Vacation Purgatory

Trip Start Nov 18, 2010
Trip End Dec 19, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  , Red Sea and Sinai,
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We woke up very early (2am) so we could catch our ferry boat to Jordan by 6am.  We found our driver waiting for us out at the street and left Sharm around 3am.  I had every intention to sleep for the next few hours while we made our way North to (what I thought would be) Nuweiba but I was mistaken.  I wasn't too worried about getting into a vehicle with a strange man, that didn't speak much english, in the middle of the night, to travel across the desert to a place I'd never been... until we were about thirty minutes outside Sharm and we were stopped at our first checkpoint.  The checkpoints are fairly common but this is the first time we had the police officer ask to open the vehicle and look inside.  At least I think he was a police officer, he was wearing a heavy sweater that covered any official emblems he might have been wearing.  After this I was more concerned about my situation, unneccessarily so but enough to prevent me from getting any sleep. There were a few more checkpoints but no more inspections and everything went smoothly... right past Nuweiba.  As it turns out we were taking a different ferry that would be leaving from the city of Taba a little further North.  In fact Taba is right on the border of Israel.  How do I know, you ask?  As it turns out our driver dropped us off about 50 meters from our destination and pointed to the building we needed to go to.  Apparently vehicles were not allowed to proceed past this point.  I went through customs and stepped out of the building to locate the ferry dock where our tickets would be waiting.  Except there was no ferry dock.  This was quickly confirmed by a police officer and the border patrol agent that had just stamped my passport to leave Egypt.  This was the way to Israel on foot,not the ferry to Jordan.  We scrambled, called our tour agent and she spoke with the border patrol.  We had our departure stamps cancelled and we caught a taxi as fast as we could back to where the ferry boat would be.  By this time it was getting close to 7am and our tour agent said some very encouraging words to our taxi driver because after getting off the phone with her he strapped on his seatbelt (unusual) and stomped on the gas so fiercly that he pushed himself back into the drivers seat.  At one point I saw the speedometer up over 150 Kilometers per hour.  We actually had a tanker truck swerving around a tractor and an old women walking on the other shoulder as we carrened down the road.  This was a little hair raising, the only thing missing was a bus full of orphans and a cart full of fruit to plow in to.  We narrowly missed the tanker, the old women narrowly escapes with her life and the cabbie gets back on the gas pedal.  We were so elated, we were still in time to catch the ferry!  In fact we had plenty of time since the ferry didn't really leave until well after seven.  Which we got to watch from the shore since they refused to let us on the boat.  There is still some question about who should have done what and what could have been done to help but there were several phone calls made from Eric's phone (at nearly $3 a minute) trying to get the border patrol and the ferry crew and our travel agent on the same page.  We were on the list to board but we were not permitted to board since we did not have a tour guide with us to sign off on our departure or ensure our return or something along these lines.  We were pretty furious and not getting a lot of information from anyone.  After the ferry left we were told that there would be one more in about five hours at one pm and our tour agent assured us we would have everything worked out by then and we would be in Jordan by that afternoon.  We were all fairly exhausted so we slept on the wooden benches by the dock for awhile.  Fortunately there was a small builing a few hundred yards away that had a fairly clean bathroom and a small cafe.  When one o'clock finally rolled around the plan was that a tour guide from another tour company would sign us through as members of his group and our tickets would be changed from the morning ferry to the afternoon ferry.  Unfortuantely something about this didn't sit well with the border patrol guard.  He refused to accept these changes, even the harbor manager was trying to help get us on the boat.  He had heard about the four of us waiting there since seven in the morning and was juggling two cell phones calling anyone he could and talking to the border patrol to see what the problem was but to no avail we were again refused and told that we could not leave Egypt.  Several more incredibly expensive calls to the tour agent and discussions with anyone that would talk to us later the ship had already sailed.  Literally and figuratively.  At this point we were (still) exhausted, infuriated and stuck in a city with no guide, no ride and nowhere to go.  Still talking to my tour guide, who was as upset at our situation as we were, she scrambled to get us a room at the Marriott nearby and we finally left the wooden benches we had become so accustomed to.  The Marriott was actually really nice and after a long day of hanging out in the hot sun and sitting/laying on dirty benches a five star hotel was a nice treat.   
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