Day 5: Abu Simbel and sailing down the Nile

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May 27th 2015
Published: June 14th 2015
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Lake NasserLake NasserLake Nasser

Lake Nasser created by Aswan High Dam
Abu Simbel is the monument to visit today. 3AM wakeup call to join a security convoy. All tours going to Abu Simbel are required to join a security convoy. One leaving at 4AM and the other around noon. Zizo advised us that the convoys are both for security and maintenance sake because the lack of repair stations along the way, a bus that broke down could be stuck in the hot sun for hours. The convoys have a spare bus and maintenance teams in them to get everyone moving again.

Breakfast was provided in a box from the hotel and it had bread, sandwich meat, juice box and crisps. Everyone was on the bus but 1 person and it took about 3 hours to get there. On the way south we crossed the tropic of cancer and we were officially in the Equatorial zone and only about 50KM north of the Sudanese border. Abu Simbel is the farthest south most tourists will go. The present location of Abu Simbel was setup when Aswan High Dam was built back in the 60's and Lake Nasser was created. Lake Nasser flooded a large area and hundreds of thousands of mostly Nubian Egyptians were moved along with a large number temples and monuments.

We got to Abu Simbel shortly after 7AM and it was already starting to get hot. Zizo had actually advised us that Egypt had the hottest temperature on the planet at that moment at 49 degrees Celsius in the desert. Abu Simbel was a cool 46 Degrees that day. A little background on Abu Simbel. The temples are a monument to Ramses II and his wife Nefertari. The statues of Ramses II a the entrance are enormous and you can see various names carved in from explorers from the previous century. Once again you can't take pictures inside the monument but I did notice some people sneaking pictures when no one was looking. The main temple for the Pharaoh is quite large when you get inside and there are various off shoot rooms that have artifacts in them. I went next to the temple for his wife Nefertari. It is not a large a place as Pharaoh but it is still a good size. We had about an hour to wander about before heading back to the bus. I looked for crocodiles in the water of Lake Nasser but even though I saw some flashes of motion I didn't see one 😞. At reception we watched a video on the making of the dam and moving of the monuments. It involved a number of countries and each monument was cut carefully so that they could be put back together. It was an impressive undertaking because you can barely see the areas where they made the cuts. Drive back to the Aswan took us to 1PM and our Felucca boat would be ready an hour later. We spent the intervening time in the pool which was a relief after the heat of Abu Simbel.

We had 2 Feluccas with 10 people on each along with our luggage. The Feluccas are sailboats with a single deck covered by a yawning to protect us from the heat. Mattresses covered the deck and we had pillows to sleep on. We also had a 2 or 3 crew members on board to handle the boat. We had a weird situation right the beginning as some coast guard members gestured with weapons for us to go to shore and we bumped into some police boats and our crew talked with the police who seemed to be upset about something. We thought there was something wrong especially when they took our crew away and we just sat there for about 15 minutes. The people on my boat discussed making a swim for it but I did point out that would strand me the non-swimmer there. The other boat just sailed back in forth on the other side of the bank. Finally the crew came back and we were off sailing down the Nile going with current. We ate lunch on the boat. It was standard Egyptian fare, bread, meat and sauces. They cooked it right on the boat as well. Later on when we stopped in the afternoon Zizo explained to us that the crew just had to get a license to sail down the Nile and we were not in trouble. When we stopped everyone got into the Nile and I was surprised how clean it was. We were told the area around Aswan it the cleanest spot to swim in all of Egypt. Facilities were fairly basic and we either went to the bathroom in the bushes or by jumping off the boat and going in the Nile and being hauled back in by a rope. It was bit awkward for everyone but we got used to it. We had drinks available on the boat beer, water and cokes. The beer was 20 EGP, Coke 10 EGP and water 5 EGP. They used colored chips to keep track of what we bought. Also some people got vodka and rum by special order. We drank and played card games including fuck the dealer and Gangsters and one other very long card game whose name I can't remember. It involved using the entire deck and each card represent a drinking game. When we docked that night we were joined by the people on the other boat and we continued the game. It involved a lot of drinking and I went through a lot of beers before the game was over. The final KING card was drawn by Jess and by the rules she had to drink a kettle full of beer in the luggage deck on her back. After some discussion we showed leniency and she just drank it on her back on the boat deck. I was impressed she was able to pull it off because it is tricky drinking on your back.

It was a fun evening and we capped it off with a bonfire and some special smokes that one of our tour mates was able to get from the crew. When the fire ran low a few us when through the bush gathering firewood. It felt primitive wandering around the dark gathering firewood. We gathered enough to keep the fire going for a while longer. I went to bed not too late but was feeling sleepy already. It was tricky sleepy on the boat but I managed to find a blanket and get some sleep. Tomorrow would be a full day of sailing before we returned to dry land the following day.

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