Monday, May 31, 2010

Athens and a strike!

We're visiting Greece during an interesting time. They've been hit especially hard as a result of the global financial crisis. The government is essentially bankrupt and almost defaulted on its debt a couple of weeks ago. It got rescued by a loan from the international community (i.e., Germany) and as a condition of the loan the government had to impose a series of "austerity" measures to limit its expenditures. This has resulted in protests by people whose wages or services were cut.

Not that it's the Great Depression or anything even close, but we couchsurfed with a local named Panos in Athens so we got to hear first-hand about some of the cuts. He works for a local university and his salary was recently cut 7% and his father's government pension was also cut (including withholding a lump-sum payment he was owed). Panos is not out rioting in the streets (and his dad was actually on holiday when we visited), but Panos did have some interesting things to say about Greece and the crisis. I won't bore our readers with the details (feel free to ask me about it sometime) but the essence is he thinks the government wastes a lot of money and wishes they'd cut military spending (per capita they spend more than eight times what Germany spends on military spending, he pointed out). In that respect, it was a lot like a conversation I might have in the USA.

Panos was a great tour guide. He took us all around the city, including a nice night out with some of his friends. The Greeks are notorious for their late nights, and on Saturday night with Panos we stayed out until 4AM drinking Ouzo at a tiny street-side cafe. Earlier in the evening, we sat outside an outdoor concert by the band Thievery Corporation, then a Jazz Festival for more outdoor music, all the while surrounded by throngs of happy, partying Greeks. Let's just say if you measured the crisis in terms of coffees consumed or street-side cafe visits, Greece wouldn't be registering a crisis at all.

Although Panos claims it has nothing to do with the crisis (and says it was always this way), we continue to notice massive amounts of graffiti. It's everywhere, and it's definitely the worst we've seen on our trip. I guess every county has its one issue. Australia had flies, India had garbage, Egypt had street touts and Greece has graffiti.
From Athens
We had a whirlwind tour with Panos in Athens, including Sunday spent at a beach in Sounia, south of Athens. We met many of Panos friends, all cosmopolitan young people speaking very good English, including one guy, I kid not, named Adonis. Like I said, if this is a country in crisis, bring it on!

We left Athens this morning for Patra, northwest of Athens in order to catch a ferry to Venice, Italy, our next destination. We were supposed to catch a ferry at midnight, but there was a ferry workers strike so our boat is delayed six hours and won't leave until 6AM. Since we were already planning on hanging around until midnight we figured instead of getting a hotel room we'd just hang out in the train station or something, although now we're starting to maybe regret that decision. Patra is a little run-down and we're not sure what we're going to do for the next four hours before we can check into our boat. We're currently writing this blog post at a little cafe basically waiting until they kick us out.

If all goes well with the ferry, we'll arrive in Venice on Wednesday morning (it's a 31 hour ferry - yes I said 31 hours) where we'll probably spend one or two nights before heading off to Zurich, Switzerland to visit our friend Aaron. Crazy that we'll be back in the USA in a little over a week!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Cretan Adventure

When we decided to visit Greece, we didn't really know where we'd end up going. With 227 inhabited islands (thank you Wikipedia), plus numerous places to visit on the mainland it was a bit daunting to decide where to go. We chose Rhodes to start because it was close to Turkey, but from there we had many choices. We're definitely glad we added Crete to our itinerary.

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands by both population and area. Most of the people live along the northern coast, and we landed off the ferry in Iraklio, around the center of the north coast. Although a definite stop on the tourist trail, Iraklio had a sort of rundown feel to it. There was graffiti everywhere, and there were many beggars and street kids trying to sell us stuff as we walked around.
From Crete
Now is the part of the blog where we describe things that we didn't go to see; The Archaeological Museum is apparently quite nice, and the Palace of Knossos is the main tourist attraction of Iraklio. Unfortunately we didn't go to either. We did try to go the Battle of Crete Museum, but it was closed. (I read a little about the Battle of Crete, which took place from May 20 to June 1, 1941 when Germany invaded and "conquered" Crete during World War II, and I was hoping for pictures of the famed glider troopers that Germany used in the battle.) There's also the Cretaquarium (a great name for an aquarium, by the way), "the largest aquarium in the Eastern Mediterranean." Which begs the question, does this mean it's large or small? I assume they mean to imply it's large, but really, how many aquariums can there be in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Anyway, after enjoying a few of the numerous street-side cafes in Iraklio (and honing our backgammon skills) we moved on to our couchsurfing hosts of Irene and Arjan in the small village of Koutouloufari, about 15 miles east of Iraklio. Hoping to couchsurf on Crete we had sent a message to the general Crete couchsurfing group. This was a new method for us to find a host. Normally, the way couchsurfing works is that a surfer (one who wants to stay with someone else) does a search in a given area for hosts and then messages them each individually requesting to stay. However, all the people we requested to stay with were unable to host us for one reason or another. So we sent a message to the Crete Couchsurfing Group saying we were on Crete, didn't know where we wanted to go and wondered if anyone wanted to host us.

