Monday, June 30, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Good night, and good luck.

My last meal in Dahab. There's a really cheap Egyptian restaurant around the corner from 7Heaven. Here I'm chowing down on cow ankles. Mmmmm...despite the chunks of fat hanging off the protein... Fish here is cheap as well. Notice the lack of eyeglasses... (photo courtesy of Sally.)

Diving here was a bit of a disaster. I could not achieve the depth of 30m that was required to go on to other more interesting dives. Not only was I bumped off of the Canyon/Blue Hole trip but they recommended that I take the peak buoyancy course. I agreed with them that I needed some kind of refresher but I'm wasn't sure whether I wanted to do the course work here.

I think, for the future, that I need to practice more. You know, keep my diving skills up. It would help if I owned some of the equipment as well (eg. fins and mask at least). But, hauling around SCUBA equipment would be impractical to say the least.

I might be headed to Thailand or the Philippines. I'll do some kind of refresher there.

Otherwise, I'm done with Dahab. What a relief. I planned on 5 days here. I spent 17. It's been a slice.

Heading back to Cairo tomorrow. I might head off to Mt. Sinai instead. That was the original plan. I'll sleep on it. I'm outta here for sure.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 30/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Dahab is 3 fourths underwater...

Photo courtesy of Thais.

I'm so exhausted. I did my checkout dive today. Checkout dives are intended for landlubbers like me who have not dove for many, many, many years.

I went with the cheap option, 7Heaven. Wise or not I was gonna find out first hand. I booked the dive and asked for a manual. That's how rusty I was. I spent the next 4 hours burying myself in the text.

The divemaster, Gefer, was Egyptian. He was okay. We had some communication problems with the hand signals. I figured out something really quick. SCUBA diving is not like riding a bike. I used to be an expert (ok, I was good) at controlling buoyancy. It's a combination between breath and using the flotation jacket. Couldn't do it. Frustrating thing was Gefer achieves it primarily with the jacket. You have to have done it to understand the concepts.

Anyway, for most of the time he was just dragging me around. Felt awful.

My breathing rate was pretty high. Gefer ended up giving me his back up regulator. How embarassing was that? I hope tomorrow is better because I was flopping around like a fish today.

Frustration aside, the Lighthouse Reef was pretty spectacular. Just metres offshore the floor just plunges to 30m. Lots of wildlife, especially them spiny-needle covered puffy fishes.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 29/07
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Getting a life...then a beer.

More Bedouin girls...That's Amira on the left. She burned me good on a bracelet. I hope she puts the money in her burgeoning college fund. By the way, Amira means "princess" in Arabic. (Photo courtesy of Thais.)

Finally did something about the heat today. Went for a dip down at the lagoon by the Hilton. The Red Sea is pretty damn cold compared to the ambient air temperature. So, I had to enter pretty slowly. Once in it's nice.

Nothing new. Constant Mo' versus Dahab conflicts. I think Mo's been here a smidgen too long. The touts are getting personal with their taunting. For example, he was showing some affection towards a girl in front of the locals. Now the touts are harassing him about it. Public display of such behaviour is risque at best. Strange that they act so childishly towards, to them, a complete stranger. Weird.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 27/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Brazil, Brazil, Brazil!!! (and No Chancy Mr. Dancy)

Fru fru drink on a hot day. (Photo courtesy of my good friend, Thais, the Brazillian.)

48C today? Piece of cake, my friends.

Met a real wanker today while passing time in Adam's Pub. [Ed. note: Although not the most aesthetic place in Dahab, Adam's certainly sells the cheapest beer. It's a favourite place of mine and all my traveling buds. Half a litre of barley sandwich will set you back a buck and change. Just get on the seawall and keep walking northward. Can't miss it.] Kept repeating the fact that he has nothing against immigrants (in his esteemed NZ). At the same time he kept coming up with examples of how the Chinese and Indians have ruined his homeland.


I couldn't get a word in edgewise. So, I got the hell out of there...

Got into another heated discussion with Mo' about WWII (I'm no expert but I do know who won, ha!) and the current situation in Germany (wrt very strict anti-hate laws). According to Mo', too strict. Yikes.

