24.08.2011 - 31.08.2011 35 °C
From Luxor, the plan was to head out into the Eastern Desert and follow the Red Sea coast, bush camp before we got to Cairo, and roll into the city the following morning.
However, all was not well. After a few hours, there was a loud, metallic grinding sound so Grant pulled over to see what was wrong. After jacking up one of the back wheels and taking it off, we discovered that the bearings had got so hot they'd melted into the walls of the casing. This made the truck totally undrivable. Grant built this truck himself so, if anything is fixable, he can fix it.
Using ice from the eskies to cool it down.
The bearings just wouldn't come off. No matter how hard we bashed, chiselled and levered it, the damn thing wouldn't budge. Grant has half a workshop full of tools in the truck, and usually improvises and makes do with what he has, but the one tool he desperately needed was very specialised and would have been difficult to find in a small town, let alone in the middle of the Eastern Desert. With no foreseeable way of getting the truck - and us - to Cairo, Andi started making phone calls enquiring about buses and trains to take us the last leg. This would've been such a shame - the truck had made it 40,000 kilometres, from London to Egypt, via Cape Town, just to fail a few hundred kms from Cairo. Everyone was a little downhearted at the thought of not rolling into Cairo on the truck, as well as the final bush camp we would have missed.
So, not a great situation. You can imagine then the lack of belief when we saw a pickup driving past with the exact tool we needed lying in the back. Total coincidence; nobody had known where to get this part from and, after everyone had given up hope, some guy shows up who just happened to have one in his truck.
Grant, utterly amazed, got the guy to lend us the tool and they set about trying to remove the bearing hub.
Finally, it was off. Hooray!
In no time, new bearings were put in and the wheel reassembled. The chances of what happened must have been one in a million. The man with the tool, as well as a bunch of other locals who'd gathered to help, wouldn't accept any money and seemed genuinely happy to have been able to help get us underway again.
Great to get going again.
Final bush camp, in an empty quarry.
Oil rigs in the Red Sea.
Most people noticed this AFTER they'd been down there to pee...
Motorway tool booth on the edge of Cairo.
As we got closer to the centre of the city, the traffic became gridlocked and there was a thick cloud of black smoke rising from the road up ahead.
Those of us on the roof of the truck had a good view of what was going on. A car had turned over, burst into flames and was blocking a couple of lanes. Cars around us were turning and driving the wrong way back up the highway...
After passing the burning wreck, the road cleared up and we were on our way to the workshop. Here, we would say goodbye to the truck.
Crossing the Nile.
First view of the Pyramids.
At the workshop, we got everything off the truck and onto a bus which took us to our hotel, in the Mohandessin district of Giza, on the west side of the city. Because Andi and Grant are driving the truck back to the UK, most of us Brits left sacks of stuff in the truck to collect at the reunion BBQ. There's no way all of my stuff would have fitted in my rucksack for the flight home!
Mohandessin is an attractive part of Cairo, with wide streets, green areas, lots of modern shops and endless places to eat great Middle Eastern food.
That evening, we had a group farewell dinner.
In the morning, we had our last group activity - visiting the Egyptian Museum and the Giza Pyramids.
Cameras are not allowed into the museum, so unfortunately no photos. The place was incredible, though - huge, and crammed full of artefacts, carvings and treasures. So much is almost perfectly preserved; mind boggling, considering how many thousands of years old everything is. They even had a room of mummified animals, including an enormous crocodile, cats, snakes, birds and a Pharaoh's dog, which looked just like a stuffed animal you'd see today.
After the museum, we went to the Pyramids.
Usually, the place is swarming with tourists, however, due to the summer heat making it low season, and the current political unrest scaring people off, we had the place almost to ourselves. Perfect time to visit really.
There was the odd tout, but nowhere near as bad as I'd been expecting.
The Pyramids are just on the edge of the city, so one way you see the urban sprawl, and the other way, endless desert.
The Great Sphinx; carved over 3500 years ago, with a lion's body and a human's head.
Lee, showing his appreciation.
That was it - the trip finished! In the following few days, everyone gradually filtered out and slipped away. Predictably, there were many emotional goodbyes, and promises to meet up again in the future. We'd all only known each other for a few months, but being together constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sharing the great times and all the hardships, meant that we'd all bonded and become incredibly close. It really accelerated the rate we'd got to know each other and, by the end, we all felt like lifelong friends. I have no doubt I'll stay in touch with most people for a long time.
I thought I'd make the most of my last few days in Cairo and went out exploring the city.
Large market - so many things to see, touch, hear and smell.
Mosque, in the market area.
Tahrir Square, the heart of the January revolution which deposed the dictator Hosni Mubarak.
This is what it looked like then (Google):
Jono, me and a jolly taxi driver.
Dan had plotted his African travels on these large Michelin road maps; Cape to Cairo (my trip), his West African trip the year before, and various other trips. I'm thinking of doing the same thing - makes a nice display.
This was our 17,000km route, from the south of Africa to the north.
Michael, who did the whole Trans Africa trip (London - Cape Town - Cairo) calculated on his iPad the exact distance they'd travelled:
Before I knew it, it was time to go home (via Abu Dhabi - a geographic nonsense!).
First glimpse of England, after 8 months of being away.
Parents seemed quite pleased to see me.
I was sad to be leaving Africa and ending an superlatively incredible adventure, but at the same time ready to come home and begin the next phase of my life. I'll definitely come back to Africa, as well as many of the other places I visited, but, in the mean time I've got to finish my formal education and start earning money. I've well and truly got the travel bug, and look forward to the next time I can go away again!