Luckily, Irene messaged us and said she'd love to host us. It couldn't have turned out better. Irene is from the Netherlands, having moved to Crete only five or six weeks ago. She moved in with her Dutch boyfriend who's summered here for the past 15 summers. They are relatively new to couchsurfing (we were only their second guests) but they were outstanding hosts. We had our own little apartment, on the second floor of an impossibly cute little Greek house. Additionally, Irene is a chef and she cooked us a delicious vegetarian meal the first night we were there. Here's Jaimee relaxing in our little room:
From Crete
Irene's boyfriend Arjan runs a tour business, called Routaki Routes where he provides customized driving routes all over Crete. There's an audio portion where you listen to information at each "stop" of the route. He drives the routes periodically to make sure they're up-to-date and he took us one of the off-road trips in his jeep and it was a blast. We went all over the mountains of Crete, saw many vineyards, orange groves, churches, a huge agave plant, and a giant cave! He wrote the trip up on his blog (even written in English for those of us who don't read Dutch). Here we are in front of one of the churches on the route:
From Crete
We ended up having dinner at this farm/hotel which we never would have found otherwise, and had a wonderful gourmet meze meal (Greek style tapas) of over 10 different dishes.

It was hard to leave Irene and Arjan, but we took a bus across the island to Chania in western Crete. It was there another couchsurfer (Juan, from Spain) agreed to host us. We had contacted him individually from an earlier couchsearch and his "maybe" turned in an "accepted" while we were staying with Irene and Arjan. We wanted to visit western Crete primarily to hike Samaria Gorge, and this turned out to be a highlight, not just of Crete, but of our entire trip. It's listed as being of varying lengths (from 13km to 18km [8 to 11 miles]), depending on where you measure the start and end but it is invariably listed as the "longest gorge walk in Europe". (Similar to the Cretaquarium discussion above, I wondered, how many gorge walks are there in Europe?) Regardless, it was both long and beautiful.

The standard route is to take a bus to the start at the northern end which begins at 1,250 meters (4,100 feet) and walk down through the gorge to the sea. Then catch a ferry to another town where you catch a different bus back to Chania. In all, it was a 13 hour day, but totally worth it. We took some photos during our hike, which you can see at the end of our Crete album but there are some good ones on the Samaria Gorge information page as well.

Now we're off to Athens. We weren't sure if we were going to go to Athens or not, but the only ferries from Chania go to Athens. We are couchsurfing in Athens as well, and we're supposed to meet up with our host for breakfast tomorrow morning. The ferry leaves at 11PM and gets into Athens (Piraeus) around 6AM. We bought "deck" class tickets (no inside cabin) but it's a full moon and we hope (well, I do at least) to pull out our sleeping bags and sleep outside on the deck.

Monday, May 24, 2010

From Rhodes to Crete

Our first stop in Greece was the island of Rhodes, fourth largest of the Greek islands, and only about 11 miles off the coast of Turkey. As we mentioned before we couchsurfed with Savvas in the main town of Rhodes, called imaginatively, Rhodes Town.

Rhodes was quite nice, albeit very touristy. It gets a lot of cruise traffic and the Old Town was swarming with tourists off the cruise ships. It seemed the favorite activity of these cruise ship visitors was to sit in little street cafes drinking gigantic beers. We wondered why, considering isn't drinking what you do all day on a cruise?

Anyway, although we enjoyed walking around Rhodes Town our first full day, we rented a car the next day and did a tour of the island. It took us all day to drive the perimeter of the island, stopping in several towns along the way. Highlights were the town of Lindos, about 25 miles south of Rhodes Town, where a huge Acropolis dominates above a town full of classic white-washed Greek buildings:
From Rhodes
We also enjoyed the 15th century Castle of Monolithos on the other side of the island, perched on top of a large rock outcrop. It was incredibly beautiful.
From Rhodes
From Rhodes
Here's a map of our road trip.

