Saturday, March 29, 2008

Beni Suef to Al Minya

The eastern road from Beni Suef to Al Minya runs through the desert. My only company was the trucks from the quarries where they dig the white rocks used for bricks. I cycled for 80 km through heat.

I did end up getting stopped by the police. They said there was no hotel in Magahga where I had considered staying. It's quite possible that they were right. Magahga a town of between 50 and 100 thousand people. I would have been happy with any kind of place to sleep not just a tourist hotel... To be honest I wouldn't have minded camping in the desert. Instead I had to go on to Al Minya.

Some people say you may be able to bribe the police but in my experience that isn't the case. The only police who bother to stop you are people who genuinely want to do their job and who have the clout to organize a series of police cars to give you a ride. The police man who stopped me was a serious Christian man with 2 bars on his shoulder.

At the next town the police were more relaxed. We had a great time drinking tea, eating foul and generally joking around. At the last stop, there wasn't any police cars there to drive me and they let me cycle the remaining 20 km to Minya on my own so long as I promised to phone them when I was safely checked into a hotel.


A taxi driver screwed me this morning. It was only a few dollars but it hurts because he was a friend. He had even told me what the price was at the start so I don't see how he could more than double it at the end. I didn't pay the full amount he wanted but I was too weak to put up a real fight and he was supposed to be my freind after all...

It also hurts because of my strict budget. I try to live off $10 per day. I spend $3 on my hotel room. The other things that I spend money on are food, internet access, soap, toilette paper, tooth paste and prepaid cell phone cards.

I probably spend $1.50 per day on cell phone minutes and I've decided today to stop that.

It obviously saves me $1.50 right away. But it also saves me money because every day someone asks me to chip in a dollar or two so they can buy their own prepaid phone card.

A more subtle way that not having a phone saves money is because now I'll spend more time with people who also don't have cell phones. Before people could phone me up and I end up hanging out with them instead of with Assad or Hassan. We hang out and they buy cokes and boreo cookies for everyone. Of course, it's a gift so don't worry about paying but really it's not polite for me to mooch from people either.

People who can't afford a cell phone also can't afford coke. Right now I can't afford Coke. Maybe my friends will still bum money off me for cigarettes but it will be Cleopatra brand instead of the foriegn things that Sharif smokes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This was in Giza. Tomo, Catherine and I spotted the cutest and most adorable camel I have seen to date. It was like a teenage camel, almost an adult but still with its innocence intact.

It turned out that it was tied in front of a butcher shop. Its comrade had already been divided into various slices. The head was posed on wires as you can see here. I liked the artful bit of food stuffed in the mouth.

My hope is that this serves as a lesson and moral to teenagers and young people everywhere.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I took this picture from the bridge across the Nile at Beni Suef.

I was crossing the bridge and it seemed like a really beautiful scene so I stopped to eat breakfast and take photos. I ate one bite before I realized that it was a really stupid idea and could get me arrested. Anyway I figured since I was screwed already, I grabbed my camera, took this photo stuffed my breakfast back into my pack, and cycled off madly. I smiled and waved to the two approaching soldiers and didn't look back.

When I was a kid in Zambia everyone was suspicious of South Africans attacking the bridges. They did attack us in 1987. Also some South Africans tried to take over Equatorial Guinea a few years ago. And the CIA has a history of blowing stuff up. So it's reasonable to be nervous about white men acting suspiciously...

Beni Suef

Beni Suef was the first time where I felt Alone in a Foreign Country.

The hotel in Beni Suef had a metal detector at the door. I was wondering how all my gear would make it through when a manager arived to tell the guard I was exempt. I threw some water on my face and left in search of food.

Two teenagers were selling pastries near my hotel. They gave me some freebies and I bought them some of those Egyptian fruit drinks with the strawberries and the bananas.

Dusk is a magical time in Egypt. I spent some time wanderring through the narrow streets without seeing a restaraunt. There was every other type of shop though, including one gun shop, which surprised me. One street was lit up with Christmas lights and had a stage at the end. As soon as I stepped on to it I was surrounded by 20 kids who insisted I should stick around for the disco.

Eventually I met Khaled and his friend Mohamed. They had a shop full of bags for putting grain in. Khaled didn't speak English but through sign language he invited me to his house to eat. It was a great honor to meet his family and eat supper there.

Cairo to Beni Suef

Figured I'd throw up some more blog entries...
Day 1 Cairo to Beni Suef.

Traffic in Cairo is amazing and crazy. I left around 7 in the morning so it wasn't busy yet but it was still an adrenalin rush to navigate the roundabout at Talat Harb.

That first day I didn't know anything about what to expect. I didn't know how far I'd be physically able to cycle. I kind of assumed that I could just cycle until I got tired and then find some place to sleep at one of the small towns on my map.

It was surprisingly easy to find the road out of Cairo. I took a back road to avoid traffic and police road blocks.

The weather was beautiful. There were a lot of palm tree plantations. I waved to everyone I passed.

It was almost dark when I arrived at Beni Suef. I cycled 140 km. It was the first time I had cycled with the foot straps on my pedals so it excersizes different muscles. I was very tired.

Week 3 in Aswan

I really thought that I was going to get my visa for Sudan today. I woke up this morning and it seemed like fate. But I guess not.

The boat for Sudan comes once a week and it leaves on Mondays.

I've been in Aswan for 3 weeks now waiting for my visa. I could have either applied for a visa in Cairo or Aswan but everyone said it was better in Aswan. It was supposed to be a 2 hour process except that they made Americans wait for 2 days just to be anti-American.

Coming to Aswan was clearly the right decision. I've had a good time here. It's much cheaper than Cairo. But I can't stay here forever and it's almost time to make some hard decisions.

It's desperately hot right now and getting hotter by the week.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I haven't updated this blog nearly as much as planned. Mostly because I end up not staying in internet cafes very much.

I''m in Aswan. That's the end of the road for me in Egypt. It's about 1200 km from Cairo to Aswan. I was able to cycle for about 550 km of the way. For the missing kilometers, I wasn't worried for myself but the police don't like tourists travelling without a police escort.

Next is Sudan, but they say it could be two weeks for me to get a visa. I have time to kill and I'm not worried about two weeks here or there. The only issue is that it's getting hotter and hotter. The cycling in Sudan is going to be the hardest physically.