DAY 50 – BACK TO CAIRO

Bit gutted about backtracking to Cairo as I left on impulse when a cheap opportunity presented itself. But there are a couple of things that I didn’t get around to seeing when I was there the first and second times. Clearly my travel plans have become a little confused of late :)

Arriving at 8am I decided that the interrupted sleep I got in the overnight taxi was easily enough so I spent the morning wandering around the ‘fabulous’ Egyptian musuem. The highlights had to be the treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb and creepy mummies room. The mummies were a little disappointing as they weren’t walking around stiffly, moaning and strangling people. Although the mummy of Raises II did look like it was gasping for air, which was quite funny as it is in a sealed glass box.

King Tutenkahmun, Cairo Museum, Egypt

King Tutenkahmun treasure, Cairo Museum, Egypt

After that I was back in my bed by twelve to sleep the day away. Not as tough as I thought after all eh?

That evening I watched the light show at the Giza plateau, which was also pretty cool.

DAYS 32 TO DAY 49 – JUST CHILLIN’ IN DAHAB

Some friends of mine did the middle east (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon) in 14 days earlier this year. I remember thinking before they left that they might be a bit rushed to see all the major sights. I was shocked when they came back and they said they had spent seven of their fourteen precious days in a place called Dahab. After spending 19 days here myself I sort of understand – it’s a great place to ‘do nothing’.

Boat bar, Dahab, Egypt

Dahab is a ‘backpackers resort’ on the red sea. The sea is clear and warm. The beach is lined with cafes which all have plenty of cushions to relax on. The average day here goes something like this:

11.00 wake, shower etc

12.00 arrive in beachfront cafe and order breakfast

12.30 breakfasts arrives. Reorder any items left off original order.

12.30 – 19.00 repeat the following activities as required.

  • Read
  • Swim. When I can be manage the 5 meter walk to the ocean. Or when I need a pee (see point 5)
  • Sleep.
  • Tell local girls that I don’t need any more bracelets. This is usually done with a small flick of a hand to conserve energy. I tried just ignoring them a couple of times but they though that I was trying to start a game of “where you from?” which I have grown bored of late.
  • Drink coffee
  • Play cards
  • Play chess (undefeated)
  • 19.30 shower to wash salt from brown as body. Showers here are all salt water though so this is a little pointless but it kills a few minutes.
  • 20.00 order dinner 20.30-21.00 dinners arrives. Reorder any items left off original order.
  • 21.00 chat to other travellers and maybe have a beer, maybe not.
  • 00.00 sleep again
  • It’s a hard life.

One particularly motivated night I got up the energy to climb mount Sinai (2285m), the mountain where Moses supposedly found the ten commandments. The taxi left my hostel at 11pm and thanks to some speedy driving was at the base of the mountain by 12.30. About 30 backpackers from Dahab made the cruisey 2-hour trek up the mountain. Around 20 shops selling all manner of mountain climbing goodies such as water, coffee, chocolate and coke punctuate the walk. Like the mountain itself the prices of the goodies get higher and climb steeper as you approach the summit. At the top the 30 of us sat on the edge of a cliff waiting for the sun to rise. About two hours before dawn I looked over the edge and noticed that the entire path up the side of the mountain was filled with the light from hundreds of torches. It looked like a long line of glowing ants zing sagging their way up the path we had just completed. Sure enough, an hour or so later the resort tourists from Sharmel Shek etc arrived and the mountaintop was packed to the limit with people seeking that elusive photo of the sun rising over the mountain ‘next to’ mount Sinai. The walk down is along a different route and takes you down a series of 3000 steps called the steps of repentance. The steps were hand carved by a kooky monk a few hundred years back. I’m not sure what he did to deserve that sort of repentance but it must have been pretty bad. Or maybe the repentance is for the people who walk the steps i.e. me? In that case do you think 3000 is enough? My legs were only a little wobbly at the bottom so I suspect not.

View from Mount Sinai, Egypt

The three Kiwis from the South Island that I hung out with occasionally liked to play chess. They have also collected all of their empty water bottles since they arrived in Dahab. By the time they left they had over 100 in their hotel room. I tried getting them to bet some of their collection on chess but they weren’t keen (cowards). Which is lucky for them, as I would have cleaned them out in a couple of days. On a slightly brighter note I wagered Australia (my mum always said “Never gamble with anything that you aren’t prepared to lose”) against Dahab with one of the local waiters, so I now own Dahab. I think I might turn it into a nudist colony.

