Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Egyptian Holiday - Day 7 - Final day

Day 7 - Hot air balloon & the valley of the kings

The day of the hot air balloon finally arrived. I had been waiting for this from the day they announced that we had an option of going on a balloon. I had never been on one all my life and i was anxious to get on one. Though this wasnt covered in our trip package, we had an option of signing up for a sum of 75US dollars per person (pretty high but worth it!!). So as with all other opportunities, i did not want this to go by jus like a dream. We had to get up early and supposed to see the sunrise from the balloon. Unfortunately due to god knows who's mistake, we were still on the ground when the sun arose from the mountains. We left the cruise at 6AM and arrived to a small boat in which we were ferried to the other side. There were two mini vans waiting for us which transported us to the fields where the balloons where ready for blasting off. There were two balloons, one was a seven seater (in fact its a seven stander, u don get to sit) and the other one was a 20 seater. We went through some sugar cane fields until we arrived at the balloon. After splitting ourselves into two groups we got into our respective balloons. Our balloon's pilot was Mustafa and it was his second balloon flight that morning.

We were asked to face the direction of the wind initially when the balloon rose into the sky, firing on two blowers which blasted fire into the innards of the balloon as it slowly kept on rising. We steered clear of the fields and had a birds eye view of the Ramses II and Ramses III temples. We had an apprenhension that the morning would be very chilly but standin near the fire blowers made us from reaching for our woolen wear. We were in the air around 40mins after which we slowly landed in the desert. The most adventurous part of the balloon ride was the landing. It just skidded for some 4 metres and tilted to one side with everyone screaming into my ears. But it was real fun, believe me!! Once it landed the balloon started to deflate and the people tied it as it deflated. Then they mounted the basket onto a mini truck and put the folded balloon along side. Our wonderful balloon ride was over, but we all enjoyed it. Atleast the youngsters did. Of that i am sure.

Our next stop was at the valley of the kings. As the name rightly suggests, this is where most of the kings had their tombs. It seems that none of the kings knew that some other king too had chosen the same spot for putting his tomb. Sheer co-incidence that noone found out. In fact there are 62 kings whose tombs are in this place. The entrance has a model of the valley showing the location of each of the king's tombs. There was this queen hatshepsut who wanted to be king so badly that she painted herself dark and made herself look like a king to everyone. She is the only queen to have been buried in the valley of the kings rather than the valley of the queen. Here video camera was not allowed though you were allowed to snap on the outside before entering the tombs. Your ticket covered the entry into any 3 tombs of your choice. My advice to you is to go to the Ramses II , Ramses IX tombs for sure. They have intricate paintings and colours that are still holdin even after 5000 years. In the inside you can see the sacrophagus in which the mummy was kept. The last one depends on the time you have. We actually had time only for two tombs. There is also the famed Tutankhamen tomb where you get to see the mummy. But this one is not free. You got to shell out 100 egyptian pounds to enter this tomb. This is the only mummy in egypt that can be seen since the others were destroyed or stolen. I saw the picture of the mummy and was in two minds unable to decide whether to go or not. Finally decided against it and settled for the free ones.

Next we were on our way to the queen hatshepsut temple nearby. This had lots of steps to get onto the top of the temple. Nothing much to describe here. Maybe a few pics here and there. So we moved on back to the ship for our lunch. We had time for a nap and stretched ourselves after plungin into a hot shower. In the evening we headed to the konark temple. By now people had gotten wary of the many temples that we were seeing and only a small bunch went there. The temple as like others had huge columns. In fact the biggest ones were here. There was also one of queen hatshepsut's obelisk here, the tip of which is still supposed to be covered in gold. Nah! i didnt believe it either. We saw a small room which had two layers of granite to keep it at a reasonable temperature during all times of the day. King Alexander had ordered this extra layering to be done so that the Gods can be comfortable inside. There was a pond inside the temple and a scarab atop a pillar which people went around 3 times to ward off their bad luck. People and their superstitions!! After taking a lot of pics, we headed back to the cruise.

People here were waiting for the horse carriage ride which took two persons per carriage and took them for a tour of the city and into a poor farmer's house showing the chores that he was doing. This too was an additonal option at 30 US dollars per person. We had not taken it. But people who did, came back moaning that it was a waste of time. They were shown what you see here in India. Maybe it would have been interesting for people who come from the developed countries where you dont see bullock carts and oxen in your environment. But for us, we have seen it enough and showing the same in Egypt is seriously nothing new. We were then taken to a local bazzar where you were allowed to shop at your will. Again your bargaining skills come to the fore. We guys planned to do hookah here but couldnt find a good shop to experiment our rudimentary desire. After two long hours we walked back to our cruise to have our last dinner aboard it. The next day we had to pack up and start off to Luxor international airport at 9AM and board our flight at 11AM local time to Doha.

Another six hour transit at Doha, but this time we seriously didnt want the time to fly by as we chatted with all new made friends. People whom i didnt know just a fortnight ago had become thick good friends. We had a wonderful time going through the duty free shops, the free browsing centre and the coffee shop where we were treated by our singaporean friend. In all the trip was one that i would remember for a long time to come. A christmas break that seriously took a lot from my workload and gave me enough freshness until the next international trip. Am eagerly awaiting the next international trip, which i would definitely grab with both hands. Till then waiting to explore more within...

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