Always one to make an entrance

So I was late. A whole day late to my tour because I’m an idiot and simply ready the dates wrong. So as soon as I got to the beach side hotel I was quickly whisked off to a ferry. I’d been flying for ages and was dreaming of sleeping on the beach for the day because I thought I was a day early. Instead I had to back across on the ferry sweating bollocks and make a beeline for Zanzibar island with Mark (one of the tour leaders). Everyone else had spent the day doing a tour but I went to sleep straight away until Sarah and Randi came into the room. Two danish sisters that I’d be sharing with through Zanzibar. That night we went out for drinks at a couple of rooftop bars – good start to Africa after my silly arrival. Then we left Stone Town to go north of the island where we stayed in a really nice beachside hotel. We all had double four poster beds – living the life.

We spent most of the time lounging on the gorgeous beach with drinks. We had an awesome booze cruise with an African band. We were all jumping into the ocean from the boat, which for me is a big deal because I usually can’t jump off anything but I did! Sounds pathetic but water and I aren’t chummy. But we will be….

You can accept being hungover when a place is as beautiful as Zanzibar. So the next day that is what we did before heading back to Livingstone for some last minute shopping. I picked up some bits and bobs before taking the ferry back to Dar es Salaam where we camped for one night. We had the beach again but it wasn’t as nice as Zanzibar. This was our first night in the tent and it rained so in the middle of the night we had to get out and pull down the latches. I’m totally inept to camping, I cam with a pillow and sheet slip. Woopsie, luckily Marky Mark lent me a blanket otherwise I would have frozen on many occasions. I get ridiculously cold anyway, so I really should have looked into it more. I also didn’t bring a torch. What a wanker.

And thus begins Africa.

Zanzibar – beautiful island.

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Syria – I can see you!

The morning after Tel Aviv and the misfortunes Phillip and I drove up north stopping at few places along the way. To be honest I can’t remember most of the names but we stayed in Tiberias by the lake. It’s very close to the Syrian border so we decided to take a visit. On the way up you can see all of the mine sites on the side of the road. We got to a site up the top where you can view Syria and you can explore the bomb sites and areas where they once fought each other. There were heaps of puddles underground and my feet got soaked – I’m not to sure if you’re actually allowed down there because we didn’t see anyone else go down and the state of it was pretty awful.

We then drove to the actual border, where you can see the actual ‘fence’ dividing the countries. It was pretty uneventful to be honest, we saw heaps of UN and army people but they weren’t doing that much. After that we drove back to Tel Aviv where I hopped straight on a bus back to Jerusalem. After a couple of days I crossed the border back to Jordan because that is where I was flying out from to Dar es Salaam. I did literally nothing in my day in Amman because I’d already been there and I was hungover. Slept. Ate. Flew out.

Mines on the way to the border.

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View of Syria from Israel.10387247_10152361903586090_682788176323800333_n 10734109_10152361903836090_1204934370255363556_n

The border dividing Israel and Syria.10426563_10152361904231090_5610613108100748881_n

Tiberias, view of the lake.10441114_10152361906771090_2264941720391932660_n

Heading to the capital with a few disasters along the way!

My first opinion of Tel Aviv was wow this is ugly, especially after Jerusalem. The hostel I stayed at was in the middle of the industrial supposedly ‘hipster’ area. I think they confuse trash with treasure a little. However the hostel itself was really nice and had a cool roof top area to look over the city. I went to a vegan restaurant the next day, it was not bad but nothing to rave about. The receptionist told me that they had great vegan places because the city was pretentious like that… made me laugh a bit. I tried to go shopping but came across the single worst mall ever. Safe to say I didn’t get anything.

Then I headed to Yafo, the old town. So much better. It was a lot more attractive and had the beach lining one side. I went to lunch at hummus place with a couple of people from the hostel and then just walked around. I randomly ran into Tamara the day before and waited for her to get back from her cooking class to have a few drinks on the rooftop. It was great to see her and I couldn’t believe we didn’t talk about where we were staying – nice coincidence.

