West Bank of Luxor, Egypt Part #2 – July 6th

Ok, here’s the story of how we got swindled by an Egyptian. 

I have to give a little history first. So, Jay did Couchsurfing for many years in his 20s when he was traveling around Europe and in the US. If you don’t know what Couchsurfing is, it’s an online community that connects people staying in different countries and cities. People offer their homes to interested travels, show people around their home towns, or just offer advice on what to do in their cities. Jay recently got back into couch surfing for this trip. We have met some amazing tour guides through Couchsurfing on our trip so far who have shown us the best parts of their cities. 

Jay had been talking to a Luxor local named Saber for several weeks now about what to do when we arrived. Saber gave us many suggestions and even offered for us to stay on his Felucca boat. He did not own the boat, but worked on it and this was how he made a living. Let me just say now that Saber is a wonderful couch surfing host and very nice person. This story is not about Saber. 

This story is about an Egyptian street vendor that took advantage of some tourists. Jay and I had arranged to meet Saber on the pathway above the Nile where his Felucca boat was docked. We arrived at 6 o’clock pm and started looking around for him (Jay only knew him through pictures and I didn’t know him at all). We saw a guy who had been waiting on the side of the pathway walking toward us who looked as if he recognized us (Saber had seen pictures of us as well). He shook our hands and Jay asked, “Are you Saber?” The guy replied, “Yes, Saber.” Just to clarify, Jay asked him if he was the guy Jay had been texting for the past couple of months. Jay even showed him the text messages from WhatsApp. The guy, I’ll call him Fake Saber, said yes, he was the one who had been texting. It did seem a little weird, and I could tell Jay wasn’t entirely comfortable with the situation, but we felt awkward asking this guy for proof of identification. So we made small talk and felt out the situation. 

After awhile, Fake Saber wanted to show us his horse, named Lady Gaga, and carriage. We saw his horse and Fake Saber gave us some sodas and acted like he was trying to make us feel welcome. At this point, Jay asked if we could see his boat because that was the whole point of our meeting up with him in the first place. Fake Saber said yes, but that it was docked further up the river. So he said we could take his horse and carriage up the road to see the boat, free of charge. 

On the ride, Fake Saber started talking to us about the difference between the tourist market and the local market. He said he wanted to show us the local market before seeing the boat. So he made a turn with the horse and headed the other way down the road. I started thinking something was off because the guy wasn’t able to control the horse very well, but I figured he was trying to impress us by riding a little faster and showing us how the horse understood English commands. Bad assumption. 

Then, there was another red flag. On the ride, Jay got a text from the real Saber asking if we were ok. Jay asked Fake Saber why he just got a message from him. Fake Saber quickly responded with, “Oh, we just passed the cell tower so the text just went through. I sent that earlier.” And since the WiFi had been spotty here, we figured that was true. He was clever and had an answer for everything. So, ignorantly, we continued on with the ride. 

Then, instead of showing us the local market, the guy pulled up to a store. We instantly knew what was happening from the experience we had earlier with the alabaster store. He was trying to get our money by having us buy things at his friend’s store. Jay was furious. He told Fake Saber that our experiences here with the vendors had been terrible and that Fake Saber was no different. He only wanted our money. Jay continued that he thought he had met a local friend that was going to show him his boat, but he was now very disappointed. 

Fake Saber saw how angry Jay was and apologized and then said he would take us back to see the boat. He ended up calling someone on the phone about the Felucca ride which I thought was weird because he worked on the boat. Then he took us to the part of the dock where tourists buy Felluca rides which was also weird because he supposedly had his own boat docked on the river. At this point, I was suspicious of this guy, and I could tell that Jay was too. 

We got off the carriage and didn’t go down to the dock because something was off. Jay tried calling the real Saber’s number to see if Fake Saber’s phone rang, but it didn’t. Nothing was adding up, so Jay told Fake Saber that things didn’t seem right and that we were done with him and we walked away. 

When we got up to the road again, another guy came up to us wanting us to pay for the carriage ride. We told him we weren’t going to pay for the carriage ride since we were told it was free of charge and he would have to take it up with Fake Saber. 

As we were standing on the sidewalk arguing with the guy about paying for the carriage ride, the real Saber showed up and announced that he was Saber, the person we were meeting. The pieces all came together right then. Fake Saber had pretended to be the person we were meeting just to get our money. He had listened to our conversation about meeting up with Saber and took advantage of us. He took another vendor’s horse and carriage, pretending that they were his, and told the owner that he had tourists that would pay for the ride when we got back. When we didn’t pay, the owner came after us. 

The real Saber helped us to get rid of the guy hassling us for money and saved us from the whole situation. He even told us that he saw us riding in the carriage earlier and had taken a picture of us and the driver just in case he needed to come looking for us. That “are you ok?” text message was Saber wondering what we were doing in the carriage. He sent us the picture after the fact and we were grateful he was looking out for us as tourists. 

