A Travellerspoint blog

Siwa

Our Journey Into The Great Sahara Desert

sunny 43 °C

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Writing this blog has always been a challenge. As soon as I get caught up, I get behind again as there is always something new to write about. We've really been on the move in Egypt and have covered most of this vast desert country. Here's a map to give you a idea of the distances I'm talking about:

That's a lot of LONG ASS BUS RIDES folks lol... yesterday was probably one of our most painful in recent memory - hot, no A/C, way too many stops and the bus broke down no less than 3 times.... there are definitely times when we wish we had the money to just fly everywhere lol. But now we're back in Cairo.... eewwhhh... big scary Cairo lol... things actually appear to be quite safe here. Aside from a few nearby protests things seem to be fine, even in and around Tahir Square where the revolution took place only one year ago. This is now our second time in Cairo (we were unable to book train tickets to Aswan when we first arrived so we stayed here a couple of days then and saw the Pyramids among other things) and it feels good to know that we are officially done travelling Egypt!! Not because it's been bad, but because we're tired lol. As you can see by the map we've covered a lot of miles and are really just excited to relax for 5 days before our flight, and to get caught up on a few things like writing and shopping.... remember we are travelling into the heart of Africa next and like travelling to any new country your never quite sure what products will be available (i.e. deodorant, coffee, sunscreen) and for what price (things are actually really cheap in Egypt.... I'll update you on our budget soon).

Siwa... we decided early on that it would be an experience of a lifetime to travel into the heart of the Sahara desert. The Sahara (Arabic: Aṣ-Ṣaḥrā´ al-Kubrā, "The Great Desert") is the world's largest hot desert and second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over 9,400,000 square kilometres, it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as China or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean. Since Egypt was our only country contained inside this great giant we decided to make a sacrifice (10 hour bus journey lol) and travel towards Siwa, an oasis in the heart of the desert.

The bus ride was long and very un-stimulating (desert and sand to look at for 10 hours). Then out of nowhere appears this vast lush green area of palm trees (you always imagine oasis' as myths or in the movies). We had finally reached Siwa! We quickly found a hotel in the heart of town and settled in. And man oh man was it hot!

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In the second picture above you'll notice what looks like an old castle or fort. It used to be somewhat of both and housed hundreds of people at one time. That is until one year it rained for 3 straight days and completely compromised the mud structure (this is the equivalent to Saskatchewan having an earthquake... it just doesn't happen). The structure was abandoned shortly after.

Even though we travelled 10 hours by bus and would have to make the exact same journey back, we only planned to spend 2 days/ 3 nights in Siwa. You could easily spend more time then this, but at this point we still had lots of Egypt left to see and didn't want to cut our time short. For our first day in Siwa we toured the small town and decided to go for a walk (bad idea) to Cleopatra's Spring...

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I wish that the pictures could convey the heat and sun! The walk from our hotel to the spring was only 3km, but in the heat of the day it felt more like 30km! We quickly demolished all our water and started to get concerned about the possibility of contracting heat stroke. But we made it to the spring and I took a dip (Stacey didn't because Siwa is a very traditional Muslim area and she would have had to swim fully clothed... fun fun). The spring was clean and refreshing! This is actually the reason behind Siwa's existence as the area contains around 300 freshwater springs that give life to the region (80 X 20km, 300,000 palm trees, 70,000 olive tress and a pop of 25,000 people). We chilled out at the spring for awhile before attempting to head back into town.

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On the way back we hitched a ride with a local man and his son...

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We saw these around everywhere...

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We couldn't figure out what they were for the life of us, but Stacey guessed that they're pigeon catchers... lol seriously I think that's what they are. Pigeon is a traditional dish in Egypt and we would often see pigeons flying into these buildings... if you know what they are shoot me an email/message lol.

Our favourite restaurant in town... didn't have pigeon though lol...

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Siwa has lots of sweet ass...

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That night we took a taxi out to Siwa Lake (salt water lake) about 6km out of town. Most tuk tuk drivers in Siwa are really young kids lol, so we hired one boy for a few hours... he was so excited to have foreigners in the back of his tuk tuk lol.

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For sunset we stopped at a place called Fantas Island which sits right out on Siwa Lake. Off in the distance you can see the Great Sand Sea... moments like these really remind us how lucky we are to be travelling. Such an exotic place...

