SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER – AND IT STONED ME!
The day began early at 6 a.m. The sun rose over the palm trees across on the eastern shore of the river and about half an hour later we set sail. We had tea and biscuits to get us awake then we lazed in the early morning sun as all around us the millennium old pattern of life on the great river coasted slowly into another day. Fishermen, singing as they rowed, piloted their tiny craft out to the fishing grounds where they began to beat the water with wooden flails to stun the fish beneath the shining surface.
Along the riverbanks a procession of cows, donkeys, cattle and people – always people – began their daily work. And, as always, the river flowed by neither knowing or caring about the life on its edges and yet supporting that life. We stopped for breakfast at Kom Ombo, the once majestic temple of the Nile kings Sobek and Haroeris: now reduced to yet another tourist dungeon of aggressive souvenir hustlers and mindless tourists.
The captain spent most of the day out of his head on hash. We wouldn’t have minded but the wind was strong and some degree of concentration was required in order to keep the boat from capsizing. But the captain had traded his concentration for a head full of smoke sucked from a smoundering lump of brown resin suspended by a needle between two glasses pressed together.
The day passed languidly as we journeyed north through the heat of the day. We stopped for half an hour at Captain Eden’s village where we endured a horde of grubby, snotty nosed urchins clamoring for pens and bakshish. By mid-afternoon the wind was getting quite strong and we stopped to help fix the mast of a local’s felucca that had broken in the wind. After that, our Captain began to snort heavily on his hashish and it became progressively more and more dangerous as his concentration began to lapse. Several times we were close to capsizing into the choppy water and we were getting pretty annoyed to say the least. There was a lot of traffic on the river and the large ferry boats were too big to maneuver around us so the captain’s habit of sailing straight at them was a bit unnerving as well.
Eventually, though, the wind died down along with our nerves. As darkness fell we opened a bottle of wine and began singing songs and chanting “Chana-fucken-boo” to locate the other falucca. When we finally found them we tied up alongside but they were all so stoned that they wanted nothing to do with us so we left them to their little hazy world and spent an enjoyable evening talking.