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June 17th, 2010 | Africa

Livid in Luxor…

My Egyptian Drivers Licence...

Khalid and I left The Hotel Hathor together, and rode out of Aswan in convoy on our way to Luxor, about 280 km north of where we had spent the last week.

After a few minutes, I realized that I could go a lot faster through the traffic than they could and decided to push on ahead and perhaps wait for them in one of the towns en route.

The road was clogged with traffic right up to Kom Ombo and through to Idfu, where I was stopped by a traffic control point and asked for my name…

“Ronnie…” I replied…

They wrote this in a big book, and waved me on… What the point of this was is anybody’s guess… Maybe someday years from now, some petty official will run his finger down the list of names written in the book, and exclaim aloud in delight,

“Ronnie passed through here on the 16th of June 2010… Whooo-hooo…!!!!”

No idea what this meant, but I assumed it said "Bikers need not obey the Speed Limit"...

Two hours later, I stopped in the village of Isna, bought a soda and chewed through a small packet of biscuits, while I waited for Khalid… When I eventually called him, he advised that he was still almost 40 km outside Isna, so I decided to ride on to Luxor and see if I could find a hotel. Khalid had planned to camp in Luxor, rather than use a hotel, so we would be separated anyway…

The road into Luxor is lined with huge thickets of Bougainvillea and is a pretty sight after riding through the drab countryside between Aswan and here…

The Luxor Temple...at 60 kmh...

The first hotel on the GPS list was the Happy Land, and when I pulled up in front of it, it looked like it was about to fall down… I rode on down to the Corniche, and buzzed along the Nile for a while, looking for a better place. The Luxor temple was on my right, and so close to the road, that there is hardly a need to go in and take a closer look… I spotted a hotel just off the main drag, and stopped to check if they had room. They asked $30.00 for a night, which I managed to negotiate down to $20.00 if I stayed two nights.

The Philippe Hotel is a 3 star establishment, where the staff are very friendly and helpful, but the prices for their services are a little too high… Internet costs about R45.00 per hour!! In much smaller and cheaper hotels, wireless internet is often free of charge, so it is unclear why this hotel charges so much!! I had already had my fill of Egyptians and there rip-off prices, so did not take too kindly to these costs…

Right across the road from the Philippe, so I marched across the road in full gear, to find out their costs… R12.50 per hour…!! Problem was, their system did not work with my laptop, so I was forced to use the expensive services of the hotel, although I did manage to get them to drop their prices a bit… I was sick and tired of having to negotiate over every little thing, and not in the best of moods…

Coptic Church nestled in amongst the Ruins of the Luxor Temple

I had already checked in and unpacked when Khalid called to say that the campsite was closed, but he had managed to find a hotel that cost only R100.00 a night for all three of them, AND they had free wireless internet… That is when my mood got even darker…!!

The Philippe Hotel, where Sam, Friede and I stayed in Luxor...

I rode the bike out to Khalid’s hotel to go and download the Garmin Europe program onto my GPS, and on the way there, a guy in a horse-drawn carriage pulled out from a side street and directly in front of me. I grabbed the front brakes and the bike’s ABS kicked in, making it shudder down the road and eventually come to rest with the front mudguard under the horse’s belly. Luckily the driver had stopped when he saw me barreling down on him… Had I not managed to stop the bike when I did, I am sure I would have crashed into the horse, and probably broken one or more of its legs… The ashen-faced driver stammered an apology, to which I replied with words that I can’t print here…

Khalid was not feeling very well, and had stayed in the hotel while Marie and Sami had gone to visit Karnak. They had booked a full days tour for the following day and I felt sorry that he would have to walk around in the blazing heat of the Egyptian summer, with a high fever… When the download was complete, I wished my French friends a safe journey and told them we might meet again in Alexandria in ten days time, or I would endevour to visit them in France, if they got home before I was passing through Bordeaux… I had enjoyed our week together, and thinking back, I have no idea what I would have done without them to talk to and interact with…

Later, back at my hotel, I dropped my GPS as I was trying to get my key into the door… It crashed down onto the tiled floor, and would not come back on again for a long time… I was sure that it was permanently damaged, and went out to the bike to get my spare GPS, which was a hand held Oregon 300, and not really suited to riding a bike with…

I sat fuming in my room, trying to download programs onto the Oregon, and then on impulse went back down to the bike and plugged the Zumo into it, pushed the on button, and mercifully, the screen lit up and we were good to go again… Too many close calls for both man and machinery today…!!! While I was down there, I noticed Sam’s Suzuki Vitara parked outside… We had lost touch since we left Aswan, and had somehow ended up at the same hotel…!

Model of the Karnak Complex... It's huge...!!

The next day I went to visit Karnak, the largest temple complex in Egypt… I wasted 15 minutes negotiating the taxi fee down from R40.00 to R7.00, which I knew was the going rate… The temple was only 2 km from the hotel, and I did not feel like riding such a short distance on the bike…

Once there, I wanted to buy a bottle of water, and was quoted R15.00 for a bottle that costs R3.00 everywhere else… None of the vendors were willing to lower their prices, as heaps of tourists were happily paying the R15.00 a bottle… Silly twits…!! After trying five different vendors on the short walk to the entrance, I gave up and decided to go without…

I was then told by one of the security guards to get a ticket down near the entrance, and walked down to it, across an enormous paved area… It was boiling hot, and my t-shirt stuck to me as if I had been swimming in it… When I got to the kiosk, I was told that they only checked the tickets there, and I would have to walk the 500 metres back to the main entrance to buy one…

That did it for me… I took a few snaps of the entrance with its avenue of 26 Sphinxes, and decided to get the “Karnak” out of there…

Entrance to the Karnak Temple... Despite it being the "off" season, I counted more than 50 tourist buses in the parking area...

I started walking back to the hotel, rather than haggle with taxi drives, but after a few minutes, a horse-drawn carriage pulled up and the drives started quoting prices… I just kept walking, and he and the carriage kept pace with me until I had ground him down to what I knew was an unfair price… He accepted, and I then hopped aboard and waited for the catch…All the way back, he kept offering me rides to other sites, and I kept turning him down…

When he got me to the hotel, he turned and asked for double what we had agreed upon… I told him to go take a flying leap into the Nile, and walked into the hotel without paying him at all…

Egyptians 416 – Visitors 1

But at least I was on the scoreboard…!!

Luxor's Coptic Church as seen from the window of my hotel room...

©GBWT 2010

3 comments to Livid in Luxor…

  • Mark Behr

    My desire to visit Egypt has never been lower. Thank you for confirming this !
    I am not sure how murder was avoided.

  • Yeah, Egypt would be a great country, if it wasn’t for the present day Egyptians… They could learn a thing or two from their ancestors…!! R.

  • Vince Ricci

    Ronnie… I’d wish you better luck in Libya and Algeria, but having been to both I think it’s better to supply yourself with plenty of Karkade (or prozac….) and tuck in for more of the same! As far as bureaucracy anyway, at least they’re not tourist traps. Leave the sharp instruments out of reach!

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