Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bad things come in threes; one, two,…

Our first viewe of the Temple of Karnak area. We weren't very impressed.

But then we started to see what all the fuss is about. This is a very tall obelisk

Different view of the obelisk.
A cartouche, unfortunately I don't remember whose.

Some of the VERY large columns

A dog sleeping and oblivious to the world of tourists swirling about her.

A few carvings leading up to the Temple of Karnak with the only green for miles around.

Similar carvings directly opposite the ones above.

Closeup of a carving

This gives you an idea of the scale of the columns.

Closeup of carvings on the columns.

Close up of a cartouche on one of the columns.

Safaga is definitely not one of the bad things, but the three-hour bus ride to get there certainly qualifies. Imagine a flight from Chicago to San Francisco (or perhaps Adelaide to Perth), sitting in steerage coach, and your knees are touching—no, not touching, pressing against—the seatback in front of you. There is no beverage service, and the flight attendant’s voice, coming through the speaker just above your head, is at a decibel level just below jackhammering. And you know that when you step outside it will be hot enough to fry the proverbial egg on the pavement.  

But I will leave that for a moment to tell you about bad number one. Our credit card was stolen. Where? We have no idea. Nor did we know anything about it being stolen because I was too lazy to download any transactions because the internet was too slow. Apparently on May 18 somebody used a card or the number (we’re not clear on this) to by 200 gallons of fuel in Dover, Delaware. Note that we boarded the ship on May 16. About May 23 or 24 we were called down to the Passenger Service desk because our card had been declined. We had a credit balance so I wondered why they were even bothering, but apparently they check to make sure the card is OK. I called VISA and the sweet young thing on the phone couldn’t figure out why our card was declined other than the charge came from the US and VISA thought we were travelling abroad. OK, that was sorted out and they allowed the “charge.”

A week later the same thing, and I brought my credit card down and they manually swiped it and the charge went through. A week later we got a snotty message telling us to come down before noon (it was 10am). Same thing, I gave them my card and they ran the charges and gave me a receipt that they were paid. That night after dinner, we found a letter telling us to come to the desk that night. The ship's charges had again been denied even though they said earlier they had gone through. This time I asked for the manager and we decided to wait until morning.

In the morning I spent an hour (!) on the phone with VISA and it was only after 15 minutes of conversations and transfers to Security that they allowed that there probably had been some fraudulent charges. After much conversation, including that they would let us keep the card and would authorize payments on a piece by piece basis—it boggles the mind that they would even suggest that—they agreed to cancel the card and ship a new one to the ship in Athens. If it hadn’t been for Alex, the Finance Manager for the Sun, I STILL wouldn’t have solved the problem. So the card is now (4 days later) in Athens and will be sent to Mykonos to meet the ship.

Bad number two? My camera was thrown out of the overhead when our bus went over a particularly nasty bump on the way to Luxor and the lens ripped off the body. It is definitely kaput until we can get home. Both camera and lens have things hanging off them that definitely are not supposed to be hanging off. Randy has a point-and-shoot that I am using, but I miss, miss, miss my D300s!

Bad number three is still to come.

Safaga is the gateway to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings so we were willing to put up with the hardships. The land we drove through is possibly the most barren we have ever seen. No grass, no shrubs, and certainly no trees. Not a speck of plant life anywhere visible. Even Death Valley has SOME vegetation, but not this land! The land rises to about 2100 feet (675 meters) but doesn’t cool off at all. We were told later that the temperature was 50°C (122°F) but I don’t believe it came even close to that; maybe 40, but not much more. But there is no shade in any of the areas of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and the monuments just hold on to the heat and radiate it outwards so it seems much hotter.

To me the Temple of Karnak was the most magnificent. To see the massive columns, decorated with thousands of hieroglyphics and figures is astonishing. Trying to imagine how it looked before is impossible for me; it’s enough to see what’s left.

The caves in the Valley of the Kings, if I can call the tombs of the the Pharaohs mere “caves,” are pretty amazing as well, especially if you see the models of the underground parts as well. It’s hard, in this age of computer modeling, to imagine how the Egyptians of 3-5000 years ago (I can’t remember exactly how old the tombs are) could figure out the logistics of digging into the ground on so many levels and having entrances and tunnels line up. We were not allowed to take photos at the Valley of the Kings so you’ll have to go online to see the magnificence of the tombs of Ramses IV and Ramses IX, the only tombs we could see in the time we had. Here what impressed me the most were the colors. There is no color left at Karnak, but here there is lots of color and it makes a huge difference for a newbie who’s never seen any of the Egyptian tombs.

The last temple we visited was that of Queen Hapshetsup (read about this powerful woman, a magnificent temple that looks as if it were carved several hundred years ago, not many thousand.

Between the Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings, we crossed the Nile on what is becoming an ordinary mode of transportation for us, a very dilapidated boat. Nonetheless, it didn’t sink—although the engine temporarily died on the boat’s way to pick us up, that was a bit worrisome!—and we had a lovely albeit hot lunch.

Because of the distances involved, we had no more than about 45 minutes at each place and then back on the bus for what has become “home” for us. My friend Liz especially will be aghast that we spent so little time there, but this is a trip of finding out that this-is-what-we-will-come-back-to-see and that there are a few never-agains!
Our boat to the restaurant for lunch

Not the most wonderful transportation

Our happy boat driverr

Chugging across the river

This is the barren land we travelled through

Flat  Stanley reading the guide books

Flat Stanley making friends with the Egyptian police

Our transport to the temple of Queen Hatshepsut

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

A cartouche

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

Closeup of some pictures on Hatshepsut's temple

Flat Stanley enjoying Hatshepsut's carvings

Flat Stanley next to some hieroglyphics

This I took because the sign just makes no sense at all!

I was trying to show the eclectic architecture and unfinished houses along the road to the Valley of Kings (note the rebar sticking up on the left of the yellow house)

No comments:

Post a Comment