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Egypt Trip Journal (Page 2 of 2) from Oct. 24  to Nov. 12, 2007.

To read about our 2006 Egypt Trip from April 05 to 26, 2006 see Journal Page 1. Follow this link to return to the Egypt Photos Pg. 1, Egypt Photos Pg. 2 and Egypt Photos Pg. 3.

Country: Egypt Part 2 the Desert Route
Duration: Oct. 24 to Nov. 12, 2007
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 3000km on the motorcycles.
Most Memorable Impressions:
The people in the northern parts of Egypt around the Libyan border, Alexandria and in the Desert are a lot friendlier and trust worthy.  A year and half has past since our last visit and nothing has changed around the Touristy places like Luxor, were you are a walking Dollar and harassment is continuous.  We both are in agreement that it has been more tolerable to travel in Egypt on this occasion since we were prepared and knew what to expect.  We do love the Egyptian cuisine and had the best meals at the Rezeiky Camp in Luxor and best breakfast at the Al Qsar Resthouse in Al Qsar.
Our Favourite:
- White Desert
Fuel Cost: 1.40 E₤ ($0.28CDN/litre) for 90 Octane Unleaded Fuel.
Accommodations: Hotels from 30 to 120 E₤/night ($6.00 to $24.00CDN/night) where the high end was private bathroom, TV & Air Conditioning.
Exchange Rate: 1 Egyptian Pound (E₤) = $0.20CDN
Border Formality Costs:  
Visa = $15.00US/person; Motorcycle Customs = 747 E₤/each bike ($150.00CDN/each bike) with Carnet de Passage at Hand.
Ferry to Sudan: 269 E₤/person ($54.00CDN/person) and 370 E₤/bike ($74.00CDN/bike)

Oct. 24, 2007.  We are at the land border crossing from Libya into Egypt.  We both had been dreading this moment and were fully prepared to spend a couple of days trying to get the border formalities completed.  We arrived at 9:30am after checking out of Libya. Instead of paying someone to walk us through all the paperwork, we decided that Mike was going to try his luck. Here is a detailed description of the events that took place (no "bribes" and it only took us five (5) hours to process two (2) motorcycles): Note that there is no signage for buildings.

Step 1: Parked near the immigration/passport building, and picked one of the lanes away from the building on the right to avoid being bothered. As we entered the immigration/passport building, to our left a table had Green Non-Egyptian Tourist Cards, which required completion including your mother's maiden name.  Then Mike proceeded to the bank (no ATM, but luckily we had US$ & Euro on us), located next to the customs building which is about 100m east of the passport building. At the bank we bought our Egyptian Visas ($15.00US each), while there we also exchanged enough money for vehicle importation (we paid 747 E₤ for each motorcycle – details later). Then we stuck the visa on a blank page of our passport and went back to the immigration/passport building for the stamp with our green tourist card. There is no charge for the stamp. (Duration 1hr)

Step 2: Took the motorcycles to be searched by customs police (straight ahead under a roof) and then proceeded to the traffic engineer (sign to the right around the corner).  Gave the Carnet de Passage to the traffic engineer, and a helper carbon copied via pencil & paper the vehicle chassis & motor number. The traffic engineer provided us each with a blue form and returned the carnets. While waiting for this procedure the traffic engineer invited us into his office for tea and a snack. (Duration 1 hr)

Step 3: Then we took the motorcycles to Traffic Licence Office approx. 200m to the east on the right (has English sign). We went to the small window to the left of the main entrance with our carnets, passport and blue form.  They copied all our documents twice and make two (2) folders.  One (1) folder for customs, and one (1) folder for traffic. Cost was 30 E₤ per motorcycle. (Duration 1/2 hr)

Step 4: Then we took the Carnet, passport and custom folder to the customs building (approx. 150m back to the west).  Inside the customs building there is a door at the north-west corner, Mike proceeded through the door and followed the hallway all the way to the end. At the end of the hall there are three (3) offices.  There are no signs to which office is the correct one, but after a while Mike figured it out – the office on the far right north-west corner. Mike gave the man in the office our customs folder, passport and carnet.  To proceed we had to pay 502 E₤. in the adjacent office. Once paid it is back to the traffic building with the receipt of payment and our passports. (Duration 1 hr)

Step 5: Bought Insurance from the small office located on the east end of the traffic building (has green Arabic sign above window). We paid 165 E₤ for each motorcycle. (Duration 10 minutes)

Step 6: Took the insurance receipt and the traffic folder into the main desk of the traffic office and gave all our documents to the clerk behind the counter.  They then issued us a licence plate for each motorcycle and we had to hand over another 50 E₤. In addition an Egyptian Licence/Registration Card was issued for each motorcycle. (Duration 1 hr)

Step 7: The final step, we took our receipts from traffic building and returned to the customs office to see the man who had kept our carnets.  He attached the receipt to the folder and released our carnets. (Duration 20 minutes)

Ruby on the other hand was enjoying here time talking to the locals and actually made herself useful by punching holes into the license plates and screwing them over our Alberta plates. The whole process went very smoothly and one might be able to get all this paperwork completed faster. It all depends on how many vehicles are trying to cross the border and if everyone shows up for work that day, otherwise too bad for you.

As it was only 2:30pm we decided to ride to Marsa Matruh, 300 km to the east.  The sun in this part of the world sets around 5:30pm.  From the border we descend into the small town of Sallum.  Totally out of gasoline, we fuel up at a gas station that only counts the litres and hope that we do not get screwed on the price.  The first day in a new country is always difficult as the exchange rate and the money is not yet familiar.  But it seemed all above board.  The ride from Sallum to Marsa Matruh is uneventful and the road was straight through desert landscape. We roll into Marsa Matruh and head straight for the harbour area.  Matruh does not get a lot of foreign tourists, as it is off the beaten path.  Our room was on the 6th floor of the hotel and had an awesome view of the habour from the balcony (120 E₤/night - $24.00CDN/night).  Hungry, we strolled into the market area and found some good Egyptian food, which we took back to the room.