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Besides the view, the best part was that there was this little cafe with loungers, tables and chairs right there by the lake. So we got to smoke sheesha and drink fresh juice while we watched the sunset.

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One of the best sunsets of the entire trip! Our kid driver picked us up shortly after and we headed back towards our hotel just as it turned dark. The plan for the following day was to book a tour and head out into the heart of the desert. So that morning we arranged it for the afternoon and then just rested... you honestly need to conserve your energy cause the heat just sucks it right out of you. At 2 pm we met up with our small group (4 other tourists), jumped into two Landcruisers (I want one so bad) and took off south west towards the Great Sand Sea!

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That's our driver! Must have been 13 or 14 years old! He was definitely unsure of his abilities and was pretty nervous (first time driving tourists) lol, but what the hell... what could he possible hit in the desert right? Well little did we know that we would literally be riding the dunes like a roller coaster, driving straight down some of those massive dunes (they can reach 520m high) at break neck speed. I loved it and got some great video... Stacey on the other hand wasn't impressed... she wasn't prepared for a thrill ride lol. Pretty spectacular views though. It was hard for you to wrap your mind around the size of it (that's what she said).

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Nothing but sand sand sand. I felt so sorry for our Landcruiser cause the kid kept on manually shifting it and he was red lining the piss out of it... you could actually smell burning lol. But it held up (all the more reason why I want one).

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The sand was so soft too. Lots of medical tourists actually travel to Siwa because of this, taking what are called "sand baths" to help treat their arthritis among other ailments. We tried it and it felt good but I couldn't help but thinking 'why not just buy a shit-load of Magicbags instead of travelling all the way to Siwa Egypt?' lol... rich people (is Magicbag a Canadian thing?).

The craziest part about the whole trip was that we kept on driving to these little oasis' out in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't help but think how it would look like a mirage to someone lost in the desert. They just look SO out of place in there environment.

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The first oasis we stopped at I decided to climb up a sand dune so that I could get a better view of the water for a picture. As I was climbing I noticed a trail left by something. So I followed it, knowing what had made it, trying to conquer my fear...

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I felt insane doing it lol. I just hate them! He was big too! At least 2 metres long and fast. I shot some amazing video of it. I actually got a little bit cocky at the end, ran ahead of it and then walked straight towards it to see if I could get a close up picture lol. He didn't like that very much and started coming straight at me. At this point my cockiness vanished and I got the hell outta there! Still not sure what kind of snake it was but our guide seemed impressed by the pictures and said it was venomous.

Before sunset, the last stop we made was at a site with an extremely high concentration of fossils. Apparently the Sahara at one point was much more wet and contained vast bodies of water or was under the sea. They have found massive fossils of dinosaurs, fish and crocodiles here.

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I tried in vain to find a seashell but had no luck as they were all encased in what looked like fossilized coral. We have never seen anything like it. Being out in the middle of this massive desert and staring at fossils that had to inhabit some large body of water... sure makes you feel small and insignificant knowing how old the Earth is and how much it has changed. That's why I always laugh when I hear or read that humans are going to destroy the planet. Who are we kidding... the Earth will destroy us way before we will it.

This used to be wet...

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To finish off the tour we drove to the top of big dune and just stared west...

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Pretty surreal experience for us. Being in an extreme, foreign environment really jolts it into you... YOU ARE A VERY FAR WAY FROM HOME. Maybe because we've been travelling for some time now we don't notice it very much anymore, but when your staring off out into the Sahara Desert it really hits. 'I can't believe we're really doing this!!' It's a pretty great feeling knowing that all the sacrifices have been worth it... from working and saving for 2 years to take this trip or even the long ass bus rides to get to the sights!

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As you can see these "sweet" buses often break down and your stranded for hours at a time on the side of the road lol. But it was all worth it right?? LOL in this case it was. Okay so being stuck in the middle of the desert with a bus shooting oil all over the ground wasn't fun, and at the time I was slightly frustrated, annoyed and tired. But sometimes you just gotta take what life throws at you, have a little patience and just laugh about it. Bus rides have definitely taught us both that. Patience...one of the most useful tools you can have travelling the world!

