Friday, January 30, 2009

Operation: Desert Storm

We woke up this morning to a storm so intense it took a large amount of planning to pull down my tent without it blowing away. In fact, one person's tent did blow away, and he spent ten minutes chasing it into the desert.
The other day I woke up to a blood red sliver of moon, and while I looked at it, a shooting star flew by.
And all around us is nothing but blissful quiet and solitude.

In Aswan I finished writing email, had what would be my last beer for three weeks, and went for dinner with some of the troupe. Did I mention that stairs in Egypt are not very even? Well, they're not. And I twisted my ankle. Fortunately there was not much riding to be had for a few days. Take this as a lesson though - never put your kids in soccer - they will forever suffer the curse of weak ankles.

But not all was lost. We got on the boat to Wadi Halfa, which passes Abu Simbel and the temple of Hathur- aka the four Egyptian Kings carved into the side of a mountain. It's incredibly beautiful. It's also a site which I thought was in the valley of the Kings, and therefore thought that I had missed. But first we sat for 6 hours while they loaded the boat. We watched as five men hoisted a refrigerator onto the back of one man, who would then carry it onto the boat and down a ladder into the belly of the barge. All I can say is -regarding the bricks for the pyramids - mystery solved. Entering the boat was a strange experience. Forty-seven lycra-covered Westerners (women included) walk into a room full of big Nubian men, all of them smoking and drinking tea while they watched us. The curiosity was as thick as the smoke in the air.

Entering Sudan was interesting. We waited for a couple of hours while the passengers disembarked. Then it was us. It was an absolute madhouse of people. We then had to go into the passport control. Our bags were "searched" - a man looked at them from the outside and occasionally he opened the bag. There is no alcohol allowed in the Sudan, so this was the idea behind the search. Then we waited for our passports to be returned to us by the staff, who had taken them with some of the forms we filled out on the boat. Then we filled out another form as well as a photography license, where we agreed to not take any pictures of poverty, bridges, boats, security areas, etc. etc. We all had to ask the question, How do you define poverty? I figure anyone with a garden or paint on their mudhut is not poor. Have a donkey? Definitely not poor. Camel - verging on rich. Wife? Super-well off.

Unfortunately for me, the trucks arrived right away. That meant that I was for sure going to miss one day of riding.
In Wadi Halfa we rode into a soccer field and witnessed the most astounding sunset. The sky was cloudy, so there was a beautiful mix of oranges and reds and pinks throughout the heavens. We were starved, but couldn't eat until we had fully appreciated the arrival gift that Sudan had given us. I went with James, the cook, and we got fried fish and falafel. The bread here is much better than in Egypt, but the falafels are nowhere near as good. But then, there is also a lot less hassle with bartering or tourist-like touting. I wish we westerners didn't bring out the worst in people.

I will write a second email with the rest of the days in Sudan so that you can have snippets, instead of just one big fat email all at once.

Love and Kisses!


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