London to Cape Town World Cup Rally 2012
The Long Way Down - Against the Clock
ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT - JANUARY 8TH, 2012
Once in a Blue Moon
A large orange moon hangs over the thin line of twinkling lights on the horizon – our first sight of Africa as the MV Diagoras chugs slowly towards the harbour lights. The captain has called up the services of a pilot to guide us through what has now become one of the most dangerous waterways in the World.
The harbour of Alexander the Great and Cleopatra is now littered with the wrecks of ships where other captains got it wrong – the various mistakes in navigation in recent years are plainly on view off the port side, with containers being pounded by waves of cargo-ships lurched to one side. Egypt’s paralysed authorities are incapable of organising a salvage of the wrecks that have turned the route to the quay into such a tricky obstacle-course.
The Blue Star line have done us proud. It has been a thoroughly comfortable ship, although sea-sickness has effected many as we rocked and rolled through a choppy storm last night. The food and endless supply of free drinks has impressed us all. The captain allowed us the rare honour of having access to our cars for an hour while at sea. Most spent the hour packing and tidying up, with the ship rocking violently from side to side only Alastair Caldwell dared to jack up his rallycar onto three wheels in order to repair an exhaust mounting of his Porsche 912. He sounds reasonably pleased with his progress so far, quick to point out “ …it’s pretty good for a VW van engine” .
We are now braced for the most demanding of bureaucracies as crews prepare for several hours of form filling, lining up to have chassis-plates and engine numbers inspected and copied by officials who take a brass-rubbing on tracing paper rather than try to write them down, sniffer dogs, and giant X-ray vans inspect our equipment.
Today is set to be an easy transport day past Cairo to a hotel beside the Red Sea. This is a rare moment – a rally set to drive the length of Africa, a once in a blue moon opportunity, has now arrived.