Thursday, 30 April 2009

Egypt - Part 3

Sunset we could see from our boats on the Nile

29 April 2009 - 1 May 2009

EGYPT - Sailing down the Nile
29 April 2009

That afternoon we boarded our Felucca boat and headed off sailing down the Nile. The Felucca boats are just boats with compartments underneath to put all our gear in and on top is covered in cushions were we laxed out, ate and slept.
That night we went up to a Nubian village and hung out chatting and smoking shisha's.
At night on the boats they put up mosquitos nets and we just jumped in our sleeping bags and slept on the boats.
30 April 2009
Today again we spent the day on the Felucca hanging out. We docked up on the shore of the Nile and went for a dip - as you can see my camera felt like being waterproof then!

Girls from the boat swimming in the Nile --------->

<-------- Ad for Sprite - you think they will like it?

That night we docked up on the shore of the Nile and headed onto shore where our captains lit a bonfire and sang and danced to some Nubian tunes.

Video of us laxing out on the Felucca's

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Egypt - Part 2

28 April 2008
EGYPT - Aswan

We woke up in Aswan today and had a quick walk to our hotel which was located on the main stretch. They afternoon we walked through the markets (the are the worst ones for hassling) and then went for a swim. It was so hot it was nice to just lax out by the pool - something you can't do in London.

That night we jumped on a boat and headed to a restaurant on an island near the Nile for a dinner at a Nubian restaurant. After dinner the waiters all got up and did a bit of dancing.
This man spun around and around for ages ----->

29 April 2009
This morning we got up at 3am to head to the Temples of Abu Simbel. We got up so early to avoid the heat and because we had to have a tourist police convoy.

Abu Simbel - (Arabic: أبو سنبل‎ or أبو سمبل) is an archaeological site comprising two massive rock temples in southern Egypt. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments". The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt's top tourist attractions.

Abu Simbel temple - above Nefertair temple

Unfortunately we only had about half an hour to look around the temples, but it was cool. Inside there are lots of different rooms and passages that have lots of hieroglyphics. At the back insdie the big temple there are four statutes ...

The axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that twice a year, on October 20 and February 20, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculpture on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day respectively.
That afternoon when we got back from the temples we laxed out a bit before heading to the Nile to board our Felucca boats.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Egypt - Part 1

26 April 2009 - 10 May 2009

EGYPT - Cairo, Giza, Aswan, Kom Ombo, Edfu, Luxor and Dahab
26 April 2009 - Cairo
Arrived in from Istanbul and was collected at the airport by our tour guide. After getting visas for the people who didn't have them we got into the mini van and drove to our hotel. Now, this might not sound exciting, but Cairo traffic is something else!! There are cars, donkeys, horses, carts, buses everywhere on the road and all you can hear is beeping.
From what I can gather the buses are just vans with the doors open and people just jumping in and out and then taking off again. Then I saw this train at the station, that was dark, no windows, smoky and full of men - thank god it wasn't the one that we were catching! People are just hanging off all types of vehicles, screaming, yelling, speeding.
That avo we checked into our lovely hotel room and I just spent the night laxing out and trying to feel better.

27 April 2009

That morning after checkout we got put into groups and headed on the bus to the Egyptian Museum where we looked around for a couple of hours and even went and saw real mummies. They were grose! They looked like real people, just old and wrinkly. They still had their fingernails and hair.

After the museum we headed for Giza and the ... PYRAMIDS! They were amazing!

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza and is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that survives substantially intact. It is believed the pyramid was built as a tomb for Fourth dynasty Egyptian King Khufu and constructed over a 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years.

The Giza pyramids are on the outskirts of Cairo and one minute you are driving around the dirty, unruly streets of Cairo and the next minute you go through this gate and see the Pyramids. I always thought that they would be out in the desert a bit.

<------- View of Cairo from the pyramids - see how close to the city they are
After seeing the big pyramids we headed to the smaller ones where you can pretend to hold them and stuff, unfortunately my photographers were crap, but here are the pyramids anyway.

