Going to Hurghada – Taking a detour – Part 1
Diving trips are always memorable – some more than others. I have lost count on how many I have made but my first trip to Hurghada in Egypt was in 1992 and I remember clearly.
To prepare for the trip I consulted my aunt, who had been to Egypt several times. She provided me with a list of do’s and don’t’s – not to eat ice cream, have ice cubes, all food hade to be cooked at 60 degrees at a minimum, I must open drink bottles by myself and if you are going to taking a taxi, look for a newer taxi in good condition, agree the price before the trip, don’t give any money in advance, see that you are by your self in the car, and to be prepared for the worst case, have your money placed at different places of your body. I brought my first real camera, a Nikon 5 with dubbed strobes, macro 1,2,3 and a 20mm, 35mm wide lenses. It cost $4500 which was, which is, a lot of money.
The trip became eventful already on the plane. On our approach to land into Cairo airport, the Captain told us we could not land for the moment due to a big sand storm around the airport. After circling for 20 minutes, he made a further announcement, we need to wait for longer but not to worry we had plenty of fuel. I began to do some rough calculations, the flight time, how much spare fuel do they carry and after a further 20 minutes the Captain repeats his message, wait more and plenty of fuel.
The lady next to me started to cry and the next minute the captain announced that we were going to land after all. The sandstorm was certainly still there…..
Next was the transfer from Cairo to Hurghada. We had landed in the middle of the afternoon and the bus I was catching was leaving the next morning for the 600 kilometer journey. I had the brilliant idea of asking for a taxi (and the good advice from my aunt remember) and surprise my friends by arriving early. I found a really nice taxi, an almost brand new Mercedes, and I discussed the price with the driver. He told me 20 dollars to go to Hurghada 600 km away. Wow this is cheap I thought, sure yes let’s go for it.
Then the problems started…
First he took me to downtown Cairo. At the corner of some street were another two guys. They got in the car, on either side of me. A bit strange, but I was never nervous, they were not out to rob me just some friends of the driver that needed a lift.
We drove for a bit and then stopped at a café, where the driver started to discuss the price again. We agreed to $30 instead of $20, and now they wanted half of the money in advance. So I gave him half the money in advance…Then they changed my beautiful Mercedes for an old Peugeot and we set off.
After 30 minutes I I discovered that we were going in the wrong direction. We were in fact on our way to the Suez channel instead of south to and to Hurghada. I tried to talk with the driver using a small Egyptian wordbook I had, but he didn’t speak Egyptian, just Arabic. I got him to stop the car and showed him a map. Unfortunately he could not read maps at all, so we were still on our way to Suez. Suddenly our trip is not 600 km any more, it has become something like 800 km and, all going well, I would arrive in the middle of the night. How would I find my friends in middle of the night?
The taxi driver had a cousin working at a hotel in Suez, and he helped us trying to understand each other. For some odd reason, the driver had thought I was going to Sharm El Sheikh so now he started to discuss the price again. At this point I’m started to get just a little bit upset, and told him that he wasn’t getting any more money. He seemed ok with that, so we set off again, now on our way to the right place. Thing were looking good, once again.
On this route there were some military stops. I knew nothing about this, so it was a tad surprising and also scary when the some guy in civilian clothing just run up on the road and pointed some automatic gun at us. In the end they just wanted to see that we weren’t any terrorists and wanted to have some money from my driver. This happened several times and in the end you kind of get used to it which is an odd thing in itself.
By now it started to get dark outside and I found out a very funny thing – when two cars meet each other at a road like this in the middle of the night, they flash with their light, shifting between half and head light, and even show their indicators to each other. One of the problems with this is that clearly you can’t see the road when someone have their headlights on but the reason they do this is to check whether the other driver is aware ok not. Sort of like a silent, light based language – are you awake, yes I am, are you sure, yes I think so and they keep going. Very funny. Once you know the reason, its perhaps not a bad idea.
Anyhow, so there we were, driving through the desert. The front seat in our car had sort of a big sofa instead of two seats. Suddenly, the driver fell asleep and we went off the road. The car was jumping along into nothingness. If you are used to driving in these sort of desert places, you may know.
I sat in this front sofa of the car together with the driver, so when we went off the road, I pushed my legs towards the front, hold my right hand in between my legs under the sofa and my left arm behind the seats to protect myself somehow because there were no seatbelts in the car. Of course there werent.
But whilst trying to protect myself I somehow accidentally manage to push some button so the entire sofa moved back. Whilst going off the road hadn’t woken up the driver, this backwards movement of the sofa did. He wakes up but the sofa has moved back so far he can barely reach the steering wheel. I am not sure whether he panicked or just woke up but in this grasping of the steering wheel, he swerves to the left all he can and we just about fly back and over the road again. After some manoeuvring, the car slows down and we are once again back on track.
The driver then told me it was all my fault, I shouldn’t have pushed the button underneath the sofa. Of course I shouldn’t have. Then it was time for him to pray, after which we were ready to keep going. After another hour he stopped the car to change the oil. We were just in the middle of the road, and had to wait for a 30 minutes before the engine would cool down sufficiently and he could pour the oil out there and then. As you do. Well after this somewhat surprising transfer, we finally made it and against all odds, I found one of my friends still partying during the night. Already back was Hurghada a big city so what were the odds? At the end of the day, I felt lucky.
Next time we’ll talk about cats, rubbish, rat glue and crazy divers…In the meantime, I’d be interested in your most memorable diving trip from Hurghada or Egypt?
Just me 1992 Hurrugada
Old friend of my Olle Högdahl -92
See you, Patrik