Monday, May 19, 2014

Felucca Boat on the Nile

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We departed Aswan by boat—we’d spend the rest of the day, and that night on a local felucca boat, piloted by the handsome Nubian man above.  The felucca is the traditional boat for Nile transport.  It uses a lateen sail, which is triangular, and the main spar pivots on the mast, which allows it to navigate under bridges when needed, while giving it a very tall sail the rest of the time.  Below, you can see several feluccas moored, with their sails tied up, but the hinged spar is easier to see.

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This is the actual boat we were on; the sun screen was wonderful, and kept us all in shade except in the very late afternoon.  The deck was covered in soft padding, and after our luggage was stowed, there was plenty of room for us to spread out on.

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You may be thinking “I don’t see a bathroom, and you’re spending all day and all night there?”  Once again, we were very happy with how G Adventures rolls, as this was the only felucca boat trip on the Nile (at the time, at least) that included a support boat with bathrooms, as well as a kitchen and dining area.  We ate lunch, dinner and breakfast on the support boat, and had regular access to toilets.  Without that, we would have stopped at the shore for an outdoors bathroom break in the brush.  And certainly, we could have seen the same things from just the support boat, but the felucca was completely silent except for the sound of water and wind.  The felucca is a traditional Nubian sailing vessel, and that was part of what we wanted to experience. It was peaceful, the only boat noise the mast clicking as we tacked back and forth. When the support boat caught up with us for meals or breaks, we could hear it from a distance—a very loud ride.

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We pooled all of our snacks in the middle of the deck, and sat back for one of the most relaxing days of the tour.  We watched the riverbanks slide by, talked, read, played games, and napped.  Mudi asked David if he could configure Mudi’s laptop to share his USB 3G Internet connection over wifi, so that the rest of us could use it.  Fortunately, David had done that on our laptop early in the trip, and he still remembered enough of the syntax to get it working from scratch (and then document it for Mudi’s use in the future, or for the next geek on his tour who needs to make it work again). 

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Once the shared Wi-Fi was working, there was a brief flurry of social media posts before we got down to the serious business of playing “I packed my bags”, a memory game, which we were all good at.  Each person adds the name of an object, in alphabetic order, and the next person has to recite all of the previous items before adding another.  We packed our bags for Egypt, and we brought: apples, bananas, cinnamon, durian, an elephant, a frog, gloves, a hair piece, indigo, a jumper, a karate suit, lemons, mangoes, a Nubian guide, an octopus, paper clips, quince, a raincoat, a swimsuit, an umbrella, a tortoise, vinegar, a wheelbarrow, a xylophone, yam, and a zebra.  David wrote that sequence down in his journal the following day, so it stuck pretty well.  We also played a hand coordination game involving passing a moving ‘wave’ around the circle, with rapid direction changes; a mistake eliminated you from the circle, we did a group crossword, and we exchanged riddles.

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We also had plenty to look at as we tacked back and forth along the river, as it is the center of life in this part of the country.

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When the afternoon sun started encroaching, our captain and his assistant rigged up canvas on that side of the boat.  The breeze off the river kept us from getting hot, but it was pleasantly warm, and many succumbed to an afternoon nap.

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After sunset, both boats moored at the shore.  We ate dinner after dark, on the support boat; we collectively decided to eat in just the moonlight, as the electric lights attracted  too many bugs.  Fortunately, the crew had already hung blankets all around the felucca deck, before dark, and when we were finished with dinner, we all ducked inside and settled down.  It was cooling off quickly, but the tented deck held in some of the warmth, as well as keeping the bugs out.  It wasn’t the best night of sleep we ever had, but it was fine;  better than a fair number of hotel rooms.

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In the morning, we rode a short distance further down the Nile, before mooring on the opposite bank, and transferring to a minibus, which would take us the rest of the way to Luxor, a 4 hour drive.  Driving was certainly more practical, but the peaceful slow pace of the felucca had given us a very nice glimpse of river life.