Airport Race

18 12 2005
 
I had a 7.05am plane to catch from San Francisco to Los Angeles and was then supposed to transfer to a plane to sydney. Being such an early flight – and with my scottish flight in mind (the one where i woke up at my hostel after the plane had left), and given that this the last available flight to australia were before chrismas, I decided not to take any chances and just stay up all night and catch the first shuttle to the airport in the morning – just to be safe.
I went down to jack in the box(best fast food ever people! – put it on your list of places to go before you die) and then to a diner – then back to the hotel, given there were people sleeping in my room and i didn’t want to wake them i sat in the lounge at my hostel – where despite coffee and my best intentions my eyeliids became unbearably heavy and suddenly.. – I woke up… HOLY CRAP  – that means i’d been asleep! How did that happen!? I looked at my watch CRAP!!! (actually i didn’t say ‘crap’ but this is a pg rated blog and it was a word to that effect). It was 5.55 the flight was at 7.05 – i was nowhere near the airport-. CRAAAAAAAP!!!
 
I raced out to the reception dude and told him i needed a shuttle to the Airport – NOW!
Fortunately the hostel i was at just so happened to be serviced by the best shuttle company in the world. I raced upstairs and grabbed my bags and when i got back to reception – the shuttle bus was waiting. Damn thats quick! I threw my bags in and away we went – unlike the egyptian airport race – i didn’t even need to bribe this guy to speedily cut  through traffic. Also fortunately for me san francisco has some of the best motorways in the world. And this driver knew what he was doing – we caught 2 red lights on the whole trip and then i was there at 6.30.
Bags I’d read my ticket which said "bags must be checked in 45 minutes before flight". Crap. I spotted an express check in and raced  towards it (actually with my 3 big bags a more accurate description is lumbered towards it) but to my dismay it was only for domestic flights and my flight wasnt eligible. I pleaded with the guy and he took pity on me- taking me inside the airportm where my heart sank. Even though it was 6.30 in the morning, there was a MASSIVE check in line  – a steady stream of faces showing annoyance that despite their early rise -they still had to wait for ages to check in.
 
The Airport dude bless his soul took me right to the front of the line! Booyah! I threw my massive bags on the weighing scale and ignored the hundred or so death-stares i could feel boring into the back of my head from the indignant great unwashed behind me- who’d been there for close to an hour. 2  minutes later i’m checked in -i look at my watch 6.35 and i’v still got to clear customs.
 
This involves queing up to have oyur hand luggage and stuff x-rayed. Again there was a long snaking que of tired looking travelers and business men. I steadied myself for a que-jumping felony so big it would land me in a detention centre if i’d done it in australia, took a deep breath and walked parralel but alongside the que past the hundred or so people waiting – straiht up to the x-ray machine staff. Trying my best to ignore the new wave of resentment emanating from these queing yanks  that was so thick i could almost feel it. "I’m going to miss my plane!" i said in my best frantic voice – the staff took pity on me and agreed to inspect my stuff straight away! Booyah!
 
One thing about me and flying though – Every flight i get on i get special attention from the security before board. I get ‘randomly selected’ by airport security almost as much as the muslim guys do. ie.  I ALWAYS get ‘randomly selected’ to have the special checks – where they take x rays of you from 3 different angles and then make ‘friendly conversation’ about where you’re going and where you’ve been. Seriously – I could wrap a towel on my head and i wouldn’t get more airport security attention. I wonder if i’ve  got a mark next to my name for some ‘unaustralian’ act i’ve commited – like visiting refugee’s  – and now on some secret airport database it says "potential terrorist" next to a picture of me. And the whole time i’m nervous about missing my plane which to security probably looks the same as nervousness for smuggling bombs or drugs.. So afther a thourough ‘friendly conversation’ and extensive checks i’m through the security and  performed a half-power-walk-half-run-all-unco movement (which i normally reserve for when I have diahrrea and am trying to find a toilet) to the gate. They were just starting to check in. I MADE IT!!!!!
 
So after a two hour flight to L.A i waited around in LA for 4 hours and then got on a plane for Sydney.
It was when i got on the plane to sydney that i suddenly realised something that should have been obvious.  I’m going home… After 6 months of galavanting around europe and the middle east, i was going home.
Of course on an academic level i knew this but it was a  weird feeling to be making that decisive move away from my adventures and back to my life at home. I’d been in such a rush to get to the airport i hadn’t really thought about it – and all of a sudden –  ‘whoa… im going home….crap!..’.
 
