Nick and Sophie on the back of the truck.
[Camera and Egypt photos finally returned through the kind efforts of Kylie and my sister (13/02/09)...read on....]
After breakfast we set sail on the feluccas once more, for the final time. Gently we drift across to the Kom Ombo landing stage and disembark with all our possessions. It's been a great two days and Capt. Ayob has been a really lucky find in a world of felucca captains that I gather can be extremely hit and miss in terms of quality and friendliness. Your enjoyment of such a journey could be made or broken depending on the crew you end up with. We hand over tips to the deckhands and Capt. Calamity (Sayeed) manages one final act of self-incrimination by managing to drop and smash what remains of Nick's bottle of whiskey all over the dockside steps.
Stevie & Louise on the back of the truck.
Damn, that man is unbelievable! He's also managed to order in a tiny rusty little tuk-tuk cart to transport 4 adults and their oversized backpacks! This is never gonna happen, so rapid arrangements for an open-top Chevrolet truck to come and cart us all off to Kom Ombo temple are set in motion. This leads to an exhilerating ride across a small stretch of rural Egypt, overtaking donkeys and small kids, farmers and other cars, carts, taxis and buses at high speed with the wind rushing through our hair all the way.
On route to Luxor as part of all of our planned itineraries are visits to the ancient temple ruins at Kom Ombo and Edfu but actually once at these sights we all decide that after Aswan we're all still a little templed-out to the max and frankly disinterested in paying out yet more monument entrance fees.
Kom Ombo temple.
Whilst a little culturally philistine I admit, it's predictable and sad but true to say that with the vast, vast wealth of ancient culture in Egypt's possession despite your best efforts to try to engage with the different histories, deities and meanings of them all, sandstone statuary and carvings (as with anything else) gets a little samey after a while and you need to take a break from it, if only to freshen your eyes for their appreciation at a later date. Instead we just stroll around the site peripheries chatting and eating snacks whilst trying to amuse ourselves by cruelly trying to palm off cruddy little scraps of our own national currencies (rather than Egyptian Pounds) for the scutty little bracelets and trinkets that the hordes of kids are trying to sell to us.
Edfu temple market roofing.
Louise using some of Sophie's Canadian money bags a bargainous scarab-motif bracelet for a 5 Canadian cent piece. Oustide of the Edfu temple is a long market bazaar stretch catering exclusively to the coachloads of tourists that visit every day. We just mooch about here, again rather than pay to enter, and chat sh*t with the various stall owners vying for our attention and money. Always free with a smile, a handshake and my name "Steve!"
all of a sudden by some mysterious effect of conversational osmosis my name has passed on way ahead of me seemingly throughout the entire market and shop owners tens of metres ahead of us are suddenly calling out "Steve!", "Hey Steve!"
... "How are you Steve?! Where you from, Australia?"
Horse taxis outside Edfu temple.
That's Louise. I am asked how many camels I will accept in exchange for Sophie and Louise but have to politely observe that I have no rights of exchange over either one of them for any number of camels they may care to offer.
Back on the mini-bus we now drive the remaining hundred kilometres or so to Luxor where Nick, Sophie and I are to stay and Louise is to catch a connecting train back to Cairo. 'The Atef Plan' continues to work smooth as a groove and I am met by Mimo, a chubby, friendly Luxorian travel representative who ushers me into the surprisingly plush environs of the Queen Valley Hotel to tell me what my intineraries will be for the coming days. My attitude towards 'The Atef Plan' (a 13 day tour package hammered together for me by Atef, the manager of the King Tut Hostel in my first night in Cairo) to be fair has softened as my journey's progressed whilst I'm still sore at having made the junior error of giving up dosh to a hotel tout.
Edfu temple in the distance...we didn't go in.
Whilst the path has been littered with minor disappointments, scams and distractions from 'me' time in Egypt and I am still slightly sore from the realisation that the money paid was waaaaay
over the odds of what the same gig would have cost under my own direction... I have to remind myself that that's precisely
the important point. Under my own direction
, not knowing a damn thing about this country I never, never would have gotten to see so much, in such an organised and hassle-free manner in such a short space of time. Many activities I've had the pleasure of would not of occurred through lack of knowledge or just loss of time spending half days getting stressed out (and probably scammed in a dozen other ways) trying to organise travel itineraries, tickets and transports with endless endless strangers, language barrier headaches and people just thirsty to bleed my wallet dry.
Whereas all I've had to do is be at the right place at the right time and there has always
been someone who knows me, introduces themself and is ready to smooth the way for me. So I wouldn't say no regrets. Far from it. But perspective is required. It has not been such a bad way to go about things, and seemingly many, many, many people at some stage of their virgin Egypt journey end up using such people whether knowingly or not.
I settle into my very nice room. Have a shower. Flood the bathroom to about an inch and a half of water somehow. Marvel at the sheer rankorousness of the body-grime that crawls its way down the bath plug hole after 2 days on the Nile without a wash before heading up top to where there's even a rooftop terrace, bar and pool.
Can't be bad! The views up here are great. Pretty much an unobstructed 360 degree panorama of central Luxor and the Nile river, a pale turquoise sheen in the distance. The incredible Luxor temple itself is only a matter of 500 metres away or so and I sit back with my book and a cold can of Seven-Up and feel the sun's warmth all about me. All around minaretts, Coptic church spires and the shell of an as yet unfinished mosque in the distance. This is great! Egypt's winning me back by small degrees, recovering from mild Cairo Shock.
An endless clay-brown sea of quadrangular 'unfinished' residential buildings and flat-stacks spread across the city landscape in varying states of disrepair or incompleteness. These homes as with other parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean are never fully, finally completed owing to the fact that a 'finished' home incurs an extra tax levy.
Luxor city scene.
So a city looking to perpetually creep skywards as families bloom beneath the muddy-brick roofs. The dusty rooftops are covered in ramshackle piles of long abandonned domestic artefacts. Upturned, broken wooden tables, desks and chairs; an incomplete vanity chest; baskets; boxes and office chairs too... even about 60 padded, chrome-legged classroom chairs all piled up and dismembered atop one another off on a rooftop to my left. Everything succumbing in time to the dusty uniform fawn-coloured sheen of Egyptian windblown sands. Oversize satellite dishes perch like great big sunbathing UFOs on top of almost every home in sight no matter it would seem, the level of presumed deprivation they hover above as, like me, they face impassively west towards the sun and are bathed in evenging gold.
Mosque under construction in Luxor.
Later in the evening Nick, Sophie, Louise and I get together at the Canadians' hotel, sink a few beers and then head out into town for a meal and a couple more drinks to kill time ahead of Louise's late departure to Cairo. All of these guys have been great travel companions since we met on the Nile and Louise in particular with her ease of spirit and well-adapted travel head and all her tales of travelling until you're so dirty you're barely recognisable as human anymore has amused me very much. But yet again. A parting of the ways. This is one part of travelling that I'm still having to get used to. The constant joy of meeting, getting to know and making connections with fabulous new friends... and then in the very next instant having to let go of it all again as the various winds of your lives and chosen paths whisk you away in differing directions.
Nile Sunset, Luxor.
Its a high speed turnover of fun, appreciation, often respect and small forms of affection for good company that in its own way I find a little exhausting whilst The Road would not be survivable without it. A little gyro within one's heart spinning magnetically, often at a dizzying pace between the dual cores of small forms of loneliness and then moments of great levity and happiness and then back again and so on and so forth. You must treasure every one you meet though. Really really
do. And I do. See you all again someday I hope maybe my friends Nick, Sophie and Lulu.