Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cross Egypt Challenge - October 17 - 21, 2015

It all started on Saturday, October 17, 2015, late in the afternoon.  We finished all our tasks and what wasn't finished was left that way.  We packed up the Blazer and headed south to Las Vegas to the Red Roof Inn, a short distance from McCarran Airport.  The week before I had tried to secure lodging that also provided long term parking but to no avail.  Everything was booked and I mean booked solid.  Even the Motel 6 was asking $150 plus per night that weekend.  Yikes!  The Red Roof Inn also wanted close to $200 but I called the central reservations and got the last room for a measly $110.  No parking though.

Our drive to Las Vegas was uneventful and we easily found our hotel.  After finding out no long term parking was available, Eric got on the phone and found us some reasonable long term parking at the Best Western just down the road.  It was $5 per night compared to $10 per night at the airport.  So, early the next morning, October 18, we were up, scarfed some brekkie (Red Roof Inn's brekkie was sucky!) and drove to the Best Western where we parked the car and caught the shuttle to the airport.

After a long, long, long security line, we found our gate, of course it was the last one on a long, long, concourse!  The wait at the gate wasn't long and we boarded the plane headed to Los Angeles.  Yeah, I know, we were going to Cairo but we had to go west before we could go east.  Fortunately, everything went just fine and we land in Los Angeles about 45 minutes after taking off from Las Vegas.  Now began a lengthy layover.  We waited in LA almost 5 hours before our next flight to Paris.   It was very, very long five hours.  No smokie treats for me.  The security lines were absolutely ridiculous and it wasn't worth the effort to go outside for a smoke and then go through all the lines again.  So, we waited and waited and waited.  We did find a nice quiet restaurant to have lunch that was delish (pricey, but delish).  The food was good but even better was the quiet, away from the crowds and noise.  A wonderful place to relax for a bit.

Finally, it was time to board the international flight.  It was a huge Airbus A380 with three seats on each window side and five seats in the center.  We had window seats and were hoping we would have all three seats to ourselves but that luck wasn't going to happen.  A young lady sat in our row and we gave her the aisle.  In retrospect, we should have given her the window!  It was an Air France flight and they did serve us complementary drinks right away after takeoff.  I had a lovely glass of champagne and Eric had some white wine.  The gal we were sharing our seats with had five(!) champagnes, white wine (2 or 3 small bottles), red wine (2 small bottles) and just about anything else she could get to drink.  The steward actually cut her off.    Shortly after drinks, our dinner was served.  Yeah, it was airline food and just so-so. But it was better than peanuts :-)

I was smart and took a sleeping pill, pulled a blanket over myself, tucked a pillow behind me and zonked out for most of the flight.  I remember thinking I hoped the drinking gal didn't puke all over!  I didn't get up once during that long 8 hour flight.  Drinking gal had her tray full of drinks and I think trying to get out of the seat and over her would have been a disaster.  At one point, Eric did get up and she almost spilled stuff all over.  Oh well, it was only 8 hours, lol.  Prior to landing, we were served breakfast (no alcohol this time).  It was now a day later, October 19.

We arrived in Paris and only had a short layover of about 2 hours before we boarded our flight to Cairo.  We had to go through security again and I set off the alarm.   Hmmmm.....I took off my shoes (which isn't normally a requirement anywhere but the US) and still the alarm sounded.  So, I got pulled aside and patted down.  I was confused as to what was setting off the alarm.  I wasn't wearing anything metal except some small gold earrings.  After the pat down, the guard then took the hand held metal detector and when she passed it over my shoulder it set off, beeping like crazy.  It was then I remembered I have a bionic arm full of metal.  I showed her the scar and she wisely nodded her head and decided I wasn't a threat and let me pass through to the gates.  Yippee!  Our final flight was also on Air France and again with the champagne!  Nice.  We also were served a meal.  I slept some more and was so ready to get out of that seat when we landed about five hours later.  All together, we were traveling or waiting to travel for two full days.  That was tough!

Fortunately, upon our arrival in Cairo, there was a gentleman with a Cross Egypt Challenge sign waiting for us and one other person from our flight.  We all gathered together and he walked us through customs after obtaining our Visas for our passports.  Easy, peasy!  He loaded us into a van and the driver took us to our hotel.  It was only about 15 miles but took over an hour.  The traffic in Cairo is awful.  I was so happy to see the Marriott sign.  Check-in was easy and before we knew it, we were ensconced in our beautiful room, twelfth floor with a view of the Nile, hotel courtyard gardens and pool.  Nice!




 This particular Marriott was originally a palace built to host dignitaries, presidents and royals for the opening of the Suez canal.  It was vacant for quite some time then Marriott purchased the property, rehabbed the palace and added two high rise towers for guest rooms.  It is VERY nice :-)

After unpacking we decided to look around the hotel and find some food.  We ended up in Harry's Pub, (English style), where we had a few cocktails and split a Philly Steak sandwich with fries.  They also brought us some noshies - carrots, cucumbers, chips, nuts and some dips, one spicy, one creamy and one cheesy.  I really enjoyed everything and the service was stellar.  After eating the only thing we wanted to do was sleep so that's what we did!