Oct. 25, 2007. From Matruh another 300km to Alexandria.  The last 100km along the coast is lined with vacation condominiums, thousands and thousands of them. On route is another German War Cemetery at El Alamein.  It looks from far away like a fortress and sits at a great spot overlooking the ocean.  This cemetery memorializes the fallen German Soldiers from WWII.  4300 soldiers are buried here.  Originally these soldiers were buried in the Desert, but in 1955 excavation was started and by 1959 all soldiers were moved to this location for a proper burial.  There is also a plaque memorializing the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The grounds are kept in excellent shape.  The caretaker also advised us that camping at the site is free and a washroom is available.  His father is in one of the original pictures of the 50's when the structure was built.  If we hadn't planned to make it to Alexandria this would have been a nice option.  On the road again and after a couple of wrong turns we did find our way into downtown Alexandria and parked at the Midan Saad Zaghloul.  Africa Shoestring Lonely Planet in hand I marched off in search for a hotel.  Since we are in the centre of town on the harbour, hotels are always on the upper levels of a highrise.  Thanks to the Lonely Planet map I did find the Hotel Crillon (entrance of a small alley with a tiny sign).  The owner of the Hotel Crillon is very friendly and the rooms are clean, hardwood floor with balcony and a view of the habour.  The bathroom is separate and the cost was 100 E₤/night or $20CDN/night incl. breakfast.  Location, location and location.  The motorcycles were parked in the alley and covered by a blanket.  The person who arranged all the cars for parking, took special care of the motorcycles, which we paid 20 E₤ ($4.00 for two nights parking). We were at the centre of all the attractions we wanted to see in Alexandria.  I had not washed any clothes since we left Tunisia and this was my chance to catch up with some laundry.  The bedroom had a sink with warm water.  In the evening we walked around town and had Mike's favorite Egyptian dish Koshari.

Oct. 26, 2007. Since we arrived in Egypt the temperatures have steadily increased.  We had planned to spend the day exploring Alexandria.  The Roman Amphitheatre was only 1km from our hotel, GPS in hand and the waypoints entered we have no problem finding our way around Alexandria. The Amphitheatre is the only Roman theatre in Egypt.  It was discovered when a new housing development started digging and removing existing structures. Today only the small Amphitheatre (15 E₤/person or $3.00CDN/person) is accessible.  A roman road, a couple pillars and the ruins of a bath have also been excavated, but are off limits for tourists.  A sphinx and couple of other sculptures recovered from the habour are displayed with great photos of the actual underwater excavation. The next point of interest was the Amud El-Sawari or Pompey's Pillar.  The walk from the Amphitheatre to the Pompey's Pillar was about 1.5km and led us through some "interesting" areas of Alexandria.  Let's just say we didn't see any other tourists (they probably would have been too scared).  It is hard to explain the weird things one sees walking through markets, smelling the decay of food and sewer.  The old tram putts along and definitely has seen better days. There is dust, diesel fumes and a black film on everything.  Lovely.  The misnamed Pompey's Pillar (15 E₤/person or $3.00CDN/person) is actually quite impressive and much larger then expected at 30m in height.  A couple of tour buses have arrived and the police eagerly await as everyone gets of the bus and here we are strolling along without any security along the dark alleys.  Too funny.  The police officer on site wanted to show as a dark hole in the ground for some money in return, but we declined, very familiar with the Egyptian ways.  Three (3) sphinx in front of the Pompey's Pillar make for a great photo opportunity.  Only 500m further is the Catacombs of Kom El-Shuqafa Monuments (25 E₤/person or $5.00CDN/person).  The catacombs were something that we really wanted to see.  Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed and it was packed with tourists.  This burial place held approx. 300 bodies a few meters below ground in small niches.  Only the first level is accessible and the remainder is flooded. Returning to the area of the harbour we follow the cornice to the Fort Qaitbey. The fortress was built by the Mamluk sultan on the foundation of the famous destroyed Pharos lighthouse in 1480. Some building blocks for the fort came from the ancient lighthouse.  Outside the Fort Qaitbey, vendors line the street and Mike starts bartering for a fake Breitling watch.  All the buttons actually worked and we got it for 150 E₤ ($30.00CDN).  Entrance to the Citadel of Qaitbay was 20 E₤/person or $4.00CDN/person and gave a great view of the harbour and the new Alexandria Bibliotheca. We returned to our base at the Hotel Crillon and put up our tired feet for the day.  At night we treated ourselves to some pizza and diet coke.

