Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heading Home!

Well I am finally heading home!! I am at the airport in Cairo right now, and have never been so happy to leave a place!  The Arab men are just completely disgusting towards women, people are constantly trying to steal things from you or screw you over. A guy actually tried to grab my wallet out of my hands in broad daylight! This place is filthy - trash everywhere...its pretty sad actually. I've been here two days (and two nights) and that is about a day and a half too long! (My boss actually told me to just fly in, see the pyramids, and get out.  HE WAS RIGHT!)  The pyramids were pretty cool, but that's about it here in Cairo! 

Just to freak everyone out - haha - here is the worst thing that has happened to me yet:  Remember as you are reading this, I am already safe and checked in at the Cairo airport...  It is very early here and still dark, my flight is at 5am, so I had to leave my hotel around 2:30am.  Middle of the night in Cairo during Ramadan = not a good idea for a young American girl to go out alone! ;)  The guy who took me to the pyramids and sights (local weaving place, some schools, other historical sights) yesterday said he would come pick me up this morning and personally take me to the airport, which I was very happy about.  After spending most of the day with him, I was comfortable with him.  So when my hotel called my room and 2:15am and said my ride was here, I lugged my bags down the stairs and walked out in to the crazy, dark streets of Cairo.  (Remember it is Ramadan, so everyone parties all night, literally).  But to my surprise, I didn't know the two men standing there by the car.  I kind of panicked, but of course didn't want to show it.  I asked one of them where my guide was and he said, "Oh, his son very sick.  He not make it.  He send us instead."  Hmmm...I don't think so.  I told them I really wanted to talk to the guy I knew, I just didn't feel right about getting it the car with these two randos int he middle of the night in freaking CAIRO, EGYPT.  So they start talking to each other in Egyptian - of course - one gets out a cell phone, calls someone, says something IN EGYPTIAN and then hands me the phone.  I say hello, and some guy on the other end says, "Oh hello, my son very sick.  These my friends, they take you right to airport, same price."  And FOR SOME REASON, that made me feel a little better at the time.  Looking back, that voice on the other end of the phone was absolutely NOT the same guy who took me around the day before.  So, still pretty hesitant, I look at the two guys, and realize they have already taken my bags and put them in the trunk.  So what do I do now?  I mean they already have my stuff, I'm certainly not getting it back, so I reluctantly GOT IN THE CAR. Uggghhh....  I was still pretty groggy from it being so late (or early) but one of my strengths is that I always know my directions.  I have this weird sense, that whenever I get off a plane in a foreign country, I generally know my directions.  And once I've been there for any length of time, I know what is where - or the direction it is in at least.  So these two guys, laughing and talking loudly and smoking who knows what in the car, start driving around in Cairo, with me in the back, and NOT going to the airport.  I KNEW which direction the airport was, and they were NOT going that way!  There were even signs on the hiways, and even though I couldn't read them, I can still see a freaking picture of an airplane and an arrow and them NOT following it.  I legitimately was almost sick to my stomach after about 30 minutes of driving around - them just talking, and scheming to kill me, I just knew it!  And I realized I had NOTHING.  I had no knife or pepper spray or anything even remotely sharp.  I had very little money, and NO phone number to call.  I didn't speak the languauge, didn't know where to go or run if I got out of the car, and they still had all my stuff.  NO ONE knew where I was or where I was going.  I was alone in a car with two men in the middle of the night in Egypt.  HOW did this happen!?  I was almost in tears, about ready to throw up, when they started going towards the airport.  I'm not even making this up.  A few minutse later, they stopped outside the international terminal and let me out.  THANK YOU JESUS!!  I grabbed my bags, shoved all the money I had left at them and profusely thanked them for not killing me (okay not really that part) and taking me to the airport...and then RAN as fast as I could through those doors.  I've never been so happy to be waiting for two hours at an airport before in my life... 

So see, it all turned out fine.  But that honestly is the scaredest I've been on this trip...

Anyways - all around, I've had a great time! Kenya was the most amazing place I have ever seen and would love to go back there someday. Dubai was just unbelievable too.  I am heading to Paris for a day now, then off to LA tomorrow and will be back in Reno Sunday evening! Can't wait to get home and send out some pictures!!


