Friday, June 22, 2018

An African Adventure part 4 - Egypt

After disembarking the ship in Accra (Ghana), we flew via Addis Ababa to Egypt. Our flights were with Ethiopian Air and I have to say they were so much better than South African Airways, or EgyptAir. Brand new planes, good food, lovely staff; I would fly them again without question. The only downside is having to go via Addis Ababa, which has got to be the most bonkers airport I have ever been to. It was just a sea of stinky humanity.

So we made it to Cairo at about 2.30am, and were collected from the airport by the very wonderful Ahmed from American Express Travel. If you ever go to Egypt (and you should) book all your trips with Amex and make sure he is the man looking after you. What a godsend. He delivered us to our hotel (Four Seasons Nile Plaza Cairo) and told us about our guide who would be with us for the next two days.

Our first destination was the Cairo Museum. It is a wonderful place with SO many treasures on display. It would take a very long time to see them all. They have a special section dedicated to Tutankhamun, as well as a section for actual pharaoh mummies discovered over the years, including probably the greatest of them all, Ramses II. You are not allowed to photograph any of the special collections which makes them even a bit more special, perhaps?

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These are sarcophagi that fit one inside the other - there were usually seven for a pharaoh.

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After the museum we went to see the Great Pyramids of Giza. I had always thought that the pyramids are way out in the desert but actually they are right in the middle of suburban Cairo, which was a bit weird. SO amazing to see though.

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And they are so much bigger than you realise from reading about them in books or seeing on TV and in movies. We also visited the Khan El-Khalili market, and the Citadel, which contains the Alabaster Mosque, a really lovely building.

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The next day we went to Memphis, which was once the capital of ancient Egypt, and saw the museum dedicated to Ramses II.

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We also went to Saqqara, and saw the very first pyramid ever built, and a few other things. It was amazing.

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I think Cairo is an absolute hellhole and I never EVER want to go back again. Having said that, it was worth it to visit and see the sights, which were indeed wonderful. But never again will I visit Cairo. I did not enjoy the city one bit.

Our next stop was Hurghada on the Red Sea, where we stayed for four days to chill out. Our accommodation was the excellent Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh, I highly recommend it for a lovely stay.

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After a relaxing few days we travelled to Luxor to join our Nile river cruise. We stayed on the Oberoi Philae, and it was unbelievable. The most ridiculous part was that we were the only passengers. Yes, just me and Kendall, on a cruiser with a capacity of 44 passengers. Apparently they do not ever refuse a booking so we had the whole boat to ourselves. It was wonderful.

I will not bore you with the details of every single temple and sight we visited, but the list included:
  • Temple of Abydos
  • Temple of Dendara
  • Luxor Temple
  • Karnak Temple
  • Valley of the Kings
  • Colossus of Memnon
  • Temple of Edfu
  • Temple of Kom Ombo
  • Aswan high dam
  • Philae Temple
Temple of Abydos:
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Valley of the Kings: tomb of Ramses VI
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Colossus of Memnon:
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Temple of Horus at Edfu:
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Hathor, goddess of fertility:
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Honestly the river cruise was probably my favourite part of Egypt. We saw SO much and it was all quite astounding.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

An African Adventure part 3 - West Coast

So our next stage of this epic holiday was an expedition cruise up the west coast of Africa. We travelled with Silversea and could not have been happier. Here is our ship, the Silver Cloud Expedition.

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Our jumping off point was Cape Town and after a day of sailing our first stop was Luderitz in Namibia. We visited the Number 7 sand dune:

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And then a town called Kolmanskop, which is an abandoned diamond mining town that the desert is slowly reclaiming. The last people left about 60 years ago and although the buildings are still standing, they are not what you'd call inhabitable.

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We had to stop on our way back to the ship to see the most famous plant in all of Namibia - the Welwitchia. Apparently they can live for 2,000 years and only ever grow two leaves (which then split into lots of strands so it looks like they have way more). They only grow in a very specific part of the country and no-one has been able to propagate them anywhere else in the world.

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Personally I think it looks like a wilted lettuce.

Our next stop was Walvis Bay where we visited a part of the desert known as the Moon Landscape. As you can see, it really does look like the surface of the moon, and not a single living thing exists there, just sand and rock.

