Cairo, Egypt – July 4th

Happy Fourth of July from Cairo!!! We started our day today going to the Cairo Museum. Again, Cairo traffic was crazy, so we didn’t get to the museum until about 10:30 am.

The museum was in a huge building filled with sarcophaguses, hieroglyphics, statues, and other Egyptian relics.

Not very many of the pieces were really labeled, but a couple of them had a small English description which was nice. The shear number of artifacts was quite impressive. We saw real mummies and Tutankhamen’s burial tomb.

King Tutankhamen’s Burial tomb

It was interesting to see some of the things I had learned about in elementary school. In school, we had a project where we made a relic from ancient Egypt. I remember my brother (with my dad’s help) made an ankh and flail which I saw with the rest of King Tut’s relics. We couldn’t take pictures of it though. I (again with the help of my dad) made a statue of a cat. Interestingly, there were not too many cat relics in that museum. 

After the museum, we headed out to meet up with the couch surfer who will be hosting us when we get back to Cairo after visiting Luxor. His name is Ahmed. He was hosting two other couch surfers from Morocco, so we met them and Ahmed’s brother. 

We met at the train station because we had an important mission for Ahmed. We are headed to Luxor tomorrow. The train from Cairo to Luxor for tourists costs $80 US dollars, but the local train, which is essentially the same train, costs approximately $7 US dollars. They will not sell tourists tickets for the local train, but tourists can get on the local train as long as they have a ticket. So, we asked Ahmed to buy us tickets on the local train so we could get the cheaper price. It turns out that the reviews Jay had read were right in that you had to buy the tickets at least a week in advance because they were sold out. So we walked clear across the station to buy the tourist tickets. We wanted to make sure the tourist tickets were not sold out before we bought our return tickets. So after getting the tourist tickets, we walked all the way back to the local part of the station so Ahmed could buy us our return tickets. It was quite the ordeal. But, at least we got our return tickets for the cheaper price. 

I had a kind of interesting experience at the train station. A young boy and his mother were looking at me and acted like they wanted to shake my hand. I did and said hello. They spoke in Arabic to Ahmed who told me they wanted to take a picture with me. I guess being a white girl in Egypt made me somewhat of a novelty. A couple other people asked for pictures as well, but Ahmed kindly told them no. I was a little bit of a celebrity. Lol. That was my fifteen minutes of fame here.

After buying the tickets, it was nearly 3 o’clock and everyone was starving for lunch. Ahmed took us to “the most famous restaurant in Egypt.” From downtown, our Uber took about 30 min to get us/find us, but we finally made it. And it was Ahmed’s first Uber ride so that was exciting. We met up with the couch surfers from Morocco and Ahmed’s brother at the restaurant (they had their own car). 

Ahmed ordered food for us consisting of chicken, pigeon, and another meat stick of some sort. We also tried molokheya which is a soup made from broth and a ground up green herb from which the soup gets its name. It tasted good, but had a strange raw egg-like consistency.

Pigeon
Ahmed at lunch

After lunch, our plan was to head back to the hotel and swim with everyone. However, we finished lunch at around 5 o’clock and with Cairo traffic, we didn’t get back to the hotel until 6:20pm. Ahmed and crew didn’t arrive until after 7 o’clock and the pool was closed by this time. So we sat out buy the pool for a couple of hours talking. Ahmed taught us some Arabic curse words and Jay talked with everyone about his engineering work. Both of the couch surfers from Morocco were engineers and Ahmed just graduated with his degree in physics. We finished up the night by the pool and then headed back to the room. 

Cairo, Egypt – July 3rd

Well we finally made it to Africa! The pre-trip is over and now the main event starts. On July 3rd, we got up at 4:20 am to catch our flight to Cairo, Egypt. The flight was short, but it was kind of a culture shock to see people on the plane getting up during take off and landing, kids running up and down the isles at full speed, and just a general lack of paying attention to the seatbelt sign. Lol. Anyway, we arrived in Cairo and hopped in an Uber (after fighting off about 5 different taxi drivers) to go to the Marriott where we were staying. Driving is intense in Cairo!

We came into the city at 10:00 am which is rush hour here, but lanes are definitely a suggestion, horns are a must, and tailgating is how you drive. We eventually got to our hotel in one piece after driving clear across the city from the airport. In order to even drive into the hotel roundabout, we had to be checked by a security dog. Then, our bags had to go through a metal detector. We waited while our room was being cleaned and were then taken up. Our room had a nice balcony with a view of the Giza Pyramids. There was also a very nice pool to swim in after a long hot day of sightseeing. 

