And into the Desert

We’ve just returned to Cairo after a three night, four day stint in API Call ErrorBahariya Oasis. The trip out to the oasis was a API Call Errorbus ride about 5 hours long. It’s only 350km, but the amount of time it took to get from downtown Cairo to the open road was extraordinarily long.

As soon as we got there, we were served a quick lunch, and then told to quickly repack our small bags, as the desert excursion we were expecting to do the next day had been moved up. There were six of us – API Call ErrorKathy and API Call Errormyself, Heather and Marcus from the UK and Georges and his daughter API Call ErrorApaulina from France – who then quickly rearranged our daypacks for a night in the desert and set out in a beaten up Toyota Landcruiser that appeared to be on its last legs. Once we were actually out in the desert, we were happy to be there, as it was API Call Errorincredibly beautiful. Unfortunately not quite as isolated as we would have liked though, as the area between Bahariya and Farafra is a really popular area for tourist excursions, so there were a number of other 4x4s around. On the way to our camp area, our driver stopped to help an older couple (possibly German) who had rented a 4×4 camper, and had gotten stuck in the sand. We all pitched in to push them free, much like pushing someone out of a snow drift, except that it’s everywhere, there’s no road, and you just have to get onto less soft sand. Still, spending the night in the white desert – a part of the western desert where there are a number of API Call Errorwhite coloured rock formations that appear to be made of chalk – was an unforgettable experience and well worth the effort.

Our trip back to Bahariya from the desert was also a bit of an adventure, as we got not one, but two API Call Errorflat tires on our way. The second one was more caused because the spare tires didn’t have sufficient air pressure in them, so the first spare ended up blowing out after only driving about 30 or 40 kms. We had to flag down another convoy of 4x4s for help after that, and luckily they were carrying an air hose that uses the vehicle engine as a compressor, so we were able to reinflate the last tire and drive the rest of the way back safely.

Our time at API Call Errorthe camp was fairly uneventful…we had a short tour around the oasis, which managed to miss almost all of the highlights mentioned in the guidebook, though it did take us to a warm spring where we could swim. Unfortunately, the pool didn’t appeal much to me as the sides were covered in algae. We were told that it was safe, and a lot of people jumped in, but it just didn’t look appealing to me so I just dangled my feet in a bit. Kathy was a little more adventurous and took the plunge (albeit briefly).

That’s pretty much all we did. We spent another day just sitting around the camp reading. We were too far from the town to be able to really do anything on our own, so it was just a pleasantly lazy day.

Today was a bit more interesting. The trip back took a little longer than the trip out. Mainly because it took about 45 minutes just to cross the small town of Bawiti – the main town in Bahariya where we caught the bus. The buses are willing to stop anywhere there’s someone who wants to get on, so at times they literally drove 10 feet and stopped across the street to pick up someone else. When we got back to Cairo, we also found out that the bus we were on was only going as far as Giza, not all the way to downtown as we’d expected. This was made worse by the fact that no one seemed to be there to meet us. However, being a bit more comfortable with Cairo now, we were able to get our bearings, and with the help of a couple of university students who pointed us in the direction of the metro station, were able to catch the metro to Midan Tahrir, which is only about a block from our hostel. So a full day, and considering we spent about 6 hours of it just sitting on a bus, quite tiring too.

Tomorrow we see the Egyptian Museum and then catch a night train for Aswan.

Neil didn’t mention the bugs – there were a lot bugs at the desert hotel: black flies, big ants and little ants of all shapes (that managed to get into my t-shirt, which I found out when I put it on in the morning!), and big cockcroach type things, one of which managed to die in our bathroom sink. It sure made us appreciate winter that one bit more, if only for the winter-kill effect on bugs.

We’re also a little confused about the lack of fruit being served to us, despite it’s apparent availability (there are fruit stands all over Cairo, and in Bahariya, just nowhere near where we’ve been staying). Though mango juice (more like a nectar) seems to be a popular drink, and I’ve been buying it whenever I can at drink stands/rest stops.

– Kathy

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