Ok, that's it except for wasta's email. He's expressed some interest in doing the 'stans. Exciting prospect.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 24/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - I'm losing focus...without my glasses

This is the "Bowling Alley". It stretches along the Dahabian coast for a few kilometres. Seaside restaurants to the left and hotels and souvenir shops to the right...somewhat reminiscent of MacLeod Trail in my hometown Calgary. Touts everywhere (well, not this early in the morning). Only place in the world (so far) where I can negotiate the price of my breakfast.

It's Xmas every night in Dahab (Photo courtesy of Thais)

Okay, three days without my glasses... It's not killing me yet.

It was cooler today. 43 Celsius above zero. It's suppose to hit 48C this weekend. Not much relief overnight. Last night it must have been at least 30C (the humidity made it unbearable).

Not much today. Found peace and quiet down by the "Islands". It's best to stay away from Dahab and the touts down in what I call the Bowling Alley. They, meaning the touts, seem to have gotten under my skin.

One last thing, I found my soapbox today in its original spot. Yah! [ed. note: this not a hyperbole. amazing how the little things make a difference at this point.] Nearly floored me when it made an unlikely reappearance. I was hoping my glasses would be returned as well. That might take a miracle at this point.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 22/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Looking for the Dahab pawn shop...

A few soldiers of a much larger army of entrepreneurial Bedouin girls. They combine cuteness with the sales acumen of the best used car salesmen to form the most formidable retail force in Dahab. (photo courtesy of Thais)

Bad day. For starters, I forgot my soap box in the showers last night. It's gone... Seems like there's alot of busy fingers in in this hotel. I'm not sure whether it's guests or staff. Maybe both. Who ever it might be they are pretty desperate. I mean what's next? Party hats out of my toiletry bag? I dunno.

I was depressed for most of the day. Not for the soap box but the fact that I'm losing stuff almost daily now (little things add up to a lot).

Not much happened today other than hangin' with Mo and Joey the American Guy. Joey's kind of hilarious. He's a salesman back in the States. He sells pest extermination services door to door in San Diego. Apparently, he thinks Mo' would make an excellent salesman. Not so much in my case. It seems I haven't the personality to close the deal. Ouch, eh?

Had "dinner" with Young and Sandra tonite. Hot!!

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 21/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Dirty, Sexy Snorkeling...

This is the strip of seaside restaurants lining the Red Sea in Dahab. The concept, from my worldly travel experiences, is quite unique. Each restaurant is completely open except for thatched roofs overhead. Lots of xmas lights, Bob Marley tunes, Bedouin kids selling bracelets make for an interesting ambiance. Only downsides were relatively expensive food served and a monopoly on seaside space. For free beach and solitude, head south along the seawall...

First day without eyeglasses in a long time. The last time was in 1994 when I stepped on and crushed my then spectacles in Zanzibar of all places. It was my first trip to Africa and just 3 weeks into a year long trip. Could not get them fixed until I found a optical store in Harare, Zimbabwe, a month later.

[Ed. note: the optical store was not a Lenscrafter's]

I should carry an extra pair on these trips.

Somethings happened today. I know that's shocking...

First, it was a watermelon brekkie with my Aussie friends, Sally and Richard. They're really fun people. They travel somewhere ever year. They've been in Egypt for a couple of months now. I read somewhere that 99 percent of tourists see just 1 percent of the country they visit. Suffice to say, Sally and Richard have seen all of Egypt.

Anyway, they'll eventually return to Oz, work like dogs for the winter, and then take off again.

Today's breakfast topic of conversation: how to wipe your bum sans TP!

They had bought a whole watermelon fresh off the cart. I stuffed myself silly.

In the afternoon, I went snorkeling with Mo. On the way to the rental shop we met up with Joey the American and Sarah, a chick from Cowtown, of all places! Her last known address was in Lake Bonavista.

They were on their way to The Islands (sounds like a hot Brooke Shields movie, eh?), a reef that was a 30 minute walk south of Dahab. Turned out to be a great choice. The reef was 50 metres offshore. It was shallow at first (up to my knees), then the bottom just dropped off. I mean just dropped off like a cliff. The depth at first was at least 30 metres. Crystal clear waters. The most colourful corals (brain, branched, fan-like) lined the craggy wall. Schools of the most colourful fish swam about, weaving in and out of the coral. Funny, as I swam along, a pack of tetras followed me.

Had me a little stoked for a SCUBA dive...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 20/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Mr. Magoo goes to Dahab...

Dahab is like living in a soap opera.

