Night Train to Luxor

Egypt – December 2010

My wife and I have been on many sleeper trains over the years. The best by far was our overnight train from Cairo to Luxor. We had a private room—just two beds, a sink, and even a small closet. The porter who setup our room for the night and brought our dinner would also bring us a light breakfast in the morning. So far so good.

All was going smoothly until I needed to use the restroom. We’d just completed our dinner, so I thought I’d dash to the facilities before everyone else had the same idea. Our compartment was in the front of our railcar and the restroom was at the end. As I was washing my hands, the lights went out. I give my eyes a moment to adjust then slide the door open. I pause, seeing the situation back to our compartment when the train hits a bump and the door slams shut. Problem, my thumb is between the door and its destination.

I slowly make my way back to our room in the darkness and in pain. At least being in the front compartment means I won’t mistakenly pop into someone else’s room. I use the small flashlight I always travel with to find pain pills. There’s only a small amount of blood, though the thumb is pounding. I clean it up in the sink. As the room is dark, the only thing to do is go to sleep, so we turn in for the night.

Just as the pounding begins to subside and I start to drift off to sleep, the train comes to its first curve, which it seems to be taking a bit too fast as screeching brakes can be heard that jerk the cabin about a bit. It’s noisy but quick. A few minutes later, it happens again. So, I’m back up with the flashlight to find my earplugs. Relief from the screeching, but not the jerking around every curve and there are a lot of curves.

I’m reminded of the drivers back home who speed between stop signs. Even when they can see the next stop sign from the one they’re currently stopped at, they accelerate and then slam on their brakes. The big difference being that they have seatbelts and would only experience a forward momentum when hitting their brakes, whereas we have nothing holding us in place and our momentum is left and right.

Being tall, I never quite fit on sleep train beds, but I use this to my advantage by extending my legs a bit to the wall at the end of the bed to form a brace for myself. Not the most comfortable position, but it provides some stability and I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep if the route is this unsteady all the way. At least it’s a nice room.

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