The Orton's on the Nile - 2005


The Locks at Esna

Well all the fun of running around in heat that would melt a snowman in 5 seconds was over for the day, after all it was getting on for twelve o’clock and nobody does temples that late! So we were on the move again, nice chance to catch up on some sleep, splash about in the pool or better still drink cold beer and watch more of Pharaoh land drifting by with the only sounds the occasional splash as Luke of Adam tried to dive bomb the other. Life was Jordan/Orton Berlin good!!! Even tried a bit of sun bathing, but gave it up when Adam came up looking to see who was cooking bacon!!! As Andrew can tell you, bit of sunshine and something to lie on and I’m off to sleep – so I kept that activity down to a minimum. No point in going home Southern Fried and missing most of the sights. Anyway, that was down for the Sharm week.

Now Mohamed and several others were all excited about the ‘locks’ at Esna and I tried to feel impressed too, but they were only 5 metres high. Fair enough they could take a river boat or two, but not up a great deal of a climb. In fact the sort of climb Copenhagen (God rest his rusty sole) would have whizzed up without dropping a gear. It got old Ernest Hemmingway lookie-likie excited though. He spent most of the evening boring our friendly Brummie and anyone else who drifted within earshot on how they might work out how many cubic litres of water it would take to raise us up these few feet. Borring!!! Now if he had said ‘Cubic feet’ I might have been interested.

Anyway, they threw another couple of logs in the boiler and on we went at some speed as it was basically a first come first served system through the mighty lock. We would not actually enter the aforementioned miracle of engineering until midnight, but you have to get your place. If only the German’s had made it – one of them could have paddled ahead in a dingy with a large beach towel and kept our place.

With it only being tea time and we were once again stuffed up on a variety of meats, strange vegetables and cakes, I was not that interested. The Irish girl had come up in her ‘Dr. No’ bikini for a start, so I sat back and admired the view.

On board the ship they also had a rip off shop where you could buy your tacky souvenirs an extortionate price without the pleasure of haggling. On the plus side there was some very nice jewellery that you knew would not turn out to be brass or lead with a lick of paint. Adam was interested in a Cartouche chain with his name in it – he later came to regret this as all the stall holders could read his name, so he took to concealing it before haggling.

One of the forthcoming ‘fun’ nights was a barbecue and Egyptian night where the idea was you got dressed up in traditional ‘night-shirt’ (galabiyya) and the ladies would adorn themselves with all the belly dancing paraphernalia that just happened to be on sale on the boat!!! Sounded just my idea of a wild night!!! Priced up the gear and sure enough cheapest was about £10 and unless you planned on doing the ‘mirror scene’ some time as a Groucho Marx impression was poor money in my book. Even Adam and Luke agreed so we waited while everyone else kitted themselves up with posh stuff.

Finally we could see signs of civilisation (modern variety) and we guessed correctly we were approaching the fabled locks. This was certainly entertainment of the first class. There was a mass of disordered shipping scattered haphazardly across the Nile before the locks and hydro plant – this was an Egyptian queue. Even as we circled round like a dog getting into it’s basket for the night, there were other boats turning up and cutting inside other moorings without any visible sign of plan or reasoning.

However, this was not the main attraction. We could here faint cries of; “Hello Engleessh, we good friends of Engleessh, give you very good price.” Then parcels started raining onto the deck. Looking over the side we saw, very low in the water, small wooden boats loaded up with parcels and two people; the engine room (man with one oar at back paddling like mad) and the sales executive (lunatic stood up right in bow lobbing packs of stuff up onto deck).

This looked like fun and a test of trust. After all the boats towered above them to the height of a good sized house and they could not get the stuff back if no one returned it. There sense of balance and boatmanship had to be seen to be believed. They thought nothing of cutting alongside incoming ships and rode over the passing swell like a cork in a flushed loo, all without loosing their smiles. Looking in the packages were all the outfits required for the baBQ night and so Adam and Luke started to haggle.

Once again we would cause many poor Egyptians to starve to death, but reluctantly – probably as we were the last ones showing any interest, they agreed a price for a couple of colourful ‘galabiyya’ and Arab style head gear. Now we wondered how you were supposed to get the money down to them – forget expecting change here only agree a price you have exact money for unless you are a champion high diver. We soon found out. Adam threw back all the rejected stuff and agreed his price. The boatman manoeuvred his craft around while the standing crewman caught the wildly flung bags before they hit the Nile. That is how they should train the England cricket team; if they can catch under those conditions they would soon field the opposition to death.

Anyway, back to payment details, no credit cards for these chaps. Up comes an extra bag and you stuff your monies inside and throw it back again. Adam aimed for the Nile and the oar went frantic and it was fished out with only one corner wet. Cash counted they went off in search of more lovely ‘Engleessh’.

By now it was getting late and we had another early start in the morning. Might have been for another temple, can’t be sure – only kidding course it was!!! Still Annette was up for some lock watching and the sun set giving us a changed view of the region and we saw lots of pretty lights from the shore so we ordered more beer and settled down for the big event. In the distance you could still hear the faint cry; “Hello Engleessh”.

Eventually, after first chat with Sean from Derby and a few beers we ended up moving towards the lock. We all made our way to the bow and settled down where our Kalashnikov armed guard normally perched. It seemed to take for ever to get into position, especially as Hemingway had turned up with his calculated mass volume of litres required for the event. Slowly we slipped into the opening (sounds like the opening lines of a porno novel) and the gates were closed behind us. Big let down, the doors were opened up and with the force of a dripping kitchen tap the lock started to fill up. “Only another 25,459 cubic litres to go now!” This went on for some time until I longed for a class of thirty nutty children to start singing 1,000 green bottles.

I was right – anyone of our British canal locks ran rings round this thing. Any Black Country puppy or Kitten would have escaped from the sack and taken a bow on the side before this thing filled up. I was tempted to bail out a cup full or two to throw out Hemingway’s careful calculations, but was ready for bed now and Annette wanted to see us steam out the other side. Adam was moaning for England about how crap it was and still Hemingway enthused his way around the deck. Moments like this help you become one with the suicidal Lemmings.

With all the speed of a heavy laden slug going up a wall covered in salt, we edged our way through the lock into the ‘high’ water and set off once more at good pace towards Aswan. Time for water and bed.

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Copyright 2005 D.J.Orton and A.G.Morris