Oct. 27, 2007. Getting out of Alexandria was a piece of cake as we had saved the track on our initial entry to the city of 3.5 million people. The road from Alexandria to Cairo is called the Desert Alex-Cairo road and is free of charge for motorcycles.  Stopping for gasoline we had numerous Egyptians making conversation with us, who were excited to see us. The stretch from Alexandria to Cairo is approx. 225km and one enters the city near the pyramids, but first we had to pass a convey of 20 buses all driving in the fast lane end escorted by one lonely tourist police motorcycle leading the way.  A lot of protection here.  It is weird to say that as we enter Cairo it was like coming home.  Seeing the Giza pyramids right beside us again with the city at its door step, each traffic circle a total chaos of diesel puking vehicles, idling away and moving at snail speed.  Here we are again making our way in the mid-day heat downtown.  We find our way to the Midan Tahir traffic circle without problems and park the motorcycles along the circle.  I run over to the Sun Hotel, where we had stayed 1 1/2 years ago and recognize the door man right away (he recognizes me as well).  The Sun Hotel is located on the 9th floor of the highrise and again nothing had changed, the reception was still manned by the same personnel.  This time I am not interested in the cheap rooms (70 E₤/night or $14.00CDN/night), but go for the quiet and deluxe one with private bathroom and air conditioning for 120 E₤/night or $24.00CDN/night incl. breakfast.  We needed some TLC.  A lot of overlanders and other motorcycle travelers stay at the campground by the Giza Pyramids.  We choose downtown Cairo, as the Sudan Embassy and Canadian Embassy were in walking distance (5minutes) from the hotel. In addition the internet cafe with good connection was across the road. We had not yet updated Italy, Tunisia or Libya. The Ethiopian Embassy is a 5-10 minute (pending on traffic) taxi ride and located in Doqqi.  Mr. Ali helped us find secure underground parking for the motorcycles, as it is not possible to park them on the street.  We found a reasonably priced place only 500m from the hotel and they charged us a 100 E₤ ($20.00CDN) for 5 days. The embassies are closed on Friday and Saturday, therefore no point to start the Visa procedures yet (our main reason for being back in Cairo). In the evening we return to our favorite Koshari place the At-Tahrir Kushari.  The upstairs is great for people watching and the meals range from small to X-large.  We have X-large Koshari and a Cola Zero each and the bill comes to a whopping 15 E₤ ($3.00CDN). It is the best Koshari in Egypt.

Oct. 28, 2007.  We make our way to the Canadian Embassy located in Garden City and a five (5) minute walk from the hotel.  We only found it because of the Canadian Flag flapping in the wind.  Street names are in Arabic. The Canadian Embassy opens at 8am.  Once through security we get a number and wait to be called into an office.  After half an hour we are called into the office and speak to a Canadian representative through a glass window, requesting the Letter of Invitation for the Sudan Visa.  The cost for the letter is $50.00CDN (250 E₤) and takes 24hrs to be completed. First step accomplished.  Back to the hotel, we catch up on pictures, journal and hit the internet cafe.

Oct. 29, 2007. We return to the Canadian Embassy at 8am and receive our letter of invitation for the Sudan Visa.  The Sudanese Embassy does not open until 9am and is located only a couple of hundred meters from the Canadian Embassy.  As the door opens everyone streams into a large room, but no official employees are present.  Not sure of the procedure we sit down patiently to see if anyone shows up behind the glass windows or sits down at the desk in the middle of the room.  Another half an hour passes and a person in a suit walks in and sits down at the desk in the middle of the room.  During the wait the room starts to fill up with people and as the man walks in everyone instantaneously gathers around the desk. We get in the middle and get close to the desk.  Here the person behind the desk is restarting his ancient computer numerous times and another 15 minutes passes as we stand there, questioningly looking at each other wondering what to do.  Then another person comes up to the desk and pulls open a drawer and pulls out a couple of forms, hands them over to us and tells us to complete them.  Now we are getting somewhere.  We complete the Visa forms, attach two (2) passport size pictures of each of us, and get them copied, including our passports and the letter of invitation from the Canadian Embassy (4 E₤).  Then we got into this crazy line were everyone tries to sneak ahead of you, but we stood our ground.  The clerk behind the window at the far right corner, wrote something Arabic onto each of our applications and told us to pay the $100.00US each Visa fee ($200US Total) at the next window.  (US Dollars only) The clerk behind the window took our passports, gave us a receipt and told us to return at 1pm the same day to pick up our Visas. Stepping outside away from the chaos, we realize that it only took us one (1) hour to process all the paper work, it seemed a lot longer.  At 1pm we return to the Sudan Embassy and are handed our passports with the Sudan Visa. It only took five (5) hours to receive our Sudan Visa. At the front reception of our hotel we ask them to call the Ethiopian Embassy to confirm the address.  Rene, another Canadian Motorcycle traveler, currently is South Africa, had sent us a great link to a website with current information of another Overlander.  The Ethiopian Embassy had changed location three (3) times in the last year. The address we had copied from the Overlander website was correct.  We decided to apply for the Ethiopian Visa in Cairo as well the next day. Off we were again to hit the internet cafe and upload pictures and the journal.

Oct. 30, 2007. The Ethiopian Embassy is located in Doqqi district of Cairo and we took a taxi from downtown.  The Embassy is open from 8am to 4pm. We arrive at 8:30am and there is a lot more order at this Embassy and a lot less people.  The official calls us into his office and gives us Visa application forms to complete.  With the completion of the forms, only one (1) passport picture is required.  The Ethiopian Visa is $30.00US each ($60.00US Total), payable in US Dollars only.  We leave our passports behind and are told to pick them up the next day at noon. Back on the streets of Cairo we flag down a taxi, we agree to 10 E₤ (same rate as getting to the Embassy earlier) and off we are into the next gas station and getting an oil change on the taxi.  We get out of the taxi and walk away and flag down another taxi and go through the same process again of agreeing to a fare. No matter what as a tourist the taxi will try to get as much money as possible out of you.  We would first ask the reception at the hotel how much it should cost and then flag down a taxi on the road, agree on the price and not pay more at the end, even so they try to get more money again as they drop you off. Never hand over money until arriving at the destination. Back at the hotel we return to the internet cafe and we continue our upload of pictures.  In total I spent 30 hours uploading Italy to the internet and Mike 10 hours answering e-mails.  We had bought a special internet pass 10 hours for 25 E₤ ($5.00CDN). 

