Ok, you are going to have to stick with me on this one because my travelling *pinch me* moment came after a fairly epic journey. A few years ago before Egypt was tipped into revolution I was on a tour in Egypt. Group tours are not normally my thing (wait till I tell you about Morocco) but it was far easier to book a tour rather than independently plan a trip that would keep three Americans and a runawaykiwi happy. So after a few happy days climbing into the middle of the Pyramids, riding camels and impersonating the Sphinx we were on to our next adventure.
The plan was (was being an important word) to take an 8 hour overnight train to our Nile cruise ship, then we would cruise off into the sunset and onto the next temple. Two important things to remember for later, the Australian lads on the tour went shopping to prepare for the train trip, they purchased 1) playing cards and 2) beer.
We hopped onto the train and by god it was the best sleep I have ever had. Being rocked to sleep with the clackety clack of the tracks lulling you into dreamland is something I wish I had every night.
We woke up all of a sudden and instantly went into panic mode, the train had stopped and that could mean only one thing, we had reached our destination and the rest of the group must be waiting. We quickly threw our clothes on, jammed everything into our suitcases and ran out the door; only to be told that we were not there yet.
So what the hell was going on? We were told to just sit tight and the tour leader was trying to find out what was up. So we sat tight in our tiny train bunks and read books, looked out the windows at the camels and quite literally drank the train dry…fun fact for you, a group of Kiwis, Australians and Americans can demolish an entire train of alcohol in 14 hours. Oh yes, our 8 hour train ride was onto hour 14.
Remember the two items from earlier? Well moments after skiting to the rest of us that they had the forethought to buy playing cards and beer, the Australian boys discovered a couple of things. Firstly that their ‘playing cards’ were not playing cards at all, rather they were 40 cards with photos illustrating the most religious sites in Egypt, not so helpful when playing poker. And the second was even more brilliant, after opening a beer to commiserate the card debacle someone in the group helpfully coughed that they were non-alcoholic beers. Not surprising in a country like Egypt, but I have never seen an Australian look so heartbroken.
So, at hour 18 on the train we ran out of food. Then at hour 19 we heard a bang and found a bullet hole in the window. We still had no idea why we were stopped and all of a sudden the hilarity of hour 14 seemed like a distant memory. Remember this was in the days before smart phones, and we couldn’t exactly Facebook for help. Runawaykiwi was not happy.
At hour 22 we found out what was going on, the train in front of us had derailed and spilled its load of something all over the tracks. The simple solution would be to put all of us tourists onto buses, but the government would not allow us to get off the train without a police escort (re: earlier bullet hole, we were in a dangerous area), and the police would not provide an escort.
It took a further 6 hours for our tour leader to negotiate buses to another train, that train to a closer station and then taxis to the ship. In total we were on that damn train for 28 hours, and by the end we were tired, freaked out and hangry. So where is this *pinch me* moment amongst this hell trip, hush I’m getting to that.
The tour company was absolutely mortified at our experience, and just didn’t want us to miss out on anything that had been planned. So when we arrived on our boat at 4am they announced that the visit to the Temple of Edfu would go ahead as planned with the coach leaving at 5:30am. Yeah, after 28 hours on a train the idea was an hour and a half sleep before more site seeing. Never one to miss an experience I was keen, and left my room mate sleeping while I went to the temple.
After our tour of Edfu we got back to the ship at at 9am, by this point everyone was either already asleep (having skipped the temple) or went straight to bed. But something stopped me. There was magic in the air and this runawaykiwi was on the Nile, a place I had watched in Disney movies but honestly thought I would never be adventurous enough to go.
With the ship asleep I crept up to the top deck and just sat in the morning light. The tour leader came by to ask if I was ok, I said I was perfect. With a strange look he said ‘almost perfect’ and walked away. A few minutes later he came back and handed me a pina colada… now it was perfect.
My travel *pinch me* moment? The hot rays of the morning Egyptian sun, gliding down a river of legend while drinking a pina colada and feeling like I had, just for a moment, held magic in my hands.