Today has been particularly frustrating. While taking a shower this morning someone stole my eyeglasses. I had left them, inadvertently, by the sink. Why would anyone take my glasses? They were unique. I needed them! They were vital to my daily life! This last stunt is like tripping granny while she's crossing the street...then giving her a kick to the head just to make sure she's down for the count...

I got to get outta here soon. Here's the plan. Brekkie with Richard and Sally (Man's gotta eat! Am I right...?). Then a bit of snorkeling off the lighthouse. Afterward, find a SCUBA outfit. Do the dives then get the hell out of this place.

Bumming around is not good. Dahab is NOT Egypt (or is it?). In fact, some of the people around here are pretty nasty. I've seen traveler enclaves like Dahab in places like Bangkok and Kathmandu. But, in those places the stress level between locals and tourists was never this high. The Dahab touts are relentless.

PS. I've played my last game of backgammon.

[Ed. notes: Before I get any hate comments, I must say I had a pretty awful day that day. OK, I snapped. So, give me break...]

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 19/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Losing my bookmark in the Book of Life.

This marks one month in Egypt. I never thought I'd be here for such a long time. Usually I would have had the itch to move on by now. But, I'm in Dahab.

My review of what I've done so far in my time here: nothin'. Absolutely nothin'.

We did manage to play beach volleyball a couple of days ago. We chipped in to buy a cheap ball. A couple of locals joined in. Fun had by all.

Last night was good. Met a pretty hot Korean girl at the hotel. She was born in Seoul but raised in Brazil of all places. Her folks moved the family there when Korea was a mere shadow of it's present super economic self. Here's the bonus: she's a SCUBA diving instructor. She's interesting...

The boys are heading down to the foam-dispensing discos of Sharm tonite. Dunno why but I'm thinking of giving it a miss and just hanging out...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 17/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - Chillin' and the Zen of analytical calculus...

The Sea of Aqaba - The Islands just south of Dahab...

First complete day. Sunny and hot. Not much to do unless you dive. I'm trying to chill out. A tougher feat to achieve than you think. Here's are a few reasons why. 1) 7Heaven is not on the beach. So, guests have to hangout elsewhere. 2) Dahab lacks a beach close by. The closest spot is not exactly a sandy beach (but more gravel-like). The ocean front in town is dominated by restaurants. A big mistake in my opinion. 3) Harassment by restaurant touts. Really annoying. 4) Hangout spots are not free (or I feel somewhat uncomfortable sitting down when I haven't bought anything). I should be more like Jason. He has no qualms about walking into some of this places and playing Scrabble for hours on end. Now he's one cool cucumber, eh.

Perhaps I should be a little less analytical and chillax.

Tomorrow: Beach volleyball, maybe. We just have to find a volleyball.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 15/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dahab, Egypt - After surviving the bubonic plague in Cairo, where do you plan on going? I'm going to Disneyland!!

Mountains to the west of Dahab, Egypt...

Finally here.

Arrived after a grueling bus ride yesterday. Glad I took the 0715 bus though. I awoke from dozing off just in time to witness the bus going under the Suez Canal. It was surprisingly narrow. When we popped out of the other side of the tunnel, it appeared as if dozens of humongous container ships were floating in the heat waves pouring off the hot desert sand. Much of the segment from Suez to Sharm El-Sheik was pretty bleak. Flat desert, rimmed in the distant horizon with jagged mountain ranges to the east and the white-capped turquoise blue waters of the Gulf of Suez to the west.

The bus was tolerably comfortable. The bus was never really full until we picked up victims of a mechanically challenged bus along the way.

Sharm, from a distance, considering it's top ranking as a tourist resort, was nothing to write home about: an highly exposed, sunbaked, sea pounded, cluster of homogeneous condo units. From there I and two other vagabounds switched buses for Dahab. Suffice to say, the scenery the remaining way turned dramatic. Close by jagged beige mountains jutted impressively from the base of the surrounding desert. The monochrome of the coastal monoliths was disrupted by ubiquitous, funky, striking bands of olive green rock.

Dahab appears to be a full on tourist town. There are two primary streets. I guess you can't even call one of them a street. More like a sea wall. A pedestrian, cobblestoned walk sandwiched by a strip of open air restaurants adjacent to the sea and another strip of even more restaurants and souvenir shops. Other than the locals running the businesses and an omnipresent army of motley-dressed, pre-pubescent Bedouin girls selling home crafted bracelets, there were few tourists other than large flocks of sunburned Russians, hippie-ish Japanese and groovy Koreans. Light all of this at night and you get the UN of all Disneylands.

