Meeting Captain Jamaica
For most of us, the image of sailing slowly down the Nile River while lying lazily on a Felucca is something out of the movies. Mystery novelist, children's story book writer and contributing blogger Papa Campbell takes the time to share with us Chapter One of a short but vivid "Drifter's Tale" straight from the pages of his travel journal.
"This evening an ancient breeze smoothes across my face, as I witness the passing of a lonely felucca lazily floating by down the Nile. Its sail bows in humility at the brilliant beauty of the setting Egyptian sun."
"As the ship passes silhouettes of date palms on the shore, the tall white curvature of its sail mirrors a reflection in the slow moving waters of the Nile, as if two ships were affectionately sailing down the river as one."
"The sun sets. The boat’s reflection dims. Suddenly, the emergence of stars begins to sparkle upon the waters from the heavens above. The domination of the Egyptian sun has now given reprieve and gone elsewhere."
As the light begins to fade like evanescent vapor, Richard strains his eyes to write down the seemingly ineffable emotion of this day’s experience. The felucca captain, a mahogany hued Egyptian in his twenties, swings the main mast of the felucca starboard. He heads for the east side of the Nile, to find a quiet place for the night.
In Cairo two nights before, Richard had boarded the midnight train bound for Aswan. He endured a sleepless night scrunched up in a sleeping berth designed for a munchkin from Oz. All night he lay there, hour after hour, listening to the clickety-clack sounds of the ram shackled train, that sounded as if it was struggling to hold on to toil worn tracks.
Just when exhaustion had tranquilized all discomfort, the irritating noise of the train began to sound soothing, and his heavy drowsing eyelids finally closed into tranquility, the train porter knocked on the door, announcing arrival in Aswan.
7:30 a.m. The Egyptian sun is already tormenting the inhabitants of the little earthenware village. Richard steps off the wooden porch of the train station onto the dirt boulevard of the city square of Aswan. His brand new leather boots give rise to cloudlets of dust with each step he takes.
Suddenly a horse driven carriage-taxi abruptly passes by, causing a miasma of dust to billow up into his face. The ancient earth and sand disorient his path for an anxious moment. He strikes his perspiration stained fedora across his leg in an attempt to remove a layer of ancient terracotta dust. Spreading his fingers through his brown sweat-lathered-hair, he scans the panorama and returns his hat to his humidified head.
Crossing the street to the south side of the square, he ascends up a winding stairway of several steps to a palm leaf shaded rooftop café. Weary from a sleepless night, he hopes to immerse himself into copious amounts of rich, powerfully caffeinated, Egyptian coffee and ask for directions to the "Aswan Moon", a floating restaurant on the Nile, the place where felucca captains frequently haunt.
It takes Richard thirty minutes to sidle through a gauntlet of hucksters peddling rides aboard feluccas or horse carriages. Finally he steps down onto to the “Aswan Moon,” a floating oasis of refuge on the Nile River. Sitting down close to the waters edge, he sips a cup of spiced tea and watches the ancient Nile River, older than Methuselah, flow by.
While lost in a daydream of what it would be like to be a Pharaoh with his own pyramid, a shadow from above besieges him. Looking up to the origin of the eclipse of light, a turban clad man with eyes akin to black pearls hovers above him. The man’s broad smile flaunts teeth that resemble white nuggets of porcelain.
“Salaam my good friend, Salaam.” He ceremoniously bows.
As he reaches out to greet the biblically festooned character with a handshake, the man responds to the gesture of greeting, by enthusiastically embracing Richard’s clasp with both hands. “My name is Jamaica, Captain Jamaica.” He introduces himself.
“I’m Richard. I…”
“I am sorry that I am late my good friend.” He begins to apologize before Richard can finish his greeting. “My beautiful Nubian wife prepared a breakfast fit for a King, so I just had to linger.”
“Don’t worry about it Captain, I…”
“Do you have a wife my friend?” The man interrupts him.
“Uh, well I...” He's a little confused at the relevance of the Captain's question.
“Oh when you do marry, marry a Nubian woman. They are worth many camels my friend; and she will treat you like a Pharaoh,” the man advises him.
Before Richard can utter a response to his advice, Captain Jamaica continues on, quickly admitting to having the most excellent five felucca sailing vessels on the Nile. After the greeting niceties and the Captain’s sales persuasions, he pays Captain Jamaica for his passage down the Nile and to buy water and provisions for the three day sail.
In addition to food and water, Richard makes a special request for a bottle of good Tennessee whiskey. The Captain assures him that he knows of a secret place where a bottle of the American elixir has been hidden, just for a special occasion such as this one.
“Of course my good friend,” He prayerfully bows. “Such a special request as this requires, let us say, a more generous payment of appreciation, in order for me to reveal that secret place.” He then smiles the biggest most humble and worthy smile he is capable of, with as many of his porcelain white teeth showing as is humanly possible.
Shaking Richard's hand once again, Captain Jamaica again bows ceremoniously, and then departs to arrange the supplies for a three-day felucca adventure down the Nile.
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Contributing Blogger: Papa Campbell
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...