Luxor to Iraklion
20 April 2002 - I was unprepared for the 5:00 a.m. wake up call; but I rolled out of bed anyway. JP and I met for breakfast at 6:00, then Sayyed arrived at 6:30 to take us to the airport. Unlike our previous attempts to depart early in the day, everything worked as it was supposed to. We cleared Security and Passport Control, then got on a bus that took us to the airplane. Before we completed the preflight inspection, the correct fuel truck was sitting in front of us ready to pump. When the tanks were full, the paperwork completed, and the fees paid, I got our start clearance, fired up the Mooney, and off we went. We still had a lot of Egypt to fly over on our way to Iraklion, on the island of Crete.
We departed off runway 02L, again climbing to 10,000 feet. We headed north toward Cairo, initially remaining over the Nile. Then the river turned toward the west and once again we were over desert. The cool morning air provided a smooth ride; but it wasn't long before the ever present headwind showed up. Another long flight. Not much changed over the next two hours, then as we approached Cairo, puffy cumulus clouds began to appear below us so that much of the landscape was obscured. Through breaks in the clouds we could see the Nile, once again below us, and the city of Cairo. I had no idea Cairo was that large. From our altitude we could see very tall buildings clumped together at various points and the urban sprawl went for miles. JP and I had our cameras out taking pictures of the city. I looked to the left, through a break in the clouds, and saw pyramids, three of them! Even at our altitude they were magnificent. JP and I fell all over ourselves taking as many pictures as we could before our angle changed to the point they would be obscured by clouds once again.
After Cairo, the airway made a left turn that took us over Alexandria. We were able to see portions of the city through the clouds, then we were over the Mediterranean, leaving Africa and the Middle East behind. It would be about three hours before we saw land again. If there was any shipping activity on the Mediterranean that day, we didn't see any as the clouds were still below us. Eventually we saw the island of Crete between breaks in the clouds.
There was some confusion between us and the air traffic controllers in Athens, we descended for Iraklion, a city on the north side of the island. We landed on runway 27, then taxied to the ramp. Our flight time was 6 hours 42 minutes. There's considerable construction on the airport which meant we had to pay very close attention to where we were going. As I shut down, a van pulled up. We unloaded our bags, then secured the airplane and we were taken to Passport Control, where once again we were allowed into a country with a minimum of fuss. We then proceeded out the front of the terminal and found a taxi to take us to a hotel.
The driver gave us our choice of upscale or budget hotels. Since we'd spent a lot of money in Egypt, we chose the less expensive option. We ended up at a small hotel, with small rooms and inadequate showering facilities. Iraklion itself is a dirty, fly infested little town, or at least that describes the part we saw. Unknown to us, the hotel was under the departure path for the airport; there were Boeings flying over our heads all evening. We dumped our bags and went in search of food. There wasn't much available. We finally found a pizza place, sat down inside, then discovered the menu was entirely in Greek. I'm not one of those people who insists that everyone speak English and I'm not complaining because the whole exercise was fun. And I know for a fact that JP is fluent in at least four languages. But Greek doesn't use the same alphabet the rest of western Europe does, and the people in the restaurant didn't speak any language we understood. We eventually ordered two different types of what we thought were individual pizzas. When the food arrived, the pizzas were huge! Fortunately, the food was good and eventually an employee who spoke some German and English arrived. The three of us had a great time.
Since I'd had little sleep the night before and we were flying again early the next morning, I was in bed quickly that evening and only the 737s occasionally flying overhead interrupted.