Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Travel: El Kharga driving adventure

xmarksthescot (Barb T.)

With some great photos of car parts!

I'm back in Egypt for a week or so of field work in the Western Desert. We had an entertaining day last Thursday trying to get from Alexandria to El Kharga, an oasis town in the center of the western desert of Egypt.

I gave a talk to the Geology Department at Alexandria University on Thursday morning, and literally 10 minutes after my talk was over, we piled into a robust but somewhat aging 4WD Toyota for what was supposed to be about a 10 hour drive to El Kharga. The Desert Road from Alexandria (on the Mediterranean) to Asiut (on the Nile) runs south from the Delta just west of the Nile floodplain and parallel to the Nile. The N-S Desert Road intersects the NE_SW road from Asiut to El Kharga just west of Asiut. The plan was to turn SW onto the Asiut-Kharga Road and arrive in El Kharga about 10 pm. "The crew" consisted of Dave, a grad student of mine from Alexandria University, two geologist colleagues, and our driver Samir. And lots of field gear.

Things went swimmingly along the Desert Road. It got dark, and we stopped to get gas at the intersection with the Asiut-El Kharga Road. When we got back into the Toyota, it wouldn't start. So, we gave it a push start and headed down the road. About 10 km down the road, the engine started to run badly, and the only way for Samir to keep the engine going was to drive without the headlights on and flash them every little while to see where the road was. It was completely black out - no moon. Because we couldn't speak Arabic, we couldn't understand the exchange between Samir and one of the geologists, and Dave and I were getting a little panicky considering that we still had about 300 km to drive to El Kharga and we thought that Samir was going to drive all the way to El Kharga that way.

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