2010-06-03 -- Istanbul to Cairo

I don't think anyone really expected this to be an easy travel day, but it could have at least tried. Or even simply have given the impression of trying. No...! It prefered to come up behind us, Boo!, then smack us in the face a couple of times.

We did try to make it somewhat fun though. A helicopter picked us up at the hotel (ok, at the palace next to the hotel) and dropped us off at our planes!

  • Fuel efficient? No. We still sent the bus from the hotel to the airport, with the luggage.
  • Time efficient? No. Even though our bodies were dropped off at the planes, we still needed to visit the terminal to retrieve our luggage (and Thierry, who rode on the bus with the luggage) and to check out of the country. And to use the, err, facilities.
  • Money efficient? Hah! Not quite. No other comment.
So, let's recap: more fuel, more time, and more money. But MORE FUN, and that's a good summary of our frame of mind.

To make it even better: we woke up in Europe, took off in Asia, and landed in Africa! That's cool!

Sadly, the rest of the trip (remember, we're still just at the planes) was torture.

Because of no AV gas in Cairo, Jeffrey had to fill up his fuel bladder here. The fuel truck was broken, or out of gas, or the driver was lazy, or who knows what, and Jeffrey had to start up and taxi to the truck. Ten minutes after he started fueling, we left to check out and get baggage. Half an hour later, we return to the planes and Jeffrey is still fueling. He still needs to go to the terminal to clear immigration!

Theirry calls for startup clearance -- and whatever other clearances he can get -- on a handheld, and Steve starts up. Soon after, Lyle starts up. We call for, and do not immediately get, clearance. When we are finally cleared to start, Steve and Lyle have been burning gas (but in air conditioning) for 30 minutes.

Another recap: after an amazingly quick ride to the airport, we sit around for almost an hour and a half waiting to depart. For those that have flown in small(ish) planes before, this is a rather, umm, uncomfortable delay....or I should say it turns into an uncomfortable delay, later.

Finally in the air! Free! Free like a bird! Free like a bird with.....altitude restrictions. Cleared to 6,000 feet. Cleared to 9,000 feet. Cleared to 15,000 feet. Cleared to 16,000 feet. Cleared to..... to..... Come on already! Clear us to 31,000 feet! We're nearly out of Turkey before we get up there, where we use less fuel and go faster.

Crete gives us a hoop to jump through, but an easy large one. They wanted us to call for permission to enter their airspace 10 minutes before entering their airspace. I'm not sure what would have happened if we were denied, but I'm guessing nobody is ever denied. All we had to do is change the squak code.

Egypt, on the otherhand, kept us at 31,000 feet until five minutes before their border (on land) where they wanted us to drop to 19,000 feet. That's a 12,000 foot drop in five minutes, so somewhere around 2000 feet per minute down. Ear popping rates. We start the descent, and Egypt calls back to tell us the restricted area (that we were descending to avoid) has been removed, and we can descend at our leisure. Win!

They screw with us on the landing, first telling us to land 23C, then changing to 23R after we get everything set up. The landing was a bit busy, oh well. They gave us vectors out to nowhere and back, and we didn't see much of anything interesting....like, for example, the pyramids.

Because we landed on 23R, we now must taxi around the airport (almost literally) to get to the general aviation ramp, also known as dead airplane parking. This is usually where we do such things as exit the plane, unload luggage, get fuel, cover up the plane, take some photos, unwind from the flight, and catch a bus to the terminal. This time, we did about half of those things. Fuel? Nope. Seems that first the truck ran out of fuel just after starting to fuel us. We got a couple of gallons, then fueling stopped, Arabic words were exchanged, and the truck left. After more words in Arabic, we finally learn that our MultiService fuel card was rejected because it doesn't have an expiration date printed on it. This is likely because the card....doesn't expire! Oddly, Steve got fuel before us, I think also with MultiService. Photos? Nope, at least not officially. That's fine, some countries are rather paranoid (justified or not) about airports and photography. Terminal? Ha! The bus to the terminal picked up Tisha, but never came back to get the rest of us for about an hour. So, lets guess an hour to leave, one and a half hours of flying and another hour waiting. That's close to four hours -- right after breakfast -- with no, umm, facilities. Oh, and no shade (except under wings), no chairs, no breeze, and with a very hot sun beating on acres of concrete. Unplesant to say the least.

Eventually we got fuel and could go....sit in the terminal waiting for customs/immigration/who knows what (another almost-hour). At least it was shady, somewhat cool, and there was a bathroom. Half way through we moved across the terminal, and could get something to drink.

