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11 March 2008

saddle sores and more

click on any picture for a full size version, i'm a bad ass photographer

thursday, after work, jules and i went to attaba, a market center of cairo, to look for bikes. jules has wanted bicycles since she got here, and she convinced me it would be a good warm-up on the way to the gym. TheDriver took us around to some shops deftly negotiating prices for us. we bounced between 3-4 shops until we found one that had decent prices for both bikes (in TheDriver's opinion, i thought they were a bit TOO cheap). jules got a red one with chrome fenders and a basket which she wanted so she could bring groceries back from the store. i got a silver one with some sort of suspension system. we took them back to the apartment where i took the plastic bubble wrap off mine, and jules discovered our apartment is big enough to ride our bikes around fairly comfortably. while trying to ride mine, i found that there was a rub somewhere on the back tire, though i didn't figure it to be anything to worry about.

friday, TheDriver picked us up and brought along his sister, TheMary, to take us to the pyramids. it's awful that i've been here just shy of two months and i've just now found the time to go to the pyramids. the few times i've had to go to alex for work, we have to take pyramid street to get to the highway, and to say the view, even from there, is breath-taking is an understatement. i'm in total awe of the engineering, mathematical, and architectural feats that the pyramids embody. anyways, we got there and i found out a few strange things. it's a park you have to pay entrance to, and for non-egyptians, the price is about $10. for egyptians, the price is $0.40, the same amount they charge you to park your vehicle. also, anyone and everyone is a tour guide for the pyramids, and they'll follow you for inappropriate amounts of time trying to convince you to go with them. there are loads of junk gift peddlers. one offered me an "authentic" arab headdress and some pyramids, "as a gift, no money", then he proceeded to ask for money. when i gave them back, he yelled after me, "you act like i'm asking 1,000,000 dollars!".

our first stop was khufu (or cheops). you can actually walk on the pyramid up about 3 or 4 stones high. they've carved steps at a few places into the lower blocks to allow access. khufu is the largest of the pyramids though if you look at them all it might not seem so, since khafre is built at a slightly higher elevation. at 1pm, you can even walk inside of the khufu pyramid, which i thought was amazing. we had to wait to get tickets since it was only around 11AM at the time we were at khufu, so TheDriver found us a tour guide, and we were on our way to see the other 2 pyramids. from what i could tell, you are not allowed to walk out past khufu. in one way or another you either have to get a tour guide who will take you out either by camel, horse, or by a horse-drawn cart. i'm not sure of the reasoning, but it seemed to be a very consistent observation. our guide was moustafa, and he provided three rather gaunt horses for TheDriver, TheMary, and jules, and i, since it was my first time, got to ride his camel. i have to mention now that i have a strange empathy for beasts of burden. i project onto them emotions such as boredom, discomfort, sadness at an unfulfilling life, etc. i hate to see the donkeys pulling carts around here with little 5-year-olds whipping them with branches. ugh. so, after the initial shock of the jarring manner in which a camel gets to it's feet, i realized that i had to make it move. already, i felt bad for it because i'm a big guy, but now the guide tells me "kick ze camel, whip ze camel, hurt ze camel!" i hated to do it, but i need to get it moving, so i gently smacked it's hind-quarters with my makeshift whip. he didn't move, so the guide had me hit him harder and, finally, my camel was motivated (btw, i named my camel TheBooger, because, like TheNephew whom i call "booger", my camel didn't follow directions very well).

we galloped (if that's what a camel does) through the desert to see the khafre pyramid and the smaller, menkaure, the farthest away. khafre, btw, is believed the be the egyptians attempt at the first truly "smooth" pyramid. you can see at the top where they've used limestone to fill in the rough edges to smooth out the pyramid. it is guessed the entire pyramid was once smooth, but when the arabs came to the area, much of the limestone was pilfered to build their mosques, leaving only the top part untouched. after a cursory camel-steering training (and by cursory, i mean, he told me everything to do and say, but the came wouldn't move unless HE did it), moustafa took the whip away from me and handed me the rein. from now on out, it was just rib-kicking for acceleration (and some sort of "tsk" sound), pull his head in the direction i want to go for turning, and "HESSSSssss!" to stop (which rarely worked as well). i learned that camels don't like going down slopes, i'm guessing something to do with their center of gravity, so with an extra 1/8 ton on it's back, it disliked it more. the guide told me to lean back as far as i could whenever we were going down a slope. luckily, my saddle had a bullhorn (or camel horn in this case?) to hold onto so i could lean back. we traversed past khafre, past menkaure to "the photo spot". it's just a flat spot in the desert in the general direction so that, when you look back, you'll see that the pyramids are aligned. there's also a guy there who'll sell you water or pop since it's a bit dusty and hot in the desert. we didn't partake though we did get out obligatory pictures.

