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Captivi in Purgatoriul calatorilor/ Trapped In Travel Purgatory

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Su Shi

167 vizualizări

Egypt, Aswan 11 - 17/07/2012

Ziua 398 din calatorie. Ajungeam in fata ‘Gaurii de sosire’ (sic!) in Egipt, dar cu mai bine de doua milenii intarziere. Egiptul antic era demult istorie, lasand mostenire civilizatiilor urmatoare comori nepretuite si mistere inca nedescifrate, de pe urma carora intreprinzatorii invadatori din sec. al VII-lea inca profita la maxim.
 
Day 398 of our journey. We were finally in front of the ‘Arrival Hole’ (sic!) to Egypt, but more than 2 millennia late. The ancient egyptians had long disappeared, leaving behind a lot for the rest of humanity to wonder at, and for their 7th century invaders to profit from. 

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Dupa mai mult de 24 de ore in pantecul celui mai infiorator bac din intreaga Africa, eram la capatul puterilor. Ne-am tarat afara, impreuna cu ceilalti 500 de prizonieri, murdari, incercanati, mirosind de parca am fi ranit in canal toata noaptea. Cam asa se desfasurase actiunea pe vapor:
Mai intai norocosii care isi rezervasera cu saptamani inainte cabine la clasa I si-au ocupat locul in lantul trofic. Restul cetatenilor ne-am calcat in picioare fara scrupule pentru un centimetru patrat de punte, hol sau bancheta la clasa a II-a. Prin hublou, am privit cu jale inspre Yamaha noastra ramasa in port.

In cateva minute toaletele au inceput sa puta insuportabil. Nici macar nu parasisem portul. Habar nu aveam ca acea calatorie de cosmar era doar prologul celei mai neplacute experiente in Africa. Una dintre intrebarile care se tot repeta atunci cand oamenii afla ce facem este: ‘Ati avut un moment dificil pe care l-ati regretat?’ Ei bine, a trebuit sa parcurgem continetul roata ca sa traim un astfel de moment, culmea, in tara cea mai ne-africana dintre toate.
In primul rand ne-au fost confiscate pasapoartele, si aruncate la gramada intr-o cutie de carton. Daca te intrebi cum aveau de gand sa le mai pescuiasca din 500 si ceva de pasapoarte, afla ca noi, Carola si Joe eram singurii straini la bord. Ne vom recupera actele abia la sosirea in Egipt. Minunat. Iti amintesti ca era cald, peste 50 de grade Celsius de cald. Pe bac asta obliga sa te muti constant, in functie de momentul din zi. In dute-vino-ul intre punte si clasa a II-a, asistam la cele mai diverse scene de viata: mame alaptandu-si sugarii peste care cineva neatent mai varsa cate o tava cu supa (daca nu cumva Ana a fost singura culpabila), tati educandu-si progeniturile cu scatoalce, barbati usurandu-se, femei barfind, calatori imbrancind-se pentru a servi cina inclusa in bilet, apoi scuipand coji de seminte si alune unde aveau sa puna capul noaptea. Paleta de mirosuri si imagini e greu de descris in cuvinte. Dar cel mai greu de tolerat a fost zgomotul constant. Cat am fost pe acest bac, s-a vorbit, sau mai bine spus, s-a strigat non-stop. In primele ore eram prea excitati si ne era prea cald ca sa atipim, dar la un moment dat am cedat, si am plecat in cautarea unui loc mai calm, in care sa nu fim in centrul atentiei. Barbatii se falu de o parte a navei, femeile si copii de cealalta, iar noi cu ele. Evident, era mai mare galagia la femei. Dar macar erau toate frumoase foc, si le-am admirat elboratele tatuaje henna la un pahar de ceai.

