Nile cruising - call of the donkey
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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Mystery and I had negotiated and eventually selected (after a very painful process of elimination) a large felucca (10 metres long) called the Kingston Town for the 140km trip, which would take two nights and three days to complete.
Joining us on board were a Chilean couple, a Columbian couple and a couple from Hungary and Brazil - making it a very international voyage indeed.
The sun was shining and the birds were singing as we headed out of Aswan. It was good to get the gear off and work on that tan again, despite the wind chill factor of the moving boat.
At the helm was Mohammed Ganga, a 37 year old who looked as though he was 50 due to the effects of Nile Valley weather and a bit too much reefer. Still, with almost 18 years sailing under the belt he is a good captain which is needed on a long river sail like this - mainly because of all the water traffic that has to be navigated. Dozens of fast, large cruising boats ply this stretch of the river and you don't want to tangle with one as he steams by. He's also a great vegetarian cook, so whilst the food was basic it was always eagerly anticipated.
Scenery along the river is pretty diverse. Plenty of palms and sand dunes as you'd expect, as well as acres of papyrus blowing gently in the breeze. Almost as common in your pit-stops is a spikey little bastard of plant that looks all warm and fuzzy on the outside but sports two inch spines on the branches. Don't go to the bathroom behind one!
The fishermen are great to watch too as you make you way downstream. Differing techniques involve the conventional net and hope (above left), to the net and bash (beat the water with a big stick and force fish into the net - above centre) and the row and smoke (pack up your net and smoke a sheesha pipe whilst going home - above right). None seemed to be any more effective - we didn't see a fish caught once.
It's all pretty basic on board so apart so daily life was just tacking and jibing, chilling out and watching the passing traffic. As you'd expect from the world's mightiest river there is always something happening as you glide by, so you have to keep an eye out whilst you're busy laying about.
Nights are pretty special out here. Park the boat on an uninhabited beach and all you really hear is the local wildlife, including the honking calls of the donkeys nearby (you hear these all the way down-river and it's pretty amusing every time you hear it). We had clear skies and a full moon both nights which only added to the effect. Sometimes I really dig my timing.
Late afternoon on the second day we stopped at Kom Ombo, a small riverside town with a worthy little temple to check out. Dedicated to Sobek and Haroeris (crocodile and falcon gods respectively) it stands on a bend in the river that the local crocodiles used to sun themselves in ancient times. It has some nice ruins and some really impressive carvings, including many Cleopatra offering scenes like the one above (I reckon she's handing over a beer and an ice-cream).
To wind it up, if you're interested in doing this trip with Cap'n Ganga you can meet him at the Mona Lisa restaurant on Aswan's Corniche (waterfront boulevard). Has speaks passable English (unlike most other captains) and provides all meals and miscellaneous products as required ;-)
Until next time.
Next entry -> good old Edfu
This entry brought to you by the thousand and one donkeys we met and heard on the River Nile. Honk.