28th April, 2009
Once again, I’m a few days behind, so here’s what happened on:
26th April, 2009
I was kind of surprised I woke at 6:30 as I stayed up until 4:00 AM getting the pictures and journal ready to upload in the morning. Went down to eat breakfast while I was uploading pictures to the web. Here’s the thing though. For some reason my laptop couldn’t find the WIFI (I personally think it was turned off, but I couldn’t get any of the hotel staff to check the router to see if it was acttually plugged into anything. They did unhook the lobby computer and let me log into the net through that. Then halfway through uploading stuff, the power went out, but somehow everything worked out except that Facebook crapped out (again) as I was adding captions to the pictures of the Sudan I had uploaded. By that time I was kinda tired of internet stuff, sent off an update notice to everyone and sat and had a newly priced orange juice while I waited for the guy to pick me up for the felucca ride.
He showed up, but I had the feeling something was a bit iffy when we took a taxi to another Toyota truck taxi and then took that outa town to some bridge where there was no felucca at all. One did show up with Ross, a completely fed up Australian who had been waiting 7 hours to get going, and then turned back to pick me up. So we sailed downstream for about an hour and stopped for lunch. Ross was pretty fed up, but the lunch was good and I went ashore and bonded with a cow, and chatted to some small girls who were selling me something. I don’t remember what exactly.
We sailed some more and caught up with some other people on another felucca that Ross said had landed with our felucca the night before. We then sailed for a bout 4 hours, and I slept through about two and a half hours of that, and stopped for supper and an overnight sleep. The other felucca stopped at the same place and we all sat around, chatted and then had supper. Only thing is we had supper on our boat and the others had supper on theirs and their dinner seemed infinitely more appetising than the bean soup and rice they served us. I have to say the bean broth was tasy, but both of us would have preferred the macaroni and vegetables the other boat was serving. We joked that while we drank shai, the other boat were sipping cappucinos and eating truffles.
Ross has been travelling on a Round The World Ticket that’s good for about a year. Cost $5,000 and I think is sounds like a pretty good deal. He flew to Tahitiand aster Island Peru, New York, London and took some really amazing pictures. He works as a photographer and his shots were first class, just like you’d see in National Geographic. Just amazing shots of people from Peru, Cuba and the NYC Subway.
27th April, 2009
Turns out I only got one day on the felucca out of the deal (after paying for two) and that was really only about four or five hours sailing time. There was a guy on the other boat who had paid through the Hathor Hotel and left two days before me, and even though we were bow at the same point on the Nile, he got three nights for the same price I paid for one. We were then bundled into a minivan and driven the rest of the way to Luxor. Now, I should say at this point, the Tourist Information Office had warned me about this, but I had asked the hotel specifically if the boat went all the way to Luxor and they told me it did. Still despite being ripped off, the expereince was quite pleasant, and the ride to Luxor was pretty good as we stopped at Temples at both Kom Ombo and Edfu. I think the temple at Kom Ombo was a Temple of Isis because there were a bunch of women in floppy hats who advanced in ritual fashion (not as a group, more like individual moths to a flame) and then stood and prayed as they touched the granite stone where the Holy of Holies had once stood. I took plenty of pictures and the others had been waiting twenty minutes for me by the time I got back to the bus. They sent the Morrocan woman tourist to get me because she spoke Arabic and could ask for me. She also spoke French, so I could kinda chat with her as we walked back to the minivan. Stopping at Edfu, the driver announced we had one hour (I think for my benefit).
An hour isn’t really enough time to explore a large Egyptian temple, but I managed to do it, even though I had to skip a couple of interesting rooms. I stopped to get a Coke, but the vendor wanted 20 pounds for it (That’s $4USD for a can of Coke!) I declined. Anyways, I got back and only one other passenger, a woman from Denmark, who had also been at the Hathor Hotel, had got back to the minibus. The driver showed up about twenty minutes later with two more passengers, two women from France. SO we set off and drove to Luxor. I had decided on staying at the Oasis Hotel, but it was in Luxor and quite a distance from the ferry, so I had to bribe the driver to take me back to the ferry where the two Frenchwomen had disembarked.