I'm staying at the 7Heaven in a two dullah hut (15 LE). Nice. Cheap as borscht (hope the Russians don't find out about this place). I thought I'd be on the beach (like in Thailand) but I'll take this roof top locale.

This is the most touristy place I've stayed at. Not my style but I'll give it an honest try for a few days.

It's a small world... Re-united with Jason (from Siwa), Robert/Mohammed (German), and Matt (the American from Sudan). It's nice to see everyone. Mohammed seems to be a changed man. Effervescent, if I may use that word to describe a man. He's been here for 5 days now. He says this place is un-real. I'll certainly agree with him on that observation.

View Larger Map
Marker points to the legendary 7Heaven Hotel. Huts on top of the roof were 15 LE. Real cheap. Each hut is equipped with a fan. Good ventilation during the night but brutally hot during the day. Who hides in their room during the day when the Sea of Aqaba beckons from metres away? Anyway, "normal" concrete based rooms available. Hang on to your glasses in the showers. I'll explain in a later post... Diving lessons/trips available. Check for better quality elsewhere.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 12/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Cairo, Egypt - The world is my oyster... only if I can get outta Egypt...

Alexandria, Egypt - Laaaddddieeeees!!!

Fairly busy morning. Two important metro trips (I love the subway!). First trip was to the Syrian Embassy. Nice visa guy there but he couldn't produce a visa for me. Apparently, only Egyptians and resident foreigners qualify for such a privilege. I wish I had known that 10 months ago when I was still at home. So, the overland route to Asia was out of the question.

[Ed. note: My American friend Rob, whom I met in Siwa, was able to obtain a Syrian visa at the border between Syria and Jordan. So, don't give up. Just go to the border.]

The second metro trip was to the southern suburb of Maadi. There I found, right by the metro station, the legendary Egypt Panorama Tours. According to LP, they are the cream of the crop when it came to reliable travel agencies (that's not difficult considering the snake oil travel agents in Midan Tahrir). The guy at Panorama was very helpful. Well, at least not snarky. Seems like the most economical way home (or at least the most direct way) was Cairo to Montreal. Then from there I'd buy a WestJet ticket for YYC.

Interesting... For 90 bucks more I can buy a ticket for Bangkok, Thailand then overland via Cambodia/Vietnam to HK. I can visit my friend Wasta and book a ticket home from there.

You'd think the right decision was a no brainer...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 11/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cairo, Egypt - Ken Follett, chicken, and rice...

The Fonz of Alexandria

I've got to get out of here. NOW! The temperature has dropped, thank god. But this inactivity is killing me. I swear my brain is leaking out my ears. Managed to add to the bookshelf (aka my backpack). Another trip to the book market netted another Ken Follett masterpiece, A Place Called Freedom. Should be a page-turner considering the last Follett tome, White Out, I read. Trashy novels I tell you. No intricate, multi-layered, time travel plots or even character development to be found here my friends, yet very entertaining. I'm very desperate for reading material. This one should last me a couple of days in Dahab, if that.

I must be better today. I went out for roast chicken/rice/soup/salad tonight. It was so nice to break the ta'maaya/kushary routine.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 11/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cairo, Egypt - Air conditioning? What is air conditioning?

My man Hosni's selling plums and peaches on the mean streets of Alexandria.

The recovery continues. I'm fine. Felt slight queasiness at about 1800 but I'm fine now.

Damn it was hot today. The radio said it was 42C. No where to hide. Maybe a movie theatre? Too bad I missed the 1300 showing of Spiderman 3...damn. I could have got out of the sun for a while. Instead, I chose to hide in my room. Not an ideal solution...

What was nice today was a phone call from gawgy (my brother). I miss him. Badly. I asked him to do a comparative study of East-West airline fares out of Cairo. I'm pretty nasty, eh? I'll write him to nix the idea... A local agency could do the work. Not. Can't trust any of them...

My brother sounded good though. He dialed back and put mutha on the phone. I miss her, too, in a positive way. She said she missed arguing with me. Ugh. I told her to go fight with gawgy. She says its more fun with me because I'm more feisty. Ugh.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 10/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cairo, Egypt - Long time no see...

