Friday, November 20, 2009

on my own two feet in the Valley of the Kings

The very next day, after our little romantic interlude, we were back to business. Ignoring all of the hotel proprietors and taxi drivers who told us it was impossible, we set our before dawn to hike around the Valley of the Kings and through the West Bank independently. They told us it was incredibly hot, the distances were too long to hike and that we’d be sorry. We were pretty sure they were all wrong.

We got dropped off near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, the valley into which the Pharaohs of the New kingdom carved their tombs - the most famous of whom, King Tut, you already know. We began our hike through the valley, visiting these tiny tunnels that led into tiny rooms which were often decorated from floor the ceiling with hieroglyphics - and many of them even retained their original color!

Once finished with the tombs, we set out on the first of our many ’impossible’ hikes. Now, to put it into perspective, many of the tourists who come here are unable (or unwilling) to walk to ¼ mile on pavement it takes to get from their tour buses to the monument, which is why they brought in a tram to truck their lazy asses to the tombs. So, this is the idea the Egyptians have of the physical capacity of tourists.

We like to think of ourselves as slightly more sturdy than this, so we set off to climb the mountain. The hike, for all of its hype took a whole 30 minutes, start to finish, and we really barely broke a sweat. The tourists in the valley and even their guides starred at us with a little bit of a why-would-they-DO-that kind of a look, and that was satisfying in a way. Instead of shelling out thirty bucks or more to have an air-conditioned bus and a guide and a tour group who gets shuffled around like cattle, we got up on our own two feet and moved ourselves from place to place.

We really saw the landscape, we got into it, breathed it in. This is the real way to live, I am learning. Getting out there into it all, always looking around and really seeing. Sucking the world into your lungs so deep it almost stings. This is just being present in one’s surroundings, and it has brought me incredibly joy. Just to recognize the beauty of a silver sliver of a moon at twilight, or the pop of an electric blue fish darting around on a reef, or the feeling of exhilaration at the top of a desert mountain with the dry wind whipping up around you and making your mouth like chalk. What more could anyone possibly need out of life?

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