 




The Big Apple

11 12 2005
Hey guys,
Coming to you now from the big apple! Thats right New York! And it’s FREEZING!!!! Coming from sunny dahab where it was a balmy 25-27 degree’s every day and stepping out of the airport into -4. OMG! I now know what my sister means when she says it’s ‘cold enough to make you cry’. I didn’t cry… but i did pout a few times.
The other thing was it was so cold i kept getting involuntary cold shivers.. violent cold shivers  jerked my head to the side and my face would twitch… i couldn’t help this – i must have looked like a psycho and was getting a few concerned sideways glances. On the upside when it’s that cold i am much more efficient – i walk really fast everywhere and keep on moving jsut to keep warm.
I eventually got on the train and got to my hostel in harlem. Harlem.. when i found out it was in harlem i got kinda worried.. i’d heard ‘things’ about harlem – mostly gangsta rap things about ‘cappin’ whitey in da ass’. Turns out my hostel is located next to the manhattan project -as in the housing verison not the nuclear version. But it’s not that bad really.
 
I have nowhere near enough time to see new york properly. This is a city i would love to live for  a while.  Theres so much happening here. And it’s concentrated in such a small space. Manhattan would be an awesome place to live.. for a semester.. in the summer.
 
Details are so sketchy already!
I started out on the 8th and checked out the empire state building and the view from its observatory over all of NY. Then walked down broadway to the first skyscraper built in NY and through a park to an artistic market that was running. Then went
 
Then went over to times square and scrambled around to find out where to buy cheap broadway tickets. Finally found the place and turns out that its a quarter of the price to see a musical if students turn up at the door within the last hour. Raced across to the theatre where the producers was just about to start and scored a ticket. I walked in just as the opening music began. The producers by mel brooks, has been so sucessful that it’s been turned into a movie which is being released in New York this month. It was easily the most enjoyable musical i’d seen to this point.
 
 
I’m skipping massive chunks of what i’ve been up to.
I went to the UN on new yorks east side(if you want to be technical it’s not new york, its not even as the land the UN is on has been annexed from the united states as an international zone – with its own security, fire service and postal service!). Went on a tour through there and then made my way to the other side of town to catch a ferry tour around manhattan. This was nice and got to see all the sights from the water. Also went out to the Statue of Liberty – which is alot smaller than i thought it would be.
 
The fact that i’ve been doing my own informal version of supersize me whilst in New York doesnt help. It’s not just McDonalds i can eat – just American fastfood that we don’t have in australia. So i’ve been eating double glazed, double choclate donuts, giant pretzels, chicken from Mcdonalds.
 
 
….I always start with far too much detail for the limited time i have on an internet cafe computer… especially as i talked with fam for about an hour.. I didn’t finish my last attempt at a low down on what i’ve been doing and i don’t think i’d have time to do one here. Remember the girl i know from home who i randomly met up with in spain? Well it happened AGAIN!!! This time in our hostel in NYC. What are the chances of that?? Seriously!? I’m off to catch up with her now.
 So perhaps when things slow down a bit – (ie. when i’m back in australia, i’ll try for a post trip blog update…. I WISH my pda keyboard was working.. it broke again. I’ve so much i would like to write up here.. I don’t think i’ll stop blogging when i get back to melbourne – i think the quantity and quality will actually increase because i have awakened in me a desire to look around and observe and then to write on what i see. Because then i’ll have internet readily available. I really should write what i’ve been up to… but it will cost too much money and i’d rather be out on the town in NYC – so here are a few photo’s to help summarise some of  what i’ve been up to.
 
Note to all! I’ll be back in Melbourne in LESS THAN 2 WEEKS!!!!




Dahab

5 12 2005
I’ve got well and truly behind with my blog. I’m better off living for now than spending all my time updating my blog.. Ok so i’m skipping over all of Kom Obo, Edfu and luxor and moving straight to dahab. Quite a few stories to tell but as i don’t have the time and they say a picture is worth a thousand words these pics of dahab where i’m currently residing will have to suffice. When i get time i’ll come back to fill this in (maybe..if i get time).It’s been a fantastic time here in dahab just relaxing on the beach and scuba diving in the red sea all day. I love scuba diving, it’s like entering a dream world.  You are weightless and can control your vertical movement just throuh your breath – which gives me the impression of levitating at will through a fantastic landscape of weird and wonderful life-forms. 
Yesterday was not nearly so magical however as i’ve been getting over a very dodgy shish kebab i ate the other day – i should have known better as soon as i saw it. Been a not so pleasant 24 hours. I nearly made it 6 months traveling without getting sick once.. was probably too much to hope for.  Other than that Dahab is grand. I’ve been hanging out with a group thats been together through edfu, luxor and now dahab – great people and we’re going to catch up back in melbourne as two of them live in ringwood (1 went to aquinas 2 years up from me – yet another small world phenomenon). They’ve all had to go  now though and tomorrow i too leave this. leaving for Sharm el-sheik to catch a plane back to london and then on to the big apple.