Boys #5 and #6 in Alexandria. Did I mention that I had a banana seat bicycle when I was a kid? It had a black seat and a wicked frame painted lime green. I loved that bike. My folks sold it for 2 dullah in the only garage sale they ever had. I'm gonna cry...sob.

The Cipro kicked in. No more dashes to the loo. Although I feel much better, I'm was operating in a bit of a fog. I had a relatively good night of sleep. I dunno what was wrong with me... It might be that I was taking the medication at the same time I was scarfing down taco chips (and washing it down with a big 2 L bottle of Orange Crush).

Was awoken this morning by the friendly folks at reception knocking on my door. Apparently, they had not seen hide or hair of me the last 48 hrs and were worried that I had skipped town without paying for the room. God bless their souls. Anyway, I informed Ahmed through the crack in the door that if he stepped any closer he would risk catching a disease that was akin to the bubonic plague. He got the message and stopped pestering me for the rent.

Later in the day, I managed to crawl out of bed and into an internet cafe (damn the WWW!) to check the email. It kind of piled up in the Inbox in my absence. It felt good to be online again.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 9/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Cairo, Egypt - Dammit! I'm a tourist. Not a Doctor

Boy #5 in Alexandria - Hey kid, nice banana seat.

The fever broke overnight. I'm staying in bed however. I'm getting a nasty case of diarrhea. I reluctantly decided to start my last course of the antibiotic ciprofloaxin. It's good. It's strong. I don't want to mess with a good thing though but I really don't want to be lying around for days running to the toilet. Plus, I enjoy self diagnosis and all, but damn it, I'm a tourist, not a doctor.

Foolishly, I went out for take out kushary (a mix of pasta, chick peas, topped off with a spicy tomato paste like substance). I was hungry for crying out loud. It didn't agree with me though. Should have stuck with the Cheetos...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 8/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Cairo, Egypt - Is it feed a fever and starve a cold or the other way around?

Boy #4 in Alexandria...

Not a good day. The fever returned with a vengeance. I've been just burning up since 4 PM. Kind of scary. I think I have it under control with the ibuprofen. I have to be careful to let this run it's course. Fever is a natural response. I'm going to decrease the time between dosages just to get rid of this headache. I might be here a couple of more days...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 7/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Cairo, Egypt - Send in the MASH unit...again.

Looking down on Midan Talaat Harb.

I'm sick again.

This time I've got a big time fever and aching muscles. Whenever there's a fever I have to be concerned. Means the body is fighting an infection of some kind. It hit me like a rock at about 1900h last night. It's been a hot day but I've been burning up independent of the weather. I think I got the bug from Tomoko (Mimi). She too was ill. In fact, she's been bedridden for the last couple of days. Hopefully, I'll try to get some rest in the next couple of days.

Having said that, I worked a bit on the computer today. Seems like Egypt Air is the ceapest carrier out of here. That includes competition coming from so-called descount airlines like Arabia Airways. They even beat Yemeni Airways' fare for a ticket to Sanaa.

Also got my visa extention. The office, located in a humongous Soviet-style monolithic-like building on Midan Tahrir, was a bit daunting but the process was smooth (despite having to wait in multiple cues in multiple departments to get the job done).

On the same visa front, I'm going to visit the Syrian Embassy when I get better. I've heard mixed reports on the issuance of Syrian tourist visas. Apparently, I won't be able to obtain a visa anywhere but Ottawa. That's going to be difficult since I've been on the road for 8 months now. Makes me want to fly over them...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 6/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cairo, Egypt - I've got a future as a travel agent...

When the Dahab Hostel's elevator is out of order (that's quite often by the way), we have to take this set of stairs.

Damn it was hot today. The radio announcer wasn't phased in any way when she forecasted a temperature of 40 C. She gleefully added that it will be accompanied by lots of sunshine.

Should have got more work done today but the day started too late. Tomorrow. There's always tomorrow.

But first, I've got to extend my visa. I've lost track of time left on my initial visa, but it seems like I've been here for an eternity. I've never had to extend a visa, anywhere.

Bad news on the guidebook front. The LP central Asia was sold out at the AUC. Together with the lack of a LP Pakistan, a journey eastward would rather challenging at this point. That leaves the options of home/Europe or traveling overland to Istanbul in search of guidebooks (then pick up a Iranian Visa somewhere along the way). It's complicated.

