15 – Into the Valley of the Kings
12th Dec, 0030hrs, Boomerang Hotel, Luxor
Woke up early today, rented a bike from the hotel (10 EGP) and set off. The plan today was to go to Luxor’s west bank, taking the public ferry. From there I would spend the day in the Valley of the Kings. Most touristy of the sights, but probably also the best one to pick.. Today was the first time in 2 weeks I lost my temper. It seems the touts and hassling and every other person trying to fleece you is more evident over here in Luxor, even more so than back in Cairo. Karnak yesterday was not too bad.
It started with the bicycle at the ferry landing. The usual, fella pretends to be helpful, but leads me to the wrong landing, and in the process makes me go up and down 2 flights of steps carrying my bicycle. He says “you can’t take the bicycle across, see all those parked there, everyone leaves them on this side of the bank. But you can take my boat for 15 pounds”. Then I go towards the correct landing and some other guy tells me to “park my bike here, and i will look after it for you.” No thanks. Finally the guy collecting tickets tries to charge me 4 EGP for the trip and return. I said no. Then 2 EGP for me and the bike, he insisted. I argued and said I’ll ask the tourist police. He relented and let me through. 1 EGP. Locals pay even less, i believe.
The ferry ride was short, around 5 to 10 min. Got off and cycled towards the valley, an 8km ride north. It was arid, cool but the sun was up. Bring enough water, some food, shades and headgear if you intend to cycle. After about 2 km in, saw the huge twin Collosi of Memnon, greeting visitors to Luxor’s West Bank.
Along the way, got constantly hounded by cab drivers trying to take me and my bike there. At one junction, some guy blocked my way and shouted “Stop, ticket to Valley of Kings” which is ridiculous since he was sitting at a public junction. I swerved to avoid him, and crashed the bicycle. Camera flew onto the road, and I got cuts on my left elbow, and all over my right foot. I was pissed.
Reached the Valley finally, parked and locked my bike. The tourist police whose guard post happened to be beside tried to charge me 5 EGP baksheesh for it later…Doh. It’s getting ridiculous every fella who comes up to me is trying to get something out of me. I’m not being anal. In fact, i tip rather freely, even though budget is tight. But then there has to be something done to deserve the tip. Merely standing there when my bike was safe and locked, and then asking for 5 EGP, isn’t. In the end I gave him 1 EGP.
Went in (the toilet guy tried to charge me 1 EGP per entry…it should be free… i offered him half pound, he said no. I walked off, he called me back) and watched the Valley of the Kings video. There’s a bunch of pharoahs buried here. For 80 EGP, you get to visit 3 tombs. I went for Ramses IV, Ramses I and Seti II. Ramses IV was the nearest to the entrance which the tour groups were going into, so i followed. Hieroglyphics on the walls, the opening of the mouth ritual, etc etc. Asked an old couple which they went to is good. They sent me to Ramses I, steep incline down but the burial chamber at the end is vividly decorated in full colour. The third tomb I went to was far back and little visited, out of the tourist radar. I read somewhere in the museum about Seti II so decided to visit. The caretaker there actually pointed out some of the murals on the walls. Tipped him a couple pounds and left. Tuthankhamen’s tomb is the most famous one in the Valley, but to visit it requires a separate 100 EGP ticket. Not worth it i think, since whatever was in there was already displayed at the museum. We can’t bring cameras in the valley. So all i got were shots of the journey there. And this below is my sketch of the insides of the tomb. =)
On the boat back, I randomly snapped a pic of myself. Looked at my foul face and laughed. I must have had that expression the entire day. It wasn’t a fantastic day. So little things like finding a shop that charges decent prices (like 2 EGP for 1.5l of drinking water) was a welcome change.
Koichi joined my dorm in the evening. I met him on the train from Cairo to Luxor. He disembarked at Aswan. And when I met him, he had, in a space of 24 hours, been to Abu Simbel in Aswan, then traveled up to Luxor. He then rushed (it was 6pm) to watch the Karnak Sound and Lights show before going to Luxor Temple. The next day, he would wake up at 5 and take the bus out to Hurghada, where he wanted to dive. Then fly out to Istanbul immediately after. Not a good idea to dive and then fly, so his plan changed to just snorkelling. Had dinner with him. The meat casserole (tagen or bot, 10 EGP) was excellent.
Tomorrow morning, the plan is to head towards Aswan by train. And get my tickets to Wadi Halfa.