Egypt

Just a warning that this is a very long post.

Leaving Romania, I had a long travel day ahead of me. Whilst looking on Skyscanner most of the flights were around the same price and the options weren’t great; they all required a layover or bank loan for a direct flight. After a bit of thinking, I chose Turkish Airlines as they offer a free tour of Istanbul if your layover is longer than six hours.

I just about made it to the tour I wanted to get on as opposed to a later one. The customs queue was a shitfight, as well as the queue to register for the tour, which I signed up for with literally a minute to spare. We went through a palace, I forgot the name, for an hour and a half, then to the Blue Mosque – just the outside as the queue was over an hour long, a market, free dinner and a walk around the city. I’d definitely recommend doing it during a layover if it doesn’t make the flight that much more expensive as it gives you a feel for the city, but you can’t do a whole lot there.

After I killed five hours in Ataturk Airport and slept through the flight to Cairo, I got in a taxi and went to the hotel. They let me check in at 5am.

I didn’t plan on doing much after waking up, then thought it’d be a waste to be in Cairo and not do something, so I went to the Egyptian Museum. There’s over 130,000 artefacts inside, and a lot of it is older than the religion of Christianity – nowadays it’s hard to buy a pen that lasts longer than a month without it going missing, but 2000+ years ago, things were made to last. I’m really glad that I took the time to spend a few hours here; it’s the type of place you can spend all day at.

The next day the tour group met, went to a market which was pretty generic then off to dinner. There’s a speciality here of macaroni, spaghetti, chickpeas, lentils, fried onions and rice tossed together with tomato sauce which is oddly satisfying – there’s restaurants that sell just that. The following day we were up to go to and see the Pyramids – the third wonder of the world that I’ve seen so far.

You start to wonder not just how they built the pyramids, but how they got all the resources together too, with the bricks weighing tons each and being transported hundreds of miles to Giza, built really high. We had the option to go into the Great Pyramid or the smaller one, I went into just the smaller one as it seemed the most worthwhile choice and you spend less time crouched down. It’s really cool to go inside, hoping that you haven’t timed it for when the Pyramids collapse after thousands of years.

We had a camel ride after, but I just felt bad for the camels – they go on the floor, a tourist hops on them, then they walk a bit and walk back, to repeat, and I don’t think the people guiding the camels are that friendly towards the animals – they seem to just be after tips. It’s at the area where you get a panoramic view of the pyramids and it’s just great to see. After, as a group we went to the Egyptian Museum, this time I went inside the Mummy room and saw King Tut’s mask with the relics that were in the tomb, as well as the information behind some of the pieces there as we had our guide.

That evening we had a 13 hour sleeper train to Aswan; we’re paired up to share rooms so on the train I volunteered to be on the top bunk as I’m sure I’ve been in worse bunks in hostels. It was pretty ok besides having not much space and nothing to prevent falling out of the bed, with a toilet that you had to hold the lid up to use. Upon arriving, we had a short ride to get a boat to the Temple of Philae, also known as the Temple of Isis, which is just amazing. There’s carvings everywhere, even on the ceiling, and it’s somewhere to go rather than read about how I describe it. We chilled for the afternoon, then had a 4am start.

We got up early to go to Abu Simbel Temple, which turned out to be a 7.5, almost 8 hour round trip. It’s been relocated due to the lake near it flooding, but you couldn’t tell and probably looked just as good as the original. We spent an hour and a half in the temples there before heading back to the hotel. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temple, but there’s some on Google.

After Aswan came Luxor, taking us 26 hours to get to – 22 hours on a boat, and then a four hour bus ride to finish the journey. After a couple of hours in the hotel we went to Karnak Temple which was just nuts in terms of the size of the place and how well preserved it is, not to mention the work that went into it. There were indicators to tell that it was an unfinished temple. I had been expecting to get templed out at some point on this trip, but every one of them has a unique touch to them, so we were still looking up in awe. We had a nice dinner that night on a rooftop bar, where I had an Egyptian styled pizza – the next day we were getting an overnight train so I did not want to risk eating something dodgy.

