Although we had said we would take up the sister’s offer of attending mass at the convent, we had to renege on this commitment when we realised it would take up most of our morning. Taking into account the dreaded police escorts, we knew we needed to leave very early. And so we did, after packing the bikes in the company of a deacon from the church who quizzed us about our adventures, and a myriad coke bottles which are normally stored in the garage where we’d been told to leave the bikes overnight.
The journey was as expected – long, and particularly arduous because of police escorts. At one point, I felt the need to stop and photograph a particularly spectacular statue of what would appear to be a local muslim hero, and artist or writer. As a result, we were overtaken by a Thompson Local tour bus, and at the next checkpoint we picked up a pretty slow policeman. Glyn was not best pleased, telling me that he blamed me entirely for the fact that we were now being escorted by a ‘bakkie’ that ‘could do better’! I didn’t realise then that what he meant was that he thought all the others were accompanying the big bus. He was probably right. At the next checkpoint we had to wait 40 minutes, and it was only after a lot of loud gesticulation that we were going to go regardless that our escort finally arrived.
We were getting worked up because we had visions of it taking 40 minutes at every next stop, and we had only made it one third of the way. But thankfully that didn’t happen, and we managed to arrive rather early at Luxor, and the splendid (in our eyes) Rezeiky camp. With shade, grass and a swimming pool this place was a veritable heaven. The blackened light switches and showers-over-toilets scenario we could deal with. So it was that we set up camp, and did an hour of clothes washing (which finally removed the grit from my fingernails too, thank the Lord!). We ate a meal of local Egyptian food, prepared by camp staff. This, I believe, has been our undoing. Suffice to say that it’s been a delicate state of affairs today!
We visited the Karnak temple for the evening’s sound and light show, which was pretty spectacular, if a little long-winded. The size of some of the structures is pretty amazing, and comparable to the pyramids in detail if not in size. Certainly, the price for entry was more than for the pyramids.
This morning we ventured across to the west bank, to visit the Valley of the Kings. A lovely, winding tarmac road takes you up into the sandstone-coloured hills, where you’re greeted by hordes of tourists disgorged from buses. Like ants, we all scurried around from one tomb to another, burrowing in and out of them, working up a serious sweat because inside some of them it gets incredibly hot. We were going to visit King Tut’s tomb, but they wanted an extra fee on top of the one already paid at the gate, and although we had decided it was probably worth doing, since we were here, it meant going all the way back to the entrance. At which point we said ‘forget it’ and visited another, empty tomb. This was far more pleasant. No ghastly yanks panting down your neck. Just the stillness of a burial place. Oh, and a little Egyptian ‘guard’ who, despite all the signs to the contrary, encouraged us to take a photo of what was a pretty spectacular sarcophagus, and then wanted his fair share of our wallets!
Have decided not to bother with Luxor temple, which in any case is in the middle of the town and can be seen while walking along the promenade of the Nile along which all the river boats dock. Have a dirty secret to admit here too! Shh! I got so hungry, and was so fed up with being harangued by locals, that, it pains me to say, I committed that heinous crime – I visited the MacDonalds! I know, I know. It’s completely unforgivable. But it did have a wonderful view of the ruins! AND air-con! What more can you ask? What’s doubly terrible about this crime is that I did it while Glyn was doing bike maintenance back at camp! There he is, all greased up to the elbows, and I’m swanning about tucking into a packet of greasy chips with goopy tomato sauce all over them. Well, some forbidden fruits just do taste better!