Temples, Touts, Tourists and Thaumaturges

1 12 2005

 It has been only a few days since my last update but so much has been happening. This is the chronological update on what I’ve been up to. Reflections may or may not follow. Theres a lot I’d like to elaborate on but this will be long enough already. Where to start? I’ll try for chronological order but already some of the finer points are hazy… I’ll try to keep the update of what I’ve been up to as brief as possible.

Follwoing from my last entry, I woke up early and went out to the pyramids. Of course the pyramids are picturesque- and awe inspiring – but they are plauged with rude, money hungry touts and riders preying on tourists. And they are really annoying. They are more than annoying they are well words fail me… realy really really anoying.  Nothing saps the joy out of something like constantly having to shirk off doggedly persistant men trying to rip you off with goods you don’t want. They hang on to your clothes and follow you around screaming for your attention.They start before you even get to the pyramids telling you that you can get in without a ticket if you rent a camel from them( lie). When you get into the pyramid sight there are hundreds of people trying to sell tacky Egyptian kitsch. Whilst trying to admire the pyramids one is instantly set upon by these money sucking mosquitos. They sap the joy out of the experience for tourists and give the tourists the impression that all arabs are annoying money sucking mosquito’s. I’ve prided myself for being fairly savy through europe, avoiding scams and catching pickpockets and the like – even spent a day or two ‘crimewatching’ – ie. watching scams and crimes going on around european cities –  butI got suckered a few times at the pyramids. I wanted to take a photo of a camel rider and before I knew it I was up on the thing. Although once up there it was cool to ride a camel. Because many tourists only meet arabs when they are out at the tourists sights, they are put off from the local people and leave with the generalization that all arabs are like that. It is a very poor impression, especially compared to the majority of Egyptians who are warm friendly people.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to go inside the largest pyramid cheops (they only let 300 people in a day). Inside Cheops is awesomely baffling. How on earth did they get the stones to fit so precisely there is no gap whatsoever. To do something like this even today would be an achievement and require a computer controlled lazer. So how did they do it 3000 years ago? On leaving cheops I walked around gawking at ruins and shirking off arabs. I finally succumbed  and let one of these pests take me away from the others who were hounding me on a horse ride. Once we were away from the pyramids and the pests this guy was ok, though it doesn’t matter how much you pay they always try to leave you feeling guilty so you pay them more than their already comparitivly extortionate rates. I took a guided horseride up into the sahara desert which borders giza. We weant up into the dunes to the three queens pyramids. Despite the fact it was totally against the rules, I ‘convinced’ the guards to turn a blind eye while I climbed one (another entry on baksheesh later), So I was able to climb one of the pyramids! My bedoin guide then led me up into the dunes for a while and then back to the pyramids.Galloping across the sahara dessert towards the pyramids was an incredible feeling. Although my inexperience at horse riding meant I was bouncing up and down in the saddle a lot and was left ‘walking like an Egyptian’ afterwards. Even though my rider had been friendly all trip – they always get insolent and angry when it comes time to pay them. It’s a strategy which is supposed to make you feel like a tight arse no matter how much you pay them. And I was not immune to it – paying far to much for my horse trek.

Again the disparity between the arabs which work the tourist traps and the everyday arabs was clear as I was swamped again with friendly Egyptian children and teenagers on an excursion to the pyramids (see photo of them running towards me). I took a typical Egyptian taxi back into town and had a typical Egyptian ride home – which consisted of the driver pulling in for petrol (i gave a stern word and we moved off again), getting a flat tire, and the driver picking up another passenger which he said was ‘on the way’ to where we were going and then not dropping me off where I had asked to go. If you didn’t make an effort you would think that all Egyptians are caniving, machiavellian weasels.

Also saw the sphinx which is cool.

That night whilst walking to the train station I met an interesting guy. At first I thought he was just like all the other merchants – who try to get you into a conversation so they can lure you into there shop. Whilst walking down the street I am constantly assailed by phrases like "Excuse me, where are you from?", "Hello, nice watch. How much it cost?" etc. anything to make me stop and if I do stop they immediately try to suck me into their shop. Its annoyin not firstly because of its shallow duplicity but also because it’s so repetitive – the questions and conversations always follow the same monotenous pattern and I usually ignore anyone trying o start a conversation with me on the street walking straight past them as if they didn’t exist. This is the most effective way to get them to stop heckling you down the street. If I did stop I’d never get anywhere in Egypt. Anyway I entertained this guy for a minute – thinking he was another tout and as the typical conversation starts he says he lived in Melbourne. ‘Oh that’s nice’ I say, not bothering to hide my cynicism. ‘Listen mate, I lived in broady, western suburbs – not everyone in Egypt is out for your money’. … I went with him suspecting a scam but taking a punt that I might get to talk with some regular Egyptians. He introduces me to his cousin who as soon as he says ‘hi’ I can tell grew up in Melbourne. I chilled with Wahid and Sherif these guys and chatted to them about what it’s like to live in cairo as compaered to Melbourne. Both of them wanted to go back to Melbourne but for different reasons it wan’t going to happen. Walked around town with them, smoked some sheisha and drank hibiscus tea and talked about Melbourne and cairo.