Back to bad things, my card got hacked into and the cancelled my account so I had no money because I didn’t know the pin to my other card. The hostel lost my favourite pants in the washing and I accidentally left my favourite hat there. Sigh. All of that on my last morning before Philip picked me up. Bit stressful but everything works out in the end of course.

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Jerusalem is kind of like Hogwarts

It’s one of the weirdest places I’ve been to, it’s kind of magical. There are so many orthodox jews everywhere, everything (everything!) shuts for sabbath and it just feels like nowhere else in the world. I visited twice, when I first came from across the Jordanian border and before leaving again. I spent the most time here out of Israel and I’m glad because there was a lot to do.  When I first arrived I had food poisoning from Jordan so I spent the first day in bed but I did have to venture outside to pick up some food for the next few days because it was Sabbath. I went to the market which was up the street (this was to become my favourite place) and picked up some fresh dolmades, hummus, onion bread and fresh juice. The market is just incredible place, it’s full of all the different types of jewish people from orthodox to mini skirt wearing – however all proudly jewish.

Even though it was Sabbath most of the old town was open because it is divided into four sections, the Jews, the Armenians, Christians and Muslims. Kind of like the four houses in Harry Potter. I did one of those free walking tours around old town and then went up Mount of Olives and did all the mains sites, Western Wall, Church of Holy Sepulchre etc. It’s pretty incredible to see all of the religions come together like that – although they’re always fighting each other. Within the time I was there I had two bomb scares on the trams I was on, people were killed at the western wall, some man ran over 13 people and hit them with an iron bat and numerous other things. Crazy.

I also visited the holocaust museum which was very moving. I’ve seen a few of these museums now but this one was particularly good. I spent a lot of time in the market, during the day and at night when it turned into a bar scene. Kirsten and I went to celebrate her birthday with some people from the hostel down at the bars. It was a great night and I was able to explore the city by night with Jonathan. It was still sabbath so it was eerily quiet but very interesting.

The thing I really didn’t like about Jerusalem is the guns. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has one – 16 year old girls walk around in nice dresses with a machine gun. Yep, just wearing it like a handbag. It’s weird and made me feel really uncomfortable.

Western Wall.

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Jewish cemetery.

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Sabbath – so the streets were eerily quiet.  10429241_10152361904736090_5466114126636772409_n

Church of Holy Sepulchre. 10593234_10152361905286090_8025860427863605545_n

The market at night turns into a bar area. Had a beer that tasted like bacon, well weird. 10847811_10152419324130563_2089317486526166153_n

The market is amazing for food and I stocked up because of Sabbath. These are a mix of spinach, mushroom and something else which I’ve forgotten. All were delicious. I also tried dolmades, artichokes, and jam doughnuts amongst other delicious things. Oooo and I also had courgette ‘spaghetti’ which was amazing at one of the bars.

 Photo on 7-11-2014 at 11.43 am

Floating for the first time ever!

Jerash – well it’s another ancient ruin. Moving on…

I was so bloody excited to float for the first time because it’s basically impossible not to float in the dead sea. Every other sea is impossible for me, I sink immediately. So we got down to the dead sea and had their ‘5 star’ buffet (we’ll get to this later it involves a lot of early morning vomitting). Then it was time to get in the sea, they told us prior not to shave or anything because it would sting but being me of course I did. It didn’t sting, so that was a win. However, it did sting in other areas… It wasn’t just me, as soon as I mentioned it everyone else was squeezing their legs together – haha! Plus getting it in the eyes or nose was worthy of a hell no.

It was so cool being able to float, I can’t even explain how weird it was. No mater how hard you tried your legs would move upwards. I though the dead mud sea would actually be in the ocean but it was in a bucket up the beach. Our driver and other men rubbed mud on us… yep as weird as it sounds. It dries on you and you have to wait 15-20 minutes or so before washing it off in the sea. It felt super tight around the eyes and it completely ruined my bathers but it was worth it. Your skin feels really soft when you first take it off but I think for the full effect you need to do it for quite a while. We spent the rest of the day by the pool watching the sun set over the sea.

