Monday, 14 June 2010

Ciao Kaspuur!

Was it a bird? Was it a plane? What was that green blur that blocked out the sun over Europe for two weeks? It was as though Kaspuur grew wings as she carried us through Europe in just enough time to get a snippet of the highlights and leave us smacking our lips for more.

Italy is certainly something of fairytales with its cobble stoned walkways, gondolas, ancient bridges, medieval masks and Venetian glass. Lush vineyards and curvaceous valleys claim the countryside with gelato and deliciously simple dishes a state of "normale" throughout. It is hard to say which town was my favorite out of Venice, Florence, Chianti, Livorno, Pisa and Trento as they each offered us something special but Trento was a real gem. Lago di Levico was a fantastic retreat with snow-capped mountains in the distance, shining waters in the foreground, green forests as far as the eye can see and sunset cruise paddleboat rides on the agenda.
Venice >>>

Florence >>>
Ange and Matt in Livorno >>>
Pisa >>>
Trento >>>
We left Italy reluctantly and with the benefits of the Autobahn found ourselves flitting through Austria and southern Germany - our windscreen wipers working overtime. It seems we had driven straight out of summer.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

WE MADE IT TO CAIRO!!!

We were rather arrogantly expecting streamers, a welcome party and fireworks as we pulled into Cairo. It was certainly one of those celebratory moments when you realise what you have not only achieved but survived. As it was our bodies were merely holding out for the downtime we subconsciously craved. After a yummy meal at Chilis, all four of us crashed in some way or another. In true Campbell style he slept...for 24 solid hours.

A couple days later when we were all compus mentis and able to accept the gravity of the situation - having driven from Cape Town to Cairo - we reeeeally celebrated. Since alcohol was scarce we celebrated with lots and lots of gelato at one of Cairo's many scrumptious gelato and pastry stores. Yum yum.

Blue Steel >>>Who said those Pyramids where big? Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx >>>

Cairo is just as crazy, although massively more cosmopolitan, than any other African city. Thanks heavens for sound proof windows. Take a listen to this noise outside our hotel window:

video

Sadly, the time has come for the Gummi Bears to go their separate ways. We have loved traveling with Danny and Jill on and off since Malawi and wish you guys only the best on your travels East and beyond. After hunting high and low we found some "Red Lion" whiskey to drown our tears into as a final farewell to our friends. Coochie coochie and "I am Freeeench" will miss you terribly. xx

OVERLANDER GEM: Visemar Line ferry from Alexandria to Venice - book through aferry.com

There is a new ferry line that runs a service from Alexandria to Venice. This ferry line is so new we booked onto its maiden voyage. We were among 8 travelers set to make overlanding history.

However, in true African style, on our way to Alexandria we got a call. It was a bad call. The Egyptian port authorities have denied transit for the maiden voyage. We would have to wait another week. We were told there was zero chance of us sailing as scheduled.

So, we had resigned ourselves to spending a week in a budget hotel waiting to see if we could sail. Alexandria is a sprawling city with 15million people and not enough parking. It was mayhem trying to find somewhere safe to leave Kaspuur. A few hours before our ferry is due to sail we get a call from the ferry company. “If you can get to port we can get you on the boat”. Considering the rigmarole and full day of paperwork it took to get us into Egypt we never ever thought we would make it. It is amazing what pushy Egyptians and a lot of baksheesh can achieve. With 30minutes to go before the boat left the docks 8 overlanders did indeed make overlanding history. It is a fantastic way to leave Africa's red dusts in your wake.


Ben and Campbell having a drink. Cheers to Africa - we love you! >>>

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Baksheesh and Escorts

Four tired, dirty, excited Gummi Bears elbowed their way off the boat onto Egyptian soil and were met with chaos and total disorder. What can only be described as a stampede of crazy people frog-marched their way through three barriers to rush to ... hmmm, I'm still not quite sure what the rush was about.

Karma came to bite them all in the butt when the man with the power to let people through handpicked the few of us not trying to maul and flatten our neighbors. Naturally the four of us accepted this invitation.
We have been ripped from the developing world and slapped, like a baby's bottom at birth, with the tourism assembly belt that is Egypt. 50plus of these ginormous hotel boats sat on the Nile in Aswan and all overflowing with pink tourists in mini shorts, wife beaters, big hats and cameras glued to their noses. It took us a while to come to terms with flush toilets, aircon, swimming pools, wi-fi in our rooms and food that doesn't have negative after effects. Although we all loved the real Africa it is surprising how quickly you can readjust.

Felucca boats on the Nile >>>
While waiting for the car to arrive on the barge which was a few days behind us, the Gummi Bears explored the Temple of Isis by night and the souk (market) by day. The touts and locals are on full tourist alert and you cannot step out of your hotel without being offered a felucca (boat cruise) ride, taxi, curios or a horse-drawn carriage ride.

Danny and Jill on the felucca to the Temple of Isis light show >>>
Campbell and the felucca captain >>>
Chilling out on the Nile >>>
The Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens was blisteringly hot but amazing. Unfortunately there was a hefty fine for taking any photos so sorry folks, no pictures for you.
Colossus of Memnon >>>
Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple >>>
This brings a new meaning to a camel ride in Egypt >>>
Baksheesh can be loosely translated as a tip, bribe or bonus for services offered. It's a part of the Egyptian culture and is widely accepted as wages are generally quite low. In East Africa we had the stereotypical dirty street child with the extended belly, snot running down their faces and flies in their eyes beg us for money and at times like these it is hard to say no. It has taken some getting used to when well dressed Egyptian children rush over in packs smiling, healthy and giggling hellos in our direction and then fling a "baksheesh, baksheesh" at us.

The road to Aswan and Luxor went by with the expected temples, heat and long roads and a familiar friend has returned - the speed hump. Kaspuur was last abused by this traffic calming devise in Tanzania but that was nothing in comparison to Egypt. Next to the Pyramids if Giza, speed humps are their national treasure.

Our journey from Luxor to Cairo was at best utterly bizarre and quite scary. We decided to make the trip to our African overland finish line over two days and stop in the not-so-small town of Asyut. Little did we know that there had been some trouble in these parts a month earlier. We were therefore baffled when a police escort was forced on us en route to Asyut, another two police escorts were allocated (one inf ront and one behind us) to take us to our hotel, a personal escort to take us out of the hotel to get food and drinks, several escorts to get us out of town and four hours out of Asyut. All this time, no-one would tell us why this was necessary. We found out when we got to Cairo.
One of our escorts >>>


We figured it was for our own protection but the people and the roads were perfectly safe with nothing but the usual donkeys, camels, speed humps, small children, tuk tuks and bikes in the road.