Day 7, October 18: Dakhla Oasis to Kharga Oasis, 198 km
The organizers do an impeccable job. There are army checkpoints every few hundred meters, mostly to control arms and drug smuggling from Libya. We ride through 11, only have to stop at two, and never have to pull out our passports.
When we get into Kharga, the lead rider, Mohammed, blocks an entry/exit way on a roundabout. I see a young rider on a cheap Chinese-built 150cc motorcycle plow into him. He doesn't seem to be injured. He definitely is pissed at the kid. Gestures for patience, and Mohamed gives the universal shirt-grabbing sign of an imminent ass-kicking if this punk doesn’t settle down.
Our first stop is the hotel, the Sol Y Mar (I see the Sol, where's the Mar? We're in the middle of the freakin' desert), where we get another speech from the governor of the area. The hotel is nice, with a big courtyard and nice modern rooms.
Next is a ride to a sand dune about 300 meters high. There, a few of us sample the treats of sandboarding (much like snowboarding, but with sand). Tim, a Canadian guy with snowboarding and surfing experience, picks it up right away. Steve, a stocky Englishman, give the rest of us a laugh with his headfirst beefs.
Next is a trip to the Bagawat Necropolis, or city of the dead. This consists mostly of Christian mausoleums/temples that date from the 4th and 5th Century. By the time we leave the necropolis, the sun has long gone down and it is dead dark.
Our next destination is the Kharga city center, about six kilometers away. The two women from the media team are tired of riding in the cars and want to come with us. It's hot, and we don't have helmets for them. They decide to ride on the back of a couple of our scooters.
Teenage boys kicking back on the side of the road or riding their 150cc motorcycles espy the combination club run/strip club riding down the street. The teenagers get within inches of us. Wheelies are popped. Leers are made. Scooters are hit. I see Gunnar, a middle-aged Danish motorcycle journalist, hit the deck right in front of me. We all stop and he gets taken to the hospital. Mohamed gets run into again. He goes to the same hospital as the Dane.
We are still in the company of the governor's PR guy and some other tourism bigwig. They disappear and I never see them again. We gather our small group (six, down from 10 minutes ago) and ride back to the hotel. From the comfort of the hotel bar, some riders are crying into their Egyptian Stella beers, saying that the trip was a complete failure.
Expatriates to the rescue: Dimitrios the Greek and Thomas the German. Thomas told a story of being given 10 minutes to leave his house immediately after the revolution. He definitely subscribes to the theory that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet—he spoke wistfully of the time when Mubarak was in power, and if somebody’s sunglasses got stolen off a bar top, 20 likely suspects would be rounded up and get the crap beaten out of them, because they caught the bad guy (or at least, one of them confessed). The ex-pats kept calm and carried on. Like the Egyptians we traveled with, they never lost their sense of humor or their cool. Both Mohamed and Gunnar get X-rayed and bandaged up and taken back to the hotel. Both of them say "let’s ride!"