View larger map

From Rhodes we took a 13 hour ferry to Greece's largest island, Crete, where we are now. The ferry stopped at several islands along the way, and we did a Spot check-in at each port. Here's a map of the route:

View larger map

We plan on staying on Crete for about five days or so. We arranged to couchsurf tonight and tomorrow on the eastern side of the island, and we hope to visit the west side before leaving. So far, Crete seems nice and we've seen our first protests; we saw a group of men near the ferry picketing around an open fire. Not sure what their signs said as they were in Greek. We've also heard that there might be a ferry strike coming up. We hope we don't get stuck on the island, but apparently if there is a strike, they'll give two days warning. Here's hoping we don't get stuck in the islands...although I suppose I could think of worse places to be stuck.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece

We're sounding like a broken record, but we had a wonderful time in Turkey. It's highly recommended as a place to visit, and we only saw a small portion of the country. In a future visit (or visits) we'd love to visit central and eastern Turkey and explore more of the Mediterranean coast.

One of the downsides (or you could call it an upside too) of couchsurfing is you often don't do the "touristy" things while staying in a given place. This was the case in Izmir. We loved hanging out with George, but we didn't really do much in Izmir except visit a few brunch places, take a side trip to Cesme, and hang out with a bunch of his friends. It was great, but we were happy on our last day in Izmir that George took us up to see the beautiful views from the top of Kadifekale (kale means fortress). It's the ruins of the ancient city of Smyrna, one of the "Seven Churches" of the book of Revelation. According to Revelation, Smyrna was the only "church" that didn't get rebuked by John, the author of Revelation. "This makes the Izmir people special," George told us. Regardless of rebukes, the views were pretty special, and in typical Turkish fashion, after snapping a few pictures we sat and had some tea. Did we mention how much we love Turkey?
We knew we were heading to Greece after Turkey and we'd decided to head to the island of Rhodes first. Partly we decided on Rhodes because it was close to Turkey and also because we found a couchsurfing host there. Rhodes has a population of about 50,000 people but there were about seven couchsurfers when we did a search, one of whom, named Savvas, agreed to host us. Coincidentally, when we were at George's couchsurfing party in Izmir we met a Brazilian woman who knew Savvas! She met him when he went to Brazil last winter. Small world.

Before going to Rhodes we spent a couple nights in Selcuk, near Efes (Ephesus), another one of the Seven Churches. Selcuk was a very cute town, and the ruins of Efes were amazing. Although it was mobbed with tour bus traffic, it was really cool seeing the old buildings. I hadn't really thought of it before, but a lot of Bible history is in Turkey.
Our last stop in Turkey was the Mediterranean town of Marmaris. We were only stopping here to catch the ferry, and we're glad we didn't spend more time here, as it was our least favorite Turkish town. Our guest house owner bragged about how Bill Gates visited recently (not at our $30 a night guest house, but in a private yacht off the coast) which tells you something about the town's character. It's full of European tourists, mostly rich ones and the stores and restaurants cater to that crowd. We did find one cheap restaurant (which we went to twice) and we enjoyed walking around people watching.

We took a fast ferry to Rhodes, it only took about an hour and a half. We met up with Savvas and we all went out to dinner and drinks at a local pub. Savvas is very well educated (he's half Greek, half Swedish) and his dad (the Greek half) was a High School exchange student in Cape Elizabeth, Maine 40 years ago! Anyway, Rhodes seems to have quite a few sights to see, including castles, beaches and mountains (it's an old volcano so the middle of the island is quite mountainous). We'll post more of our adventures later. In the meantime, be sure and look at all our pictures of the Turkish coast. We updated the album since the last blog post.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ancient Ruins and More Couchsurfing Adventures

Western Turkey has a definite "tourist track," a series of stops that almost all tourists to Turkey visit. Istanbul, of course is one stop (usually the first) and then most tourists head south along the coast, stopping in Canakkale to visit the World War I battle field of Gallipoli and the ruins of Troy. We decided to take an organized tour of Gallipoli as the sights are quite spread out and there isn't really public transportation. The tour was pretty interesting, and we learned a lot about the battles that took place there in 1915.

