So that afternoon we went back on the bus to the ferry, crossed the lake and stayed again in Abu Simbel. That night Marcus managed to get a long overdue haircut and then we had dinner overlooking Lake Nasser.
We caught a bus the next morning to Aswan and ended up being the only ones on the bus. just outside Abu Simbel we stopped on the side of the road to once again wait for the convoy of buses travelling through to Aswan passing many Egyptian Army roadblocks along the way.
We stayed at a lovely hotel called the Happy Hotel. The next morning we were waiting on the door step of the Sudan Embassy before they opened at 9am but as in typical fashion they didn’t open until 10.30am and made us wait another hour. We were then told that the system had been down for ten days and they had no idea when it would be back up again and that we would have to go to Cairo to get the visa. In disbelief we then rang the fixer Kamal who lives in Aswan and he came and picked us up, then took us to the the railway station where we bought sleeper tickets to Cairo for $80 US each one way. So with some time to kill we decided on taking a Felucca boat trip up the Nile River around Aswan and it was absolutely magical.
Then we took a walk through the markets which were very vibrant and full of colour and aromas.
The train would leave that night at 5pm and would arrive in Cairo at 6.15am the next day. It was quite a pleasant trip but obviously an old carriage because it was very noisy and bumpy. We had a few hours of daylight to watch the scenery go by before we were served dinner at 7pm of roast chicken and vegetables with a slice of cake. We then had our beds lowered and slept fitfully as the train jerked and squeaked its way along, with sudden breaking at every stop of which there were many.
Up at 5am for a breakfast of rolls and jam before rolling into Cairo on time. On our way in to Cairo I had looked up the Cairo Sudan Embassy details on the iOverlander app and to my dismay found out that this embassy required our Yellow Fever vaccination certificates which were back in the car at the border. Panic set in but I then thought if I contacted good friend and GP James Brown then maybe he would be able to get the Breed Street Travel Clinic in Traralgon to email me copies of the certificate. I also messaged our son Dean who is a Paramedic in Traralgon to see if he could go to the clinic and get the copies emailed to me which he did and the clinic was very good to do this for us even though half way through he was called out on a job. It was too early to go to the Sudan Embassy so we found a coffee house near the station and had a couple of cups of strong Turkish coffee and did some people watching to pass the time. Then we caught a taxi to the embassy but the taxi driver had absolutely no idea where he was going and after a while I had to give him directions by using my maps.me app. When we arrived we were quite shocked to see a sea of people trying to gain entry to the Embassy but in typical African style we pushed our way in, got the paperwork filled in and used a small kiosk inside to get copies of passports, yellow fever certificates and the Egyptian visa to attach to our application.
Then we had a very long wait to get the visas and got talking to two young men who were cousins from Bulgaria and both on the one Yamaha 650 Tenure riding down to Cape Town. Later we also met a young man who was from Zimbabwe but was working in Egypt and also needed a Sudan visa to head back south by public transport. It was a very long uncomfortable day sitting on the floor waiting for the visas to be completed. In any other country in Africa other than Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt this process takes fifteen minutes at the border! Eventually at 3pm as the Embassy was about to close we were given our visas and got out of there. Having not had anything to eat since breakfast at 5.30am we were starving so we found a street food place two minutes walk from there and bought a beef swarama(meat sliced of the kebab and fried up with onions and tomato and then put in either a flat bread or a bread roll) each of which were delicious. Then it was back to the railway station to get an overnight train back to Aswan but there were no sleepers available and we are too old to sit up for twelve hours on a train so booked a sleeper for the next night! Using the internet we found a floating hotel on the Nile River and decided to treat ourselves to a night on the Nile which was delightful.
At the hotel we organised a car, driver and guide for the next day to take us out to the Giza pyramids, Sphinx and the Egyptian museum. So the next morning we were picked up and taken out to the pyramids which were so much bigger than the ones we had seen in Sudan but unlike the Sudan ones at 9am there was already a huge crowd of people. It was also very hot already but we really wanted to walk around them and have a good look much to the annoyance of the guide who was lacking in enthusiasm. It was a great sight indeed and just astonishing how such huge structures could be built.
We then were taken to a business nearby who make and sell paintings done on paper made from the papyrus plant. We were shown how the paper was made and then could not resist buying a couple of drawings while being plied with delicious Turkish coffee. Then our driver took us back to the city and dropped us off at the Egyptian museum which is huge and were approached by a guide who offered to take us around to the biggest attractions in the museum which would take two and a half hours and we thought that would be a great idea. It was partially air conditioned but was still very hot inside and the sweat was running down our backs as we moved through. The guide Kamal was fantastic and really knew his stuff, taking us firstly up to the Tutankhamun exhibition where everything that was found in his tomb other than his body is displayed. There was more gold than you can imagine and all sorts of treasures that would help him in the afterlife. His coffin was an amazing piece of artwork and was then placed inside a second coffin and then a third before then being placed inside a decorated wooden box which also was placed in another and then another apparently to keep his body in perfect condition ready for the afterlife. Kamal then took us to the two Mummy rooms where you can see the embalmed bodies of various pharaohs, queens and officials. Most where in amazingly good condition considering their age. You could quite clearly see features like hair, fingernails, teeth and even abnormalities that they may have had.
It was a great few hours looking around but then we had to make our way back to the railway station to board our train back to Aswan. This time we had a newer carriage which was much quieter but had a window that was so dirty we could not see out of it at all. We did however sleep like babies on a much smoother trip south which was good. In Aswan the next morning we were picked up by our fixer Kamal so that we could settle our account with him and our fear that he would insist on charging us for the Egyptian Carnet that we couldn’t have used was not to be. He was very fair and only charged us the fee to enter Egypt and the fee for getting the carnet prepared but not the $500 US for the carnet itself. We spent another night in Aswan because I wanted to do another trip on a Felucca, this time to El Nabatat Island formerly known as Kitchener’s Island after Lord Kitchener.
The island is now the Aswan Botanical Gardens and we jumped off the Felucca at one end of the island, strolled through the gardens and then hopped back on the Felucca at the other end and then just sailed up the river and back again for an hour and a half which was delightful. At 3am the next morning we were picked up at our hotel by a tourist mini bus and with six others travelled to Abu Simbel in convoy with a few other buses. If you don’t go in a convoy you are made to use a police escort! We got to Abu Simbel in time to have a Turkish coffee and then jumped on the ferry followed by a bus back to the Wadi Halfa border where our car was being held. All up we covered 2,800 kilometres by bus, ferry and train just so that we could get visas to re-enter Sudan!
Next we go back to Sudan.😳