18 – Sailing across the Lake Nasser
14th Dec, xxxhrs, Boat to Wadi Halfa
I took the “yellow train” at the train station (1.5 EGP), a half hour ride to As-Saad Al-Aly, which is the High Dam. I had to be there by 10am. In the train, met Kang from China. When we asked what time the boat leaves, its around “4pm if you are lucky, maybe 6, maybe 7. But be there by 10am”. Nice. We got on the boat at 10am, together with the rest of the foreign travellers. There were 8 vehicles aboard 2 pontoons, that would arrive a day after the main boat reaches Wadi Halfa, the border town in Sudan. The 2nd class travellers like me staked a place on the deck of the boat, since it was stuffy below. I had a good sleeping bag, so got myself a prime corner on the deck.
The trickle of local Egyptians started filling up the deck grew larger and larger till it looked like a mini refugee camp, with luggage occupying every single open spot. I waited for 6 hours for them to load goods up the pontoon: everything from metal sheets, refrigerators, crates of apples, stacks of god-knows-what. The way they area throwing everything in, I have no idea how, or even how long, they will get everything back out.
The boat fee came with 1 meal. Which was pretty good, except for the small cockroach in the 2nd class dining area that flew into my potato curry.
Now then, when you get stuck on the same boat with maybe 300 people for 16 hours plus another 8 hours of waiting for the boat to set sail, you start to get acquainted with a few people. There were the Irish and Australian duo Andy and Z, Ben from Belgium, a Japanese guy, Kang the China dude, plus a whole host of Egyptians with similar names like Mohamed, Amr etc. I think most of the Sudanese were below deck. In fact, the deck got so crowded and I had to share my groundsheet demarcated area with an Egyptian guy. Who was a jolly fellow and took care of me. Before long the surrounding area around were all locals. They shared their food, I had bread and cheese for dinner, and for next day’s breakfast. For supper, another guy had plastic bags full of loaves and offered me two and an egg. I was pretty stuffed on the boat. Had many conversations here and there, half of them one-way conversations with me shaking my head “laa’ afham”. There was nothing much to do after it got dark, so off to bed I went.
Was woken up by the local beside me and sent down below to get my passport stamped. They took my temperature, i filled up some papers. Little was I to know it was only the beginning of all the paperwork.
It was a bit cold at night, even inside my sleeping bag. I feel asleep counting shooting stars under the star-lit sky.