Every now and then, you meet someone who makes amazing sandwiches. SK is one such.
Mohamed had left us the tuna with SK. After dinner on the day DT won her moun-wrath (bad one, but couldn't resist), SK, SP and I gathered in our room to make some sandwiches for later that night. SK quickly mixed the tuna and some mayo and celery and whipped up a fine mixture. He then took a pair of bread slices and buttered them before lining one side with a big lettuce leaf. He spread the tuna mixture evenly on the leaf and wrapped it up with the other slice of bread. He brushed down the excess on the edges and sealed the sandwich shut.
The tuna lasted us for about 4-5 sandwiches, which we took up with us to the top deck. The deck had a sheltered area with chairs and an open area with beach chairs, overlooking the swimming pool. It also had a TT table and a few more normal tables which they used to serve tea. Ever since we had seen it, the top deck had become our rendezvous. So, we all pulled up some chairs and sat in a circle, talking.
The city had gone silent. Far in the distance, across the river, one could see the Valley of the Kings lit up with floodlights. Nearer to the eyes, but still on the horizon, there were a dozen or so minarets with green neon lights. Mosques. If it got really silent, you could hear the sound of the Nile lapping against the hull of the boat. Further to the side, on the road, the odd vehicle whizzed past.
The conversation began normally before S2K took over with his jokes and had us all in a laughing riot. Kabhi stand-up comedy bhi kar liya karo, haramkhor S2K! Saare joke toh baithke suna diye!
Some of the girls had not eaten tuna sandwiches before, so they didn't know what they were missing. Some of them chose to try and sat with us while SK and I went down to our room for another batch of them. By the time we came back to the top deck, S2K and SM were playing TT. We sat down and started talking about my day at the market, hot-air ballooning the next day, the cruise in general and the jokes kept coming even as we devoured the sandwiches. For example, see below.
It was a great night, lots of laughter, amazing stories, delicious sandwiches for your late night cravings and a calming ambience that put you at ease with the world.
Day 6 started before day-break as we had to catch the sunrise from the balloon. Or that is what we aimed for :) We took the bus to the bank of the river, which was a short distance from the waterfront I had been to on Day 5. Even as we passed the waterfront, we could see 12-15 balloons already launched and marking the face of the valley. Presently, a boatman arrived to ferry us across to the West Bank. We were offered coffee and tea on the boat. There was a van on the other side, to take us to the site of the balloon launch.
Hot air ballooning was fun. It was the first time I was seeing anything like this. The balloon came in a small pickup truck and the lads spread a large carpet where they unfurled the balloon and its basket. The basket had huge cylinders and there was a burner to blow flame and hot air into the envelope. In a matter of minutes, the balloon was ready to go and we were asked to step in and hold tight. A hop, and then the ballooning staff let their hands and ropes fall away, and we were afloat. I know, for sure, that developed countries have a more stricter view of Health & Safety when it comes to things like this, so I was glad I saw it here first.
The balloon experience was enjoyable. We went up to a height of 2000 feet, I think, and got an amazing view of the west bank, the Valley of the Kings and the Queens, and beyond. The sun was bright, but not hot; more heat emanated from the bursts of the contraption which was generating the hot air. The direction control mechanism of the balloon was interesting. The envelope had two slits or overlaps which could be manoeuvred by some ropes. Depending on the direction of the rope pulled, the slit would let in cold air into the balloon and turn the basket in the desired direction. We ballooned for about 45 minutes before we started our descent in the desert beyond the valley. The terrain was fantastic. The landing was uneventful and after our usual photo-op, we headed back to the boat.
This was to be the most relaxed day on the tour. We sat down for a leisurely lunch, and while we were at it, we set sail from Luxor. We were to travel down south as far as Aswan, with a brief stopover at Edfu tonight. With nothing else to do, we all settled on the top deck after lunch, laid back and looked at the hillocks and the trees go by. Sat down with Mohamed and got names written in Arabic and Hieroglyphic. Put our legs up, let our hair down and watched as the the boat sailed over the Nile. It was blissful. Shortly after, I went down to the room and slept for about 2 hours! I had not slept that soundly in the last 7 days.
I woke up just after dusk, the boat was stationary - we were at the Esna lock. The Esna waterlock is one of the many locks on the Nile that allow boats to flow across different levels of water. I'd have liked to see the lock in operation in light, but had to make do with this. Freshened up for the cocktail party in the lounge - I think this was put together to be an icebreaker between the various groups on the boat, and S2K did a pretty good job of breaking ice. I was certain someone would come after us with a hammer or such, but luckily, we did not get to see any of that. Seriously S2K, what was introducing the Gujju couple all about? And man! you forgot all our names!!!
The party was not remarkable in itself, but I did notice two people were conspicuously absent from the party, one of which was NC.
Dinner was fun, the waiting staff came up with a surprise birthday cake for one of the groups and there was much celebration, with Egyptian music and tradition. People made a human train and paraded around the restaurant and wished the lady well. It was pleasantly refreshing. The tune was catchy too.
We went back to the top deck after dinner and spoke in the darkness of the night as we watched the boat go under bridges and along small patches of land, and finally docked at Edfu shortly after midnight. We realised we did not have any water on board (the ones sold on the boat were prohibitively expensive). So, we went down to the reception, and left the boat to go into Edfu town. The receptionist asked us to come back before 4 AM, as the boat would leave for Aswan.
We stopped at a small shop outside the dock to get some water, tea and shisha. We sat there experimenting with the camera, taking low light shots and enjoying the shisha. S2K found an internet cafe and went back to the 'connected' world, while SP, SK and I walked further on into the town. The crowds diminished slightly as we walked on, but so did the roads and the lights - we came to a dead end. Turned back and walked to the boat, but did not get on it. Instead we walked further on the waterfront and sat down on a parapet. There were a couple of locals below the parapet, on the rocks, fishing in the dark. SK pulled out some sandwiches, and we ate them in the silence of the night. Took out the camera and tried to do some slow shutter photography. Got great tips from SK, and we ended up doing some bouquet shots of the lights far in the horizon, we did some progression shots of the Christmas bell that adorned our boat. I am yet to study those photos, will get around to them once I finish the trip.
A local approached us and made small talk. Broken English. Counted three days and sang Happy Birthday. It took some time to register he was talking about the New Year. Apparently, he was from Luxor and was a policeman on night duty. It's amazing how much information can be passed with just a few words. Presently S2K returned from his Facebook-spree and we had an idea.
The receptionists had seen us 4 going out of the boat. S2K had seen us going out towards the town. We figured if the three of us (SP, SK and I) would lock ourselves in our room and give S2K the key, he would be in a position to raise an alarm in the morning saying we went into town while he checked his email, but did not return with him. The boat would have sailed by then, it would have been the perfect scare - right out of Hangover! The only hitch was the receptionists had to be in the know - else we would risk a real alarm.
It was a superb prank - only we called it off at the last second. After S2K had been instructed. After he'd collected keys and was at the door. And none of us really remembers why we called it off. It had all the things to be the highest point of this trip. We should have done it. It would have been great fun.
And if you're still interested in the tuna sandwich - here's how you make one, SK style!