[Monday 13 February 2012]
We went to the hotel lobby a little after 5am. Some other residents appeared, and then a man called Mohammed came in from outside. Even though we’d been told 5.15am and the others 5.25am, he claimed both parties and led us out to the minibus — somewhat confusing, because till then all third-party contact had been with clearly identified Travco reps. The minibus took us into town and to a landing stage, with the sound of multitudes of chirping birds combining into a screeching cacophony in the bushes we passed. We crossed over two or three motor boats and boarded the last one, to cross to the west bank. There were cups and a small jar of Nescafé and hot water, of which I availed myself and Janet didn’t. A family from Cairo also joined the party. Mohammed gave us instructions, especially what to do when landing: how to stand and brace oneself, etc.
On the west bank we boarded a minibus, passing the Colossi of Memnon on the way to the field where some of the huge hot-air balloons were being inflated, and some had already taken off.
06:27:47 Balloon and moon
Janet pointed out the half-disc of the sun on the horizon as we were about to clamber and crowd into the basket of our balloon, and during the very few minutes that this took it had fully risen — remarkably quickly! Ali our pilot reiterated the instructions about landing procedures. I put the hood of my coat over my head because the flame initially was so hot.
06:40:08 Centre: The Ramesseum (memorial or mortuary temple of Ramesses II)
06:40:24 Hatshepsut’s temple. If one were faking such a structure, one would ensure that it did not look so “modern”!
06:46:30 Centre: The Ramesseum. The smoke is from stubble-burning after the sugarcane harvest.
06:47:50 Centre: The Colossi of Memnon
06:48:30 Mortuary temple of Ramesses III
06:51:52 The Colossi of Memnon
07:00:04 The shadow of our balloon
07:01:50 Harvesting sugarcane
07:06:46 Why have a roof when it doesn’t rain?
07:08:00 View across the Nile
07:20:38 Hurrying to a landing site to beg baksheesh
07:31:22 Furling the balloon before our departure from the basket
To individual congratulatory vocal fanfares from a man who beat a hand-held drum, we were issued with certificates to say we had flown by hot air balloon over Luxor.
Just prior to our departure in the waiting minibus, Mohammed’s hand-out of a few ballpoint pens seemed to satisfy our little entourage of baksheesh-seekers.
07:54:12 View from the minibus on the way back to the motor boat
We returned by the boat across to the east bank, then by minibus back to the hotel. On arrival Janet and I went straight to the little shop near the hotel entrance but it was shut.
08:30:30 Dates in one of the palm trees lining the entrance drive of Sofitel Karnak hotel
To our room, then to breakfast. I’d dumped this morning’s photos onto the netbook, and took it in case we saw the family we’d rubbed shoulders with on the balloon ride, but they weren’t there. Afterwards, we went back to the shop. He didn’t have what Janet wanted, so invited us to sit in his vine-shaded booth while he mounted his motorbike and went off to get it. That’s customer service! He couldn’t find bottles that Janet had asked for, but we bought the cans he brought, and gave him 10£E extra for his trouble.
 Elaine, of “the family we’d rubbed shoulders with on the balloon ride”, has posted the photos that she took HERE.
10:26:54 The only example of towel “sculpture” that we met with at the Sofitel Karnak
We went out and sat in the shade of an “umbrella” structure near the riverside to enjoy the heat but avoid getting burnt.
11:05:18 Pied kingfisher
Lesser Whitethroat — identified by Chris Atkin (Lincs Coast Birder)
Nile Valley Sunbird — identified by Chris Atkin (Lincs Coast Birder)
When we went into the restaurant at dinner time the young woman who pours coffee in the morning presented Janet with a Valentine’s Day red rose, and there was red in evidence elsewhere, e.g. the sweets were strawberry-based or decorated with strawberries. We got a full cup of hot coffee this evening because we went in the “Moorish Café” for it.
[Wednesday 15 February 2012]
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