27.11.2010 - 30.11.2010
Day 73 Saturday 27 November - “Cruise Day 14 – At Sea”
The sea is calm and the wind is slight as we wake up this morning. There's a mist or haze over the water creating an eerie effect as we're unable to see the horizon. I suspect it is due to the ocean temperature being higher than the air temperature, both are in the low to mid 20s.
Just after 10 we sail through the Karpathos Strait with Rhodes Island on the Port Side and Karpathos Island to Starboard. We exchange library books and collect our passports that have been endorsed with the Egyptian short stay stamp.
After lunch we attended a one hour presentation by Gary during which he covered 5000 years of Egyptian history. He rounded it off with warnings regarding uncooked food, water and the use of public toilets. There was also a general advisory regarding the elections being held there and possible disruptions to public services.
After dinner we sat through a repeat of the SHOUT! Show we saw last week. Picked up a few lines we missed last time and enjoyed it again.
Day 74 Sunday 28 November - “Cruise Day 15 – Egypt”
Up early this morning, along with most of the other passengers we're at breakfast before 6 am. We have docked in Alexandria in serious fog which blots out most of the features of the city. By 6;45 we're ready to go ashore and meet up with our tour guide for the day.
We form part of a queue at the head of the stairs and we wait, the queue grows and we wait. An announcement from the bridge, we will not be going ashore until 7:30 because the road to Cairo is closed due to the fog, it is suggested we clear the corridors and use the lounges. Yeah right !! No one moves, we've waited a long time to get this position.
Eventually we're released from the ship and ushered though the terminal building into the arms of waiting tour guides. There must have been over 100 of them holding up name cards. Eagle eyed Jenny spots ours and we hurry over to meet her. Christina makes us welcome and escorts us past all the big tourist coaches to where the mini vans are assembled. Ours is a 12 or 14 seater bus, I ask if we're expecting any others to join us, no this is just for us. A driver, a guide and a complete vehicle for ourselves.
We sit for a while and get to know something about each other. The Tourist Police take down our vehicle number and the driver's details. All this is for our safety we're told. The road to Cairo is still closed but should be open soon. By about 10 am we're feeling the need for a comfort stop, so we get out and head back to the terminal building just as the drivers all start heading back to their vehicles. No worries, we weren't that desperate and there's a promised stop along the way. Back to the van.
We set off in what looks like a Formulae One race. Close to 100 mini-vans, 50 or more coaches all 'managed' by a dozen Police. We sit in a jam for another half hour, we're impressed that there’d been no fender-benders by the time we leave the port area having been checked by the Police again on the way out. The 'race to Cairo' finds its way though Alexandria being joined now by all the local and commercial traffic that's been caught up in the same road closure. Just for good measure we add some local colour in the form of donkey carts and Tuc-Tuc taxis.
There is no traffic control, lane markers are totally ignored or used as aiming lines. Three lanes become five when the shoulders are also pressed into service. Huge trucks with huge loads battle for space with any and all other modes of transport including pedestrians just casually crossing the highway.
As we head out of Alexandria we are checked again by the Police and continue the 'race to Cairo' along sections of new highway, old highway and construction site detours. All the way hemmed in on both sides by all forms of transport. Speeds vary from stopped to 100 KPH plus.
Not unexpectedly my need for the loo has increased dramatically as we've gone along until finally I'm begging for anything including just a large tree. Being Egypt, even big trees are in short supply. Finally at about 12 we, and just about all of the other mini-vans, pull into what passes for a Highway Service Centre. The place looks very grand and has a very obvious sign to the WC. I dash into the Men's brushing aside the outstretched arm of the attendant.
Suitably relieved, both physically and financially, we re-board our van and continue to Cairo. Along the way we pass at least four trucks and a bus that have come to grief. The trucks have rolled over and spilled their loads, the bus had been rear-ended by an over zealous driver of a small truck loaded with farm produce.
The other feature of the drive into Cairo was the number of substantial buildings along the way that were either in the process of being constructed or of being demolished. It was hard to tell as many appeared to have just been abandoned. I suspect it was just part of the haphazard nature of this country.
At about 1:30 pm we're embroiled in the free-for-all that is Cairo's traffic and catch our first glimpse of the Pyramids through the fog/smog/haze. Christina organises the tickets and we head off in the direction of the number 2 pyramid. When you get up close you get a real appreciation of the size. The individual blocks are enormous and we humans appear like ants on a stack of sugar cubes. We decline the invitation to 'climb' the pyramid or to crawl inside for an extra fee.