After that we went inside one of the smaller Giza pyramids. It was an experience. The Pyramids are huge but the passage way and tomb is not. You have to go down this passageway bent in half (one third for us shorter ones) and then down through another tunnel and then up a passageway at this stage you are sore and its really hot and smelly and then you come to this room that is probably as big as an average lounge room that has a tomb in the corner. Its really hot and made me feel claustrophobic and I don't get claustrophobia. I originally thought that the pyramids would be completely hollow but they are not, they are completely solid save for this chamber.

<----- Me by one of the Pyramid blocks. They are huge.
After that experience we headed down a bit and saw the Sphinx - The Great Sphinx of Giza is a statue of a reclining lion with a human head that stands on the Giza Plateau. It is the largest monolith statue in the world, standing 73.5 m, 6 m wide, and 20 m high. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture, and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians in the third millennium BC.
That night we took a 14 hourish night train to Aswan, it wasn't too bad, and hell of a lot better than the first train that I saw go past!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Turkey for Anzac Day


23 April 2009- 26 April 2009

23 April 2009
Had 4 ½ hours sleep and then up again at 5 for at taxi to the airport to catch my early morning flight to Istanbul. I was a bit stressed about my flights because I had trouble booking them, but there were no problems, yah!

Once in Istanbul I navigated myself out of the airport and was contemplating how to get to my hotel as transfers weren’t included by my tour company. Fortunately, I bumped into another girl, Jaime, who was on the same tour just a different hotel and we ended up getting a transfer together.

Once checked into the hotel I decided to wonder into town and check out a few of the sights as this was my only free time in Istanbul. I got Jaime’s number and we wandered around together.

We saw the Blue Mosque.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the
national mosque of Turkey. The mosque is one of several mosques known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616.

That night our tour had organised for us to all meet in a bar (there were three different groups in different hotels) and spent the night drinking, dancing and smoking herbal fruits in Shisha’s.

A hookah (Shisha) is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-bottomed) water pipe for smoking. Originally from India, the hookah has gained immense popularity, especially in the Middle East. A hookah operates by water filtration and indirect heat. It can be used for smoking marijuana, herbal fruits, or tobacco.

Trying the Shisha ----------------Too much shisha

24 April 2009

The next day we got up early and jumped on the bus to Anzac Cove

ANZAC Cove is a small cove on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. It became famous as the site of World War I landing of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) on April 25 1915. The cove is a mere 600m long, bounded by the headlands of Ari Burnu to the north and Little Ari Burnu, known as Hell Spit, to the south. Following the landing at Anzac Cove, the beach became the main base for the Australian and New Zealand troops for the eight months of the Battle of Gallipoli.

We arrived at Anzac Cove at around 1pm and then found out we weren’t allowed into the site yet so we just mucked around and looked around the various graves, sites, etc.

Shrapnel Valley - got its name in the early days after the landing. As the Turks realised that this had become the highway to the front their guns rained shrapnel shells down upon this area. These shells made a particular whistle before they burst showering those below with lethal pellets. Australian: 527, New Zealand: 56, British: 28

At about 3ish everyone lined up and waited to get searched, metal detected and wrist banded up and then it was off to the cove to find a good spot for spending the rest of the day and night.

I spent the afternoon searching out my three flatmates that were there, hanging out the Debra and her tour group and generally just chilling and soaking up the atmosphere.

As the night goes on, people cosy up in their sleeping bags, fight for sleeping space and settle in. All throughout the night they have a big screen going playing stories and memories from war veterans, historians, etc. More people come throughout the night.

As dawn approaches we are all woken up and told to get up and shuffle along to make room for the people who are just arriving and the dawn service starts - make em stand I say (we have been there for hours!).

The service goes for about 45 minutes and includes, music, speeches, hymns, messages from the Aus and NZ prime ministers and the last post.

After the service we have about 3 hours to get up to Chunuk Bair about a 5 km uphill walk away, there is where the New Zealand service was being held.

The Battle of Chunuk Bair was a World War I battle fought between the Turkish defenders and troops of New Zealand and Britain on Turkey's Gallipoli peninsula in August 1915. The capture of Chunuk Bair, the secondary peak of the Sari Bair range, was one of the two objectives of the Allied August Offensive that was launched at Anzac and Suvla to try and break the stalemate that the campaign had become.