We did make sure to verify that this was indeed the real Saber by texting him and seeing that the text went through. Then we went down to see his boat which was, again, the purpose of this entire meet up. He made us tea and we had a short motor boat ride on the Nile. It was very pleasant and the real Saber was one of the nicest people we have met in Luxor. We even arranged to pay him for a boat ride the next day. 

After the fact, we were able to laugh about the whole experience and had a good story to tell, but we felt very dumb and taken advantage of. In the end, we were glad to be safe and to have learned from the experience. 

After speaking with Saber about the experience, he apologized and said that this guy was not like all Egyptians and gave the country a bad name. He told us that after the Revolution, tourism, which is their main source of income, dropped off dramatically. The riots and unrest in the country prevented tourists from wanting to come. Additionally, with the new leadership, prices had gone up while salaries stayed the same. Saber’s explanation helped us understand that the constant haggling, hustling, lying and cheating was out of desperation for money. Although, it didn’t make the situation better, it helped us to understand what was happening in the country to result in its people having to resort to desperate measures. 

Jay and I being swindled by the Fake Saber, before we knew it.

West Bank of Luxor, Egypt – July 6th

The train arrived in Luxor at about 6 o’clock this morning. We were told it would arrive at 5 o’clock, so we had been up since about 4 o’clock. It was a little difficult to sleep on the train because it bounced around, but overall, it was a neat way to travel. 

Sleeper train #86

When we arrived, we walked to our hostel which was only a short distance away. We met the owners and negotiated a couple of deals for sight-seeing tours. There are two banks in Luxor, the East Bank and the West Bank. Our plan was to do the West Bank today and the East Bank tomorrow. After dropping off our stuff in our room, we headed out at 8 o’clock with our tour guide, Peter. We crossed the Nile to the West Bank and headed out to the temples.

The Nile in Luxor

First we went to Habu Temple which is said to be the greatest outdoor temple of all time. Peter told us it was named after the architect Habu who was commissioned by Ramses III, the last of the Great Kings. The temple was impressive. It had huge stone columns with every inch of them covered in hieroglyphics. One of the guards opened up one of the gates for us to climb some stairs and get a “panoramic” view, for a small tip of course. 

Panoramic view of Habu Temple
Habu Temple

Next we visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. In order to help us pronounce the name, Peter told us to just say “Hot Chicken Soup” fast. Peter also have us a little history on the temple. He told us that this temple was unique in that it was 3 stories. However, he did say that there had been a 3 story building there 300 years prior which the idea was stolen from.

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
“Forbidden” picture taken by a temple worker of a closed off area, for a fee.

After the Queen’s Temple, we headed to the Valley of the Kings, but we made a pit stop at an Alabaster store which was the business of one of Peter’s friends. They showed us a demonstration of how the alabaster was made into pots and figurines and then showed us into a store to buy things. This part was a little strange and made us feel uncomfortable for not buying anything, but there was no way we were going to lug around alabaster pots in our backpacks for the next 2 months. 

Jay making alabaster

After this unusual stop, we headed to the Valley of the Kings. We had asked Peter that morning if we could do this one last to try to avoid the tour bus crowds. And it seemed to work. This is not the tourist high season because it’s so hot, but it’s still nice to not have to wrestle the crowds. At the Valley of the Kings, we got our tickets and hopped on a trolley to take us up to the entrance. On the way up the hill, Jay’s ticket flew out of his hand. He needed the ticket to get into any of the tombs, so he jumped off the trolly to get it. All the while, Peter was pounding on the side of the trolly trying to get the driver’s attention to stop. Jay grabbed his ticket and started running after the trolly. The driver finally heard Peter and stopped and Jay was able to hop back on. It was a funny start to the tour.  

Jay running after the trolly after losing his ticket.

Our tickets for the Valley of the Kings let us go into 3 of the tombs of our choosing. There were only about 7 tombs open, so we asked Peter which ones would be the best and he gave us his advice. 

Valley of the Kings

The first tomb we saw was Ramses IV. His tomb was the most colorful. It stated our with a long corridor covered in hieroglyphics and painted with blues, greens, and reds. It ended with a giant stone sarcophagus which was cool to see. Of course all of the riches had either been taken to a museum or pillaged by previous civilizations, but it was still ornate and impressive to see. 

The next tomb we saw was Ramses IX. His tomb was similar to the first one, but didn’t have the giant sarcophagus and the colors weren’t as bright. 

The last tomb was the most impressive. It was the tomb of Merenptah who was the son of Ramses II. This tomb was 160 meters down and had 3 different sarcophaguses. It was the most ornate of the 3 we saw. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in any of the tombs without paying extra money for a photo ticket, so unfortunately, I can’t show you those. 

You also had to pay extra to see King Tutankhamen’s tomb and Peter told us it was overrated. None of his riches or sarcophaguses remain in the tomb and it is otherwise very similar to the ones we saw. King Ramses II, the Great King’s tomb, had been closed for many years after the roof caved in and damaged many of the artifacts. 

After finishing our three tombs, we walked around the complex for a short time looking at the various other tomb entrances and the magnificent natural stone walls into which the Valley of the Kings was carved. 

