Cairo – Getting Ready to Leave – Last Days

Bikes inside store, but still with local registration plates attached. One on the RHS 'Aswan 16'. People would approach  to us and ask if we were from Aswan. Plate on the yellow bike is fixed sideways.

Bikes inside store, but still with local registration plates attached. One on the RHS ‘Aswan 16’. People would approach to us and ask if we were from Aswan. Plate on the yellow bike is fixed sideways.

Count down time until leaving
Two days before our departure from Cairo and our bikes have been delivered to the freight forwarding agent Messrs Crown Relocation. It feels unsettling not to have our own wheels available, and to have become dependent upon public transport – but that’s as it was planned and that’s how we’ll return to the normality of everyday life once away from African roads. All our goods are piled up in our hotel room near Ramses Station in Central Cairo ready for sorting and packing.

Kia, Ahmed, StoreKeeper & Kristian at the Crown Relocation store in Giza where the bikes were dropped off ready for freighting.

Kia, Ahmed, StoreKeeper & Kristian at the Crown Relocation store in Giza where the bikes were dropped off ready for freighting.

Messrs Crown Relocation as represented by Nadine Hussein the Move Manager have been as professional as we could have wished; and the services provided in Cairo and leading up to Cairo have been reassuring. Regular e-mail contact when on the road during the period of negotiation for shipping the bikes out of Egypt and delivery to Felixstowe England, handling us and our paperwork in Cairo, and taking delivery of the bikes at their deport in El Giza – just down from the Pyramids. We shall monitor performance, etc. from now on and take delivery, they said, during the next month or so depending on shipping available.

Last photo opportunities
We’d been unable to get to the Pyramids the night before – traffic on the roads leading up to the main entrance gate – where many of the five star international name hotels are located – was just too challenging, and the evening light was fading fast; so we simply turned round and headed back to our campsite/motel unit in El Giza – a short ride away.

Just to show that we had actually made it through 10 countries and around 12,000 km. We never did get a picture with both of us in it either. That's the Great Pyramid of Cheops in the background.

Just to show that we had actually made it through 10 countries and around 12,000 km. We never did get a picture with both of us in it either. That’s the Great Pyramid of Cheops in the background.

So, it was up early the following morning – around 6.00 am – and back to the same entrance gate (although the guards on the gate, parking attendants and hustlers selling guided tours, horse/camel rides and making all kinds of offers for other ‘get-you-out-of-your-money’ activities were quick to point out that nothing opened until 8.00 am). We simply wanted that photo opportunity of the bikes and riders in front of the world’s most famous man-made structure – showing the end of the ride from Cape Point south of Cape Town.

There were challenges when asking those same hustlers to take a picture of us both – with all those missing heads and feet – but we’ve now ‘been there and done that’ and it took little more than 10 minutes to get back to the campsite and to pack up. We’d got to know the local roads really well, and how to cut and thrust in and around those taxies and buses with the best of the local riders.

Across town to El Maadi
You have to have a document that enables you to clear the traffic police – showing no accidents, infringements, outstanding speeding fines and more – before you can export foreign registered vehicles; and this requires a visit to the mother of all public transport offices and interfacing with officialdom. Half of Cairo were also queuing up for other traffic related issues when we were there, and everyone was Arabic speaking, all the messages are in Arabic and we were the only foreigners there – more challenges. This is where you need a fixer.

And you thought that your society was tied up in red tape. Take time out in the Arab World. You can't do this easily without a fixer, and it still took us half a morning. There is this Catch-22 issue about it all - confirming we've not had an accident, etc. on the basis of our confirmation.

And you thought that your society was tied up in red tape. Take time out in the Arab World. You can’t do this easily without a fixer, and it still took us half a morning. There is this Catch-22 issue about it all – confirming we’ve not had an accident, etc. on the basis of our confirmation.

Ours came in the form of Ahmed (aka ‘Lewis Hamilton’) who drove his little car like a true Cairenes – hand on the horn, phone in one hand (usually the same hand) and stretching his little Kia Piccato and its auto-box for all it was worth.

