Monday, 23 June 2008

On the Road Again

Hi from Clare, Saturday 21/6

Photo 1 - Nile River Plains
Photo 2 - Temple at Edfu
Photo 3 - Beautiful Carvings
Photo 4 - Patrick, Leanne, Clare, Andrew relaxing

We left Cairo and caught the overnight train to Aswan on Thursday night. Fortunately Kathryn organized two company cars to ferry us, down the highway from hell, from Alexandria to Cairo. The traffic conditions are so dangerous that it is company policy to have their cars off that road by nightfall. I guess that tells all!

The train station was an adventure in itself. The local trains arrived every few minutes with people hanging out the doors and windows. How the awaiting crowd managed to squeeze into the train remains a mystery. At the back of each train there were six or more people standing on the decking where the next carriage is connected.

The overnight train to Aswan is not too bad. Not quite as glamorous as they make out on "Getaway" but after a few beers we were ready to cope with the rocky ride, narrow bunks, smelly toilets and basic lunch box meals for dinner and breakfast. It was all worth it though just to leave the busy cities behind and head for the fertile farming plains of the Nile River.

Our Aswan tour guide met the train, bundled us into a mini bus and speed us around Aswan so fast, taking photos was nearly impossible. We saw the Aswan Dam (which provides 60% OF Egypt's electricity) the granite quarry and the unfinished obelisk which weighed 1,150 tons (imagine maneuvering that into position)and then to the Temple of Philae, the first of many temples we expect to see on this trip.

None of us liked the guide because he rushed us through our pre paid program then pressured us to take expensive additional excursions. We also had ongoing issues regarding appropriate tips. From the literature we have read today, I think so far we have each paid what the group should have paid totally, in other words we have paid five times too much. Guides, who needs them? I remember Kathryn saying that when she did this trip, her main objective was to keep away from her guide - maybe it was the same one!

Late yesterday (6pm) we went to the temple at Kom Ombo and early this morning (6am) to the Temple at Edfu. The temples are brilliant, so enormous and with beautifully carved stone work. It took 180 years to build and decorate Edfu and we can certainly see why. Every surface of this well preserved structure is beautifully carved; a staggering achievement.

As a tourist, Egypt is a challenging place. The touts are unrelenting and they swoop like sea gulls on chips. Yesterday when one was trying to sell Andrew a long shirt, the price dropped from 350 Egyptian pounds to 30 pounds as they pursued him along the road. What the touts failed to get was that Andrew didn't want the shirt regardless of price. At one stage I looked around to see a great flurry of material around Andrew's neck, as two or three were accosting him. I fully expected to see Andrew break free from them wearing the unwanted shirt.

I have found that, being female it is easier for me, all I have to do is hold my hands up and say sternly "don't touch me" and they back off apologetically. Thank goodness for that!

Our river boat is excellent with good dining, comfortable rooms, swimming pool and shaded outdoor lounges. It is 3.30pm and Andrew is sleeping in air conditioned comfort, I think I will join him shortly.

We are now at Luxor and tomorrow morning we will set out at 6:30am to visit another Temple. We are expecting 45 degrees tomorrow, so 6:30am sounds good to me.

We will write again soon