The next day I went out with a Hungarian bloke to the walled enclosure that represents the Coptic christain section of cairo. Was interesting to see an Arabian take on Christianity. The architecture of the churches was reminiscent of the Moorish splendour of the alhumbra (spain) but the figures were of Christ and his disciples . I was just walking down the street and this old guy was walking down the street and everyone who past him would cross themselves and kneel or kiss his hand. I was just going to politely slip by as I didn’t know who he was and definetly didn’t practice his religion but as I got closer he held out his hand expectantly looking at me. I didn’t want to offend him (or his body guards who were packing H&K sub-machine guns) so I took his hand and kissed it also. Later when I went into the hanging church (so called because it is built off the ground) I saw all types of paraphernalia with this holy guys mug on it. You could get post cards, posters, stamps, mugs, clocks and assorted other paraphernalia with this guys face on it. Turns out he’s the Coptic Christian equivalent of the pope! Also saw a number of other Coptic sights and the oldest synagougue in Egypt. And something which gave me pangs of homesickness – the aussie gumtree! These were growing in a number of places, though they look different over here, with a lot more foliage than they have at home.

That night I caught up with wahid again and we went out to the market so he could help me buy stuff – as he’s Egyptian he wouldn’t get screwed on the prices. In retrospect I suspect he still took a cut from what we bought – but the prices were still cheaper than I could of got on my own, so I was happy. Then I went through a massive hassle trying to get a ticket down to aswan. It’s a long story (I may elaborate later) but to cut it short wahid and sheriff really helped me out and I was able to get a sleeper train to aswan. After the massive hassle of getting down to aswan I didn’t want to go through the hassle of organizing public transport for myself for the next few days – I boked onto a tour from aswan to check out the sights. Note to travelers: If you are going to get a tour it is much cheaper to do it at the actual location. The same tour which companies were trying to sell to me for 800 egyptian poundsi was able to get for 260.

So The next morning I got up at 3am to make the voayage down in a police convoy to Abu Simbel and the temples of Ramses II and Nefertiti. Unfortunately as you have to get there by police convoy and this only leaves once a day, it means you arrive there at the same time as copious busloands of package tourists….

What a wonderful blessing these people are, nothing enhances the experience of being in a 3000 year old temple like the cacophony of their loud and insightful proclamations, such as the following:

< Near blind old lady>" these hieroglyphics are so much easier to see in real life then the are in the books!"

<american lady>"Oh wow look at that duck hieroglyphic! Isn’t it cute!

<her oh so knowledgable partner>"Oh Yeah! It’s really rare too. I’ve seen a few goose hieroglyphics but the ducky ones they are rare! Yup that’s one cute ducky!"

<aussie bimbo 1>" Oh my gawd! – check out the cellulite on her! Nefertiti had one fat ass!"

 <aussie bimbo 2>"Yeah these aren’t as exiting as the ones we saw yesterday, where she had nipple errections"

 And any number of other brilliant comments which I unfortunately couldn’t understand because they were in Russian or Japanese.

And of course there was no shortage of tourists who like to show just how knowledgable they are to their equally ignorant travel partners by loudly proclaiming their (often pathetically inept) interpretation of every Egyptian scene they see.

Fortunatly these had been herded together out the front of the temples to receive the spiel on what they were about to see, so I’d been able to duck in before virtually anyone and have about 10-15 minutes in the temple of Ramses II by myself. And the feeling of being in this temple on my own was one of awe and delight. The temple of nefertiti was also grand.

 I then got back on the bus to ….. where I joined up with a few people and hired a boat across to the island where.. resides. Many less tourists here and was beautiful.

Given the late night and early rise I was knackered, but packed my bags and set out on a cruise up the nile. I was to travel for 1 night and 2 days aboard a felluca – the vessel Egyptians have been traveling up the nile in for thousands of years. The captain and ship hand were native bedoins, who didn’t speak much English but were pleasant enough.I had been hoping to travel up with a bunch of Spanish and aussie backpackers but they had left a day earlier for some inexplicable reason. So I was on the boat with two plump American women both probably in their late 40’s early 50’s. I introduced myself to them and as the felluca cast off from the jetty, I started making small talk. I asked nancy what she did.

 " I create gateways to other universes"

"Oh….. that sounds interesting"

"Yeah I bring the good energy from other universes into into this one and then I send the bad energy from this world through other gateways to empty universes"

 "I see…" i said, casting a whistful look back at the jetty which was receding into the distance.