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Posted by ttbwarren 03:33 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Alexandria

From The Red To The Med

sunny 42 °C

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With our new friend driving us we left St. Katherine's and headed south and back to the coast to the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh. Our main objective to travel to Sharm was of course to renew our visas but we were also interested in doing some more diving just off shore. For the record we both didn't care much for the place. After spending time in Dahab and St. Katherine (small and relaxed), Sharm just seemed like it was from another world and perfectly horrible lol. Super aggressive touts roaming around everywhere (mostly taxis), mainly concrete and resort after resort after resort (hard to walk anywhere meaning your consistently bargaining with the scumbag taxis), baking hot (42), far from the beach, and super super inflated prices due to the high volume of package tourists mainly from Russia or Eastern Europe. Ya not really a backpacker friendly place. But we found a "wonderful" hotel and checked in for a few nights. Not a terrible place (we've obviously been in way way worse) but its always saddening staying at a hotel/resort thats dying lol. Literally 10 people staying in a 100 + room hotel that is barely staffed.

Visas - what a flippin nightmare! Went to the airport with high optimism (we always joke about that thing from "The Secret" - think positive thoughts and positive things will happen) hoping to get in and out quickly and enjoy a day by the pool... but that dream was quickly shattered when Customs seen our Taba Border Crossing stamps (Israel). For this reason alone we were told that we would have to hire a travel agent to write a letter verifying who we are...???? Basically another way to squeeze cash out of foreigners. So... we got spend our day hunting for travel agents in the sweltering heat, taking cab after cab around town (meaning fight after fight with the drivers about the price lol) before finally getting an agent and our $100 letters. The day was just an ultimate test of our patience but we survived (some days it feels like the "real" amazing race) lol. So that night we celebrated the end of a shitty day with our friends from the hotel, James and Natalie from Brighton England. They also had quite the shitty day as they had been robbed at the hotel (iPod and cash from their room) and the hotel basically claimed no responsibility. A real classy joint we picked lol.

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Our hotel proudly displayed a plague in the foray basically stating that they hadn't made anyone sick in 2006... we were all so proud...

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It's slightly more comical if you could have seen the breakfast buffet... hotdogs and powdered milk anyone?

In the end we were relieved to get our visas but disappointed with our time in Sharm. Diving was just ridiculously expensive (double if not triple more than Dahab) so we opted out and saved our money for other future dives. So we left the next day and took a bus to Cairo, switched buses there and continued on to Alexandria (about 12 hours on the bus including checkpoint stops)... in other words one long ass day of travel.

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Like most buildings in Alexandria, our hotel was very old and colonial (our room had a 15+ ft ceiling). The water front/harbour area is very nice but beyond that the city is still a big dirty place with too many cars and people. Saw a lot of similarities between Alexandria and Mumbai.

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I've never seen this before:

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See the motorcycle... mounted on the side are speakers and these kids cruise around everywhere blastin their tunes (of course cranked to 10 so their distorting horribly lol). Must have seen 100 of them around... either that or a few of 'em were following us lol.

Alexandria does contain quite a few sights but we were mainly using it as a jumping off point to get out and into the desert. So we caught up on some rest and enjoyed the local cuisine.

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One of the things we did go and see was the Roman Catacombs.

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Cameras were off limits so we had to check our Nikon at the gate... still had my iPhone though...

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We were the only two people there! Made for a pretty eerie experience.

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That night we checked out the markets and shops and bought some supplies for the long trip ahead.

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The traffic in Egypt is legendary! Just picture thousands of cars, narrow streets and NO traffic lights. It's madness and I've yet to see anything like! Cairo is by far the craziest but Alexandria wasn't far behind. And the fumes... my God at times it can feel like I'm back at the Oilsands. Blow your nose after the day out and it's black. And crossing the street lol.... well there are no traffic lights meaning no crosswalks, therefore it's every man for himself.

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Next up, Siwa... the western desert oasis on the edge of the Sahara's Great Sand Sea. Got some really great pictures to share. Ciao.

Posted by ttbwarren 00:53 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Mount Sinai

Following In The Footsteps Of Moses

sunny 40 °C

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Wow... I can hardly believe it myself but this our 70th post! How time flies... literally feels like just yesterday that we boarded that plane bound for Los Angles. Have there been times when we've missed home?? Of course lol. We play the game often: 3 things you miss most about home, or Top 5 things you miss etc. Of course there are the obvious things we miss like family and friends, but we've both found that it's the little everyday things that add up during any given day... for example: crosswalks, fixed pricing, ice cubes (you'd be surprised), the vibrate feature of a cellphone (nothing beats trying to sleep on a train or bus when you keep hearing the same annoying loud ass ring tone every time someone gets a text message). Oh the things we all take for granted. However I hardly feel that Canada will be some magical utopia upon returning home. On the contrary I can't imagine paying $5 for a coffee or $100+ for a fill of gasoline... but at least I'll be drinking regular coffee and driving I guess lol. Always a flip side.

