SUNNYSIDE Listening to Barbara Merz and Holly Adiele talk about their October trip to modern Egypt makes one want to be join them on their next foreign adventure.
For two retired Sunnyside School District educators, the trip was an adventure of a lifetime, complete with a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings.
The trip was a birthday present from Adiele’s daughter, Professor Faith Adiele, and her husband of Oakland, Calif.
“My daughter always gets me a special birthday present, and this year it was the tickets to Egypt, a place I’ve longed to visit,” Adiele, a 75-year-old retired history teacher said.
When Merz heard about the tickets to Egypt, she unabashedly invited herself along.
“When I heard that Holly had tickets, I asked if I could be her traveling companion,” the 80-year-old Merz said.
“I’ve always wanted to see Egypt,” she said, noting she has traveled a lot in the past 10 years.
Adiele, who kept a short diary of their adventures, described their journey as being about “…two old ladies, a private guide, a private car with a driver, which later expanded to a private van and 1-2 additional men to push our ‘wheely chairs.’ Quite the entourage!”
Because of their limited physical endurance, they appreciated the opportunity to have guides and help with the wheelchairs to see and do more on their trip, Adiele said.
“We are not as fast as we used to be, but we found that more tours are offering ‘wheelies’ with helpers to get us around to the different points of interest,” Merz said.
“We were treated like queens,” she said.
Merz said the highlight for her was when Merz found out there were balloon rides offered as a part of the 10-day tour.
“The balloon ride was not part of our original tour,” Adiele said.
“I’ve wanted to go up in a hot air balloon since I was 18,” Merz said.
“I couldn’t let Barbara go by herself, so I gathered my courage and tumbled into the balloon basket along with her,” Adiele said.
It was a large basket, she offered. “It took four guys to get us into the basket.” she said.
“They literally boosted us up like sacks of potatoes,” said Merz.
Adiele said the sights from the air were beautiful, “…despite my fear of heights.”
There was room for 20 people in the woven basket, which floated sedately over Luxor.
“From the air you can really see how the Nile supports the farm land and where the desert begins, Adiele said.
The ride came on the fourth day of their excursion to the west bank.
Highlights for Adiele was the chance to see all the ancient temples along the Nile Valley, locations she had spent years talking about as a middle school teacher.
She wanted to walk the sands that were once home to the pharaohs.
“I’ve been to China, Japan and India, but I’d never been to Egypt. It was one of my bucket places,” Adiele said.
Her favorite part of the tour included the old kingdom’s the 4th dynasty pyramids of Giza. seeing the mysterious Sphinx, Memphis and the statue of Rames II.
“Barbara purchased a papyrus for her friend Jerry Frank — and several containers of floral essences for her daughter and daughter in law,” Adiele said.
The women’s trip included all the historical sites Adiele dreamed of visiting including the Luxor Temple, the scenes of the battle of Qadesh, the Theban triad sites and, of course, the Nile cruise tour.
“We make various stops along the shore as we traveled the Nile,” Merz said.
“At various locations we rode around the temples in horse-drawn carriages. It was quite a sight,” she said.
There were places at which, even with the wheelie chairs, the women were unable to visit, but the adventure was nonetheless amazing.
They traveled to a crocodile farm and held baby crocodiles, visited with camels and toured as many of the antiquities as was physically possible. Climbing up the stones near the pyramids was not on the women’s bucket list.
They spent a part of their 10-day tour of the middle kingdom aboard a riverboat, the Radames II, on the Nile, which provide much more modern quarters than those used by the characters in the Brendan Frazer movie, “The Mummy.”
No pirates or crazed adventurers came piling on to the decks.
The women agreed, despite all the stories of the Northern Africa, they both felt very safe touring all the places they visited, in addition to their accommodations at four hotels and four boats and a hot air balloon.
Merz is now planning a jungle adventure to Costa Rica.
Adiele is content to wait to see what her next birthday trip will be. Maybe it will be a return to Egypt.
There is still a lot to see, like the new Grand Egyptian Museum.
“It was supposed to be open in 2018. Maybe in 2019,” she said.