There are a number of pyramids on the Giza site, the first we visit is more recent than the second one which is showing more signs of weathering. Then there are a number of smaller ones which are some distance away. Just about every passenger off the Jade and some of the crew are here. In addition there are other tours and of course some locals as well.
Where there are tourists there are opportunities to make a dollar. Vendors offering tacky souvenirs compete with each other and with those offering camel, horse and donkey rides. The continued haze softens the whole picture and size of the structures destroys you sense of distance. It is only when seeing the relative size of the people that you regain the perspective. With more to see we head off to the Sphinx. According to Christina, when the second pyramid was being constructed they 'found' this ugly big rock, the king directed his architect to make it more beautiful and as a result we have the Sphinx.
We dive into the Cairo traffic again and find our way to the Papyrus Demonstration. It is a government sponsored high end souvenir shop. There was fine jewellery, crystals, clothing and all manner of items Egypt. The papyrus paintings were particularly striking with many of them featuring gold leaf, naturally the prices also reflected the unique character of the objects.
By now it is approaching 5 pm and the Museum closes at 6 so we hurry as fast as traffic allows and dash around the Museum in about an hour. Christina tries to ensure that we've seen all the most important exhibits. The museum is extensive and many galleries were very crowded even at this late hour. We got out just before closing time having admired again the incredible skills of the ancient artists.
Dauntlessly, Christina continued to provide all the elements of the tour stopping at the Queen Cleopatra restaurant for 'lunch' (at about 7:30 pm ??). She explained that nothing much happens before noon, with many places open until well after midnight. The restaurant was extensive and we were the only ones there !! Service wasn't a problem but having requested a 'traditional' meal we were presented with a buffet with only two or three dishes that could be described as Middle Eastern.
By about 8 pm we're heading back to Alexandria passing through the obligatory 'police' checks. The traffic is lighter but just as chaotic as it was this morning. Lane markings are ignored, speed limits are treated with scorn, there's no concept of fast and slow lane. Trucks appear crazily overloaded and it is obviously a sign of weakness to move out of the way of other traffic. When there's a need to really slow down the traffic they place a set of speed bumps right across the roadway. They are well marked and have the desired effect for about as long as it takes to bump over them. There must have been at least ten of these and are used when the traffic has to make a sharp detour around some construction site.
At about 11:30 we arrive back at the port and pay for the day's adventure. A very long day for two old people. Happy to have been there and done that but not likely to repeat the visit.
Day 75 Monday 29 November - “Cruise Day 16 – Egypt”
Not surprisingly we woke up rather late this morning. We notice that the “Self Service” in the Garden Cáfe has been replaced with 'server' service due to the possibility of Gastric conditions resulting from calls to Egypt.
After breakfast I showed signs of diarrhoea and we cancelled the planned visit to down-town Alexandria. Two or more urgent visits and I figure this is not normal, so call the Medical centre which resulted in a visit from the nurse. She tells me that I'm confined to my cabin and need to limit my menu to 'Room Service' - consomme, jelly, crackers, dry toast, rice and grilled chicken. This regime to remain in place until 24 hours after the last discharge.
So here I am, nowhere to go, nothing much to eat and Jenny has been told to avoid me as much as possible in case it is a viral infection.
Late afternoon and my condition hasn't improved a lot so the nurse has been in to see me again. She's brought me a bottle of “Pepto Bismol” - active ingredient is Bismuth subsalicylate – looks pretty pink and tastes foul, so must be good for me. She tells us that I'm still the only case aboard so my condition is likely to be something specific to me and I don't show any of the other symptoms normally associated with Gastroenteritis. Another small, bland and limited tray from room service – chicken broth and dry crackers – doctor's orders.
Sailing has been delayed because some shore excursion buses are held up in traffic but we are now on the way out of Alexandria harbour. Clocks go back an hour tonight, we're heading back to Barcelona time.
Jenny had her dinner in the main dining room and has decided she doesn't need to see the repeat of the magician’s show tonight.
Day 76 Tuesday 30 November - “Cruise Day 17 – at Sea”
An uneventful night, Jenny has breakfast and I dine out on Saltine Crackers and hope the diarrhoea has gone for now. I'm still confined to the cabin and fill in time reading.
The ship is cruising at 21 knots and we are scheduled to arrive in Malta at 11 am tomorrow.
While Jenny is having dinner, I receive a visit from the medical staff. It appears I'm free to leave the cabin – thank God.
Sorry for the length of this entry, wanted to make sure the whole story was covered.