Gallipoli is a famous place for Australians and New Zealanders to visit because it was the first major battle of Australian and New Zealand forces (ANZAC). There are numerous memorials to dead Australian and Kiwi soldiers. It was a beautiful day when we toured the area and it's hard to imagine fighting in such a beautiful place. Over 500,000 soldiers died in about eight months of fighting.
Next up was Troy. We decided to visit Troy on our own since a tour would cost $40 US each and there was a public bus out to the sight of the ruins. However, because we were catching a bus to the town of Bergama at 12:30 PM the day we visited, it only gave us about an hour to see the ruins. It turned out to actually be enough time, as there isn't a whole lot to see. We walked the circuit of the ruins and took some pictures at the somewhat ridiculous Trojan Horse recreation.
Troy was okay, but we enjoyed the Gallipoli tour much more. From Canakkale we took a bus to Bergama, which is right next to the ancient ruins of Pergamum, "site of the preeminent medical center of ancient Rome" (Lonely Planet). We stayed at the cutest little guest house, called Gobi Guest House where the owner, Gobi was probably the cutest Turkish man ever. He made sure we were comfortable at all times, giving us complimentary tea whenever we were coming and going as well as all sorts of information about visiting the sights of the area.

From a budget perspective, Bergama also gave us two good budget-conscious stories. First, we'd read in the guide book that there was a shuttle bus that transfered people from the bus station to the center of town about 7 km (4 miles) away. The guide said it costs 2 TL ($1.25 US) each. However, when we got off the bus, a taxi driver and another ticket seller told us that there wasn't a shuttle bus anymore, but that he'd drive us for the "very good price" of 15 TL ($10). We said no, we wanted to take a bus, and Jaimee even showed the guys the part in the guide book that said there was a shuttle (as if this proved there should be a shuttle). They insisted there was no shuttle. Thinking there was no bus, we relented and headed to the taxi. The taxi driver popped the trunk and we were putting the bags in when I spotted a bus on the other side of the parking lot. "Where does that go?" I asked. "Oh, another village," the driver said. Not trusting him, I ran over to the bus and it was a shuttle into town, for FREE. We jumped on the bus and told the driver and other passengers the story and they were all very mad, saying that that was not how Turkish people should operate and the driver even wanted to get the taxi driver's identification number in order to report him to the tourism board. It was a welcome reaction, quite different from Egypt where the attitude seemed to be that that kind of behavior was to be expected.

Our second budget story occurred when visiting the actual ruins of Pergamum. After paying 60 TL ($40) each for the tour of Gallipoli and 15 TL ($10) each to visit Troy, I was a little burned out on paying entry fees, so when we walked up the Pergamum entrance and saw it was also 15 TL each, we agreed that Jaimee would pay and go in and then come and get me to pay if the ruins were really great. Otherwise, I was happy to wait outside and see what I could from the entrance. So, Jaimee paid and walked through and I settled in to wait outside. When the ticket taker saw what I was doing she just let me go in for free. Now, it might seem stupid to balk about paying $10 for an entry fee when we'd paid so much to get to the actual sight in the first place, but after paying at sight after sight in Egypt we were kind of tired of paying. In any event, it probably won't work again, but it's worth a try if you ever want to get a two-for-one admission...

As it turned out, Pergamum was totally worth $10 (even $20 maybe). The ruins are in great shape, there's a huge amphitheater and several other building, including treatment rooms for psychiatric patients. The only downside was that we were touring the sight with a gaggle of school kids from several different schools and the place was swarming with kids running all over the place. They also were saying many things to us in Turkish that I can only imagine was not very nice because they kept laughing after yelling different phrases.
From Bergama we took a bus to Izmir, a city of about three million people on the coast. According to our Istanbul couchsurfer Ali, Izmir is the "Barcelona of Turkey". We'd arranged to couchsurf with this 60-ish year old guy, George, who was retired from working in the travel industry. As it turned out, George is an American from Barre, Massachusetts who's lived in Turkey for 45 years. He was an absolute hoot. He is gung-ho into couchsurfing, even hosting a couchsurfing party while we were there. About 20 people showed up, including a Brazilian, a Portuguese, and an American from Steilacoom, Washington. The American annoyed everyone by showing off his "new toy" (his words) to everyone. (Side note: I wasn't overly impressed, and do not plan on running out and buying one when we get back to the states.)

George took us all around Izmir, mostly out to breakfast (Turks put brunch-loving Americans to shame - they can surely lounge for hours with cup after cup of tea and a yummy medley of foods), but also to the seaside town of Cesme where we met up with some friends of his who own a big sailboat.
Even though we've only know George for a few days we feel like we've known him for a lot longer. He's a great guy and we hope to catch up with him in the states this Fall when he heads to Boston for a family reunion.

