Friday, November 24, 2006

SOME RANDOM PHOTOS


Paul found a friend - gentle tap on the leg to beg for food, then...
















...cheesy grin!











The night of my birthday party - we faked it so that the whole tour group would get free cake - no one told me that the birthday girl has to get up on the tables and belly dance though! (photos may follow later...)


















Simon samples some of the local delicacies












Workers at the alabaster factory

























Our bus in the police convoy. These were started during times that were dangerous for tourists but now the government has decided that it is a good revenue earner and the convoys are now compulsory when travelling through a lot of parts or Egypt, whether you are on a tour or travelling as tourists in private transport
OVERNIGHT TRAIN TO ASWAN

From Cairo the transport was overnight train around 13 hours on this... another experience... especially with around a 3rd of the tour group coming down with 'upset tummies' (extreme euphemism). We did manage to pass the night away with a cabin party though - at one stage there were around 15 of us in a 3-person cabin with Peter's neon flashing cellphone providing the lighting.

On arrival in Aswan we went to Phillae temple which was on an island. Here Hani (the tour guide) gave us a brief history lesson which involved great role playing from a number of the tour group.


Phillae Temple










Recreation of the birth of the god Horace


















Sunset at Phillae temple














From Aswan we took an early morning flight to Abu Simbal which was amazing - definately the best temple we saw. Abu simbal was created for King Ramses II and was carved entirely out of one mountain. The hyroglyphics and colours that are still present are mind-boggoling. What is even more amazing is that this entire mountain of temple has been moved. 6 years ago it was moved because of the flooding of the land in this area due to the Aswan dam. They cut the structure into 7000 enormous blocks and moved it about 100m further up the land.



Temple for Ramses II at Abu Simbal
















Sharyn with the Ankh(key of life)













'Recipies' for medicines from another temple














From Aswan we took a felucca cruise down the nile for 2 days. i left it up to the boys to take photos of this leg of the trip so will post those when I get a copy. It was so much fun though - we just lay in the sun all day long then sat round campfires at night.
CAIRO

I loved Egypt! It has to be my favourite country, and we had an awesome tour through here. Our guide was fantastic - he knew so much and delivered the information in interesting and creative ways... you'll see the photos of this later. It was great to catch up with all my NZ friends and meet new ones along the way too.

I got to Cairo a couple of days before the tour started. On the first day there we decided to create our own walking city tour. Our first stop however was the office of student ID cards. Apparently a 'legitimate' ISIC student ID is the "Egyptian government's gift to you"... for the handsome sum of $NZ 20... This gives you half price entry to all the sites which was a great saving during the trip and you can be sure that I'll be using it for cheap movie entry afterwards.

We then headed to the Citadel and mosque of Mohammed Ali. It is supposed to be a recreation of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey but actually enjoyed this one more.







The Citadel from the outer wall

























In the courtyard outside the Mosque of Mohammed Ali



















Sharyn was wearing 3/4 length pants so had to wear this to be more covered up... we could still see her ankles though...



















Inside the mosque









After spending a couple of hours at this complex we decided to negotiate our way to a few of the other mosques which surrounded the area...





Luckily(?) the boys had a compass...









It turned out to be holy Friday so all the mosques were closed for prayer. We ended up walking through the city of the dead which was an experience and one we would not have got if we had taken taxi's through the area. This part of Cairo is built on old burial grounds and is also surronded by current cemeteries.. well if you can call them that. Apparently the bodies are put inside the tombs and are continualy filled with new bodes. The only specification is that the same tomb cannot be used for 6 months after a body has been put there - to cut down on the smell of the area.

With the help of some locals we made it to a local market where a 'friendly' man gave us falafel and then said that we should go to his place "which is just around the corner" for a cup of tea... We werent fooled by this scam but this same man did reappear several more times during the day.

We had a look through the markets and then headed back to the hotel swimming pool - great way to end the day!