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The third wonder of the world – Petra.

They decided to make Petra the third wonder of the world over Abu Simbel, so I was interested to see why they thought it was better because Abu Simbel was amazing. We got up early and walked through the gorge to get to the Treasury, which is the most famous and iconic place within Petra. Petra is huge so it took a while to get there but it was pretty spectacular. However at this point I was still on the Abu Simbel team – that, for me made my jaw drop further. There was still jaw dropping but not as much. After masses more walking we decided to go up to the Monastery which is something like 800 steps. Rach and I pulled through and made it to the top and it was so worth it. I was more impressed by the Monastery than the Treasury – maybe it was because of all the effort put in to getting there and seeing everything along the way. There was also a view point which was a few more stairs up and that was awesome. You could look down on the Monastery and all the mountains surrounding it. Bonus – there were two gorgeous kittens who kept jumping in and out of the tent.

We were all so exhausted after Petra because we walked over 17km that day but we had already decided to go back to do Petra by night. The thought of walking all the way back down again was urrrgh but you’re only there was right? So we went back down and the gorge was lit by candles, to be fair it was rather pretty. Once we got down to the Treasury we sat down on mats and they handed out tea. There were heaps more candles but the Treasury itself wasn’t lit up which was a bit disappointing. They played some music and we sat there while some annoying kid wouldn’t shut up. It was enjoyable but not exactly what we were expecting. However I really did enjoy Petra and it is very impressive.

We also went four wheel driving in Wadi Rum which was super fun. Our driver was awesome and would wait behind everyone else and then speed down all the hills. It was great sitting in the back and seeing all the dunes and the strange rock formations. We got out a few times to look at gorges or climb up massive dunes. Surprisingly a lot harder than it looked. Then we had some tea with the bedouins in their tent. Rach and G got the drive the four wheel drive around for a bit which was sweet.

Petra – The Treasury.

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Dana, Rach and I in front of the Monastery. 10805561_10152929434628938_4410562639673197441_n

The Monastery.

 10603588_10152361892696090_4875292066326046864_n                 Kittens on top of the view point. 10525603_10152361893611090_6073712499867473597_n 

Petra by night. Everything was lit up by candles.1607095_10152361888921090_302894140505412092_n 

Wadi Rum – the desert, 10151190_10152361891491090_8075465961554827401_n10407683_10152361890781090_1424426004625266331_n

Winning at life in Wadi Mujab and Amman

Amman started off brilliantly. We found an awesome restaurant where we could choose an array of things to eat not just falafel and shawarma which seriously put a smile on everyone’s face. We ate lunch and dinner there. The place next door to where we were staying also had happy hour. This is amazing for two reasons – one it’s a bar and alcohol was basically non existent in Egypt and two it had happy hour. We frequented it regularly while in Amman.

The next day was one of the best days I’ve had on this trip. We decided to go to Wadi Mujab and go canyoning, which I’ve never done before. I can’t even explain how much fun it was. We went through the rivers up to the main waterfall climbing up rocks and sliding down the on the way back. We were also able to float on the way back down using the current to direct us. Love, love, loved it!

Mujib Reserve Canyoning!

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Free day to wander in Alexandria

Today was our ‘free day’ so we decided to go up to Alexandria and do a tour.  We went to see the famous accent wonder of the world – the Alexandria Lighthouse that happens to longer be there. The base is still there and has a nice backdrop by the sea. It was actually just really nice to get out of Cairo and have some fresh air. There isn’t exactly a beach to swim in but we dipped our feet quickly into the water before heading to a mosque.

We also visited their famous library which I assumed was going to be old and cool. It wasn’t. It was modern and was rather disappointing. They did have some nice modern art but that’s about it. We also saw a church and some monuments and other such things people see on such tours. It was an okay day but nothing that amazing. The next night for our final Egyptian dinner we went to a giant mall. The girls and I had dinner at an Italian place and it was rather good. We didn’t do any shopping just drove miles there because we wanted an actual supermarket, which happened to have closed down. Fail. We had to get up early the next day to fly to Amman.