"Oh I create stars too.. Magenta ones of course because they have the best energy… I’m working with some others now to create a second sun in this world"

Goody gumdrops that was an interesting ride! The other woman was her acolyte – she was working on bringing her ‘secound soul’ into her current body. She didn’t say much but then she did it was equally insane and some of the things these women did…

I will eventually write a few interesting stories about my travels with these ladies. But to do them justice they deserve their own entry at a later date. I just wish their had been someone else on the felluca to witness the absolute ridiculousness of this cruise. That will have to wait for another time though as this is enough writing for today. I’ve tried to give an overview but still haven’t told what has happened in the last day or two. Apologies for the rushed and shoddy writing – i’ll probably revise and elaborate it at some point soon.But the sunny beach of my current location is calling and I’m going to go for a walk along it and then perhaps hire a horse to ride along the beach and then out into the mountains….





You wouldn’t read about it

25 11 2005
I need to keep writing because so much is happening. Firstly Egypt is sooo different to the other coutries i have visitied on this tttrip. Its quite insane – but its really really good. I like the differences. I’ve learned alot of things in the short time i’ve been here. And i’m seeing very different ways to do things as well.

I like the age and history of the place. Just before i was smoking a sheisha and drinking mint shai in a ahwa which has been operated by the same family since before australia was even colonised.

Yesterday i went to the egyptian museum. it is the most interesting museum i have been to on my travels so far. When we got there i was disapointed when they would not let me take a camera in and no amount of baksheesh would change this. I thought ok its probably so we don’t damage the architectural treasures they have in here. Well… not exactly. The exhibits are cramed in everywhere and everyone is touching and rubbing them. The art in there is very poorly displayed just crammed in with very little annotation and what annotation there is just states the obvious. But the pieces are incredible! So many ancient coffins and sarcophagi and statues and amazing pieces. I walked around for 3 hours and was overwhelmed with the place. I went back out and hired a personal guide to take me throough the museum. There is so much oworthy of mention from the brilliantly intricate coffins and sarcophagi  covered in hieroglyphics to the statues, to the jewlery. The mummies were a highlight -The freaky black bodies of pharoes who ruled egypt 3500 years ago(they still have their hair! presevred — useless fact: egyptian pharoes had receding hairlines). Also they didn’t just embalm the pharoes but animals for them to take into the afterlife as well. So i saw mummified dogs, cats, monkies – 2 Massive mummified crocodiles which were 7 meters long! Also the treasures from the crypt of tutenkhamen – gold coffins and head pieces etc. Amazing.

 
That night i went out with some people from my hostel and ate traditional egyptian food (the name of which i can’t remember) and then went to an ahwa to smoke some sheisha. We met this really friendly egyptian guy who shouted us sheisha and strange egyptian drinks and he was really interesting. Turns out he was actually an officer in the egyptian special forces!, and was telling us about the current politics of egypt and the espionage that went on around the war of 1973 with israel.

One cool thing about egypt is the totally different way they approach things here. Take driving.
 In egypt rather than driving with your lheadlights on, egyptions keep them off and reserve them for hhighbeaming people who are crossing the street of to warn other cars that they are goingt o overtake. So ytou have tons of cars whizzing around in the dark high-beaming each other. Also ALL the road rules are optional. Eveyone drives through red lights, the lanes do not exist.

Cabs over here are interesting , nI was in a cab when he sped up and caught up with his friend in another car honking and flashing like crazy, they started talking whilst driving down the highway. then he leant out the window still driving and shook hands with the guy still going 80km an hour. Okay…. Not to mention that the cabs aint exactly the schmickest cars you’ve ever seen – the first one i hoped into the back doors actually didn’t close properly and oif you get a seatbelt you are doing well. On the up side these cabs are dirt cheap.

Another thing which is different is que’s – its kind of the same as on the road – no rules. everyone ppresses forwards in a heaving mass of people atowards whatever it is they want – similar to when last drinks are called at a packed bar – but more ferocious. In my case the fiesty free for all was for felafel. People are pushing and shoving and packed in like they are at a rock concert trying to get the chef’s attention, we had already paid and everyone was holding out their reciepts outstretched waving them frantically at the chef. Whe i was watching world news and ther had been some disaster and the army had to deliver food – i used to watch the crowds pile up against the truck as officers threw out food. I would think ‘those poor people, climibing all over one another to get food – look how desperate they are’.
Well actually thats just par for the course over here – whether getting food aid or a felafel its a fiesty mish mash of arms legs and turbans.
I don’t mind it – it makes queing a sport – much more interesting than just standing in line. And i have a natural advantage because i am bigger than everyone else and  can stretch my go-go gadget arms to wave my reciept right under the chefs nose.

