We were met by the air ballooing company and taken down to a beautiful little ferry all set out with tea cups and some delicious orange cake (which we'd also had on the felucca). We crossed the Nile on the ferry and a short minibus ride took us to where we were boarding the ballos. It was quite a sight seeing the hunreds (well tens) of balloons in the area all being inflated, glowing red in the darkness. The noise was quite qurprising too, those fire things made a big racket.
On the ferry crossing the Nile, before sunrise.
Balloons being inflated.
Our balloon carried 25 people and it was a long rectangular shape with little pods - 3 people per pod. Our friend Ingrid and Damien where next to us which was good as we could all take photos for each other. Being a tour was great - Darren and I were able to get so many more pictures of the two of us together than normal. Anyway back to the balloons, it was quite an exciting feeling, the balloon rising off the ground, and also seeing the other balloons ascending. We could see all the sites and the excavations still going on - just as interesting for me though was looking at the landscape - the neatly laid out irrigated fields, then the abrupt change to desert and sand. What a differece the little channels of water make. Being nosey I loved looking down into the courtyards of houses where people lived right next to their donkeys and chickens. It was also interesting to see men working their fields - digging a new channel, a task that would take a matter of minutes with a tracter, and these guys were out doing it by hand before 6am in the morning! One thing I've noticed here is hard some of the people work - even the hasslers touting their goods at the tourist sites are up so early in the morning and working so hard - seemingly non-stop!
Up on the balloon.
The sunrise of course was amazing, a sight I will remember for the rest of my life.
How quickly the green land becomes desert!
The balloon captain skillfully landed the balloon where the ground crew and our vans were waiting. We were instantly swarmed by young kids - around 4-10 years old, demanding "baksheesh" or a tip for doing absolutely nothing! One cheeky young boy offered to help Surasha disembark, she declined then he claimed he'd hurt her hand and deminaded a pound! Darren gave one boy the fruit for his breakfast box out the window of the mini van and almost caused a riot.
We then got dropped off to board our tour bus and travel to the nearby valley of the Kings where the New Kingdom kings all built their tombs at the end of tunnels snaking into the mountin. This complex construction was to try and thwart tomb robbers. Only 2 of the King (including Tutankhamen) were actually successful (although the tombs are empty now at the hand of Western explorers) byt the tombs themselves were beautiful to look at, highly decorated in many colours. Darren and I just went into two of the tombs as the queues for the others were too long and not all were open as they they rotate which ones are currently open anyway. By the way the environment here was harsh! Already very hot before 9am and so dry - the air hurt my nose because it was so dry but wrapping my linen scarf around my face made a huge difference - I may have looked stupid byt was so much more comfortable.
Next stop was the mostly reconstructed monument Hatshepsut dedicated to the most successful female pharoah Queen Hatshepsut. It was pretty impressive and not being a temple was in a completely different layout and style, however, we were all pretty hot and tired by then and the best view was from the outside anyway. We did look around inside but only briefly.
Me outside the Hatshepsut Monument.
Darren doing the Mummy thing inside the Monument.
The last stop of the morning was the Valley of the Queens. We saw the beautiful King-style toom of Nefertari - wife for the great temple builder Ramses II (I think) and we also saw the tomb of a Prince, Amunherkhepshep son of Ramses III. His tomb was interesting and Sam told us that when he had died his mother had been so upset that she miscarried the baby she was carrying and so to ease her pain the priests mummified the foetus and placed in the tomb as well. It is very important that there only be one person in Egyptian tomb, however the Egyptians (in ancient times) did not believe the foetus was a person yet so this was why this exception was made - and the practise of putting miscarried foetuses in otmbs actually continued.
After a very long hot morning it was time to go back to the hotel for a long hot shower and a bit of a TV break - watching Broken Arrow of all things! Darren also was feeling (and looking) quite a bit better now which I was so relieved about.
The afternoon was a trip to Karnak temple - the biggest and most important temple which had been added to by many pharoahs. It was really cool here as Sam taught us to read some hieroglyphics which I can still remember now. The temple was huge - hard to think of it as one thing as it was really a temple complex. It contained a big lake filled by underground pipes leading to the Nile which the priests used as Holy water and to bathe etc. The best part of it was the amazing Great Hypostyle Hall with 134 huge pillars and beautiful colours on the parts of the ceiling that remained.
Great Hypostyle Hall pillars.
Some sort of ram-looking sphinx there was an avenue of them.
It was back to the hotel for a yummy pasta dinner with Surasha and Sam and then onto the sleeper train which was 100 times better for me this time as I used my scarf to cover my eyes and used earplugs. It was a lot worse for Darren though as he was right next to a broken door that kept swinging and slaming open and shut all night long.
Sunset view of the Nile from our hotel.