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Egyptian Pyramids

Last night was SO CRAZY!  I love the Aussie girls - they're a blast.  We drove around with this local guy they met (and trusted I guess).  That in and of itself was an experience!  Driving around the tiny one-way curvy roads in the outskirts of Cairo with the traditional music blaring, just surreal.  The sights and sounds and smells - people cooking and partying once the sun went down - just crazy...  We were on a mission to find some big blown glass hookah smoking thing for one of the girls to take back with her to Australia.  The local guy promised he'd find her a cheap, good one - - so after several stops, like in the back of peoples houses, for real, she found what she wanted.  How in the world does she think she's going to get that past airport security??  She sure wouldn't get it in to the US - maybe Australia is a little more leniant.

I went to the visit the ancient Egyptian pyramids today!  I had my hotel find some guy to drive me there (about an hour away) and show me around, etc.  Seemed a little more legit than finding some guy off the street, since they are so creepy over here!  He was pretty nice and very knowledgable about the pyramids and Egyptian history - I feel like a walking encyclopedia on the subject now! ;)

First we stopped at some little shop - he knew the owners, of course - where they make pictures and caligraphy on papyrus paper.  Yes, I bought several!  I mean what a perfect souvenir from Egypt!!  We stopped at a couple more shops, jewelry and clothes and stuff - but I didn't buy much besides the caligraphy.

We finally made it to the pyramids - pretty cool but not sure they're all they are cracked up to be.  I mean I guess I don't know what I was expecting, but they are just these massive pyramids in the middle of the dessert!  They are one of the Seven Wonders of the World - whichis really why I made the trip here to see them.  I don't know, I'm not much on history.  I guess it is pretty unbelievable if you think how in the world they made those things hundreds of years ago.  And it took them DECADES to build them!!  It was kind of weird to think of all the kings and pharaohs and mummies in there!!

So when I first got there, I was just walking around with my big camera around my neck, screaming "American Tourist."  Some local-looking guy came up to me riding a camel (for real) and he saw me snap a picture of him.  So he offered to take a picture for me - I mean a picture of me with my camera.  At first I told him no, but he was sooo persistant!  I told him I wasn't going to pay him anything, and he said fine.  Yea right - I knew I was going to have to pay him, but I kinda wanted a picture on his camel.  So I finally obliged - handed him my camera, let him wrap his turban looking thing aroud my head, and hopped on the cool camel!  I mean come on, when you're at the pyramids in Egypt, you NEED a picture on a decorated camel with a thing wrapped around your head, right!?  And he was GOOD with the camera!  I'm sure he does this for a living - he took like 20 pictures in just a few miutes!  TOTALLY worth the $10 I gave him... :)

Did I mention it is SUPER hot here?? I guess I am in the Sahara desert huh...

So after that little experience, I decided to walk around some more and see the other pyramids up close - there are 3 here, plus the one with the big head!

Whenever I found someone who looked like they might now how to work a big camera, I'd ask them if they would take a picture of me.  Most of the people I asked didn't speak English, but like I've sad a million times, hand gestures can you get you alot!  The majority of the pictures turned out crappy, but I did come across another local guy trying to take pictures for people - for money of course.  I was NOT doing it again.  Well, that's what I told myself anyways.   But he literally pretty much ripped my camera off my neck and told me where to stand and pose, while wrapping another thing around my head - haha!

Pretty cool pictures I thought, but I really didn't want to pay him much.  I mean I know how far the US Dollar goes over here.  So I tried to give him a $5, and he reached in my wallet to grab more!  I was SO pissed!  He pulled out a $20 and I was like NO WAY BUDDY.  Lesson learned:  don't hold your open wallet out in front of people who want your money!!  I got the $20 bill back and gave him a $10 - still fuming mad, and I let him know it.  So he gave me two freaking little turquoise beads, like that was going to make up for it.  I did kind of like them, they're cute and turquoise, and the beetle is the sign of good luck here I guess.  Something about seeing a beetle in the desert means there must be water around I think.  Oh well, I suppose I can make a cute bracelet out of them when I get home. :)

Somewhere in the process of wandering around the pyramids, I got the brilliant idea and decided I needed to actually climb ON the pyramids.  No, you're not allowed to do that, they are blocked completely off in most sections, but some spots only had a big rope.  Like a rope is going to stop me in Egypt!!  So yes, I did it.  I actually climbed on the ancient Egyptian pyramids, and have the pictures to prove it, haha!  I found a European couple who spoke a little English, told them what I wanted to do, made sure they knew how to use my camera (zoom included), and made a run for it (literally).  I hopped the rope and started climbing, FAST, and turned and posed for a couple pictures - all the while a security guard is heading towards me and yelling at me in Egytian to get down (I'm assuming) and waving his baton at me, haha!  Sure am glad I didn't go to jail or something - he didn't seem TOO pissed when I got down - I bet it happens all the time right??  I mean who doesn't want to climb on the pyramids in Egypt??  The pictures were totally worth it, see for yourself! :)

I figured I'd probably better quit pushing my luck and just call it a day for those pyramids! 