The group of us in Alexandria library. A bit of a fail of the libraries half, it isn’t exactly an attraction.

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The girls having dinner on our last night in Cairo. 68961_10152339701716090_5137062727066511356_n

Market in Alexandria.

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This is where the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World Lighthouse used to stand.10432086_10152339704241090_3525469178633229386_n 10641140_10152339702071090_4383812704709734119_n

Queen of the Nile

We arrived in Aswan in the morning and checked into the hotel. There were literally no other tourists we could see in the area. Weird. We had to get up at 3AM for Abu Simbel. We stumbled into the bus for a longish ride over there but my god was it worth it! Abu Simbel is amazing. I can’t believe they carved all of that out of the side of a mountain (they have moved it up but they’ve kept it in exactly the same way). There wasn’t really that many people, and our guide told us it’s significantly dropped in the last 5 years because of all the political unrest.

After driving back, we got to board our Nile Rive Cruise. None of us were expecting it to be as nice as it was. Our cabins were really nice and we had a rooftop pool. It was great to chill out on the boat and get off to explore Karnak, Edfu, and Philae. The cruise also hosted an Egyptian dress up party which was a bit of fun. There was drinking, dancing, drinking, dancing and more drinking. So… I missed out on the next days temple but I wasn’t to bothered because they said it wasn’t that great.

One of the mornings some of the guys went hot air ballooning before meeting up to get donkeys to the Valley of the Kings. I almost strangled the donkey because I fell onto it’s neck – they’re bat shit crazy. I had to swap donkeys onto one that was a bit more stable. I have to say I much prefer horseback and even camel! You’re only allowed to see a few tombs in the Valley of the Kings in order to protect them. It’s pretty amazing how intact they are with all the wall paintings still legible.

Abu Simbel in all of it’s glory!

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View from the hotel room in Aswan of the Nile. 1654254_10152339749206090_954638995673763570_n

The pool on top of the boat cruise we took.7102_10152339755601090_5952398662753664407_n

Group shot of the dress up night.10469412_10152796201381796_1572125566314049748_n

Mummified crocodiles at one of the temples.16780_10152339690866090_6227817125789244026_n

Donkey ride on the way to the Valley of the Kings. No photos were allowed to be taken inside the Valley. 10291078_10152339758171090_3715406790426912377_n

A temple that I cannot remember the name of.10641142_10152339690621090_4170587227624001826_n

The train cabin from Cairo to Aswan. Not too shabby really. 10343674_10152339748936090_7181274120193343828_n

The mummies aren’t in their pyramids

I arrived to Cairo rather late because their immigration process takes forever. I arrived one night early before my tour started and decided to stay in another hotel because of costing. The hotel was not to bad and they got my falafel and ful for breakfast. I was pretty excited by that but if I had known I was going to be eating that pretty much every meal maybe I wouldn’t have been as much! I moved to the other hotel in the morning and waited in the room most of the day doing work. We had our group meeting and went out for falafel and shawarma.

The next day we headed out to the pyramids which were awesome. We climbed up into the main one. To be fair there isn’t much in it but I enjoyed the climb up and the fact I can say I’ve been in the Pyramids of Giza. We also went to the museum and saw the mummies – that was sick. They’re really small and there’s something not quite human about them but enough so for it to be slightly creepy. Their teeth and hair are still somewhat in tact which is bizarre. There’s so much stuff in the museum to see, it’s a little hard to take it all in. After more falafel that night we took the overnight train to Aswan. It was surprisingly nice. They serve you dinner and pull down the chairs to make beds. I had a pretty decent nights sleep in the end.

The Great Pyramids of Giza!

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Inside the pyramids… not supposed to take photos but there’s always a guard to pay off!10687066_10152787486456796_5654993631202911893_n

On the way to the bizarre. Fiona, Tamara and Rach.1385420_10152339698331090_40916406514316390_n

The Bizarre   1450699_10152339698901090_2151068513537560888_n

Pretty much the bane of my existence in Egypt. Fava beans and falafel. DSC04036DSC04033