Four Wheels Around - A Road Trip from the UK to South Africa

In February 2009 we are setting off on the trip of a lifetime from Brighton, E-Sussex, UK to South Africa. Furthermore, we are raising money for the British Red Cross along the way. This blog will cover our preparation until we leave and our adventures whilst we are on the road.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Cairo to Luxor, via the Western Desert

We are nearing the end of our time in Egypt now and I come to that with mixed feelings. Egypt has been stressful for us. We have been chasing documents around the Country, first in Cairo and now in Luxor. We have become extremely frustrated with many aspects of Egyptian life. I can easily say that travelling independently, Egypt has been the most difficult country yet.

We left Cairo on monday...finally! We set off to the Western Desert Oases firstly to Bahariyya. We stopped just outside a small village called Bawiti. The oases are very quiet. It is far off the beaten track and although there are tourists they are few. In Bawiti we visited the Museum of the ten golden mummies. They were stumbled upon quite by accident, by a donkey in 1996. They have since found thousands of mummies in an area in Bahariyya called the Valley of the Golden Mummies. Excavation is still underway. The mummies on display are well preserved. We happened to find and English speaker involved in the excavation who helpfully explained (without demanding Bakeesh) the history of these mummies. Knowing a little about them made the whole experience far more interesting. He explained the legend behind the symbols on the casts and what era of Egyptian history they are from. We also visited a few tombs in the area. It was a refreshing change not to be surrounded by tourists after the hustle and bustle of Cairo.

From there we set off to the next oasis, Farafra. We didn't stop at the oasis itself ut instead we spent a night in the New White Desert. The scenary there was beautiful. Stunning rock formations and miles and miles of sand. It was lovely to spend a night wild camping but at the same time the remotness of the desert was eerie. It was so quiet that every sound was magnified and it is easy to see how easy it would be to get lost when all the rocks and sand dunes look the same.

After Farafea we set off to Mut in the Dakhla Oasis. We spent again just one night here. There didn't seem to be too much going on in any of them. We we directed to a hot spring by our campsite and we set off there on thursday morning. It is called the magic spring. I think maybe it was actually magic. It was a shallow sand pool and at the centre was full of bubbles rising up from the middle of the earth. When we reached the bubbles the ground just dropped away and our legs were sinking beneath liquid sand. The pressure of the bubbles pushed us straight back up again. We spent a good 2 hours relaxing in the spring, jumping off ledges of different heights. Well that was Alex more than me.

We spent thursday night in the final Oasis of the four that link Luxor to Cairo in a loop. Kharga. All the way through these desert roads security had been tight. We had to sign disclaimers saying that we did not need military or police accompaniment everywhere we went. There were check points every 30 or so miles where we were asked repetidly the same questions.
'Where are you from' 'Where do you go' 'Where do you stay' 'Passport please'. Etc etc. Then they radio through to the next check point so that they expect you. We never experienced any hassle at the check points the police and military were very friendly. It was just an annoying interuption. The fact that security was so high made us more worried about our safety. It is though they are waiting for something to happen but we are not sure what. In Kharga the police and military on 2 separate occasions followed us even though we requested to travel without convoy. We really did not feel that we required a police or military escort. Seeing 5 armed policemen in a truck in the rearview mirror is a tad disconcerning. We wern't worried originally but seeing the level of security puts the frighteners into you!

Since Syria we have become so used to seeing armed security everywhere we go. In Jordan after every check point there would be a soldier, gun poised, waiting on top of a military tank. Egypt is not that over the top in terms of the guards being ready to fire, so to speak but there are check points at every corner and even our campsites are guarded by soldiers. It is a bit weird but bizaarly we have got quite used to it and we no longer even really acknowledge amount of security and the fact that many of them are standing behind bullet proof shields waving a gun as you walk past.

Yesterday we arrived at Luxor. We arrived in time to catch up with Jacques and Mandy and Jon and Linda who had left us behind in Cairo a week ago. We spent a nice evening catching up with them but then today they have left us behind again, this time in Luxor for Aswan and Abu Simbel! We have just 9 days now until we are ferry bound for Sudan. I am feeling a little aphrensive about visiting Sudan but I am also excited as I always am as we leave one country and set off into another.

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