I went back, wandering through the parking lot, to try and find my guide - he didn't come in with me - hoping he hadn't left me!  He was right where he said he'd be.  :) 

Next we stopped at a different pyramid - supposedly this on was REALLY the first one ever built. Whatever, it was much smaller and didn't look near as impressive as the other ones!  (I didn't climb on this one - it looked like it might crumble at any minute!)

It did have a museum built right next to it though - so it was cool to see some of the artifacts and tombs and stuff.

I had for real had enough 'pyramids' and history after this, so we started heading back towards Cairo. 

We stopped at a couple of rug weaving places, and I'm not even kidding you, the beautiful, expensive Egyptian rugs are MADE BY LITTLE KIDS.  I mean little - like 6 or 7 years old - in there on the big weaver thing just slaving away.  It was crazy!  My guide must of thought I had a lot of money or something because those things were EXPENSIVE!!  I definitely did NOT buy one, but I did give a little bit of cash to the cutest little kids, haha! :)

It was definitely a full day of history!  Not my favorite, but whatever.  At least I can say I've climbed on the Egyptian pyramids now!

My flight leaves at like 6am tomorrow morning - heading to Paris!

That's all for now...



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cairo, Egypt

I flew back to Nairobi last night on the same little puddle jumper (dirt runway and all) and crashed at a cheap hotel.  Never been so happy to have a SHOWER, haha!  I honestly didn't even know my hair could look/feel like this!  I lost track of how many days it's been since it's been washed -- let's just say a lot. ;)  I literally spent probably 15 minutes just standing under the cold trickle of a shower at the hotel trying to get a comb through my hair.  I even soaked it in conditioner and washed it NUMEROUS times - still smells like campfire smoke, and it still has rats in it! I'm pretty sure I pulled out at least half of my hair in the process...just mats of it!  

Anyways, I made it to the airport on time at the crack of dawn (still dark out) and had an easy, couple hour flight in to Cairo, Egypt, this morning.  I met a cool girl, Sylvia Vuong from Europe at the airport.  You can always tell the young backpckers doing the same thing I am!  We chatted for a little bit, and shared a cab fromt he airport (once we FINALLY figured out how to get a freaking VISA for this country) in to the heart of Cairo.  It is very hot, VERY dirty (just trash and filth everywhere), and very poor here. I mean there are beautiful little kids rumaging through piles (I mean MOUNDS) of trash on the sides of the streets!!  Very sad. 

I haven't really heard many good things about Cairo.  Nothing bad has happened at all, but I just don't really feel all that safe here.  I haven't even taken my big camera out yet!  Plus my hotel isn't in the best area.  Shocking, I know, for $20.  The men are so dirty and they all yell at me!  It is still Ramadan (same as it was in Dubai) but it isn't as strict here I don't think?? 

I did meet three really great girls my age from Melbourne, Australia at a little shopping market I stumbled upon trying to find some food (most restaurants are closed), so I am hanging out with them now! They've been around Egypt for about two weeks now on some sort of tour so they know the place a little better. They are taking me shopping at the bazaar local market this afternoon with a local guy they met. Its bad enough being one white and light haired girl around here, but now there are 4 of us so its even worse!! We are constantly getting honked at and yelled at by the disgusting Arab men... 

We walked around the area our hostels are in, headed acros the river (literally about the only time I've gotten my camera out in this city) and walked around at some markets downtown and did some shopping.  Nothing too crazy.

I think I am going to do a Nile River dinner cruise tonight and visiting the pyramids all day tomorrow. That's about it for now! I'll stay safe... :)


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Masai Mara

I feel like it's been so long since I'm written anything!