After diving the amazing Red Sea in Dahab, Stacey and I decided to spend the next two days venturing into the interior of the Sinai Peninsula and climbing the very much hyped Mount Sinai. As it turns out Stacey's good friend and future bridesmaid Laura Andwender and her fiancé Ryan had actually conquered the mountain several years ago on their travels and highly recommended the experience. So for the 200th plus time we packed our bags and hopped a mini bus into the interior.

View from our Bedouin Camp and the chill out area....

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It was actually quite an ordeal making it St. Katherine's Monastery (a monastery at the base of Mount Sinai - home to the burning bush - the town where we stayed also goes by the same name) because as always in Egypt, finding an honest driver is near impossible. Let me touch on this for a moment... first let me start off by saying (I don't want to come off too harsh but it my sound that way) that Egyptian people are by far the biggest group of shysters we have come across yet. By this I mean there is a constant scam everywhere you turn, whether it's paying your dinner bill and getting over charged, cab drivers quoting ridiculous prices, dive shops stealing your money or even just the constant bombardment from the touts.... it's literally never ending. Why this is I'm not sure, but I'm not exaggerating and if you want to dig deeper you won't have to search hard to find similar testimonials online. SO, with getting to St. Catherine's... we board a bus, agree on a price and then the price magically jumps higher. We bail, flag down another driver, agree on a price and then once again when we're all unpacked and seated comfortably again the price jumps. Repeat process. By the time you find I decent driver your honestly just so frustrated and angry, not to mention hot and dripping in sweat from lugging around your huge pack, that you just want to give up. Then when you do find a driver you have to have a broken English conversion for the next hour... yeaaahhh lol. "Where are you from?" "How old?" "Married?" etc and by this point the last thing you want to do is talk to anyone and would just kill to plug in your earbuds and escape into your music to calm down. Our favourite book Don't Sweat The Small Stuff helps, but we'd both be kidding ourselves if we said we still didn't have moments of great frustration and anger lol.

Oh... while I'm on the subject of broken english conversation... Top 3 Countries Where People Think We're From: 1) Denmark - people ask us all the time if we're Danish 2) German - a close second... probably more of a tie with Demark 3) Sweden or USA - these two are pretty equal as well To be honest the only people who guess were Canadian are english speakers and even then it's hit or miss. One guy summed up the guesses best: Blond girl and guy with a dark beard... Swedish right?? LOL

With climbing Mount Sinai there are really only two good options: 1) summit for sunrise 2) summit for sunset Number one tends to be the more popular choice and for one reason only: the heat!! You are still in the desert so even just walking can be exhausting let alone climbing. So we bought ourselves headlamps and set the alarm clock for 1am... yep that's right 1am!! Sun starts to rise at around 4:30 and the climb was expected to take 3 hours (ya for old people... not us young pups).

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The last picture is of me sitting with our guide. Unfortunately now due to safety requirements you have to hike the mountain with a guide :( This was a big disappointment, not because he was bad (he was out of shape though lol and didn't even summit) but because we had to pay a guy $20 to slow us down. And the path was clearly marked so there was no chance of taking a wrong turn or getting lost. To boot $20 was the cheap price... you see there are two ways to climb Mount Sinai. The first and more expensive way (the guide is double) is to take the Steps Of Repentance which is 3750 steps all the way to the summit (carved into the mountain by a monk). The second way, which we chose, is a camel path that winds it's way up to Elijah's Basin (where the prophet Elijah spoke to God), which is where both paths converge before the remaining 750 steps to the top. Not gonna lie it was quite a hike (not our most challenging but definitely our earliest wake up) because not only did we have to walk 3 km from our hostel to reach the Monastery but then it was another 7 km to the summit... again all this at 1am lol.

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But we made it!! And the payoff was well worth the pain and lack of sleep!!

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The sunrise was nice but the view was what it was all about. Such a cool mountain range. No altitude sickness on this one however as the summit only reaches 2285m (7500 ft). Gebel Katarina, which we could see from the summit, is actually Egypt's highest peak coming in at 2642m. Like I said the views were just stunning!!

