(10/17/2011) Abu Simbel and Nile cruise boarding
First day of our Nile cruise, but before we should wake up at
3 AM for joining the convoy leaving to Abu Simbel at 4 AM. A bus ride
of three hours will take us to visit the two temples of the complex for
two hours and then, another three hours to come back to Aswan. I guess
this last trip we will have eyes opened.
As you can see on map, Abu Simbel is close to
Sudan border and that’s the reason this is the only trip which still
needs a military convoy for safety in Egypt.
Scheduled time for Aswan arrival is around noon,
the right time for check in the boat and lunch there. At that same
afternoon we will visit High Dam and Philae temple.
Expected expenses for this day are 70 pounds for
Abu Simbel trip and 70 more as entrance fee.
The earlier getting up of our lives: at 3:15 AM
we’re in hotel’s living room ready to go. Each of us has gotten a box
with the breakfast and they’ll keep our baggage. We still wait 20
minutes more until driver appears to get into the van, where already
are six or seven more persons. We chose our seats without knowing still
more stops and people to come. Finally the van gets full with only one
free seat: the one on my side. It’s not by sheer chance, though, but
because this place is above a wheel which makes the space there is not
valid for humans.
Then it stops for a long while, opened doors, and
I go out for a cigarette. We’re in a piece of open ground full of buses
of all sizes. Just in the one in front of ours I meet the Belgic couple
who bought the sleeping train tickets at the same time then us, and
chat a little bit with them while military men are looking for bombs
under the vehicles with this mirror-with-stick tool which will have a
more technical name for sure. We go into our buses when looking this is
about to start the trip, but it looks wrong. We don’t leave until some
minutes past 4:30 AM
When lights from street disappear and our
windows became a complete blacked screen, we feel a big raise in speed
and that’s the moment for trying to sleep. It was better for me after
Sunlight makes me open the eyes and take the
curtain off the window for looking at the landscape out there. It is
bicolor: up blue, down yellow. All you can see everywhere is the flag
of Ukraine (because it is half up blue and half down yellow. It’s
embarrassing having to explain it :)).
When, on this static landscape, start to appear
some items like military men, a tank, a broken house… is sign we’re
arriving to our destination. Some minutes later we’re getting off the
van to go to the ticket office with a little stop at toilet. It’s
logical to think we should find long queues on both places because all
buses arrive at once, but the truth is we’re not as the first people
from tours do is meet around their guide and listening to him, so we
can do our way passing between these groups. The ticket is more
expensive than expected: 100 pounds (the webs I read the price
from shouldn’t be updated) and we get the ticket for entrance and two
more little papers. They’re receipts from two taxes we’ve paid too:
guide syndicate and tourism I-don’t-know-what.
After a turnstile, we’re inside the complex,
walking a path down, expectantly, between lake at right and an earth
mound at left. Paying attention to this last side as we can see people
in front of us is making photos to whatever is at right and we still
cannot see. And then appears the famous Ramses II temple façade, with
its four seated colossus, although one of them lost its torso centuries
When we’re delighted enough of looking at the temple façade
distance, we go closer and details reveal: inscriptions and
hieroglyphics everywhere, little gods (compared with Ramses everything
is small) here and there… Inside, this temple is beautiful too, but
pictures are not allowed. There are some guards around preventing an
image can be taken from here from a tourist. But, as there are a lot of
chambers and corners, it’s not difficult to take a few of them if
you’re looking after it. The rule is pretty absurd as you can make
pictures or not by centimeters: one side of the entrance line you can,
the other side you cannot. Picture at left is “legal”, and the one at
right is not.
After visiting this temple, which is hard to leave
from, we go to the small temple besides. The difference for calling it
“small” is more inside than outside. It is Nefertari temple and there
is the same politics than the previous one about pictures and videos.
So we take a lot of photos with the six colossi in its façade and try
to steal some picture inside.
