Nile Felucca blues

There’s nothing like floating up the Nile to relax.

Back in Aswan after a side ‘excursion’, I joined a Felucca – a flat, triangular-sailed boat captained by an Arab crew of 3 and filled with an assortment of thirtyish backpackers on adult gap years. The boat’s accommodation consists of a single huge mattress shared by all, with bathroom and washing facilities of the behind-a-bush and over-the-side persuasion. Two full days down and dirty on the Nile, eating simple vegetarian meals on board and laughing in that instant-friends way you do on the backpack trail, where people become friends in minutes because they know they’ll never see each other again and making friends now just doesn’t involve much risk.

It’s been 72 hours of utter relaxation, detoxing (tomato stews and gritty Egyptian bread, with sweetened tea the strongest drink on board) sleeping under the stars gently swaying; I’ve even swum in the Nile, fighting against a 4km current and winning for a short distance before getting carried back downstream, laughing. Now in the touty tourist trap of Luxor, I’m feeling strangely annoyed with the world for chipping away intrusively at the inner peace I gained onboard Mohamed’s little boat.

It’ll pass. But I think I’ve found what I came here looking for. On that little felucca two important life realisations hardened into truths, big ones, and both require some concrete actions on my part to make them happen when I get back to London. It’s just that the answers weren’t in the place I thought they’d be.

(Answers like these usually come from the blood and fire of utter chaos, not the tranquility of a river. For me, anyway.)

The realisations? Let’s just say there’s a business plan I need to write, and a lady I need to talk to.

Over the border

Well, it took some arranging, but earlier this week I spent an adrenalin-packed 36 hours in… a country bordering Egypt, where a lot of young men take a lot of drugs and wave AK47s in your face. And the aid workers are nearly as bad. That’s all I’m going to write about that little episode, since it was one of the few times my wanderlust might have landed me in real trouble.

The Egyptian Way

Somehow I thought Egyptians would be the last people on earth who’d be punctual. I spent some time with my Cairo hotel manager booking the closest thing I’ve ever had to a ‘tour’ – a pile of Post-Its with the hotel names, departure times, and guide’s phone numbers that let me travel independently without the hassle of queueing at ticket windows. Yet despite this scrappy paper trail, there’s been the right person/ vehicle /event waiting for me at every stop, right on time, every time. All for something I paid in cash and have no receipts for. It’s great being a tourist in the low season.