19 March 2007


FRIDAY MARCH 2nd - Hurghada & Safaga Left the Hotel Sea Garden in Hurghada by bus to travel for 40 minutes south to Safaga diving resort. The corals here are better than Sharm and the resort much quieter. On arrival we had our wetsuts, masks and snorkells fitted (much hilarity - and Katherine your bum did NOT look big!) Our own private boat and crew were waiting so off we went across the Red Sea! Our first anchor point was the edge of a short reef. This was my first coral reef, having snorkelledin the Mediterranean as a teenager. I wasn't prepared for the colours, variety and sheer beauty of the reef. It was just like finding Nemo! I saw all types of fish and couldn't name any of them! We spent about 40 minutes in the sea before coming back to the boat for hot coffee and a breather. As we approached the boat, a Moray eel came towards us on the sea bottom, swimmng like a snake with an ugly thick head - scary! It didn't cause any trouble but Ed dashed off with Katherine's camera to get a shot - I look forward to seeing it! after warm drinks, we then moved position to dive at the pillars of coral. These are about 7 pillars which rise up from the deep and are teeming with fish swimming at eye level so it feels like you are among them. It was amazing, awesome, incredible, wonderful..... Back on the boat again, we had lunch prepared by the crew which was also wonderful, and afterwards we took a small glass boat to a sand island where plenty of other boats and people were enjoying the sea too. We saw nothing in the glass boat - oh well. to entertain ourselves, we made sand sculptures - my Pyramid looked more like the bent pyramid, and Katherine's sphinx became a scarab, only to be accidentally trodden on by Celia! We had fun. Tired but exhilerated we ended the day with a birthday celebration for Alan who was 70 at a restaurant on the beach in Hurghada. SATURDAY MARCH 3rd The next day, we had yet another early start! Since the terrorist shootings in 1996 on Luxor's west bank, all tourist traffic into Luxor and down the Nile Valley is controlled by a police convoy. The convoy leaves at specific times and you can't afford to miss it. So by 7am we were at the holding point along with about 50 or more other coaches. By 9am, the convoy set off heading west towards the Nile. The scenery was desert and mountains with our newish tarmac road winding it's way through. It was strange to see a long snaking line of coaches all following each other with no other traffic on the roads. A short stop for loos and tea after an hour is also the chance for more 'pro active' selling by the locals. Then on again to Luxor via Quena and along the Nile valley. Here the scenery was magic, as the irrigation channels followed the road we could see small farms, mud houses and crops growing whilst small children waved frm their houses and donkey wagons carried their crops along the dirt tracks. Everywhere there were photos waiting to be taken. At points on the road you could see the traffic waiting patiently with a police guard for the convoy to pass before their road could re-open. I imagine that's how the Queen feels when she travels! On arrival in Luxor, the landscape is more built up and greener. sugar Cane, Date Palms, Alfalfa and other crops grow in abundance, with rows upon rows of mud brick dwellings. The centre of Luxor is a smaller version of Cairo with the same frantic traffic mixed with Caleshes (horse & carriage) and liberal use of the horn. Our hotel EMILIO was near the Nile and the stunning Luxor Temple could be seen from the roof top swimming pool terrace. Across the Nile in the distance you could make out the West Bank, Hatshepsut Temple and ridge behind which nestled the Valley of the Kings. I was excied to be here and looking forward to exploring. After checking in and a brief snooze, we met at 1pm for a walking tour of Luxor through the Souk, a quick snack on freshly cooked falafel and up to the Corniche past Luxor Temple and back through a street where the Calesh horses were being washed and fed. Man of the horses are suffering from undernourishment, but you have to harden your heart to it or else I would be bringing them all home to Britain. Luxor is a brilliant place! I had lunch with some of the group on the roof terrace of the hotel, then at 2pm we all met again to take a Calesh ride to KARNAK Temple. The Calesh was fun with Luxor on our right and the Nile on our left. Our guide for the Karnak Temple gave us plenty of information - most of which I couldn't take in. The Temple is vast and dedicated to Amun containing many shrines and monuments added by kings over the centuries. I took over 100 photos. My first real close up experience of real egyptian Hieroglyphics. As the sun dipped, the shadows on the carvings and reliefs inside the temple were sharpened - I could have stayed there for a long time but our Calesh were ready to take us back. After a local supper we all headed to bed for an early night. The next day promised to be a real highlight - a donkey trek at sunrise to The Valley of The Kings!