After checking in our room, we headed out into the city. We got some lunch at a restaurant down the road. We had some falafel and chicken and rice dishes.

Falafel; Jay also wrote some common Arabic phrases on his hand to remember them.

Then we headed to the Giza Pyramids. It was quite a task just to cross the road as there are no crosswalks here, but we managed and walked up the road to the pyramid entrance.

Almost immediately there were local vendors trying to sell us horse carriage rides. They were so insistent, that we almost weren’t allowed passed them to the actual ticket counter, and I could see how someone might think they had to buy these rides to get in. Luckily, Jay had read that this would happen, so we just walked passed these people despite their insistence. They definitely were not the last to harass us to buy something though. The entire time we were there, vendors would proposition us for camel rides and horse carriage rides. People would act as if they were being helpful by showing us where to go or explaining what something was, and then would as for a tip. The barrage of people wanting money was constant. 

However, we improved our skills at fending them off and got some great views of the pyramids. We did actually end up getting a horse carriage ride because it was 100 degrees F and about 10 km of walking, but Jay did manage to haggle the price down.

We saw the great pyramid, known as the Pyramid of Khufu, and two smaller pyramids called the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaur.

Then we headed over to the Sphinx. That’s were our horse carriage tour ended.

We continued to walk around the complex for some time, and then headed out.

We stopped at a local grocery store to get some water, and then headed back to the Marriott. We did some laundry, Jay went for a swim, and then we turned in early. 

Ferry from Mykonos to Athens – July 2nd

Today we slept in. I had a sore throat the day before and still felt a little sick. But it wasnt too bad, so we got up and spent our last morning in Mykonos on the beach.

Mykonos
Mykonos – Paradise Resorts

We caught the ferry back to Athens at around 2 o’clock. It was a five hour ferry, so we arrived into Athens around 7 o’clock.

Waiting for the ferry to Athens

We took the metro to our AirB&B, dropped off our bags, and headed out to find some dinner. We ate at a small French restaurant (we’d been eating Greek for over a week now), and it was very tasty. We finished with a creme brûlée and headed home to get some sleep. 

Mykonos – July 1st

Today we set out to go to Mykonos Town which is a short bus ride from where we were staying. The town is just as picturesque as the ones in Santorini and Paros – whitewashed walls with blue rooftops and windows.

Our first stop was to see the windmills of Mykonos. They were old round buildings with straw roofs and wooden arms.

After the windmills, we walked through Mykonos town, did some window shopping, and got a 4 euro gyro for lunch.

And guess what happened next?!? We met the King of Mykonos! He was a pink Pelican named Petros.

We learned that the original king was hit by a truck on the tiny roads of Mykonos and this was a new one shipped in from a German zoo, but it was still exciting to see. After meeting the king, we headed back to our camping area for some beach time. We put on our bathing suits, made some drinks, and headed out to the beach.

We found some shaded chairs and decided to sit in them until we were kicked out for not paying which happened about a half an hour later. So instead, we found an even better little shady spot high in the rocks above the water. It was a beautiful little secluded area.

When we ran out of our drinks, we headed back to our cabin and got ready for dinner. Ximena had seen a sign for traditional homemade Greek food on the way over to the camping grounds so we headed over there to get dinner. I had a dish made of vegetables grown in their garden and Jay had one of the best gyros I had tasted yet. We also got a banana, chocolate, and ice cream crepe for dessert.

Unfortunately, throughout the day, I had been feeling sick and was getting a petty bad sore throat and headache. So we went home to try to sleep off any sickness that I might have got

Travel from Paros to Mykonos – June 30th

Today we got up at 8 o’clock to check out and catch the van down to the port. It was an extra windy night, and the day was no different. There were 30 mile an hour gusts and the seas looked choppy. We bought tickets for the ferry to Mykonos, which was our next destination. When we boarded the ship, we were a little nervous to see that it was a fairly small boat. Mike gets sea sick easily so he was pretty nervous. But, we got on and the boat headed out. Mike, Jay, and I each grabbed a window seat behind each other so that we could keep an eye on the horizon and try to prevent sea sickness. The waves were too large, however, and splashed the windows so we couldn’t really see out. It was an incredibly bumpy ride. The boat would list up on the waves and then crash down jarring the boat. I went airborne every time the boat came back down. The waves must have been 10 feet tall. With a few more of these waves, nearly the whole boat started vomiting.