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Since we arrived at the summit at around 4:15 am we had just loads of time to kill because on our way back down we planned on going to visit the monastery which opened at 9am.... what to do? Well... thinking ahead we brought along with us a yoga mat and a sleeping bag so we could catch up on our much lacking Zzzz... nothing like sleeping on top on a mountain lol.

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A bird's eye view of the camel path we hiked up...

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Another interesting sight on top is the chapel...

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Can't remember who built it but I can understand it's relevance. If your unfamiliar, according to the Old Testament Mount Sinai is where God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses. I suppose there's no real proof that this is the actually mountain or not... either way any of them in the general area would have been a heck of a climb. Just look at these stairs!

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Walking back down with our "super useful guide"... who didn't even come to the top. Because we had a sleep up there he actually called his buddy at the summit to check and see if we were okay lol (he probably couldn't care less... he just wanted to get paid). Then he got his friend to tell us to come down because he wanted to go to bed! You can guess what our reply was (buy a vowel - F_ck _ff)

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If you look real close in these next two you should be able to see the chapel on the top...

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I can't quite remember the biblical story of this next picture but I think it's where God gave fire to Moses or something like that... look it up Bible thumpers...
and the mountain turned to ashes.

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Almost to the bottom...

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At the bottom is St. Katherine's Monastery which is significant because it contains what is believed to be the "burning bush" where God spoke to Moses. Yep on closer inspection it looks like a bush...

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By the time we finished up at the Monastery and made it back to the hostel it was 10am and we had already been up for 9 hours! Needless to say we were both exhausted, especially since by the end it really had started to heat up. Think the climb was easy? Look at poor Stacey's feet!

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Someone needs a pedi lol. The next part of this blog is really quite random, but interesting to say the least. After having some lunch and packing our packs for the 201st time we found a driver and arranged for him to drive us to Sharm El Sheikh (where we had to travel to get our proper Egypt Visas). Well he turned out to be just a super cool Bedouin guy and ended up inviting us to his home to meet his wife and children.

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Some of those are the neighbours kids, their two are the little boy and girl in pink in the middle. Mohammed spoke really good english so it was great to chat with him and his wife. The interesting part was that they served us a special tea lol.... Ya we actually drank Opium Tea. I pretty good solution for our aching feet and backs to be honest! Never before have I seen opium and it actually looked and smelt like alfalfa all squished up. Mohammed told us it was quite common still for local Bedouins to use it but that the police crack down on them sometimes because the area of course has a high volume of tourists. After some tea and sheesha Mohammed's wife thought that it would be fun if we dressed up...

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Don't we make the cutest Bedouin couple!! Random moments like these seem to make all our bad Egyptian experiences melt away (not because of the opium haha) but rather because some people are just genuinely nice and welcoming. They were just so happy to have us in there home.

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After about a hour we said our goodbyes and hit the road...

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Of course the views of Sinai were just spectacular the entire drive. Completely unique landscape...

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I really enjoyed writing this one! Brought back some good memories. Looking back it reminds me that anything that's hard and testing always ends up being completely rewarding and fulfilling in the end. We've both become quite the mountain climbers/hikers over the course of this trip (and no Bryce I will not be buying hiking boots or those khaki pants that convert to shorts lol). Always a great way to experience what a country has to offer and a great way to keep your ass toned!

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Posted by ttbwarren 09:57 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Egypt

Dahab & Diving The Red Sea

sunny 35 °C

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Egypt baby!! The inaugural post. Even though we've been in Egypt for sometime now I'm super excited to finally share with you some of our experiences in this amazing country. Plus it's nice to get caught up and write about a place where we still are currently. And so we crossed the border at Taba and entered into the 13th country of our trip. Things kinda got off to a shaky start... even for experienced travellers lol. Probably due to the fact that we were having such a blast in Israel/Palestine we lagged a bit on our homework and somehow got confused about whether we required a visa to enter Egypt or not. Well to enter Egypt you DO require a visa before arrival BUT you DO NOT require one if you are just travelling in Sinai (Sinai being the peninsula between the Middle East and Africa... still considered part of the Asia continent technically). So at the border we were informed that we would be fine without a visa for 15 days but that we would have to travel to Sharm El Sheikh to obtain a proper visa to continue on towards the rest of the country on the Africa continent. No biggy... been through worse lol.