after we photographed our memories, moustafa guided us next to the sphinx. he couldn't take us very close to it, bringing us in from it's right side, because it is kinda of in it's own little park. i swear he has TheBooger trained, because all the horses pulled away on the way to the sphinx, while my camel slowed down to a stop along with moustafa. here is where he propositioned me for "secret tips". it really helped the have TheDriver there to negotiate the price of the tour ($20/person), but moustafa took advantage of it being my first time and cornered me for more tips that i wouldn't tell TheDriver about. i kinda brushed him off, and we continued on as close to the sphinx as we could get by 4-legged transportation. we stopped and took pictures and returned the long way around the pyramids again on our way back. around about the same spot, my camel slowed down again while everyone pulled away. the guide again asked for "secret tips". i only wanted to give him $4, but all i had was $20, lucky bastard. i gave it to him, and he asked if i would promise to keep it a secret. i told him 'no'. he asked why, and i told him, "if you are asking me to keep it a secret, then you are doing something you probably shouldn't". he was unhappy about that statement and asked if i wanted the money back. i told him no, but we were finished talking. the rest of the trip was good, everything we saw already over the other shoulder. that is when i took the video you see below. it's bumpy, but camels aren't known for their grace. at one point, moustafa told me to cross a road by going left, but a tour bus was coming at me. poor TheBooger, i didn't know what to do. i was trying to get him to go, stop, and turn away from the bus all at the same time. i now know why he wanted me to turn when he said. it was the easiest way to get back. because my camel would not stop, we had to go a bit further up the road, and now... my camel had to jump! CRAP! it was only maybe a 1 foot drop off a rock to the sand, but as i said already, camels don't like going down, let alone abrupt elevation changes no matter how minor. my camel jumped, and i thought i was a goner. it was a rough 5-seconds. the horses behind me handled it more gracefully, lucky them. this story ends rather dully (?). we turned in the horses, the camel, took this picture, and then went to buy tickets for going inside the khufu pyramid.

TheDriver and TheMary decided not to go inside khufu as they've done it so many times already. we got tickets ($20/non-egyptian) and worked our way up to the tourist entrance. sadly, they confiscate your cameras on the way in, no photography allowed inside. they took my camera, but a certain someone i was with had his or hers in his or her purse. again sadly, this person was afraid to take pictures here though he or she may have done it in the past at the valley of the kings. it's too bad. anyways, i was i no way prepared for what we'd find inside. there's just a rocky walkway for about 20 yards then you come to the descending passage (see descriptions to the right). you follow this for a bit until you reach the ascending passage. it is sloped at about 51° all the way to the center of the pyramid where you find the king's chamber. the passageway is MAYBE 4 feet tall and about 1.5 people wide and about 300 feet long! at that angle, in that heat, it was the longest walk ever! about halfway up it opens up into the grand gallery. the gallery was awesome and a bit of a respite. we could catch our breath here as the passage opened wider and straight up to a narrow cavern, of sorts. we then continued up to the king's chamber, squeezing past people coming down. i'm not normally a claustrophobic person, but in that tight space with all that rock above us... all i could think about was my OSHA training " access and egress... confined space... danger". within minutes you were sweating profusely from head to toe. even people who were in good shape. it was hot, and cramped, and the air was motionless. the pharaoh's tomb wasn't really spectacular, i'm guessing all the spectacular stuff they've moved to the cairo museum, but just being INSIDE this world wonder was breath-taking, which sucked because breath was a precious commodity in that tight little hallway. after taking a breather at the top, we squeezed our way down past the other tourists working their way up, and finally, we were out in the great wide open of the outside. soaking with sweat, exhilarated from the awesome things we'd seen, we hopped in the car to check out the clubhouse at the golf course that was built in the shadow of the pyramids. it was then, upon sitting down, i realized, damn TheBooger... he gave me a saddle sore.

i'm still recovering from my saddle sore, it's a bit painful but getting better. at the time, i complained that between the blister and the exhausting pyramid climb, that the trip wasn't worth it, but that was just goofy-talk. my trip to he pyramids was truly one of the best things i've ever seen besides bewbz. if you'd like, i have more pictures in my flickr set.

in keeping with tradition, here is another installment of "jules head..." at the sphinx.

TheBooger going wherever he wants to and my posse behind me

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Blogger themom said...

OMG how unbelievable. How's that saddle sore??? You are so lucky - and what a beautiful site - the Sphinx and Pyramids. leave it to you to piss off your tour guide with brutal honesty!

10:56 AM, March 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love the camel, and think its most appropriate that booger was matched with ya. jo

5:17 PM, March 11, 2008  
Blogger B-Town V.J.G. J Ho said...

what does the camel toe look like? I've never seen one that close?

5:31 PM, March 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading your blogs. This entry is one of my faves. Jay is jealous that you got to ride a camel!

5:07 PM, March 12, 2008  
Blogger slyght said...

then the two of you need to get here then. i'll get him on one. i need him to fix my router too. there's not such thing as a free lunch.

1:21 AM, March 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My good Christian upbringing has limited my vocabulary and I can't think of enough profanity to describe just how (%^^%$*((*&^% jealous I am of your trip. That's SO awesome!! And you really did a great job telling the story. It's honestly worthy of travel books.


9:44 PM, March 14, 2008  
Blogger themom said...

Thanks for fixing my blog - you are sooo smart. Looks better now. We are trying to find "extra small" gloves for thebooger to wear to school. Since fingers and hands are raw, we need to protect from a secondary infection. This has proven to be a daunting task.

12:53 PM, March 16, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and your chick need to start updating your shit. Otherwise, I'm going to stop visiting.

4:03 PM, March 21, 2008  

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