The Indignity Of It

The indignity of it all; Egyptian registration plates we can’t even read! Well, some of the things Bridget and Dorothy have to do for their drivers, but it’s only until we get to Aswan.

Following a very pleasant rest in Nuweiba’s Swisscare Hotel we struck out for Suez. Leaving at around 08:30 we thought it would be a brief and pleasant two hundred mile drive. As it turned out it was a hot, dusty drive in something like 37/38°C temperatures across the Sinai desert. We almost missed a left turn, just past Taba airport that would have resulted in a brief, but highly illegal visit into Israel, had I not seen the signs at the last minute.

Re-fuelling in Egypt is not an exact science. Some stations have 90/92 octane petrol, some have unacceptable 80 octane, some have only diesel and some have nothing (I couldn’t figure out why they open at all). Tedious, and often threatening serious damage, sleeping policemen abound in parts of the highway system and checkpoints are numerous. Then there was the road tunnel under the Suez canal; single lanes in each direction with one closed for no apparent reason other than allowing the police vehicles a traffic free lane. Therefore all other traffic took it in turns to cross through the tunnel.

We decided to refuel before entering the tunnel and so pulled over to the side of the road to disgorge our jerry cans. Whilst doing this the army wanted us to move on and the mosquitoes wanted me to stay whilst they sapped every millilitre of blood that I could produce. Otherwise it was a good drive.

We arrived in Suez town which must rank as the rear-end of Egypt. It is filthy, smelly and probably very bad for your long term health. However, I had seen the Panama canal and wanted to see this one for the set! There is only one hotel that we could find that you would allow your dog to stay in and that appeared to make most of its income serving as a stopover point for ship’s crew.

We were not unhappy to leave the next morning and head on the Cairo road to Le Giza and the pyramids. At the last moment I decided to abandon my usual habit of finding somewhere to stay when we arrived in the city, and booked the Movenpick hotel before breakfast. On arriving in Giza, we pulled over to the side of the road and I hailed a taxi. I agreed a price and the taxi drove to the hotel with us following behind. It took some ten minutes, in convoy, to find the location which in Cairo traffic was some feat.

We visited the pyramids and Sphinx the following morning and found the Sudanese Embassy in the afternoon. We have to apply for visas here, but the visa section was closed today and so we will extend our stay in Giza by a day so that we can get them. We returned to the hotel by way of Tahrir Square where there was rioting yesterday. It is reported locally that thirteen people were killed, but everything appeared calm today.

We returned to the Embassy of Sudan in the morning as requested and were told to go away again and get a letter from the British Embassy requesting that we should be allowed to travel in Sudan (whatever happened to ‘Her Britanic Majesty demands, etc. without let or hindrance’). Anyway we obtained the necessary letter, and an extra one for the Ethiopians who I understand have also started demanding these letters, and were charged £50 Sterling for each one! Thank you HM Government.

Returning to the Sudan Embassy for the third time we submitted our application and were promptly told to return at 15:00 that afternoon. We went off and spent four hours looking around the Egyptian Museum. Returning for the fourth time we received our passports complete with visas and planned our departure for Hurghada.

We left Giza at 7:00 behind a taxi that showed us the way to the Hurghada autoroute. Even with that assistance we managed to get on the wrong road and headed due south past Helwan and eventually to the Al Wassa Bridge where we turned right towards the Red Sea coast and then south to Hurgharda. The road was littered with sleeping policemen (road humps) some quite impossible to see. We hit two of these at around 50mph that sent shudders to Bridget’s nether regions. Additionally there were many deep pot-holes and the vibration caused by these were taking their toll.

Bridget was not happy, her engine misfiring a little and suffering hesitation. Around the halfway mark her engine cut-out completely and then picked up again. This happened several times before cutting out completely some 110 miles north of our destination. I checked that fuel was getting through and that the HT lead from the coil was properly attached. As it was a complete loss of power it had to be fuel or electrical and so having discounted fuel that left the alternative.

Just at that moment a car drew alongside and I thought “Oh no, assistance has arrived” It transpired however that Mohammed was a mechanical engineer and soon understood the basics of Bridget’s engine. Once I had explained what I had done so far we set about going through the obvious alternatives. I had been worried for some time that Bridgets’ alternator was packing up and we concluded that was the most likely cause of this problem after dismissing the HT lead and coil. Chris came to the rescue with a spare alternator which we quickly changed. I turned the ignition key and everything came to life, so the job was completed and we went on our way.

Just a few kilometres down the road and the engine cut out again. I decided to pull in to a roadside restaurant area to look under the bonnet again. Once again Mohammed appeared having stopped here after leaving us earlier and so we set about trying to identify the cause. Unknown to me Mohammed phoned a friend of his who is a vehicle electrician and he came out to help. Then I noticed a wire hanging loosely near the coil. I quickly identified it as an ignition low tension lead that should be connected. I reconnected it and it was obvious that it had become detached due to the vibration of the earlier beating that Bridget had taken from the speed humps, etc. The engine suffered no further cut-outs although she felt a bit lumpy. We arrived in Hurghada some 12 hours after starting and after dark for the first time on this adventure.

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