Intre timp, in holul central, in usa de la baie, doua femei insirasera o bacanie de nimicuri, parfumuri si mancare. Am urcat pe punte, unde 150 de barbati isi faceau rugaciunea de seara. Eram impresionati, dar tot nu aveam unde sa dormim. Noaptea ne-a gasit sfadindu-ne cu echipajul, care se amuza mutandu-ne dintr-o parte intr-alta. In jurul nostru toata lumea motaia care pe unde, fara ca nimeni sa ii deranjeze. Dupa multe rugaminti, am fost lasati sa ne intindem saltelele intr-un colt. Vantul batea cam tare, asa ca ne-am infasurat bine capul in esarfe si ne-am indesat hartie igienica in urechi. Nu era chiar liniste, dar era OK. Nu-mi pot imagina ce si-au povestit toata noaptea cei doi barbati de langa noi. Poate intreaga viata, sau trilogia ‘Stapanul inelelor’.
Dimineata Joe si-a intins oasele. Din octombrie 2011 calatorise prin America latina, apoi in Africa. In Cape Town intalnise o tovarasa de drum in Carola, originara din Berlin. Oricata placere ne facea compania sudanezilor, eram, toti patru, prizonieri in acelasi purgatoriu, complotand cum sa evadam. Ne aflam de multa vreme pe drum, si aveam multe de povestiti si impartasit. Am fost ultimii, desigur, care si-au recuperat actele. Miza pentru aceasta tara ultra turistica nu pune probleme: 15 dolari, direct la frontiera. Vestile bune din Egipt se opresc insa aici. Pentru ca daca vrei sa intri cu vehiculul personal pe teritoriul sacru al faraonilor, ai de indurat toate supliciile prin care a tercut umanitatea de cand s-au construit piramidele. Ne-a luat cateva zile sa ne convingem ca nu vom scoate niciodata motocicleta din portul Assuan fara Carnet de Passage. Cum, din motive bine intemeiate, nu aveam asa ceva, eram obligati sa cumparam un carnet de la clubul saudit. Nici macar nu ma pot gandi la costurile respective fara sa imi plesneasca o vena. Cand mafia egipteana va fi incheiat cu noi, vom fi mai ‘desculti’ ca un nou-nascut.
Cei care intra in Egipt cu propriul CpD nu au de ce sa apeleze la fixerii care nu fac nimic din ce nu poti face singur. Dupa un ping-pong de telefoane in Cairo, Hurghada, Assuan si Wadi halfa insa, am fost nevoiti sa ne declaram infranti. Mai intai clubul ne oferise un carnet valid 72 de ore, suficient cat sa tranzitam tara, dar cum a intrat mafia pe fir, carnetul nu a mai fost ‘disponibil’, pentru ca, evident, nu ar fi adus suficient profit. Pentru ca banul e noua religie a vechiului Egipt.

After more than 24 hours in the gut of the most horrific mess of a ferry in the entire Africa, we were at our wits end. We crawled out, together with our 500 fellow inmates, dirty, puffy eyes, smelling as if we had spent the night in the sewer. Here’s how the ferry crossing had played out:
First the lucky few who had booked first class cabins weeks ago claimed their place on top of the food chain. The rest of our sorry asses would kill each other to squat on every inch available on the upper deck, on hallways and under deck. We gazed at our Yamaha through the window.

Within minutes, toilets started to reek, so breathing become difficult in the seedy underbelly of the ship. But we haven’t even left the port yet. We were unaware that this trip was the prologue of our worst experience in the entire Africa.
First, our passports were confiscated by the crew. They would return them to us when we would arrive on the other side. The passports were chucked along 500 others in a cardboard box, so you might think it would have been tricky to fish them out again. But we were only four foreigners on this ship, us two, plus Carola and Joe. Remember that daytime temperatures have been hovering around 50 Celsius. On the ferry that required constant relocation. Moving from under deck to the upper deck, we could witness life unfolding: mothers breastfeeding babies people would accidentally spill soup on (actually at least Ana did), fathers rearing their progenitors with a good beating, men peeing, women gossiping, people fighting for the one meal included in the ticket, then snacking on nuts and seeds they would later sleep on. The smells and sites are difficult to describe. But the worse of all was the constant noise. For the over 24 hours we were on board of this mess, people did not stop talking, or to be accurate, shouting. First we were too excited and hot to sleep, but finally we had to concede we were too exhausted to sit on the benches and keep being the center of attention. Men were on one side of the ship, we were on the other, with women and kids. Arguably, it was noisier in the women compartment. But they were also kind and beautiful, so we could admire their exquisite henna tattoos while sipping on tea.