I went down to the islamic part of town (a misanomer realy seeing as 98% of the population is islamic) and checked out the markets and mosques. The egyptians are such warm and friendly people. I was just walking to muhamoud ali mosque and some muslim girls asked if i could be in a photo with them. Now i thought that it was really hard to interact with muslim women and was frowned upon for them to be seen talking to a strange man in public, so i jumped at the chance to interact with these girls. Then all hell broke loose – i was suddenly swamped by kids and teenagers. They just started running over to me shouting ‘hello! hello! whats your name?’ and bombarding me with questions and wanting to shake my hand and be in photo’s with me. And they just kept coming.

It was like i was a celebrity! They were all pulling out their camera’s and wanting to pose in pictures with me and shake my hand and take photo’s of me just on my own and wanting to know everything about me.  I was constantly surrounded by kids and teenagers vying for my attention! At first it was really cool, but then it was getting tedious answering the same questions over and over and over. But they were so friendly!
 
I think there must have been a few school excursions going on because no sooner had one teacher herded his charges away then another group would appear. They would wave and as soon as i waved back i would be swarmed (see the photo’s). And they just kept coming, after about half an hour i was trying to escape by going into a military museum but they were there more kids there and again they would swarm up and want to shake my hand and talk to me.
 
Also i’d heard that it was really hard to get a chance to speak to muslim woman but they were all coming up and asking me all kinds of questions. And the conversations with quite a few of the older ones really explode the stereotypes.
<pack of muslim girls (about 16-17)> You are very beautiful.
<me> errr…. thankyou
<Pack of muslim girls> Do you have a wife?
<me> um no… I’m single
<pack of muslim girls> Me too! Do you have email?
 
What the hell? Getting chatted up by muslim girls at a mosque in egypt?
 
 
Anyway i eventually fled the spotlight and hid inside mohamoud ali mosque were i spoke to a muslim guy about islam for a while. After that i went down to khan al-khalili market to do some shopping. I don’t know whats wrong with me.. I didn’t bat an eyelid paying 20 english pounds (50 aussie dollars) on a cover charge to a club – but when it came to buying things which were probably a bargain and even after bargiaining for 10 minutes on the price of something i couldn’t bring myself to hand over any money because i thought i was always getting ripped off. So i didnt end up buying anything. I’m the worst shopper ever.  I also wanted to check out some suffi dancing and spent time trying to find where it was but to no avail. Went and saw a few other mosques as well.




EGYPT!

22 11 2005
Wow….
What a night!
Ok where do i begin…
Well yes coming to you from Cario, Egypt! I am writing this from a smoky, dirty little internet cafe, in the heart of downtown cairo, its dark and dingy and there are 3 middle aged arabic men crowding around the computer next to me looking at porn… They are getting ‘visibly excited’ by it if you get my drift and one of the mens groins is disturbingly close to my face..
Egypt is going to be one helluva experience i can tell already.
 
Just a quick recap of my adventures in egypt so far. Pleasant flight to egypt (i don’t know where the dispparaging stereotype about aeroplane food comes from the stuff i get is always quite good). As usual i’d done my signature due dilligence for this trip – which meant that i didn’t know what i was doing, where i was going and was planning these on the plane.
**
The dirty old men have left now. Much better…
**
Egypt has this funny semi communist system where anyone who finishes university is guaranteed a job in the public service. As theres tons of people finishing degrees there need to be more jobs. The egyptian solution to this – rather than create new initiatives and enteprises is to create more needless beurocracy. So cmoing through immigration i had my passport checked over – at three seperate points. And this job was done by two people at a time. One to look at the passport and then tell the other one to enter the info on a computer. Yup now i’m not a corporate ‘jack nasser’ bastard who likes to slash jobs. But i am trained to be one(‘Integrating I.T to increase efficiency and effectiveness’ what Business systems prports to do is more often than not a euphamism for replacing people with computers) – and this monolithic neanderthal beurocracy was riciulous! I would have gladly taken a meat-axe to it. In fact i’d relish it.
 
Get through immigrtion and there are tons of men offering accomadation – just touts. I go out to call up a hostel and make a booking. While i am trying to do that men keep on coming up and hassling me for a taxi. Like i’m making calls and they are tapping me on the shoulder and asking me for a taxi. A friendly guard – ended up ‘guarding’ me whilst i made the calls. He then turned around and says "baksheesh". This means "pay me money for doing what i’m supposed to do/give me a bribe". This was fine as i appreciated what he’d done so  i gave him a tip and then went to find the bus to get into cairo.
 