Ahmed came courtesy of Crown Relocations and our appointment for 9.00 am in El Maadi the same morning, and it took all of three hours to cover this formality, and cost US$1.50 each for stamped official-looking letters that will accompany the bikes through the formalities of leaving Egypt.

Back at Crown Relocations in El Maadi we re-loaded our gear into the back of the Kia, fired up the bikes again – for the last time – and followed the car back to El Giza and the storage depot where we eventually left the bikes mid-afternoon; after removing the mirrors, draining the petrol tanks of half-a-dozen litres of fuel – for we’d been running low around town trying to use the fuel up – and unbolting the Egyptian number plates and re-attaching them with plastic ties (so that they can be easily removed by hand).

Yellow bike playing up
Since arriving in Cairo, the yellow bike had been playing up and has been difficult to start – the battery was always low on power and would not turn the motor over sufficiently fast enough for it to catch. This was not logical – low charging rate, power leakage, alternator failing, battery failing or what? Two days to go and it had been a pragmatic choice to bump start the bike each time; which is easier said than done in much of Cairo with its dust/sand covered streets, enthusiastic parking and heat. Little space either. No problem with finding willing helpers, however. Just hard work, and thinking ahead when the bike should be stopped, etc. Once running – no issue, except that it tended to overheat in dense traffic, and this also led to erratic running.

But we delivered it to the El Giza freight sheds in that condition, and it will be collected from Felixstowe by van – so it won’t be running again for a few weeks.

Pyramids of Giza
You cannot come to Cairo and remain oblivious to the impact of either the Nile or the remnants of those ancient civilizations that once dominated the country – and which now provide the basis of a tourist industry that is worth 30% GDP – and which remains in serious jeopardy since late 2010 and the impact of the ‘Arab Spring’. We’d seen quite a lot of the Nile since Aswan and before, but the Giza Pyramids were just down the road and well away from current hotspots like Tahrir Square.

What would the Ancient Egyptians have thought of it all? And imagine the choices that need to be made with 'sympathetic developemnt' choices for carrying the past into the future.

What would the Ancient Egyptians have thought of it all? And imagine the choices that need to be made with ‘sympathetic development’ choices for carrying the past into the future.

We chose to take in the ‘Sound & Light’ show which takes place in the early evening when the day has cooled sufficient to remind you to take a top coat of some kind. Given that we were camping in a run-down motel place just a few minutes away, it was easy to get there; and we took both bikes. We’d planned to take a bite before entering the grounds of the El Giza plateau where the show is held – in what must be one of the most squalid suburbs in the city: Gereir – taking advantage of the world’s best located KFC. Now there’s a contradiction – modern fast food overlooking the world’s most famous ancient monument (and, if you read the blogs on these things, you’ll see the moves to try to redress this particular issue – no, not just the KFC, but the whole community; but then you get into the social issues of local people, sanitized neighbourhoods, the reality of modern livelihoods and so on, and clearly you have to strike a balance) but, meantime we’d enjoy a quick and tasty meal. For the KFC brigade, you tend to pay more here than elsewhere in town – but the views are spectacular – unique even.

More a galaxy of colours, stories and imagination than the real thing, but highly entertaining; and not to be missed. Given a choice between day-time and S&L display, the latter is a more relaxing option. Ignore the rough picture - it was a little camera.

More a galaxy of colours, stories and imagination than the real thing, but highly entertaining; and not to be missed. Given a choice between day-time and S&L display, the latter is a more relaxing option. Ignore the rough picture – it was a little camera.

For a little over an hour, the projectors bathe the Pyramids and surrounding grounds and buildings in a splendour of changing lights and patterns; the Sphinx does all the talking – introducing the stories of how the Pyramids came to be built, what they represent and the many leaders and statesmen who have been captured by the image of them. The commentary quotes the Arab proverb ‘Man fears time, but time fears the Pyramids’. With the darkness of the evening complete and nothing but black desert behind the Pyramids there is this sense of looking into eternity. Show over, lights back on and then you’re back to the cacophony of street life in Cairo when making your way home.

Peter Steele

Melbourne

09 March 2013

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