While we were having a tête-à-tête with the Royal Mummies, Cairo was gripped by a heat wave and a desert storm brewed overnight threatening to jeopardize our travel to Luxor the next morning (9th Apr). Fortunately it blew over with dust on our luggage (indoors with all windows closed!!) being the only damage and we set out for the Giza train station. We reached well in time but despite all the preparation of master planner Manish, there were a few significant obstacles to cross before we could get ourselves & our bags and baggage onto the platform of what seemed like a small Indian town from the 1970s/80s – no signs outside the station, a sandy non-paved entrance, no displays of what train on what platform. Fortunately the platform itself was nicely paved and quite clean!
We were booked on the equivalent of the AC Chair Car of Express trains in India, so it was a bit of a culture shock to find ourselves in what we would have classified as a semi / non-reserved compartment with people barging in to occupy seats without reservation and non-stop cacophony of vendors.
In what we later came to understand is a customary practice, vendors would drop a sample of their wares onto our seat / lap despite our protesting. After doing a full round of one or two compartments, they would be back to collect their things / money if you decided to buy! It was quite humorous for the local citizens watching and they tried telling us it was ok; some even volunteered to collect the stuff dropped onto us and hand it back to the vendors.
A 10-hour journey that turned out to be 11 hours with a mixed bag of roadside Romeo like characters and honest village folk clambering in and out, had me reminisce of my mother recalling the constant “chain pulling” that reduced Express trains to “Passenger” trains in the 1970s as soon as they entered certain parts of the country! And to top it all no views of the majestic Nile until we were nearing our destination as had been promised by our tour leader!! I certainly didn’t mince words to tell Manish what a mistake he had made 🙂
Luxor station, apparently under renovation, beat the smallest of village stations back home with only sand for a platform surface! It reinforced our appreciation (and gratitude) for Indian Railways for the way trains and stations across a huge network are managed with a good enforcement of ticketed travel.
The (mis)adventure of the day was all but forgotten the moment we laid eyes on the beautifully lit-up Luxor Temple and it’s Avenue of Sphinxes from the rooftop of our hotel. With the Nile shimmering in the backdrop and faint lights across from the pyramid shaped Thebes mountain, it was a blissful setting for a warm dinner.
The sharing of this experience has been a few days late coming … too much activity to keep up with! Keep reading and encouraging us!
Mihika has started capturing her experiences to share with the world, please read them at iammihika.com. Thanks!!