16.32 - Our extremely early start today is starting to catch up with me but it was well worth it. The alarm clock woke us up at 04.00 and we were in reception for 05.00. From our hotel, a shuttle bus picked us up and took us the short distance to the river Nile where we boarded a boat to take us to the east shore. As it was not only us going, we had time for tea and coffee before everyone else arrived. The trip across was very short which I didn't expect. I know we are not at the mouth of the river but compared to all other rivers, like the Amazon for example, it is much narrower.
Anyway, another short drive and we were at our launch site and almost immediately whisked into an empty balloon basket and lifting off. Although the sun was not quite up, it was still light and we got some amazing views across the valley. When the sun did finally rise it was even better, the only thing spoiling it was a slight haze on the horizon. As we went up to about 1500m and down to as low as the crop fields, we saw the green belt around the Nile as well as The Valley Of The Kings, Valley Of The Queens, Temple Of Hatshepsut and numerous other ruins and relics. All told, it was a spectacular 45mins of floating on air and we were sorry when it ended with a bump in a field not too far from where we started.
After collecting our certificates and t-shirts, we were driven directly to The Valley Of The Kings where we met Explore tour leader Mohammed and our tour leader for the day...Mohammed! He took us into the main site and gave us a brief history of the area and his recommendations of which tombs to see. Our ticket only covers us to see 3 tombs of the ones that are public, less some that need an additional ticket to be purchased. Following Mohammed's recommendations we went to the tomb of Tuthmosis III (KV34) which was reached by a steep manmade staircase into a small, narrow canyon. At the top, we had to then descend into the tomb, going down 40m into the rock. It was not as bad as the pyramids in Giza because the ventilation was better. The tombs were of course empty apart from sarcophagi but the decorations made up for it.
This tomb was one of the first built so the artwork was a bit primitive compared to the other tombs but amazing non the less. On the way back out Mum got vertigo going down the staircase so I had to hold her hand of course! The next tomb was that of Ramses I (KV16). A bit of a queue to get in but short and sweet. The artwork this time was much better but showed more signs of deterioration and damage. The roof in particular was amazing. This tomb then set the tempo for the next two. Firstly came the tomb of Ramses IV (KV2) which had a wide and gently sloping entrance (unlike KV34) going quite far into the rock. It was decorated all along in brilliant vibrant colours and row after row of hieroglyphs. Again it was empty at the end, robbed by grave robbers.
It goes without saying that no photography was allowed in any of the tombs so I won't have any pictures at home. The whole site was busy so I think no photography in the tombs was to prevent congestion as well as to help with preservation. Our final tomb was that of Ramses VI (KV9). Almost identical to KV2, the only thing worth mentioning was an annoying tour group which blocked the viewing area at the end much to our annoyance. In general, the whole site was much better managed than the pyramids but still needs work doing to stop this and other abuses of the area.
All the above had been done in a lightning quick pace of 1 hour but we could easily have spent more time. One of the sights we missed was Tutankhamen's tomb but there was not much to see in it apparently and it cost an extra E£100. A couple of days and more money could probably do more justice to the place. Anyway, it was on to the temple of Hatshepsut. By then my shits were kicking in again so it was toilet time. Another annoyance which I think I have failed to mention previously is the lack of toilet paper in the toilets. Instead you have to pay the now customary tip to receive a slither which was more or less useless to me!
There aren't even any paper towels and rarely hand dryers to use after! Back to the point, Hatshepsut's temple was built for the only female pharaoh in the history of ancient Egypt. Even then, it was only by default. Comparatively speaking, the temple is in relatively good condition and because it has a flat, wide open space leading up to it, we got some good photos. There is not much to tell about the temple itself but we were able to take photos of the patchwork hieroglyphics. A joint team of Polish and Egyptian archaeologists are in the process of restoring the temple. So far, they have done a good job but they still have a long way to go!
22.00. To get back to the ferry crossing we had donkeys as our transportation. Mine was a black beauty who was pretty quick which I was hoping for. Sometimes it was too quick and hard to slow down but it made for a more enjoyable ride on the back streets and through the fields of the east bank. We met those who didn't go on the donkeys enjoying nice cold beers in a hotel then got the ferry across the river. Upon reaching the west bank, we went our own ways. Mum and me went to a bookshop in the hope of finding a nice all round book on Egypt. We couldn't find one but we didn't dwell on it as our stomachs were rumbling. Both of us wanted something simple and plain seeing how McDonald's was so close, we went there! No need to say anything more about that so after eating we walked towards our hotel via the bazaar.
It was the usual hustle and bustle of a tourist trap but once at the end, a local lad enticed Mum into the local Egyptian bazaar. I had to follow of course. It was good at first because it was all for the locals so there was not as much hassle. Our original intention was to walk right through to the other side but after 15 minutes without an end in sight we resolved to turn back. It took us longer to get out due to the horse kalesh coming through causing chaos. The streets are very narrow and there was only just enough space for them to get through. That didn't leave much room for other people so progress was slow. One young boy even got run over! Once we got out, slightly relieved, we walked the 100m to our hotel for a quick beer on the roof terrace then back to our room.
A couple of hour r & r after a scorching hot day was a welcome relief but before long it was time to head out again, this time for tea. The early start had caught up with us and we couldn't really be arsed eating or talking. Food was good but I ended up leaving a fair bit. We all took a short walk afterwards to the bazaar, this time with Mohammed's recommendations. As a result, I have bought a ring for myself and a fake Egyptian football shirt for Ryan. Mum and me split the cost of the shirt which would originally have cost us E£420 but we bartered it down to E£240 which I think was quite a good effort. Another quick drink in the café and now we are back in the hotel looking forward to a good night's sleep. I am just finishing writing whilst on the toilet with my worst shits so far!