Hubbers playing chess in Dahab

Miraculously I have found a copy of Tolkein’s ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ one my first day here in Dahab. I spent considerable time searching for it in the cities of Casablanca, Rabat and Tunis to name a few. But was stoked it was here as I have many long hours in the sun in which to read. The three Kiwis also have the second book in the series, ‘the two towers’ so we traded for a while. Now all I need is the third bloody book…

Have gained some valuable insights which may improve my results in the ‘Where are the local women at?’ game. Large number of badly dressed, grubby local girls spends their days selling brightly coloured cotton bracelets to the tourists. If you ask them why they are not in school they either get angry or they say that they are on school holidays. This may very well be true but I suspect that no matter what time of year you come here you get that answer. This thought was reinforced by an Egyptian I know called ‘Smiley’ who said “What do they need school for? When they get married stay at home for their husbands”.

For a considerable period of time here in Dahab I thought I would be unable to dive as I never posted my forms back to PADI after completing my open water diving certificate in Thailand in 1997 (and I couldn’t be stuffed doing all that expensive classroom rubbish all over again). I was reasonably gutted about this for a while, as coming to Dahab and not diving is the equivalent of going to Cairo and not seeing the pyramids. Fortunately PADI were able to track down my old student records and I have now completed my advanced diving certificate in what is widely recognised as one of the world’s best dive spots. The advanced course at the Poseidon dive resort consist of the following:

  • A refresher dive – lots of diving, not much refreshing
  • A naturalist dive – not what you might think
  • And a yard glass of beer (four minutes) at the Dahab Hilton to ensure that your body is appropriately conditioned for the next day’s deep dive at 08.30.
  • A deep water dive – there is something about being 32 meters under the surface of the ocean that puts a smile on your face. It’s called nitrogen narcosis :)
  • A night dive – pretty spooky. Especially considering that I started my course the day after they spotted a four-meter shark cruising just off the reef here. Try getting that thought out of your head when your 15 meters under sitting there in the dark with your torch off
  • A multi level dive
  • A navigation dive

The diving here is absolutely spectacular and the bright and freaky fish are really cool.

Leaving Dahab is quite hard and I’m actually quite sad. But in the end I had finished my diving and most of my friends there had left already so it was time to hit the road again.

HIKU TIME

Dahab is way cool
Diving dozing and drinking
Loads of fit chicks here ;)

DAY 31 THE JOURNEY TO DAHAB

Hello my friends!

I hope you are wearing your reading hats :)

I have had a couple of comments that my emails (and therefore travels) seem to consist entirely of my battles with taxi drivers and other dodgy scammers. While this may seem to be the case (and indeed sometimes feels like it is the case) I can assure you that it is only a small part of the adventure I am having. The problem is that I think lying and thieving taxi drivers makes for better tales than lame descriptions of the sights I have seen. Which usually involves a sentence with the name of the sight attached to an adjective like beautiful, amazing or fabulous. Probably not the best reading but I include it anyway so that you know that I don’t spend all my time chasing crooked taxi drivers with a big stick.

The other main type of comment I get runs along the line of “have you had any shags yet?” the answer to this is no. I have had a few offers of gay sex but since that’s not really my thing I have had a very quite (perhaps silent would be a more accurate word) tour on that front. Thanks for asking anyway, if the situation changes I can assure you that you will all be the first to know.

The journey from Cairo to Dahab deserves a special mention for the fact that we drove the entire seven-hour journey to Dahab with our lights on high beam and our hazard lights flashing. Finally, an Egyptian driver who takes road safety seriously.

DAY 30 – TRAIN TO CAIRO VAN TO DAHAB

Caught the train to Cairo and run into an Australian friend called Simon who I didn’t know was in Egypt. More freaky small world coincidences. back at the Dahab hotel there I notice there is a van leaving for Dahab that night which is cheap and fast so I’m off. In van I met a couple of girls from Holland who I have decided to call the Noisy Ho’s. Short for short for Holland not the Jerry Springer definition.

DAY 29 – VALLEY OF THE KINGS AND QUEENS, HAPSETSUT TEMPLE, TEMPLE OF KARNAK

Did a tour of the Valley of the Kings and queens and walked through the tombs of a few long dead Egyptian rulers. The best tomb by far was that of Queen Neferatari’s, which was vibrantly coloured and amazingly well preserved.

