Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our night train

We had a four step mission:

Step 1: Take the metro with all our bags, and get on the girl car.

Step 2: Change lines to head to Giza, still on the girl metro car

Step 3: Find the train station from the Giza metro station.

Step 4: Get on the right train at the Giza station.

Our friendly hotel man, not the cranky one that lost Clare's clothes, was trying to be helpful I think, when he told us that it would be very difficult for us to get to Giza train station without a taxi. I was trying to find out how close the train station was to the metro, and that too was apparently very difficult...."you have to go right and left and down..." But he conceded that there would be signs, and probably helpful people, so it wouldn't be impossible for us to succeed.

We set off, confident in our metro navigation skills, but still leaving an hour for potential complications with step 4 of our plan. We were wondering why the train left from Giza, and not the more popular central Ramses station.

Step 1 was accomplished in a great showing of girl power. We got giggles and big smiles from the children, and mothers on the train. I'm sure they don't see girls with enormous backpacks on the train often.

Step 2 was also not a problem. Rush hour doesnt affect the girl car as much, so we had enough space for us and our bags.

Step 3 was a bit of a challenge. We met a very very very helpful man that we wanted to avoid. He was trying to find out where we were sitting and on what train. We went to ask the tourist police (something we try to avoid, as they tend to sit in groups on street corners and leer at us). We did get ushered in the right direction, with the helpful man following us. Time to start speaking french again!

Step 4 was the biggest issue. We checked with the tourist information on the platform, and we plopped ourselves down on the dirty benches at the station to wait for the hour that we had until our train was supposed to come. Trains, like everything else here seem to be running perpetually slow, so we were expecting to wait an hour and a half at least. We had come prepared with snacks that we got at almost uninflated prices from a friendly snack seller that we have bought water from over the past few days.

We sat and waited, worried until we saw more foreigners arriving. There were announcements made in fuzzy Arabic that I'm not even sure Arabic speakers could understand. Luckily the Mexican couple beside us had a guide with them to help them get on the correct train. We figured that since they were also taking a sleeper train headed in our direction that we must be on the same train as them.

Trains came and went, locals got on and off, and we noticed that there were always one or two people hanging out on the back of the last train car. I guess hitching a ride on the rails is an accepted practice here.

The train was 20 minutes late, and there were fuzzy announcements that mentioned Aswan, so we asked the mexican's guide about the announcements. He said that the train hadn't come yet, but he realized we were going to Aswan, and the Mexicans were going to Luxor. We were on different trains--mild guide panic moment--he went with our tickets to check if our train had come and gone.....

Luckily it hadn't, and it would still be another 15 minutes until it did arrive. He was able to point us in the right direction, so we did get on the correct train, and he even gave us his phone number in case we had trouble on our travels. I hope we don't need to use it.

The train was great--AC and food (dinner "of sorts", and breakfast "of sorts")--we enjoyed our snacks! Our seats got converted into beds, and we had a good peaceful sleep with double locked doors. I don't know that I enjoy sleeping on a train--it feels like sleeping on a runaway roller coaster. That perhaps explains why I am so tired today.

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