The capture of Chunuk Bair was the only success for the Allies of the campaign. However, the success was fleeting as the position proved untenable. The Turks recaptured the peak after a few days and were never to relinquish it again.

So we just strolled on up, stopping at the various graves on the way and for frequent breathers (spews), (I am not fit as the best of times, let alone with the way that I was feeling) until we finally made it up there. We were contemplating going to the Australian service at Lone Pine but decided to just get up there. We found a good stop on the grass in the sun and waited for the service to start. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually see most of the service as I was feeling too horrible, but listened to it and managed to find this footage - news footage of service.

After the service, the system they use to pick everyone up is whereby they gave you all the number of your bus and basically the buses are all lined up in random order and you have to wait until your bus turns up, fortunately our bus turned up after about ½ hour, but some people waited up to 2ish hours.
This is the line of buses we saw as we were heading out.

I was so sick on the way back that unscheduled stops had to be made and spent the rest of the night trying to sleep it off in my hotel room.

26 April 2009
The next day we got up and headed to the airport for our flight to Cairo.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Jinxed / Ranting / Turning into a Whinging Pom??

Hello all

Before I start my Egypt blog, I thought I would vent everything that went wrong and what I was unhappy with now, so that when I write my actual blog, I can be nice and not angry and annoyed!! Also because everyone asks me how it went and there were just so many things that went wrong.

1. My flights – what a mission! Basically Turkish Airlines site was down for flights for various destinations (I needed to go from London to Turkey to Cairo to London) so I gave it a few days and it was still down so I tried to call the call centre and they couldn’t really understand me, so I started stressing, I looked again and the flights had gone up £300, so I faxed various numbers and then finally got a reply – they were able to book them for me, but they couldn’t give me the internet price – how crap was that. I decided to go with them anyway £50 extra is better than £300 – it turned out alright, eventually.

2. Three days before I left for Turkey I got a sinus infection – I never get sinus infections.

3. On the plane to Turkey I got a blocked ear – this lasted all day and was so annoying

4. On Anzac day I had really bad stomach craps and was throwing up – I think I got food poisoning or something – had to walk about 4kms and then some uphill to the New Zealand service – I felt like death and pretty much spent the service in the foetal – this lasted about 6 days probably spent close to £50 on various drugs trying to get better.

Drug Stash --------->

5. In the dark I fell over and grazed my knee and got a lovely bruise

6. Whilst finding a place to “squat” while the felucca was parked up, I fell down a hole and got cut up by cutty grass

Some of my cutty grass injury --------->

7. I took my camera for a swim in the pool and it leaked, therefore making it unusable for the remainder of my tour, which is unfortunate because I would of liked to take it snorkeling. It seems to have dried out now and seems to be working fine, typical!

8. I got attacked my mosquito’s and had massive itchy bites

9. I got a really itchy rash on my arms

10. I got sunburnt on my shoulders on an overcast day (my fault I know!)

11. I lost my job

12. I am sick again – have got a bad cough – probably too much smoke

Aside from the above I didn’t like Egypt because

1. I like wearing short, cooling, clothes! Even when you wore appropriate ones you got hassled anyway

2. I don’t like haggling

3. I felt suffocated every time I went to the markets – 20 guys would come at you telling you they have what you need, ugg they are creepy and awful

4. I always felt like I was getting ripped off

5. It was really dirty

6. You couldn’t’ drink the water or eat salads

7. Everyone always gets sick

8. They played bloody prayers about 4 or 5 times a day/night over loud speakers everywhere in the city

9. You can smoke anywhere

10. You have to tip – NOBODY does anything out of consideration, politeness or courtesy

Why I wouldn't recommend Go Bus tour company

1. Why I was disappointed with Turkey/Anzac tour:

a. We didn’t get t-shirts or jerseys like most other companies

b. We didn’t really get a tour of the area or explanation about Anzac Cove like other companies gave their tours

2. Why I was disappointed with Egypt tour:

a. I was never told about bolt-ons whilst booking my tour

b. Hot air ballooning was a bolt-on and turned out to be £40 more if you paid for it in Egypt (although they allege it should be same price)

c. We were never fully informed about extra costs we had to pay – they asked us for 791le (Egyptian pounds) on the first day which is about £100 to cover entrance fees, tipping kitty, etc.