Tomorrow we get back on the tourist trail and head south to Selcuk where we can visit more ruins and see the ancient city of Ephesus. Feel free to look at all our pictures of Gallipoli and Troy, as well as the few that we took in Izmir. George took more pictures at the couchsurfing party but we couldn't transfer them off his camera but if he ever posts them on-line we'll add them to the album.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One of the Great Cities

Istanbul was a real delight. We'd heard entirely good things about the city from other travelers and our visit lived up to the expectations. It is an amazingly beautiful city with wonderful architecture, natural beauty in all the various bodies of water and green spaces and has a very cosmopolitan and European feel. It's a huge city both in population (16 million or so) and area - the second largest city we've visited (after Cairo) - but it was not intimidating at all. There is ample public transportation and once within a neighborhood, walking around is very pleasant.

We were lucky to couchsurf with Ali, a wonderful guy who lives on the Asian side of the city. Since we were there on the weekend he spent Sunday with us taking us all around the city, pointing out the various sights. We also took a little scenic cruise up the Bosphorus strait that connects into the Black Sea.
From Istanbul
Then, Jaimee and I spent another day touring all the other sights we didn't see on Sunday with Ali. Yet still we don't feel we saw everything there is to see in Istanbul. We did see the major landmarks, including the famed Blue Mosque. This picture doesn't begin to do the building justice. Built in 1609, it is an impressive building both inside and out. See this google search for even better pictures.
From Istanbul
The one drawback to Istanbul that we'd heard from others was that sometimes the shopkeepers could be aggressive in attracting customers, but after Cairo and Luxor in Egypt, the market bazaar experience in Istanbul was a dream. Only one person was even remotely rude or combative, but we didn't let it bother us in the least.

We enjoyed having tea and coffee at a few of the street side cafes that dot the city. We have also enjoyed trying a few new foods. We had read that the food in Turkey is the best, and we have to admit that it is very tasty! Also, Turkey is definitely more expensive than anywhere we've been in the last few months, but it's still quite manageable.

Although we could have stayed longer in Istanbul and really enjoyed ourselves we headed out on a bus yesterday down the Aegean Coast to the town of Canakkale, which is near the sight of the Battle of Gallipoli of World War I and also the location of Troy of Iliad fame. Today we're taking a tour of the Gallipoli battle fields and tomorrow we plan on touring around Troy on our own.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

So happy to be in Turkey

We said good-bye to Egypt by means of one horrible overnight train ride. Maybe we did it to ourselves, but our stubbornness refused to let Egypt beat us, but I think in the end Egypt did win after all.

After not really enjoying Aswan (feel free to ask us about it sometime), we took the train back to Luxor and hung out our last day in Luxor doing a falafel/tea tour of the city. As we've said multiple times, Egyptian food is outstanding, and the tea and sheesha culture is quite cool. Tea and backgammon for two hours in the middle of the day? What's not to like? So, overall, we had a great final day in Luxor. (We only got ripped off once - what a day!) We planned on taking the overnight train to Cairo, but did not want to take the "tourist" sleeper for $60 US each ticket. We also didn't want to take 1st Class for 156 LE ($27 US). Instead we wanted to buy a 2nd Class air-conditioned seat for 52 LE ($9). After being in Southeast Asia and India for three months we'd grown used to traveling in second class; we actually prefer it - we find it more "interesting" and it saves money to boot.

However, every time we went to the train station to buy a ticket they wouldn't sell us one. We tried multiple times but each time the ticket booth told us to just buy it on the train. It was a little risky, but we thought okay, why not? We got on the train at 9:30PM in Luxor and it was mostly empty, so we took two seats. The ticket seller sold us two tickets for 52 LE - so far so good - although he suggested we upgrade to 1st Class. His English wasn't that good; we didn't really understand what he was saying or how much the upgrade would cost so we declined. He also mentioned that we should keep our eyes on our bags which were in the luggage rack above our heads. So we shimmed our bags underneath our seats, reclined our seats and prepared to sleep for the ride to Cairo.