Oct. 31, 2007. While I am at the internet cafe, Mike gets his first hair cut since the start of the trip two (2) months ago for 20 E₤ ($4.00CDN).  This time Mike shaved prior to going to the Barber shop to avoid the straight raiser treatment.  The barber did try to give him the full treatment including gel and smelly stuff, but Mike persistently declined.  At noon we flagged down a taxi and went back to the Ethiopian Embassy and as promised the passport including Visas were ready for pick-up. I posted Italy that afternoon.  We had accomplished everything we wanted in Cairo and as scheduled.  It was time to get on the road again.  That night we had Pizza Hut take out in our room for a half of the cost of Pizza Hut in Canada.  One can only eat so much Koshari.

Nov. 01, 2007. We get the motorcycles out of the underground parkade at 6am, trying to avoid the busy Cairo Rush Hour, and park them in front of the hotel.  All loaded we say good-bye to everyone, including the doorman who we had become quite fond of.  During last years trip we had missed visiting Memphis.  We had the GPS waypoint and left downtown Cairo around 7am and within minutes of getting across the Nile we had taken a wrong turn and were in a very run down part of Cairo.  Unfortunately we had Helmet Camera problems for a view days (loose cable) and the footage did not turn out.  This is only 5 kms from downtown Cairo and we are in the slums. The road is dirt and large crater holes cover the street.  Some covered with smelly water, some with burning garbage.  Animals everywhere, cows or donkeys pulling carriages, kids walking to school.  And we are in the midst of all this chaos, trying find a main road again.  We are in this maze for about half an hour too scared to stop in case of getting taken advantage of.  Somehow we find the paved road following the Nile on the west side and we pull into the site of Memphis around 8am (located only 23km from downtown).  The police of course are always surprised that we are not with a tour or being escorted.  What hotel are we staying at, where have we come from, where are we going, what is our Nationality????  Give them any information and they are happy, it does not have to be the correct information.  Entrance fee for the small open air museum is 30 E₤/person ($6.00CDN/person).  The main attraction here is the colossal limestone statue of Ramses II, which lies, truncated at the knees, in a viewing pavilion.  It is enormous.  Outside numerous other status' of Ramses the II are displayed including a giant calcite sphinx.   The sphinx dates back to the 18th Dynasty and is the largest calcite statue ever found. In search for the desert road we pass the Giza Pyramids and find the correct traffic circle that leads out of Cairo.  There is not one sign in English and if it wasn't for the GPS World map it would have taken us hours to find the correct road.  Heading out west, upper class houses line the road until there is only miles and miles of sand ahead. The famous desert winds starts to pick up and the temperatures begin to climb.  The 300km of nothingness between Cairo and Bahariyya Oasis is pretty desolate.  The only gas station along the 300km stretch does not sell gasoline, only diesel.  At a speed of 110km/hr the range of our full tank only last approx. 280kms. We are in trouble, but the gas attendant pulls out a large canister with gasoline.  We are in luck, as he sells it to us at a reasonable price.  The gasoline is poured all over the bikes as we try filling the tank.  As I pull out the camera to take a picture, he declines.  Maybe he is not supposed to sell gasoline this way.  We are just happy that we can continue.  We enter Bawiti around 3pm and tired from the desert winds we are on the look-out for a cheap place to stay.  The first camp look alike place we stop wants 210 E₤/night ($42.00CDN/night).  No thanks, we decide to fuel up and head approx. 40km out of town to campsite that is mentioned in Lonely Planet.  At the fuel stop we run into the owner of the Camel Camp, located at the Oasis Heritage Museum.  He lets us stay in a room (without power) for 40 E₤/night ($8.00CDN/night) including breakfast.  Very excited to have us stay with him, we drink tea and he convinces us that we have to see the main attraction close by to Bawiti. Too tired to ride the motorcycles any further and to exhausted to decline we are chauffeured around in his Toyota Land Cruiser to see the salt lake, pick and eat fresh dates from his garden, climb the black mountain (English Mountain) and hang out at the hot springs.  As the sun sets we return to the camp and give him 60 E₤ ($12.00CDN) for his personal tour.  He invites us for supper at his parents' home, but we decline.  He offers to stay the night at the camp and make a fire, but we are ready for some relaxation and Lipton Noodles.  As everyone leaves we are the only ones at the Camel Camp. It is very peaceful and we cook our food and have an early night.

