Monday 2nd April
Aswan – Edfu – Luxor
Set off from Aswan at 6am and drove north towards Luxor. We stopped on the way at Edfu Temple – the guide in the temple today was very ordinary – this temple was very large and was built in Greek times during Ptolemy’s reign. We walked around and looked at all of the ruins for about an hour and a half. The walls were very high and it was much more ‘modern’ than other places we have seen in the past few weeks. The funny thing that happened was this: at many ruins, part of the carvings are sort of scratched out – we had thought they had been damaged but it seemed too systematic to be accidental. Anyway, one of our group asked why this had occurred. The guide told us that people 100 years ago were much taller than they are now and they had been able to scratch out the carvings that were high on the wall (eg 10m high) and that nowadays people being smaller they could only scratch out those near the bottom….. – crazy man! [By the way, Tony, our excellent guide in Luxor, explained to us that successive pharaohs would scratch out the names and carvings of their enemies.] After finishing at Edfu, we drove on towards Luxor and arrived at the hotel “Rezeiky Camp” at about 2.30pm. There we finally met Nat’s parents Harald and Regina who are joining the trip from here to Cairo. We have a room near the pool although it is fairly basic. As usual (except for Aswan), the plumbing is leaky, toilet doesn’t flush well and the bed is really hard. Once we had our bearings, we walked up to the town about 1 ½ km away and had lunch in a nice fast food place. Afterwards we looked through the Luxor Temple – right in the middle of town – it was quite large and covered a number of periods of Egyptian history. There are two temples in Luxor – Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple about 2 ½ km to the north. They have uncovered in recent years a line of sphinxes that run from one temple to the other and are in the process of restoring them and constructing a road that leads from one temple to the other. It looks as though it will take some time to complete this major project, but they have made quite a deal of progress. There are now no buildings on the line that leads from one temple to the other. After visiting the temple, we came back and had a welcome dinner for Harald and Regina and afterwards to bed.
Tuesday 3rd April
Up at 5.30am today to head off for our balloon flight over the Valley of the Kings. The decision to go had happened suddenly the night before when we were offered seats on the flight for US$65. The six of us who have been travelling for a while all decided to do it. We were picked up and went by minibus to the river then caught a ferry across the river, then another minibus to the field where there were about 6 balloons ready for lift off and there were another 6 or so already aloft. We ascended at 6am and descended at about 6.45am. The weather was fairly clear but farmers were burning off sugar cane so it was a bit smoky. David was a bit scared (the height gets to him a bit and we went up to 2000 feet) but the experience was amazing. You could see for many kilometres and we flew over temples and tombs. The demarcation line between the Nile River agricultural area and the desert is quite marked from up high and there are villages dotted here and there on the west bank of the Nile. After our flight, the ground crew did a celebration dance and Lynn had to join in, then we received our certificates marking the flight and returned to the hotel where we sat around till after lunch and at about 2.45pm our guide (Tony – he was really great) came and we walked along to Karnak Temple (about 15 minutes). This temple is huge (the biggest we have seen so far on the trip). The temple was built over a period of 2,000 years – truly an unimaginable period of time – and has many different styles, hieroglyphics and ceilings. We walked around for more than 2 hours and it was truly great. The scale of the temple is huge and we both loved this place, only leaving when it was shutting at 5.30pm. We had an ice cream on the way out and walked back to the hotel. Had a short rest and then walked back to the town to a rooftop restaurant for dinner with the entire group. The evenings are cooler and very pleasant, while the days here are hot and dry. Walked back after dinner to the hotel and to bed.
Wednesday 4th April
Up early again today at about 5.30am for a 6am pickup to go across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings. The early start was to beat both the heat and the crowds. Arrived at about 7am and looked through three tombs – Rameses III, Rameses I and Rameses IV – all were different and had different types of decorations. We had Tony again as our guide and he explained everything before we went inside each tomb (guides are not allowed inside the tombs and you cannot take any photos in the Valley of the Kings). We spent about 2 hours in total looking at these three tombs then went to Queen Haptshepsut’s Temple, that is in the process of being restored (has been for many years). This was where the 58 tourists were gunned down by terrorists in 1997. Again it is huge and has an old and a new temple on the same site side by side. We strolled around and took photos and then came back to the hotel. After we had a short break, we walked up to the town and had lunch with Wrensch and Emily – after that we went shopping then bought food for the meals on the road starting again tomorrow, then back to the hotel for a break before we go out to dinner – same place as last night. Tomorrow we head off again in the truck for our last week on this trip. The days in Luxor have been very busy, but we preferred Aswan as it was more laid back and the people were much more friendly.