We left the Valley of the Kings and headed to see the Colossi of Memnon which are two large stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. The statues were meant to stand guard over Amenhotep’s memorial temple complex which was the largest and most opulent in Egypt at the time, but is no longer standing. 

Colossi of Memnon

We ended our tour with lunch. We were supposed to go to a buffet which all the tourist go to, but Jay asked Peter to take us to a more local restaurant. We went to a place called Africa. It had a rooftop terrace that overlooked the Nile and was very nice. We chatted with Peter about the history of Luxor and then got dropped off back at the hostel. 

Lunch at Africa
View of the Nile from the restaurant

We took a break in the afternoon at the hostel, and in the evening we had the most ridiculous experience of the trip. I will tell you the story of how we got swindled by an Egyptian in the next post.

Cairo, Egypt and night train to Luxor – July 5th

Today is our last day in Cairo. Tonight, we are going to take the night train to Luxor. But today, we had some time to explore. After a morning swim in the pool with a view of the pyramids, we packed our bags, and checked out of the hotel around noon. We Ubered down to Khan El Khalili which is the Bazaar in Egypt. The bazaar is right next to Al-Hussein Mosque which is one of the bigger mosques in Egypt.

Al-Hussein Mosque

Like in Doha, Friday is the holy day, so prayers were being broadcast all over the loudspeakers at the bazaar. People had their prayer mats all lined up outside of the mosque which was interesting to see.

Since we weren’t able to go into the mosque because of ongoing services, we headed over to the bazaar. It was a huge area of winding streets with vendors lined up all along the sides. There were many Egyptian figurines, shisha pipes (hookah), fabrics, and lamps.

Khan El Khalili Bazaar

Our shopping list, however, consisted of sunscreen, sunglasses (mine broke and are currently duct taped together), conditioner, and sandals (my sandals are also about to break). We did find some sunglasses, but the price they gave us was outrageous, so we declined. 

Jay trying on some super-cool sunglasses

We walked through quite a maze of streets looking at the shops. We ended up in the back streets of the bazaar where all the products are made. We saw hookah pipes, pots, and shoes being made. One thing we could not figure out was how they sold their shoes. The displays only had the soles of the shoes, and no one spoke enough English to explain where the tops of the shoes were. 

In the bazaar, we got a lot of shocked and confused looks from the people wondering what two white folks were doing there. As we got further back into the more local street areas, people were very friendly. People would say “hello” in their Arabic accents and ask us what our names were. They would call out to us as we walked along saying “Welcome, welcome to Egypt.” Multiple people stood up from their chairs and offered them to us to sit down and relax. We were definitely somewhat of an attraction at the bazaar. 

Local Egyptian who was very excited to see Americans.

We finally got out of the maze of streets and found a couple stores selling shower items. Conditioner and sunscreen were definitely not common products though. We eventually found a bottle that said “step 2 after shampoo” so we assumed it was conditioner. And we got some sunscreen at a pharmacy-like store. Then we had lunch at a small place we found walking. The waiter did not speak any English, but we were able to order some chicken, meat, and rice dishes. After lunch, the waiter and another person who worked at the restaurant, asked for a picture with us so we obliged.

Next we Ubered to the Giza Zoo. It was a pretty typical zoo with elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, and seals. One cool thing we did see were hyenas. I didn’t realize how big they were. 

However, it felt like we were one of the attractions at the zoo. A couple of young boys followed Jay and I for awhile and finally worked up the courage to ask for a picture with Jay. I was taking a picture of an elephant, and the next thing I knew, I was surrounded by a group of girls wanting to shake my hand and know what my name was. I told them and shook all of their hands and they were ushered away by their dad. All throughout the zoo, people would shout “hello” and “what’s your name?” which must be some of the common English phrases they knew. As we were leaving a small girl pulled on my arm and her mom asked if I would take a picture with her daughter. I did, and then the mom got a selfie with us too. It was quite the experience. Egypt is giving us the celebrity treatment. 

After the zoo, we got an Uber back to the hotel to pick up our bags and hang out before catching our train to Luxor. We were pretty sure it was this Uber drivers first ride. He didn’t confirm that he picked us up, so his app was still telling him to go to the zoo to pick us up. So basically, we went in a big circle and were headed back to the zoo. Luckily, Jay keeps track of where we’re going on his phone and told the driver he was going the wrong way using google translate on his phone. The driver was basically going at a snail’s pace on the highway in Cairo traffic with cars honking at him left and right. We finally get him to pull over and Jay gives him his phone with the directions. It takes a lot of skill to drive in Cairo and this driver just was not ready to Uber people around yet. Anyway, we finally made it back to the hotel and spent a couple hours by the pool. At around 6 o’clock, we got our bags and took on Uber to the Giza train station to catch our night train to Luxor. 

The guards working there immediately took us under their wing as soon as we walked up to the station. They told us where to sit, offered us coffee, and checked on us multiple times, each of them telling us which platform to be at and and to look for a green train. The train arrived a little after 8 and the guards ushered us into the train. Then we were off to Luxor. 

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