The Orton's on the Nile - 2005

Travelling

Convoy

The phone rings; it is Mohamed and the sun is not even up. Got to get up and load up water for journey. Wake Annette and check kids are awake. Put fridge door back on with a practice of my Arabic swear words and get ready to go: it is 0430 hours start, breakfast comes in a box.

All are in lounge waiting for Luke and Adam to turn up, all look cheerful but bleary eyed. Each of us clutches a breakfast box the size of a wartime evacuee’s suitcase and wonder if it will be a tasty as the sandwiches left for us the first night. Nobody bothers to look inside.

Good job these boats are lit up because its still flaming dark outside, mind you it is also still flaming hot. We blunder our way over the gangplank and up to the waiting coach, slightly disappointed that there are no street traders waiting to pester us. For one mad moment I am tempted to bang on the shop fronts yelling; "hey, I'm nice English person and I want to buy nice hand made by grandmother Egyptian hat for very good price." Of course I jump straight into the air-conditioned coach like everyone else and then settle down for a nice snooze. Pretty soon the little conversation that is left fails as everyone else has the same idea- sleep!

Mohamed tells us the reason we have to start so soon is: "for two reasons. One: it is a long way and two we have to have a military escort so we have to travel in convoy."

Who cares? It's half past four now shut up so I can sleep. We pull out into some sort of order and end up waiting with enough coaches to accommodate even the largest collection of German tourists you could imagine. I am vaguely aware of some jeeps and trucks with the bored looking Kalashnikov armed guards pulling to the front of the queue and then I am ready for some kip.

I awake about two hours latter and there is a faint grey pre-dawn light outside, the sort you see when you are shivering on a wet windy Welsh mountain side pretending the bloody Russians have decided to invade. I ask you why would the damn Russians want Wales? There is just about enough light to make out that we are being overtaken by one of the other coaches and that there is nothing else in sight behind us. Some convoy.

Of course I had made the mistake of expecting a British style convoy where all vehicles proceed at a steady pace and the escort await any stragglers. This was an Egyptian convoy, sort of a cross between whacky races and monster truck rally. As the light grew we could see that we were indeed more or less on our own now, but not the last in line as we soon caught up with another slower coach and overtook them and then we drove on past one that a driver was trying to repair. There was even a burned out wreck of some long time forgotten coach at the side of the road. What there was absolutely no sign of was the escort. I believe they were already at Abu Simbel sitting drinking weird red berry juice and smoking fags like there was no tomorrow.

Sure enough, when we arrived they were all lounging around their trucks as stray coaches continued to arrive long after we were on our way into the temple. This has got to be the big one. It is the temple I can remember all the fuss about when I was at school. Carved into the side of a mountain it was going to be submerged under the Nile when Nasser had the Russians build him a bigger better damn that the obviously superior British built damn.

It was a terrific feat of diplomacy by Nasser, cannot take that away from him. Got the Americans to come up with the plans then when they pulled out of funding him because of trouble with Israel, he turned to the Russians and got them to build it for him. Better still made it well know the bestest temple in Egypt was only going to be visible to divers when it was finished and blow me down if the international community did not find cash to not only shift the temple out of the new lake Nasser, but to build an artificial mountain for it and reconstruct it exactly as it had been found.

There had been those who thought sod it lets stack the fallen statues back up, put a few net curtains in, double glazing etc, but the traditional lobby won and it was restored as found - wrecked!!!

What a wreck though. Once again it was quite dark inside, but there was some up lighting that helped you to see the coloured paintings and carvings. It was once again spectacular. There are plenty of guide books or web pages you can find with the historic details of this if you feel the need, but it was awesome. Half way round the main chamber I encountered some Germans. There were notices everywhere in 5 languages – No photographs (flash damages delicate paintwork) so what does fat Heinz do, Flash! I let him have a quick "Deutches blut!"(Bloody Germans) and pointed to the sign.

For all its splendour and that of the queens temple next door, it was the only time when we had time on our hands. The breakfast packs had been splendid, even included cakes and fruit, but were well gone and all the water was warm. We had about an hour to kill before the return journey and in addition to the compulsory tourist traders camp there was – oh heaven – an ice-cream café!!!! What was even better, they were only the equivalent of 40p each and we soon had our first collection of ONE Egyptian pounds. Tipping was going into overload. Now we could give them a fist full of notes and still have change from 50p!!!!

The journey back was uneventful, they did not even bother with the pretence of a convoy. It did give me chance to see some of the desert area first hand and I had to say it looked pretty much the way I had imagined the Desert Rats saw it. Not smooth sand dunes and fine dry areas, but stony barren land with dirty grey sand and scrubby bushes scattered around. The map records this area as part of the Western Desert. In places the wind had eroded the rocks into small natural pyramids – wonder if that is where they got the idea from.

The rest of the day was to be ours, chance to catch up on the suntan, swimming and sleep. It was not going to be a busy day, but after the early start it was going to seam a long one.

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Copyright 2005 D.J.Orton and A.G.Morris