We were up early the next morning, October 20, because we had scheduled a tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx.  In the lobby was a gal holding a Cross Egypt Challenge ("CEC") sign who was our hostess for the tour.  We joined about 10 other folks also on the CEC who were from Taiwan.  Only two spoke English but we all had fun.  I think the bus ride to the pyramids was about 40 miles. Tourism in Egypt has fallen sharply and part of the CEC goal is to show people that it is safe to travel here.  Consequently, when we arrived at the pyramids, there were very few tourists which was nice for us.  Not so nice for the vendors who will follow you like the plague if you speak to them.  We were warned to not say anything, not even no or thanks or go away or anything!  That was difficult as it felt rude to not say no thank you.  But, our hostess and guide were correct in telling us to ignore them.

The Pryamids and Sphinx are obviously a must on any visit to Cairo.  The Taiwan folks opted for a camel tour and to enter the pyramid.  Neither Eric nor I cared for the camel ride so we just poked around and took some pictures.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and it was interesting to here her tell us the history of the area.


Hahahaha, I didn't realize until I posted this picture that we're giving the ADV or Warchild salute.  Maybe that's an indicator of the upcoming scooter adventure?  We'll see :-)


The gal in the center is our CEC hostess for the day.  Her name is pronounced Newring but certainly not spelled that way!

 A rare picture of the three large pyramids sans tourists!

 The gal in the pink scarf was our tour guide Maha.  She was very good and also very pleasant.  She definitely earned her tip.  The group is the Taiwan folks.  Just after this picture was taken, the gendarmes tried to confiscate their banner.  Apparently, small signs are okay but banners and/or flags are verbotten!


 The obligatory camel picture.  I didn't take any close ups of the camels, horses or carts because the vendors try to charge you for taking a photograph
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This is the only pyramid that you can enter.  Unfortunately, there isn't really anything to see since all the interior decoration and art has long since been looted.  Having done it before, I opted to forego the experience.  Our Taiwan peeps had a blast taking the camel ride around the pyramids and then descending the steps into the pyramid.  They came out giggling like schoolgirls :-)

 After the pyramids, we went a bit further down the road to the galleries surrounding the Sphinx.  The workmanship is really indescribable.  Truly awesome stonework.








There are many examples of Sphinx in Egypt, however, this one by the Pyramids is the largest.  The nose and beard were removed by some king because the nose and the beard symbolize the strength and power of the king who had the Sphinx sculpted and the next king didn't want his subjects to respect the prior king.  You know, all the political BS that goes on no matter what country or era you happen to be.  Too bad.  It is still an awesome sight.

After our tour of the Pryamids and Sphinx, we were herded back onto our little bus for the ride back to the hotel.  I would say our ride out there was about 40 minutes but our return trip, with traffic in full swing took well over an hour.  We got passed by a horsecart, lol :-)

We spent a bit of time at the hotel Courtyard Cafe, had a few cocktails and some snacks before heading back up to our room.
 You don't see this very often.  As a matter of fact, the last time I posted a picture of a can with a pull tab was in 2011 on our trip to India!


After our snack, our intent was to take a short nap and then get dinner.  It didn't work out that way.  We got up to our room, laid down and didn't wake up for hours.  As a matter of fact, I didn't wake up until morning!  All that jet lag caught up with us along with the early get up for the tour.  We were beat and needed a good long rest.  Fortunately we didn't have anything on the agenda the next morning so sleeping in was definitely an option.  Unfortunately, Eric woke up with the yuckies - sinus crud and sore throat.  He did bring some meds and hopefully that will do its job.  It's no fun to be sick on vacation!

Today, October 21st was the day we went to the Egyptian Museum.  After a leisurely brekkie we caught a cab in front of the hotel and rode across the Nile to the Egyptian Museum.  We were able to purchase our entrance tickets without issue but....when we entered the Museum they spied my camera in my little bag.  No, no, no!!! No cameras allowed.  So back outside to find the camera and bag check area.  It took a bit of sign language but I managed to get my camera checked in after removing the SD card and tucking it in a pocket.  Of course the attendant wanted a tip and all we had were large bills.  We finally settled on a 10# tip and he gave us the correct change.  Funny, after we finished our Museum tour, we went to collect the camera and it was a different attendant and he also wanted a tip!  Good thing Eric had a few coins in his pocket.

The Museum is huge and we had several peeps try to entice us into a private tour.  However, we just wanted to wander around.  Most of the exhibits have an English description/explanation so it wasn't difficult.  I'm sure a guided tour would have given us a lot more history and continuity, but we kind of just wanted to wander alone.  There is so much to see.  I do think we saw most of it until our feet gave out.  We were there for several hours.  The artifacts are simply incredible.  Unfortunately many of them have been defaced and vandalized but also much is still whole.  Apparently there was a break-in at the Museum in January 2011 where a number of pieces were stolen.  Most of it was later found but seriously damaged.  Some pieces took over 3 months to repair.  Sad...