After these visits we take a look at Nasser Lake,
which is looking majestic in front of the temples, although we haven’t
paid attention to it until now because of the building’s eclipse. The
path makes us pass under the earth mounds in our way to the exit
Out we buy some overpriced ice creams and eat them in a
bar terrace. The heat is stifling now. The ice creams must have their
own history for coming to such isolated place like this and seems to be
frozen and defrosted more than once in their way.
As we left the van just right there I thought we would be in there in
just one minute, but we don’t. The access to parking area has changed,
the one in the morning must be closed or hidden, and all people must go
through an endless street full of souvenirs stores which delay us until
being the last ones in our vehicle. Driver gave us two hours to come
back: from 7 to 9, but we’ve been 10 minutes late.
We do the return trip awaken, for a change, and my mother
chats with an Argentinian woman who has found a way of living in an
eternal travel. I look the desert through the window absorbed by the
mirages and trying to get a good picture of them. Actually, they’re not
so strange: the air is transparent as well as the water, if we see
water masses blue because the sky is reflecting over its surface, we
can understand that, on specific circumstances, air can do it too.
That’s the way we can see lakes at horizon, in the middle of the sand,
as if the sky was crossing the line to invade the ocher-colored mass.
When we arrive to Aswan I check phone’s clock as
I’m concerned about our timing since this moment. It’s 12:15 and the
time we will be able to start our tasks for today will depend on the
order we’re delivered to our hotels. Those tasks are: localize our
boat, check in, lunching and visiting, with guide now, the High Dam and
Philae temple. The visit to the dam is expendable but Philae temple is
not. Overall now the van is on a bridge and we can see a lake full of
small boats and the tiny temple silhouette over a further island.
We strike lucky and are delivered the first. One
foot in hotel and I’m calling to cruise agency, they tell me we must
wait there to be picked up. It is around 13:00.
And we wait for almost one hour. A few minutes
before 14:00, a young man appears asking for us. He helps us to take
our baggage in a spacious van and introduce himself as our guide,
Ayman, and proposes, speaking a perfect Spanish, going for the visits
now as we don’t have so much time: felucca ride, unfinished obelisk and
Philae temple. My parents and wife are shocked about missing the lunch,
but I can see a door: I comment we already did a felucca ride yesterday
and prefer to lunch and visiting Philae temple calmly. Ayman calls to
the boat and agrees with great reluctance and shocked about us doing
thing by our own. I haven’t expected the felucca ride was included
instead of High Dam as the planning from website was different, but I
guess it is because the boat upgrade. I do no more investigations as it
has solved today’s journey.
Boat is really cool, but I never would find it by
my own. The Corniche is very long and boats are double, triple or
quadruple-moored. We enjoy the lunch buffet we’ve been so close to miss
and leave to the visits in the same van brought us to here. The visit
to unfinished obelisk is really quick and we’re completely alone. The
only thing to see in that quarry is that stone cutting which they say
it is an obelisk but it looks to me just exactly as… well, I can’t
believe it is just me as I haven’t read about it to anybody, but where
the guide explains an obelisk is a way of putting high the sacred
figure of the pyramid, I can see they were sculpting here a big penis
to Osiris. Look the picture!
Big pressure from the vendors when leaving, they’re trying to
sell in desperation as there is nobody here. We go on with our trip to
quay, full of stores, where we take a small boat to save the short
distance to the island. Actually, there is not a single temple in there
but one big one and some smaller ones. All of them have been moved from
their original site nearby to this island to be saved from the waters.
They’re very well preserved and we enjoy a lot this visit disappearing
into them, with plenty of engraved walls. We’ve been completely alone
here too and dusk is accompanying when leaving.
Once at boat, I feel really relieved for saving so good the difficulty of this journey.
A well-deserved rest is waiting for us in our cabins, but before, we
make our investigation of the ship interior, make our buffet dinner and
watch and participate to the Nubian dances spectacle. I think this boat
is basically full of German people.