Fri, 27 Jun 2008 16:39:49 +0000
Jerusalem Day 6 Index Eilat to Cairo
And again, this really should have been "Cairo Day 1". But things don't seem to be running to plan right now.
I did have a lazy morning, encouraged by a large breakfast at the hostel. I went to the post office to pay my Israeli border tax, and then I took the bus to the border. The Israeli border guards seemed pretty surprised that I had paid my border tax at the post office instead of doing it at the border, but they accepted my receipt eventually. You get 4 shekels off the price doing it this way, and 4 shekels is 4 shekels.
But on the Egyptian side, they wanted me to have a visa. It's a complicated border: you can get over into Sinai without needing a visa, but to go onwards to Cairo you do need one. I knew this, but I thought that they would sell visas at the border like any normal country. No. You have to go to the Egyptian embassy in Eilat. So I had no option but to turn around and go back into Eilat. There was no way I'd be able to catch my bus after all that, so I was doomed to spend an extra day in Eilat. That's a pity: I only have two or three days in Cairo, maybe a couple of days in Alexandria and Luxor. And extra day would be nice. But then, my worst case scenario had me staying in Taba on the Egyptian border anyway, if I couldn't get the bus. Hopefully I won't have to do that.
So the first step was to get back into Israel: despite the fact that I'd already been stamped out. I've always wondered how that would work, if you got turned back into no-man's land. In the end it wasn't too bad, they just stamped me in again. Except that I still have a Syrian visa in my passport, so I was subjected to the customary half-hour wait while they cleared it with, presumably, the Mossad. I took a seat on a bench next to a Guatemalan and a Japanese travelling together who had the exact same problem. The Guatemalan said that last time this happened he had to wait four hours. It was only half an hour this time. The Guatemalan had been travelling for a couple of years already. I'm starting to meet some much more intrepid people than I did in anywhere else in my travels. The Middle East must put off the "summer holiday" crowd.
I eventually got my passport back and went to wait for the bus. While I was there I thought I'd take some photos to record the moment. Bad idea. A guard with an M16 walked up and qasked me to show him what I was doing. Could haved been a confiscation moment. But he seemed happy that I was only photographing the scenery, and he let me go. Of course I know it pisses off officialdom to be photographed, but really at this distance I'm surprised he even noticed.
I re-checked into the hostel. Unfortunately, unlike the previous two times I've stayed in that hostel, I didn't get a room to myself this time. Oh well, it is a hostel. The woman at the counter directed me to the Egyptian embassy, a fifteen minute walk in the hot sun. And I had to hurry, since it closed at 3:30. Luckily it was easy to find, and the people there were astonishingly helpful. They normally require a passport photo, and my photos were in my bag that I lost. But they said it was OK to just photocopy my passport. A huge relief: I would have had to run to the centre of Eilat to find somewhere to get photos. I'll have to remember to pick up some at some point, because lots of borders require them.
But with my Egyptian visa all present and correct, there was nothing to do but laze around in the evening. I got to chatting with one of the guys I'm sharing with, Stefan - chatting in German, at least partly. It's been a while since I've spoken German, and it really exposed how that skill has atrophied over the last couple of months.
I went back to the Underground Pub for dinner, since they did such a stellar job yesterday. I got a chicken burger, which was pretty good for a burger, but I don't really like burgers much. I could really so with some fish and chips, but they don't do that at the Underground Pub. So maybe they're not as authentically British as all that. They have a poster for Staropramen behind the bar, but they don't have it on tap. For some reason I ordered Stella as a substitute. Silly, when they have perfectly good Kilkenny for the same price. Oh well.
So tomorrow I will try to be slightly earlier, to guard against further accidents, and see if I really can make it to Cairo.
Jerusalem Day 6 Index Eilat to Cairo