We have  made it to Egypt!

One hell of a day on Sunday leaving Jordan and entering Egypt. The two days before we spent in Wadi Rum driving and camping on the reserve. It was fantastic driving in the sand, only getting stuck once! Good practice for the journey ahead.

We met up with our friend, Hamza, from Petra who drove down to meet us. We spent the first night with him and his friend who drives tourists around Wadi Rum in his battered Toyota. We experienced some first class sand driving.

Aqaba is only 40 kms from Wadi Rum, so we drove there Saturday morning to find out about getting tickets for the ferry. We decided it wasn’t worth hanging around Aqaba for more than the day so went back in the afternoon to buy tickets.

It worked out as expected with the tickets being $70 per person to cross and $220 for the car. There is a fast and slow ferry to Nuwieba in Egypt. The fast one leaves at midday and everything I had read said go for that one due to the  formalities at the other end.  We had arranged  our visas for Egypt in London before leaving so we were ready to go!

The Landcruiser’s odometer hit 6000 miles since leaving London on the hill down into Aqaba.

We met a 70-year-old South African the day before we entered Wadi Rum who was on a real mission to get going and make tracks for Sudan before his visa expired. He had shipped his vehicle to Germany, where he is from originally. He is making his way back south through East Africa.

We were surprised when we met him again in Aqaba the day before we left Jordan thinking he would have been well gone by then. He was waiting for his Egyptian visa before catching the same ferry as us the next day.

On Sunday morning, we headed into town to get supplies before racing to the ferry terminal in good time to sort out customs and immigration. Luckily there was only one car ahead of us (see picture). We were wondering if he paid for a car or 4×4! There was another car behind us owned by a couple of men from Abu Dhabi who were travelling in the same model Landcruiser as us heading for Morocco.

With formalities sorted, we saw the South African man turn up with a rush on to sort out his paperwork. As expected the ferry was running late and we were ready to board an hour later. All seemed ok, then just as we were about to board, they turned all the vehicles around and said we all needed to have our vehicles inspected by x-ray. So off we went, all lined up in a building near the ferry to have our cars inspected. We were handed a piece of paper and then proceeded to board without any further problems!

2 hours later we arrived in Nuwieba. An hour after that we were allowed to leave the ferry. We were not sure what caused the delay. Staff on the ferry had to lock some of the doors to stop passengers escaping! it was funny watching the scene when they had to open the door to let staff out from time to time. Hundreds of faces waiting to escape. There was also a man in a wet suit wandering around. We somehow managed to find a quite corner in first class, near the exit, with about fifty other people!

I had been reading for the last 6 months about how entry into Egyptian works. However prepared I thought I was, it was still a mystery as to what to do next when we finally got off the ferry. Trying to race ahead of the South African, we followed the two men from Abu Dhabi thinking that they must know what they were doing.

We eventually caught up with them when we saw their vehicle parked over an inspection pit. We parked behind them thinking that we are next when we were told we had to start a customs file before anything could commence. I had this in my notes and yep the first charge, 30 Egyptian pounds (EP) for a few photocopies and a file, which I was handed to keep safe.

Having a tourist policeman at the port really helped and he guided us and the South African to stage two where we had to hand over more money. Customs tax was a hefty 510 EP. Then came insurance; you have to pay for the whole year regardless of how long your staying in Egypt – another 520 EP.

Whilst this was being done, Bun and Iso were by the car having that checked over. Four men, all interested in the tent on the roof, asked  us open it and they checked inside. They asked if we had an fire extinguisher. We showed them and they gave us a receipt and that also went into the file.

They made a kind of brass rubbing of the chassis number which only included half the letters and numbers. They were ok with this when I could prove that the chassis number was correct!

The South African man travels with a rubber snake in his car, which seems to quicken up border crossings. The officials were in fits of laughter when they were checking things over under the bonnet whilst playing with a toy snake! I might have to adopt this form of communication to help us next time!

I was handing over bits of paper so quickly I was getting lost as to what to do next. I went off again with the South African to sort out the carnet to get it filled in and stamped. Only two things left to do now. We knew that we had to get Egyptian number plates fitted, so I handed over another 220 EP for these and half an hour later, we were handed some number plates with more holes in than a sieve. We got the cable ties out and on they went.

We were ready to go after three hours of sorting out the formalities. I bought a local phone card and we headed off in the dark with the South African who was happy to follow us so we could show him a place to sleep for the night. The GPS is back! We turned it on and within minutes the route to the camp was set up and we were ready to go. We were directed straight to the door some 10 kms later.

Despite all the warnings, we felt that the entry into Egypt wasn’t as bad as we had expected. All the fees added up and there were no hidden charges.

We have travelled from Nuwieba to Dahab down the coast. It is good to be back at sea level and the return of some warmer nighttime temperatures. We want to have a snorkel here before heading to Mount Sinai.

As I update the blog, I have just had an email from our friend, Mr Salah, who owns the ferry company. We have been told to be at his office on the 9th January 2010! The ferry leaves on the 11th for Wadi Haifa in Sudan.

Anyone needing his details for the journey into Sudan. They are takourny@hotmail.com. Telephone number when in Egypt 0020 183 160 926