I met the craziest dude at brekkie today. A Chinese/Aussie dude. When I told him that I was Chinese as well, he started talking to me using some weird dialect. I interrupted and said that I didn't understand what he was saying but he kept yammering at me with his garbled Chinese.

He must have clued in when he spotted my confused/contorted face.

"I thought you understood Chinese", he chortled.


The conversation got weirder when I questioned him about the instant noodles he was eating... He had gone to the local "Asian" market and stocked up on instant noodles (wonder if this was the best Asian fare he could find) and sussed out all of the Chinese restaurants in town.

"Why not eat the local foods?", I asked.

He responded, "I'm afraid if I ate Egyptian food I would vomit". Thing is, he has never tried Egyptian.

"What if you go somewhere in Egypt where there wasn't Asian food to be found?", I asked.

First, he said he's carrying a supply of 24 instant noodles in his backpack. Second, there's bound to be a KFC or McDonald's where ever he goes. Hmmm... I didn't see these places in Aswan or Siwa... Kind of shocking coming from a guy who seemed to scrimp on everything else. Mickey D's, KFC, and Chinese restaurants just happened to be the most expensive places to eat here.

Anyway, to each their own I guess.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 5/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Siwa to Cairo, Egypt - I am the King of Bleak...

Hey kids, here's some pix of the scenery between Siwa and Marsa Matruh.

You'd think we were out in the middle of nowhere...

...until the bus pulls up alongside the loneliest snack bar in the world...

I came all this way and they didn't serve kushari...hmmmph.

Tiny Mosque on the Sahara...(aka the mosque out back).

Little more of the desolate, sun baked desert. Libya is yonder... Note the rubbish heap on the right...

Phew... we were not alone...

That was a long day on the bus. Siwa to Marsa Matruh (4hrs/15LE). Then an overpriced ticket to Cairo (50 LE). When we arrived in Cairo I didn't know where the bus was stopping. As it turned out it definitely wasn't at the main bus station (Turgoman). After what seemed to be an interminable amount of time and kilometres (it just wouldn't get off the freeway), we exited the freeway and ended up in a bus station called Al-Mazar. According to the map, we were nearly at the airport...

That was one of the biggest logistical snafu's I've made on the trip, so far. The cost of a taxi from here to downtown was prohibitive. Situations like this call for calm. DO NOT PANIC (Cairo taxi drivers seem to be able to smell panic in the air)!! We sought the help of a well dressed business man. (Ed. note: well dressed people probably understand English.) He directed us to a bus headed to Midan Tahrir (exactly where we needed to go).

We stumbled into the Dahab Hostel 2.5 hours late... Shit. Some of the regular Hostel residents had moved on. Mohammed (Robert the German) was packed and ready to leave for Dahab (the sea side town) at midnight. Tomoko (Mimi) was still here. The Norwegian was predictably here. I think he's hustling the gorgeous German girl, Katerina, now. Dennis, the Chinese/Dutch guy, found an apartment. He's gone. Adi, the Canadian girl, and Harald, the Dane, both gone...

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 4/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Siwa, Egypt - Igloos in the Sahara...

Located on a hill in the centre of town (metres from the Yousef Hotel) was the Fortress of Shali, the pinnacle of Siwa. Built around 1200, the Fortress provided security for Siwans from Beduoin raiders. The original fortress must have been quite the sight. Some of the buildings reached 5 stories high. In 1923, after a series of devastating rain storms, the Fortress, made of composite mud/salt bricks, suffered irreversible damage. It simply melted away. Today, only a few of the ground level buildings are still occupied...

Did I mention, there is was no paid admission to visit the ruins? Free is good... just walk in...

Near the top... The building materials were hard as rock...

Shali must have been pretty impressive back in the day...

Definitely recommend climbing up to the top of the hill for sunset. Except for a few fellow travelers, Egyptian or Western, you'll have the whole place to yourself...

Ahhh...getting tired of these sunset photos yet?...

Also, make sure you bring a torch with you if you plan on staying beyond sunset because the first step down is usually a doozie...

One of the remaining minarets in Shali...

It's official: I'm going to Cairo tomorrow. Momentarily delayed mind you. Jason has come down with a bout of food poisoning, I think, and couldn't make today's bus. Just as well, I'll take the opportunity to take some more pix.

