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Nile Bike Ride Journal

Homeward Journey

Sunday 17th Feb, Luxor-Manchester (c.4000km).

No pictures today, sorry... but you all know what the inside of an aeroplane looks like...

The alarm went off at 5am... and no sign of Jason! Somehow stumbled out of bed and got dressed, but decided that breakfast would be a bad idea with 6.5 hours in the air and god knows how many hours in airports ahead of me. Felt grotty. Thankfully, I had packed the previous day when I started to feel ill, just in case I was too ill to pack later. At about 5:10, Jason appeared but didn't offer any explanation as to where he had spent the night. I didn't ask!

Went out for a last walk on the deck. It was still dark, but I could just make out the shape of the Valley of the Kings across the river. The sky was filled with stars, the air was cool and crisp and it was a beautiful moment. But all too soon it was time to grab our stuff and climb wearily onto the coaches. A couple of roll calls later we were off.

At Luxor airport we stood in a long queue to get inside the building, knowing that this was going to be the pattern of the rest of the day. Slowly ambled to the gate and onto the plane, and flew quite painlessly to Cairo. Jason commented that the journey was going swimmingly so far. This was definitely a mistake.

Collected our luggage, and then gathered in a group, to be told that our flight, due to leave at 9:30, was delayed until 12:00. At this point I felt like dropping onto the floor and sobbing - I felt queasey, tired, hungry and generally desperate to get home. A small altercation with an airport worker followed, when he made a serious attempt to run me over with a long line of trolleys. He got some loud and unpleasant words from me, which left me with a momentary fear of arrest and imprisonment. Thankfully there were no guns or handcuffs, just apologies. Liz and Jason successfully managed to calm me down, and I was able to go the rest of the day without swearing, screaming or kicking anyone in the bollocks.

The next couple of hours were mind-bogglingly disorganised. Our luggage was loaded onto trolleys, and we followed these and the baggage handlers to the departure terminal. This involved walking across roads and a car park, and the surface was rather uneven. The baggage handlers were unable to control the trolleys alone, so we ended up in gangs, making sure that all the luggage stayed on the trolleys.

Once at the terminal, we went through yet another metal detector machine, and our bags were taken off the trolley and put through an x-ray machine. On the other side, the bags were loaded back on to the trolleys. Then we were told we had to identify our luggage, so the bags were taken off the trolleys and we each tried to find those that belonged to us. A few bags had been put on a small trolley and taken away, and some people experienced mild panic as airport staff attempted to reunite them with their possessions. Once we all had our luggage, the handlers began to reload it onto the trolleys. Then they changed their minds, and we had to find our own bags once more and take them to the conveyor belt at the checkin desks. By this point I had more or less given up hope of ever seeing my luggage again, or indeed of making it home in one piece.

Finally, we got to the departure area. I went into the shop and tried to buy some chocolate for Mike but when I tried to pay in Egytpian pounds, the man at the till kept shaking his head and saying "Dollars! Dollars!". I gave up, and went out to sit on the floor with Jason and Susan. Felt a little like a gooseberry (yes, that's where Jason was last night!), and decided to give them some space, but they kept catching up with me!

Once we got through into the gate area, we boarded the plane immediately. The plane was quite empty, and once in the air we spread out a bit. I was able to find three empty seats and lie across them, and I actually managed to sleep for most of the flight. First, I watched a bit of a film that appeared to about an ugly girl who learned to play baseball and thus became beautiful - but no-one had seen fit to give me any headphones, and it made very little sense without sound. I still felt it would be unwise to eat a meal, but I did eat the bread roll that came with the meal (I hadn't eaten for about 36 hours and was very hungry). A risky move, I know, but I didn't seem to suffer any ill effects. Dropped off to sleep quite happily.

Woke up a few hours later and glanced out of the window. We were above the Alps, and the scenery was stunningly beautiful. If I had taken a photo, I'd put it here, but I didn't, so I won't - but take my word for it, it was breathtaking. After that I read a little, and looked out of the window occasionally, looking for the sea. I hate flying, and I always feel much better at the point where you can see the UK coastline and know that you are nearly home.

At last, we arrived at Manchester. Everything went smoothly, and we quickly made it to Arrivals, where I was joyfully reunited with Mike, who had even bought me flowers! Then it was time to say goodbye to the rest of the group. It's amazing how quickly strong bonds form on events like this, and there was a lot of hugging and kissing, and even a few tears. It wasn't goodbye forever though - Mencap are arranging a "Warm Down" meeting in a couple of months, so most us will surely meet again! After saying my goodbyes and steering Jason towards his flight back to Dublin, Mike led his poor exhausted wife to the car, and I began the last part of my journey, back home to Wicken in Cambridgeshire (OK, here's a picture). Already, Egypt seemed far, far away, both in terms of distance and time.

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