The Masai Mara and the hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti were completely amazing!! I've never been in a hot air balloon before, and I'm not sure it gets any better than going up in one for the first time over the Masai Mara during the great wildabeast migration.  (Yea, I coudln't have better timing.) 

Seeing everything from above was just crazy!  We would go up high and you could see for miles and miles - the pictures are breathtaking.  (There were two baloons that went up at once so I got pictures of the other baloon in the air...)  Then we would drop down low and see the animals up close.  We saw a whole family of lions - that was pretty cool too.  I seriously have like hundreds of pictures just from being in the hot air balloon!

The landing was nuts!  I hadn't ever really thought about it, but you can't really "land" those things!  They just told us to hunkder down and brace ourselves, and then we just crashed in to the ground and tipped over - haha!  And the balloon drug us along the bumpy terrain for what felt like 100 feet!  Once we got off, a little shaken up, we had a champaigne breakfast in the middle of nowhere on the wide open plains of Africa - just amazing.  I had a BLAST!!


My guide for the day wasn't near as cool as the first one at Ambesoli, but he did take me illegally across the border into Tanzania to see the animals over there and mainly to see all the hippos lounging in the Great River Mara.  That was a little exciting - mainly because he told us it was illegal since none of us had Tanzania visas. :)  There was a group of school girls there too - they were on a field trip to the river, haha!

(Not looking too bad for not having a shower in like 8 days - no joke!)

I also saw the coolest little lizard/iguana thing that was bright red with bright blue legs!  It looked like Spiderman or like he had jeans on or something! :)

We stopped to have a picnic lunch under a little tree, drove around a little more to see what we could see, and then it rained on us - but just for a little bit, and then it cleared up! :)

OH WAIT, let me back it up.  I can't believe I forgot to talk about the AIRPLANE LANDING in the Maasai Mara yesterday!!  So I told you it was a little puddle jumper plane (literally) from Nairobi to here.  Well the 'airports' here in the sticks aren't really what you would expect.  To be honest, they are probably unlike anything you can even imagine!  The runway was literally a strip of dirt in the middle of nowhere - with animals just chilling on both sides.  NOT kidding.  Like I'm talking a herd of elephants on the side of the runway, and one tiny little building that wasn't even open.  THAT is the airport.  There is one guy who works there and his job is to clear the runway of animals before the plan lands!  NUTS! 

(This is seriously how close I was sitting to the pilots - with the door open.)

(Elephants just off the runway...)

So once we landed a guy picked me up to take me to my camp for the night.  Yep, camping again.  It's the way to go in Africa! ;)  And I bet we hadn't been driving 5 minutes when he stopped and was like, "Oh, oh ooohhh....look there!"  I swear if I didnt' have a guide here I wouldn't see half the stuff I did, and I'm pretty observant!!  So there was a momma lion and her babies right on the side of the road!  They were SO cute and we got so close to them!  Well it turned out the momma lion was stalking a wildabeast - there are only about 8 MILLION of those ugly things around here - migrating time.  So she was all hunched down and stalkig this one - it was intense and lasted quite awhile I'm telling you!  She came RIGHT in between the jeep I was in and the one right behind us - who was stopped to watch as well.  It's like the lion didn't even know we existed, she was SO focused on the wildabeast!  Eventually she took off after one and pounced and she MISSED it and the WHOLE HERD took off running and grunting - dirt flying.  It was just one of the craziest experiences ever and I saw it SO CLOSE - for real!  So anyways, the momma came back to her cubs who were calling for her (RIGHT BY US), but she didn't have any food for them. :(  I'm sure she'll get some soon - haha!

(Those specks off in the distance are thousands of wildabeast!!)

(All her cubs in the distance...)

(This is right after she missed the wildabeast and was walking back to her cubs)

Anyways, I got to the campsite just before dark, slept in a tent, had a little bit of running water to wash my hands and some good food.  It was a little step up from my last camp-site, but not a whole lot, haha!  

Got up at the crack of dawn (litearlly) for the hot air balloon, and saw two lions on the side of the road on the drive!  I tried to take a picture, but I think I just blinded them with the flash and it didn't turn out.

After the hot air baloon, I did another safari all day and saw lots more animals - and the biggest male lion yet - asleep under a tree!

We went to a little local building place and I bought a bunch of ridiculously awesome jewelry and scarves and souvenirs, and am heading back to Nairobi now - same little plane, same little runway!! 


One word for all for all of Africa:  AMAZING :)