Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ramses Station, Cairo

Last night I made the 12 hour journey by overnight train, from Cairo to Luxor. As is everything else in Cairo, the process of buying the tickets themselves was fraught with confusion, dangerous traffic, and overall chaos.

Ordinarily there is a tourist sleeper train the goes between the two destinations, but whether due to my own lack of astute and understandable Arabic with the lady at Ramses station, or the fact that the revolution has killed tourism here (completely absurd – more on that in another entry I suppose), somehow I ended up with a seat on what seemed to be very likely a second class non-tourist train (paying the full 165 egyptian pound price of the tourist train though, mind you, of course..and not realizing any of this until after the fact)

I guess one might use the word "authentic experience" to describe this journey, which began with a very disgruntled lady being told to move from my assigned seat, by the man who pushed me and my travel mate , Leann (from south Africa – she is backpacking alone from Cairo to Cape town, through Sudan, Ethiopia and Rwanda – I am already planning my next trip to Ethiopia it sounds amazing! ) out of HIS and his friends seats which we were forced to use when, well, as mentioned, this lady had taken mine.

Now in our new proper legit seats, We settled in for the journey, under the stark flourensent light, assuming, as is the case with most night trains, that the lights would go off around midnight so that we might get some sleep. No such luck here, and the lights stayed on all night, casting a horrific pallor over its tired yet somehow still very noisy inhabitants. I think my retinas are still burning from this light….as is my throat from the sheer amounts of cigarette smoke that plumed throughout the train carriage, mixing lovely with the wafting odours from the toilet , the babys colic crying and the man selling glasses of tea every half hour.

I wont get into describing the toilet though. Too predicatable. Or maybe I will? Lets just say, it didn't have a flush, so much as a lever to dump yer , well, dump onto the track, and when that wasn’t working so well, it just filled up. Lovely. *shudder* I think I would have preferred a squat to be honest.

(I had the embrassment of using said toilet and having this problem, and then just giving up on flushing and opening the door to a line of very handsome Egyptian army officers who smirked at me as I turned crimson in the face).

Anyways, where was i? oh yah.talking about the train ride?

yes yes, so now…. Im in luxor, home of some hundreds and hundreds of new kingdom temples, built on the ancient site of Thebes. Its about 40 degrees out, my legs are spotted like a have some sort of pox (mosquitios) and I am extremely tanned/burnt just a little. I visited the stunning Karnak temple today though (also stole a 4000 year old rock from the walls of one of the hieroglyphic parts that was crumbling, hush hush), which sort of made it all worthwhile. I also ate Koshari for the first time, which in all honesty reminds me of something id make when I have only leftovers in the fridge and somehow think it’s a good idea to mix rice, noodles, chickpeas and tomato sauce. But it was pretty tasty I guess. Im not complaining. My stomach seems to agree…so far.

Anyways, As much as I didn’t enjoy the train ride, as much as I am in desperate need of some fruits and vegetables that wont make me ill, as much as I really would love a clean pair of leggings to wear (not washed with shampoo in the shower), as hot and sticky as I am and sick and tired of being whisked off by cab drivers into the “friends papyrus shop”, as much as I look like a filthy dirty hippie with a mosquito bite on my nose, as hard as a rock as this bed im sitting on is….i am happy to be here. Harassment, train-rides-from-hell and all. The hostel I am at is called “bob marley hostel”, and it is run by a very friendly, very stoned, young ,attractive Egyptian man who loves his reggae (and naturally, his weed which I think you might need to smoke to be able to sleep on this concrete slab of a mattress). He made me and my hostel mates the largest breakfast I have ever seen this morning, as we stumbled in from the train station hungry and dirty, and didn’t even charge us. It’s the little things . <3

Anyways, This isn’t a vacation…this is an “experience”….and holy shit…is it ever.

Colussus of Memnon, Luxor, Egypt

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