d. Go Bus advised a lot of people to get US dollars and then told them in Egypt they didn’t need them

e. I don’t feel that the companies/restaurants they used or recommended always gave you value for money –

i. eg. They had a jewellery man come and visit us, we assumed it would be good quality and good price as their recommended it but a lot of the jewellery, which should be silver, discoloured, I don’t reckon my bangle is silver as it sometimes makes my arm go green and gives me a rash. I paid 280le for it so about £30

ii. Another example is the diving company they use. One girl wanted to do advanced diving the recommend company said about US$300 she looked elsewhere and was quoted US$200 – quite a big difference.

f. They gave everyone extra large or large t-shirts which don’t fit many girls

g. Go Bus just shoved so many things into the first couple of days that I wasn’t really that interested in any more temples, tombs, etc. We saw about three temples/tombs a day

h. We had to pay extra for the Abu Simbel tour – where we had to get up at 3am to make it out there – we had to drive a couple of hours in the police convoy to arrive there. Once there we were only given ½ an hour to look around the temples and do anything else we needed to do (ie. everyone was feeling unwell and had to use the toilets so spent half the time in the toilet line). It seemed we paid a lot of money to go and look at this thing but couldn’t really get a good look around, where if planned right, we could of had an extra hour

i. The Go Bus tour didn’t have that many single people on it. So it was kind of hard to mingle in with couples and groups of friends especially when my roommate had friends on the tour, I felt a bit lonely most of the time, which I haven’t really felt on my other tours.

Although I knew Egypt was an African, muslim, third world country I guess I didn’t expect it to be such a culture shock and with being really sick when I got there and everything else on top of it, just made my trip pretty average and I was really homesick and just wanted to be back in London most of the time.

Ok, so now I have vented, I did have some good times and you can read about them in my next blog entry.


Saturday, 11 April 2009

Haggis Tour of Scotland

It was my birthday weekend and also the long Easter weekend so I decided to take a trip away.

On Thursday night, after a birthday dinner with Pam, Louisa, Tim, Kim and Michael, I boarded an overnight bus to Edinburgh.

10 April 2009
My birthday - thanks to everyone who sent me cards, messages, text and packages I went to McDonalds that morning before my tour started and opened them all.

After breakfast and a quick refresh I headed to the tour office. There were a couple of buses and we were on the second bus with a small group of about 26 other people.

From Edinburgh we headed North through Pertshire. Our first stop was Dunkeld which is situated on the river Tay. After a quick look around we headed up through Drumochter Pass and the Ruthven Barracks.

Ruthven Barracks near Ruthven, Highland in Scotland are the smallest but best preserved of the four barracks built in 1719 after the 1715 Jacobite rising, set on an old castle mound. It comprises two large three-storey blocks occupying two sides of the enclosure each with two rooms per floor. The barracks and enclosing walls were loopholed for musket firing, and bastion towers were built at opposite corners.

My picture - I think the sky looks amazing -->

From here we headed to the Culloden Battlefield

The Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746) was the final clash between the French-supported Jacobites and the Hanoverian British Government in the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Culloden dealt the Jacobite cause—to restore the House of Stuart to the throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain—a decisive defeat.
We wandered around the battlefield and learnt some history before heading to Clava Cairns

Clava Cairn ----->

At Balnuaran of Clava itself there is a group of three
Bronze Age cairns which lie close together in a line running north east to south west. The tombs at either end are of the passage grave sub-type. The central cairn is of the ring cairn sub-type, and uniquely has stone paths or causeways forming "rays" radiating out from the platform round the kerbs to three of the standing stones.

That night we headed to our Haunted Highland Castle in Carbisdale - we didn't see any ghosts that night so decided to head to the pub instead.

< ----- Haunted castle

The pub was about a fifteen minute walk away and just managed to fit us all in. They had a local band playing the bagpipes and tin flutes. I got a free birthday drink and a happy birthday from the band!

