[I scribbled this out in my Moleskine notebook while on the train, forgive my grammar and randomness]
Wednesday, Aug. 1- Cairo, Egypt:
I was booked on a 10pm train to Luxor from Cairo. The hostel receptionist told me a taxi would take me to the train station. I killed time in the evening posting the YouTube video (45 minute upload, hope you liked it) and reading a Lonely Planet Egypt guide. Sometime around 9:30pm one of the guys that work at the hostel takes me downstairs. He stands in the street trying to flag a taxi down. They pass by one by one. Some stop, he speaks Arabic to them, they shake their head, and zoom away. This happened about five or six times before he called up stairs. Whatever they told him made us start walking down the street ("More taxis", he told me). We try to flag down a couple more cars. No luck. He's on the cell phone again. This time his eyes light up and he beckons me to follow him as he starts a slow sprint down the busy sidewalks. I ask him what's going on and he tells me, "Four minutes". We're running now. I'm smashing into people, men, women... I'm jumping over merchants' goods spread out on the sidewalk. People are shouting at us. It must have looked like I was chasing a thief. I'm carrying two bags and I'm exhausted. I slow down as my stomach starts to cramp up. He beckons to me frantically. I shout at him, "I'm carrying bags here!"
We get to the station. It's chaos. We bolt to a train, he asks different people questions. We bolt down stairs and through tunnels. I remind myself of the tomb descending and horseback riding I'd done earlier in the day. Rather, the pain in my thigh muscles do the reminding. Wrong platform. The kid jumps onto the train tracks, a meter drop. He beckons. I pause for a moment to see if he realizes that I'm still carrying luggage. He beckons again. I toss him my backpack and leap down. We run across grime and debris, I glance back and forth for moving trains. We toss the bags up onto the platform and use a pipe to boost ourselves up. He asks people in windows, hanging out of doors, and standing around the platform if they know where 926 to Luxor is. I notice how crowded and sweaty the train looks. I'm not sure if I even want to get on it if we found it. He runs off again. Jumps down to the tracks. I follow. At the other end there is no pipe to help us up. We struggle for a second, toss the bags up, and use our arms to pull us up. He runs around asking again and again. The train is gone.
We sit on some steps by the station while he phones the hostel manager. I am laughing in disbelief. His manager instructs him to exchange the ticket. So we head back through the tunnels to the ticket office. No one will help him. After an hour of climbing up and down stairs, back and forth from different offices, booths, and whatnot, I lose my patience. I was sweating head to toe, more than I ever had on the trip. (I powdered my junk but at this point, it didn't matter) My Geox Respiras definitely weren't respirating enough.
The officials all refuse to exchange the ticket. Aziz, the manager of the hostel, shows up and asks me to cough up 90 LE for a ticket to the next train. Angrily, I hand it over though I'd been fantasizing about heading straight to Corfu. It's close to midnight now and my train has just pulled up. The kid (who turned out to be 19) showed me to my air-conditioned car and I was on my way to Luxor.
Note: The train was actually too cold. I didn't bring any sort of jumper so I tucked my arms inside my shirt to sleep. A plain clothes security guy spent most of his time sitting in the seat in front of me with a sub-machine gun. So I wasn't too worried about my bags.