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Our bus from Taba to Dahab. What a gem lol. Had to stop midway for some minor seat repairs lol.

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Actually woke up to welding fumes circulating through the bus. After several hours we arrived in Dahab... wow... stunning...

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Upon arrival we were immediately surrounded by touts and harassed about their hotels. And I mean harassed!! Never have we experienced touts that aggressive! Egypt has lived up to its reputation.

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Our first hotel.

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The promenade down by where we were staying. Very quiet compared with the rest of the strip further away. It was pretty easy to tell that bad press has started to effect Egypt's tourism. No problem for us though... all that meant was that we got a double with 2 breakfasts $16 a night. Now that's what I'm talking' about! Dahab is really quite a small little bedouin-esque place with small boutique hotels and restaurants all lining the water front. We took advantage of this fact every chance we got.

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Lovin' the sheesha! Can't wait to buy one in Cairo (prices will be cheaper and plus I'm not carrying one of those in my pack for 4 weeks lol). Another great thing about Dahab was the weather. Apart from it being windy more or less everyday the weather was perfectly hot and sunny... which we also took advantage of every chance we got.

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With cheap hotels also came cheap food. And consistently good quality. To be honest, as much as I love falafel and hummus I was starting to tire of it somewhat after traveling Jordan and Israel for the previous month. The odd thing was however the "cat situation". ??? Ya... stray cats everywhere! And not just in the street but in the restaurants too. SO bad that when your seated your often given a spray water bottle to shoe them away so they stop whining for food lol. One night we had dinner with a father/daughter from Holland and a pack on cats actually jumped on her plate and stole her chicken lol. Unreal. Something that we will both never forget and I'm sure bound to see more of as we travel on. (I think Egypt is where cats were originally domesticized... google that).

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We spent quite a few days in Dahab because we enjoyed it so much. Our main reason for this was for diving (more on this) but we also used the area as a jumping off point for other adventures such as climbing Mount Sinai (next post). We did do some other things as well such as mountain biking. But that quickly petered out because of the heat, remedy for which was a dip in the Red.

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Us in our second hotel...

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We never had problems with our first hotel but rather with the dive shop that is associated with it. You see we were originally staying at this place called Penguin (dive shop of the same name) that was recommended in "The Book". The hotel/room were great and so was the restaurant (aside from the cats lol) and the dive shop had the best prices in town. The plan was to find a dive shop that could give us a deal on numerous dives but that could also get us certified to dive over 30m deep (most of the best sites in the Red Sea are pretty deep 18-35 m and with our previous certification we were only able to dive a maximum of 18m... although in Thailand our guide took us down to 28m! lol). Well we ended up doing one dive with Penguin and it was lack lustre at best (shitty guide, constantly treated us like students, was pushy and didn't see much for such a cool dive site). BUT what happened after the dive was the deal breaker. We both agreed that due to the price we would tough it out and give them a second chance. So, I counted up our money and paid the lady running the dive shop. She in turn does the ol' slight of hand and tells me I gave her the incorrect amount and was short around $35. And I'm like listen lady, I'm good with our money. I counted it and it was all there when I handed it to you. Right away she gets all sketchy and is saying "check your wallet, check your wallet". What she didn't realize was that it was all the money I had in my wallet cause I had counted it out, TWICE in the room before paying. Needless to say I was furious and insulted. I grabbed my money, minus the $35 and told our dive instructor who (not sure if HE was honest) seemed shocked. We were both upset but Stacey really had nothing to do with it so I assured her that I had counted correctly. ALL OF THE SUDDEN the lady says "oh I found it. It was right here tucked underneath these books" LOL... cause that makes perfect sense!! I always tuck part of my money under some books when I pay for something. So long story short, we told the manager, the staff and the hotel and proceeded to check out and take our business elsewhere. The sad part is that this type of shit happens all the time here in Egypt. Not that it hasn't happened elsewhere on this trip, but it definitely seems more common here. One thing we always laugh about while travelling has been when you go into a store (convenience store for example) and there are no prices on ANYTHING. Never a good start lol. You just bring your stuff up to the cashier who conveniently has a calculator placed in front of him lol. Of course he's giving you the real price right? Lol wrong. What I always do is (not being rascist lol), because their math is shit (store clerks I mean) is ask them the price of everything and then total it up in my head. 9 out of 10 times it always equals less then what they told me on the calculator lol. And this shit happens everywhere! I would love to have a Just For Laughs episode where people go to a grocery store with no prices... just a foreign guy at the checkout with a calculator lol.