Our last place to visit was Valley of the Kings, for me I think this was the best stop. The site is hills and mountains where ancient kings had tombs made for them, a lot of them still undiscovered. The details and colours of the carvings on the wall, as well as the tombs, how the Egyptians managed to not only build them, but get the lids on top is insane. I also chose to pay a bit extra and go into King Tut’s tomb – it’s the smallest and underwhelming compared to the others – he died unexpectedly so the Egyptians had little time to build a tomb, and most of the treasures and tomb we saw in Cairo Museum. Inside there was his mummy on display. To take photos there was a charge and I just wanted to put my camera down and enjoy it, though the guards didn’t care if anyone took pictures, regardless of having a pass or not. During the evening before getting on the night train back up to Cairo I managed a quick trip to Luxor Museum.

What did I think about Egypt? Quite possibly the highlight of my travels. It was unique in the sense that you see how people live when you travel, but here you see how people lived 3000 years ago and it’s right there in front of you, untouched besides the preservation work. I am so glad that I booked this tour, with the group that I was with, and was definitely worth what I paid for. I’ve left Egypt wanting to learn more about the ancient Egyptians, and when I’ve got my Netflix membership back I’ll definitely be watching a few docos after I’ve finished watching Brooklyn 99.

Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa: My Final Thoughts

I booked this trip in December last year and I think this is the trip that I’ve had the most questions about – like travelling through Europe, Asia and Australia is somewhere people would expect me to go, but not Africa.

Honestly, the trip was a lot of driving hours to places to spend around half a day doing an activity. Putting the tents up and down almost every day didn’t take too long but was a pain in the arse. With that said, what we did on the trip and what we got out of it was fantastic. I’ve been up close to the animals, learnt a lot about them and what measures are being put into place to try and prevent the rhinos from becoming extinct.

For me, the highlights were Hwange National Park; watching the elephants cross the road in particular, the day spent at Matobo National Park and the safari trip through Kruger National Park. One night in Kruger all but three of us had gone to bed, so I came up with the idea of finding lion sound effects on YouTube and parading it around our area of the campsite. I don’t think anyone was fooled, especially with us laughing, but it was funny nonetheless.

I’d love to visit Africa again. The group I joined were halfway through their tour and had been to Okavango Delta in Botswana, judging by their photos, videos and stories it was fantastic so I’d love to go. I’m intending to go to Egypt at some point this year, but I’d like to work something out starting in Botswana or Zimbabwe going into Botswana, and the surrounding area. This will have to wait a few years, until I work and save money to spend on another trip again.

After Africa comes China. I’ve never been and am not too sure what to expect, but it should be fun.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Once again, we took our tents down in Blouberg and had an early start for a long drive to Kruger. The National Park is larger than some smaller countries including Brussels, home to a lot of species including the big five.

Upon arriving, we put up our tents to get ready for an evening game drive. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about doing it as we were driving around at night, shining spotlights at wild animals. There’s so much said and put into practice about not disturbing the animals, yet shining light onto nocturnal animals is apparently ok.

During the drive we saw hyenas, elephants, owls, potentially zebras but probably impalas, a hippo out of water and a civet, which I had never heard of prior to the tour. There were two cars used for our group, and the others saw a family of leopards which I’m gutted that I missed – they’re the only ones I didn’t see out of the big five.

The following morning we took our tents down again to go on a safari. I took one of my favourite photos that I’ve ever taken of a giraffe, as well as heaps of elephants, impalas, zebras, buffalo, a couple of ostriches and species of birds.

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Getting towards the end of the safari, the one animal that we wanted to see, the lion, had not been seen, until someone shouted that they could see some. It was from a distance so the picture is not great, but still. They were around a watering hole and it was interesting to see the other animals drink from it in at least pairs; one keeping an eye on the lions.

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Moremi Gorge, Botswana and Moving Onto South Africa

During the trip there were a couple of days put together to cover a lot of land on the bus. We went into Botswana as it’s easier to cross the border into South Africa from there as opposed to the Zimbabwe one.

Honestly, these couple of days weren’t that interesting. Moremi Gorge, we just went for a walk which was pretty dangerous; we were more or less bouldering at some points to get to a waterfall.

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The next day we went off to Blouberg in South Africa – the name translates into Blue Mountains. It’s the third Blue Mountains I’ve visited, with the first being in Canada, and the second in New South Wales.

