Despite what your parents have told you, it’s never too soon to go travelling. Nor is it ever too late. The best time to go travelling is as soon as you can afford to. So break open that piggy bank, sell that old bomb you call a car or get a loan off a good mate. Just get on the road now and remember – the age of discovery is never over when you are the discoverer. Because as soon as the three “M”’s (Marriage, mortgage and midgets) come along, the only travelling you’ll be doing is down to Woolworths to pick up nappies. Get cracken before it’s too late!
27th of December 2008:
I knew I was in for a special day today. Hell, I even dreamt about it last night! Rachel and I got up smack early today to catch a long bus ride through the Suez Canal to Dahab, which is a tourist resort east of Cairo. Just when I had enough of the blaring Egyptian music coming out of the distorted speakers, we had already arrived at the Sinai. Dahab is a lay-back small town offering excellent scuba diving, snorkeling, quad biking, horse riding, camel riding and a wide variety of water sports. It is also one of the most popular places to get certified for diving. However, with touristy places comes the issue of money.
In the words of that immortal ABBA song: “Money, money, money. It’s a rich man’s world”. Or is it? Like many other things, it’s not the size of the wallet that counts, it’s how you use it. And I could tell this place was going to suck my wallet dry if I were to go full out.
In the late afternoon, we met up with our tour guide who had planned our activities for the next couple of days who even took us out to the most expensive restaurant in the whole of Dahab (Under our own expense… I smell commission). Further puffs from the sheisha, learning Arabic swear words and meeting new locals (who tried to sell us all sorts of souvenirs) topped it off to an awesome evening.
28th of December 2008:
No hassles and no dramas today. Hakuna matata. Today was a heavenly day filled of activities. We commenced the morning by snorkeling followed by quad biking in the afternoon. By sunset a nice meal was presented to us as we sat down on the pillows via the shore line, and after a few puffs from the sheisha, we marveled at the local Egyptians hustling for money.
29th of December 2008:
This incident started innocently enough. Rachel and I was bike riding when we had this crazy idea of dying our hairs a different colour as we were in a foreign country.
Anyone who has been to Bali, particularly the touristy beaches knows how persistent the girls offering to dye your hair can be – I also discovered how vengeful.
Here in Dahab, Egypt, I decided to make an appointment today to have my hair dyed silver to resemble that Selwyn look. And before I went crazy and gave the lady the go-ahead signal, I remembered I had asked her a billion questions with the primary main question been “Are you sure you can dye my hair silver?”. You should have seen her eyes when I asked it. It almost looked like I doubted Allah.
Consequently, I spent the rest of the afternoon at the hairdressers yowwing and sobbing in pain as they attempted to dye my hair to silver. The end result? Orange. Time taken? 6 hours. On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most painful? 5. Happy or depressed? You guessed it! We even had to postpone our horse riding activity scheduled for the afternoon.
30th of December 2008:
No matter what anti-malarial drug you choose, you can be certain that the mozzies will have well and truly built up an immunity to it by the time you reach their swampy neck of the woods. With this in mind, today marks the day where I begin my daily dosage of the anti-malarial drugs in preparation for my trip to Kenya in a few days time.
Also today is the sort of day where I’m going to be “observational” so to speak. I hope I hadn’t offended anyone here, and if that was the case – please enlighten me J
It all began when I spent a flaming 6 hours at the hairdressers yesterday (Having anticipated that it will take only about 1 or 2 hours at the most) and had booked the afternoon for a horse ride only to postpone it later on in the evening. The hairdresser’s assistant (whose name was Mahmoud) had gone with Rachel back to our tour leader to explain in Arabic what had happened with me and why it’s taking forever for me to look like Selwyn. Our tour leader glared at Mahmoud and when Rachel had asked him what was wrong, he wouldn’t utter a single word at her and subsequently stomped off in the opposite direction.
We later formed a hypothesis that our tour leader could be jealous, given the fact that Mahmoud spent more time with us and had a deep and meaningful conversations about penises than our tour leader had.
Considering that the Muslim culture is very old and suppressed, in some areas of life, due to the fact that women stay at home in many areas of the country, and men interact with men – only; the presence of the western female affects these men into these immature, emotional basket cases without any self-control. Living with a perception without understanding how to show respect, “Men” without any strong, deep inner spirituality, although claiming to know “god”, become subjected to the emotions of being jealous, envious, they end up with a confused mind and timid toward normal interactions; due to the fact that they can’t interact with women in their own country in a normal way – shame, humiliation, and other such emotions comes to the surface also.
After much observation, we decided to go horse riding again after the tour leader had made up with us, and by night we were snacking on Egyptian burgers and steak. By 11 o clock, I hit the sack.
31st of December 2008:
New Years Eve! For Australians – this means drink!
Finding something to slake a thirst is not a problem facing today’s Australian backpackers. From London and Paris to the backroads of Cairo, you’ll find someone offering you something to drink. It’s just a matter of whether you’ll wish you hadn’t taken them up on their offer. It’s not until you turn to potent local Egyptian spirit in quiet hope that you’re gonna have a bloody awesome time that things begin to pick up. Bright orange in colour, triple bicardi shots in one and unrecognizable in taste, the local Egyptian stuff has the ability to turn a normal person into a schizophrenic where the stars are more vibrant and the conversation witty and half-arsed. Although we were given the chance to see some stars, the night ended rather early with drama’s unfolding right before my eyes.
No, there wasn’t any fights if that’s what you were wondering. It was the fact that Mahmoud got too over friendly and started grinding on Rachel as if to say “I don’t wanna touch ya, I just want to welcome you to Dahab”. Not a very flashy advertisement in my honest opinion.
But all in all, we had a relatively awesome night. It was our last night in Dahab before we caught the afternoon flight to Kenya the following day. With a half smile on my face and a burning head from the hairdressers, I gladly retreated to bed.
Part 1: Egypt – Felucca Trails
So I’ve decided to chuck it all in and go travelling. It would probably be the best decision I have ever made if it wasn’t for all the stupid and inane questions everyone has started asking me. Let’s start off with the most annoying and most basic of all. It’s “Why?” and here’s how I’m going to answer it…
Most people go travelling because they are running away from something. If you were to be honest with yourself, that’s probably why you’re going travelling too. Bad grades, bad relationship, nagging parents, armed robbery – they’re all perfectly good reasons for grabbing a backpack and slipping out of the country. Travel is not about relaxing or taking a break. It’s about throwing yourself in the deep end and hoping like crazy that you don’t drown. I guess only by travelling, it provides ample opportunity for me to live life on the edge (The way it should be). And the good news is that you don’t have to travel to the world’s trouble spot to do it. Every time you climb into a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, eat from a roadside stall in Kenya or wander the busy streets of Cairo, you are taking your life into your own hands. Many people insist that I do some soul searching whilst I’m travelling, so that I can come back as a better person. Mmmm. If you’re having problems discovering yourself in a place where I can actually read all the signs, what makes you think it’s going to be any easier when they’re all in a foreign language?
Seriously though, if you’re keen to find out that in reality you’re a short-tempered, egotistical racist who can’t handle the pressure of finding a room for the night without wanting to hit somebody, then this is a perfect reason. Travelling gives you plenty of opportunity for discovering those kind of umm.. personality disorders.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy my blog. All I’m trying to offer to readers is my perspective on life in general. Depending how you feel at the time of reading this, I hope it can somehow relate to how you felt when you travelled too.
17th of December 2008:
Having not enough sleep last night, I found myself a bit sleepy-headed come 10am when it was time for me to make my way to the Canberra domestic airport to catch an afternoon flight out from Sydney to Abu Dhabi and then to Cairo, Egypt. It had been a while since I had been at the Sydney Kingsford Smith airport, but found it rather easy to navigate around. After 14 hours of no sleep, endless music and movies I had finally landed in Abu Dhabi for a 11 hour transit. Crawling our way around the 2 storey high airport and making a quick visit to the free internet, I had suddenly come to realize how many Arabs there were in the great UAE. You may read in certain travel brochures and handouts that there is a level of culture shock in most countries. The Abu Dhabi airport was no exemption. For the first time in my life, I felt scared and out of place. The fixated glaring and curious eyes of the Arabs was one hell of an experience in itself. Furthermore, I was the only person to be wearing shorts! I mean come on, the mercury was pushing high 30’s when I left Sydney.
18th of December 2008:
The past 11 hours seemed to be the biggest drag ever. Not only did I question myself what on earth I was doing here and roughly about 900,000km away from home but also I was contemplating on the meaning of life. Yes, I tend to do these sort of things when I am left stranded looking after my travel friend, her belongings and mine put together. Apart from being gaulked at strangely by passing Arabs thinking we were aliens from outer space with tri legs and pterodactyl wings, I started to notice a strange red bloodshot that took the formation of a streak across my left eyeball. After all, no one could blame me for not getting enough sleep the night before and not sleeping for 25 hours straight. It’s a bit like staying up and drinking whilst smoking weed for 1 day straight – except who does that? Actually, the more I think about it, the more people I know that actually do this for days to end.
19th of December 2008:
We have finally touched down in Cairo, Egypt after a monstrous 20 hour flight and 11 hour transit wait. Getting through customs was a nightmare, as the immigration officers did not speak fluent English. I remember having to choose which line to go into to get my passport stamped as the signs at the top of each office was in Arabic. Finally passing through customs and collecting our luggage, I could sense more trouble waiting for us. It’s as if my natural instincts were to say “Tough luck in finding the hotel that you booked for!”. Egyptian taxi drivers are in my humble opinion, the World’s best con-artist. This airport immigration officer was so corrupt, that he somehow convinced us to take a cab ride with his friend waiting outside for double the price we had originally bargained for. Being in the miserable state that I was, with a noticeable bloodshot red left eye and an attitude that could forever send me to hell, I simply agreed. The crazy drive from the airport to the King Hotel reminded me of Grand Theft Auto 4. We were swayed from left to right, bottom to top that I swear I was within an inch of my life. Finally arriving at the hotel, the sleep begins.
20th of December 2008:
Ahhh, good old Cairo. A mosque on every hill and a con-artist on every corner. Cairo is a bustling, hustling amalgamation where Middle East meets Africa. At sunset, grab yourself a kebab, sit on the seats outside a Mosque and marvel at the beauty of the call to prayer floating from the minarets of a hundred different mosques. At 5 o’clock the next morning, curse the very same calls for disturbing my sleep!
Hoping for a great start to our first official day in Cairo, ended up with a wallet weighing less than it really should! How we got conned into the notorious famous perfume bazaar was a nightmare in itself. The store manager’s son first offered us free tea, and for us to walk around and look at the fake papyruses. Then the store manager started pouring out the tree oil onto the little flask. Big big trouble in big big Cairo. I guess this is one of those days where I wished the ground would split open and swallow me, never to resurface again. Having to pay $100 for a little piss flask with small amounts of tree oil really set the mood for the rest of today. My feelings were starting to be amended later on in the night when I met other tourists on my tour group. Not to mention, the late night dinner with some of the tour group members topped it off to a great evening. Still getting stared at though by the local Egyptians..which left me pondering as the bloodshot in my left eye had clearly disappeared. Do I smell of carcass or something?
21st of December 2008:
Did you ever read about the amazing wonders of the world ever since you were a little kid in primary school? I remember having read and seen some pictures of the Pyramids and the Sphinx and wanting to go to Egypt just to see the real thing. Today marks the day where one of my childhood dreams actually came true. I can’t believe I am in Egypt – marvelling at the Great Pyramid and having to go inside of one. However, with as much disappointment as it can be – it wasn’t all that great inside. The feeling of been trapped with humid (aka sweat and perspiration) and about a million tourists inside made me want to get out of the Pyramid straight away. Furthermore, there was nothing to see down the bottom anyway. All the mummies and tombs were in the U.K (Hint hint, go to the U.K Egyptian museum to see the good stuff) – as later explained by our tour guide after we had endured the suffocation of humidity. Additionally to add the icing on the cake, there were camel riders outside of the pyramid waiting for tourists. For a small fraction of a fee, you can ride the camel for a short distance and maybe get a photo taken. If that didn’t work on you, the rider would insist that you do by chasing you around on his camel. Either way, you had better brushed up on them running skills first before you came to Egypt.
The sphinx was another sector worth visiting. Tourist police governed the ground and they’re about as corrupt as a pirate. Chances are, if you give him your camera to get a picture taken – he would charge you. I actually wished for once I had a boomerang to throw at his head. The overnight train to Luxor was an experience, and was one of the highlights of the night. Not only did the toilet door banged all night, but the ongoing snoring of nearby passengers sounding like a blocked drain every 2 seconds had me on the verge of going insane. Luckily, valium kicked in and all was sweet as candy.
22nd of December 2008:
I awoke to the sound of people shuffling around in their reclining seats and heading over to the overhead luggage compartments. Before we knew it, we had reached Luxor, checked in to our hotel, strolled around the city. It was a pretty laid back city with nice views out towards the river and sand-dunes. After further hassling, and locals persuading us to purchase their useless pieces of clothing we had taken the horse carriage ride to the Karnak temple, dedicated to the God Amon. Our Egyptologist was a laid back chap and showed us some good angles to take photos from. There was a neat carving on the temple walls depicting a guy in the process of getting circumcised. To add some excitement to the afternoon, we all posed next to it from a distance with our mouths open to portray ourselves as the receiver. As you can see, maturity does not kick in until about the age of 50, and I clearly had some time until then. The highlight of the evening included my travel partner and I meeting up with some local Egyptians earlier in Luxor and smoking weed with them until the early hours of the morning.
23rd of December 2008:
Waking ridiculously early in the morning at 5:30am, we cross the Nile river where the donkeys took us into the Valley of the Kings. Who amongst us hasn’t dreamed of crossing the Nile by donkey? Unfortunately, after a couple of minutes on these buggers you will understand why they invented bucket seats with velour trim. Thankfully though, it was a short journey, any longer would have resulted in no children production. I had to keep my cowboy instincts under control. A misplaced ‘ye-hah’ is often all it takes to get the donkey I’m sitting on galloping off into the desert never to be seen again.
The valley of the Kings was simply fantastic. Words cannot describe this simple little area filled with spectacular monuments. Simply, a must see. Later that afternoon, the travel partner and I had booked in for Quad biking right across the river where the sand dunes are. Unfortunately that had to be cancelled due to the sheer pressure of waking up early the next morning to head to Abu Simbel. Bummer. We also said good bye to our local Egyptian friends who we bought weed from just a few nights prior.
24rd of September 2008
Abu Simbel was definitely the highlight of the tour so far. Facing the temple of Hathor next to the Great temple of Ramses II and with Lake Nasser facing towards The Sudan, I felt the sudden urge to take several dozen photos as we weren’t allowed to take any inside. The remainder of the morning was well spent inside the temples as we marvel at the ancient inscriptions and making our way around tourists. By mid-afternoon, we had boarded the felucca to Aswan. Nothing quite captures the sense of adventure or the allure of the unknown like a felucca. Fragile yet fearless, feluccas have taken Egyptians beyond the edge of the world to new lands and possibly new lives. As a backpacker in far-flung lands they will take you to long forgotten corners too. They will take you up rivers and across oceans, up tributaries and around harbours. And if you’re really lucky, they’ll also take you to within an inch of your life.
However, since I wasn’t that lucky – the felucca cruise went smoothly. Honestly, I have problems with boat food in a third world country. While some of the worst meals I have ever had have been on boats, so have some of the best meals I’ve ever had travelling. This event was one of them. On a felucca making its way to Aswan, I shared a delicious meal with the tour group. Though I’m still not 100 per cent sure what it was that I was eating, it was delicious and matched the mood of that day rather nicely. In my opinion, travelling by boat (or felucca) is probably the most rewarding of journeys a backpacker can undertake. Each journey, no matter how frightening or dangerous, will be filled with moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The rest of the night was spent at a Nubian village for a traditional dinner, followed by a Christmas Eve quiet on-boat celebration.
25th of December 2008:
I awoke to the sound of a strayed donkey within close proximity of our felucca. No just kidding, Sam and I had found it later on when we decide to take a morning piss. Without much hassles, the felucca sailed its way back to Aswan. We spent much of the day in the Nubian bazaar, and further exploring around town. Through exploring the town, we were hassled into purchasing souvenirs to take back home to our mother land. Souvenirs! They’re an integral part of the travel experience, and for some it may serve as a memento that you didn’t realized you’d picked up – like a nasty disease for example. However, before I indulge myself into a spending freak – I had to ask myself the following questions:
Is it tacky and impractical? Is it overpriced? Does it lack any inherent craftsmanship or quality? Does it fail utterly to reflect the culture of the country it is being sold in? Will I immediately regret buying it?
If I had answered yes to one or more of these questions, then I don’t want it.
In the later afternoon we got transferred to the train station for the overnight recliner train back to good old Cairo. At night I did some thinking to keep myself from going insane and rather than counting sheep.. I formed a hypothesis. Hear me out:
The train is quite safe. Let’s be frank here. A plane falls out of the sky and your chances of surviving are negligible. If you’re on a train that crashes, however, chances are you’ll get off with a few scratches and bruises and maybe the embarrassment of having your face in the lap of the guy sitting opposite you.
That is all.
26th of December 2008:
Arriving back in Cairo we were transferred to the King Hotel. Candice, Rachel and I spent most of the day checking out the Egyptian museum and buying a new travel bag. Hard suitcases are useful for sitting on while waiting for the train to arrive or for sheltering behind during an unexpected fire fight. They also seem to come out onto the baggage carousel at airports a good few days before any backpacks on the same flight. However, they are not particularly well-suited to travelling through Egypt with. Soft backpacks on the other hand while useless during a surprise mortar attack, are a lot easier to sling onto the top of buses, lug from one hotel to another and break into when you lose the key to your padlock after a night on the piss. They probably are a lot more comfortable to sit on while waiting for the train to arrive.
Later that night, the tour group shared a final dinner at an amazing restaurant and said our goodbyes. After a few drinks and sheisha later, I hit the sack.