Vacation From Vacation

138 days, 13 countries, 60+ stops, buses, trains, planes, matatus, matolas, bajajis, camels, cars, 4x4s, trucks, boda-bodas, boats, bicycle taxis, taxi-motos, hitchhiked rides, dalla-dallas, and flea bites… We needed a break.

Egypt provided us with the perfect excuse: the situation in Libya was not very welcoming, and therefore all onward borders in Africa were closed. We met a Libyan man in Khartoum who advised us to wait for next year to go there, as by then the situation should be better… “Inch’ Allah”.

On 30 June, we boarded a flight from Cairo to Paris. The plane ride seemed so much comfortable than we remembered plane rides to be (so much leg space!), and the airplane food was also delicious (so many vegetables!).

“Back to civilization,” as so many people told us.

But upon arrival in Paris, we found that the train to the city was suspended due to technical problems. The ticket machines were still dispensing tickets and the announcement was made only once you descended to the platform, so there we were, having spent €20 on tickets that might not bring us anywhere. The buses were still running, but inadequate for the hordes of tourists crowding into Paris for their summer vacation. The only information given was that there was a problem and they were fixing it. And as this was only announced in French, most of the tourists looked as lost as us in Sudan. Where were the minibus taxis, boda-bodas, and bajajis? Why weren’t they appearing out of every corner to get us out of this mess?

In any event, after four hours (ironically, the longest delay on our trip to date), a single train began running. We made it home, to a wonderful welcome dinner of salad, oven-baked fish, cheese, and champagne. Then to bed.

The following three weeks were a bliss of laziness, good food, comfortable beds, and warm conversations with family and friends. We felt little need to leave the house, venturing out only once during the first three days to buy a little salad, into streets that were astonishingly quiet and clean. Flea bites stopped multiplying and started healing. Wine and beer was plentiful – although it did not take much to get us tipsy, after having spent the past few months in Muslim countries with little alcohol. The gloomy French summer was depressingly cold; but as we reminded ourselves, it was better than the desert climate of Sudan. And then onto Spain and its sunny days, delicious olives, fresh seafood, juicy paella, and skimpily-clad girls.

Three sweet weeks in Europe, made sweeter by the knowledge that we will head back on the road again, southwards through the western side of Africa.

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