Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Amoebas! Yay!

We awoke the next day with our felucca slowly drifting into port at Kom Ombo. The other people on the boat awoke and munched on pita bread and eggs, but my stomach still felt a little off so I passed on breakfast. After reaching solid ground again, we climbed off the boat, collected our luggage and said goodbye to the boat and its crew (except the Captain and his son who would ride with us as far as Edfu).

After depositing our luggage in a mini-van, we doubled back to check out the Temple of Kom Ombo. Unfortunately, I think that entire group was too tired and dirty feeling to appreciate it fully; and most of us just ended up wandering around in a slight daze.

The Temple of Kom Ombo.

Sarah was trying to take a picture of the beautiful carved wall, when this goof-ball stepped in front of her, trying to take a picture of the ceiling. I whispered: "take the picture! Take the picture!" I'm not sure why it entertains me, but it does.

One thing that did grab my attention was the mummified crocodiles on display in part of the ruins. I mean, Mummified Crocodiles!!

Imediately after I entered the room with the mummified crocs, a group of middle aged Japanese women entered a simultaneously exclaimed "oooooooooooh!" Ooooooooooh, indeed!

After about an hour, we all made our way back to the mini-van and climbed in. One of the members of our group, a Brazilian named Richardo sat in the front seat next to the driver. But, when he reached to turn on the A/C, the driver suddenly shouted: "No! Is finished!"

As usual, just because a tour package says it includes a "van with A/C" that doesn't mean the A/C actually has to work. So, we rolled down the windows and headed for Edfu.

Pulling into the Temple of Edfu, roughly an hour later, the security guard at the entrance leaned in through the drivers windows and shouted at us: "One hour! One hour only! Then leave!" Apparently, during our driver from Edfu to Luxor, we'd be part of another convoy, and had to leave in a hour to be part of it.

So, making our way through the gauntlet of vendors and souvenir sellers, we entered the Temple of Edfu. The Temple itself is a huge structure with an enormous courtyard, giants carved walls, and a maze of rooms, halls and chambers... all carved with heirgyphics. As Sarah observed: "Just imagine if people covered ever wall in every room of their house with writing."

The front of the Temple of Edfu. By looking at the door on the left hand side of the temple, you get an idea of its scale.

Walking around the outisde of the Temple. The sheer number of heiroglyphics is amazing.

Our hour quickly up, we regrouped at our van and headed out. After driving for about fifteen minutes, we came to a stop at the checkpoint where we were to join our convoy. This convoy would consist of about a half dozen tour vehicles and two police vehicles to "provide protection."

OK... let me talk about this for a minute.

After the terrorists attack that I mentioned in a previous entry, it was decided that -in certain areas of Egypt- tourists would have to travel in armed convoys for their protection. But, I ask you, if you were a terrorist, which would make an easier target: A) A single tour van driving down a road at a random, unpredictable interval or B) a huge line of tour vehicles, travelling together, at the exact same scheduled time each day with police sirens announcing their presence? As another tour member, Rafik, noted "it would be like shooting fish in a barrel."

To add insult to injury, this is our "police protection":

Notice that the guy on the right is soundly asleep. Meanwhile, his companion on the right is noticably bobbing for apples. If our van were to suddenly burst into flames, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't even notice.

Also, as we approached Edfu, our driver became impatient with the pace of the convoy and honk to try to get past them (we were in the town limits, so the convoy officially had disolved). In response, one of the soldiers awoke, and said something to the driver. In response, the driver moved the truck into the middle of the two lanes, making it impossible for our driver to pass. The soldier, meanwhile, turned and smiled at our driver as if to say: "see if you can get around that, driver-boy."

The whole incident was very mature.

Before arriving in town, the driver had asked us which hotels we'd like to be dropped off at. Several members of our tour already had reservations, but the rest of us randomly picked the Nubian Oasis Hotel out of our guide book. Not surprisingly, the driver took us to some other random hotel, where we were instantly bombarded by touts.

Out of the crowd, rather mysteriously, a man announced that he was from the Nubian Oasis and declared: "All we have left are dorm rooms."

So, with that in mind, several of us decided to check out the hotel our driver had taken us to. We'd all specifically asked for doubles with A/C and private bathrooms. But the first room had neither. The second had A/C, but no bath. The third had a bathroom... but no door on the bathroom. Two Spanish guys from our tour decided to stay, but I decided to pass (Sarah was waiting int he van).