The stewards were handing out barf bags in batches. I was holding on to the handles so I wouldn’t fly around the boat and managed not to get sick. Jay managed to escape as well, but Mike was not so lucky. The stewards kept assuring people everything was fine. Then we started smelling smoke, but the stewards said that was something that happened in high wave conditions. As we were looking out the window at the horizon, Jay and I saw the orange smoke from the emergency signal going off. The crew did not say anything about this and it seemed to be accidental. But, we did not want to stay on that boat any longer than we had to. The boat was stopping in Naxos before heading to Mykonos, and we had already decided that we were going to get off and catch a bigger boat to Mykonos. Luckily, when the ferry arrived at the port of Naxos, the continued trip to Mykonos was cancelled and we got to get on a bigger boat for free.

The bigger boat did end up heading back to Paros, where we just came from, and then to Mykonos. But, it was 100 times better than being on that small boat. We arrived in Mykonos around 4 o’clock which was about five hours later than expected. We took a bus to the place we were staying.

Like our other camping spots, this one was more of a complex with some small shed-like cabins and bigger rooms for people who wanted to pay extra. It also had a beach front club, mini supermarket, and a beautiful beach.

Mike was meeting his wife Ximena in Mykonos so she spent a lot of time on the beach waiting for us before we got there. She was happy to see us once we finally arrived and we all headed over to a restaurant to get and early dinner/late lunch.

Then we set out to find a nice place to watch the sunset. Mykonos is a “party” island so there are clubs everywhere. We tried to get over to a rocky spot to watch the sunset, but had to go through a club that required a cover charge. So, we found a small secluded beach instead and sat down to enjoy the sunset. We called it a night after that. 

Paroikia, Paros – June 29th

Today was my day to relax and have a good time at the beach after yesterday’s big bike ride. We tried to sleep in, but my bug bites were too itchy, so Jay took me down to the beach to soak my legs in the water. That did seem to help.

After a morning stroll on the beach, we ate breakfast and hand washed some of our clothes so that we would have something to wear until we get somewhere with a washing machine.

Then we spent a lazy day relaxing on the beach and near the camp site. 

Paroikia, Paros – June 28th

We got up at around 7 o’clock in the morning, got our bikes packed up and headed out. Our plan was to ride to a town called Lefkes and then ride down the Byzantine trail located there. 

Riding to Lefkes

We started our ride through the town of Paroika, then turned toward the mountain and started the climb. A short way up the road, we saw a sign designating the ancient marble quarries. Jay wanted to go and look at them, so we headed out that road. It was an uphill dirt road. After going for a few miles, we saw a couple places with marble, but not much else. We were ready to turn around and head back to Lefkes like originally planned. However, after consulting the map, Mike and Jay thought that we could just continue up the quarry trail and then connect back in with the road to Lefkes on the other side of the mountain. I agreed to this, but after seeing the steep grade of the long climb to come, I was regretting my decision. We climbed about 1200 feet at 20% grade. While Jay and Mike were able to make the climb, I had to get off my bike and walk it up. I think I walked faster then I was able to ride. Once at the top, we had a beautiful view of the island.

Hike-a-bike

 

Top of the quarry road
Top of quarry road

After a short break we hopped back on our bikes and went out in search of the road that connected the quarries to the road to Lefkes. We went down one way, and it was a dead end. We went another way, also a dead end, but we did see a cute little goat pasture. At this point, we had spend about 2 hours up in the ancient quarries, and we decided we should just cut our losses and head back out to the main road that we were on before getting to the quarries. Luckily, this part was all downhill. I obviously ride a lot slower than Jay and Mike, so they barreled ahead and stopped at a cave. They left their bikes on the road so that I would see them, but I didn’t. So I missed the turn off to the cave and headed back to the road. When I didn’t see them there, I knew I had missed a turn somewhere. So after a short time waiting, I started back up the hill to find them. Not long after, I saw Jay coming down the road looking for me. We headed back to the cave and did a little exploring in there. It seemed to be one of the shafts where the marble was taken from. I found two very small pieces of marble and kept them to turn into jewelry or something at a later date. Shhh! Nobody tell on me. 