Hubbers at Valley of the Kings, Egypt

Valley of the Kings, Egypt

Hubbers at Tomb of Tut Ahnk Amon, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

After the valleys we went to another temple called Hapsetsut where around 60 tourists were massacred by Muslim extremists in 1997.

Hapsetsut Temple, Egypt

Back in Luxor we visited the temple of Karnack, which is possibly the most amazing temple in all of Egypt.

Hubbers at Temple of Karnak, Egypt

Temple of Karnak, Egypt

James and I came across a new scam in Aswan an Luxor. I call it the change scam. This is how it works. A waiter or shop keeper waits for you to pay, pockets a large note and replaces it with a much lower denomination similar looking note. He then shows you the small denomination note and gives you a blank look as if to say ‘this isn’t enough. Where is the rest?” At this stage the quality of English spoken by the scammer drops dramatically (as it does in a lot of scams). I suspect this scam is actually quite successful as the money in Egypt is in terrible condition, the colours change and it all starts to look the same after a while. Also when presented with physical evidence of your ‘mistake’ then I think it is instinctive to doubt yourself. The first time this happened we both saw what was paid and the kids who tried it on folded quite quickly. The second time (the next day) I paid alone and the waiter were lasted for ages. We saw him put his hand in his pocket and after some discussion we made him empty the pocket and there was still no twenty. This went on for ages and I was almost ready to fold when the waiter folded first and said “I have twenty, I have twenty” relieved and pissed off at the same time I said “Where!” and wouldn’t you know it the twenty was produced from the ’empty’ pocket. My advice is if you are in Egypt and there is some dispute over change then back yourself. Obviously you run the risk of ripping off a poor Egyptian – but – ask yourself, when was the last time you EVER had a dispute over change in a western country? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred someone will be trying to pull the wool over your eyes and rip you off.

DAY 28 – ABOU SIMBLE, ASWAN DAM, LUXOR TEMPLE

Took a package tour of the local sites. You have to do it in a tour because of the distances involved and because the police make all the tour vehicles go in convoy in case of trouble with any gun toting rebel scum. The highlight of the day was the outstanding Temple of Abou Simble, which has four twenty meter high statues carved into a solid rock mountain face.

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Hubber at Abu Simbel, Egypt

Abu Simbel, Egypt

The temple on the island of Philea was also pretty amazing except the experience was tainted by the locals who run the ferry refused to let James, myself and a Japanese guy (who’s name I could never catch) join any other boat heading to the island and insist that we pay for our own separate boat. Wankers. Things got a little heated for a while until we started tell each new group of arrivals what the best price negotiated so far was. Then the ferry guys let us join a group of Italians because we were costing them money they could be scamming out of other tourists.

Japanese guy, Rob, Hubbers, Philae, Egypt

Caught the train to Luxor and saw the amazing Luxor temple under lights at night. All in all an amazing day sightseeing in Egypt.

DAY 26 – A’WIGHT GIZA

I saw the pyramids on the Giza Plateau. I hugged the pyramids. I climbed the pyramids and I walked through the pyramids into a burial chamber. I have wanted to do this since I first found out about their existence as a kid. I was beyond stoked.

View from The Great Pyramid of Giza , also called Khufu's Pyramid or the Pyramid of Khufu, and Pyramid of Cheops, Cairo, Egypt

Hubbers inside View from The Great Pyramid of Giza , also called Khufu's Pyramid or the Pyramid of Khufu, and Pyramid of Cheops, Cairo, Egypt

Hubbers inside View from The Great Pyramid of Giza , also called Khufu's Pyramid or the Pyramid of Khufu, and Pyramid of Cheops, Cairo, Egypt

Hubbers and James inside View from The Great Pyramid of Giza , also called Khufu's Pyramid or the Pyramid of Khufu, and Pyramid of Cheops, Cairo, Egypt

Hubbers near Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt

By the time I got back from Giza at nine I was in definite need of a cold beer so a Norwegian guy called Karl and I set out to find a few cold bevies. Our search led us to a grubby Egyptian character that knew where an off licence with a fridge was.