 This is the main entrance of the Egyptian Museum.  The building was commissioned in 1894 and construction started around 1897 and completed in 1901.  It is currently undergoing some rehab in various areas.

 I couldn't resist this picture of an Egyptian cat.  You do know the Egyptians revered cats.  This one was lying on the Museum grounds.
 It was totally okay to take pictures outside the Museum, so we snapped a few.



Exiting the Museum grounds we were accosted by an older man asking if we needed a taxi.  I asked how much?  He said 60 pounds.  I said 40.  He said 55 pounds.  I said 40.  He said 50 pounds.  You guessed it, I said 40.  We just kept walking toward the street where many taxis were parked.  He finally caved and said, okay, 40 pounds.  We followed him to a parking lot where he asked us to wait for him while he got the car.  After only a few minutes he drove out of the underground car park and we hopped in.  As he drove us toward our hotel he handed Eric the receipt for the car park which showed he had paid 16 pounds just to park.  When he got to our hotel, I handed him 50 pounds and thanked him for the ride.  It was a fun encounter :-)

By now, we were in need of refreshment and took a table at the hotel's Courtyard Cafe where I ordered a Pina Colada and Eric had a beer.  Yummy, that pina colada hit the spot, nice and slushy and cold and full of goodness.  We each had two drinks and split a quesadilla full of chicken, onions, cilantro, cheese and other goodies.  It was a delightful way to spend a couple of hours off our feet.

 Here you can see one of the two hotel towers in the background.

That pretty much brings us up to date on our activities.  It was a long flippin haul to get here and rather wore us out.  However, we made it without incident.  Our luggage also made it without incident and now we're getting ready to go to Alexandria in the morning.  For the geographically challenged, Alexandria is on the south coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  We have an early start tomorrow as our bus will be here to collect us at 6:30 am.  It's about 4 hours to Alexandria where we will meet with the CEC organizers and maybe get our scooters.

I really hope they let me ride around the parking lot a bit since I have never, ever been on a scooter in my life!  Hahahaha, it should be interesting.  I think we'll pull out the GoPro and get video of my first scooter attempt :-)

So, a few things I forgot to mention - the traffic here is unbelievable.  There are 22 million residents of the city and another 8 million come into the city daily for work.  That brings it up to 30 million peeps!!!  That is a lot of peeps!  There are very few lanes marked and a street can go from two to three to four lanes at any given time by people just pushing their car into a space.  Most cars have evidence of side swiping.  The motorcycles and scooters lane split and I've only seen a few wearing helmets.  Lots of horn honking, too.  I sure hope we don't have to do any city riding.  I'm paranoid about that!

We see a lot of armed guards and military with automatic weapons but everything seems peaceful.  People are pleasant and we feel safe.  Every place we have entered has a scanning device where you put your bag through and a metal detector that you walk through.  There is a lot of rubble and litter but what would you expect with that many people?  Funny fact, many of the buildings are not finished.  People live in them and there are businesses located in them but they are not finished and have open holes in stories above the living and retail spaces.  Well, it's because a finished building gets taxed at a high rate but an unfinished building pays no taxes.  Reminds us of Hilldale/Colorado City in Utah where the FLDS folks don't finish the exterior of their buildings for the same reason.  So, we see lots and lots of buildings that look abandoned but are really just not finished!  Imagine that :-)

That's it for now folks.  I hope you enjoyed this blog and will continue to follow our Cross Egypt Challenge trip.  I'm so excited for the riding to begin!

Cheers for now,
Cletha



15 comments:

  1. Thanks Cletha, great blog, wish you much fun crossing Egypt...

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  2. Enjoyed reading about your adventure! Look forward to more! Be safe and have fun!

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    1. Thanks, Mike. I'm excited for what the next 9 days will bring :-)

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  3. Thanks for the update! Have fun on your scoot!

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    1. Thanks, Jodie. I'm sure it will be memorable ;-)

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  4. Keep the pics and stories coming. Have a great adventure.

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  5. Beautiful pics. Thanks for sharing. Please be safe. I am looking forward to more!

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  6. Awesome as always Ms. Cletha! Can wait for the next post! And Egypt us amazing. Thanks for letting us travel along. Hugs!
    Minna

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  7. Awesome as always Ms. Cletha! Can wait for the next post! And Egypt us amazing. Thanks for letting us travel along. Hugs!
    Minna

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  8. Enjoy! We're about to board an A380 for Frankfurt.

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  9. Love the play by play! Keep it up..sooo interesting. Eric, hope you feel better!

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  10. Great blog! I like how the pull top beer can says EV on it.

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  11. Awesome report! Have fun and keep them coming!

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  12. Awesome report! Have fun and keep them coming!

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