The Special Felucca


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, June 08, 2004 was originally posted on June 14, 2004.

DAY 234:  “Are your parents retarded?” Cheryl said, telling us the first half of a pick-up line her friend used back home.  “Because you’re special.”  Little did we know when she said that, that being “special” was what probably the conception of our little felucca group that day.

AFTER BREAKFAST, the Steinlager was back zigzagging on the River Nile.  Two hours later, we docked at Kom-Ombo on the east bank, site of the Kom-Ombo Temple, built in 150 B.C. by Ptolemy VI.  Over the years, it had been altered by Ptolemy XIII and Caesar Augustus — as well as the forces of nature — but remains as one of the few temples that had no need for relocation during the relocation period that coincided with the construction of the High Dam outside of Aswan.  As noteworthy as that may be, it may also be of note that the entrance cashier also tried to shortchange money.

It took less than an hour for our “special” felucca group to wander the not-as-frequented but impressive ancient site, which honored the crocodile-headed Sobek, god of the crocs, and falcon-headed Horus, avenger of Osiris with its hieroglyphics etched into walls and columns.  Afterwards, we wished J.J. farewell — she was only going to Kom-Ombo and took a taxi back to Aswan — and then climbed back aboard the Steinlager to depart.  However, we didn’t right away, nor shortly thereafter, nor shortly thereafter that.

We waited and waited.  Hours went by, but it flew by with reading, writing, nap time and game time.  Whenever we wanted to question why exactly we weren’t leaving yet, Mohammed and Moustafa were somewhere in town, and whenever they were around, we seemed to be too occupied to remember to ask.  It wasn’t just our boat stranded; two others were waiting around and wondering too.

“The winds are too strong,” Captain Mohammed finally told us.  But shortly thereafter, around four in the afternoon already, the winds died down and the feluccas took off.

MOHAMMED AND MOUSTAFA TOOK TO THE SAILS and cruised the Steinlager (picture above) passed the palm trees, papyrus reeds, big cruise ships and flying herons, only to dock us again on the west bank, only after about forty minutes of sailing.  A cell phone call came in to advise our captain that the winds ahead were too strong — one felucca’s sail ripped off.  We had no choice but to stay where we were for the night.  Next to the Steinlager was one of the other two boats, the Sail Away, that obviously got the same information because they weren’t sailing anywhere either. 

I went over to say hello and maybe make some new friends.  “Where you guys from?” I asked, the new neighbor.

No response.  I stood there like an idiot in an awkward silence.

“England and Australia,” a woman finally spoke with not much enthusiasm.  She looked back down into her book.  I sensed that they wanted to be undisturbed and let them be.

Meanwhile back on the Steinlager, Mohammed and Moustafa were preparing dinner while Cheryl was telling us her friend’s “special” pick-up line.  Butch, the outgoing (and biggest) of the seven of us continued to be his jovial self with more jokes and songs.  Earlier that day he’d been singing to the melody of Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O”:  “No flash… No-o-o flash…  Daylight come and we go to Edfu…”  Sitting around got tired for a bit and Butch, Denise, Angie and I made a second attempt to befriend the passengers of the Sail Away.  Butch led the greetings in a polite manner, but it was reciprocated with the same snotty attitude as before. 

Butch, headstrong in friendship relations, didn’t give up.  “That’s a nice shawl,” he said to the thirty-something woman on the starboard side wearing a white knit shawl.  “Did your nana make that for you?”

She wasn’t amused at his “intrusion.”  “A bunch of celibate nuns made it in the convent,” she replied with a stiff upper lip — it was an obvious poor attempt at humor.  Angie’s eyes bulged out in embarrassment when hearing this, got the hint and walked away with me to skip stones in the river.  Butch and Denise got a couple more sentences out of the woman that I spoke to before, but there wasn’t much substantial information.  They got the hint too.

“I dare you to ask them if their parents are retarded,” I joked to Cheryl as we all hung out on the beach, but she took the hint too and just drew pictures in the sand.  I added to the graffiti with a drawing of Pharaoh Homer

“We should send a message in a bottle,” Butch suggested as an activity to break the monotony of waiting around.  The rest of us thought it was a keen idea and so our names went onto a note that read, “Please send more beer.  This one’s empty.”

“You should ask the others if they want their names added to the list,” I joked.

“You know what?  I will.”  Butch walked over and asked politely.

“You mean you’re going to throw rubbish into the river?” The Woman With The Shawl said.

Geez, get a grip lady.

That was our third and final attempt to make friends.

“I have an idea,” Butch said to us.  “Let’s go travel to Egypt and be stuck up and boring.”  The passengers of the Sail Away continued to keep to themselves.  I said it was like “Survivor: Egypt” with two competing teams.  We called the others “Team Shawl” after the snobby woman with the shawl that we just referred to as “The Shawl.”

