After what is now a concatenated nine months of proper travelling, I’ve finally experienced something quintessentially ‘backpacker-esque‘ and the clue’s in the name, ‘sleeper’. Taking a night-train is arguably a ‘must-try’ for all backpackers, including the unlikely ones and so I can now say I’ve joined that club. I’ve managed to avoid this through a combination of lots of available time, strategic planning and slower travel.
Now, despite knowing that if I ever made it to Egypt, in true Unlikely Traveller style I’d almost certainly look to travel deeper into the country. However I seem to have underestimated Egypt’s a) size and b) transport system. To get further down the country, well, it’s a long way by almost any mode of transport other than plane!
But no, instead of taking the easy option, I chose to take myself out of my comfort zone – if you’ll excuse that overused phrase.
I left Giza not long after I took that night single Pyramid night photo. Oh, I left by taxi you might (or might not) be surprised to hear :–) It actually did take about 30 minutes to get back but traffic was pretty hectic after and around rush-hour. BTW, the taxi fare was so affordable that I’m only gonna to reveal if asked. Though put it this way, I wish I’d taken one to get here those days ago!
Upon entering Giza’s main rail station, it was immediately apparent that this was unlike Ramses – the main railway station in Cairo. Ramses looked how a train station should look whereas this place really didn’t. Well, it had a train track and it had people waiting on a platform so I remained quietly optimistic. After wondering along the platform for five minutes looking for anything that would provide train information (literally nothing did in the end), I stumbled upon a small cafe and there I noticed, well, a non-Egyptian looking guy. Is that PC enough?
I asked him if he spoke English and he did. It turned out he was British and his name was Tristan. How wonderful and what a relief not to be alone! We would spend the next 20 minutes talking obviously and trying to work how to board the train we didn’t know anything about.
Fast forward a short while after and we board the train successfully to discover our respective cabins are pretty much next to each other. What were the odds! Well, quite low actually as there were only three other ‘tourists’ on board with us!
The latest Egyptian scank
So I’m now used to seeing one price for foreigners and another price for locals that this is just standard. However this next one is up there with the very best…
You see, foreigners aren’t typically allowed the ‘normal’ train seats to Luxor. To elaborate, they basically deny you tickets for standard seating to force you on board the sleeper train promoted (and probably in existence) just for tourists! The price is significantly different, thus explaining this tactic. There’s various reports on the WWW confirming this and there’s even a mention on ‘Seat61’.
Whilst it’s not impossible to get a ticket for a normal seat, your chances are very slim but still, certainly worth trying in the first place! I didn’t even try as I was all ready and prepared for losing my sleeper-train virginity but Tristan did try and was declined. However, we met a young Chinese lad who managed to get a ticket. Go figure…
Speaking of figures, the Chinese lad paid £6. Tristan and I paid in excess of £80. Says it all really doesn’t. Thank you once again, Egypt.
Anyhow, here is my cosy cabin and communal lounge area.
Thankfully for the frankly ridiculous £90 tourist-trap they also provide an evening meal and breakfast. Here is the evening meal:
Not bad, huh.
When I came to rest my head that evening, I thought I had made the worst mistake ever. This was not smooth and it was not quiet. To add to that I thought I was going to get motion sickness too. Somehow, tierdness must have kicked in as I don’t actially recall being awake for longer than 30 minutes or so. To my surprise and delight, the next time I woke was when there was knock at the door for breakfast! Thank goodness.
Though when was the last time you ate breakfast at 5.30am? That wasn’t easy but as the saying goes: ‘Get it down, man‘.
So we boarded the train the evening prior for 8pm and exited the train the next morning in Luxor for 6:15am a little bleary eyed. Needless to say that even at 6.15am the hotel-touts were there in numbers trying to get business. Tristan didn’t actually have any accommodation booked and so I’d like to think in the few hours of conversation we had the evening before, he’d seen and heard enough to trust my judgement. As such, we checked into the hostel I had booked and together we took a dorm room. Once upon a time of course this hostel would have been busy, but sadly now, it just isn’t.
We would spend the next 36 hours in each others company heading out to see the sights, some of which were spectacular.
The only night shots I got were of The Luxor Temple which is situated in the heart of the town and walk able from the hostel or the train station.
Behold, The Avenue of Sphinxes. Perhaps this image will have been better in the day but you can still just about make them out…
Yet another Egyptian scank
That evening, we both agreed we’d like nothing more than a sit down and a beer. After relentlessness ‘hawking’ on an unprecedented scale, we found a roof-top bar area that had a big sign clearly to attract locals: Stella available. Result!
Although when was the last time your ‘Stella’ looked like this, explaining my less than impressed face at once again, Egyptian tactics but also, well, its taste…
My time in Luxor has been my favourite time in Egypt so far and that’s only really down to meeting Tristan. To think though that my experience here (and his) would have been so comparably dull without each other re-affirms the importance of meeting good people on your travels. People you really hope you will stay in contact with for a long time.
Here’s the cheeky-chappy ‘happy as larry‘ though when you see in a mid-to-late week post where this picture was taken, you will understand his beaming smile.