Finally riding on an “air-conditioned taxi”
One of the good things about doing an organised tour is that it gets you involved in activities that you might otherwise avoid, like dancing around a fire with Nepalese guys in costumes while a skinny Santa atop an elephant looks on on Christmas Eve. Or, in this case, riding a donkey to the Valley of the Kings.
Day was only just breaking when our group took a felucca across the Nile to Luxor’s west bank, where we met up with our donkeys and guides. The purpose of getting up so early was to beat the heat, but as is typical in Egypt, a lot of waiting around for no apparent reason ensued. Not only did this mean that the temperature skyrocketed, but it gave me time to grow more and more nervous about climbing aboard an animal that was shorter than myself. And one which was hee-hawing sadly in between mouthfuls of garbage.
Riding a donkey isn’t glamorous
Eventually, it was time to be allocated an animal, and to wait around a little more. Unlike whenever I ride a horse, I didn’t need a leg-up, but it still didn’t feel (or look) particularly glamorous. Thankfully, my feet didn’t touch the ground unlike one member of our group, so tall that he had to physically hold up his legs the entire ride.
Once we were all aboard our mighty steeds, we clopped off. Slowly and awkwardly along a busy road. We were nearly sideswiped by tourist buses several times and no yanking on the rope that stood in for reigns could control direction or speed – these donkeys were going to do whatever they wanted.
Once I worked out how to relax without losing my balance (there’s no saddle – just a blanket), it was actually quite fun. Until one of the guides, a ten-year old whose donkey wrangling skills could rival that of any bedouin at Petra in Jordan, came a bit too close.
And his donkey, which was supposed to be keeping the other donkeys in line, not their riders, bit the back of my knee! Turns out? Donkey teeth hurt!
Do donkeys have rabies?
I put it out of my mind until we arrived at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. Surely it didn’t really bite me, I thought hopefully as I rolled up my pants.
No such luck. On the back of my knee was a red mark that looked distinctly toothy. Happily, I was wearing long pants and it hadn’t broken the skin. And although it was clearly only a nip, I washed my leg and spent most of the day stressing about donkey rabies. It doesn’t exist, our guide told us. Google suggests otherwise.
After a while, I forgot about the donkey bite and instead started stressing about the possibility of heatstroke. Because temperature at the Valley of the Kings in high summer? Pushes fifty degrees celsius.
No signs of rabies yet.
On my RTW trip during the summer of 2010, I met my friend Alicia in Istanbul and we spent the next 46 days travelling overland through Turkey, Syria and Jordan before I headed to Egypt solo to join up with a quick organised tour through upper Egypt.
Read more about this leg of my trip on my Middle East roundup page.