To be fair, the behavior of our team (dubbed “Team Barracuda”) didn’t give Team Shawl much motive to approach us.  Not that we were hostile or anything; we just unknowingly behaved “special.”  Greg discovered that dark silt could erupt out of the sand like a mini volcano if you bounced the top layer of sand around, and in an attempt to make a second volcano, Butch and I started walking around in a small ring pattern like a tribal dance.  From afar without any context, we looked like two “special people” going around in a circle for no apparent reason. 

What was more “special” than that was when Team Barracuda took a hike up to some nearby dunes (Hi-Res photo) at sunset and had a rock throwing contest — but without opposite hand as suggested by Greg.  If you don’t see the humor in that, go out to a field with some friends and throw things as far as you can with the hand you don’t write with.  I guarantee you’ll be in stitches laughing like the way Angie was that afternoon.

As much as a bunch of asses we made of ourselves, we were joined by other asses.  No, not members of Team Shawl, but actual asses, or donkeys.  Juxtaposed to one of them, Butch posed as Shrek and Donkey with his beer.  Nearby, two kids on donkeys bounced up and down down the road as their legs flapped like wings to the sides.

AFTER A DELICIOUS SUPPER of vegetables and rice, Butch and Cheryl reverted to their younger days as scouts in Queensland and made and tended to a bonfire on the beach.  I suppose we would have taken Team Shawl in with open arms if they wanted to join us, but that never happened.  Instead, they put up a mosquito net over their deck and hid from us while listening to traditional sitar music from a radio.  All we could see were silhouettes and it was uncertain if The Shawl was actually wearing her shawl in the cooling temperatures of nightfall.

No matter, Team Barracuda sat around the campfire to chat and sing cheesy campfire songs in our respective accents.  Like the night before, we all slept on the big mattress on the deck of our felucca like kids having a sleepover on the Nile.  We were smarter this time around, using more bug spray to keep the mosquitoes at bay and, more importantly, sleeping bags and sheets to keep us warm in the freezing desert night.  I’m sure if any of us had contacts with celibate nuns in convents, we’d have shawls to keep us warm too.

Now wouldn’t that be special.

Next entry: Follow That Shawl!

Previous entry: Rush and Relaxation

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Comments for “The Special Felucca”

  • Yeay - I get to be first!

    Team Shawl needs to get a grip. Life is short, have fun!!
    Sheesh! That sounds like loads of fun!!
    Hope you didn’t get too eaten alive.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/14  at  01:31 AM

  • Dang. foiled again by Noelle! I guess I get to be number two.
    First of all, Butch looks “special” the donkey/shrek picture is off the hook!
    Pharaoh Homer just shows yall had way too much time.

    love the sunset pic and chillin on the beach.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/14  at  03:06 AM

  • Wow, talk about being snarky.  I can’t believe those people were so rude to you guys.

    Posted by Liz  on  06/14  at  04:06 AM

  • Talk about snobby. If you see ‘Ms. Shawl’ here are some good pickup lines (warning some lines are offensive, cheesy, or both)....

    -I must be lost. I thought paradise was further south.

    -You must be a hell of a thief ‘cause you stole my heart from across the room.

    -Do you sleep on your stomach? [any answer] Can I?

    -Are you free tonight or will it cost me?

    -Your place or mine? Tell you what? I’ll flip a coin. Head at my place, tail at yours.

    Ok ok ok…don’t hate the playa, hate the game…haha..j/k.

    Erik: Shrek 2 was dope so was your Pharoah Homer rendition on the beach.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/14  at  06:07 AM

  • ERIK - stick to writing and photos…haha…your homer back in the day was much better…

    LIZ - snarky?  is that japanese-canadian, eh?

    PAUL - good ones….but the best thing to tell the shall is “murtinho nobre” while shrugging your shoulders….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/14  at  07:12 AM

  • MARKYT - what’s wrong with snarky?  Snarky is a great word!  It sounds like it’s meaning too.  Irritability oozes from that word smile It can’t be just a Canadian thing.  I’m a border-city girl ...  I speak half American LOL

    Posted by Liz  on  06/14  at  02:16 PM

  • What’s frightening is, that your ‘Pharoah Homer’ could fossilize…and could be discovered by future civilizations!


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/14  at  04:19 PM

  • haha, i always knew you were special erik. that was a pretty good pharoah homer you drew there. you should have invited the shawl over for afternoon scones and tea, maybe that would have soften her up. and if she was still snotty, bury her head first in the sand dunes. she deserves it. =P

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/14  at  06:42 PM

  • erik: the picture of the sunset was incredible!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/15  at  08:13 AM

  • Hey Erik

    You have a mean left overhand throw.  Almost as graceful as the Nubian swimming technique.

    Enjoy your travels

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/15  at  12:35 PM

  • Hiya,
    So you’ve had the pleasure or otherwise of meeting the famous Butchie!  If he’d been painted up green in his incredible hulk outfit that pic with the donkey would have been perfect.
    Tell him we haven’t won beer here for ages so I don’t have any to throw in the ocean to send over.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/16  at  01:33 AM

  • PS:  Butchie, Dave C hopes that’s spilled beer on your shirt

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/16  at  02:51 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Follow That Shawl!

Previous entry:
Rush and Relaxation


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