The bus was waiting for us (and had been waiting for a long time), and it was a reasonalby pleasant 45 minute ride to the Mena House. We were accompanied by a chatty, but robotic, guide, and a government supplied security guard. The guide tried hard to convince us that Egypt is a great place, that the people are great, etc, etc....all while we drove by dirty sandblasted buildings, half of which were concrete shells with no windows.

We arrived at the hotel just in time for a quick nap, a quick shower and a quick dinner (Gourmet Indian (!) which we turned into a family-style buffet) so we could run to see the Sound and Light show (highly recommended). I 'snuck' in a tripod and a video camera (the ContourHD), but forgot the tripod mount for the camera, and instead used the still camera on the tripod. Probably for the better, since the ContourHD would have been far too wide to get any detail, and the photos came out nice. I also had an audio recorder, but only used it for the latter half -- I didn't want the whole show, just some of the ambiance (and/or to compare against 'The Spy Who Loved Me').

Route: LTFS -> SID -> YAA -> KFK -> TOMBI -> RASDA -> CVD -> HECA


Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 16.8 mm; 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 80
At breakfast, this poor guy was using a magnifying glass to read his blackberry. We saw him at dinner too, he was equally distracted by a gadget or a paper.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/100 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
Waiting for the air taxi to the airport.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/80 sec, f/2.7, ISO 80
Steve got some nice pictures out the front, and got to talk to the pilot. Tisha and us were in the back.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/400 sec, f/2.7, ISO 80
The Asian side of Istanbul is almost completely houses and apartments.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/125 sec, f/2.7, ISO 80
Bri.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/500 sec, f/2.7, ISO 100
Steve.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/80 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
It is pretty clear that Istanbul has sprawled. Buried in the middle of residential areas are industrial sections, like this apparent mine.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 20.2 mm; 1/400 sec, f/5.0, ISO 80
Once we did get to the airport, tower wouldn't let us land until this guy landed.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 24.8 mm; 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 80
Even then, we had to wait until this guy took off. Only then could we land in the general aviation parking area -- which was nearly directly below us already.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/200 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
This is exactly why you should walk around with a loaded camera all the time. I had the camera on, and quickly turned and framed the shot as we were walking away. Clearly I was quick, otherwise they would have stopped walking.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/400 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
Trying to get clearances. Time stamps on this and the last photo show almost an hour and 15 minutes has passed since we left the helicopter.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 11.4 mm; 1/40 sec, f/3.5, ISO 125
Plenty of traffic when we left Istanbul. Timestamps now show two hours since we left the helicopter.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/400 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
Steve passes below us.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/30 sec, f/2.7, ISO 80
Landing in Cairo, we were almost directly on top of Lyle. We got vectored away. (The diamond with -27 is Lyle, 2700 feet below us; the diamond obscures a plane icon which is us).



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/320 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
Just a bit of sprawl at Cairo airport. No need to make things compact when you have a whole desert to build into.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 20.2 mm; 1/800 sec, f/5.0, ISO 80
Beautiful house in the middle of a desert. Maybe it's the bright light by the pool (where I'm writing this) and I can't see the details, but I keep thinking this image is upside down. Something about the shading of the building.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
Low-rises on the outskirts of Cairo. This picture is also interesting because of the road that was blocked off by a wall.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 24.0 mm; 1/1600 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200
The first (or second) view of the pyramids, from the bus, in the middle of a giant and busy road -- the Ring Road. The picture is a bit dark; I somehow managed to set the exposure compensation two steps down.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 24.0 mm; 1 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200
The Sound and Light show.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 24.0 mm; 2 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200
Mostly, they shined colored lights on the pyramids, and had a laser draw out shapes on the pyramids. In the foreground, a projector showed images on a stone wall, with another laser drawing shapes.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 24.0 mm; 15 sec, f/4.0, ISO 200
The Sphynx usually had a face projected on it.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 24.0 mm; 4 sec, f/5.7, ISO 400
There was a bit of science here, like the angle of the edges is 52 degrees.



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 35.0 mm; 4 sec, f/5.7, ISO 400



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 35.0 mm; 2 sec, f/5.7, ISO 800



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 23.0 mm; 3.2 sec, f/5.7, ISO 800



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 105.0 mm; 3.2 sec, f/5.7, ISO 800



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 105.0 mm; 1.3 sec, f/5.7, ISO 800



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 105.0 mm; 8 sec, f/8.0, ISO 800



Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 40.0 mm; 5 sec, f/8.0, ISO 800



FreeBSD!
anyone@walenz.org. Last touched on Thursday, July 8, 2010.
Thanks to the spammers, you've got to read this to know that anyone should be replaced with bri.