Up the valley without a paddle

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
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Trip End Oct 08, 2008


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Where I stayed
Bob Marley House Hostel

Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Friday, June 20, 2008

We rented bikes to do the West Bank in Luxor.  This seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Loaded up with food and water and riding on dubious bikes, we found our way to the real ferry.  Everyone else seemed to think we wanted a private ferry.  Their private ferry.  The ferry guy tried to get me to buy a round trip ticket.  I thought this was strange because he didn't actually hand out a ticket.  Then he tried to take Erin's bike for some baksheesh.  Erin told him to go away.  On the other side we pedalled down the road to the Colossi of Memnon.  There isn't much left of them, but they are big.  From here we biked the couple of kilometers to the Valley of the Queens. 

After the pharoahs realized they didn't have the resources to build giant pyramids anymore, and that visible monuments were more likely to get plundered, they decided to hide themselves in secret, guarded valleys.  The Valley of the Queens was where important people, princes, and ocassionally Queens were buried.  There were only three tombs open, and only one belonged to a woman. 
Each of the tombs has a guard/ticket checker.  These people are annoying.  They follow you around, make small talk, fan you with cardboard, point out various people and animals, and then want baksheesh.  I just want to appreciate the tomb in peace.  This apparently is not possible. 

The tombs are quite small but beautiful.  The walls are covered with a white plaster and the colors are inked in on top.  The scenes relate to the journey into the afterlife and are very colorful and detailed.  It was worth seeing, but the Valley of the King is much better.

This was our next stop.  It was quite a painful bike ride along the West Bank and up into the valley, but we made it huffing and puffing.  While the Valley of the Queens ticket office was a shack, the Valley of the Kings had an air-conditioned visitor's center with informative displays and short videos.  Not even the pyramids had this.  Still have to pay for the bloody bathroom though.  It's so hot that the water coming out of the tap burns my hands. 

You buy a ticket at the front office.  This ticket is good for three open tombs.  There is absolutely nothing at the ticket office, visitor's center, or on the ticket itself that says this.  Even the guidebook forgets to mention it.  Once you buy the expensive ticket, you are expected to pay another pound to ride the toy train.  The toy train brings you maybe 500 meters.  Literally around the corner.  You have to walk further into the tombs than the train takes you.  We skipped it. 

Not knowing about the three tombs, we walked into the first one.  It wasn't very well preserved or very big.  The ticket checker let us get most of the way in before coming around and punching the ticket.  Oops.  Two to go.  On the upside, this tomb had a rather impressive ceiling painting of Nut, the god of the sky.  So it turned out to be worth it after all. 

We had wanted to see the tomb of Ramses XI, which was supposed to be well preserved.  Of course, they charged you another $10 to get in.  So we couldn't go in that one either.  Just so you know, without a student ticket, it costs $15 to get into the Valley of the Kings.  To see the tomb of King Tut it costs another $20.  And to see the tomb of Ramses XI it costs another $10.  So its $45 to see five tombs.  This seems a little ridiculous. 

For our second tomb we went in Ramses III.  This one was much better.  It was enormous, stretching down chamber after chamber into the earth.  There were hieroglyphs and beautiful paintings all over the walls.  You could trace the journey that he made into the underworld.  He was judged before the Gods and, if found worthy, he took a bought to the Fields of Paradise.  The lower parts of the tomb had been unrestored and stretched away into the darkness.  We watched tour groups hurry into the tomb, barely glancing left or right, then hurry out again.  It seemed so sad.

Our final tomb was that of Thutmose III.  This was a much older tomb, and was in an amazing state of preservation.  It was also situated up in a high point of the valley.  The first room you come to is beautifully decorated and has a deep well to deter tomb robbers.  The next room is covered with text.  It looks almost like a cartoon, with boxes with a picture and a little writing.  Unlike the more detailed writing of later years, these pictures are stick figures with black ink.  Further down is a cartouche (circular) shaped burial chamber with the coffin.  The walls are covered with the stick drawings.  An interesting story and a beautiful tomb.

We had left our bikes at the front guardpost.  The guard had placed a cardboard box on our seats to keep them from getting hot.  Besides an attempt to get us to have some tea, he strangely didn't ask for baksheesh.  We unlocked our bikes and Erin took off down the road.  I followed, but about five seconds later my bike tire made a terrible sound and my bike stopped moving.  I got off the bike and found that my bike tire was flat. Actually, it seemed to be kinked.  Either way, it wouldn't roll.  Erin hadn't noticed until she was well down the road.  So I picked up my bike and carried it down to her.  I was not amused.

It was at this point that a guy on a motorbike came up to me and asked me if I needed help.  Maybe I've been in Egypt too long but I found this very suspicious.  Did someone tamper with my bike while I was gone?  Then come to help afterwards?  Or did the heat and the crappy bike just mess up my wheel.  I prefer to believe the latter and keep my faith in humanity.  We were three kilometers into the desert on a blazing day with only a moderate amount of water.  Erin got my tire to spin and we started walking out.  We watched the aircon luxury buses zoom by.  No one stopped. 

It actually wasn't that bad.  We made it out to the main road and then picked up a truck that tried to charge us an exorbitant amount to get back to the docks.  We settled on a price and he drove us and our bikes back to the ferry.  So we skipped Hatshephut's temple, which I had wanted to see.  But we made it back across the river without too much trouble.  Erin went to get water and her chain popped off.  It took several Egyptian men to fix it for her. 

So we delivered two broken bikes back to the shop.  The owner wasn't around to see it.

The wonderful hotel owners let us take a shower in the hostel before we went to get our bus.  Bob Marley hostel had a questionable name, but really excellent service.

~Travis
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