The phone rang to wake us at 4:15 a.m. and we were loaded into a van about a half hour later for our sunrise hot air balloon ride over this city. Still in the dark, we arrived at the launch point and met our pilot, who, after explaining the crash landing procedure, assured this American not to worry — we would have a safe trip!
As the sun broke across the horizon, we loaded into the basket and with a couple blasts of neck-hair burning gas blasts, were off. The sky soon filled up with dozens of other balloons.
The wind brought us to the Valley of the Kings, a collection of tombs, including that of King Tut, discovered by the British in the early 20th century. Instead of building pyramids here, the Egyptians placed these tombs in the large hills and mountains that dot the Nile’s west bank.
We passed over many rundown homes — often without roofs — which offered an interesting perspective of the many Egyptians still asleep in bed.
On our way down, we narrowly passed by some areas where treasure hunters had previously dug in search of other lost tombs.
After we landed, we went for a walk through the Valley of the Kings and saw the highly decorated and colorful tombs of Ramses IV, Ramses III and Ramses I, and then had a quick lunch before heading over to the Winter Palace, the swankiest place in town, for some pre-departure cocktails on the patio.
The last week of Egypt’s sun, food and constant harassment have been exhausting. But the sights and the people that I’ve met on the Intrepid trip have been pretty amazing. Like Morocco, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll return to this country. But if my memories of Egypt are only of this week, I’ll be more than content.
Our overnight train back to Cairo departs in several hours. My flight to China leaves tomorrow afternoon, with a 9-hour layover in Dubai.