So... diving... we ended up finding another dive shop (H2O Divers) that was fantastic, had great prices and amazing instructors. So we booked in with them and started studying.

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The following day we proceeded to dive two of Egypt's premier dive sites... The Canyon and The Blue Hole.

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Those pics were taken near the dive sites situated about 10 minutes drive north of Dahab. The Blue Hole is really famous because its this massive hole around 160m deep and sits right off the coast. The dive starts in The Bells which is a 30m vertical chimney that you descend down before continuing on to the Blue Hole. This dive is also famous because numerous people have died diving it lol. No worries... it's because they pushed the limits and went too deep.

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Unfortunately again we were unable to take pictures of the dives... but we did manage to score some pics of our shitty dive with Penguin lol. Therefore I will be using those pictures here to tell the story lol.

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Pretty cool. Thanks Frans for the great pics! Those were taken at a site called Eel Garden. If you look closely in this next pic you can see the eels poking up out of the sand.

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It is really too bad that I don't have any pictures of any of our GREAT dives... but I'm thankful to have anything nonetheless. After diving the Canyon and Blue Hole we received our certification and are officially able to dive over 30m!! We celebrated with sheesha by the sea lol.

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Thats it for Dahab folks! Loved our time there and would gladly return anytime! It was cheap, fun and perfectly sunny, not to mention great for scuba. In the end the Red Sea lived up to the hype of being the world's best diving! I'm sure other places are equally great (like Borneo) but nevertheless it was perfectly clear and I have never yet seen such amazing coral and schools upon schools colourful fish. Pretty great stuff. Next up on the to do diving list: Sharks... lol not even joking.

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Posted by ttbwarren 10:27 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Israel

Tel Aviv Beaches & Galilee Hiking

sunny 26 °C

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Here I am again playing catch up! Once more internet has seemingly become more scarce... you have no idea how nice it was to download something again (remember we spend loads of time on buses so any new music is always a welcome treat). But that was Israel and this is Egypt. Currently I'm holed up in a shady Net Cafe in Siwa at the far western edge of Egypt and only about 50km from Libya. We have travelled 9 hours by bus from Alexandria to this oasis in the desert, and today will we get to tour the legendary Sahara Desert. Technically most of Egypt is considered the Sahara but either way today we're going sand boarding... yep sand boarding in the Great Sand Sea.

After leaving the West Bank we returned to Jerusalem where we grabbed or second backpack and hopped a bus to Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is only about an hour and half west of Jerusalem. Here is a map outlining our travels in Israel (if you can believe it this website doesn't even list any Palestinian cities and therefore I couldn't add them... who's side is Travellers Point on?? lol)

Upon arriving in Tel Aviv it was the ol' routine... get a hotel, get settled and get a fire going.... wait the last one's not right... I've been watching way too much Man Vs. Wild lol. That night we caught a nice hot shower and some much needed rest... I was exhausted from camping (well if you count camping as sleeping in the car most of the night lol). The next morning the plan was to spend the day on one of Tel Aviv's beautiful beaches to which they have many. While working on the blog in the lobby I had the pleasure of meeting Spencer from Melbourne and we all thought the day would be best spent on the beach and of course with a few beers.

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For the following morning the plan was to pick up a rental car and spend the next few days touring the north. Luckily car rentals are cheap... gas however is not (just above $2 litre). But as luck would have it both Shannon and Spencer were up for the trip so we set out in our pimpin' 4 cylinder Lancer.

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From Tel Aviv we drove straight north up the coast to Haifa which although we didn't spend much in, seemed quite nice. Pic from the car of a random submarine...

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The main reason we stopped was to visit the Bahai Gardens which are a group of hillside terraces.

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Unfortunately it was closed for some Bahai holiday... to be honest while we were in Israel it seemed like every other day was either a holiday or the Sabbath or some other reason for shit to be closed. So instead we briefly walked around the area... yep everything closed...

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Next stop on our road trip was at the ancient port city of Acre which is only about another half hour north of Haifa. We toured around the old city until some people wanted us to buy some admission tickets to the rest of the old city... it honestly wasn't all that impressive.... remember we had just been in Jerusalem lol.