Marble quarry cave
Marble quarry cave

After the cave, we headed back to the road and had to re-climb all the vertical we just lost. Luckily this was at a much lower grade so I was able to stay on the bike. We finally made it to the town of Lefkes, got some gelato, and headed to the Byzantine trail. The Byzantine trail dates back to the Byzantine era and is the oldest trail on the island. It connects the town of Lefkes to Prodromos and is partially paved with Parian Marble.

Town of Lefkes
Town of Lefkes

Although our research told us the trail was perfect for mountain biking and Jay assured me the road was paved, this was the second time I had to hike-a-bike down the road. The term paved was used very loosely. It was more of what I would call a rock and boulder path. Even the parts paved with marble would jostle you around all over the place. I did try to ride a couple of places and Jay coached me through some spots, but in the end, it was just easier for me to walk.

Byzantine trail
Byzantine trail
Byzantine Bridge

We finally finished the trail and headed out into Prodromos to find a place to stop and take a break. We found a tavern on the map and went to get some beers and fried cheese, both of which were very good after our ride. 

Tavern in Prodromos
Tavern in Prodromos
Town of Prodromos
Town of Prodromos
Town of Prodromos

Then we started our bike ride to Ampelas where there was a nice beach where we wanted to stop for lunch and take a dip in the ocean. On the way, we noticed a sign that said “Road to Ampelas closed.” Not sure if we would still be able to get through on our bikes or not, Jay and Mike got out their maps again and started looking for alternative routes. This is when a nice old Greek lady who was taking out her garbage asked us where we were going. We told her we were going to Ampelas, but the road was closed. She kind of laughed and said, “No, no, road is closed for cars. You are little cars, so you can get through.” Amused by the way she explained the road closure, we thanked her and headed to the beach.

Closed toad to Ampelas
Beach near Prodromos
Each near Prodromos

The cold ocean felt really nice after our long bike ride and the water was crystal clear. After our dip, we ate the lunch we packed and headed back to the road to finish our ride. We had 4 hours to bike the 10 km back to the bike shop before it closed, so there was plenty of time. I was feeling good about how far we had gone and was excited to finish up the last bit of downhill. That is until Jay told me we have to go over the top of another mountain to get back to Paroikia. That climb was brutal at the end of a long day. But I road the whole way and made it to the top, granted I was probably 10 minutes behind Jay and Mike. When I got to the top of the hill, Jay said that he owes me big time for taking me on this adventure.

Last climb of the day

He said that tomorrow we could just have a relaxing day on the beach and do whatever I wanted which I thought was a good compromise. Overall our ride was 33 miles with 3200 feet of climbing. That was a big day!

When we got back into town, we dropped off the bikes at the bike shop, picked up some water at the grocery store and found a nice little spot to eat dinner. Then we headed back to the beach camp, drank some cocktails, and went to bed. 

Dinner in Paroikia
Sunset at dinner
The hike back to the beach campground

Travel from Santorini to Paros – June 27th

Jay, Mike, and I left Fira and took the local bus down the mountain to catch a ferry to sail to Paros. The port once again was very chaotic and we had to figure out how to buy tickets for the ferry. We found a boat that was about to leave, and got the company name. Jay went to buy tickets from the company while Mike and I waited in line. The line started boarding and Jay had texted us saying the ticket line wasn’t moving, so Mike and I stepped out of line to wait for him.

Next thing we see is Jay sprinting by with his backpack past the line and straight up to the boat. He was waving at us to follow, which we did, but we were confused at his rush because we were standing in the line that was boarding the ship. The port officials stopped him and he showed them the tickets, and they let him onto the ferry. Mike and I followed and got stopped by the port officials as well, but Jay had our tickets. We stood there yelling at Jay to come back with our tickets. It was a pretty funny series of events. We eventually made it onto the ferry and settled in for the ride. Jay told us that the people who sold him the tickets told him that if he wanted to make the ferry, he was going to have to sprint to the boat. They told him absolutely not to stand in line and to go straight past the port authorities, so that’s exactly what he did.

Ready to get off the ferry into Paros

We arrived in Paros and looked for the van to our beach camping spot. We didn’t find it, but we met someone who knew the owner of the camping spot, and he called him to come pick us up. We had a quick gelato while we waited for the van. Then we arrived at the beach camping spot. We set up our tent and then headed into town to get some groceries. We also ended up finding a bike shop and we rented some mountain bikes for the next day.