I have mixed feelings about leaving Siwa. The people have been nice. The experience at the Abdu Restarant wasn't pleasant (another unethical ripoff-the-tourists story) but didn't really taint the trip. The 4X4 debacle will take more time to forget but, in the long run, no biggie.

As a chill out spot, Siwa was a difficult place because of 1) the dang heat (next time I'm coming during the spring/fall) and 2) there isn't really a place to hang out unless you rent a bike and head to one of the springs. If you are biking during the heat of the day you're pretty much knackered for the rest of the day. Otherwise, it was a good experience. But it's time to go. There are some important decisions to be made back in Cairo.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 3/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Siwa, Egypt - Boss, boss...The Plane, the plane!!

Biking on a lonely, lonely road leading from Fatnas Spring (or Fantasy Island). These are my homies: l to r: Jason, Tomo, and Robbie). I must admit I didn't take photos of Fatnas Spring 'cause I was swimming in it. Lots o' fun until I remembered I really can't swim. The Spring was really, really deep... Oh well, at least I can say I "swam" in an oasis...

Those lazy hazy days of summer...hmmm. Love the 40 C temps. Ladies and germs, that lake is not a mirage. To prove it, Jason was skipping rocks on it.

We tried to rent the 4X4 last night. We checked out the vehicle and met the driver last night. They quoted the price of LE 400. The bastards would not budge. First, the Korean guys (traveling under extreme budgets) balked and left the table. Robbie the American, seeing no hope, followed soon thereafter, leaving me and Jason holding the bag. There's a chance at hatching a plan tomorrow. A slight chance at that. We learned of a Polish couple thinking about making a similar trek. However, I'm not holding my breath. Feeling the urge to move on, I most likely will head back to Cairo by bus in the next day or two and then to the Sinai.

Met a Japanese girl at the Yousef Hotel yesterday. She went biking with us out to Fatnas Spring (a.k.a. Fantasy Springs)today. Her name is Tomo.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 2/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Siwa, Egypt - Cleopatra walked like an Egyptian and rode a rickety old bike (or dang this place is hot...)

Downtown Siwa from a top the Yousef Hotel...

What's left of the Temple of Amun.

Cleopatra's Spring...a lovely spot. Water was cool and crystal clear...

Kids will be kids...

One by one...

...till one was left...

This is my friend Robbie from America...

takin' the plunge... We spent about an hour trying to capture him diving into the spring with an obligatory donkey cart driving by in the background...

Sunset on the way back from the Spring...a few of Siwa's date palms are in the foreground...

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Marker points to the Yousef Hotel in Downtown Siwa...

We went bike riding yesterday. We really couldn't do too much between 11 and 4 because of the heat. We did as the locals did and just took it easy. In fact, I had a siesta in the afternoon.

[Ed. note: Siwa was a pretty conservative town. So, ice cold beers were not to be found. There was an excellent juice bar in the town square that served delicious, freshly squeezed, cold sugar cane juice. For something like pennies a glass, we kept the cane press busy.]

As the oppressive heat waned in the late afternoon, Jason, Robbie (a new American friend), and I rented some old clunky bikes and headed out to the Cleopatra Spring. It was so nice being back on a bike. Pure freedom... We road first through the dusty streets of town and then deep into the forest of date palms.

Set smack dab in middle of the road was the Spring. They had built a stone wall around the perimeter. Only Robbie went for a dip. Jason didn't know how to swim. It looked very refreshing. I should have took the plunge myself.


Today's been off to a slow start. Jason managed to miss his wake up call. That's ok. If we get our act together, we should take in Fatna Spring.

Siwa has been OK. After being here for almost 24 hrs. now, the hassle has died down. In fact, it's has been really quiet (To be expected, coming from nutty places like Alex and Cairo, I guess.). In fact, once it's prayer time at the local mosque, Siwa becomes pretty much a ghost town. So far, not much to do other than relax and ride bikes.

We're trying to arrange transport to Bahariya, another oasis town located about 400 km east of here. The route is supposed to travel through some of the most isolated, rugged, and spectacular desert landscapes of Egypt's Western Desert. Unfortunately, we'll need to rent a 4X4 for the trip. The cost of the rental plus driver is extortionate. However, together with Robbie, Jason, a couple of Korean guys and I, we might be able to split the costs.

We'll see later on tonight.

Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, June 1/07
Buy Bubba a Beer Now!