- I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Cruising Down the Nile
A magic moment; sunset from the Captain's bridge.
Travel Date 29th-31st March 2008
Click on any picture to see a large version
Despite my problems with Osoris and the way my cruise down the Nile was badly bungled, both on the change in cruise ship and the new itinerary, I have to admit that the bright spot on my Egypt trip was the cruise down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor.
It is important to understand how dramatically the Nile affects the environment it passes through. The first picture above was taken from the plane as I departed Luxor. Notice how clear and dramatic the boundary is between the irrigated river-flats and the surrounding desert. Many times as we floated down the river that contrast was emphasised, with a lush green strip beside the river and stark, arid, stony hills immediately behind them.
Digressing slightly, but as I am showing pictures from the plane the second one, taken through smog and haze, appears to be the Step Pyramid as we approached Cairo.
My changed boat was the Marquis II. It had seen many better days. The view through the un-openable port-hole shows why you really don't want the "Nile Deck". My longer report on the boat is on Tripadvisor where I post as "loral".
I don't know exactly how many cruise boats sail the Nile but the numbers tied up in port for the night give you some idea. We were often number four or five from the shore; each boat's entry foyer becomes a path for those going to or from the boats further from the shore. Boats from the same cruise company tend to group together, but occasionally we seemed to berth beside boats from other companies. The docks at Aswan and Luxor were several kilometres long and always full at night.
At the final exit there was always an armed security guy. That gun is loaded. I can't remember what he was asking me to do, but I am sure I did it without arguing.
I am not a party person, so the on-board entertainment with the fading un-sexy belly-dancer or the enthusiastic but unimpressive entertainers didn't bother me much. On my first night I was introduced to the only other English speaking people on an Egyptian German-speaking cruise boat - three English and two English-speaking Russians. Nice people; we got along well but I only saw them in the evenings. They were on a different tour, with their own guides.
Dining was one point I could not fault on the Marquis II. The food was magnificent and delicious, with plenty of choices allowing me to select foods that met my special needs easily. Like most Egyptian hotels there was a dedicated chef who cooked eggs to order at breakfast time, in addition to an extensive hot and cold buffet choice.
I decided not to use the pool. The frauleins appeared to own it.
Emad, my guide, was also on board for the first couple of nights. I am very grateful to him. I think he understood how annoyed I was with Osoris so he did his best to improve matters. One afternoon he asked me to follow him and he led me down some steep stairs at the bow and I found I was in a tiny room on the middle deck; it was the bridge.
I spent the next couple of hours chatting to the Captain as he steered the boat down the river. It was fascinating hearing his story, via Emad interpreting, and discussing the engineering and management of the ship with him.
If I understood it correctly, all of his training was on the job. He had started as a deck-hand and worked his way up. He had spent over 30 years piloting boats on the Nile and knew every shoal, bank and danger on the strip of river between Aswan and Luxor. I didn't see a chart or a map on the bridge. The wheel appeared to be for show because a tiny left-right up-down toggle switch was the device he used to steer and to increase or decrease speed.
That couple of hours was the highlight of my time in Egypt. Thanks, Emad. I don't believe any of the other passengers were extended the same invitation.
I also really enjoyed the hours of slow progress down the river, sitting in a deck chair or having a coffee in the lounge and watching upper Egypt float by. Despite the sameness of the scenery - water, a green verge and sandy beyond - there was a constant variety. Small villages slipped silently by as people got on with their lives ignoring the passing watchers.
There were not many bridges across the river. The few I saw were impressive and seemed fairly new.
This is the lock at Esna.
We stopped for a few hours in this Nile-side town, but I've forgotten it's name. Possibly Edfu - but I could be wrong. I enjoyed chatting to some locals in a shop in mutually incomprehensible languages. It was quite different to Aswan, despite also being a tourist boat dock. Quiet, slow in pace and relaxed.
It was a little less relaxed outside the bakery. There was a severe bread shortage in Egypt at the time and the scuffles among those waiting for bread, mainly women, looked quite fierce. I kept my distance.
Occasional cruise boats passed in the opposite direction, mostly large like us but occasionally smaller feluccas. They were often in doubles or triples, connected together in some way that I could not see. I was surprised to see very few small boats; possibly it was a bit too dangerous to be on the river with all the large craft.
I was quite sad when the cruise came to an end. Osoris decided that the way to compensate me for my lost day in Luxor was to compress my Luxor visits, which were originally scheduled for a full day, into three hours between 6am and 9am. I protested and asked them to change my morning flight to Cairo to a later time, but that fell on deaf ears. So I was up very early and spent most of the three hours speeding from site to site with no time to do more than take some external pics and jump back in the car. Not a method I recommend.
Despite all that, I loved the slow pace of the cruise down the Nile.
For my friends on the diabetes forums, I actually woke one morning with a dream fresh in my mind of all the newly diagnosed diabetics floating past my cabin in De Nial...