Nov. 02, 2007.  A beautiful day in the desert lay ahead.  We met with the owner of the Camel Camp at 8:30am for breakfast.  He has brought us a gift of black lava rocks, fresh peppermint leaves and lemons to take along on our journey.  After breakfast and some pictures, we head into the Black Desert. Pointy black mountains pop up everywhere.  The black desert was created by wind eroding the dark, rocky outcrops.  It does look like lava stone.  Then the sand color changes from black to reddish and a wind storm hits.  The sand gets into every pore and the force when it hits your skin hurts.  We stop to put on our goggles and bandanas under the helmets.  The cross wind is strong and the sand starts to stay on the road.  Sand dunes start to build on the road and in some instances cover the whole road.  The motorcycles are tough to ride in the sand, as they are front heavy and want to fall over. At each dune/drift we slow down to nothing and make our way through them. I do not know how much sand I ate, but as we got close to the Crystal Mountains it calmed down. Here the sand becomes whiter.  We park the motorcycles on the side of the road and venture closer to the quartz rock formations. At closer look there are millions of pieces of sparkly quartz rock.  We pick up some as a souvenir.  At approx. 140km from the Bahariyya Oasis the White Desert starts.  It is a beautiful Desert, with bizarre rock formations caused by wind erosion. The black tar road snakes its way through pure white sand.  We leave the bikes parked on the side of the road and walk up to the rock formations approx. 1km.  It is noon and temperatures are at its peak.  We are constantly refilling our camelbacks and ensure that we have plenty of spare water.  A night spent in the White Desert would be amazing.  The wind is still too strong to set up our tent and we decide against camping here and to head on to Farafra Oasis.  In Farafra Oasis, the first hotel we stop at is called the Aqua Sun Hotel, 5km from town.  One look at the 70Euro/night made us run.  We could not find a reasonably priced place in town and decided to continue to Al Qsar some 320km down the road. There is no gas station between Farafra Oasis and Al Qsar. The gas station in a small village south of Farafra is shut-down, we ask some locals for Benzene (Gasoline), an English speaking man gets on his little 250cc motorcycle and takes us to a house along sandy back roads.  Here a man pulls out a couple of canisters of what we hoped was Benzene.  We filled up our spare canisters and topped up our tanks.  Everyone looks on with large eyes, smiling and the cost of the fuel was the same as at a gas station, figure that. It actually was good fuel. 130km down the road we top up our tanks with our spare canisters.  We arrive in Al Qsar as the sun sets.  The Lonely Planet mentioned the Al Qsar Resthouse and Mohamed the owner is ever so helpful to take us in for a night.  The bikes are parked in the back garden secure.  The room is spacious and has two (2) large beds.  The bathroom is separate, but has hot showers.  He only charges us 30 E₤/night ($6.00CDN/night).  In the garden we join Amr and Laurie, who are playing Dominos.  Mohamed provides us with hot tea, and Laurie offers us chocolate.  We sit in the dark, relaxing and waiting for the power to come on.  Mohamed explains that for the last year the surrounding towns alternate with power.  Some nights Al Qsar does not have power and the generator would have to be started.  We were in luck.  Amr Shannon is a tour guide and was showing Nancy, an American Lawyer stationed at the Bangladesh US Embassy, the Egyptian Desert.  Amr, an Egyptian, speaks perfect English, and is well known for his adventure tours.  It was a pleasure listening to his stories and hearing his views of Egypt. Mohamed provided us with some great supper for 30 E₤ ($6.00CDN), way too much food.  He kept us company as we ate.  Mohamed has a great personality and we were so happy to stay at his place and to have had the chance to met him. There is no hassle from him.  He speaks very calmly and tries to help wherever he can. We checked out the roof top for the great view and then went straight for bed.  Though the Resthouse is located in the centre of town, it was very quite.

Nov. 03, 2007.  At 7:30am we stroll up to the ancient mud-built village of Al Qsar.  Egypt is converting the village into a Heritage site and is trying to relocate its current residents into new housing.  A local guide with the keys, opens the doors to climb the minaret.  It is hard to not get lost in the maze of narrow sand-covered alleyways. The guide leads us to the Olive Oil press, wheat grinder and the old school/court house.  The main door way into an important person's house has a wooden lentil, with the name of the owner and who carved the lentil. The mosque dates back to the 12th Century AD and the school/court house to the 11th Century AD. We return to the resthouse and Mohamed provides us with our best breakfast since leaving Germany two (2) months ago for 30 E₤ ($6.00CDN).  We spent another hour talking to Amr and Nancy before getting on the road.  From Al Qsar, we pass through the village of Mut and then see a sign for the Balat Tomb.  There are three (3) tombs excavated. Each one lies below ground with steps leading to the tomb.  The tombs are locked, but for 20 E₤ ($4.00CDN), we were able to enter them (note there is not much to see).  The stretch from Dakhla Oasis to the Kharga Oasis is about 190kms of desert.  Kharga is the largest Oasis along the Desert Road between Egypt and Luxor. We had completed a shade over a 1000km of riding through total isolation.  The desert is a dangerous place, with temperatures reaching 50 Deg Celsius and up to 300km of no mans land, it is easy to get into trouble.  We carried eight (8) liters of water with us at all times, but even though we were continuously drinking, we became dehydrated.  The main sign being headache and cramps.  We were both taking salt tablets to ease the cramps.  In Kharga we found a hotel at the centre, not perfect to park the motorcycles, but it was air conditioned and had three (3) single beds for 80E₤/night ($16.00CDN).  We probably paid too much, but air condition that works is heaven.  From the balcony we had a full view of the motorcycles parked in the busy market area.  A guard spent all day and night at the reception area, to watch over us and the motorcycles, through we had written a note to decline any protection.  In Al-Qsar, Mohamed also had us sign a written statement to decline the requirement of the tourist police and it work.  Late afternoon we would leave the hotel and ride to the Temple of Hibis without the present of any tourist police.  It is funny how they are present at the hotel, but then we go off walking or riding and no one cares.  Some major construction/renovation is being completed at the Temple of Hibis and the whole site can be seen in 20 minutes.  It was built by the Persian emperor Darius I in the 6th Century BC.  One of the only sizeable Persian temples in Egypt. A kilometer north from the Temple is the Necropolis of al-Bagawat, definitely the highlight of the area, but a pain in the butt to visit, as you are guided through the entire place and unable to explore at your own pace.  The area has been turned into a major tourist attraction and a not very pleasing walking-way loops through the Necropolis, taking away from the medieval feel of the place. Cost was 25 E₤/person ($5.00CDN/person).  The Necropolis is a Christian cemetery containing hundreds of domed, mudbrick tombs.  Some of the insides are decorated with Coptic murals, dating from the 6th Century AD.  There are two (2) mudbrick tombs that are locked and have the best preserved frescos. The Chapel of the Exodus portrays Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt, away from Pharaoh's pursuing troops. Back at the hotel we run across the street to a local shop which sells falafel inside Aish, which translates to deep-fied patties of fava bean paste inside bread.  We bought four (4) and had on the side freshly fried potato ships all for 3 E₤ ($0.60CDN).