Some guy wanted me to go to “his brother’s: hotel, but he wanted 150 guoinays, I just laughed and stopped walking with him. Then two kids said they could take me to a hotel for 75 guinays (Egyptian pounds). I woulda normally freaked out travelling as far as they did to a hotel, but it was only a five (OK, ten) minute walk from the Hapshepsut Temple. Five from the Ramesseum. And not all that far from the famous Agamemnon statues out tin the fields. So cool, the hotel is older, not too bad. There’s no restaurant within miles of here, and the only shops sell alabaster souvenires. If someone opened a DECENT RETSAURANT here with REASONABLE PRICES, they’d make a fortune! But for some reason, in the middle east, if someone opens an alabaster shop, everyone opens an alabaster shop. You can pick any commodity and insert that where I wrote alabaster and it would still apply. I did find a little shop that sold that round box of god-awful processed cheese triangles, but I was so hungry I ate the whole box. Yogurt, and twinkies. Ack! I also bought some Everready Energizer batteries against my better judgement. For some reason they don’t keep going and going. In Fact, in my camera they last about 4 hours. Still, my Kodak batteries were acting up, and it wouldn’t be long before they quit on me.
I decided to take a walk up to the Hatsehpsut Temple just to check it out before I went in the morning for a real visit. Walked past about twenty alabaster shops. It was close to closing, so there weren’t a lot of people there. I decided to check out some stairs off to the side of the road that went into the ground, and as I was walking down them, some guy came running after me. Turns out he was the gatekeeper to the Tomb of Pbes of th 26th Dynasty, and for a little baksheesh (An Arabic word that is kind of a combination of bribe, extortian money, regular wage, bonus pay, toll, gift, or money people ask for once they start walking alongside me and talking to me). He opened it up, and it was truly amazing! Though there wasn’t a lot of color left in the tomb, it has several rooms, and the carving on the wall was really top rate. The teeny hieroglyphs even had feathers inscribed into the bird signs, in fact , all the signs were quite intricately inscribed. It was beautiful. And being the only one in the tomb complex made the expereince even more wonderful. Having given 25 guinays bakseesh, the gatekeeper invited me back to his little hut and we sat and drank shai and chatted for about an hour with his partner in crime. Another guy shopwed up and we all had some more shai and I walked back to the Osiris Hotel.
I was waylaid by three kids (11, 10 and 9) and they wanted to sell me some scarab carvings, and I held out as long as I could and until the price was reasonable and endined up buying three for thirty Guinays. Of course they didn’t have change for a fiffty and then we had to haggle about getting 5, 5 and 7 things for fifty guinays, but I stuck to three for thirty and they finally found someone who could change the 50 Guinay note. They then asked for bakseesh and we walked about a kilometer until I gave them 1 guinay between them. I later gave the other two a guinay each as long as they promised not to bug me for money any more. That deal went south after about 10 seconds. Two of them left and the third wanted me to visit his father, who, as it turned out, had an alabaster shop. I then had to walk all the way home saying no to this kid for the pieces from his Dad’s shop.
I should mention here that the same alabaster scarabs that I bought for 10 guinays each have been offered to me for 1 guinay to 40 guinays. I now have scarabs of varying value and constant size and quality. The fact they’re made from rock does not make them easy to carry in my pack, and the weight means mailing them home at an exhorbitants cost. I think maybe I’ll use them as a deterrent weapon against unfriendly dogs.
28th April, 2009
I’m the only person staying in this hotel. I woke up at 6:30 AM but there was no one about and I finally got breakfasr around 7:30. I had hoped for an earlier start to visit Hatsepsut’s Temple, but by the time I had breakfast, stopped for a shai at an alabaster shop, the temple was quite crowded. I decided I’d b etter buyan SD memory card for my camera as the one I have is filling up fast. The guy wanted 150 guinay for a 2GB card which is about $30. I told him I could buy one for 40 guinays and we haggled. I bought it for 100 guinays. I have no idea why, except when I went to take my first shot of the Htshepsut Temple, the camera told me I was out of memory! Turns out I’d left the memory card for the camera back at the Osiris Hotel. If I hadn’t have given up and bought the card from the vulture at the Tourist are, I would have had to have gone back and bought it anyway, no matter what he asked. My subconcious saved the day again!