Climbing back into the van, another tout leaned through the door (our driver was calming smoking nearby, in no rush to remove us from the situation). "My hotel Nu Polo Hotel. In Lonely Planet. Listed at 300 Egyptian pounds. I give you for 80. Air condition. Private bath. Very nice. Free coffee. Free laundry." He rattled on and on. He sounded suspicious, so we passed. But, he kept jamming the brochure into our face and repeating the same lines again and again.

Finally, after we shouted repeatedly and honked the van horn, our driver ground out his cigarette and wandered back to the van. Sarah and some other members of our group realized how suspicious it was that someone from the Nubian Oasis Hotel had been waiting for us in front of some other hotel only to tell us they were full. So, we decided to see for ourselves and told the driver to take us there.

As he pulled away, in response to the touts, Steve announced "I have never seen anything like that." I tried to play it cool, but -honestly- I had never seen touting that bad before. Even more amazingly, the man from the New Polo Hotel jumped on a motorcycle and began following us, shouting through the window "...Private bath. A/C. Free Coffee..."

Finally, at the Nubian Oasis, we found a significantly more relaxed affair. Unfortuantely, they only had one A/C room available. So, dropping off two members of the tour group, we told the driver to take us to the Nefertiti Hotel.

So, with the New Polo Man still following us on his motorcycle, we heade for the hotel. In addition, two mysterious men had climbed into the van with us. The two men turned out to be touts for the Nubian Oasis. And, while the driver dropped off the other members of our tour at their hotels, they continued to harass us. "You will find the Nefertiti to be too expensive..."

Finally, it was down to just Sarah, Yusuke, myself, the driver and the two touts. One of the touts started herassing Yusuke.

"Nubian Oasis is much better. 20 pounds. With A/C. Private bathroom..."

"He isn't interested." I said to the tout, tired of watching him lean on Yusuke.

"He is his own person. With his own mind. Let him think for himself." The tout spat back at me, trying to act like he had the moral high ground.

"Yes. But, he's my friend and he doesn't speak good English, so you are confusing him." I replied.

Yusuke, for his part, proved that he was his own person, with his own mind, and ignored the tout for the rest of the drive.

So, though, we were at the Nefertiti. As Yusuke and I climbed out to look at the hotel, one of the touts followed us in, and the New Polo guy pulled up behind the van to continue harassing Sarah.

Sarah finally had enough of him and explained: "We will never stay at your hotel, because you are obnoxious." Apparently, the driver acted all indignant, but finally got the hint and drove away.

Inside the hotel, Yusuke and I were pleased to find it to be relaxed and clean. But, unfortunately, more expensive than we'd hoped. So, slightly defeated feeling we returned to the van and told them to take us back to the Nubian Oasis, much to the touts glee.

But, three blocks later, I had second thoughts. "I don't want to stay at the Nubian Oasis. The Nefertiti was nicer," I whispered to Sarah. "Me too," Sarah responded.

"Driver, stop the car, we want to go back to the Nefertiti." I announced.

"No!" He responded indignantly and clearly in bed with the touts at this point.

So, I proceeded to begin opening the van door, forcing him to roll to a stop. "Don't worry," Sarh said, eager to be out of the van, "we'll walk back. Just drop us off here."

So, begrudgingly, the driver dropped the three of us off. And, feeling rather triumphant, we walked back to the Nefertiti to check in.

Unfortunately, no soory had we checked in than my stomach problems came back with a vengance. In addition to the stabbing pains in my gut, I was now also suffering from weakness, sore muscles and a fever. I made the hike to a pharmacy to get rehydration salts, and was still taking antibiotics, but my condition was continuing to get worse. Even though we'd taken anti-malarial medicine, we were beginning to fear that I'd picked up malaria in Kenya.

So, the next morning, we talked to the man at the front desk of the hotel and he arranged to have a doctor come see me. The doctor was a nice man with a disorganized briefcase who, after a quick inspection, reassured us that I didn't have malaria.

"No, you don't have malaria. You have amoebas."

So, he gave me a shot of painkiller in my backside. Some pills to kill my amoebas. And some foul tasting herbal medicine to strengthen my stomach and assured us I'd feel better in the next 24 hours.

And, honestly, I'm feeling better already. At this point, I'm really grateful that we decided to go with the Nefertiti. In addition to being a nice hotel, the staff has been very helpful today. It makes our uphill battle yesterday seem that much more worth it.

With any luck, tomorrow I'll be in good enough shape to start sight seeing again.

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