The first day of the tour we went to the Egyptian museum which is perhaps most famous for housing the tomb of Tutankaamen (sp?). Apparently this is the most famous tomb not because of who lay to rest there but because it is the only tomb that was found in recent times intact. We were able to see the gold death mask, the series of different vaults that were inside the tomb and all the jewellery that was there as well. Later on in the museum we saw mummified animals, including a 9m long crocodile.

That night we went to the nighttime laser show at the pyramids. It was quite cheesy - a brief story of Egypt was told.. the sphinx 'narrated' it, and the voices used were those of Anthony Hopkins and Omar Sherif - but it was still great to get our first glimpse at one of the ancient wonders.






















After the pyramids we went for dinner and our first sample of Egyptian shisha


















The next day it was off to see the pyramids in day light. We got to go into the pyramids which was actually quite claustrophobic and smelt of muggy BO, but still an experience.
























Johnny proposed to Bex and she said yes!
It was so lovely - I had tears in my eyes and I'd only met them the day before!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ATHENA

We did not get off to a good start in this city - we arrived for a cold snap and spent the first morning walking around, miserable in woolen hats and rain jackets. After half a day of trying to be good tourists and see the sights despite the weather, we gave up. We retreated to our dorm room after passing by the supermarket to pick up snacks and a 3litre bottle of the local wine, retsina (just 3 Euro for 3 litres!). Once back at the dorm we turned the heating on full and then proceeded to dress for the occasion - we couldnt visit Greece without having a toga party could we??









After a failed first day sightseeing the weather turned it on for us the next day and we had a fantastic day in the sun at the Acropolis and Roman Agora. After visiting the most expensive 'flea' markets in the world, we had a great dinner at a Greek Taverna complete with fire and folk singing.



View over Athens from the Acropolis









Parethenon at the Acropolis







Catnap at the Acropolis

SANTORINI

This was an amazing island which we were able to explore on rented scooters. It is only really built on with white buildings, and here is an example of one of the many Greek Orthodox churches that can be seen. We had quite restful days (especially me as I was a passenger rather than driver of the scooters). One day we some how managed to turn a time passing stroll into a few 4 hour hike up into Ancient Thira - its at the top of the mountain behind this church. It was fun though - I learnt that jandels can indeed make good climbing shoes!




I actually fitted on the back of this bike as well








Here is the Caldera of Santorini - what was left when the island was blown apart by a volcano thousands of years ago.









The port of Oia - we walked around the rocks here to find a secluded swimming spot, past octopus and other sefood being roated on BBQs









Secluded swimming spot - crystal clear water








One of the houses we passed on the scooters













Sharyn in a cave during our 'stroll'









Peter's face sums up what we thought of our purchase of the local wine
FERRY RIDE TO GREECE

We did a fleeting visit to Mykanos.... and we almost didnt make it. Firstly there were errors with booking tickets through an agent in Turkey. After resolving all that we had been told that Mykanos was the last stop the ferry would make. So, 6 hours later we were sitting on the ferry, waiting for everyone to get off the boat at Mykanos (thinking the locals knew something we didnt), just to hear the final call for exiting at Mykanos. After scrambling to get our packs and having a few turtle who has fallen upside down onto their shell moments, we made it to shore. Mykanos was lovely - white imported sandy beaches and amazing crystal clear water that was rather 'refreshing' at this time of the year.





Passing time on the ferry





View from our Hostel room in the morning






View back from the beach to a restaurant at night
SELCUK AND EPHESUS

We stayed in Selcuk in a great little hostel, met up with people we had met in Istanbul, smoked Shisha, received massages and visited the Ancient city of Ephesus which is still remarkably well intact.










A tablet from a 2000 year
old pharmacy (note the mortar
and pestle)











Outside the house of (Virgin) Mary
Tying wishes to the gates, written
on pieces of material










Shisha







This boy works in a
Turksih bath and gives massages
to people staying in the hostel


PAMUKKALE

This is an area with large ancient burial grounds and terraces of calcium carbonate rock pools which you are allowed to walk in and around. They look amazing and take up the entire face of one cliff.