It’s hard to take pictures because almost every statue has someone sitting in front of it to get their picture taken sitting in front of it, and at some statues, there was actually a line up! It was a little disappointing as a lot of the temple was roped off and closed. The wall reliefs are quite damaged by one group or another, quite faded and worn, and there are not any representations of Hatshepsut left as her son had them all chiselled out. There’s a lot of that. Not as much from sons of Pharoahs, but from rabid muslims and christians. Also, quite a few places have smoke damage from people living inside them. I wanted to get a Coke from the café by the Temple, but they wanted 15 guinays. One of the vendors in the Tourist Gauntlet every site has set up sold me one for 5 guinays (the real price is 3). They have these alleys set up at the exit, so you have to go past the souvenir shops in order to leave. For some reason, they don’t bother me as much as I though they might. I think after India, nothing could even come close to the harrassment there. Maybe I was more relaxed after coming through Sudan, where nobody really bugged me.
I have been stopped by tons of people who want me to have shai today. I can’t even mention them all. Even two invitations to have sex with men. Maybe cause I’m not married. No one seems to be able to get their head wrapped about that in these Muslim countries. Anyways, I digress…
SO I walked to the Ramesseum, but the ticket office is two kilometers away, so I had to backtrack a bit and go to the ticket office. It is very close to the Habu Temple. What a piece of work that is! It’s full of Rmesses hitting people with sticks, trampling them under his chariot, choping off their hands and putting them in piles, and having scribes tally them, and just in case you don’t think that’s violent enough and you’re not getting the message that this is one savage dude, there’s some guys chopping of his enemy’s penises (I’m not sure what the plural is of penis (penum? penorum?) and throwing them in a pile! (and tallying them. The anciemt Egyptians are big on tallying.)
Pretty grim stuff, but the Habu Temple is pretty big and quite impressive.
Outside the temple there are a few restaurants and I had stopped at three to get a Coke and two wanted 15 guinays for a can of Coke ($3 USD) and one wanted ten. I walked to one that had no one in it and the kid there said 5, so I stopped to have one and decided to eat there and had Kofta (spiced sausage and rice). The sausage was overcooked an really overpriced (40 guinays) though they did throw in some pretty good home made french fries with it. Some English people came in and ordered drinks and were charged 10 gunays for each bottle of water which was about 5 times what they’re worth, so they refused to pay and walkedd out after they had opened the bottles. Of course, they didn’t ask before they ordered, so there was quite a lot of consternation involved there. I paid for my two Cokes and Kofta and left. Some guy stopped amd asked mr to hold his motorbike while he filled some water bottles, so I did that and he offered to give me ride to the Agamemnon statues, It wasn’t far, so I told him I would walk, but he talked me into getting a ride there. He asked for something in return for the ride and I told him I’d held his bike while he got water, so he laughed and left. I got a Coke for 3 guinays beside the Agamemnon statues, and the gut asked for a kiss for a Coke and we eventually settled on 3 guinays instead. I took some photos and them walked across the fields to the Ramesseum.
Some guy there kept following me, and I had to really try hard to get him to go away and leave me alone, which finally and thankfully, he did, and I wandered about the Ramesseum by myself (there wqs no one else there). The guy came back after about ¾ of an hour, and, KNOWING IT WOULD COST ME MONEY, I let him take me to “secret tombs”. They turned out to be Coptic graves, not mummies, and the storehouses were vaguely interesting. I gave him 20 guinays and he then took me over to his shack and we had shai with a police guy who was sleeping there. I then got the tour he wanted to give me when I told him to quit bugging me. It was all stuff “off limits” and here’s something for you to remember if you go to Egypt: If you’re not in a group, there is always some gatekeeper or police guard who will open up a closed tomb for you for a price. This is also made easier at this time of the year as the archaeologists have all gone hoome as they apparently can’t work in the heat here. The digging season is in the winter, which leaves their sites open until they return after the Nile floods.
Stopped at the shop and bought some more batteries, and hope that they will last me through the Valley of the Kings. Stopped for shai three times before I made it back to the hotel. I’m still the only one staying here. There wasn’t even any staff here when I got back. I’m hoping someone shows up so I can arrange for a ride out to the Valley of the Kings tomorrow. We shall see, or as they say here: