To keep you entertained before we hit the road and start creating some new adventures we decided to include our last big adventure on the Before JFDI page. These tales date back 8 years or so when we hit the road for a 10 month honeymoon.
It was actually a lot of fun reading back some of these stories, though I feel that we may owe the people of a few Nations an apology, in particular the, Slovakians, Egyptians, and Ethiopians… Or then again maybe they deserved it, you decide.
Our modes of transport for this trip were very different from our upcoming trip, it was a mixture of flights, local transport, and package overland truck (read on for our thoughts on this particular mode of transport)
Hope you enjoy catching up on our adventures through Europe, The Middle East, Africa and India.
5 More Sleeps Till Europe
Tickets are booked, routes are planned and we are ready to go. Well the route was planned, there has been a slight hiccup in proceedings, Canada has decided to let me (Dan) become a permanent resident!! Which is fantastic news however the offer is only good for 60 days and I need to get the visa put into my passport in that time, this takes two weeks and as the office to do this only opens on a Thursday from 2-3pm to fit this in before the big trip we are having to cut a chunk of our European tour out.
Our route now looks a little something like this leaving on the 10th of August
Italy – Sorrento, Rome & Venice
Hungry – Budapest
Slovakia – Bratislava
Poland – Krakow
After this we will be in the UK for three weeks getting the visa sorted and catching up with friends and family before the big trip starts. This will start on 22nd September, and includes.
Turkey – Istanbul, Gallipoli, Ephesus, Olympus & Cappadocia
Syria – Damascus – From this point we were going to be going to Lebanon, this I believe will have to wait for another trip, maybe in 20 years or so!!!!
Jordan – Amman
Egypt – Cairo, Luxor, Aswan & Dahab
Sudan – Well hopefully, visas are not that easy to come by! Atbara & Khartoum
Ethiopia – Gondar, Addis Abeba
Kenya – Nairobi, Rift Vally Lakes & Lake Victoria
Uganda – Kampala (and to visit Gorillas)
Tanzania – Arusha, The Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro, Dar Es Salaam & Zanzibar
Malawi – Mbeya, Kande & Lilongwe
Zambia – South Luangwa, Lusaka & Victoria Falls
Botswana – Chobe & Okavango Delta
Namibia – Etosha, Swakopmund & Namib Desert
South Africa – Fish River Canyon & Cape Town. Where we will be joined by our folks for two weeks of luxury
From there we travel on to India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong….still not sure about all that!
Easing in gently
Not exactly off to the smoothest of starts but at least we were some of the lucky ones that got to leave Stanstead on the 11th unlike 20 other easyjet flights scheduled to leave that day. The limited hand luggage meant that Dan had to leave his camera behind, gutted (Mike you will understand!), also the photo storage device had to be left behind and we forgot Heather’s docking station, so no pictures for now.
We had a rather swanky start to our travels, staying in The Raddisson at Stanstead airport the day before our flight. Chilled in the spa and then went for a few drinks in the bar, and watched the wine angles, performing acrobatic maneuvers in a 40 foot glass tower full of wine bottles very strange, and slightly erotic (Dan).
Our Italian Adventure started in Sorrento. Staying at a nice hotel, Hotel Nice, well it must be nice otherwise why would they have named it that!! Actually it wasn’t bad (though that would be a rubbish name) if you discount the fact that they let dogs stay there and one morning we were greeted by a pile of kahka (shit) outside our room, but enough about accommodation.
We spent our first full day exploring Pompeii and Herculanum, both places destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD79. The ruins are spectacular, in many cases you can still see graffiti on the walls, oh yeah and some pretty impressive frescoes. Dan – Have to admit that the preserved bodies are my favourite things, people were killed and preserved so quickly you can still see the looks on their faces.
The next day we took an over priced hydrofoil to Capri, the weather was shitty which didn’t help Heather with her sea sickness, truly her face lost all it’s colour which was interesting to watch! Fortunately we docked just before she was tipped totally over the edge! The town centre was naff just stupidly expensive shops. Also the weather being naff meant that there was no point in visiting the Blue Grotto, plus this would also have meant more time on a boat! Dan – So I took Heather on a route march around the North of the Island, which was beautiful, though there seemed an excessive mount of steps to climb.
As much fun as we were having we realised that we were not yet fully into the backpacking frame of mind – The concept of budget was not really there, a concept neither of us had to worry about on other trips. We found ourselves in the Amalfie coasts finest wine bars and eating some rather special grub. It took a couple of these outings to realise that we were blowing far too much money and we might have to start cooking our own food!!
Hosteling has truly begun, gone is hotel kahka, in it’s place Yellow, and replacing our kingsize bed, bunk beds, six of them, yup it’s back into dorms for us! Also started cooking for ourselves, basically copying the easier dishes from the restaurants we tried. Our top recipe tip would be covering celery with gorgonzola cheese. But enough about the hostel that gives you pink eye for free….
Rome. What an amazing place everything is big, beautiful, old, stunning…you get the picture. We spent our first afternoon seeing the old favorites. First stop Trevi Fountain. Heather-Not quite what I expecting, way busier than you ever see in the movies! We clawed our way through to the front of the crowd to toss our coins into the fountain. The first coin is so you’ll return to Rome. Heather almost managed to throw her coin straight across the fountain, but at the last second (before hitting another tourist) gravity took over and it splashed. The second coin you throw you get to make a wish, and no we’re not telling you ours!
Next stop, a wander around the Pantheon (big old building).
Then it was off to Piazza Venezia to take pictures of the city. The building is apparently not a popular one with the Italians reminding them of a wedding cake, we can empathize, we don’t like wedding cake either. Also we’ve discovered that sitting on steps in Italy is possible the most heinous crime imaginable. They have step Nazis with whistles, administering a stern telling off to anyone foolish enough to sit on their precious steps. Despite the constant whistles it was a great spot to take pictures of the coliseum and ancient Rome. It is worth mentioning that these are not the Spanish Steps which are famous for people sitting on them, this we realised days later when we happened upon steps covered in people sitting and no whistles. These were the Spanish ones and honestly a bit rubbish.
Back at the hostel we made our plans for the next day, expect it was a National holiday so they fell apart and we proceeded to get drunk with a baker and her 2 friends from Minnesota.
Next morning hung-over and no certain plans (except for a tour booked for 2pm). Dan had a brilliant idea that we’d go for a little walk, pick up some picnic stuff for lunch, and chill out while Heather recovered in the shade. What happened is that we walked for several hours (in the sun) found nowhere open to buy food (see above National holiday) Dan even included a rather long detour to a flea market which, surprise surprise, was closed. Finally we ended up at the Piazza Santa Maria, which all the guide books rave about. All that’s there is a church, and Somalians selling knock off Monte Blanc pens. So with the tour fast approaching we were so desperate for food and ended up at MacDonald’s (which was not near by). Spent half an hour in line for the most disgusting bathrooms (good test for Heather). Finally made it to the tour only to be told by the guide, Spring, that there needed to be 5 to run the tour and we were 2. Spring did give us some good advice of what to see around town.
So Spring having Sprung and taken herself off for an early Chianti, we took ourselves on a tour of the Palentine, essentially this is the founding site of Rome, where the rich and powerful of the day chose to set up home. Nero’s house was a bit special with it’s indoor race track and stadium, we could handle an emperors life. Because one of us was still suffering the ill effects of the previous nights boozing we decided to take that night off the moonshine and have an early night, easier said than done in a 6 bed dorm!
Rome Day 3 – Heather’s eye is starting to trouble her, the plan for the morning was to visit the Coliseum. The sun was pretty bright and Heather was struggling, fortunately we passed a shop that catered for the stylistically challenged, where Heather was able to purchase herself a spiffing day glow orange visor, upon leaving the shop she looked a lot like a Chinese tourist – perfect look for one of the most stylish and fashion conscious cities in the world. Now that Heather was suitably dressed it was off to the Coliseum for the tour, glad we took the tour. First the tour tout was wearing an orange visor, second we never would have known that it took 340 sailors to raise the awning if it rained, taking 60 mins, what the hell takes the Sky Dome so long? Although I guess that’s only one guy pushing one button. After the Coliseum we walked down to San Giovanni in Laterano a surprisingly short walk for once. The map indicated that this was quite an impressive church, and on the inside it was, from the outside we were slightly dissappointed that was of course until we realised we had gone in through the back entrance. Next we took a bus to San Sebastian catacombs basically it’s a big hole underground with lots of smaller holes for bodies. Dan was disappointed that the tombs were now empty and Heather realised that her claustrophobia was still alive and kicking.
To satisfy Dan’s macabre desires we headed to the Cripta Dei Cappuccini, this describes the 6 stages of the apocalypse through the medium of bone, yup 4000 monks go into every apocalypse. Chandeliers made of fingers, arches of femurs and did you know that scapulas make great angle wings. Excellent anatomy lesson if you have your own radiographer!
That night Heather’s eye was really bad, so we had to make a visit to the pharmacist. She apologized for not being able to speak “Good English” before diagnosing and prescribing medication. Unfortunately we don’t read Italian too well and we had return to the pharmacy to work out how to mix the medicine (at least Heathers eye is clearing up and the incidents of visor wearing have decreased)
Australians are truly bad people and also a very bad influence. Kate (the Aussie girl in our room) decided to come along to the Sistine chapel with us, we had heard that the queues could be rough so we got there 30 mins before opening, and still found a 1km queue ahead of us. It was at this point that Kate MADE us queue jump ahead of a tour group of chinese tourists right near the front – Luckily they were too polite to argue.
The Sistine chapel well what can you say, it’s the Sistine chapel even philistines like us can appreciate it. Though comically because of Heather’s gamy eye she couldn’t look up, bit of a pisser when trying to look at the worlds most famous painted ceiling, she ended up using a make-up mirror.
N.B. We have taken it in turns to write sections of this, and Heather feels that I have done the Pantheon an injustice, so for you culture vultures, I will also add that it has a nice roof.
N.B. Heather – Actually it is the first curved roof and was the greatest architectural achievement of ancient Rome.
Venice was a total change of pace, and nowhere near as many “Must see” sites as Rome, it was good just to be able to wander the city and enjoy just being there without worrying that we might miss something.
Arrived late afternoon, Venice had to be one of the most surreal places to arrive at by train, having pulled into a pretty non-descript station you leave the front doors to be presented with The Grande Canal, with its Water trams and grand buildings rising up from the water. We spent what was left of the afternoon wandering the main sites i.e. San Marco Square and The Rialto Bridge. That night we spent in a great little trattoria in a small square just outside of our hostel – Yes once again the budget was getting a bashing, though in our defense the hostel didn’t have a kitchen. A word of warning about Venice the mosquito population is vicious, biting me (Dan) in a very unfortunate place.
The following day was rainy so not a great deal happened during the day. That night we decided to seek out an authentic Osteria, big mistake. Things started off just fine however when the main course arrived we were presented with 2 inedible dishes. The scariest of which was Heather’s stock fish, the best description of this would be creamed fish, still with bones, the result was a gag inducing eyesore. So to wash away the taste we went out to sample Venice’s bar scene, we only found one but it was a good one. I had shown an interest in Italian wine and the barman seemed happy to suggest few good tipples, half of which I didn’t end up paying for. The night took a bit of a wrong turn when we were somehow convinced trying absinth was a good idea. Neither of us have ever had it prepared properly (melted sugar and on the special little spoon) and I don´t think we will ever want it again.
The next day was a little painful to start with, the plan had been to visit some of the islands around Venice, however the water was a little choppy and as we know Heather struggles with boats and this was no exception, fortunately it was a water tram so were able to get off and have a little extra time on terra ferma before giving it another go. We eventually got to the islands, which were pretty cool and a good change of pace from Venice’s touristy heart.
Next Stop Budapest.
We arrived Monday night at our fabulous hostel in a great location, went straight out (after some great advice from the 2 guys who own/run the hostel) for some proper Hungarian food. Dan had Devil Ragout and I (Heather) had some sort of pork dish that was bloody amazing! We were a little worried about the language barrier but there isn’t one, Hungarians speak great English.
Second day we went on a Danube River cruise, both Buda and Pest are very pretty and yet they are very different (and did you know the average age of a car in Budapest is 7 years?-the tour provided some very random information). We spent the afternoon lounging in one of the many thermal baths around Budapest, and ended up meeting an American who was born in Hungary and was over visiting family. He gave us some fantastic background about Hungarian people. We ended up spending the evening drinking with Czaba, sampling all the different Hungarian beers, which we discovered don’t leave you with a terrible hangover!
Third day we went to the Statue Park on the outskirts of town with a guide named Asock (that’s how it sounded!)He was great, statue park is filled with lots of the statues that were erected around the city during communism, after the 1989 revolution they were taken down and set up in this cool if not strange park. Then we visited a wine cellar that is built into the limestone under Buda. The wine cellar ages wines from all over Hungary, at the end of the tour we got to sample about 12 different wines (hence why the tour is called the Tipsy Lenin Tour). Some were very good, who knew Hungary did wine!
Going to spend our last night searching out more fabulous food and beer, next stop Bratislava!
Hmm what to say about Bratislava, I am afraid we were jaded before we even got here, everyone who we had met said that at most Bratislava deserved an afternoon. We had planned to stay for 3 nights, but based on the advice of other travelers we reduced it to just two nights giving us just one full day here. I would love to report that Bratislava was a actually an interesting place with lots to do but I just cant lie to you like that.
It has cheap bars and cheap food (it would make a good stag venue)
A pretty if tiny old town
It is a bleak new capital with very little substance
The people rarely raise a smile
Service is communistic and slow or sometimes non existent
Its bloody rainy and cold – not its fault but still pissed us off
The hostel is like a prisoner of war camp with more rules than toilets!
Needless to say we have purchased our escape (train) tickets in advance to guarantee our exit, plus we had nothing better to do other than visit the train station to buy the tickets. Roll on Krakow
Escape from Bratislava was not as easy as we first thought, the train was 30 mins late, not good news as we only had 5 mins to change trains in Breclav. As luck would have it our connecting train had been held back to meet our train. We arrived at Krakow in the mid afternoon, happy to have escaped the Bleakness of Bratislava.
Krakow is such a charming city, with it’s medieval market square, cellar bars, imposing castle and unquestionably some of the friendliest inhabitants of any city I have ever visited. Then again what’s not to be happy about, they live in Krakow.
Checked into our home for the next 4 nights, Hostel Orange. We had splashed out and opted for a 3 bed dorm, and as luck would have it we were the only two in the room that night – bliss.
That night we popped out for Mexican, yes I know new country should try the food, but the truth is as good as the Eastern European cuisine had been it was just getting to heavy for us. As it turned out and yes rather predictably this was by far the worst meal that we ate in Krakow. Polish food is cheap, and in our experience exceptionally tasty. An old favorite of mine (Dans) is pierogi and I wasn’t disappointed, the best I tried was from a jadlodajinias, with white beetroot soup to start this came to under £3 for both of us. This eatery was dedicated to pierogi and has to be one of the most authentic eating experiences we have ever had, tiny canteen with 4 or 5 chipboard tables and a small hatchway into a kitchen manned by a solitary cook. Oh by the way the best way I can describe a Peirogi is as a Polish version of Ravioli.
After our Mexican we decided to go for a wander around the Jewish Quarter, this was an area where I (Dan) had been on my last visit and knew that we would be able to find some out of the way bars. As we walked I got a sudden flash of recognition and was able to find a very cool bar that I had visited 4 years earlier, it is called Propaganda and I suppose I would describe it as a communist theme bar! It has posters on the wall expressing the virtues of communism and hammer and sickle mobiles hanging from the ceiling. It is a very cool place to while away an hour or so whilst taking in the decor.
Day 2 – We had planned to visit the WalWel castle, unfortunately we turned up rather late, having managed a rare hostel lie in we didn’t make it to the castle until after 11am, and discovered that there are only a limited number tickets each day. Where we were in the queue meant that there was a good chance of queuing for an hour only to miss out on tickets. After a quick walk around the grounds, We instead decided to spend the day ambling around Krakow’s old town and just taking the city in, the new plan for the castle being an earlier visit in a couple of days. Our afternoon wander was extended to include Oskar Shindlers factory, other than the name over the gate and a small plaque there is very little here to commemorate all the good he did, which seems a shame.
Day 3 – Auschwitz – it is far beyond my literary ability to describe Auschwitz properly. It is a truly moving and unsettling place to visit. The atrocities that occurred here are unthinkable and yet they happened, it is impossible to believe that the perpetrators of these actions believed in anyway what they were doing was right. This is proven by their attempts to destroy the gas chambers before the Red Army liberated the camp. There is a very poignant quote in one of the first buildings you enter – “Those who do not remember history are destined to repeat it”. We don’t think Winston Churchill meant that people should be posing for family photographs under the gates, but that’s what some sickos did. Sad really, and in my (Heather) opinion very disrespectful.
Day 4 – Castle – Alas we woke up to really shitty weather, really pouring rain, so I am afraid to say that we ditched our second attempt to visit the castle as the main thing we wanted to see was the gardens and as is the nature of gardens they are outside, and as is our nature we don’t like to be outside in the the rain. Instead we spent the day in some fantastic cafes whiling away the hours playing chess. We decided upon a return trip to the Jewish quarter for our final evening, stopping at a Jewish restaurant for motza ball soup and stuffed cabbage leaves, as the beer was kosher we were hoping that it wouldn’t leave us with a stinking hang over. We did get to test this theory as all the other beers we had after this point were not kosher. We ended up in Propaganda again for a night cap, this turned into several night caps, when we met some great Polish people, ended up playing darts with them until the small hours. One of the Adam, had a habit of using the most bizarre english phrases, for example when trying to explain the darts game he said “it’s not exactly rocket science”, Dan found this hilarious. Towards the end of the night some Dutch guys turned up and somehow insisted we join them in a shot, as good backpackers, we don’t turn down free booze, in this instance maybe we should have. The shot was a Polish specialty, 95% (that’s volume not proof) with a dash of raspberry and a couple of drops of tabasco. We eventually freed ourselves from the bar, it was 2:30 and we had to be out of the hostel 4 hours later in time to catch our flight back to the UK. It wasn’t an easy trip to the airport but we finally made it, and we are now back in the UK. We will be here for the next couple of weeks before the next leg of our trip. We have now added pictures to all the blogs.
Captain Canuck’s Immigration Story
I, after much paper work, Canada’s Superhero was granted permanent residency, well maybe just Heather’s Superhero!!! (thanks for the comic book research Mr. Hall) Has to be said that in the end the paperwork was the least of our issues. Ok, to fill anybody who hasn’t heard the trials and tribulations of the last month. We mentioned before that we had to cut our European trip short in order to get my Canadian Visa put into my passport, so the first day back after our travels we popped down to London to submit my passport. We expected this to be a minor inconvenience, however the news we got when we handed over my passport would upgrade this to a proper inconvenience!! We had been told that once the visa had been issued I would have a year to enter Canada, guess what this isn’t the case, I had one year from the date I had my medical, this meant that I had to enter Canada before the end of March 2007 otherwise we would have to start the process all over again. This didn’t exactly fit in with our travel plans, we are planning on be in India at the end of March next year!! This left only one palatable option, we would have to go to Canada before we started the next stage of our trip. The time scale was tight we got the passport back on the 14th and then planned to fly out for Turkey on the 22nd. So we flew out on the 15th direct to Toronto, except we ended up stopping in Montréal due to a medical emergency on the plane! Now neither of us has ever had this experience before, but the woman in question was sitting across from us so we got front row seats! Only there wasn’t much to see, basically a woman in her early 40’s was having chest pains (it was eventually discovered that she mixed medications and had been drinking) but there were two doctors on the plane. One thought she could make it to Toronto the other thought best to divert, so we did, so that was an hours delay for what was probably indigestion. The actual immigration process at the airport was pretty simple, just involved a little queuing and signing my name three times. There was one sphincter twitching moment when the immigration lady told me I couldn’t leave the country for 6 weeks, I needed to wait until I received my permanent residency card. The look of horror on our faces alerted the immigration officer that just maybe we were planning on leaving the country slightly earlier than the 6 weeks (like in less than 46 hours), luckily she explained that all would be ok if someone from Canada could deliver it to us, so it is most fortunate that H’s parents will be visiting us in South Africa!!! Finally out of immigration and a now a permanent resident we could enjoy our 46 hour stay in Toronto. We got to hang out with H’s folks and sister for the weekend and had a great Lunch with Paul and Marg (Heather’s Grandparents)
Ok so next step Turkey, we have a couple of days to shake the jet lag and then we are off on our way again!! Role on Hamam massages and coffee strong enough to make a man go blind.
On the road again!
I know London isn’t Istanbul, but it is worth mentioning the hotel we stayed in, it was quite possibly the worlds smallest hotel room so small that if Heather stretched out in bed she could touch the walls above and below the bed, I didn’t even need to stretch! So we were perfectly prepared for air travel.
So Istanbul – I think it is safe to say that both of us had over romantacised Istanbul in our heads, so initially we were a bit underwhelmed by what the city seemed to offer. Undeniably the people were friendly and welcoming, the kebabs the best you have ever tasted, but despite this the city felt disjointed and awkward.
We spent our first day exploring the city’s bazaars, starting with the spice bazaar , historically it would have been chock full of spices unfortunately the tourist industry has started to seep in and there are several tat stalls. It did still have plenty of spice stalls though and the surrounding markets down the tight alleyways soon readdressed the balance of produce away from tourist tat. Needless to say Heather spent lots of time eyeing up food! The Grand Bazaar I am sorry to say was a big let down, entirely full of fake designer clothes and hideous leather jackets, oh and yet more tat.
The following day was spent exploring the more historic sites. First the Blue Mosque, it has to be said that it is much better to look at from outside, but then again that was the whole point of it’s design. Next, off to the Blue Mosques rival Aya Sofýa, this was originally a church then converted to a mosque and is the template for all other mosques, again it looks better from the outside. So we thought we’d try out Topýaký Palace, this was impressive and pretty, very different from western palaces. Dan was disappointed to discover that a Harem is not actually what everyone believes it to be in the west, it’s really just the private quarters for the Sultan and his family. Although a concubine is still a concubine.
This was also the first day of Ramadan, so all the good Muslims were fasting which made for a great street party/festival. It was so interesting to watch families sitting around pot luck dinners waiting for the Mosque to tell them it was time to break-fast. It also meant that I got to try some home made Turkish food/desserts.
Camping – Is it over before it has begun?
Oh dear the tour has started and it is straight into tents, and the campsite resembles a carpark, this is not a good first camping experience for Heather. To compound the problem we ended up in the same cooking team so had to erect our tent between knocking up a meal for 16 people. Needless to say this was not a good experience for Heather and I think if someone had offered her all our money back in that second she would have jumped at the chance. Though over the last few weeks I would she say she as developed into a seasoned camper, if a slightly reluctant one.
Our tour group consists of a mixed bag of people, some single, some couples, Oz, Canada, NZ, UK, and the US are all represented. As a whole there are some good people in our group and fortunately the youngest of us is 26 so it’s is not a constant party.
We spent our first days exploring on the Anzac coast, learning about the landings there, it was surprising to see how seriously the Kiwis and Australians took it, several of them had taken their flags with them, I wonder how many British backpackers would do this? That afternoon we drove into the Asian side of Turkey to visit Troy. They still have a Trojan horse though from the hordes of tourists climbing all over it I very much doubt that it is the real one!!. There was little really to see of Troy, just very ruined ruins, but we had a fantastic guide who managed to bring it all to life for us.
Selcuk – After the previous nights bush camping it was with some relief that we stayed in a hotel here and a very nice one at that!! On the first night I got a traditional shave, using a cutthroat razor, and fire (cotton wool with alcohol dabbed over my ears to burn off stray hairs). Ephesus was the attraction for the next day, quite impressive ruins, but we had a terrible guide so no history, other than they actually had adverts for brothels carved into the floor. We did learn that carpet shops are a great place for a free feed.
Oludeniz – Naff seaside resort full of Brits, not entirely sure why we stayed here. We went on a boat cruise which was a laugh, well up until there was a medical emergency and Heather was the closest thing to a doctor on the boat, a guy was having heart problems and seizures, there was nothing Heather could really do other than hope he didn’t pop his clogs before the rescue boat arrived which fortunately he didn’t. The campsite here was actually really nice, great bar, good food, and next to a lagoon, this is how camping should be!
We made a brief stop at Olympus to see the mountain on fire, very bizarre natural gas just seeps out of the mountain, not sure how it first came to be lit though. Some of out party had issues believing that it was a scam and one was convinced that it was all a sham and that they had actually buried propane tanks.
Our final port of call for Turkey was Goreme. This has to be one of the most unusual landscapes anywhere in the world, with homes carved into strange rock formations. It looked like it could easily be another planet. so I guess we shouldn’t have found anything out of the ordinary with their UFO museum. It was a great little museum and very empty which meant that we were able to play with their displays, childish but lots of fun. Our home for the few nights a pension carved into the rock, beats camping! Also in this area there are several underground cities, built up to a 100m below the surface and housing up to 4000 people. After a quick bit of potholing around these we visited some fairy chimneys, which are natural rock formation caused by erosion, they look more like willies than fairy chimneys!
Next stop Syria
Syria doesn’t Souk!
We ended up crossing the border between Turkey and Syria around 930 pm, that was the plan because it shouldn’t be too busy and it should be a “quick” crossing. We sat in Turkey for over an hour, we all had to pile off the truck go to a window and have our passports stamped, then back on the truck we waited while the Turkish customs officers tried to charge our drivers extra fees for taking the truck across. Eventually an agreement was reached and were able to cross (in the meantime we all illegally changed money with a random man right in front of the custom agents!) There is a 10km stretch between Turkey and Syria and there just happens to be a massive duty free shop that only takes foreign currencies, since Syria isn’t the easiest place to obtain alcohol we all stocked up for soooo cheap. Then we sat at the Syrian border for 2 hours. But apparently that is the fastest that our drivers have ever got through that border so – yeah for us! We turned up at the campsite (if you can call it that, it was someones front yard) at 230am. We took a tour of Allepo the next day and it was frantic, the city has 4 million people and I think we saw all of them!! The people are very friendly, we get a few stares (because I don’t cover my head or ankles) but other than that most just want to practice english and find out what you think of Syria. In Allepo we visited the Souks, which are massive covered markets that sell everything (including whole camels and illegal prescription drugs!). It was so packed with people as well and I think we were the only foreign tourists so we got a lot of attention. We visited the citadel/fort in the afternoon and it was very impressive. Again it was all so huge, massive storage for when they were under attack, and lots of secret passages. Our drivers took us to a “special” street for dinner that night and we were each given 50 Syrian pounds (about 1 USD). Dan and I could have had 3 falafels each and still have 5 SP left over (we were stuffed after 2)!
Next day was mostly driving, we stopped around lunch time for provisions and what a shock we got. We must have stopped somewhere that gets NO tourist because everyone came out to stare and say hello, it actually made it quite difficult to buy our food. We also got totally ripped off, because they spoke little english and us no arabic, so it was tough to argue. Next stop was another ruined city to eat our lunch, Al Raffasa. It was beautiful and we were the only ones there (a bit out of the way), we were able to explore and climb up the walls to see the view. That night we bushed camp in the middle of the desert, the atmosphere was awesome, dinner went well and there was an almost full moon, scary to say I actually enjoyed myself.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t like camping but I’m trying, seeing as I have to do it for the next 5 months. So here is a plea, anyone who actually likes camping explain it to me and send me easy to cook recipes (only have a gas stove top)!!!!!!!!
Next day we were to go to Palmyra which was only 150km from where we camped, it took us six hours to get there!! Dan and a few other boys were actually getting quite concerned with how far north we were going, seeing as we were meant to be heading south! The drivers eventually admitted to being lost while we stopped for diesel. I have to admit it was getting worrying how many Iraq signs we were seeing! We did however make it to Palmyra and it was so beautiful. Our local guide took us to the Valley of the Tombs and we actually got to go in one that isn’t opened to tourists. The tomb was only discovered in the 80’s when Iraq was putting through an oil pipe (they still finished the pipe) but it was the most amazing thing I’ve seen. All the sculptures were untouched and in perfect condition, and we could actually see in to the children’s tomb that still has all the skeletons of the children. The ruined city itself was huge and there is giant archway that all the caravans of camels would’ve passed under (up to 4000 camels) still in nearly perfect condition. It’s hard to believe that these cities are abandoned and then completely forgotten about.
Following day we visit Krac des Chevaliers, which was built by the crusaders, Richard the Lion heart ruled there for a while. Again it’s big, it actually looks quite small from a distance but once again massive. Once again we were impressed, our guide said that it is the best castle in the world, it’s got to be up there. The coolest part is that we actually got to explore the secret passages!!!!
We then drove on, after a beautiful lunch, to Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, and it looks it. It is very busy, traffic everywhere, and once again you can buy anything!! We visited the Umayyad Mosque. It is beautiful with a large court yard and the tomb of Salahuddin. I has forced to where a horrible smock thing with a hood and Dan kept getting stares because I was walking ahead of him, too bad, he kept stopping to take pictures! We have one more night in Damascus and then on to Jordan!!!
We made the cross from Syria to Jordan with out any trouble. It was an interesting experience as all the girls were sent off to the “female inspection house” where an extremely tired looking woman barely glanced at us and then wrote on a little piece of paper. Once back outside we asked or agent what she had written, it said “I’ve have inspected and searched these 6 western females”. Apparently the male guards can’t touch women so that lady is supposed to check us out. I guess it could have been worse…
Jordan is a pleasant country, people are friendly but they don’t go out of their way to help. First day we drove up to Mt. Nebu, which is where Moses was shown the Promised land before he died. All that’s there is a church, but the scenery was lovely. That night we bush camped at a film set that burnt down over looking the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, and Bethleham. It actually wasn’t too bad (except for the horrible thistle bushes everyone kept kicking-ouch!)
Next morning we set off for the Dead Sea (after being woken up by a heard of goats passing through our campsite). It was so cool, I can explain but truly you wont get it until you experience it. I walked out in the water until I was waist deep and I could see Dan just floating around but I wasn’t sure what to do to make me float. Dan said “Just sit down, you will float” So I did and guess what, I floated. It was so weird, you can’t swim even if you want to. We dug up the mud and put on mud masks (careful as to not get the most salt water in your eyes!). It was a great way to spend a morning. We then drove on to Petra.
Petra is a city built in to massive stone cliffs (the treasury is featured in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade) You walk in through a canyon except it’s not a canyon because it was caused by teutonic plates shifting not water. We did the hike up to the Monastery which was hard work but well worth it. We were the only people there!!! – Dan for me Petra is one of the most visually enchanting places I have visited,one American tourist I overheard saying “oh my God it is so suprising everywhere you look there is a surprise” Maybe not the most impressive turn of phrase but certainly true. Especially as you make the lone walk into the main site with sheer rock walls either side of you twisting and turning so you can barly see 20m ahead, on the way you glimps bit of carvings but nothing special, and then all of a sudden you round a corner and you are presented with a patial view of the treasury, it is magnificent, and yes “surprising”. My one wish was that there was a stall where i could have rented out a hat and a whip and pretended to be Indy for the day!
We stopped at some mud flats the following day whilst on route to Wadi Rum. Mud flats are basically flats made out of mud!! great place to drive stupidly fast on our big green truck, childish but lots of fun! The surface is as flat and smooth as any road. Stopped there for lunch and had a little kick about, alas my footballing skills have not improved!!
We Toured Wadi Rum National Park in an ancient toyota pick up which the driver had to hot wire (though I am sure it was his truck). Some great desert scenery and a fantastic place to watch the sun set. Not however before I got to climb lots of bits and bobs of rocks!! Heather even climbed some. I climbed up to see Lawrence of Arabias spring, great climb, but the spring was a little disappointing, green and scummy, what is more scary is that they pipe the water down for people to drink, those people have obviously not climbed to the top to see the source.
Our final day in Jordan was spent waiting for a ferry to Egypt, we were told that it would depart at some point between 6 and 9 pm, some how it ended up leaving at 4pm??! As it turned out this was most fortunate, customs at the Egyptian end is evil, we ended up sat in a holding area from abot 8.30 to about 12.30am waiting to be cleared, bad news, they didn’t like our truck and decided that the Overlandclub may not be the real owners, this wasn’t helped by the paperwork of the truck, as it was purchased in a foreign country it has a letter of permission to drive rather than the normal ownership documents, after several hours wrangling, we left the truck impounded in customs. Interesting start to our time in Egypt, the good news is that customs called the next day to tell us we could have it back. Paul the driver told them that they could look after it for the next 2 weeks as we are on trains and minibuses for that bit anyway, not sure that they were that happy about that so lets hope they give it back to us in two weeks. It is parked right outside their police station so I think they will still want rid of it.
Hands up if you don’t like Gypos! Pick me, pick me!!!
We started off our Egypt leg without really feeling like we were in Egypt. We spent 4 days in the Red Sea resort town of Dahab. It was very relaxed, the weather was gorgeous, and we caught up on a lot of sleep! We spent a day snorkeling at the Blue Hole and the Bells. The Blue Hole is 100m deep hole in the middle of a coral reef. Many scuba divers have lost their lives there, we saw lots of fish just from snorkeling so no scuba diving for us! We saw many fish but our favorite had to be the lion fish, which just drifts along the coral scaring fish and snorkelers! After our relaxation we were thrown into mini buses that would take us to Cairo, it was pretty touch and go on wether or not we’d arrive alive, but in the end we made it.
Cairo is chaotic, there really is no other way to describe it. There are masses of people, cars and garbage everywhere. We visited the ancient sites of Saqqara and the Giza Pyramids. It was interesting but we were slightly culture shocked by the amount of hassle you get, plus traveling through the middle east we didn’t see many other tourist, the pyramids were swarming with them!
Dan – not to sound ungratful but the pyramids are a bit rubbish, big triangle type things, I did find it entertaining that 50m away from the sphinx was a KFC, got to love the way Eygptians mix the new with the old so sympathetically. Also my take on the Egyptians (Gypos) is not entirely favourable, through the middle east we have met some very genuine and friendly people, this is far from the case in Egypt, you feel like the majority of people are going to rip you off rather than the minority.
We took a night train to Aswan, that was an interesting experience, our group had to take two separate trains, Dan managed to pass out for about 9 of the 14 hours, I got about 4 hours sleep, as I was on the aisle and constantly asked to show my ticket, if that was my seat (I was sitting in it, how else was I to show it was my seat?) and being whacked in the head by all the egyptian carrying the household belongings!!!
We didn’t get much time in Aswan, the first night we took a sunset cruise on a Felucca boat (a type of sail boat) around the islands there. The next morning we joined the 4am convoy to Abu Simbel. The Egyptian Police require tourist to travel in large convoys for safety in certain areas, this should have made us feel safer but it didn’t, as soon as we started out all the buses were jockeying for position and racing each other and overtaking blindly. It was craziness, we arrived at Abu Simbel around 8. Happy to be off the bus we were pleasantly surprised that Abu Simbel was amazing and enormous and all together very impressive (it was hard to tell is had actually been moved from it’s original location). Again it was swarming with tourists but we didn’t have much choice as we all had to travel together. The convoy then took us to the Temple of Philiae. Another temple that had to be moved after they built the Aswan Damn. The temple is beautiful and is on an island. You can still see the water marks on the inside showing just how submerged the temple had been.
That night we loaded our Felucca with several cases of beer and set sail in the direction of Luxor. This is the way to travel, the deck of the boat is one giant mattress, which was handy as we would be sleeping on deck under the stars. So we cracked a few beers and watched the sun go down. The beers brings me to the only minor down side of the boat, it has no toilet, so it is a case of going off the side, no problem for the boys, more of an issue for the girls!! We stopped off at a nubian village where we were fed to bursting point before meandering back to the boats to drink and chat into the small hours, when we finally went to bed we had some of the best sleep we have had on this trip. The next day was more of the same drinking playing games and chatting, we stopped a couple of times to swim in the Nile, which is a lot cleaner than you would think!! The evening was spent on “poo island” the name tells you all you need to know about what was all over the island!! Despite the plethora of poo all around us we had a great night dancing around the camp fire while the nubian guys from the boat played the drums.
Alas our time on the felucca was over all too quickly, we docked at Kom-Ombo and were thrust right back into the tourist hustle and bustle, we spent the day visiting a couple of temples, which were very temple-y and had plenty of hieroglyphs, I now know that a horned viper is an F only 24 more letters to learn. We arrived in Luxor just after midday, and guess what we are staying in a real hotel, “The Golden Palace” in it’s hay day (early 80’s it would have been very nice) but even now it is a welcome change for grubby backpackers, the rooms had air-con and en-suite with hot and cold water (well until it got cut off half way through Heather’s shower – but lets not be picky)
Early start the next day for the valley of the kings and the valley of the queens. The valley of the kings is where the kings tombs are and I think you can probably guess what the Valley of the Queens is! The tombs were fantastic, the hieroglyphics and carvings were all still painted, which really brings home how fantastic some of the temples would have looked with the paint. We visited a few tombs in each valley. The valley itself was not photogenic at all it dotted with tombs the entrances to which looked a lot like military bunkers.
Sudanese Visa Hell
Yup, that’s right, this experience gets its own journal. What can we say, we were told from the get go that it wouldn’t be easy, that it may not happen, that we need to be patient. So it starts like this, our tour leader Paul has a friend in the Sudan who could help get our visas, but the owner and operator of the tour company said that it is best if we try through the proper channels. Fine, except Paul knows that it will take the Americans up to 8 weeks to get a visa and when he was at the Sudanese embassy picking up applications Canadians were rejected (he didn’t manage to find out why, which would have been helpful, you’ll see why later) So it was decided that myself and the 4 Americans were going to still go through his friend in Karhtoum (it cost double to do it this way) So we handed over our passports and money and a few days later we were told the process was under way. Now the rest of the group had to go back to Cairo to apply for theirs and also to obtain our Ethiopian visas, so while we were there I decided to apply for a Sudanese visa just to see. I went to the embassy to find out what I needed (it’s the same for everyone a letter of recommendation for your embassy, application, 2 photos, valid passport, and photocopies of everything). Dan managed to get his letter (which is actually a letter stating they no longer do letters, but hey, it worked) in 10 minutes or so. The Canadians are a whole other matter. I would like to start by saying everyone was super friendly, but they started out saying it would take 24 hours (we didn’t really have 24 hours), so I pleaded, begged, smiled, got teary eyed, had Dan get teary eyed, there were phones calls made, discussions in the back and finally a victory!! The woman said she’d do it as fast as she could. Two and a half hours later (and $50 CDN poorer) I had a hand typed (in a typewriter from the looks of it) personalised letter addressed to the Sudanese embassy. We quickly made our photocopies (they wont do that for you at the embassy) and rushed to the Sudanese embassy only to miss putting in our applications by 10 minutes. I tried batting my eyelids and giving out Canadian pins but they weren’t going to take it. We returned the following morning at opening, now they visas usually take 24 hours to process but we were to leave that afternoon, we handed in our application, then had to wait an hour to hand over our money, and when we asked when we could come back to collect they told us 1 hour!! We were surprised and didn’t really believe them, but we went back in an hour anyway. Guess what, they were done!!! I was accepted no problems as was Dan. Now back to Paul not asking the Canadians why they were rejected, it turns out a lot of people get conned into hiring agents to help them get visas, the agents don’t bother getting the letters of introduction from their home embassies, so they get rejected. A very expensive lesson to learn as I probably wont get any money back from the original visa application in Karhtoum, but on the plus side I have a definite visa, the Americans are still waiting and we learnt a lot about the visa process.
P.S. The Sudanese seem to think that the name Lightfoot is hilarious, the visa officer asked what it was supposed to mean, and then called his friends over to have a giggle too!!
Isn’t it funny how luxury can change your perception of a place? After a leisurely few days in Dahab, eating good food and sleeping late we found ourselves with an excess of time to kill before catching the ferry to the Sudan. The plan was to camp in Luxor whilst the truck got some much needed tlc, not an appealing prospect, having already spent 3 days there and found it to be full of the most detestable gypos of all. So we opted for the champagne backpacking option of a 1st class nile cruiser. Ever budget conscious, we smuggled a few cheeky bottles of wine on board and we did get the cruise for a silly good price. Our boat was the Oberoi Nephrites, our accommodation was to be a suite and the food was all inclusive, let the good times roll (well sail). The route was Luxor to Aswan over 3 luxurious nights, the reverse of our felucca trip, this meant that we had already seen all the major sights along the way so all that remained was to relax and watch the world sail by.
Paul and Jar our tour leaders helped arrange for us to do this and they also so arranged a little surprise for us as well. First off, the boat was not very full, there was a tour of about 40 Polish people and 1 Spanish guy, so there was not a lot of english conversation. So much to our surprise at our last dinner a cake was rolled out followed by a Nubian band, we wondered who’s birthday it was going to be, except they stopped at our table and asked us to stand and follow. We had to walk around the restaurant behind our cake with the band playing traditional Nubian wedding songs. The cake had “Happy Honeymooner” written on it and after we cut the cake we were presented with a small gift from the manager – a papyrus painting. The tour leader for the Poles came and explained to them what was going on and they sang us a traditional wedding song as well, what a fun unexpected night.
We still find ourselves with a few days to kill in Aswan, but it has a much more chilled out vibe, owing to it’s large Nubian population. So no big problem plus there are lots of things we missed last time we were here.
Not so Sudan-easy
The Sudan, where should we start? The tricky thing is that we have such different views of our experiences so far, so for this blog I think we should split it into two.
The ferry from Aswan was an experience, very overloaded, a group of men sat opposite us seemed to be carrying enough kitchen electricals to set up a shop, they were friendly enough and fed me stale bread. That night we were ushered onto the roof away from everyone else so we could sleep, that night was cold but the stars were fantastic, the milky way was so clear, and there was an abundance of shooting stars. My worst moment on the boat came when I woke up after 12 hours sailing and spotted Abu Simbel, admittedly some might think this was an amazing sight to wake up to but to me it meant that we were still in Gypo land!!! This disappointment was fleeting as we were soon pulling into Wadi Halfa, the customs and immigration process was actually much easier than we were expecting, though when the guy was asking me if I was a tourist I thought he was asking if I was the “tallest”, which confused me no end, I eventually decided to say yes as I was the tallest, and it didn’t seem like something I was going to get into trouble for.
So begins the desert adventure – We set off rather early having confused the effects the time change would have on the sunrise. The going was good if a little bumpy for the first few hours, and then it happened we got stuck in the sand, this is something I had secretly been looking forward to. In my head this was what the trip needed to be to be a true adventure, a bit of hardship never killed anyone – 4 hours and 300m later my bravado and gusto had ebbed ever so slightly! That night we spent bush camping, and boy did I sleep well. The Next day started with more of the same, but the desert was that cold it felt more like snow than sand, at least we didn’t work up too much of a sweat digging. We eventually rocked up at station 6 (they put a lot of thought into the station names here) at lunch time, where we were some how able to buy ice cold drinks. Not that impressive you might think but these stations would not look out of place in the wild west, they are miles from anywhere and have no electricity.
The next day we arrived in Atbara for lunch after a relatively uneventful mornings drive. Managed to pick up some great local grub, and then had a game of football with some local kids while we waited to have our gas tank refilled. The end score was one all, man of the match goes to Heather for a great save and a rather crunching tackle on a poor unsuspecting ten year old. That night as we pulled into a bush camp we caught a glimpse of the pyramids (Meroe) that we would be visiting the next day.
As you know I was rather underwhelmed by the pyramids at Giza, so my expectations were not high, how wrong can I be. We walked over the sand dune that we camped behind and were greeted with a field of no less than 40 pyramids. I spent the morning snapping hundreds of pictures, it was fantastic and best of all, unlike Gyposville we were the only tourists there.
The following day we decided that 6 days without washing was quite enough, so we all had bush showers, very long process, but thoroughly rewarding. I stayed clean for at least an hour, still it was nice while it lasted. The next day was a relaxed one stopping at Shendi for a spot of lunch before driving to some more ruins (Muswwarhat El Sufra). The rest of the time in the desert played out much like this, though on the second to last day we did get stuck for another 4 hour session in a dried river bed.
We are currently recouping in Khartoum, staying at the Blue Nile Sailing Club – not as posh as it sounds, in fact not posh full stop. The reception is Lord Kitcheners Gun Boat.
The ferry from Aswan was a nightmare… We had to board the boat at 12pm even though we did not sail until 5pm and there was no shade. I found myself cornered by a male tourist policeman in the ladies washroom, very frightening. We were attempting to keep a space for us to sleep when the ‘nice’ Egyptians as Dan called them started to pile there kitchen wares in our corner, and yes the thoughtful captain did allow us to illegally sleep on the roof of the bridge but there was NO windbreak. We froze, the stars were pretty when I could thaw my eyelids out to see them! And Dan forgot to mention our free meal, the food was ok (greasy) but the spoons get shared by everyone on the boat!! No washing in between uses, thank goodness for my Mother’s supply of one step wipes or I’m sure one of us would be in hospital now.
And so the desert, for the most part it was enjoyable, we followed the ‘safe’ road, which really means stay close to the train tracks and you shouldn’t get robbed, but apparently it is marked on maps. When we first got stuck I was really impressed by everyone’s chipping in and really thought we were going to do well, except it took us 6 hours and another overland truck to go 2km, extremely disheartening. Even I slept well that night at the bush camp, and needless to say when the following morning we got stuck after 5 minutes of driving, I had had enough of the desert. But we pressed on because that’s all there is to do you’re in the middle of the desert! Station number 6 was a welcoming experience, friendly men who seemed to be selling their own food, but hey we were hungry. We finally hit tarmac at Abu Hamed but it was short lived as the bridge that lead to the rest of it wasn’t finished. Another bush camp and we finally bounced up to the pyramids, they were stunning. Well worth all the hassle, although I was felling majorly grimy. Next day was a treat of visiting the Royal City of Meroe (now deserted) and using the locals water to bucket shower, there was a lot of staring involved, but it was good to get the thick layer of desert off. We then had 3 more nights of bush camping, I have to say that I’m very proud of myself, I can now put up our tent all on my own, cook a meal for 16 without fresh supplies and pee behind anything. The Blue Nile Sailing Club isn’t much but Khartoum is nice, I’m happy to be spending a few days here…in one spot…with toilets…and restaurants…and alcohol free beer (hey it’s cold and alcohol is illegal!)….but we did break the law in the desert with some illegally smuggled whiskey.
Sudan part 2!!!
As you may have noticed we have been unable to update our blog in several weeks, Ethiopia was not really blessed with fast or even cheap internet access. So in order to catch up we are going to make the next couple brief!
We only had a couple of days to spend in Khartoum which was shame, I could happily have spent a week there mooching around the markets and eating the fantastic street food and drink that was on offer. We spent our first full day in Khartoum visiting the national museum, where we became the main attraction. The place was packed with school children, and they spent much of there time coming and chatting with us, and taking our pictures which was a very novel experience. One group of boys gave us an impromptu concert that included what we think was a rendition of there national anthem. That afternoon we headed off to an amusement park where the guide book recommended taking the Ferris wheel to take sneaky photos of the palace and confluence of the blue and white Niles (which is a bit of a no no). Unfortunately despite our best effort and the efforts of half the kids in the park we were inexplicably able to buy the tickets. Still had a great time chatting with the kids, they are genuinely interested in talking to us, and despite the many aid workers knocking around the place for many of the kids were the first white people they have ever had a proper conversation with. They were also very interested in why we were there, when we told them that we were on holiday they were bemused to say the least, one of them even said that they thought Hawaii would be a better place to go on holiday.
On our last day in Khartoum, we attempted to visit the camel markets, they are apparently the largest in Africa, so we flagged down a cab, agreed on price and we were off, however it soon became apparent that our driver had no idea where the market was, and unfortunately nor did any of the people who he stopped to ask. One chap even asked “how many camels have you seen in Khartoum?” (answer was none) “Then why would we have a market, faultless reasoning, so we gave up. Instead we ended up in a massive souk in Ondurmon, spent the morning having a good mooch around before heading off to watch the Nubian wrestlers in the afternoon. The wrestlers were great fun, we were in a huge stadium made out of blankets and pieces of canvas, we had no idea about the rules of the fights but who cares. Also they did as much posing and posturing as WWF wrestlers. As were leaving the home side seemed to be loosing, so it was perhaps the best point to make our exit, as the police were very heavily armed, machine guns and tear gas.
The next day we headed to the Ethiopian border, and a new country.
Lets Party like it’s 1999 – because it is in Ethiopia
To start with have to say there is a stark difference between the Ethiopians and the Sudanese, the Ethiopians are cheating, stealing (I will come to that later), rude people. The country however is fantastic stunning lush mountains, and great lakes. There is a lot that we got to see in Ethiopia, so I will be brief.
Didn’t have a vast amount of time here as we spent much of our only day there trying to organise a flight to Axum, I won’t bore anyone with the details, lets just say it was time consuming for a number of reasons. We finally managed to spend a couple of hours looking around the castle which is apparently the Camelot of Ethiopia, it was Ok but I don’t imagine that Arthur would have been all that impressed by it. Or by the irritating shadow people who hang around outside.
We departed Gonder early and were in Axum by mid morning. Now what we hadn’t realized was that there was a huge religious pilgrimage hitting town at the same time as us, which meant that flights out and hotel rooms were at a serious premium. We eventually managed to secure both a hotel room and a flight out. However the hotel room was to turn into a bit of a nightmare, the second night were there the hotel told us that they had double booked and that we had to move somewhere else, initially we were happy to help them out, however when they took us to see the alternative hotel we found a building site with no windows, or running water, so a rather long and nasty argument broke out, and it ended up in us staying in a Voluntary counseling and treatment centre for AIDs (actually very nice), spent that night getting drunk and trying to see the funny side of what had happened. Early in the night a group of flute (word used loosely) players came in the bar and started to drape grass all over us, very surreal and just the laugh we needed after the days ordeal, even if the music was awful.
As for the sights in Axum, we got to see the stele fields and the church of Mary of Zion which allegedly houses the arc of the covenant, which they wouldn’t let us see though we did get to see the doors to the room and the only man who is allowed in the room with it (apparently a rare treat)
After the hotel debacle in Axum it was a relief to check into a classy place and treat ourselves to some much earned R&R. We spent fair amount of time going on little hikes in the surrounding mountains which are beautiful. Also we visited the rock hewn churches, Ethiopia’s answer to Petra. They were stunning and quite the architectural feet, they were built by king Lalabella so that people wouldn’t have to go on such long pilgrimages they even have a river Jordan.
Had some great food and some not so great drink. The local home brew is called Tej, it is a maize beer, and it is rank. It was served to us from a kettle and we drank it from scientific beakers, it looked like of orange juice and had the same consistency. Heather soldiered on with her portion and managed half a beaker, I managed a couple of sips, and you will never guess which one of us had gut rot the next day!
Errrrm nice fruit juice, piss poor water fall!
The girls decided that they were going to have a girly day and treat themselves to a spa and cocktails so I went to the Merkato with some of the boys. The Merkato is a vast market area where you can find pretty much anything, it does however have a very bad reputation for thieves and pickpockets. We had managed about 20 mins in the market before Pete took off after a guy shouting thief, so we all set off in pursuit, I managed to catch the guy and pin him against a bus, and much to the delight of the locals who all clapped and cheered (they apparently don’t like thieves either). With in seconds there was a policeman on the scene who started proceedings by giving the guy a clip around the ear. The policeman led us and the bad guy to the police station occasionally stopping to explain to people what had happened and giving the little shit a few more clips. In the police station we gave our statements while the Ali Baba was sat on the floor next to us, several different policemen came in and asked where we were from and what had happened, after they asked this they would shake their head at the criminal and give him a good kicking. Have to say it was quite the experience, especially as the guy hadn’t actually managed to take anything out of Pete’s pocket; Pete was just incensed that the guy tried. Also should mention that we are gluttons for punishment so went back to the Merkato we stayed long enough to have two more attempted robberies, and then decided to leave before anything else could happen.
For my girly day we tried to go to a spa for a massage, unfortunately they were fully booked and we realized we had forgotten our guide book, so now we had no plan or map!! We also ended up at the Merkato but our experience was far less exciting, we just shopped and had a nice lunch. One of the girls needed to use an ATM and after lots of inquiring we discovered that the only ATM is at the Sheraton. So poor us, we had to go to the Sheraton, it was heaven on earth. It was decorated beautifully for Christmas and we totally splurged and had cocktails, and we all used the bathroom twice. It was a great day in the end.
Kenya – Rain drops keep falling on my head
It rains in Kenya!!!??? Who would have thought it? Our first couple of days were spent in sunshine, the weather we had come to expect from Africa, though as Northern Kenya is often described as the closest you will come to hell on earth (we thought it was quite nice) it was hardly surprising. The first days drive from the border was with armed guards to protect us from Ethiopians coming across the border and attacking us poor tourists, a little unnerving especially considering a) The guards had rocket launchers and were prone to falling asleep and falling over while the truck was moving (Heather learnt this when the barrel of a gun ended up between her eyes) and b) we had no armed guards in Ethiopia!! After a couple of days travel through some fantastically barren landscapes we stopped off at Mount Kenya for the afternoon. Alas we only had a short afternoon so we had to admire it from afar, but on a brief walk we did encounter a very unusual creature indeed, children who just wanted to talk and mess about with us and wanted no money in return.
After Mount Kenya it was off to Nairobi to do our Christmas shopping. Despite all the hype about the place it felt very safe and modern. We pottered around for a day and a half and picked up a few essentials, including a new tent, as amongst other things, did we could mention Overland’s tents were not the greatest in the rain? Oh and from Nairobi onward it rained and rained, apparently we were there for the short rain, these only last for half an hour or so after 6 hours I think that somebody possibly should have reminded the weather that this was supposed to be the deal.
We spent Christmas day slightly damp on the bank of Lake Naivasha, famed for its hippo population. The day was an unusual affair but then that shouldn’t really have come as much of a surprise, we were after all in Africa, it was fun though we had some excellent punch and partied the night away. Boxing Day was spent cruising the lake hippo spotting, considering there size this wasn’t all that tricky, though some how one of the boats did stray a little to close to one and was charged, great fun for us as we were on the other boat, the guys on the charged boat did get a little upset and afterwards asked the guide how close was the closest he had come to a hippo he said it “WAS” about 10 meters but now it was more like 5. Heather also managed to incur another injury by letting go of the luggage locker while trying to get something, shockingly enough, with nothing to hold the locker door up it slammed down on her head, causing much blood and excitement. Once again the doctor on board decided she was ok and that she was to keep hold of things next time.
After Naivasha we headed to Uganda/Rwanda and the gorillas (blog coming soon), after this we headed back into Kenya (yes we are getting lazy and can’t be bothered with the chronology of the blog anymore)
Back in Kenya we headed to Lake Nakuru National Park for our first safari, hard really to talk about a safari, the setting was stunning and we saw lots of animals (though only 2 of the big 5) and were terrorized by baboons at the camp. Our final night in Kenya was spent again in Nairobi at the Carnivore restaurant, where the previous days safari made up much of the menu, we had Camel which was excellent, crocodile which was a bit fishy and ostrich balls which were lovely, not sure what they do with the rest of the ostrich though!!!
In Tanzania the lion sleeps tonight
Tanzania is a beautiful country and the drive to Arusha as Mt Kilimanjaro made fleeting appearances from behind its cloudy vale was fantastic. We left early the next day for our three day safari on the Serengeti and in the Ngorogoro Crater.
The first days drive gave us an unexpectedly good haul of animals. We spotted a huge bull elephant within minutes of entering the park and it wasn’t long until we were in the plains and surrounded by zebra, giraffe, antelope, water buffalo and impala. As the day game to a close the predators came out to play, we got a very rare sighting of a cheetah stalking and chasing it’s pray and then it was just down the track that we saw a pair of lionesses silhouetted in the fading dusk light. Camping in the park was interesting to say the least, there are no fences and you are strenuously advised not to leave your tent after dark. That night we heard some very odd noises just outside our tent, I tried to convince Heather that this was just a frog so that I could go back to sleep. She obviously didn’t buy my frog theory as the following morning she described the sound to the guide and it turned out that we had a hyena wandering around outside our tent.
The second day started with a stunning sunrise, but the first hour or so of the game drive delivered none of the excitement of the first day, then in the distance we spotted a pride of lions, they were a good distance away but things were starting to pick up. Not long after we spotted the lions we spotted the ever promising sight of several other safari vehicles stopped, we joined the crowd and were rewarded with a leopard lazing in tree. Pretty impressive as this is generally regarded as the hardest of the big 5 to spot. We then returned to camp and packed up and started the long drive to the crater, this wasn’t supposed to be a safari drive but it ended up being one of the highlights of the 3 days, the first surprise was 4 female lions lying right next to the road, quickly followed by a heard of elephants with juveniles, a crocodile, and the icing on the cake was a very close encounter with a cheetah right next to the road.
We started our last day with only one of the big 5 left to see, the black rhino. As we descended into the crater the clouds rolled in from the crater lip and soon there was on other worldly feeling to the place, at this point a pack of velocaraptors wouldn’t have been a huge surprise (well ok they would but I am trying to create a mood). We were soon greeted by the usual array of animals, it took quite a bit of driving to find anything truly exciting, but then we happened upon 3 male lions sunbathing, we were able to get within just a few feet of them, they were absolutely stunning creatures. It was just a short drive then to spot a black rhino family, so our big five was completed and our day drawing to a close. But the crater had one last treat in store for us before we left we caught up with the rest of our group just down the track and as we pulled up there faces gave away that something a bit odd was happening as we looked at the front and side of there truck we saw that a pride of lions had decided that it would make excellent shade for the afternoon nap. So with this last close encounter we headed out of the park. In case you couldn’t tell I really liked the safari.
While in Arusha on our last night, I (Heather) went to visit a locally run orphanage that our tour leader used to work at. I know most of you are thinking why would Heather go? But I had learnt a new skill of making balloon animals and thought this would be a perfect chance to practice. It was great, the kids (all 36 ranging in ages 1 to 10 years) were really sweet and very well behaved. My balloon making didn’t last long as the pump needed to blow up the balloons died, but I was able to distract the kids by unleashing the tickle monster!
Up Close and Personal with the Gorillas
Rwanda where to start? First off this country was not originally on our itinerary, but since we chose to travel with such a professional and efficient company who forgot to book our gorilla permits is advance, Rwanda is where we ended up. Unfortunately due to the nature of our late booking we ended up with a rip-off artist as our agent/guide, let’s call him Thomas. This began when he wanted all of our money the day before we were to leave, thankfully we didn’t give him anything and he showed up 2 hours late the next morning, pretty sure if we had given him the money he would not have turned up at all! Secondly he charged over half our group for non-existent visas, a few of us got out of it because someone on the truck knew that Canadians and Americans didn’t have to pay. If we hadn’t approached Thomas with this info I’m sure he would have charged us too. The drive to Rwanda around Lake Bouyoni was very beautiful, but a little scary as our driver, let’s call him Justice, believed he was a rally car racer.
We finally made it to Ruhengeri on New Year’s Eve and met Greg our Rwandan agent/guide. He was a top bloke who took us to our hotel, which was actually a Christian Mission, this concerned us slightly since it was New Year’s and some of us wanted a drink. Greg arranged it all and we went for dinner at a lovely restaurant (with typical slow African service) but good food, it also had a night club. So we rang in the New Year in a dodgy night club where we were the only white people and everyone was staring at us, but hey at least we got to eat this year!!!!!
New Year’s Day 5 of our group went to do their Gorilla trek (there was not enough permits for us all to go at once) and the other 8 of us went to Kigali the capital city of Rwanda. This turned out to be quite tricky since it was a holiday and no buses were running, after finding two cabs and arranging a price we were off. Once we arrived in Kigali it turns out that we had miss heard our driver and some arguing ensued. This of course attracted quite a bit of attention to us and once we realized we were surrounded we paid the guys and walked away, quickly.
Kigali was a little disappointing, the city itself looked great it had a business area, as well as lots of gardens and a old town. But everything was closed, we found a really nice restaurant to have lunch at, but that was it. I (Heather) especially wanted to visit the genocide museum but it too was closed. As we were walking back to the taxi stand we were passed by a television crew, so of course we all waved and smiled. It turned out we made the news that night as the only people out in Kigali!!! It truly was a ghost town while we were there.
Once back in Ruhengeri, we found 2 of the 5 members of gorilla trekkers, and immediately we knew something wasn’t right. I was worried that it had all been a scam and we didn’t actually have permits, but I was way off. They ended up doing their trek and having a great time, it was everything that had wanted. Sadly while Justice was driving them back, driving at a reckless speed through villages on a gravel road, a little girl (9 years old) stepped into the road. Justice tried to swerve to miss her but he ended up side swiping her and flipping the van onto it’s side. Our 5 friends, two park rangers (who they were driving home) all managed to get out of the van. Kim, one of the girls on the trip, had to help pull Justice out, he was semi-conscious but quickly lost consciousness and began having seizures. Reiny, our doctor on the trip immediately went to help the little girl (even though he severely injury his arm and actually had to fly back to Germany from Kampala) but she was killed instantly, so he turned his attention to Justice. The guys were really lucky that they had two park rangers with them as they were able to keep the crowds away while they waited (45min) for an ambulance (that was actually just a truck). If they had been own their own they could have been lynched. It put us in a hard situation because we still wanted to go and see the gorillas the next day, but with no driver or vehicle we weren’t sure what was going to happen. Greg came in and was amazing sorting everything out, including transport our 5 and Justice (who was ok) back to Uganda on a better road and getting us to the gorillas (safely).
Now for the gorillas, I will try and explain it but I know nothing I can say will do the justice this experience deserves. We trekked to a family of silverback gorillas called Ahmorha, which means peace in Rwandan. There are 12 gorillas in this family including two 4 month old babies. We started trekking into the jungle (it was very hard work) with our guides, who had machetes to chop away vines and create a path. Now scouts get sent in ahead of us to radio the position of the gorillas so that we attempt to walk straight to them, we were really lucky, after only 25 minutes of trekking we got a call saying they were heading towards us!! We had to leave our bags with a guide and could only take our cameras, we were told to be ready for contact in about 10 minutes. Dan and I were at the front of the group so you can imagine my surprise when about 30 seconds later we nearly bumped into the alpha male of the group! It was scary at first, I really wanted to scream and run because he was so massive and just staring at us, but then I calmed down and we passed right in from of him. He then passed right by us again, nearly knocking Dan over!!! That began our 1 hour with the gorillas. We saw all 12 of them, we got quite a show of play fighting from 2 adolescent males, we saw the little babies clinging to their mothers back. At one point we were completely surrounded (I was scared again) we had been watching 2 in front of us, when one came up on the right and then 2 approached from behind, even the guides were getting a bit upset because they are supposed to move us away but we had no where to go (there was a giant hole on the left, which one of the girls had managed to fall in already, she was ok). It was one of the coolest hours of my life, I couldn’t get the smile of my face (which you will probably notice in the pictures). Dan loved it too, we took some really great shots. I started to take pictures but then kind of forgot about my camera because I was so entranced just watching these amazing beasts. The hour passed too fast and we had to start to make our way out of the jungle, but the smiles stayed on all our faces for the rest of the day. We spent the rest of the day driving back to Uganda and Lake Bouyonyi to meet back up with the truck.
I wish we had more time to spend in Rwanda because it is an absolutely gorgeous country, with lots to offer and well, I would have gone trekking again!
Uganda – I think I may have blinked and missed it
Now Uganda is going to be a very short entry, we did spend a week or so there but it really didn’t feel like we did all that much. So here goes, we spent a couple of days in Kampala, which was a lot like Nairobi, very modern, though the internet access was rather lacking still, as we discovered when we tried to plan our escape from the truck!!
We did cross the equator several times which was interesting especially if you like to look at water in buckets 5 feet apart swirl in different directions, oh and they had a rather spiffing coffee shop that not only made a great Latte it also sold wicked Muffins. As you can see I am really starting to struggle with interesting points for this blog!
We then went on our “merry” way to Lake Bunyonyi, where were supposed to be spending New Years eve, but because of cockups with our Gorilla permits for Uganda and the border being closed to the Congo, we got to spend 12 hours at the lake (most of it asleep) before having to leave for Rwanda and the Gorillas. After the Gorillas we returned to the Lake for another short stint before returning again to Kampala (and crossing the equator again, how very 4 days ago).
Our last night was spent in Jinja, a place where the Ugandans banish all the ginger haired people to, we did a late afternoon game drive and managed to spot a couple of herds of gingers and a few stray strawberry blondes, it was incredible to get so close to gingers in the wild. Ok none of that’s true but I had to try to make it sound more interesting!
As you can tell Uganda was very rushed and we did it no justice at all, this just compounded our desire to leave the tour. Plus points for Uganda,, the people were lovely, the scenery was great all be it only seen through a truck window, and the facilities were all very good, we will be back to give it a proper go.
Time to spice things up
After a short but decidedly ropey ferry ride we arrived in Zanzibar’s Stone Town. Stone town is steeped in history, from the Spice trade to the slave trade. But perhaps its resounding point of interest would be its food the restaurants are fantastic, but you really can’t beat the experience of eating at the fish market. For just a few dollars you will have a plate pilled high with crab claws, shrimp, lobster and any type of fish you can think of. Our only really organized trip was to take a spice tour, very interesting never really thought about where spices came from, and it smelled good. Though you should be wary of volunteering to be the first to try the samples the guide offers you they do not always taste great, admittedly it was a quinine tree, but I will eat anything once.
We spent our last few days with the group in Paje a very beautiful and secluded beach, azure water white sand and coconut trees, need we say more? After the group left we stayed an extra couple of nights, you may have guessed from the last statement that we have chosen to leave the tour, we were sick of rushing through countries and group travel is a total ball ache. Anyway we had a great time on the beach by ourselves and then headed back to Stone Town where we have mooched more and got lost in windy narrow streets plenty. We have also got into a rather decadent habit of sundowners at the Africa House Hotel (expensive) which has a fantastic terrace to watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean. Obviously we have done lots more eating of sea food.
From Zanzibar we now plan to fly to South Africa and Swaziland for 5 weeks before meeting are parents in Cape Town. So watch this space, long live independent travel.
The first stop after our escape from the truck was Swaziland. It’s a very compact country, but still full of things to keep us entertained, so we stayed for a week (what I hear you say 1 whole week in a country, we must have lost our minds!!!). We stayed in the Ezulwini Valley, from there we hired mountain bikes and spent a day exploring the area, well I (dan) spent most of my day struggling to make the gears on the bike work and failing miserably in my attempts to ride uphill. Though we did see some great stuff when we got off the bikes and I was able to refocus my eyes. We stopped off at the Swazi Cultural village and had a little poke around to see the way people used to live, then it was back on the bike to visit a near by waterfall, and then back on the bikes to the cultural village again to see some traditional Swazi singing and dancing. They sounded fantastic and the drumming was very powerful, needless to say that Heather and I ended up getting dragged up to learn the dance. Afterwards the one girl said to Heather “you really do struggle don’t you”, makes a nice change from them saying it to me, though my lady had led me back to my seat along time before anyone else finished dancing – I can’t think why. Afterwards we had a cruise around the area, stopping for a rather fantastic lunch, we are no longer in proper Africa and it tastes great. When I finally managed to get the bike back to the campsite, some time after Heather, the rental guy asked how the bike was, I mentioned that it seemed to struggle changing gears, and he said yes that one was a bit lazy, what a perfect match we were. Though having him say this did restore a little of my pride. The following day we headed off to Mkhaya Game reserve, where we got to get very up close and personal with white rhino. Our driver stopped the car and asked if we wanted to get out, Heather was a little unsure to say the least, but it was great to get that close to them, and I think she enjoyed it in the end. The biggest difference with this and other safaris that we have been on was the lunch, we were taken to a rather swanky lodge and fed, Impala stew and lots of other nice food. After lunch we went in search of the elephants that had eluded us that morning, when we finally did find them we got a little to close to a mummy elephant and her baby, which resulted in mummy waving her trunk at us (only a few feet away) and possibly Heather requiring new underwear.
After a couple of days we moved on to a different campsite, this time located in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Stunning location, with warthogs running all round the place, the baby ones were very cute, if a little ugly. We spent a lot of our time here just hanging out in the pool and taking in our surroundings. We did hire mountain bikes again, and had a cruise around the park. We were lucky enough too see a crocodile make a kill and death roll a baby wildebeest. I am pleased to say I had a fully functioning bike, this however did not stop my bum aching. The following day we went for a hike through the park which I loved and Heather tolerated. Oh yeah we also got to eat warthog, and it is very good.
We were sad to leave the Swazi, a very laid back and beautiful country. But we are now in South Africa and the steaks are great.
I’ll take a Kg of South Africa please
Our South African experience began in St Lucia, which was billed as an environmental gem. Our first day we spent Kayaking in a hippo and crocodile infested estuary, it was very exciting even though we didn’t actually see any Hippos. That night Heather decided to demonstrate her ability as a human waste disposal by eating 1kg of prawns, I think the reason we saw no hippos was that the were scared that she might eat them. Unfortunately the following day was a bit of a right off as the weather had turned and our snorkeling trip had to be cancelled. We did manage to get to do the trip on our last day, but it was possibly the most disappointing snorkeling I have ever done, though the backdrop of white sand beach and sand dunes was pretty impressive. Overall St Lucia was a bit of a disappointment; I think that if we hadn’t seen so much in Africa it would have offered a good microcosm of the rest of the continent.
Our next stop was Durban, it was fun to be back in a big city for a few days, and we really made the most of this in a non cultural way by visiting the cinema 3 times the casino once and not a single museum. Oh and we also ate very very well, and drank lots of wine. We had intended to go surfing but Heather managed to catch pink eye again, so we had to spend the morning finding a doctor, she really will find any excuse to keep out of the water.
Cintsa was our next port of call; it is a stunning location, in a bay with a lagoon and lots of white sand. After the excesses of Durban it was time to get a little bit of activity back into our days, we started our first day with a bit of yoga, we nearly died right there, but no we pushed on and spent a couple of hours body boarding, and then died next to the swimming pool. The next event was our surf lesson, which was great fun a and we were doing pretty good until somebody managed to get tumbled in a wave and the surf board hit her (no clue to who I am talking about there), the fin took a chunk of her forehead out, and the rest of the morning was spent getting her stitched up. Really this is going too far with trying to avoid the water. On our last day I finished the surf lesson, and sort of stood up in a falling off way, while Heather went back for more Yoga punishment.
The activity levels were not allowed to drop any in Hogsback, where I took Heather on some route marches to the surrounding waterfalls and hills. Hogsback is a stunning place and everywhere you look you will be presented with a fabulous view. Other than walking and getting very very wet when it rained Hogsback was a laid back place, so drinking and looking at the mountains took up the balance of our time. Oh yeah that and eating, we got to sample Kudu, and I had some warthog sausages, both very very good.
Wine-ding up Africa!
Surfs up again, and this time so were we, our next stop took us to Jeffreys Bay, a surf Mecca. We decided to give the surfing thing another bash not literally for Heather which was fortunate. We really wanted to have another surf lesson, unfortunately they were fully booked, so we decided to teach ourselves, which went surprisingly well on our second session in the water we both managed to stand up. It quickly became addictive and we are both eager to carry on learning, it also justify all the surf clothing that we are both fond of. That takes us onto the next big activity in J-Bay – shopping, they have factory outlets for some of the big surf brands, so we spent a rainy windy day revamping our backpacks at bargain basement prices. We also attempted a kite surfing lesson, unfortunately the wind was ether too strong, too weak, or blowing in the wrong direction (out to sea, which when you think about could be very detrimental to ones health), we did however get to do the theory lesson, and there are a lot of boring rules to learn, if you will pardon the pun it took the wind out of our sails slightly!!! We will give it ago eventually, maybe in Canada, where we can’t get blown out to sea!
It was valentines Day whilst we were in J-bay so we booked into a sushi restaurant that we had read about in the South African Airways magazine, the food was lovely the ambiance great the company obviously scintillating, the only thing missing was the sushi – they were entirely out of fish, but the other stuff on the menu is pretty good.
Knysna – Famous for its oysters, erm what else to say, the town wasn’t exactly inspiring in anyway, there were plenty of restaurants. But back to the oysters we paid a visit to an oyster farm, where we forced ourselves to sample their oysters and quaff their champagne, backpacking is hard work you know! We also had to put a lot of effort in our yacht cruise around the lagoon; the champagne won’t pour itself you know. The cruise was fantastic; the bay was beautiful the food was great.
Stellenbosch was a bit of a blur for us. We turned up at our hostel to find the overland truck we had left over 6 weeks ago there. They shouldn’t have been but the whole trip turned pear shaped after we left (not that it was going that well before we left). Anyhow it was a night out to catch up with “the gang” and see Stellenbosch’s nightlife, being a student town it’s quite a night out. The following day we did a wine tour of the region (a little hair of the dog always helps!) We visited 4 different wineries and sampled over 20 wines. Not only is the wine great, but the wineries are gorgeous and had stunning views. At Fairview we also got to do cheese tasting, which was yummy and we had lunch in the gastronomical community of Francheok. Needles to say we were a little tipsy when we finished the tour and went out on the town (again) with an English couple we met. The following morning was another rough start but we managed to get going and we started with a visit to the Toy Museum, the most interesting part of the museum is the absolutely crazy man who runs it. He actually locked us in until he made sure we had seen all the exhibits! Then we did a historical walk of the town (it’s the second oldest in South Africa) and although nothing is quite as old as anything in England it is still a beautiful and well preserved town. That evening we were hoping for a quite night and after dinner we stopped into a cocktail bar we had noticed for a night cap, 4 hours later we left a little tipsy and with a new friend, a slightly crazy and very camp gay man who tried to get Dan to invest in his clothing line and then spent the rest of the night hitting on him. I (Heather) was sitting right next to Dan and we had already told this guy we were married but hey, whatever, Dan came home with me! We left the next day taking the train into Cape Town staying at the very cute Cape Diamond Hotel and awaiting our parents arrival.
As you may have noticed we’ve been sampling different game meats all through SA. As is stands we have tried; Gemsbok, Ostrich, Wildebeest, Kudu, Springbok, Warthog, Impala, and snails (we know they’re not game meat but it was a first for us!) Dan is now on the search for Zebra steak!!!
So the last two weeks we spent in South Africa were absolute luxury. Our parents arrived in Cape Town safe and sound and our house was already for us in Camps Bay. It was a beautiful 3 bedroom flat with a pool and a sea view and jacuzzi bath, we were spoiled. So we took the parents up Table Mountain, where we joined a free guided walk, well I say walk it was more a shuffle, it was scheduled to last one and a half hours, the signs said the route should only take about 15 mins to walk, so what filled in the other hour and fifteen? Well it was a very entertaining old fellow, who liked the sound of his own voice, about half way through we noticed that the parents had run off, short attention spans, it’s like having children. So we ended up doing a little walk on our own, where Cathy picked up some concrete to take back to her boss who had asked for a bit of table mountain, unimpressed with her first lump of man made rock she scouted around and found, you guessed it another piece of concrete. That afternoon the parents headed to Kruger Park for a 3 day safari, we stayed in the flat and lived the life of luxury for 3 days, it was great, and the parents really seemed to enjoy Kruger.
The day after they got back we went to Robben Island, which involved a particularly nasty ferry crossing, especially for those suffering a hangover from the previous night. The tour was interesting and it was interesting to hear former inmates stories and their views. Unfortunately we had to then do the ferry crossing in reverse, only a little better. The rest of the afternoon was filled with shopping and eating an drinking at the V & A Waterfront.
The next day we did a little wine tour around Stellenbosch, heading back to Fairview for our first tasting, now this was actually our third visit and it amused our parents when the wine buff behind the bar recognised me!! Our next stop was considered one of SA’s top five wineries, of course our map took us to their old location but eventually we found it. A beautiful view but it specialised in Sparkling wine….We then had a delicious lunch at one of the world’s top 5 restaurant, Ruben’s in Francshoek. It was very good, but we only got to choose from the deli menu since we didn’t have a reservation. Our next stop was to be another top 5 in SA but they were out of wine for this year….So we went to Zevenwacht, the wine wasn’t nice there at all and we had been misinformed about cheetah’s!!! And rather foolishly we decided to buy some of their cheese to taste….it tasted like fish!!!! We decided to call it quits and went back to the safety and style of Camp’s Bay where Dan Braai’d our dinner and we all sat around watching him.
We also visited Cape Agulhus, which is the Southern most point of Africa and is where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Although it was bright and sunny when we left Cape Town it was overcast and windy when we reached Agulhus. And you couldn’t even tell where the two oceans met!!!! At least it was a stunning drive. The next day we went to the Cape of Good Hope which was windy. Then we went to look at some penguins in Simons town, where Dan and Gaz ate huge burgers for lunch, though we think it was beef and not penguin.
Our last day in Camps Bay was spent lounging around on the beach trying to get a bit of a base tan for India (we are there now, and we needn’t have worried Africa was hotter). That night we ate at the Cod Father where we got our last fix of truly good food, not sure how India will shape up in comparison.
It was so great to see our parents but hard to leave them, we enjoyed seeing Cape Town with them and think we should do a group vacation again one day (when we find somewhere else that’s too expensive for us to pay for!)
India – Baptism of hot oil
What can we say about India so far? Well, hmm our mums always told us that if you can’t say anything nice then you shouldn’t say anything at all. Well I can say the people are nice, and now I (Dan) think that loop hole allows me to vent about what I don’t like. It is so noisy, these people seem to feel they are not getting full value for money out of their vehicles unless they use all it’s components unfortunately this includes the horn, where they appear to feel the most value for money comes from. It is actually quit confusing, on the back of their cars and trucks they have signs saying sound “OK HORN” what is this ok horn and why do they feel it so necessary, a simple thumbs up would add to the piece and quiet no end. And to compound the noise issue it is soooo dirty and polluted. I know what you are thinking “well what did they expect?” honestly we did expect this, but it does not mean we have to enjoy it. It is hard not to miss Africa.
Ok rant over for now. Another big plus is the food, it has been fantastic and plentiful, curried things for breakfast are great. So what have we been up to, we spent the first few days in Bangalore, not really doing much other than making travel arrangements, we did a city tour, which was pretty good the highlight for me was the science museum, which as H pointed out is very dilapidated and strangely ironic for India’s technology capital. We left Bangalore on a sleeper train destined for Cochin, not exactly the ride of a life time, we lucked out by getting one of the very old trains which came with a complementary mouse. In spite of Mickey scampering around on our bags we tried to get some sleep, this is easier said than done when the train insists on swaying side to side, not a gentle rocking to sleep!! So we finally arrived, and we were not exactly refreshed, we are we admit, bad backpackers, and have decided that from now on long distances will be covered in a more civilized manner i.e. flying.
Cochin was actually a cute (by Indian standards) town, we wandered it’s streets taking in the colonial architecture and the Chinese fishing nets, they are cool contraptions, hard to explain, there will be a picture eventually! We decided that a good massage would sooth our aching joints so we signed up for an Ayurvedic massage, this was to involve oil being poured on our head and a full body massage. Now I am not shy but when the chap asked me to take all my clothes off I thought that I had better just confirm that he meant all, he said he did, so there I am starkers, he turns around looking a little perplexed and tells me underwear is ok, so I think that I have made a little faux pas, on go the pants and the oil on head starts, as you can image the relaxing ambiance has already been lost somewhat. Despite this I tried to relax, but I have to say I don’t like curry smelling oil poured on my head for half an hour. This done it was time for the full body massage, and guess what he only wants me to take my under pants off, so it looks like I am just a little premature, so starkers again, he then proceeds to tie a little lion cloth (I mean little imagine Tarzan on coco cabaña beach – yup thong loin cloth) on me, then the massage begins, starting with the front and legs, not really a fan at this point and nether regions being knocked too regularly for my liking, but this was only the start, after flipping over for my back rub my back and buttocks are slathered in oil and rubbed with too much time spent on buttocks (also thong has been removed at this point). All in all quite a violating and sloppy experience, I had an oily bum for ages. Heathers experience seemed equally traumatic with her boobs getting a thorough rubbing at the hands of her lady. We decided it was best to escape Cochin at this point.
We headed for Kollam; here we took a great trip around the backwaters where we watched the people in the village, husking coconuts, making rope from coconut husks and mussel fishing. Being punted around on a boat was a great way to spend a day, and it was so quiet!! The next day we sailed to Alappuzha on a budget tourist boat where we had a utensil less lunch. We actually discovered that contrary to Lonely Planets description this is not a nice market town to stroll around in, so we decided to splash out and rent a rice boat for a day to do some more backwater cruising. It was a brilliant way to kill a day and we were fed and watered very well. Our next stop is Goa, we are hoping for a little more peace and quiet, so fingers crossed!!!
India’s Goa-ing better
So India has it got better or worse? Well I grudgingly admit that it has got a bit better. We have spent the last couple of weeks in Goa. Starting off in Palelom, which is billed as Goa’s most idyllic beach, and it is very beautiful and by far the best beach we have seen in India. We settled into our Beach hut over looking the Arabian Sea, we were then forced to spend the next 7 days lounging on the white sands below palm trees, swimming in the very warm sea and eating great Goan food. It was a much needed pit stop. We also managed to drag ourselves out of bed to go to a few yoga classes on the beach and even a bit of dolphin spotting one day.
Anjuna was our next stop, where we were planning on visiting the huge flea market and getting in a bit more yoga, however it turned out that the flea market was full of tat (big surprise) that you can pick up just about everywhere in India, it was also full of package tourists which was an odd sight, not crossed paths with them for a long time. The yoga turned out to have either stopped for the season or was stupidly expensive (bloody package holidays). Fortunately we were staying in a great hotel with a pool and satellite TV, so we had a few more days R&R, we took this to a new level by treating ourselves to a day at a spa. We had Deep tissue massage, facials and reflexology, and I am happy to report that there was no oil up my bum or touching of inappropriate places. Our nights were spent at one of the video bars in town, sad to say we went back to the same one several times but the food was great and they did a good mix of movies!
Panaji, we decided to splash out and stay at a pretty fancy hotel, furnished with colonial furniture, very old world, within minutes we had managed to lock ourselves out of the toilet and had to go get some help, how many Indians does it take to break down a bathroom door? answer 4, very funny!!! Panaji is an old colonial town, and for once lonely planet didn’t lead us astray when they said it was a nice place to walk around. We also went on a little day trip to Old Goa which was a very attractive and well preserved place, you might think it is contradiction in terms to say this about a place in India but there you go. When we were leaving one of the churches we were asked to fill in a tourist questionnaire which we happily did, and were entered into a free prize draw (as if they ever give prizes out, they know that people will be leaving so they will never have to give anything away). Most of the day we were followed around the churches by Indian tourists I think that they were hoping that we would cross ourselves or say a prayer or maybe start speaking in tongues, now I know how they feel when we go to their temples. Our last day was pretty uneventful, with the exception of a phone call, we won the prize draw, alas as we were leaving the next day and we couldn’t have our prize (a day trip somewhere or a dolphin cruise), the chap on the phone seemed very disappointed for us.
We are currently in Mumbai, it is a huge city over 16 million people, it also has some amazing buildings their train station looks more like a palace (I think the Brits can take credit for that one). Other than mooching around the city we have been making use of the western facillities, great cafes and bookshops.
Overall India has gotten better but we are still not in love with it, and Heather wishes the men would stop trying to touch her!
Also we are not struck on our fellow travelers sense of style, for some inexplicable reason they seem to all want to look like Indian peasants, wearing bizarre baggy trousers, the idea I think is to look like a local, but in 5 weeks we have only seen white people dressed like idiots, not a single Indian.
Battered but not beaten
India certainly does not reward those who embrace it, after a good couple of days in Mumbai it was time to move on. Our destination was Rishikesh (altitude 365m), a 2 hour flight and a 6 hour train journey. The flight went smoothly but you should never let India lull you into a false sense of security, the train was an hour late, and then proceeded to get steadily later, we ended up in Haridwar 4 hours later than we should have been, as it was just before midnight we decided against trying to catch a taxi to Rishikesh. It was a thoroughly miserable journey and very very frustrating as our average speed was around 26 km per hour, we could run faster!! The next morning we set off early to Rishikesh, the home of yoga, and billed as a tranquil place. Guess what, it was noisy and dirty, so pretty much like he rest of India. Still a true escape was on the horizon, for Heathers 28th birthday we had decided to go trekking in the Himalayas.
The trek started early on the 16th of April, and for a balanced account of what happened between then and the 19th we are each going to write our own account.
After a 7 hr drive we reached the start of the trail. It was just a short walk today, only an hour to the camp. After only 5 mins I looked back to see that Heather had stopped, I knew that she would love these views, but really if she just waited to the top it would have been even more impressive, still it is nice that she was so excited. When we got to the top a beautiful lake opened out in front of us, after getting our puff back we went on a romantic stroll around the lake.
Up bright and breezy, if I am honest the nights sleep hadn’t been the best, it was a tad colder than I expected. Not to worry though we were greeted by fantastic views of soaring peaks. After a hearty breakfast we set off, again Heather seemed to find the view captivating, she was really enjoying it. She was so excited that she was even breathing heavily. So off we trudged again, trekking is great fun you can just let your mind wander and day dream. The final ascent just after lunch was actually quite tough, and not the best with a full stomach. When we reached camp that day we had made it in less than 6 hrs and the trek was supposed to take 6-7, which made me smile. That afternoon we had a fantastic storm, with huge hail stones, I have never seen anything like it.
The Final ascent, after waking Heather up to look at the views (what a way to wake up on your birthday) we set off. The first part was a scrabble up a mud bank but after that it was a fairly gradual climb, until we reached the temple. Unfortunately at the Temple we encountered some shitty weather, we pressed on but 200m from the summit it got too dangerous to carry on. Getting back down to the temple was tricky as the snow had frozen solid, I think Heather was trying to give me suggestions on how to walk in the ice but I couldn’t hear her over my mantra of “don’t fall, don’t fall off the mountain, don’t fall….”. I didn’t fall and I found that sliding down is much faster than walking, but I didn’t fall. When we got back to camp the sun had come out, but Heather didn’t seem inclined to try to walk up the mountain again.
Packed up ready to go, on the way to the truck Heather got a bit freaked out by a cow/bull (it had horns), it mock charged her, I told her not to worry that it was just a mock charge and carry on walking. She was fine, however when I came to walk past it, it did it again, though this time it wasn’t a mock charge, the bugger head butted me, fortunately I was carrying a box of pots and pans so I hit it on the head. Holy animals my ass they are psychos, all I can say is I am glad I eat meat again; we need to control these pests.
Monday morning 0630hrs alarm goes off, somewhere, oh wait that’s in our room, our room that has cost us only $8US dollars, our room where the power has been off all night which meant NO fan. The sheet comes with me as I roll out of bed to shut off the alarm. I decide to have a shower because it will be cold because there has been no power, it’s warm, hot actually and I can’t seem to add any cold. Good start to the morning, go out for breakfast, nothing is open. Strap on our packs and march down to the office where we booked the trek. Things start to look up, Vikram our guide, is a sweet, our cook Sol looks capable, and our driver Mr B, well whatever he looked like every other Indian driver, but at least he was awake. The drive to the start of the trek took 7 hours, with a delicious lunch break en route. The trek was starting from a place called Sari (altitude 1250m), it was sunny but not too hot (finally). Sol arranged the porters as we headed off for out first camp at Lake Deoriatel. I kept looking around for a path but couldn’t see one, all I noticed was a zig zag of stones climbing steeply up the side of the hill – that was our path. Approximately 5 minutes into the “walk” (I will refer to it as a climb from here on in because that’s what it was) I couldn’t breath. Now I admit that I’m a little out of shape, but my goodness they’re not kidding about the thin air. I look at Dan, his breathing is a little heavy, I look at Vikram but all I can see is the back of him disappearing and I decide for my birthday this year I’m gonna die!!!! The climb was supposed to take an hour, after an eternity of climbing we finally flattened out and it was actually quite pretty (and it had only taken an hour) we marched on to Lake Deoriatel (altitude 2350m). It was a beautiful lake, we took a walk around it hoping or sweat would dry before it got cool for the night. In the meantime the porters and Vikram set up camp (this aspect of camping seems reasonable, someone else does the boring work). When we came into tent we were served tea and cookies! (I felt I had earned it) We slept in a tiny expedition tent that came with roll mats; I’ve always thought of mats as being soft, silly me. They did help a little with the cold though. We ate dinner that night in the kitchen tent (again I like this aspect of camping when someone else cooks for you) it was delicious and we quickly realized we would not be losing any weight on this trek. Before bed we stopped by the toilet tent, yes we even had a toilet tent. Basically it was a tall skinny tent that someone had dug a hole in, I almost considered camping not so bad…
Once in bed I tired to get comfortable but I couldn’t, I was so tired and just wanted to sleep but somehow the roll mats made the ground harder and Dan didn’t really fit in the tent (it was too short) so he was curled awkwardly and we had to keep our small packs in the tent at our feet too. Oh well at least it’s still warm I thought as I drifted into sleep. An hour later I was awake, it was freezing!!!! I had stupidly put on my pj’s to sleep in and now I wish I had stayed dressed. I was too afraid to reach out of my sleeping bag to find anything warmer in case I got frostbite. So I tied the mummy part of the sleeping bad around my head and face and tried to snuggle up to Dan. Except then my face got too hot and I couldn’t breath and Dan had turned over and his knees were jutting into me. I spent the rest of the night willing the sun to come up.
We were out of the tent by 0600 hrs and it was quite a sight. The mountains looked gorgeous bathed in the light of the rising sun. Vikram was explaining all the mountains we were seeing but I couldn’t hear him over my teeth chattering. After we finished breakfast it had warmed up and we started the days walk/climb 10 minutes into it I sweating like nothing else and having that breathing problem again. I think Vikram was wondering what was wrong with me, Dan was trying to be supportive telling me to take my time and that this was supposed to be fun as well…who in their right mind thinks walking up the side of a mountain is fun???? I was ready to jump if it meant we could stop. Anyhow as you can probably guess I trudged along, it was a day of big climbs then big downhill’s, although I never could let myself enjoy the downhill bit because I knew there would be another up! We stopped for lunch by a river, my hands were so swollen (something I will need to check out when I get back) my wedding ring was hurting, so Dan suggested I put my hand in the water to see if that will help. It was freezing!!! I couldn’t keep my hand in for longer than 5 seconds at a time and then I couldn’t feel my fingers (and the flipping ring still wouldn’t come off!). The last little bit to camp was once again straight up (even Dan found it hard, Vikram still hadn’t broken a sweat); we camped near a place called Chopta (altitude 2990m) in a field, with cows. We arrived around 1330hrs we were relaxing on some stones (?) when it started to rain a little and the temperature suddenly dropped, so we figured we’d sit it out in our tent and read our books. The rain really started to pick up, I was concerned that the tent would leak but Dan assured me that it was a good expedition tent and wouldn’t. Then the rain REALLY picked up, so I thought I’d take a peak and guess what I saw?? No really guess. It was hail the size of marbles, not the little ones the big super ones. I started to freak out, so of course the wind picked up, I was sure we were going to blow off the side of the hill and I would never make it to my 28th birthday. Dan found it hilarious, of course. It didn’t let up for almost 15 minutes, and then it slowly turned back to rain. Vikram came to check on us and make sure we were still dry (which thankfully we were). Unfortunately there had been a little problem with the kitchen tent and it had flooded, but we were not to worry because we would still be served tea at the usual time of 4pm. Vikram then had to go and fix our toilet tent as it had been bent badly in the storm but survived. We couldn’t have a fire that night because it continued to rain, but dinner was great once again, just hard to enjoy sitting crossed legged on the ground (the yoga hasn’t helped that with me). That night I slept fully clothed and still froze.
Next morning it was rise and shine, but without the shine. I was 28 years old and about to climb over 1000m, not quite what I had imagined….Anyhow we set off up a steep, steep grass/muddy hill. Took 10 minutes to climb, I was done. However we had not actually reached the part where today’s “walk” started. So we climbed and climbed, today our driver Mr B, tagged along wearing jeans and a jumper and a pair of cheap track shoes, he wanted to visit the temple near the top, he also smokes and he also beat me….sorry I’m rambling. When we were 45mins from the top we could actually see the peak we would be reaching, Dan took a picture then because I was still alive, and it’s a good thing too, as we continued to climb some bad weather moved in Vikram was disappointed that the view wouldn’t be very good from the top. Well, things actually got a little worse, by the time we reached the Tungrath Temple at the end of the path (altitude 3680m) it was freezing raining. But we pressed on, now we had to climb a snow covered mountain a few hundred meters, but the freezing rain was (surprisingly) making it a little icy, we really needed crampons and ice picks, but we didn’t have any. Vikram decided we had to turn back at 3800m only 200m from the top (but a scary 200m). We had to descend very carefully, this is where I learnt something new about Dan, he is not so good on the snow and ice. I tired to explain how to aim for the little mud patches that were around and once your foot was grounded to stamp your other foot to clear the ice and snow. I thought he understood but he must has started on the ice because he came down behind me very quickly and then almost over the edge and then almost into me again (I think some lessons may be required before he will be allowed out on his own during winter in Canada). Once back at the safety of the Temple we had tea and sandwiches (I don’t know why they insisted on feeding us all the time) We then had to walk although way back down in the pouring rain, both of us realizing our waterproofs are not meant for that kind of rain. Once back at camp, it stopped raining and the sun actually made an appearance so we could dry off. We were also able to have a fire that night; Vikram enlisted the help of the local hill people to collect wood in exchange for some medical treatment and supplies (?!). It was in the end not a bad way to spend my birthday, just a way I never want to do it again.
(Back to Dan)
After our trek we had planned to hang around in Rishikesh and do a bit of yoga, this proved a lot more difficult than you might expect, everywhere wanted a 2 week commitment, some even wanted us to stop talking writing, eating meat, and garlic. The last one has me stumped guess they don’t like the stinky sweat. So we decided to skip onto Agra early.
I made Heather get up at 5.30 so that we could be at the Taj when it opened at 6, it was well worth it there were next to no other people there. The Taj Mahal is truly spectacular; it actually lives up to all of the hype. It is said to have been built as a monument to love, but I watched a program on the discovery channel a few days before we went that suggested that it was an act of megalomania and represented gods throne, the Maharaja was proving that he could create something to rival the gods. Whatever the reason it was beautiful. That Afternoon we visited the fort, it was average.
Next stop was porn (Khajuraho) a town famous for temples depicting people in the act!!! The temples are stunning and the carving is exquisitely explicit. We spent a coupe of days exploring them, but I’m not sure my back could take recreating any. We spent a day a Raneh Falls, on the drive there I noticed that a lot of the rivers were dry and a thought started to form. We arrived to find the falls dry; they hadn’t flowed in 2 years, that will teach us for not doing our homework better. Actually it was still stunning, it had an otherworldly feel to it. We did also fit in an afternoon next to one of the towns swanky hotels pools, where we were hit by a mini tornado, no really. Last stop was panna tiger reserve, no tigers, but still a nice ride out, I think Heather enjoyed the 4.45 start to the day. All that remains of India now is a couple of days chilling out
Sorry this one’s so long.
Final thoughts for India
One thing that we have failed to mention in all of our updates is the temperature in India, it was hot hot hot, the last three weeks were consistently mid to high 40’s about 115F in old money.
Delhi, we started to feel a little guilty that we were not going to spend anytime in the capital, but having spent an hour driving to our hotel on the second to last day all those feeling disintegrated, Delhi is just as ugly as the rest of the country.
Oh yeah, and a odd thing that happened in Agra, Indians are bad for staring at people but Agra was even weirder, it seemed that Heather was some sort of celebrity, we had people asking to take her photo, posing with them and their children. At first we thought it was both of us that they wanted in the picture but it soon became apparent that I was of no interest. We decided that Heather must look like some token white Bollywood actress that they recognize. I’m not bitter, I didn’t want my photo taken anyway; they could have at least pretended to be interested in me, now I know how Posh feels.
So we left for Hong Kong late on the 4th, but we had discovered a few weeks earlier that there had been a slight ticketing error, which meant that we would have to spend a day in Bangkok, not a great hardship!! We had a very busy day indulging our western needs (they have Starbucks) and shopping for knock off dvd’s and cd’s. After a hectic day we deserved a little pampering so we booked into a spa for a massage and hot compress. Then it was time to meet up with our friends Kate and Kris who are working out there at the moment. Unfortunately they were a little late and we had arranged to meet them in a bar, so of course we had to drink while we waited, and because they were late we had to then stay out extra late to make the most of our time with them. This unfortunately led to a great deal of drinking and I think we rolled into our hotel at 2.30am and left again at 5am for the airport. It was great to see friends but the after effects were not pleasant, and I left a part of myself in Bangkok internationals toilets!!!
So after catching up on a little sleep we arrived in Hong Kong. We were going to be staying with Jenn and Colin, Heather’s cousin and husband, unfortunately they had to work that morning so they arranged for a taxi to pick us up, the guy didn’t speak much English but we eventually managed to head off to meet Colin at his school (they are both teachers out there), but not before a very strange conversation with somebody on the taxi drivers mobile, it turned out he had called Colin’s school to tell them we had arrived, but as they were not the ones expecting us they didn’t really care. Colin met us and took us to their apartment which like the rest of Hong Kong is in a high rise building; they are on the 17th floor and have great views. We spent that afternoon chilling out, which was appreciated after the previous night, after Colin got back from his Welsh choir performance (he is Canadian go figure) we headed out for dinner. Jenn had a very nice restaurant to take us to but we had to wait a while for a table so headed to a bar that served real English beer. After the best meal we had had in months we headed for a bar that Jenn said served great margaritas, this is the point where things went slightly wobbly for the girls, as you will see on the photos. The bar was in an area called the mid levels, it is packed with swanky bars and restaurants, and the best bit is that you have an 800m escalator ride to get there; it’s the biggest in the world you know!
The morning started in the afternoon, some people who shall remain nameless (but I will say it wasn’t me or Colin) didn’t wake up until midday, and another nameless person (not me, Colin or Jenn) may have been a bit sick. I don’t like to name names. That afternoon we popped out and decided to treat ourselves to an iPod video, so now we have lots of movies to watch on long Central American bus rides. We went to the night market that night (obviously at night) where Jenn and Colin did more souvenir shopping than us, after that we walked to the avenue of stars to take in Hong Kong’s night time sky line. Then we caught the star line ferry across the harbour, a bit choppy but short enough not to make Heather ill.
The next day went to see the giant sitting Buddha and try out Hong Kong newest attraction the 360 cable car. It was great day out very different than the tourist sights we had seen recently, everything was technologically orientated. Unfortunately there was no escalator to help us to the top this time, but the climb was beautiful, it’s amazing how green Hong Kong is. It was a long day so we decided to head back to Jenn and Colin’s place and order a takeaway, I had a fantastic steak, it was very cathartic, I feel that I have made up for the cow that attacked me in India.
We spent our last day chilling out, loading movies and music onto our new toy and gorging ourselves on sushi. Our last night was spent visiting the Peak, which I think is the highest point in HK and where the rich people live. We had a great dinner watching night descend on the city below us.
We had a great time visiting Jenn and Colin, Hong Kong is a great place and we would have liked to have stayed longer. This is strange as neither of us had ever really been that bothered about visiting. But it is so unlike anywhere else we have been, so clean, technology everywhere, you don’t even need money, they have an Octopus card that you charge with credit and can then use to pay for transport, Starbucks, convenience stores, all sorts. Big thanks to Jenn and Colin for making us so welcome and showing us a great time. See you in Canada guys!