Nov. 04, 2007. Getting an early start, we get gasoline and fill our canisters as we are not sure how far it is to the next gas station (it turns out about 290km).  Heading south approx. 70km toward Baris we turn east toward Luxor.  Another 220km of desert greets us.  The desert road meets up with the western Nile road approx. 30km south of Luxor.  Security instantly increases.  Where the Nile meets the Desert Road intersection, the check stop police want us to stop, pull to the side and wait five (5) minutes.  This actually means waiting until an escort can be arranged to take you into Luxor, but they don't tell you this upfront.  We smiled and didn't stop (our usual routine from the previous year).  It is 30 Degree Celsius above and they want us to wait for 1/2 hour or more in the heat. We are back to familiar territories and know our way around Luxor.  In addition we have the GPS coordinates for the Rezeiky Camp. We blow through a couple more check-stops and once in Luxor we are free to go wherever.  Mike remembered how to get to the entrance gate of the Rezeiky Camp without problems.  We honk a couple times and the gate opens.  The owner recognizes us immediately and we get the same room as from the previous year for 90 E₤/night ($18.00CDN/night).  Nothing has changed here, it is still the peaceful oasis that cocoons one from the chaos of hassling touts outside.  We really like this place, as it offers the most comfortable double beds, one very cold swimming pool and the best meals ever. It is a favorite for Overlanders. We run into the bus driver from "Das Rollende Hotel" (The moving hotel), who I had chatted with at the Libyan Border crossing as we waited for all the border formalities to be completed.  In addition a convoy of six (6) motorhomes from Germany arrived to set up camp in the shaded area. This would be our base for a couple of days. Supper was 30 E₤/person, way too much food and way too delicious.  If you want to fatten up this is the place to go.

Nov. 05, 2007.  Our so called off-day.  While I was hand washing clothes, Mike was changing the oil on the motorcycles.  Our first oil change since we left Germany at 11,500km.  We bought (8) liters of high quality fully synthetic Mobil oil for 450 E₤ ($90.00CDN), not cheap and used two (2) of our four (4) spare filters.  The owner of the Rezeiky Camp provided us with a bucket to dump the oil. As we had ridden through a few sand storms in the last week, we checked the air filter, which was fine, and pumped up the tires.  The helmet camera had been giving us trouble and Mike figured out that the connection inside a wire had severed.  His electrical background, made it easy to rewire and bandage everything with duck tape.  In the afternoon we walked to the Mummification Museum (40E₤/person or $8.00CDN/person).  The small museum, describes the process of mummification performed by the ancient Egyptians.  We had expected a bit more on the actual description.  On display is the mummy of Maseharti, a 21st Dynasty high priest including his painted wooden coffin. Some of the weirder mummified items on display were a cat, chicken, ram and half dissected skull, where the brain was removed. Anything else worth seeing we had visited the previous year during our 2006 Middle East trip. At the camp we met Hans and Volker, both drive rigged out Toyota Land Cruisers.  Volker had been on the road for 1 1/2 years through Africa and Hans drove up from Cape Town, spending about six (6) months on the road.  We exchanged some great GPS coordinates and information.  Time flies when talking about travel stories and it was nice to meet like minded people.

Nov. 06, 2007. During the previous year trip we had missed visiting Dendara, which lies on the west side of the Nile 60km north of Luxor.  The area his heavily policed and an escort is normally mandatory.  Leaving before 7am we take the bridge across to the west side of Luxor and head up the side of the Nile, passing through small villages. Each check-stop, they wanted us to stop and wait for escort, but we didn't stop and made it without too much hassle to Qena by 8am.  Dendara (25 E₤/person or $5.00CDN/person) was covered under sand until the 19th Century, when it was discovered.  The Temple of Hathor is in beautiful shape and based on a typical Pharaonic design.  The now Graeco-Roman Temple a series of large hypostyle halls leading to a dark sanctuary, surrounded by a maze of store rooms, chapels and crypts.  The ceiling inside the halls has astronomical symbols like the sun-god Ra sailing his sacred barque across the sky. The 18 columns supporting the ceiling are enormous and have at its capitol the head of Hathor.  Huge reliefs cover the outside of the building walls, depicting Tiberius and Claudius making offerings to Horus and Hathor; and Cleopatra making offerings.  These reliefs are all very well preserved. We complete our visit just before the 100's of tour buses arrive and make our exit by running a couple of check-stops back to the Luxor Camp. Our last meal is as always awesome.

