A ride to remember
My 24th birthday started like any other day, I woke up disorientated and wondering what city or country I was in, that’s right I’m in Cairo, Egypt. Ticking off another foreign country for my birthday and spending the day visiting Saqqara. Which is the oldest stone structure in the world, one of the first versions of the pyramids, pretty darn impressive if you ask me. Definitely a day that tops all other days by far, the evening would be spent taking an overnight coach ride to Aswan.
We were going to be driving roughly 1000kms over the course of about 13hrs. I can’t say I was jumping up and down with excitement at the thought of this overnight coach but I was told that because of the high number of our group (19 passengers) we would be getting a big (normal to me) sized coach that seats around 50 people. This mean we could lounge across at least two seats each, luscious. How do I explain the luxuriousness of this coach to you, each seat cushion felt as if it had been stuffed by plastic and rocks, releasing a thick cloud of dust every time you moved, jealous? After a couple of hours on the road already we stopped at a Carrefour supermarket. Some friends and I stocked up on the essentials for the drive; fruits, water, chocolate, pizza and the best purchase was a pillow, valued at very reasonable price of around €2.
Ready to get cracking on our overnight coach ride we had set sail at about 5pm and by 8pm we were really getting into the swing of things with the group, playing lots of games. The group was mingling quite well for day two of a trip and so far I had decided this had been the best birthday yet. After a couple of hours of chats I decided it was time to curl up into a ball and hopefully fall asleep only to wake up once in Aswan, wishful thinking. I woke up at 1am because I had noticed that the movement of the coach had come to a, well it had come to a standstill. Thinking this was a bathroom break I was actually quite happy as I wouldn’t have minded jumping out quickly. However when I woke and looked to see where we were, I noticed that there was nothing around us. There was no service station, there were no lights and our driver and guide were both off the coach and there was quite a bit of banging noises coming from the back of the coach.
After a short while everyone seemed to start waking up and finally our guide came back on the coach to get something, we quickly hit him up. We’d asked him politely what was going on, when he didn’t respond we asked him again whether or not the coach had broken down. “Mm a little bit” he responded, awesome, we all thought. As time went on and the clanging kept on going at the back of the coach, two vehicles which almost looked like police or some sort of security vehicles showed up. Both of them parked in front and behind the coach with their hazards on to. By this stage myself and another girl desperately needed a bathroom and decided we would venture out into the darkness and maybe find a hill of some sort to hide behind. As we started to walk away from the coach several men we didn’t know started yelling at us, asking where we were going. After about the fifth time of someone asking we both just consecutively yelled out “we’re going to piss!” in the most ladylike way possible, then proceeded to keep walking as far as we could. We were so concerned that somehow the coach would magically start working and they would leave without us that we practically bolted the entire way back to the coach.
Little did we know that it would be at least three hours from the time we pulled up in the side of the road to the time we would eventually make a move again. Our guide advised us that he had basically phoned a friend, and that two small mini vans were on their way to get us because the coach was not fixable. So we all casually went back to sleep until we heard a bit of commotion happening outside, we woke up to people holding guns and yelling at each other over goodness knows what. If we weren’t a little bit worried before this moment, we sure as heck were afterwards.
Finally the vans showed up and we piled into them, I went in a van with 6 of my girlfriends, our guide and a driver. Thus began the longest most painful ride of our lives. The drive through the night wasn’t too bad as we were so delirious and tired that we managed to just fall asleep, I was snuggled up against my friend next to me. It just felt like I was on a really bumpy rollercoaster that you would ride at those yearly fairs in my old home town, the ones where you’re not sure if they passed their safety checks. However when the sun started to rise after sometime around 4.30am that’s when it all really started to plummet and turn all of us girls into the less better versions of ourselves.
We had been driving for at least 5 hours without a bathroom break and I was getting desperate, hot and bothered. Our van did not have any air conditioning and the sun was beating down hard, the spot that I was positioned at in the van was right over the engine so it was hot. So hot that my feet started to feel as though they were burning, little did I know at the time that my bag of snacks that was full of chocolates and fruit (the necessities) that was sitting on the floor as well, probably the biggest devastation out of it all.
I think it was an almost unanimous chorus of us girls screaming with tears and hysterical, borderline psychotic laughter that finally made the driver pull over. We all jumped out of the van as if it were on fire, mind you it bloody well felt like it. It was just refreshing to finally stretch our legs and have a breeze cool our bodies down. I think the drivers/guides noticed our slightly displeased faces and they came out of the service station with ice cold soft drinks. Now I know this was their way of bribing us or trying to please us, but I enjoyed that cool drink so much. You know when you take the first sip and you can practically feel it go from your mouth, all the way down your throat and soothing your soul? Well that’s how it felt to all of us.
The rest of the journey was only a few more hours away and we had already toughened it out this much so it went by quite quickly. I can’t imagine the hotel staffs’ thoughts when 19 hot, sweaty and emotional young travellers came barging through their reception around midday. Thankfully they greeted us with more cool beverages and checked us in as quickly and efficiently as humanly possible. Overall, the ride was probably not my favourite ride in the world.
But it all really depends on which way you look at it, do you see your glass as being half full or half empty. Well to me it doesn’t matter how I see it, half full/empty, either way it means there is room for more. I took so much away from that holiday away, it included so many amazing sights, all throughout Egypt, Israel and Jordan. I met incredible locals, tried new foods and go to see some of the wonder of the world and I did it all with some lifelong friends. So no matter what hurdles you face, whether in be in everyday life or whilst travelling, if it makes a good story then I think you’re doing alright.