I return for this valuable information we had to return the favour. You see his ‘brother’ was having a ‘wedding’ the ‘next day’ and he needed our help to purchase some foreign alcohol from the Sheraton in Cairo. In short he wanted to take advantage of our duty free allowance to buy some foreign piss because all the stuff you can buy locally makes petrol taste good. He offered to pay for all of our taxis and I couldn’t see any way of getting scammed (and it was going to lead to cold beer!) so we figured what the heck. 20 minutes later we were outside the Sheraton meeting Grubby’s so called brother who was a fat well dressed Egyptian man. The fat man led us into the duty free shop where he maxed out my duty free allowance on alcohol and cigarettes and paid for everything with cash from a fat roll of Egyptian notes. They couldn’t use Karl’s allowance as he had been in the country too long, which didn’t please the fat man at all. Outside again the fat man was barely bothering to keep up the pretence of the wedding story and when he opened the boot of his Mercedes it was full of bags just like the one he just bought with my passport. By this stage the ‘brothers’ were having a heated discussion as they renegotiated Grubby’s fee because of the inability to use of Karl’s passport. We didn’t give a fuck though as we were on our way to the cold beer shop :)

Carl buying alcohol in Cairo, Egypt

Back at the hostel we joined a group of travellers and settled in for a beer or two. The most interesting character in the group was an Egyptian guy who owned the hostel. He told us that he is loaded and that he is a doctor during the day and that he only set up the hostel because he saw what a rough deal the travellers in Cairo were getting and he wanted to help us out. These stories turned out to be what are called ‘Egyptian lies’ which basically means that he was full of shit. Soon it turned out that nearly every bastard in the circle has a small stash of marijuana and the joints start circulating with alarming regularity. In no time at all I am stoned as fuck and was the weakest link (goodbye). Some time after this Doctor’s minder leaves to pick up his ‘girlfriend’. Now I could be wrong on this because of my diminished mental state and because most of it happened in Arabic but I swear the Minder was popping out to pick up a hooker for the Doctor. Thirty minutes later the Minder turns up with this tartly as looking Thai woman and the first thing she says is “Hero Doctor”. I nearly cried and I looked at Karl who was laughing too but I have no idea if it was for the same reason. Around 5am I go to bed and the Asian lady has long since gone having not left the smokers circle with the Doctor or anyone.

DAY 25 – CAIRO

Arrived in Cairo at 3am. Was on the lookout for hotel touts at the airport because Lonely Planet advised they work for huge commissions, which are included in the cost of your room. I was very surprised to run into them before I cleared customs. This basically means that the first big scam you come across in Egypt is sanctioned by the Egyptian Government. Not a good sign at all.

Chose the cheapest accommodation out of the Lonely Planet, which turns out to be a mistake. The place looks like it is about to collapse. The only other person there is a guy called James from Florida who tried everywhere else in a ten block radius first. We agree to seek a more suitable place first thing in the morning. By 9am our packs are relocated to a much more stable hotel.

Nile, Cairo, Egypt

I spent the day trying to sort out some of my visa woes (Saudi Arabia) to no avail and exploring Cairo. I probably walked around 40 kilometres and ran into the only other person I know in Egypt at this point in time, terrible Teryle. How freaky is that. During my travels I found a massive second hand book market with tens of thousands of books, many of which are in English. Despite looking through every bookstall I fail to find a copy of the Lord of the Rings to read before the movie comes out at Christmas. The search isn’t aided by the fact that none of the booksellers read, let alone speak any English so they are all in huge random piles. This doesn’t stop any of the Egyptians trying to sell me a book or two. One guy was particularly good. He would pick up a dusty old novel from the top of one of the piles and read the name of the author on the sly. Then he wound say “What about Mark Thornton?” or some other author nobody has ever heard of. This was followed by “He is pretty famous you know”. When I said no he would repeat the process with another equally unknown, unfamous author. Very fucking funny to watch.

That night we went to some Sufi dancing. This is dancing and music done by people from one of the weirder Islamic sects. It is free so demand is high and we ended up having to bribe our way to the front of the queue for 20 Egyptian pounds each. We were pretty chuffed with ourselves about the scam (when in Rome after all) when the entire rest of the queue were let in free of charge 15 minutes later. It was all worth it in the end as the music and dancing was really mental and everyone including the performers had a blast. The highlight was a dancer who spun on the spot for over 30 minutes while everything went mad around him.

Sufi dancing, Cairo, Egypt

Sufi dancing, Cairo, Egypt