Travel: Your holiday disaster

Bloodied ears and a taxi driver with a serious hard-boiled egg habit left Rory O'Callaghan stranded in the Egyptian desert

IT WAS pouring in Cairo as I waited for a bus to Hurghada, 500km south on the Red Sea coast. When it finally came, it pulled out on to an Egyptian version of Spaghetti Junction and got stuck on a rainswept flyover behind a Bedu and his camels, contentedly breaking wind on to the windscreen. Bad omen. At Hurghada the plan was to meet a friend and together we would hire a taxi, drive into the interior, and climb Gebel el Shaib el Banat, the highest peak in Egypt's eastern ranges.

The bus didn't get far. Cairo and its forest of five-storey, breeze-block ghettoes had quickly slipped behind, as we headed out into the barren wasteland of the Eastern Desert. It was like no desert I had ever imagined - a lifeless moonscape stretching off in all directions as far as a murky horizon. The rain was coming down in sheets and the wind howled across the asphalt. It passed through my mind that the driver had probably rarely driven in the rain. Barely an hour into the journey, a woman in canary yellow leapt up from her seat, her hands waving, and screamed, "Yah salem! Yah saleeem!" We were gently aquaplaning at right angles to the road. Finally, as the wheels slithered off the road, we flipped into a forest of sharp gravel.

No one died - but because the bus had flipped on to its left side, almost all the passengers had bloodied left ears. With tissue applied appropriately they looked like they were modelling for a Van Gogh biopic.

An hour later another bus picked us up and drove us on, in shock, to Hurghada. I met my friend Sandy there and, after getting a couple of stitches from a holidaying German nurse, who consoled me with "Yah, yah, you vill liff" before sewing into my unanaesthetised ear, we were accosted by Mohammed. Mohammed was a taxi driver who promised to take us to the Gebel. He did so at 90 miles an hour in his rusting Peugeot 505, while simultaneously cracking hard boiled eggs on his forehead.

When we got there ... we weren't there. It was a Roman encampment called Mons Claudianus where tourists were often brought for sightseeing. We didn't want to see Roman ruins. The Gebel was still 15 miles away, shimmering on the far horizon. We pleaded, we shouted, we screamed blue murder. It did no good. We refused to pay. Mohammed blew his top. We thundered back to Hurghada, Mohammed cracking another half dozen eggs on his skull, and were brought straight to the police station. Mohammed immediately demanded we be locked up, or he be paid.

Three hours later, after audiences before the constable, the sergeant, the captain and the local police chief, each interspersed with outbreaks of gratuitous form-filling and even more gratuitous rants from Mohammed, our erstwhile taxi driver was thrown out for being a rascal and we were apologised to profusely. "Welcome in Egypt," the police chief said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power