Egypt part 2
After the Luxor Museum we hopped on a couple of donkey carts and went for a ride. We headed into the nearby suburbs and explored back alleys and side streets meeting lots of locals. It was a fun afternoon out.
We finished the day with dinner at a roof top restaraunt over looking the Nile.
From Luxor we drove to the Red Sea Coast which is littered with the entire range of resorts from huge sprawling five star palaces to spartan seaside shacks, all of them have coral reef at the front door and clear Red Sea waters, great for diving.
We started at the spartan end of the scale, spending a night at the Rocky Valley Camp, which is a few wooded huts on the beach with an attached restraraunt and bar.
I was promptly in the water exploring the nearby reef and finished the day with great meal of freshly caught tuna.
From Rocky Valley we made the short trip to the resort town Hergharda and upgraded to the sprawling Arabia Azure Resort.
I spent the afternoon exploring the resort and decided, since food and drinks were free, to swim, eat and drink my way around all the beaches and pools. I failed miserably and after three hours had only managed half the resort.
The following day I spent on a dive boat anchored off the Giftun Islands. I did two nice dives with White Dolphin Divers. The fish life was excellent and we found a cave to explore at 30m.
The next stop after Hergharda was our penultimate destination, Cairo. We drove the 500km to our inner city hotel and unpacked our gear from the truck which had been our base for the previous four months.
It took over an hour to clear all our gear off the truck. Many of our travel items and clothes we had no further need for and as the truck was going south through Uganda and Malawi at Christmas time, our driver, Talbot was planning to donate it to a couple of villages along the way. I’d already sent home a bag of warm clothes I used in Iceland, Denmark and Sweden earlier in the year and after sorting out gear, still had to buy another two suitcases to get all the stuff home! I’m still not sure how we accumulated an EXTRA forty kilos of luggage in six months!
The following morning five of us jumped in a mini van with our guide and headed to the pyramids.
The pyramids were as incredible as I’d expected. I walked/crawled inside one of the narrow chambers and then we did a short Camel ride across the sand to take some photos without tourist coaches in the background. They still let you climb five or six levels up the pyramid but you’re no longer allowed to climb to the top and in a couple of months, when the tram line opens, the entire area will be fenced off and you’ll no longer be able to go within 50m of them.
From the pyramids we visited the sphinx and then drove across the city to the Cairo Museum which houses the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. We spent two hours wandering the corridors and viewing some of the incredible 120,000 artifacts on display.
In five months the new Egyptian Museum opens in Giza next to the pyramids and my guide tells me it will be the world’s largest archeological museum.
The following morning I was off to the Algerian Embassy where I was promptly told, “We only issue visas to Egyptian citizens”.
That was the end of my plans to visit Algeria next week. I’ll have to move onto Plan C and delay Algeria for a few weeks.
I said goodbye to Lynda, Dan, Nick and Sam and was once again traveling on my own.
With time to spare I decided to spend some more time in Alexandria and the Mediterranean Coast. The following morning I jumped in a taxi to the Ramesis Train Station and caught a train 220km to the city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean, where my coast to coast journey South to North, 23,000km across Africa was finally completed.
I could have just done Cape Town to Cairo but I wanted to stand on the beach in Cape Town looking out into the Southern Ocean and then swim in the Mediterranean at the other end of the continent, although my swim would have to wait a bit longer.
After Alexandria I caught the bus to Marsa Matruh, 300km further west along the north coast.
The next day my taxi driver took me to Cleopatra’s Beach about 5km from town. It was nice but nothing special. Apparently Cleopatra swam there once.
We continued west for another twenty kilometers to Agida Beach, this time for a swim. We were closer to the Libyan border and the increased army presence was obvious, as were the fighter jets overhead and surface to air missile launchers.
Agiba has to be close to the nicest coastline on the planet and the bay is incredibly beautiful with gin clear water, white sand and calm water thats perfect for swimming. I had the place to myself! The only negative is the rubbish, which you can’t escape anywhere in Egypt.
I arrived back to the motel mid afternoon and realised I should have opened the curtains in my room before now. I arrived in the dark the night before and didn’t realise the motel had it’s own beautiful private beach only ten meters from my room!! Guess where I spent the rest of the day?
After a relaxing stay at Marsa Matruh I headed to El Alemein where I visited the Commonwealth War Cemetery and the El Alemein War Museum.
The rows and rows of headstones are a stark and sombre reminder of those 7300 Commonwealth soldiers that lost their lives fighting for freedom against the nazi war machine in North Africa.
The entire El Alemein waterfront for several kilometers is a huge construction project. The Egyptians are building their own version of Dubai on their Mediterranean Coast or as the advertising brochure says, ‘the Egyptian Riviera’.
My next journey was across Egypt’s Western Desert and back to Cairo, which was uneventful apart from one incident when we were stopped at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere and another bus left heading in the opposite direction to us.
When it was 50m down the road a young guy came running and yelling out of the toilets, spinted across the car park waving and yelling in hot pursuit of the bus. He was certainly fast but the coach kept going around the bend and he kept running into the desert. He never came back while I was there! Kept me entertained for a few minutes.
I arrived in Cairo at 5.30pm in peak hour traffic and jumped in a taxi to travel across the city to my hotel.
Typical of Egyptian taxi drivers, he did the entire one hour trip across the city, in the dark without turning his headlights on!
The next morning I went to the airport and left Egypt.
Over the next few weeks I’ll have to focus on obtaining five visas for Algeria, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Until that’s all sorted, bye for now.