Krios Camping Site
Beach we’re camping near

After riding our bikes back to the camping spot, we put away our groceries and spent some time on the beach. I unfortunately made the mistake of sitting on the beach without bug spray and ended up with about a million mosquito bites.

Mosquito bites

I also discovered several side effects of scolpalamine patches (to prevent sea sickness) including severe cotton mouth, dilated pupils, and blurred vision close up. The effects eventually wore off once I took off the patch though. We turned in for the night and planned to get up early the next morning for our big bike adventure. 

Fira, Santorini – June 26th

We headed out this morning to find some beaches. We hopped on the local bus and headed down the mountain to Perissa beach which is a black sand beach.

Perissa Beach
Black sand beach
Jay on Perissa beach

We took a quick swim in the Mediterranean Sea and then laid out on the beach. We ended up meeting up with one of Jay’s friends, Nick, from Albuquerque who is Greek. He brought us some spanakopita and beers and we had a great morning on the beach.

Jay and Nick in Perissa beach

We then boarded a bus back up to the top of the mountain, to the town called Fira, to meet Jay’s other friend, Mike, who flew in from Switzerland. We had some lunch and spent some time by the pool at the hostel. It was a good time to relax before our big sunset hike that evening. 

Starting our hike to Oia.

That evening, Mike, Jay, and I met up with Nick again and headed out on a 9 km hike from Fira to Oia to watch the sunset. We wanted to hike along the scenic pathway we did the day before, so we climbed the many steps to the top of the caldera. The sights from here are spectacular, and worth the climb in the heat. The pathway was familiar all the way to Three Bells Church which we had walked to the day before. After that, we found sporadic signs that showed us the way to Oia-La.

Sign to Oia

Since Mike didn’t know exactly how to pronounce the town, he started calling it Ooh-la-la which stuck and is what we called it for the trip. Nick, who spoke Greek, did tell us it was pronounced “e-ya.” 

We had packed a bottle of ouzo and some beers and took a couple of breaks along the way to drink them. Unfortunately, Nick ended up heading back early to be with his dad. But, Jay, Mike, and I continued on. We had a great time walking along the ridge and saw the sunset from a church on top of a hill.  

On the way to Oia.
Our hike to Oia.
Watching the sunset from a church on a hilltop near Oia. Yes, that’s a bottle of ouzo.
Hiking to Oia.
Watching the sunset over Oia.
Shadow puppets

We continued on the the city of Oia, found a place to eat for dinner, and then caught the bus back to Fira. 

Hiking to Oia
Oia
Oia

Fira, Santorini – June 25th

We woke up at around 5:30am to catch a 7:00am ferry to Santorini. We got all of our stuff ready and headed out to the bus stop just in time to see our bus driving away. All transportation seems to leave early in Greece. No big deal, another bus would be there in 11 minutes. So we waited the 11 minutes and the next bus never came. After waiting a little bit longer, we decided we should just catch a cab to the port. We arrived in plenty of time, got our tickets for the ferry and hopped on the boat. We were two of only about a half-dozen people in our cabin, so the boat was fairly empty. However we weren’t allowed on the top deck because that was for first class passengers. We did sneak up there for just a minute before we left though.

We arrived in Santorini at around 1 o’clock. The port is confined by the large cliffs of Santorini and this made it a very small and chaotic area. Trying to accommodate the multiple ferries and cruise ships coming into the port was quite a task for the people working the port.

Santorini port

We were staying in a town called Fira which is on top of a very large cliff. Thus, we needed some type of transportation to the top. There was a local bus, but the many private companies who were excellent sales people got us to pay their steeper price for a van ride up the many hairpin turns of the cliff.

We were dropped off at our hostel, checked in, and headed out to the pool.

Pool at our hostel in Santorini
Pool time at hostel

After some pool time and our first beer of the trip, we went out to explore the city. Santorini island was formed by the remnants of a volcanic caldera. When the volcano exploded, it left a sinkhole in the middle and the rim of the caldera is where Santorini sits. The city is picturesque with its whitewashed houses lining the sides of the caldera.

Fira or Thira, Santorini
Fira

We spent a lot of time walking along the pathway at the top of the city. We eventually found Three Bells Church which was beautiful with its blue dome and whitewashed walls.

Three Bells Church
Three Bells Church

We finished up our walk and then headed back to our hostel for the night. We had a busy day planned tomorrow with some of Jay’s friends who were meeting us in Santorini.