HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London, across Africa!
It’s Kirsty writing today.
It was time to get down to the business of getting ourselves and the Troopy across Africa.
After a bazillion attempted contacts we had found out that a ship was moving in and out of Port Said to Iskenderun in Turkey regularly. Details were a bit sketchy however we had contact with a fixer who assured us it would all be ‘No problem’.
On Day 1 in Port Said we met Eslam at a donut shop and that became our usual meeting place over the coming days. It was handy – being just down the road from our hotel where we had our choice of ‘The room with the dirty sheets, or the room with the piss on the toilet for $16 a night’. (We chose the piss room and dettol-ed the crap out of the place.)
The perfect time for our phrase de’ jour ‘I’m a celebrity get me outta here!’
We liked that Eslam used WhatsApp (an iPhone messenger) and replied instantly. We liked that he was fairly chilled, said that his help came at a fixed price and would “Help you with whatever you need”.
He was a pretty amusing dude. He used a big tablet (ipad-style) as a phone and would put it up to his ear when driving or in mid-conversation.
And I didn’t mind, that he didn’t mind me talking to him. Even though he would always reply to Gareth.
But we did mind that he was perpetually late, by a good hour, every time we met over the next week. But as someone who is not known for her interest in timeliness we figured our way around that by meeting him only when he actually arrived and messaged ‘I’m here, where are YOU?’
On that first day we negotiated a price for his help and the expense to ship the Troopy on a truck route. A ship was apparently going to-and-from Turkey twice a week.
^ Donut shop meeting place
^ Eslam + G
Over the next few days his mate came into town and got us all signed on for the ship. We received a very un-official looking photocopied receipt in Arabic. One blue stamp later and we were apparently all booked!
Piecing together bits of information we were able to find our ship’s tracking data online. And we ended up confirming with Eslam the name of our ship – the CENK-Y – and advised him of a more accurate arrival time.
It was a huge relief to see information on the screen, in a format we could read.
^ Booking + Paying for our ship off the continent
Eslam liked to drag things out a bit. A bit of paperwork today. A bit of paperwork the next day. Ohh and a very important piece the next. He worked most nights at the ports and methinks we were a bit of a hobby over the week. The disorder shafted our plans for a quick trip to Cairo. A shame, but not one we were too hung up about.
Other than that, it all seemed to be flowing so smoothly. Drink requests not withstanding.
I joined Gareth and Eslam for the first paperwork runs, however on Day 2 Eslam said I would have to wait in a café while they visited a certain office. G and I have been so rarely separated on this trip – however we felt like we should take Eslam’s advice, if a particular official didn’t like chicks in his office it didn’t feel like an opportune time to begin his education on gender equality.
Eslam sat me down in his friend’s café and asked for him to keep an eye on me (“So no-one bothers you”) and to keep the icy cold drinks coming my way.
It was a weird hour. Like usual, there were no women in sight. Just me. And the vibe was just…. weird, y’know.
I found it quite challenging, emotionally, to witness such a patriarchal society in action. I felt acutely aware of the discrimination. Gareth could see how tense it made me, before I had noticed my own clenched jaw. Perhaps he remembered his own feelings from Valley Of The Kings.
To be honest the whole patriarchal vibe left me angry and …obnoxious. And garnering visions of situations of women gone liberal that would make them all pass out.
But, no. Instead I sat in a café. Observing the culture, as I had come here to do. Making sure my shirt was buttoned all the way up and my scarf was draped around my shoulders to shield the outline of my body from unwanted attention.
I could feel the stares. But stares were pretty usual by this stage of the trip. Eslam’s mate made sure no one sat near and he quite genuinely looked after me. He was a gentleman and he was kind.
The weird vibe, I suppose, was the flashing of my own knowledge of Egypt’s sexual violence problem.
You see, sexual violence as a form of control is standard in Egypt – 99.3% of females have reported being harassed at some point in their lives. And if you watched the news during the government uprising a very public case of an American journalist being mob raped sickened the world.
It’s not all Egyptian men – but at 99.3%, it must be a scarily large percentage of them.
Soon enough Gareth and Eslam returned to the cafe triumphantly with another piece of paperwork complete.
The kind face of my strong man never looked so good.
^ G returned to the cafe hot and sweaty from the official’s office
The Troopy’s paperwork was just about finished and tomorrow’s plan was to get him in the shipping storage yard. Unfortunately details were a bit sketchy about how much access we would have to the vehicle once it went in and whether we would be able to drive it onto the ship.
The last overlanders we knew of who shipped via this route 6-months ago had their car fleeced. And we’d heard stories of solar panels being removed and bolt cutters put to work.
So we secured the Troopy like fort knox; with every conceivable improvisation of gear.
Sand ladders became barriers.
Bedding became stuffing obstructions.
Drawers became lockers.
Toy koala bears became planned distractions.
We reckon two security approaches work really well when travelling. 1. Out of sight, out of mind. 2. Put it in the ‘too hard basket’.
^ Securing the Troopy for an unknown shipping protocol. If someone wanted to access the rear it would take them a few hours. We made it as difficult as possible for a thief – so they would put it in the ‘too hard basket’ and move on.
^ Half way through covering up our accessories on the back door. In our experience ‘out of sight, out of mind’ works.
Gareth was particularly amazing that afternoon. Sweating up a storm in the 40-degree heat jumping up and down from Troopy’s roof. The local cats weren’t as much help. But l-u-c-k-i-l-y the local garbage tip was close-by for us to get rid of some junk.
^ Troopy’s parking spot for the week
^ G wrangles the roof top accessories.
^ Spot the cats.
^ Our Hotel De La Poste Hotel stands behind Troopy, on arrival we had our choice of ‘The room with the dirty sheets, or the room with the piss on the toilet seat’. However I must say it was a perfect place to stay. $16 a night for 2 beds, air-con that works, a fridge, a flatscreen, a bathroom and no security problems. Just BYO disinfectant. Note: Room 401 will be cleaner than the rest for the next two years no doubt.
Thanks as always for joining us for the ride.
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