Tomorrow we go down to the docks to catch our ferry to Egypt. The excitement mounts, 12 noon away, and nineteen hours later Port Said.
9 am at the dock gates we are told there is no ferry, maybe nine at night, maybe midnight, maybe tomorrow. We are gobsmacked. We had paid £450.00 for this ticket, you would think the least the ferry could do was turn up.
Back to the agency where we are told the ferry is delayed but maybe tonight maybe tomorrow. Later it is confirmed the ferry will definitely go in the morning for sure, be at the terminal 8 am.
Excited we get to gates at 7.45 and we are told to wait. After a few hours the guards ushered us all forward, as most of the vehicles were foreign they surged at the small opening and forming a perfect wedge they stoppered the hole, after some of this was sorted out we got our turn to be shouted at, “lift the bonnet” “move over there” “stay here” all in fluent Turkish, we did eventually get down to the dock area. During our several hour wait all passports were collected up by some scruffy gits with big cardboard boxes, there was a lot of muttering in four or five languages “what the f**k is going on now”
Eventually when the passports come back Helen’s had been stamped mine had not the car documents had not been stamped, there were a few others with similar problems so there we were wandering from shed to shed to these things out, one Italian had his passport mislaid it was a right royal shambles.
6pm, the ship starts loading, the passport saga continued as they were all collected up for the duration of the voyage. We opted for not paying the extra three hundred dollars for a cabin, so during the night we had to try and make ourselves comfortable somewhere amongst the mass of refugees fleeing the carnage in Syria, they seemed to have about four million screaming kids with them, so sleep did not come easy. Twenty four hours later as the ship docks in Port Said, immigration men board and start their stamping duties. Three hours later, the hand out started, one man standing behind a counter picks up a passport and calls out the name to the masses. Possibly not the most efficient system I have come across. It took a little while. As the saga progresses we got the cars off, then we had to wait for god knows what, wait a bit more for something else, by and by we had a police escort to the customs office, and wait a bit. During this wait the Italian realised it had gone midnight and it was therefore Christmas day, he broke out a bottle of martini a five of us stood on the dockside a drank ourselves into……………………..a small martini. Happy Christmas
After the cars had cleared customs and were parked up we were able to leave the port and try and find a hotel. 2am.
Early the next morning without time for breakfast we were back at the port to start the procedures to get the cars out, this involved going round several offices all over the place some of them more than once, and shelling out a fortune, we seemed to be clearing the Egyptian national debt and topping up a few retirement pots.
Every office had someone behind a desk surrounded by crowd shouting at him, with every new folder that was put in front of him he interrupted what he was doing to look at it, often he was on the phone as well, the paperwork that was created was incredible. Amazingly there were some errors made that entailed going back to get it rectified. One fellow we saw had the biggest rubber stamp I have ever seen and he had an inkpad about a quarter of the size, so he spent a lot of time dabbing around the inkpad, once he put the stamp on the paper he went all round it thumping away with his fist, the end result was about half of the intended imprint came out and it was smudged. Eventually day one draws to a close and we go back to hotel to recharge and get ready for day two.
Today hopefully we get the car out, it is another round of frustrating paperwork, we have a fixer to do the work, it is impossible to do this without a fixer, the offices are in the town, in the docks, down alleys, anywhere few of them look like offices all of them look like they should be demolished, even though our fixer is doing the biz we have to be with him. It gives us a chance to interact with the locals, there is always some who can speak a little English, “where you from” “England” “Aahhh Manchester United” “no London” “Manchester United” “yes” “Goood”
There were things like, we had a port pass permit, go out of the port the guard examines the passport and the permit, we go out, pick up some tea from a vendor walk back in, the same man examines passport and permit again, all in all about forty people must have examined our passports.
They needed to check the chassis and engine number, the VIN plate was not good enough they want the actual numbers stamped onto the vehicle, this required the services of a little man who could crawl into inaccessible places and do rubbing’s of the numbers, as it would seem merely writing them down is not good enough either, these rubbings were then stapled to the paperwork, when we eventually left the port, at the gate the chassis and engine numbers were checked again. Possibly in case we sneakedly changed the engine or the chassis overnight while the car was locked in the customs compound. Bureaucracy you can keep it.
Saints be praised by two thirty we were out, we had our carnet stamped, we had our new Egyptian driving license and we had our new Egyptian number plates, and we were on the road South.
From turning up for the non-existent ferry, to getting on the road in Egypt five days. If anyone ever complains to me about the immigration queues at Heathrow or their train was ten minutes late I shall screeeeam.