Sunday, July 26, 2009

To Egypt: Sawa Camp, Red Sea

We left the desert after a quick breakfast.  I was instructed on how to eat pita like a Jordanian--dip it in oil and then in herbs.  It was good. 

We drove out of the desert in the 4 wheel drive jeeps, the temperature reading showed 26 C and boy it felt pleasant.  We then headed to Aquaba, the port, where we would have to say good bye to our wonderful guide and driver.

After having some delicious felafel we went to explore the shopping and see the biggest flagpole.  Amman also claims to have the highest flagpole, but now we've seen BOTH of them, so we've covered our bases.  We passed many little stores selling nuts and clothes and then we headed to the beach area and past street stalls selling tourist trinkets and big rubber swimming rings with duck heads on them.  Many families were swimming, and the sea did look enticing, but with big ships in the background it was probably quite dirty water. 

We found a McDonalds and took full advantage of their bathroom airconditioning and internet (they are the only place we've found with free wi-fi).  We didn't buy a thing there.  Take that McDonalds!!  However, the blog post that we composed seems not to have found its way to the blog.  We'll try again if we can find another McDonalds.  It was about the lessons learned in Petra.

Clare and I then went to sit in a park full of men just to see what would happen.  Nothing much did.

The bus took us to the ferry port where chaos broke out.  We had to leave stuff on the bus, and get our Jordanian exit stamps in our passports, and then we went to another line where they stamped the stamps.  I had no trouble at all, the man just said..."Canada....good Canada" and let me go. 

After about 45 minutes we were all ready to get back on the bus to go to the ferry.  We needed to leave our big bags underneath the boat.  We locked them (thanks to the advice of Clare's grandfather from his experience in Egypt in the war).  We formed a line and made it up to the airconditioned deck of the boat.  It was another wait until the boat loaded after people, and things notoriously take more time than planned in Egypt.  We had to surrender our passports which would be given back in Nuweiba with the needed visa.

The boat set off, and we sat, enjoying the quiet--and the 4 year old behind us who was trying to be too cute.  Her brother befriended us toward the end of the trip.  He was practicing his English, and was welcoming us to Egypt.  I gave him a Canada pencil, and he gave me an egyptian pen (nothing special about it, but it works really well). 

When the boat stopped, our leader herded us to the lower deck against the better judgement of the official boat man.  It appeared that we would be stuck in the non AC section for another 30 minutes.  Clare was able to negotiate our way back upstairs to wait in the cool air.  We needed it, because the port at Nuweiba was absolutely crazy.

We got off the boat, picked up our stuff where we had left it (locks intact), and then rushed to go through a flu scanner room, then catch a bus which tried to pull away when only half our group was on it.  We all got on, with our heavy bags, and were sitting on the floor and bags and leaning on each other for a hot ride which ended up being only about 4 minutes.  We all got off the bus and went to sit down amidst the chaos.  There were workers with huge piles of baggage on carts.  Garbage was everywhere, lots of yelling and screaming, busses coming and going, and we were sitting without our passports.  Our leader went to get passports, and we went to withdraw money from a sketchy ATM.  I'm amazed at how they always know to put up English words.  I'm glad they do.

Passports all came back, and we went through the entrance security with our bags.  Metal detectors are here just for show.  They don't detect a thing, but we still have to put all bags through them.  Even if they beep, nothing happens. 

We met our bus and driver.  Bags were piled up on top, the biggest first.  Mine was small so I waited until I saw it loaded on before I got in.  I didn't know that the bus had room for 14 people and we were 15.  Luckily we had some small women on the trip that could squish in, and I was up front with our leader between me and the driver.  There was no AC, and the driver spent the entire time singing to his vehicle, much like you would sing to a camel to make it happy.  The first mission was to go to a beer store, and then to the camp (which doesnt sell alcohol).  The driver happily made up a beer store song as we went. 

Beer collected, we were off to the camp, which was advertised as "secluded".  I think that Egyptian secluded is very different from mine.  We were off the highway but could hear the traffic, and from the sea we could see the trucks go by.  There was not any green in sight.  Sand beach (imported we think) as far as the eye could see, with huts arranged in rows.  Each hut had a front porch area, and inside the huts there were 2 mattresses and hard pillows with a mosquito net (that had holes).  We had heard to sleep outside, and that advice was well taken.  It was 36 C when we went to bed, and we felt the breeze change as the sun set.  In the day it was a sea breeze, but after dark, the breeze came from the desert down from the mountains and was very very warm.

There was a main area where we could lounge under shelter, and eat our meals.  We had our dinner after dark by candle light at tables on the sand.  There were showers (4 of them for 35 people), and 4 toilets.  The facilities were immaculate, 3 guys worked from 6am raking the beach and levelling the sand for the volleyball court, cleaning bathrooms and sweeping sand out of every corner.  They also were the ones who brought us food and took our orders.  They kept working until late in the night.  I hope they are well paid, but I doubt it.

The night was hot, but we were tired.  We stayed up looking at stars (I now can find scorpio), and the lights of Saudi Arabia on the other side of the sea. With our beds outside, we managed to sleep pretty well until the sun rose at 5:45 AM. 

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