Nov.07, 2007. Packed and ready to go we hit the roads of Luxor at 7am and catch up with the 7am scheduled escort convoy of 100 buses from Luxor to Aswan.  We stop for gasoline and let the convoy pass and then head to the west side of the Nile.  Normally check-stops prevent you from taking the west side Nile road.  The tourist escorted route is the east side Nile road.  Again we don't stop for the check-stop, especially as they don't expect anyone foreign, they are slow to react.  Most of the time we are already through and the yelling of "Stop, Halt etc" a distant memory.  Esna a small farming village lies on the west side of the Nile 50 some km south of Luxor. At the centre of the village 10m below the surrounding elevation of the houses is the excavated site of the Temple of Khnum.  The GPS coordinate lead us close to the site, but we first got lost in the streets of Esna, with some incredible live Helmet video footage.  This is the Egypt only a few tourists ever see, but 90% of Egyptians live like that.  The location of the temple is quite a sight in midst of the centre of town, surrounded by houses and 10m below street level.  Excavation was started in the 19th Century and only the portion of the temple was uncovered as the remainder lies below current houses.  The temple (15 E₤/person or $3.00CDN/person) is actually Roman and dates to AD 41 – 54.  The ceiling of the hypostyle hall depicts astronomical symbols like the scorpion.  24 columns inscribed with hieroglyphs support the ceiling of the hypostyle hall. The crypt is accessible, but not for the claustrophobic, as steps lead to a tiny entrance and the rooms beyond lack much oxygen. From Esna we continue our way south following the west Nile road to Edfu.  The Temple of Horus is overrun by tourists (40 E₤/person or $8.00CDN/person).  Like a herd of cows we make our way into the premises.  The temple is the largest and best preserved Ptolemaic temple in Egypt and was buried under sand and silt from the Nile for almost 2000 years.  The layout of this temple is similar to the one in Dendara and Esna, with the added bonus that the outer wall surrounding the temple is fully intact.  Every wall, every column and every corner of this temple is covered with hieroglyphs. From Edfu we return to the east side of the Nile and make our way to Aswan.  The New Abu Simbol hotel lies north of the train station and is a good place to securely park the motorcycles.  As we had spent a few nights here the previous year, reception recognized us.  The motorcycle were parked in the shaded huge garden and we got the best room on the 4th floor, with air conditioning, balcony and a great view of the Nile for 70 E₤/night or $14.00CDN/night including breakfast.  Our base until the ferry leaves for Sudan.

Nov. 08, 2007. We had heard and read lots of stories about booking the ferry, Mr. Salah and the actual ferry journey from Aswan, Egypt to Wadi Halfa, Sudan.  Prior to visiting office we head to the Adam's Home Campground located about 10km north of Aswan on the west bank to see if any other Overlanders have booked a separate barge for the trip.  We are out of luck, a large group had just left the previous Monday on their own barge.  Plan B for us then was to load the bikes on the passenger ferry (normally for passengers only). As we had the GPS coordinate for the Ferry Company Ticket Office (I don't know how we would have found his place without it), we paid them a visit at 9am, but were advised that the man in charge, Mr. Salah, will not be in the office until 10am.  Actually the office is normally closed on Thursday and Friday. After some breakfast we return to the office and met Mr. Salah, he speaks very good English and treated us as respectfully as any authority who knows that they have all the cards in their hand.  Recent reports indicated that motorcycles could be loaded on the Passenger Ferry instead of the dreadful barge, where passengers were not allowed.  But there was no way (Note it is possible to load your motorcycle on the passenger ferry coming from Sudan to Egypt).  We cringe and have no choice. We are able to start our traffic formalities of returning the licence plates and licence, which is not at the port where it should be.  Mr. Salah had drawn us a map how to get there and we also had the GPS coordinates.  As I wait with the motorcycles, Mike heads into the traffic building, where he is greeted with chaos, no signage, window after window with someone sitting behind it, who doesn't want to help.  After a few minutes a guy from behind the counter tells Mike to come around the building to the back office.  The room he entered was stacked with paper from the floor to the ceiling, the desk in the middle almost not reachable due to all the paper.  Mike has the licence plates in hand and indicates that he wants to return them, but is advised that he first has to go to another place to get an "unknown" piece of paper.  He writes the name of the place in Arabic on a piece of paper.  Then Mike jumps into a taxi and heads to this building about 10km away.  The taxi drives down a residential area and then stops on a corner, where a young man sits on the sidewalk with a wooden make shift table.  He fills out some paper for Mike and leads him to a building, where Mike is passed on from one office to another, with papers being filled out. After an hour and 10E₤ later, Mike is back in the waiting taxi and returns to the Traffic Office.  Here we were able to now proceed in returning the licence plates.  After 3 1/2hrs of running around we are back with Mr. Salah, who is now able to book the motorcycles on the barge, but first we had to deposit 370 E₤/bike ($74.00CDN/bike) into a bank account provided by Mr. Salah.  We leave again to ride to the specified bank and after another hour deposited the money.  We return to Mr. Salah's office, but it is too late to purchase our tickets now and we have to come back in a couple of days, as the office is closed on Friday. All that was left for paperwork was to have the Custom office stamp the Carnets, but that does not occur until the departure date and at the port of exit. Exhausted we return to the hotel.

Nov. 09, 2007. We spent most of the day answering e-mails and uploading the Tunisia Pictures and Journal for posting. At the local store I stock up on some groceries, to ensure that we had enough food on us for the journey through Sudan, as most of it would be desert camping.

Nov. 10, 2007, We return to Mr. Salah's office at 10am to purchase our 2nd class passenger tickets, which were 269 E₤/person ($54.00CDN/person). 1st class was sold out, and normally has to be booked at least a couple of weeks ahead, which does not work for us. We return to the Internet Cafe and upload the Libya Pictures and Journal. In the evening we venture into the souq to pick up a couple of large bags to carry our motorcycle gear onto the passenger ferry.  Since the motorcycles were on a separate barge and out of sight for a couple of days, we stripped everything off them and left them only with the hard bags.

Nov. 11, 2007. Last day in Egypt, we post the Libya update and try not to get nervous about the much dreaded ferry ride into Sudan.  It just can not be as bad as they all say……it was worse.

