Central Aust '09
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The flight to Cairo was quite uneventful, except of course the fact that we flew Air Italia, so the cockpit announcements were spoken in very fast Italian, by a woman that just sounded angry! Of course one cannot forget the amazing sights as we flew into Cairo. We were so used to seeing mountains, snow, forests and lakes, but Egypt was the complete opposite. All we could see was brown desert landscape, with so many funny looking houses, everything looked so messy and random, unlike the square grid-like layout of other places. Although I suppose we hadn't really *flown* into many places apart from back home in Australia...
When we arrived in Cairo airport, everything was good, the airport looked a little old and daggy, and we eventually passed through security. One could not help but notice the signs that warned about drugs being a very serious crime in Egypt, and they were quite clear that possession of drugs could result in hanging!
We went to collect our bags, which were one of the last to come out on the conveyor belt. There was some fat taxi driver there in his blue uniform, he smelled like B.O. and his clothes were quite scruffy. He asked us if we needed a taxi. We declined, yet he still asked if for Baksheesh (a tip), even though he had not done anything for us. We ndidn't give him any baksheesh. Anyway we eventually collected our bags, and went looking for the bus that would take us to the railway station. This was the airport bus that we'd seen described on several websites. However, every bus that went past did not have the right numbers, so we decided the bus didn't exist. After a bit of walking around in the 40C heat, we eventually gave up and asked for a taxi.
First shock was that the taxi was the dodgiest car I had ever been in, not even my first car was any comparison to this one. It seemed to run okay, however it really has to be seen to be believed. The next shock was the driving - thy Egyptians seem to have no regard for lanes or rules, and they have this fascination for constant tooting of the horn, but in a friendly manner, not aggressive. Wile the driving was fast and a little weird due to the ignorance of road markings, overall it seemed safe enough.
The third shock was that they had horses and donkeys on the highways, attached to carts full of all kinds of gear, that was just weird.
Anyway we eventually ended up at Cairo Ramses Station, where we would meet Mondi, our tour operator. We had a few hours to kill, so we sat on the ground for a bit and observed the area around the station, there are just so many people it's amazing. We crossed the road under the overpass, almost got run over by a taxi, and we found our way to a reserve with some grass. It seems that grass must be precious in this desert land as they had rope fences around the grass, signs warning no entry, and two guards that I'm sure would not be impressed if you encroached on the lovely green turf.
We sat there for a while, and just observed the chaos - thousands of people and cars, all flocking around in a disorganised fashion, no traffic lights, no pedestrian crossings, no lanes, no rules. Just chaos. All we could hear is the sound of petrol engines, and the tooting of horns. All the buildings around us were black, presumably due to pollution from the 30 year-old cars they drive.
After half an hour of sitting around, we went down into the tunnel that goes underneath the road back to Cairo Ramses Station. I think this also lead to the metro, as there were lots of people around. Looked dark and dirty, but seemed safe enough no worries.
Inside the railway station we purchased some snacks and bottled water from a vendor on the platform, and then waited for Mondi to arrive. When we met Mondi he took us to a cafe where had a hot snack and some Egyptian beer. After all that was done it was time to grab the overnight train to Aswan. We lined up and boarded the train, and a young boy basically grabbed our luggage and took it on board. Once at our cabin, he waited around for some baksheesh of 5 Egyptian Pounds ($1 Australian).
After a short wait, we were off to Aswan in what seemed to be a reasonably comfortable cabin. We had a decent meal on the train plus some local beer, and after an hour or two the cabin attendant came to convert our seats into beds. We took the opportunity to sort some of the gear in our bags, and we found the courage to dispose of the 2 plastic drink bottles we had been using for water right since Babmerg! We washed our faces in the sink, and we could see was this brown water coming off us - again, probably from the pollution in Cairo. Then it was off to the world of sleep, hopefully to wake up in Aswan!
Next : Aswan, Egypt
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