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Day two in Walvis Bay we took a scenic flight over the Sossusvlei. This is an amazing desert landscape where there are red and white sand dunes, and never the two shall meet.

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They are separated by an underground river and as the sand gets slightly wet it becomes too heavy to cross the river, so the red and white parts never mix.

There are also a lot of ship wrecks along this part of the coast.

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Our next stop was Namibe in Angola. We visited a place called the Arch Lagoon, and none of the guides with us said that they had ever actually seen water in the lagoon before.

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Our next town was Lobito, and everywhere we went we had a police escort.

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We visited an old fort and some other historical places.

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Our final stop in Angola was the capital, Luanda. No foreigners had ever been allowed inside their brand new parliament house before so we felt very special. It's a lovely new building.

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We actually got to go into the chamber and sit in the seats where all the politicians sit. I did ask if I could sit in the President's seat but they said no. So Kendall and I pretended to be the leaders of the minority party instead.

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After departing Angola we spent three days sailing to St Helena, which is famous for being the final place Napoleon lived before his death, and also for being literally in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

Longwood House, where Napoleon spent his final years:

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The view from the top, with our ship looking tiny in the harbour:

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Next stop, after another two days of sailing, was Ascension Island. Before we arrived, we were informed by the harbour master that we would not be able to land on the island as their supply ship has been delayed and was arriving several hours before us. There was only room for one ship in the port and they thought getting food and fuel was more important than a bunch of tourists wandering around, which is fair enough. So we sailed around the island instead, and honestly I don't know that we missed much by not landing.

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Our next stop, after another three days of sailing, was Cote d'Ivoire. It was an very interesting country and I really don't think they get many tourists there. But the local village king in Abidjan gave us a traditional welcome with a ceremony, and then we happened to be outside a school when lunchtime arrived, so the kids were very excited to see us.

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Our final visit was to Takoradi in Ghana. We visited the local fishing village and market, which is a big part of the local economy there.

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In summary, in three weeks we visited seven countries and travelled 4,887 nautical miles. Silversea was wonderful and I would highly recommend them if you ever want to do some cruising.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

An African Adventure part 2 - South Africa

We flew from Livingstone to Mpamalanga (Nelspruit) in South Africa, then drove for two hours to our next stop at Londolozi, bordering Sabi Sands and Kruger National Park. I am not sure I have ever stayed at such a luxurious place, even in the middle of nowhere. Everything about Londolozi is amazing, from the rooms to the food to the staff and the game drives. It is truly magnificent and everyone should go there if possible.

Getting up at 5am for a game drive sounds like a terrible idea, and the first time you get woken up at that time it really feels like a terrible idea, and you wonder what kind of madness you have agreed to. Then you get in the Land Rover and five minutes later you hear a lion roar and your tracker says "that way" and then you spend the next 30 minutes following a lion around, and the 5am madness seems not so mad after all.

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And then you say to your driver that afternoon that you'd really like to see some hippos, and then you see this…
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And you might even say the next morning that you haven't seen any elephants yet, and your driver and tracker find this for you, and the elephants even pose nicely:
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There is quite a cute story behind the pipe those two are holding. These two adolescent males had found a water pipe (they can smell water from miles away) that was used to fill watering holes in times of drought, and dug it up. There were a few kinks in the pipe and they spent quite a while trying to make the water come out. Eventually they managed to straighten it and water gushed out all over them. They both freaked out, ran a few metres away, trumpeted at the pipe, picked up sticks and threw them at it, and then they ran away. It was so entertaining. And all the time the water was pouring out and they'd made a lovely mud hole for themselves which they had a great time playing in.

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In the evening when your driver says he has a surprise for you…

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Honestly it was just the best experience. This very large bull elephant got extremely close to us:

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We saw hyenas feasting on a buffalo:

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And we saw loads of birds:

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Zebra, wildebeest, more leopards:

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There are a LOT more animal photos in my FlickR photo stream, just click on any of the photos above and you'll be taken to the album.

After a truly glorious time at Londolozi it was time to move on to Cape Town. We stayed at Ellerman House, which was delightful. We had this magnificent view from our balcony:
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The staff at Ellerman House were so wonderful, I would definitely recommend a stay there. We also went up to Table Mountain, which was quite spectacular.

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The view is something else:
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In summary, do an animal safari if you ever get the chance. It is AMAZING. And visit Cape Town, it's just lovely.