I don’t know how many of you have been standing at an airport at 11.30 at night with surrounded by a group of men all getting up close and yelling at you in broken english trying to get you into a cab – but its an interesting experience – to put it mildly. I ran away from them and jumped on a bus, which  i thought would take me to another bus which would take me to the city. A legitimately friendly guy tried to help me but i don’t think he understood where i wanted to go and so i got off the bus in the middle of nowhere  – still at the airport. If that makes sense. There were no other non-arabic tourists aroud, just groups of men.. all staring at me… okay…. A group of 6 men approached me and one of them tried to communicate with me, they were wearing  uniforms so i thuoght they’d be the best people to ask for help – i tried to communicate that i wantd to catch the bus into cairo. I just kept repeating "Bus, Bus, Cairo..downtown" He told me i was at the right place and to take a seat. He made a phone call. i went and sat down and waited for the big white shiny bus the lonely planet promised would whisk me away to cairo. A family of arabs came on another shuttle bus and i was entertaining the kids with a few magic tricks (ok just one over and over), when the arab ran over and told me "hurry! hurry! bus!" I jumped up grabbed my bag and ran from behind the bus and ran out to wear i expceted the nice big white bus.
There was a bus alright one of the big 32 seaters, totally delapidated, totally empty. ‘Oh crap’ i thought ‘Iv accidently rented my own personal bus to cairo’.. I didn’t want to get on the bus but the driver seemed to get annoyed and yelled "baksheesh".
 
***
Side note – a cat just came into the internet cafe and did a shit and it is stinks..
No – wait the owner is prepared for this and sprays it with toilet spray..Problem solved…Okay…
***
I gave him a pound and when no more money was forthcoming he took me to the bus terminal. There i hopped off because this guy spoke no english and had no idea where i wanted to go.
Man i don’t have time to finish this story as it’s really late and its a long story.. So in point form other highlights of the return journey include.
 
 – Getting harrased at the bus terminal and thinking the bus didn’t go there – walking to another airport terminal.
Saying ”srew  it" (words to that effect) – and relenting to a tout who offered me a good price on a taxi to my hotel (cheaper than my bible – aka the lonely planet said it would cost. I found out when i saw his taxi/death-trap on wheels. Shouldn’t have gone with him but was too tired to go through the hassle again. So went with this guy. I knew driving in egypt was purportedly ‘an experience’ – thats an understatement. Driving in this cab was insane. This guy didn’t believe in road rules, traffic lanes. He didn’t use his ligts except to flash cars to warn them he was overtaking. However he compensated by using his horn constantly. Didn’t believe in red lights either and sailed straight through them. I got scared when we nearly got t-boned, but the cabbie just laughed..
 
Got to destination – after cabbie who assuered me at airport he knew where my hotel was had stopped to ask for directions twice. Gave him the money and he wouldn’t give me the right change only giving me back half of what i was owed. It was not much money and although if i was less tired i would have argued longer on the principle i just gave him a withering look and took my bags.
 
Lurking at the front of the hostel were 3 men. I’d been warned by the receptionist over the phone not to let anyone else come up with me as they would then try to charge a higher price – because then they get a commision on that higher price. So when they hassled me to try and come up with me i ignored them. I walked passed them to the elevator and hopped in. Before i could press the button one of the men one of the men lept over and opened the door and tried to squeeze in. It was a very small lift only big enough for one person to get in at a time and i was standing close to the door – he literally roughly pushed me back into the lift saying he was a security guard and had to come up. I didn’t buy his bullshit for a secound. I asked him a few times nicely to get out of the lift as i was going up alone and wasn’t going up with anyone no matter what he said. He reiterated he was the security guard and tried to start the lift. I’d had enough of this shit. I opened the door stopping him from using the lift and shoved him out. Quickly closnig the door and hitting the button to make my escape. – The lift jammed halfway between the ground and the first floor.
 
The men standing there started to laugh.. The guy who’d i’d pushed out of the lift looked pissed off. I looked around for the problem and after about a minute saw there was a loose wire on the safety door. Mind you that was a very very long minute – with the arabs laughing at the hapless tourist who’d given them the cold shoulder trapped in the lift. I jiggled the wire pressed the button again and up i went.
Finally reached my hostel. Its a dive. But i don’t mind any bed will do. As the receptionist is trying to sell me on some tour i don’t want to do – up the stairs comes the prick who i’dhad to push out of the elevator. He is breathing hard from having to climb up all the steps and doesn’t look happy.
I indignantly tell the receptionist about this tout’s uncouth pushing and jumping into the lift. The receptionist looks over at me and says "this man is the security guard – he operates the lift because it is hard to use". Well why the hell did that guy say -‘no matter what don’t let anyone come up with you’?
 
Anyway apologised and came out bought some food and hit this dive of an internet cafe.
Although it sounds horrible – its actually been quite fun.  I like this dive of an internet cafe, once – because of it’s got charecter. Same with egypt. Throughout tonight i’ve been laughing at myself for the ridiculousness of the situations i’ve found myself in. Who else but me find themself renting  their own bus from the airport for god sakes? One things for sure egypt will definetly be an experience.




