Valley of the Kings
Luxor Travel Blog› entry 8 of 23 › view all entries
By this time Pavel, Ed, Mariel and I were good friends. Three days on the felucca required the 6 of us to get along very well or it could have been ugly.
Pavel had been up and down the country already and he was heading off from here to another land. His flight was early next morning so the four of us found an hotel and shared a room for the night. We enjoyed his company one last time and picked Pavel's brain about Egypt north of here.
Pavel was a great guy. I continued writing to him for several years after this trip but once again lost track of him after leaving Hamilton and returning to Tokoroa. He had even been interested in coming to study in New Zealand but I think the cost of attenting our universities as an international student was what finally put him off.
After seeing him off at the bus terminal the next day, E&M and I were free to explore Luxor. I'd obviously had a bit of a look around already but we started with the city itself, checking shops and markets, enjoying lemon at a cafe, haggling with the stall holders over the price of 10 postcards -all the usual stuff you do when you're kicking about the dusty street of a foriegn land.
Mariel and I were looking around a market when I spotted a very cool paperwieght. It was a scorpion encapsulated in perspex. I probably would have bought it if the marketeer hadn't taken a disliking to us for some reason and become more interested in abusing us than trading with us.
We found a place that rented bicycles and arranged for 3 to be at the ferry tomorrow morning.
The bike shop wasn't open at the time the first ferry crossed the Nile so arranging the rental the day before and having the bikes at the ferry terminal was the usual arrangement.
We got up in the dark. We were excited. I tried to recall the last time I had ridden a bike and I couldn't. It had been a few years for sure! They don't say, "it's like riding a bike" for no reason though, and it was no time at all that I was racing through the dark, dausty streets on my mechanical steed. When the sun finally raised from it's slumber we were well on our way to the valley.
It was a longer ride than I had anticipated but we enjoyed the sights all the way through the populated area and then out and around the ranges to the valley. As the large airconditioned coaches cruised past us they delivered a hot blast of dusty exhaust fumes and I was reminded of our laying back in the felucca as the cruise ships ploughed by.
Before heading around the end of the mountain range we passed several shops and houses aimed at the tourist. Selling all sorts of clay "relics" the buildings were painted with pictures showing the family had completed their quest to Mecca. Some by plane, or train, others by bus. It gave us a sense of achievement to know that this modern "hieroglyphic" was legible to us.
In the valley we found all the busses that had passed us on the road.
Many of the tombs were closed. Some of those we wanted to see had lines of such length we felt we'd be riding home in the dark.
In the end I visited 3 tombs; Seti II, Tuthmosis I, and Tuthmosis III.
Something that stunned me most when I stoold back from the hubbub of this tourist trap was that the valey was just that, a valley. Looking at the hillside I would see the area as the same as any other part of the mountain range. I was struck by the idea that anyone should be able to find these burial tombs in the crevices and rocks of this desolate place.
I guess the likelihood of grave robbers being the very people that helped bury the Kings meant they didn't have to search hard to find the openings.
I wondered how many more like Tutankhamun may be waiting in the rockslides though.
Seti II's tomb still housed a pretty decent mummy. Tuthmosis I's tomb was one of the most colourful I had yet seen. The pick of my experience in all of Egypt's tombs I saw was that of Tuthmosis III.
From the road ran a little crevis and at it's entrance was a billboard displaying the information about the tomb and the layout of the chambers and tunnels leading to it. From here a narrow path lead up the crevis to a ladder and a small hole. This was so popular that you had to keep moving with the crowd. A steady flow into the tunnels and around the final tomb, then out. I would have liked to slow the whole visit down and really explore the place.
It was incredible to me how they had placed the sarcophagus into the burial chamber as this huge weight had to be carried up to the hole in the rock and then transported through a passageway that was only millimetres wider than the sarcophogus itself.
As we made our way through these tunnels and antichambers, we had to cross a deep pit via a wooden bridge. It was marvelous stuff!
We then decided it was getting hot and we'd better set out on our return bike ride.
This time I was envious of the passengers in the airconditioned coaches. Our destination was the Temple of Hatshepsut.
We had seen it on our way in but the advice had been to ride past whilst it was still cool and catch it on the rebound.
It was an impressive sight with all it's pillars set into the mountainside and as we rode back around the base of the range we were encouraged by the promise of shelter from the sun inside the magnificent structure. When it was finally in sight it seemed too far away to reach. In my mind I was begging for a tow from the dozens of coaches passing us, still throwing out their toxic mix of heat, fumes and dust.
Finally we parked out bikes and climbed the ramp to the colonades and the promise of shade but our hopes were dashed when we found the temple closed and only the two terraces laying before the temple were accessable. What this meant was that the slightest scrap of shade from the pillars (which wasn't much with the sun directly above) was sheltering a tourist from the one of the coaches, of which there were dozens parked on the avenue below!
We quickly discussed our disappointment and decided to head back toward the Nile to a cafe we'd seen this morning.
When we reached the Queens' tombs they were deserted. We did manage to find a couple of guards but they told us only one of the tombs was open. We got our tickets and made our way there. Not much to report I'm sorry to say, so we quickly gave it a once over and hit the trail back to the wharf to catch the ferry back across the Nile and return our bikes.
It was still early enough that we could go for another little cruise so we decided to head to Banana Island where it was reported we could "stuff ourselves with finger bananas".
The cruise was lovely enough and we were happy to be back on the cool water but the island was a huge disapointment.