It has to be said Cairo wasn't the most relaxing place to be so it was with great enthusiasm that we packed up Brenda one morning and headed off on a trip around the Great Western Desert. It took a while to battle with the Cairo traffic, which has to rank as some of the trickiest driving conditions to date but after a few wrong turns and a 50km detour we found ourselves on the road leading out into the desert. We then drove thorough 350km of nothing before we hit Baharia.
Due to the security situation we elected not to wild camp in Baharia and instead pulled into a camp site where to our joy we found a hot spring pool. Result! A leisurely hour in the thermal pool was exactly what we needed to relieve the aches of 6 hours of driving that day. It turned out a bunch of Cairanese were staying there for the weekend and had a party that night with some really cool local live music and belly dancing. The Egyptians, it seems, really know how to party. Me and Amy don't however and as usual were in bed before 9pm.
The next day got off to a bad start when a cash machine swallowed Amy's card, and I had to stand in line (scrum/ fight) for some flat bread with the locals. Normally westerns get pushed to the front of queues in Egypt but not here. We then got waylaid by a falafel stand and spent a leisurely hour their before finally departing into the desert.
The scenery driving through the Black Desert was stunning and that night we wild camped in the White Desert, watching the sun go down with a glass of 18 year old Glenfidich which Amy had bought me for my birthday.
The next morning we were up early watching the sun rise and enjoying our 2nd cup of coffee when the highlight of the trip wandered into our camp. The most beautiful desert fox with huge ears and a big fluffy tail wandered over to see what we were up to. It's lovely to know that there are still places on earth where the animals haven't learnt to be scared of humans yet. Tragically my camera is broken so as a budding wildlife photographer I was gutted not to be able to photograph it with my telephoto lens, however we were able to get a few photos with Amy's camera, and it was a privilege none the less to spend 10 minutes watching as it sniffed around.
We then spent a few hours driving through the desert looking at the crazy rock shapes caused by erosion, before heading back to the highway and making tracks for the next stop Dahkla. On the way to Dahkla you have to drive along the edge of the Great Sand Sea. This really is something else, nothing but yellow sand and blue sky as far as the eye can see on either side of the highway, and the knowledge that in fact it stretches for 1000's of miles into Libya is quite a thought. Anyway musings aside we made it to Dahkla where we stayed in a hotel as there wasn't anywhere to camp and as luck would have it another hot spring pool. Result! The owner let us park Brenda in the middle of the hotel garden to make dinner, which prompted all the Egyptian guests to wander over to see what we were up to, say hello, look at the truck and generally show the usual interest that we become wonderfully used to.
The next morning we were up early and headed over to wander around an old disused village built of clay bricks that has a weird sense of eeriness around it. We paid a local guy 20 Egyptian pounds (£0.20p) to unlock and let us climb the 300 year old minaret (scary) before meeting a bunch of giggling girls on a school trip from the local town who were far more interested in taking photos of us than they were in looking at the old city. We stopped to pose with them and added to the numerous Egyptian photos that we have found ourselves in over the last few weeks.
Finally on to Kharga where we were given a police escort through the town before stopping for the night and on to Luxor the next day. A grand total of 1500km in 5 days.
Luxor is amazing; especially The Valley of the Kings which I didn't have high hopes for but which, I have to say really did impress. As usual we found ourselves posing for more Egyptian photos, this time with a bunch of university guys from Cairo and even got asked to pose for some pro 'visit Egypt' propaganda with a big Egyptian flag. That one earned us a free invitation to a photographic exhibition on the revolution, which we went to and were left speechless by some of the photos.
One of the wonderful things we have found in Egypt is the number of times we have been approached by people (with and without Brenda) who have asked us all about ourselves and wanted us to pose for photos with them. It's great that people are just as interested in us as we are in them.
Next we drove down to Aswan where we are now waiting for the ferry to Sudan on Monday. This morning we got the ferry over to Elephantine Island in the middle of the Nile where we meet some Nubians who wanted to show us their crocodile. After the 'do you want to see a crocodile' indecent in Syria we were expecting maybe a rabbit or something, but sure enough there were 2 crocodiles a foot and a half long. I had just enough time for a short intake of breath and a muttered 'ur that actually is a real crocodile' before the guy had picked up one of the crocodiles and placed it in my hands. He was a beautiful creature, very strong but lovely to hold in a strange way. After a few moments of 'what am I supposed to do with this' and the obligatory photo I put it down and we were invited for our first ever taste of Nubian tea with him and his friends (Nubians are just as hospitable as Bedouins) before leaving them to go to Friday prayer and heading back to Aswan for a falafel.
One final thing to mention. Yesterday evening we were sat by the banks of the Nile watching the sun go down when I saw a pied Kingfisher (my first ever Kingfisher) hovering over the water and suddenly dive into the water to catch a fish. Very cool.