We went for a walk that was not as dangerous as Moremi Gorge, then went to the pub with the locals. There’s a beer made locally where they’re not too sure of the alcohol percentage and to drink, you have to spill some at the start and end of your drink for your ancestors. I chose to have a lot of ancestors.

I am waiting for pictures to be sent to me, but we were also made to dance with the locals with only a beer or two in us, and after we were off to have dinner at a homestead. It was pretty decent besides the caterpillar that I tried, and chatted to the local woman.

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The next day we took our tents down once again, and headed for Kruger National Park

Hwange & Matobos

We took down our tents in Victoria Falls and went to Hwange National Park, which took a few hours. We were told that if we needed to get up in the middle of the night, to get our lights around to absolutely make sure there were no wild animals, such as lions and hyenas, as we were camping in the park.

After lunch we were picked up in safari cars to spend a few hours going around the National Park. We saw heaps of elephants, giraffes, hippos, baboons, impalas, as well as a lot of birds, though not a lot of animals were up close. It was my first time seeing wild elephants up close, and saw a herd of them crossing the road behind the car which was amazing.

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We left the National Park in the dark, then went back to the campsite and sat around the fire until it started to get late. The next morning we took down our tents and went to Matobos which took the best part of a day to get there, then we put the tents up. In the evening we went for a walk/hike in an area near the campsite.

The following morning we set off for Matobos National Park, where we set off to find some rhinos. Once in the park, our guide took us to an area where he told us about the challenges that are being faced by the parks to stop the rhinos being poached for the horn, to the point where there are armed guards in the park who are instructed to shoot to kill any potential poachers.

The rhinos are being poached for their horns, which are wrongfully assumed to have medicinal purposes. Despite the fact that the horns actually grow back, they are being killed, and sometimes left to die whilst their horns are being cut off. It seems as though the parks in the country want to be able to sell the horns that they have collected in order to prevent poaching in order to bring in profit to help prevent the animals from becoming extinct.

After this, we got back in the van and drove for around fifteen minutes, then we got out and went on foot to get nearer the animals. We ended up getting around ten meters away from them.

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Afterwards, we were taken around the park, had some lunch and stopped off at a locally-run souvenir market, then we went to climb up one of the big hills in the park. Afterwards, we were taken to a cave where there are paintings from the Bushmen over 30,000 years ago still marked on the walls, which is painted the same way as the paintings in Ayers Rock. The animals painted are thought to show the animals in the land, to show others what was available to eat, as well as the dangerous animals in the area.

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It’s interesting to hear about the similarities of the Bushmen to the Aboriginals in Australia: they both treated everything, and each other in their environment with respect and only took what they really needed from the land. For instance, they wouldn’t kill an animal that they could not finish eating, and were resourceful as to how they would use the inedible parts of the animals. It is also thought that they had the same beliefs as to how the human race started, despite being thousands of miles apart.

After, we were taken to a local village to meet the chief, and then back to the campsite.

Victoria Falls

Last Friday I left Australia, after having spent two years (minus four days) in the country. It took 36 hours to get there with two layovers: both in Perth and Johannesburg. First stop was Victoria Falls, to start nine days of camping in Africa, in Zimbabwe, a night in Botswana and to finish off two nights in Kruger National Park in South Africa.

I was under the impression that visiting Victoria Falls would be similar to visiting Niagara Falls, however this was not the case. There is a US$30 entrance fee, and takes the best part of an hour to get around if you’re rushing it. Apparently, the view is better from Namibia, though I was quite done with going through border security and didn’t fancy paying extra for a visa.

For me, it took around an hour and a half to get around and got soaked from the spray. Over the past two and a half years I’ve seen quite a few waterfalls, lived in Tasmania for a couple of weeks and seen nature that is simply stunning, and Victoria Falls tops the list.

In terms of the town, I couldn’t walk a hundred meters without someone trying to sell me something that neither want nor need, and I did get a few men giving me unwanted compliments. Another thing that I hadn’t expected was to see so many baboons in the street; I went to buy some water from the supermarket and on the way there saw one drinking from a puddle in the middle of the pavement.

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