In the meantime, in the central hallway, on the WC doorstep, two women had laid out a veritable boutique, selling anything from trinkets, scented oils, incense, and food. We went on the upper deck, where 150 men were praying. We were impressed, but we will had no place to sleep on. Nighttime found us in an intense debate with the crew, who kept changing their mind about where we were allowed to squat. Around us people laid on top of each other and our bags, without being bothered. Finally, after a lot of begging, it was agreed that we can lay our mattresses on the deck. It was so windy that we had to wrap scarves around our heads and stuff our ears with TP. It was not quiet, but it was fine. I cannot imagine what the two men who keep chatting all night by our side had to share. Maybe their lifetime story, or an entire movie trilogy.
In the morning Joe tried to unfold back into normality. He has been backpacking since last October from San Francisco across Latin America. In Cape Town he had found a companion in Carola, a Berlin native. As much we we enjoyed the company of the Sudanese, the four of us felt trapped in the same purgatory, united in misery, like inmates in a prison, plotting an escape. Long time travelers, we had a lot of experiences and opinions to share. We were the last onboard to receive our passports. Visas are not a problem for this super touristic country: 15 bucks at any port of entry. The good news about Egypt stop there. Because to bring their vehicle into the holy land of the pharaohs, one must endure all the trauma of humanity since the time of the pyramids. It would take us a couple of days to be convinced that we would never be allowed to take our bike out of there without a Carnet de Passage. As we didn’t carry one, for very valid reasons, the Saudi Club would issue one for us. I cannot even think about the costs we had to negotiate without popping a vein. When egyptian mafia will be through with us, we’ll be as broke as a newborn baby.
Those who travel with their own Carnet can easily avoid the utterly useless Aswan fixers. They do nothing you cannot do yourself. After a ping-pong of phone calls to Cairo, Hurghada, Aswan and Sudan, we had to concede the fight was over. After telling us about the 72 hours transit Carnet, the club people changed their mind, and refused to issue it. It simply wasn’t profitable enough for them. Because, my friend, that’s what Egypt is all about. Money.


‘Imi plac banii tai’/ ‘I Love your Money”

Deci, aveam fixer. Mai intai i-am cerut sa ne duca in oras. De pe terasa hotelului nostru aveam vedere catre suuk, Nil si Insula Elefantina

So fixer for us it was. First he drove us four to town. From the rooftop of our hotel we had a superb view over the Nile and the Elephantine Island.

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In camera am remarcat modernizarea islamului

In the room we noticed how modern islam has become

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Noaptea, piata din Assuan s-a trezit la viata

At night the suuk of Aswan started buzzing.

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In urmatoarele 48 de ore am trait momente mai jenante si mai neplacute decat in Africa, iar in cazul lui Joe, chiar si decat in America de Sud. Singurul eveniment pozitiv al acelor zile a fost ca, asa cum se vede, camera a reinceput sa functioneze. Ne prefacusem zile in sir ca uitasem de drama cu electronicele, dar de cand sosisem in Assuan ne-am tot zgaltait si butonat colectia de aparate stricate. Inarmati cu un aparat foto functional, eram gata sa inregistram toate banalitatile. Ca mersul la cumparaturi:

During the next 48 hours we would experience more embarrassing and unpleasant moments than all of us had had in the rest of Africa and, in Joe’s situation, the Americas. The only remarkably positive event of those days was that, as you can see, our camera came back to life. After pretending for days that the gizmo dramas was behind us, since arriving in Aswan he had been jerking and trying to turn on and off our ever growing collection of damaged goods. Armed with a working camera, we were ready to record whatever Egypt wanted to throw at us. Like shopping for groceries.