Sam and Me - it was her birthday too - she turned 25

Saturday 11 April 2009
Today we boarded the bus and headed to Loch Ness to track down

Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands extending for approximately 37 km (23 miles) southwest of Inverness. Its surface is 15.8 metres (52 ft) above sea level. Loch Ness is best known for the alleged sightings of the legendary Loch Ness Monster, also known as "Nessie".

<----- Me, Kim, Casey and Sam

The Loch Ness Monster is a creature believed to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is similar to other supposed lake monsters in Scotland and elsewhere, though its description varies from one account to the next. Popular interest and belief in the animal has fluctuated since it was brought to the world's attention in 1933. Evidence of its existence is largely anecdotal, with minimal and much disputed photographic material and sonar readings. The scientific community regards the Loch Ness Monster as a modern-day myth, and explains sightings as a mix of hoaxes and wishful thinking.

Our tour guide told us various stories and legends about the Loch Ness Monster. He said that one tour guide was standing with his back towards the lake and then heard a huge splash, they have also done sonar tests and seen big creatures under the water. The photo I have attached is the "Surgeon's Photo". The most famous photos of the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. A book was written that the photo was a hoax and that it was a toy submarine with a sculpted head attached - but it was also said that the submarine was not invented until 12 years after this photo was taken ... who knows! I unfortunately didn't see it, but if you can provide a legitimate picture they is quite a big reward.

On the way down we passed the Urquhart Castle.

The magnificently situated Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness, remains an impressive stronghold despite its ruinous state. Once one of Scotland’s largest castles, Urquhart’s remains include a tower house that commands splendid views of the famous loch and Great Glen.Urquhart witnessed considerable conflict throughout its 500 years as a medieval fortress and its history from the 13th to 17th centuries was particularly bloody. Following Edward I’s invasion, it fell into English hands and was then reclaimed and lost again. In the 14th century, it figured prominently in the Scots’ struggle for independence and came under the control of Robert the Bruce after he became King of Scots.

After stopping to see the castle we headed over to the Isle of Skye

Skye or the Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The island's peninsulas radiate out from a mountainous centre dominated by the Cuillin hills. The island has been occupied since the Mesolithic and has a colourful history including a time of Norse rule and a long period of domination by clans Leod and Donald.

We stopped at heaps of places on the Iske of Skye to hear about legends, wars, faeries, and learnt the secret of eternal youth. Skye is beautiful and has lots of scenic lochs, mountains and waterfalls. I had to stop taking pictures!

Me Me getting blown of the Picture of the lake
cliff it was sooo windy with the clouds reflection

That night we stayed in a hostel on the Island and went to "Saucy Mary's" for a few drinks.

Sunday 12 April 2009
This morning we got up, some of us feeling better than others, and jumpted on the bus ready to go and explore Eilean Donan castle.

The original castle was built in 1220 for Alexander II as a defence against the Vikings. By the late 13th century it had become a stronghold of the Mackenzies of Kintail. In 1539 Iain Dubh Matheson, chief of the Clan Matheson died whilst defending the Castle on Eilean Donan island against the Clan MacDonald of Sleat on behalf of the Clan MacRae and Clan MacKenzie.In April 1719 the castle was occupied by Spanish troops attempting to start another Jacobite Rising. The castle was recaptured, and then demolished, by three Royal Navy frigates on 10–13 May 1719. The Spanish troops were defeated a month later at the Battle of Glen Shiel.It is now one of the most photographed monuments in Scotland and a popular venue for weddings and film locations. It has appeared in such films as, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), Highlander (1985), The World Is Not Enough (1999),, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), Made of Honor (2007).

This picture just looks like I am in front of a screen but its real!

We passed Ben Nevis, Britian's highest mountain and film location for "Braveheart" and where Hagrid lived from Harry Potter.

On the way back to Edinburugh we made one last stop to visit Hamish, the Hairy Coo. Isn't he georgeous!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Bushfire Memorial Service

A couple of weeks ago I applied for a ticket to the Australian Bushfire Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey. It was a good opportunity to remember the lives lost and devastation the bushfire's caused and to see Westminster Abbey.
The memorial service was attended by hundred's of, mostly Australians, living in London and also gave me my second royal sighting of Prince Charles and Camilla.