03-May-2005 -- Continued from 25N 33E.
When we had left Cairo we drove over to `Ayn Sukhnā and then south along the Gulf of Suways and the Red Sea. We had two options for getting to Luxor, the more direct route from Safāga to Qinā and then Luxor, or carry on south to Quṣayr and cross to Qifṭ. There are two Confluences off the Quṣayr-Qifṭ road, so obviously this was the route we planned for. Now the Cairo to Luxor drive is long and complicated because of the convoy system they use for foreigners to pass these routes.
I had not spoken to anyone who had done this drive, so was not sure how long it would take. I estimated 7 hours to Safāga with breaks and another 3-4 from there, depending on road conditions. I estimated at least another 1 hour to go via Quṣayr route, so time for confluence hunting was going to be limited. I had read Alan Torrigino's attempt at 26N 34E and was aware of the checkpoint at the start of the road. Here is where we hoped the letter from the company explaining our reasons for being there would help.
So we had planned an early start to be on the road at 5:45 but the clocks had gone forward that night, so it was really 4:45. Getting Scott, my 5 year old up was not easy but by 1 p.m. we were at the checkpoint outside Quṣayr. Then it had gone wrong, despite the letter and telephone calls to the company GRO, the officer in charge would not take responsibility for letting foreigners travel this road. He did not seem sure of what the danger was but 95% of Egyptians live in the crowded Nile valley and Delta. I'm not sure what the local soaps portray but most seem to assume the desert and jabals are full of desperados and banditos. Personally, I have only met friendly and helpful Bedouin. Either way, there was no option but to drive the 90 km back to Safāga and through to Qinā. We reached the hotel at 7 p.m. some 13 and a quarter hours after leaving Cairo. Not to give up, we would attempt to return by this route.
We set off and reached the checkpoint by Luxor airport where security seemed to assume we were turning right to airport and looked a bit shocked in the rear view mirror as we went straight on. However, we were turned back at the next checkpoint and we had to return to explain ourselves. However, the company letter was enough for us to carry on to Cairo, without being specific over the route. The checkpoint at the Quṣayr road was just before the turn and we were not stopped, so we passed through, turned east and headed east. 26N 33E is only about 10 km down this road and 8 km into the desert. It was gravel plain/wādiy plain and fairly rough, but nothing serious. We were in and out in 50 minutes and heading for Cairo.
This is a lovely road with little traffic and we stopped for lunch by one of the many Roman watchtowers. We also hoped to stop at the ancient hieroglyphic inscriptions but the new road bypasses these. We saw the old road detour off to the north and then come back in, but the new road follows the Roman towers. On the way past, we were going to check out the access to 26N 34E but would not have enough time to attempt it. From satellite imagery I had decided on a wādiy further west than what Alan suggests in his report. This leads off at 26°05.965'N 33°55.477'E and when we passed, there were two good tracks heading south. It was very tempting but we would not have the time, a night-drive on Egyptian roads after 14 hours of driving is definitely not a good idea. All in all, we covered 3,500 km with 4 successful visits and one unsuccessful attempt. It was a very satisfying trip in a lovely part of Egypt.