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A fost un chin insa, sa indeplinim chiar si cele mai simple operatiuni, cum ar fi cumpararea unei paini, sau a unui pahar de ceai. Nevoiti sa negociem preturi umflate de pana la 10 ori, sa suportam pipait obscen (desi fetele aveau esarfe pe cap), hartuiala si chiar imbrancituri, pentru intaia ora ne era greu sa profitam de calatorie. ‘Imi plac banii tai’ este chiar ce i s-a spus Carolei, altii incercand cu fraze la fel de reusite ca: ‘Hai sa te ajut sa-ti cheltuiesti banii’, ‘Stii cat costa?’, ‘Ce vrei?’, ‘Nu te hartuiesc’ (spus in timp ce eram apucat cu fermitate de brat), sau pur si simplu ‘Bani’. Sa nu ma intelegi gresit, suntem aceeasi oameni care au petrecut luni de zile in Nigeria si RDC, tari notorii ca fiind dificile, si vom continua sa sustinem ca sunt mai curand gersit intelese. Aici e vorba de dovezi intamplatoare, marunte de umanitate. Egiptenii antici trebuie sa fi fost oameni de isprava, si natiunea atat de diferita care i-a mostenit nu e rea. Dar in sanul ei sunt o gramada de ‘ticalosi, cum ne avertizase James cu multe luni in urma. Si oamenii astia nu fac deloc cinste legendarei ospitalitati musulmane. Dupa atat de prietenosul Sudan, asta sare si mai tare in ochi. Sa luam de pilda ‘afacerea ceaiului: toti barbatii egipteni, de la mic la mare, de la sarac la bogat, o ard cat e ziua de lunga si pana tarziu in noapte la ceai si narghilea, fie in cafenelele destinate exclusiv lor, fie la locul de munca. Ceaiul, care in Turcia e un simbol gratuit al ospitalitatii, e intr-adevar bun. Dar egiptenii nu aveau de gand sa isi imparta ceaiul cu noi, decat daca am fi acceptat sa platim cat pentru whisky. Incet incet am invatat care sunt preturile corecte, si am inceput sa gustam din preparatele locale. Care nu ne-au dat pe spate, date fiind istoria milenara si pozitia geo-stategica exceptionala. Am testat kebab si porumbel umplut cu pilaf, dar numele bate gustul. Salatele nu erau niciodata proaspete, tahini banal. Fuul si ta’amyia (falafel din fasole fava) sunt feluri excelente, ca si pizzele lui Sayid, placintele de carne si koshere, fast-food-ul tarditional egiptean (orez, paste si taitei amestecate cu linte, naut si sos de rosii).

We struggled to perform the simplest tasks like buying bread, or tea. Quoted up to a whopping 10 times the normal price, groped (even if the girls were wearing scarves), hassled and even pushed, for the first time in our journey we had a hard time enjoying it. “I love your money’ is what someone literally told Carola, after lots others worked on their own catch phrases like: ‘I can help you spend your money’, ‘You know how much?’, ‘What do you want’, ‘No hassle’ (performed while firmly grabbing your arm), or just ‘Money’. Don’t get me wrong, we are the same people who spent months in Nigeria and DRC, both notorius for not being the easiest countries, and we will continue to advocate that they’ve been both misunderstood. We are talking random, unprovoked act of humanity here. Ancient egyptians must have been quite cool, and the nation that inherited their civilization is not that bad. But there are a lot of ‘bastards’ out there, as James had warned us months ago, and they do no favors for the legendary muslim hospitality. After the wonderful Sudan, this is even more striking. Let’s take the so called ‘teagate’: every man in Egypt, from poor to rich, from shop owner to garbage boy, can be seen at any time of the day constantly sipping tea, either in the men-only ahwas, or in their workplace. The tea, which for example in Turkey is a free token of hospitality, is good indeed. But Egyptians would not share this tea with us, unless we paid for it the price of aged whisky. Slowly we learnt how to avoid being ripped off, so we could sample some local food. Which is less than great, given all the history and favorable geography. Sure, there are kebabs and pigeons stuffed with pilaf, but they sound better than they taste. Salads were never fresh, tahini was bland. The fuul and ta’amyia (lava falafel) are excellent though, so are Sayid’s hand-tossed pizzas, the meat pies and the traditional fast-food, kushere, a mix of carbs (rice, pasta, noodles), with tomato sauce, lentils and chickpeas.

