the policemen speak English...
Dan: One funny moment though was when we stopped for lunch, again they said no. I got proper annoyed, which seemed to work. It’s an odd thing having an argument with a guy holding a gun and neither of you speak very much of one and others language. Anyway, he didn’t shoot me and we tried to cross the road to get away from them. Fat man number 1 with a small gun stopped us and another in plain clothes said it was dangerous! He was meaning the traffic...I was beginning to lose the plot with these guys and just walked out across the road and promptly got shouted at and almost hit by a passing car. We eventually sat on a fallen date palm, and a dead cat, and ate our lunch with police busily searching the bushes for god only knows what! FANNIES!!!!!
This was the theme for the rest of that day, we tried to piss them off as much possible if they got annoying on the road by turning busy villages. But wild camping was out of the question and we slept in a car scrap yard under police guard or in a police station. All in all we had 3 days under escort (on and off for some reason!)
North of Luxor we’d lost the police, they just said ‘no more police’. Soon after this something a bit odd did happen: we were cycling past a small gathering of man sitting in a square and there was a loud popping noise and then an arm reached up holding an AK47 and fired off a full magazine into the air. We both looked at each other and Claire said ‘That’s not too nice’, we cycled a bit faster! We think it just had to do with some local elections...I guess we were cycling though the area of Egypt where people are properly pissed off with the crap dictatorship (sorry government?).
Claire was also ill for a day in Asyut with food poisoning and now I’ve been ill in Luxor for 3 days with fever and poopin (lots of poopin!!! Had 2 IV fluids bags and a big bag of drugs). Both on the mend and looking forward to the ferry to Sudan on Monday for our last leg of the trip, we’re going to have to take a train to the city of Aswan tomorrow (200km) as we’re out of time due to the illness :o(
Egypt has been great! Very annoying at times but we’ve met some lovely people and the cycling on flat roads through lush green was amazing.
Take care and happy Sinterklaas tomorrow! xx