What happened in scotland

19 11 2005

Well a quick update on what i’ve been up to in the last few days!  The details are already getting sketchy days blur together.. Apologies for the hasty writing style. This is following on from the previous entry on scotland… 

Went the next day through edinburgh castle which was bloody windy – had a tour which was good (although the tour guide kept making me the but of all his jokes). Saw the crown jewels of scotland and the stone of destiny. Wont go through the history of these objects but they’ve got a long and interesting history. Although the stone of destiny is just a hunk of sandstone with two rusty metal rings attached. It looks suspiciously like a medieval toilet cover.(conspiracy theorists say it IS a toilet seat cover and the real stone of destiny is hidden somewhere) But this is what the kings and queens of england and scotland are coronated on.  Then went for a tour of the edinburgh underground. Some streets in edinbugh were literally built over the top with new streets! So you can acces the subteranian streets which run in a different direction to the streets above. It’s very cooltour with guides dressed and speaking like scots from the era of these underground buildings.

Next day I went p to loch ness to go hunting for nessie and took a number of detours along the way – checking out the highest mountain in scotland (ben nevis), the hill where william wallace defeated the english (the inspiration for the braveheart movie) , glencoe – the valley of woe, and also where rob roy lived (story appropriated in another hollywood movie). Also went up through gorgeous highland scenery on the way and got aqquainted with the sexiest animal in scotland (as voted by scots) the hairy coo. No not cow, – coo Checked out a few castles including castle anthrax (monty python fans). Ended up having dinner with an intelligent american girl called dana (she’s a graphic artist and here is her website – which has some of her illustrations). Next day went out and researched my scottish ancestry which actually goes backto the MacKenzie clan. Which we didn’t actually know so thats interesting geneology for my mums side of the family. Also checked out the parliament, and a few museums in edinburgh before heading to glasgow the next day and wondering through the streets there. Very different to edinburgh, checked out some modern art there which i acrtually didn’t mind and also the architecture of charles mackintosh – who was ahead of his time and pioneered architectural styles but i don’t like his stuff. Cruised through glasgow at night and then back to edinburgh which was my base.

 

 Next day went out to Rossalyn chapel. All davinci code readers should be familiar with rossalyn chapel. Its the place where the remains of christ or acording to the book proof that he had a child and family tree. It’s also reputedly linked to the secret order of the knights templar as well as the reputed hiding place of the real ‘stone of destiny’, and the head of christ. Although beautiful inside – they’ve put a tin roof over the top whilst doing repairs – rossalyn currently appears to me as an aluuring and mysterious lady – who has been fitted with a medieval jaw brace.Well i’ll tell you it was interesting going there and seeing templar graves and symbolism all through the place. Things that really made me wonder. Some of the masonary contains pictures of plants that only existed in America at that time – but it was completed 50 years before columbus discovered america! This has led to very plausible theories that it was actually the knights templar who discovered america. Actually there are heaps of conspiracy theories concerning Rossalyn and the knights templar – not all implausible. Rossalyn is also known as a ‘thin place’ where the supernatural world and are world are suppsedly close and strange things are known to happen. I gotta say it did feel just a little weird in there, and the crypt in Rossalyn i felt strange. But the biggest trip out was seeing a kangaroo in the stain glass windows! But only for a secound becuase it was a modern stain glass window. But still – what the heck is a kangaroo doing in a stain glass window in one of the most holy and sensational chapels in scotland? That night had a friendly local called rebecca show me around a number of very cool bars around central edinburgh, and sampled a number of the local brews.

 

Then up in the morning and flew back to london for a follow up on the drug trial. I’m now staying with alex which is very kind of him especially considering i zipped his jumper over his head up and posted the photo’s on this blog. 🙂 But great news is that yesterday i managed to scam a flight to egypt and it didn’t cost me a dime. Convinced the airline that because i don’t want to fly into new orleans because of the hurricane to give me a flight to egypt. Also returned my scotland guide to the bookshop and exchanged it for the egypt one. So i’ll be there in just a few days which will be really interesting. I haven’t really been to a islamic country before and so it should be quite different from what i’ve been experiencing so far. I’ve bought a book on islam to read up as i really don’t know enough about this prevalent and topical religion. Also a chance to see the wonders of ancient egypt. Also hopefully i’ll be doing some scuba diving at one one of the best sites in the world – the Red Sea down at Sharm el-Sheik. So looking forward to that. Also went out today and did a few touristy things in london, Oxford Street, Picadilly circus, leicester square but main thing was getting my cheque for the drug trial. 1700 pounds in the bank. So now i’m all cashed up and ready to go on the next leg of my trip!