A Travellerspoint blog

Happy Christmas From the Road

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From Are in Sweden, hello to our friends and families!

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We’ve had a crazy second half of 2007, travelling more than 100,000 kilometres. It was a long journey, and one which always included our friends and family: if not in person then firmly in our hearts and thoughts. We wish you all a very enjoyable holiday season, and look forward to catching up in the New Year!

In the meantime, you can see we’ve been busy with our Christmas hats ….

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Happy Christmas from Lloyd and Jacquie!!

Posted by jacquiedro 11:00 Archived in Sweden Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Mummy Tummy Cures and Other Travel Tips for Egypt

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1) Use the metro in Cairo. It’s cheap, fast and gave us a perspective on Egyptian life that we didn’t experience anywhere else. (Like kindness, respect and generosity . . .)

2) If your itinerary allows, visit the Cairo Museum AFTER visiting Aswan and Luxor. It’s an inaccessible museum that – as presented - lacks context, and having been to the sites we were better able to appreciate content relevant to the places we had visited.

3) Don’t be concerned, as we were, that the travelling Tutankhamen Exhibition (currently at London’s O2) has borrowed too many of the key artifacts to leave the Cairo Museum lacking. We were able to see far more than we expected, including the gold (Funerary) face mask (etc)…

4) Be prepared for the expense of visiting the sites you will want to see: we spent somewhere around US$120 each on entry tickets, and that didn’t include more expensive options including Tutankhamen’s tomb in Valley of the Kings and the Royal Mummies’ exhibition at the Cairo Museum.

5) Be sure to take a balloon ride over Valley of the Kings (Luxor). The price has come down dramatically in the last twelve years. The going rate seemed to be around US$80 per person for a balloon that will hold sixteen or so passengers, but we were offered the same flight for US$50 so be prepared to haggle.

6) Don’t use Viator.com! Note that I pre-booked online and grossly overpaid at Viator.com which seems to think that 200% profit margins are reasonable. Don’t be fooled by their money-back guarantee (claims to guarantee a refund if you find the same service offered at a lower price locally), enforcement of which has turned into one of the most frustrating elements of the entire trip.

7) More on balloons. We couldn’t decide whether to go for a sunset balloon ride, or a shortly-after-sunrise balloon ride. In the end, and for no other reason than we thought we like to sleep late and get up at 5am rather than 4am (!), we went for the latter. There were a gazillion balloons out for the sunrise which meant that we were greeted with a beautiful sky filled with hot air balloons which – for me – was a wonderful sight to experience. I’m sure it was pretty awesome from the air too. Perhaps a benefit of the later ride was that – when we finally took off at about 7am – we were one of only three or four balloons.

8) Don’t miss Philae Light and Sound. It’s expensive at E£75 per person (about US$15), but it was awesome. To be fair, I haven’t been to the Karnak version which is also supposed to be quite good, but the opportunity to walk through Philae at night was unexpected and simply brilliant.

9) To get to Philae, you need to take a boat for a four minute ride. You should expect to pay about E£35 per couple, but we grouped up with three other groups to negotiate with a boat caption and ended up paying E£15 for the two of us!

10) Unless you follow my strategy and stop eating for the duration of your visit, the odds of a little Cairo Quickstep are not in your favour. Get ahead of the curve and buy ‘Antinol’ from any pharmacy as soon as you arrive. It’s an antiseptic solution (also available in tablets) that can be your fast track ticket to recovery. It worked for Lloyd!

Posted by jacquiedro 10:57 Archived in Egypt Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Aswan Agatha Christie Style

Officially Templed Out!

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After a wonderful morning at Abu Simbel, we arrived in Aswan to find that Roger had booked us into the rather decadent Old Cataract Hotel. A beautiful hotel, no doubt, but I just about had a coronary in the lobby when I found out the extent of the damage that our Nile view room would be doing to our bank account. It was a little bittersweet when, to make me feel better, Lloyd pointed out that this was (forthcoming wedding aside) the final hotel bill of our entire World Trip! It was a sad realization but at least we’re going out in style!

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Rog wasn’t feeling too good, so – after two consecutive 5am starts - Lloyd and I were tempted to skip our planned evening visit to the Sound and Light show at Philae Temple. To get there, we’d need a taxi AND a boat, and I think we were both discouraged by the prospect of the required negotiations. But we dragged ourselves out nonetheless. It's a very short boat ride to reach Philae - so short in fact that you could probably swim it - but we found ourselves in the midst of a throng of hard neogiations despite the fact that there were less than ten passengers and more than thirty boats.

And then a strange thing happened. The ten of us customers slowly came together as one group in an unplanned action that immediately strengthened our negotiating hand. The price per person fell dramatically and we all headed over to the show feeling that - finally - we'd got value for money in Egypt.

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The show itself did not disappoint and actually was one of the better Sound and Lights I've been to. Of course the commentary was hokey, with loud booming voices echoing around the ancient structures. But the story was told well and - as part of the show - we were walked around and inside some of the key Philae structures. It was - completely - different at night, with shadows from the spotlights highlighting the very deep and intricate carvings all around. Actually one of my favourite Egypt experiences overall and highly recommended!

The next morning, we hired a driver for half a day and headed past the old 'low' Aswan Dam to the new 'high' Aswan Dam. The old dam was completed in 1902 by the British who wanted to improve irrigation controls for cash crops, but had to be raised twice - from its original 54 metres - before it was decided that a new dam was needed to keep the Nile from flooding. So, the new High Dam was added about four miles upstream, opening in 1970 at a height of 111 metres.

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At the west end of the new Aswan Dam is a very large monument called the Lotus Flower celebrating the joint achievement of the Russians and Egyptians who cooperated on the Dam.

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With Lloyd speaking Russian, and Roger speaking Arabic, I thought this was a particularly appropriate picture!

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More fun, however, was had by Lloyd who teased the 'guard' on duty by pretending to press the elevator button. The ride to the top is closed to the public and - no joking aside - we tried really hard to bribe this guy to let us go up....

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After visiting the Aswan Dam and a driver-directed detour to Kalabsha Temple which simply magnified our templed-out state, we headed back to Philae to admire it in the daylight. It's impressive at any time of day, but I have to say that the daylight viewing paled in comparison to our experience the night before.

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We also managed to squeeze in a quick stop at the 1000 ton unfinished obelisk which was abandoned when it cracked during extraction. Pity, as this would have been one of the largest obelisks ever constructed if it had been completed. Still, the quarry revealed a tiny glimpse into the construction of many of the wonders we had seen.

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Posted by jacquiedro 14:12 Archived in Egypt Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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