The road home: trains, planes and automobiles

Yet another sunny day to end the holiday. Another sumptuous breakfast of, yogurt, honey bread jam and plenty of fresh veg. And of course 2 strong Turkish coffees. The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent lazing around the hotel, writing up the blog and sorting out photographs, with the odd Turkish coffee, lemon drink and cigar thrown in for good measure. In the late afternoon we had booked a taxi to see 2 more sites on the west bank. The Tombs of the Nobles and the Tombs of the Workers.

The sun was starting to wane, so great for photography. On the way there, the taxi driver stopped the car next to an irrigation channel and pointed to “Warren” a metre long lizard basking in the glow and heat of the afternoon. It is still around 28 degrees after all. After the obligatory photographs, it was on to the ticket booth for the tickets. When asked which tombs I wanted to see, I just said the best ones, as you only get access to 3 at a time and there are lots of them all over the hillside. With tickets in hand, it was off to the tombs of the workers. These are tombs created by the artisans that worked on the temples and tombs on the west bank. The quality of the workmanship, painting and hieroglyphics was very high. After a hard days work on the temple for a great King, why not come home and put just as much effort into your own tomb. As the afterlife was seen as far more important than this life, it seemed the best thing to do. How the vivid colours have lasted so long I do not know. We also had the place to ourself, other than the helpful guide who explained the meanings of the various aspects of the tomb. Another workers tomb and another brilliant interior – the best we had seen on our trip to Egypt. Set in the hillside amongst the low walls of the buildings. We both would have liked to stay there longer, but time was getting on so it was off to the Tombs of the Nobles. Underground buildings with superbly carved hieroglyphics and images of life, death and homage. Not quite as good as the workers tombs, but bigger, more extensive and far more to say about themselves.

Back to the hotel for more chats with Gordon, who had also been on the west bank for the day on his bike. We all had a great evening meal together, chicken and lots of hot and cold veg from their organic garden, soup, bread and of course lemon and Turkish coffee. At 21:45 we said our goodbyes to all the staff, Mahmoud, the hotel owner and Gordon and got the hotel’s ferry across to the east bank and a taxi to the station. After buying some small cakes from Twinky’s shop next to the station (suprisingly Alie found this earlier in the week).

We departed Luxor train station on the overnight sleeper train to Cairo at 22:30. Our train would arrive in Cairo at 08:30 and we’d have just enough time to spend some time around the pyramids, before heading to the airport for the flight home at 17:40. Once the train departed, the attendant seemed most put out when we refused evening meal (at 22.30!). We were full after all. However, on waking up the following morning at around 07:00, we discovered train was not moving.  I asked the carriage attendant what the issue was. To be honest he was not the best attendant I have ever experienced. If there were to have been a more serious incident, I think we would have been helping him rather than the other way around. He informed me that we were still 7 hours or so away from Cairo. This was due to the line being blocked ahead of us due to the aftermath of a very, very tragic incident at a level crossing where 50+ children were killed the day before. Despite asking on numerous occasions when we would be moving again, no clear answer was ever forthcoming. At this point I contacted Lufthansa to inform them of my position and the possibility that we would not make the flight. The idea of going to the pyramids was now not going to happen. All the more reason to come back.

We were only 3 hours or so away from Luxor (our departure point), in a small town called Gerga – unvisited by tourists – in fact the train never stops here. Thankfully, on board our carriage was a tour guide with 9 years experience in Egypt from a Swedish tour company with 20 or so of his party in the other carriage. He telephoned his head office and based on his head office knowledge they sent a bus to pick up his passengers. As the train was not moving and there was no clear indication it would, I approached the guide and managed to get him to accept Alie and I as passengers onto his bus back to Luxor (even though he is not supposed to). The main reason for this was to endeavor to get a connecting flight 13:40 from Luxor to Cairo if possible, this would mean we could catch our Cairo flight at 17:40. I telephoned, Mahmoud the hotel owner from Luxor, and he used his own money and purchased 2 tickets on this flight for us. Unfortunately, the coach to come and pick us up took ages to arrive from Luxor, finally appearing at 11.30. So with less than 2 hours til the next flight and a 3+ hour journey back, we soon realised we didn’t have an earthly chance of getting a connecting flight in time.

When we did safely arrive back in Luxor at 15:30, we had to sort out our options and find the best way to get home. Luthansa had already informed us, that the next flight with availability was Thursday, Though we would loved to have stopped we both needed to be back in the UK to be back at work. The extra cost involved in flying to Cairo, as there was no indication when the train would run again, the 4 nights accommodation in Cairo and then the flight that would have required an extra payment to make changes. Was there a flight from Luxor back to the UK? Could we fly to Paris, Amsterdam or Brussels and then get a train? With all this information in mind, we went to a travel agency in Luxor. We chatted to the representative and the travel gods answered. There was availability on the Luxor to Heathrow flight on Monday morning. We decided this was a no brainer and got the tickets immediately.

We then went back to the Al Baeirat hotel, where we were greeted by Mahmoud the owner and welcomed back, given the same room we had had before, and more lovely food once again. At 06:00 on monday morning, armed with  our breakfast bags we headed to the airport for the flight. After a trouble free flight we arrived back on Heathrow and got a hire car home.

A very eventful end to a fantastic holiday.