Last leg to Luxor and first impressions.
Well, we have finally made it the 477miles from Cairo to Luxor, more than a little relieved to see the unmistakably tired elegance of a city that's seen better days. Nor on the last day did there prove much respite from heat and fatigue: making an early start we set off at a lively pace, as fast as the day before ( avg about 16.5mph) despite a strengthening head wind and generally harder going. We must have hardly stopped all morning, 10 mins here, few minutes there, just to fill up bottles and camelbaks and the briefest of snacks and then we were back toiling away on our bikes again. The morning dragged on all the more for the silence that had descended on us both, unable to think of any thing else other than getting to long awaited Luxor, to savour that first refreshing beer we'd promised ourselves and perhaps return to something like normality.
By 12:30 we'd finally reached Quena only to encounter problems at the police checkpoint at the entrance to the town. We had developed the habit of not stopping at such check points, simply whizzing right on through, oblivious to the shouts and waving hands of officers. Once through, Luke would turn to me suppressing a smile: "if they'd wanted us to stay they should have just said," however perplexingly this proved impossible at this check point as the officers came out and made something of a human barrier, frustrating since we'd had no escort all morning. Anyway Luke made a bolt for it and I tried to follow, only to be subdued by an officer gripping my handle bars with intent, rendering my feeble efforts to free myself seem slightly pathetic, struggling like an animal caught in a trap, though in fairness I had been cycling all morning and was suitably energyless. Anyway after a frustrating 5 minutes of me arguing to any officer wary enough to listen I was freed so to speak. The escort followed soon after, again frustrating for them and for us since we were in dire need of a rest and stopped for half an hour at a falafal place, the officers glowering from the other side of the street. Thus we were obligated to get a move on and back cycling in what was fast becoming the hottest part of the day. The head wind by this stage had turned into a wall of hot, dry air. Another hour and we stopped for tea, the heat being too intense to continue for the time being. Our escort again seemed vexed, but I didn't care as I savoured those minutes of shelter, returning sympathetic shakes of the head from the old men puffing shisha and eying the impatient officers with wary looks. The afternoon dragged on too, as did the miles and the signs to Luxor which read 38km proved rather optimistic as it turned out. When we finally got there the mile count for the day had reached 113, too many for the torrid cycling conditions.
I now find myself poolside at Iberotel next to the Nile, relaxing, slightly doubtful as to whether shelling out the 75 Egyptian pounds for non guests was worth it, I think it was. Luke opted for the Temples and museums on the East side but I needed a day off. Thus I find myself in the company of Brits, shamelessly ease dropping on their conversations, which are banal and generally food based. I don't really mind though, finding such discussions as the quality of Tescos frozen pizzas, or how exactly to pluck a pheasant strangely therapeutic.
Earlier today I had a run in with a man and his horse and carriage, his little cousin had accosted me ambling along the Nile front attempting to gain my trust and plying me with questions. I tried to be as unresponsive as possible but his easy manner and insistence that it wasn't money he was after started to reassure me. Then on making my leave this wagon driver passes me by and makes the pitch, he pleads, he beguiles, just 2 Egyptian pounds (20p). I took out 2 pounds simply to get rid of him, but Ali (not Ali baba he was quick to stress) was having none of it. "If you really want to help me let me take you and then give it to me" I shrugged and got on, putting my towel in the "boot" underneath his feet. A short ride later I was trying to excuse myself offering the same two Egpytian pounds. No, now he wanted 60, so that was how it was I thought. I flatly refused and accused him of trying to trick me. "Ok let's just say 50". I was still adamant.
No, while I was sympathetic for him with regards the dire state of business I had wanted no part in it. The very one sided bidding match grew lower and lower till he announced, "5 or I don't give you your towel" I had long since stood up and was doing my best to look jeopardised, beckoning for a local police guard who thankfully came. After a brief exchange of words between the officer and Ali and a shrug or two, I was free to go, towel and all in exchange for the 2 Egyptian pounds.