Nov. 12, 2007. The Ferry port is located about 20km south of Aswan and Mr. Salah had advised us to arrive early for all the paperwork to be completed.  The gate opens at 9am and there is a huge line up already of people, trucks loaded to the sky, carriages and mountains of luggage.  We heard from Mr. Salah that another motorcycle was booked to go as well.  We met Werner, from South Africa, at the gate; he had been waiting since 7am.  As anxious and nervous as we had been. Our passports are checked first and we are let into the gate with the motorcycles, then they searched the backs and made Werner remove his soft luggage and run it through the X-ray.  Mr. Salah arrives and tells us to follow him to his office to complete the paperwork.  While the boys take care of the customs formalities of the motorcycles, I remove all the gear from the motorcycles and stuff it into the two (2) large bags we had purchased at the souq in Aswan.  Our passports were stamped out and by 11:30am we were ready to get on the ferry.  We had to walk over the cargo barge to get to the passenger ferry and went for the deck area.  We had been forewarned (from research over the internet) that the 2nd class seating area in the hull of the ship consisting of wooden benches, which would get overcrowded and impossible to leave once the sun sets and that the best option was to get to the deck of the boat before 12pm, otherwise it would be hard to find a free spot.  Werner had originally booked a 1st class cabin, but after seeing the cabin condition decided to join us on the upper deck on the floor.  It turned out that his cabin was later taken over by four (4) people. We laid out our gear in a square area to secure our territory, which continuously someone tries to encroach on. From our location we had a great view point of the loading area for the cargo barge.  What a disaster. In a civilized country the operation would have been shut down due to safety and working conditions.  Truck after truck loaded to double its height would back up to the cargo barge, lean at a very dangerous level and someone would climb to the top of the mountain of whatever stuff that was going to Sudan (like a Barber Chair) and started untying the ropes that held it all in one place.  Sometimes it would stay in place other times the "stuff" would come crashing down without warning.  The hull of the cargo barge started to fill and more bags full of stuff being piled on top.  Due to the weight the barge was 2m lower by the time it was loaded.  The ferry is supposed to leave at 4pm, but has to wait until the cargo barge is loaded as well, which in our instance took until 6pm.  Werner and Mike stood with the bikes, while I was defending our space at the deck of the Passenger Ferry.  There was not an inch of space available to sit down, every corner was taken by luggage, boxes and people.  The sun had set and the flood lights came on.  The cargo barge seemed to be loaded, the question now was how to get the motorcycles on it, as the barge was now 2m lower from the edge of the dock.  Mr. Salah came to rescue and told them to move the barge to a level spot.  Meanwhile, I had no idea what was going on and noticed that the passenger ferry was moving as well and Mike and Werner was still on dry land.  Great, I had a vision of being on my own with all these people for the next how many hours.  Finally the motorcycles are moved on the barge and Mike ties them down.  That's it, we say farewell to our bikes. Mike and Werner battle there way to the top deck.  There is no words to explain the night ahead and the conditions everyone is placed in.  I imagine that refugees fleeing from a country on a boat would be in a similar position.  We felt like a herd of cows, stacked onto the ferry, every possible space taken up.  Going to the Bathroom was a nightmare.  We climbed along the outside railing of the ferry to get to the end of the stair way leading to the bottom, stepping over people, no lights on the boat (no moon).  Again, in a civilized world the ferry company would be shut-down and fined hugely for breaking all types of safety and health issues, but this is Egypt.  We leave Aswan at 6am and arrive in Wadi Halfa, Sudan at 1pm the next day (19hrs). 

Nov. 13, 2007.  During the night, it gets quite cold as the wind picks up and we get the sleeping bags out.  Everyone sleeps on everyone else, Werner decides to sleep on the outside of the railing, by the life boat.  In the middle of the night someone shines a flashlight into our face and pushes a piece of paper into our hand. This person wants our passports and us to complete this custom paper.  How they found us, who knows, but we complete the forms and hand over the passports.  No communication on how we get them back. Every hour seemed to drag by, but finally the sun rises and we start to bake in the heat.  Upon arrival, we still wait another hour before anyone is let off the ferry.  We exchange some US Dollars and Euro on the boat. We are able to move after a couple of hours and make our way to the exit. Here we are asked for our passports, we of course had given our passport to the strange man that visited us during the night and had no idea where to pick them up.  Meanwhile there is a stampede of people trying to exit the ferry with their entire luggage and we are blocking the exit.  Somehow we find out that our passports are in the "Dinning Room" and have to be picked up in person, were they took down some more information, like your mothers name, your job etc.  Finally we are off the ferry and head for the immigration office.  Our passports are already stamped and all we have to complete is getting our luggage searched to be able to get on our merry way.  Of all things we were held up at the luggage search point due to our Satellite phone, which they thought was a GPS.  Luckily they didn't realize that we had actually two (2) GPS' on us.  We made it.  Old Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-up Trucks are waiting outside to take you into Wadi Halfa 3km from the port.  We and seven (7) other people load into the truck and the luggage is secured on the roof.  And then he wants 5 S₤ ($2.5CDN) from each of us westerns only.  We knew that there was no way that the locals were paying that, so we exited again and made him unload our luggage from the roof.  500m from the port is a gate and the final passport check.  Here we caught a Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-up Truck with only the three (3) of us piled into it for 10 S₤ ($5CDN) total.  Sometimes it is just the point of getting ripped off.  The taxi took us straight to the Nile Hotel, tearing down the gravel/sand road we bounce in the back and see the real Africa for the first time.  Wadi Halfa, is exactly what I expected.  No more paved roads, mud brick homes, straw roofs, sandy roads.  The Nile Hotel is awesome.  A private room has four (4) single beds.  You pay by beds in the room, even if you don't use them.  Werner was only too happy to share with us.  It was 7 S₤/bed ($3.50CDN/bed).  The floor is sand and the bedding questionable, but it all adds to the place.  The showers and bathrooms are separate. No more hot showers, but with the heat that we would be experiencing who cared. The local restaurants are around the corner.  We order our food by going into the kitchen and looking into each pot and then point to the pot we want.  We ate a lot of Sudanese food and it was always great (maybe because we were always starving).

 

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