However, around 1AM someone woke on us saying we were in their seats. They had a ticket for our exact two seats. Somehow they were able to buy advanced tickets. We were confused, and in the confusion the guy sitting in the aisle next to us offered to start helping us. In India, we welcomed local help from people, but in Egypt we grew very wary of accepting "help" from strangers. In any event, we had to vacate our seats, but at this point the train was completely packed, I mean solidly packed, as in not a single seat anywhere. Additionally, there were people sleeping on the floor in between the cars, sleeping behind the last row of seats on the floor or sitting double to a seat. It was absolute chaos. I left Jaimee with our bags in between two cars and walked the train looking for seats. Nothing. When I got back to Jaimee our friend somehow convinced a few other guys to take turns standing so that Jaimee and I could rotate into a seat. In between we had to stand right next to the bathroom car where the door wouldn't stay shut, wafting very unpleasant smells into the cramped quarters where I was standing with three other smoking Egyptians. The mix of latrine smell and cigarette smoke was almost enough to give me dry heaves on several occasions.

When the train started to empty out, Jaimee got her own seat and slept, while I sat in a different seat with our bags piled on top of me. We actually got a couple hours of sleep. We got off at the Giza stop in Cairo, took the Metro to the central bus station, got some koshary (who knew pasta, rice, lentils, chick peas, dried onions and tomato sauce could taste so good?) and took the bus to the airport. Total cost from Luxor to Cairo International Airport: 52 + 1 + 4 LE (train, subway, bus) x 2 = $20 USD. Was it worth saving the $100 by not taking the tourist sleeper train? Or saving $32 by not going in 1st Class? Probably not. But as we don't plan on going back to Egypt anytime soon we'll never find out.

We flew into Istanbul, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Literally. Not only was the weather wonderfully cool, but when we took the bus from the airport to the Sea Bus ferry terminal (we're couchsurfing on the Asian side) they even put our bags down below in the luggage area of the bus. Now that's civilized! Granted the 20 minute ride cost 5 Turkish Lira (TL), about $3 apiece, but you know what, everyone was paying that price and it was clear from the very beginning what the price was. That in itself was refreshing.

Then we bought ferry tickets from an automated machine at the ferry terminal. Since I have to put one picture in the post, here's Jaimee waiting in line to get our tickets.

Our couchsurfing host is super nice. Even though we'd been traveling for about 24 hours straight, we stayed up well past midnight drinking Tuborg, chatting about culture, travel and Europe versus America. And we made plans to go out for brunch in the morning (i.e., soon). We are so happy to be in Turkey! More to come as we explore Istanbul and the areas of Southwest of Turkey.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Egypt hates tourists

After three nights in Luxor, we've come to the conclusion that Egypt really hates tourists. Which is odd, given that they're a significant source of revenue for the country. Well, even if they don't hate them, they certainly don't treat them very well. We've had numerous trying times dealing with people in Egypt, and although the beauty of the country is amazing, having to deal with all the shenanigans of local people is quite tiring. Beware that below is a long rant, so if you're not interested feel free to skip it and just look at this picture of us enjoying a happy moment at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor. Also, be sure to check out all our pictures from Luxor and Aswan. We'll be adding to them over the next few days.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Luxor it is then!

In our last post we left it open as to whether we'd head to Jordan and visit Petra or if we'd go to Luxor instead. Well, we decided on Luxor, and it was purely about the money. Going to Petra was just going to cost too much.  Here's the breakdown of how much a Petra trip would cost us:
  • Bus from Dahab to Nuweiba: 15 LE ($3) each
  • Ferry from Nuweiba to Aquaba, Jordan: $70 each
  • Taxi from Aquaba to bus station in town: unknown, but let's say $3
  • Public bus to Petra: unknown, but guide book says $10 each 
  • Entry fees to Petra: $60 each Update: $60 would be for a three day pass, a one day pass is $25 each (or so the guide book says).
  • Jordanian Visa: possibly free, but more likely 10 dinar (about $15) each
Then we'd have to double those costs to come back (getting another Egyptian visa for $15 each on our way back), unless we continued up further North into Jordan and into Israel before crossing back into Egypt (as there is no land crossing between Egypt and Jordan). So, assuming we returned the way we came, all the above costs add up to well over $500, before even considering food or lodging costs. Visiting Northern Jordan and Israel would have been fun and interesting, but it was never part of our plan so we knew nothing about it, and apparently Israel is very expensive. We met an American on our Mt. Sinai hike who had just come from Israel and he said prices were very high.

In contrast, an overnight bus to Luxor costs 120 LE (about $21). Then we can take an overnight train later back to Cairo, saving on lodging costs in both directions!

So, we leave for Luxor in a few minutes. It sounds really awesome, so we're excited to see the ancient sights down there.

Finally, one picture of the wonderful food that we've been enjoying here. The food in Egypt is outstanding, and one of the reasons we extended in the first place:
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