After three months and some amazing experiences, it was time to be leaving Egypt. I decided that the next stop on the odyssey would be the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. After a mandatory Corona PCR test to permit me to leave Egypt (I was thankful that the bloke who did the test was shithouse at his job, and barely stuck the swab into my nose, unlike the other testers who nearly entered my brain), I booked the two bus tickets that would get me to Nuweiba, then the ferry that would take me to Jordan.
In Egypt, there can be a very real disconnect between a service you book on the internet and the provider of that service on the ground. Aware of this, I turned up at the bus station in Sharm El Sheikh 40 minutes before my 0930 bus was due to leave just in case there were any problems with my reservation. The bloke in the ticket office seemed happy when I showed him the booking confirmation on my phone, and I took a seat on the wooden benches in the depot to await the bus. It was a warm day and I was pleased of the tin roof shading the seats. I was pretty much the only one there, except for a bloke asleep nearby.
When the bus didn’t turn up on time I wasn’t particularly perturbed. When it was half an hour late I went back to the bloke in the booking office, who explained that there were a lot of police checkpoints on the roads (to which I can attest) and that was why the bus was late. I sat down again. When the bus was an hour late, I returned to the booking office once again. I said I had a ticket for the connecting service from Dahab to Nuweiba, and that I was worried I was going to miss it. I was assured by the staff that the bus taking me to Dahab would be the same as the one that would take me onward to Nuweiba, so not to be concerned.
I sat down again, marginally reassured. I ate my lunch. When two hours after the scheduled departure time had elapsed a bus lurched into the depot and pulled up. Some passengers alighted, and the doors of the cargo hold were heaved up. One of the staff asked if I was going to Dahab, and then told me to grab my bags. Another staff member heaved my backpack into the storage area, and then told me there was an extra charge for my bag. It was the bloke who had been asleep on the bench near me while I waited. I pushed past him and got on the bus. We left at midday.
There’s not a lot of vegetation in the ranges between Sham El Sheikh and Dahab.
Arriving in Dahab after the hour long trip through the bare crumbling hills, I asked the driver if the bus was going on to Nuweiba. He shook his head. ‘No Nuweiba.’ Right then. So evidently it wasn’t the same bus from Sharm to Dahab and Dahab to Nuweiba as I had been told. I showed the driver my reservation. ‘This morning’ he said. I told him I knew it was scheduled for the morning, but the bus had been 2.5 hours late out of Sharm and that was why I had missed the onward service.
I got off the bus and into the glaring sun, and asked the first bloke I saw who looked like he worked for the bus line if there was another bus to Nuweiba that day. ‘No Nuweiba’ he replied. A passenger who spoke English saw I was in a pickle and came over to help. I explained everything to him, which he conveyed to the staff. There was a lot of shaking of heads, and atypically, some genuine concern for my predicament. One of the staff produced a mobile phone with the bus line manager on the other end.
Once again I explained my issue. He offered to give me a ticked for the following morning’s service. I told him I had a hotel reservation in Nuweiba that night and the ferry booked for the following day, and that I would miss both if I waited for tomorrow’s bus. He suggested I catch a cab, and that he would try and help me organise a ‘locals’ rate. With no other choice I agreed.
Within a startlingly short period of time a minibus appeared, a bloke leapt out, asked ‘Nuweiba?’ and threw my backpack into the van. ‘How much?’ I asked. He wanted three times what I had already paid for the bus I had missed. I looked in my wallet, and although I was a little short, he agreed to take what I had. I don’t know whether the bus line manager had anything to do with this bloke’s prompt arrival, but I jumped in the front, and after a quick stop at a corner store (which thankfully had an ATM – I was starving and thirsty so grateful for it) we were off. The little Suzuki van had evidently had a tough life, and the bloke drove the arse out of it all the way through the hills to Nuweiba.
There were two other blokes in the back, Arab fellas from Israel. The driver appeared to be having a barney with them about money for most of the way. It seemed like the young blokes and the driver didn’t clearly understand each other, as the Israeli Arabic/English and the Egyptian Arabic/English flew around. It seemed to be pretty good natured for most of the way, until it wasn’t anymore, and the driver appeared to be getting pretty pissed off. This, and some police harassment at a checkpoint, had tempers simmering in the tiny van. It didn’t involve me, and I was too tired to give a fuck anyway, and was glad to arrive in Nuweiba albeit over 4 hours later than planned.
A walk along the quiet beach at Nuweiba was a good way to end what had been a stressful day
I was grateful to plonk myself down in my hotel room, hoping that leaving Egypt on the following day’s ferry to Jordan would be a little less eventful. Turned out it wasn’t, but I’ve bored you enough already. Anyway, from the Vegemite Kingdom of Australia to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, I was looking forward to doing some exploring. I’ll let you know what I find.
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