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Tin sa amintesc ca in vremea asta Yamaha noastra inca nu parasise teritoriul sudanez. Dupa ce am epuizat toate variantele de a ne rezolva singuri actele, nemaiavand nimic altceva mai bun de facut, am hotarat sa ne alaturam Carolei si lui Joe intr-o drum pana la Abu Simbel. In 1902 englezii inaltasera un prim baraj pe Nil, dar abia 60 de ani mai tarziu s-a demarat constructia Marelui Baraj de la Assuan. Urmarile inca nu au fost bine intelese. Barajul asigura apa pentru irigarea multor ferme, si electricitate pentru 15% din gospodariile egiptene, dar saraceste solul privat de sedimente naturale si afecteaza specii endemice. Sun lacul Nasser zac, pierdute pentru totdeauna, comori inestimabile ale Egiptului antic, si stravechea Nubie.
Remarcabilul complex de temple Abu Simbel a fost insa salvat de la dezastru in cadrul unei spectaculoase operatiuni internationale. Templul lui Ramses II si cel secundar au fost decupate in blocuri, si re-asamblate ca un puzzle gigant, 100 de metri inapoi, si 200 de metri mai sus, anexate unor dealuri artificiale.

Mind you, while going through all this, our Yamaha had not yet left the Sudanese soil. After exhausting all means of sorting our papers alone, with nothing else better to do, we decided to join Carola and Joe on a trip to Abu Simbel. In 1902 the british built a first dam on the Nile. It proved not good enough, so 6 decades later work started for a second High Dam. The consequences of it are yet to be understood. Sure, it provides water to irrigate innumerable farms and electricity for 15% of egyptian households. But is also impoverishes the soil by depriving it of natural sediments, it disturbs endemic wildlife. Many treasures of the ancient world, along with the entire Nubia, have vanished under Lake Nasser.
The remarkable temple complex of Abu Simbel was saved in a unique international operation. The temple of Ramses II and the smaller secondary temple were cut, then reassembled like a giant puzzle, 100 m back, and 200 m higher, against artificial hills.

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Dupa ce ne-am scuturat de sutele de vanzatori ambulanti de kitsch pentru turisti, ne aflam, muti de admiratie si uimire, in fata colosilor de 20 de metri care marcheaza intrarea in templul principal.

After brushing off hundreds of desperate vendors loaded with tourist junk, we arrived dumbfounded and speechless, in front of the four 20 m high colossi that mark the entrace to the main temple.

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Fatada sta marturie orgoliului suprem al unui faraon aparte. La picioarele lui, statuile mamei si sotiei preferate, Nefertari.

The unique facade speaks of a pharaoh with an ego like no other. By his feet, statues of his mother and favorite wife, Nefertari.

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Interiorul templului este decorat cu basoreliefuri in care faraonul apare in scene formale, alaturi de zei si de fortele infrante ale raului. Nu este permis sa faci poze, probabil pentru a proteja comertul cu vederi tiparite in China.

The interior of the temple is exquisitely decorated with bas-reliefs depicting highly formal, ritual scenes of the pharaoh in the company of the gods and the forces of darkness defeated. It is not allowed to take photos, arguably so that the postcards printed in China and on sale at the ubiquitous hasslers can still have a market.

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Este evident ca odate mutate de pe locul sacru, templele si-au pierdut din monumentalitate si din efectul ezoteric. Imagineaza-ti ca au fost sapate direct in munte, in asa fel incat soarele sa patrunda in altar intr-o anume zi din an (conform ipotezelor, aceasta era ziua de nastere a faraonului). Azi templele sunt doua movile tronand deasupra unui peisaj artificial. Ne-am intrebat: oare ce au simtit exploratorii care le-au descoperit in 1813, cand dunele aproape urcasera pana la genunchii colosilor? Trebuie sa fi fost impresionati, pentru ca unii dintre ei nu au ezitat sa-si scrijeleasca pentru eternitate numele in piatra. Dupa vizita de exceptie, ne-am lasat manati in convoiul de 7 microbuze, un sistem ridicol pentru transportul turistilor de-a lungul tarii, care ramane sa fie exploatat de catre mult prea lenesii teroristi.

Evidently, moving the temples has forever altered their monumental and esoteric effect. Imagine that they had been carved into a mountain, so that the sun would penetrate inside only on a certain day of the year (hypothetically the pharaoh birthday). Nowadays they sit isolated on top of an artificial landscape. We kept wondering what it must have been like to discover these ancient buildings back in 1813, when the dunes had reached the knees of the colossi. The adventurers who found them must have been quite impressed, as they felt appropriate to mark their names in stone. After the amazing visit to Abu Simbel we were hurdled back into the 7 vehicle convoy, a ridiculous system to move rich foreigners around the country, that his yet to be exploited by the lazy terrorists.



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