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Nazareth was the next stop on our list and even though the Lonely Planet craved it up pretty bad for being boring and lack lustre. But we all figured it was worth investigating that claim. I mean come on... Jesus' childhood stomping' ground couldn't be that bad?

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To be perfectly honest... that view... was the best thing about the place. There wasn't anything of significance to see (one church which was closed... must have been Bahai too lol), except for perhaps Jesus Town lol. Our guide book said that in Nazareth there is a reconstructed old town representing Naz back in Jesus' day. A theatre troop must be employed there because according to our book there are live actors walking around playing different characters to create the atmosphere. We all joked that it was really a Jesus inspired theme park... I wanted to ride the JesusCoaster so bad! So we ended up abandoning our Nazareth dreams and inside drove east to the Sea Of Galilee and the city of Tiberias which we had planned to make home base for a few nights.

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Our plan in Galilee was to do some hiking so that's just what we did the first day. The Book otherwise referred to by us as "The Holy Holy Scripture" (Lonely Planet lol) recommended a nature reserve/national park just north about an hours drive from Tiberias. The name of it slips my mind... normally I navigate but since I was driving Spencer was my co-pilot and navigator. The hike we planned was supposed to take several hours but it really all depended on how much swimming you wanted to do. Swimming? When you looked around all you could imagine for water would be maybe a creek or a slough.

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Kosher cows...

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This was going to be some great swimming...

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Lol ya right... there were a few creeks we had to navigate through however.

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It was crazy for me to hike this area because it just kept reminding me of home. The topography really wasn't all that unique and I'm sure that you can see this landscape in numerous other parts of the world. It was pleasant though even if for a short time to feel almost at home. And then we came up to the waterfalls and pools...

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Cliff jumping anyone?

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It was a lot higher then it looks... trust me. And don't worry we were safe about it. We always checked the bottom thoroughly... well mostly lol. I still can't get over how there are just these beautiful stone pools with crystal clear water right smack in the middle of grassland.

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It was great to be able to cool of like that! The water was freezing and the sun was sweltering that day.

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Excellent... a massive waterfall.... which means more cliffs to jump off!

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I don't have any pictures to the next few jumps but I do have some great video! Unfortunately due to limited band-width there is no possible way of me being able to post it. But here's some before and after shots... it must have been over 10-12 metres!

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What a rush!! Top highlight of our Israel trip... for me anyways... Stacey wasn't all that fond of our "stupidity" lol. After a lengthy cool down we again continued on but unfortunately because the park closes each night our direction was towards the car.

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After a night of celebration with falafel, hummus and beers, we packed up our hotel room and drove around the Sea of Galilee area. The whole time in Galilee it was pretty overcast so the views of the sea weren't all that great.

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But there were a few other significant sites along the shores of the sea including several churches (of course) and spots where Jesus preached and where the alleged stone where he multiplied a few loaves of bread and a few fish to feed hundreds is located.

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Us by the sea...

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That was our last tour stop for the day as we had to turn around and head back to Tel Aviv to return the car for the following morning. That was my first time driving in over 6 months! It felt great to drive again and to honestly just shoot the shit with other westerners. I haven't laughed that much in along time. We arrived after several hours back in Tel Aviv and again, checked into our old hotel and Shannon and I decided that we needed new haircuts.

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We found a great deal thanks to this older woman from South Africa asking us if we were lost, and then in turn escorting us to her salon. We had both joked that all the men in Israel sport the "Israeli Fade" and since we were in Israel, well we might as well blend in... plus it's always a great deal when a gay guy cuts your hair for $10 lol.

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We capped off our last day in Tel Aviv with a trip to the beach... wasn't the best day for it but really any day on the Med is a great day!

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Us with others from our hostel as well as our good friends from Norway (Sandra and Jonas) who just finished up their volunteer work at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. After the beach we went with them to a local market to grab some fruit for our bus ride the following day and to just look around.

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And that's Israel folks! Now time to get cracking' on Egypt lol. Our time in Israel and Palestine was fantastic and I can't recommend travelling there enough. So much to do and see, plus the food was amazing... we are now both addicted to hummus and falafel... I'm not kidding... I might need an intervention. Of course there's lots more I could share with you about our time there but all in good time... and besides I gotta have at least a story or two left for when we get home... or our Wedding! Looking forward to reuniting with everyone!

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Posted by ttbwarren 02:38 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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