PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Into Egypt, Day 11

We departed the ship at 6:45 a.m. to catch our flight to Cairo, which was seamless until the tarmac bus took us to the wrong place and we had airport officials screaming at us about being in the wrong place. Or at least that’s what it sounded like. Most folks don’t speak English, which is fine,  but when being yelled at as a group being led astray at an airport, it may have been helpful.

Cindy flies out at 7 a.m. tomorrow and me at 2 a.m., so she got us a room at the airport hotel, where we discovered new flavors for ice cream — date and cardamon and something called Mastic — that were amazing.

We hung out at the pool until we left for our last activity, a sunset ATV ride by the Pyramids, the Light Show and one last Egyptian meal.

The drive there was actually as much of an adventure. We experienced a Cairo traffic jam, which kind of resembled the stopped cars in the opening of “LaLa Land.”

There don’t seem to be lanes in Cairo. Honestly. At times cars were 6 or 7 abreast in what I think was a 3 lane road. Our driver was a “tad” distracted, as he kept looking at stuff on his phone. At one point, I saw a car bearing down to T-bone us that missed me by inches. Other unique experiences included driving behind some very loosely tied items that were four times taller than the pick up carrying them and a cow sort of tied, sort of not, in a pickup we kept passing at 30-40 mph. Besides that, we saw the tragic sights of a woman with a baby cleaning windows of stopped cars, begging for money, as well as several small children darting among them. Heartbreaking.

That was good prep for the ATV place, where they also had camels, horses and more I think. I didn’t ask. The ATV’s weren’t exactly up to code. Mine didn’t have a working brake — the only a way to stop was to slow down gradually — and the wheel wobbled. Cindy’s ATV needed to be jump-started by running with it before it got into gear. They also didn’t have helmets for us.

But it was an adventure. So off we went, through the streets of Giza. The real Giza. I’m glad we got off the touristy places and got a real picture of where people live as we rode down the streets. At one point, we went by the garbage dump. Including the remains of several horses and camels. Not exactly where they often take people on guided tours. But I am glad I saw it. Well maybe not the rotting horse carcasses. I think I could have lived without that.

Once we crossed into the area of the pyramids it was sort of, as Cindy put it, the Wild West. We passed some very orderly ATVs in line nicely riding in the sand. But that wasn’t what our guide did. We went up, down and all around. With the pyramids in the background and the detritus of camels and horses, which was mostly bone but one carcass, on the sands around us. It was at once terrifying and exhilarating and since we didn’t die, had the makings of a story Cindy and I will tell for the rest of our lives. And we won’t need to embellish it at all to make it a true adventure.

Our guide asked us to tip him deep in the sands of the desert. I guess we must have done good by him since he brought us back.

After returning via dead carcass alley, we went to dinner at a rooftop restaurant facing the Sphinx and then to the light show. It’s not a modern fancy light show. It is dignified with voice actors who have probably been dead for 20 years. But it also felt like a final essay for what seems like a graduate level course on Egyptology that I have been on for the past almost two weeks. It was nice to have a confirmation of how much I have learned. Also, I will forever and always be an awe of the pyramids and the Sphinx and seeing them lit at night was spectacular.

I swung back to the hotel where Cindy was spending the night because she has an early morning flight and thanked her again for this unbelievable gift of a trip, something I could never have done at this point in my life. And then I headed to the airport.

Because of the general strike in France, there is a great deal of confusion with the flight out and the chaos that is the Cairo airport reigned for a while. Mainly, it consists  of following people’s directions, which may or may not be right, and eventually, after a lot of loud conversation and stern reprimands, finally ending up where you belong, which for me was an airport lounge. I’m going to try to catch a couple of winks before the flight to Paris  takes off. Hopefully at 5 AM.


Leave a Reply