To the Kenyan Coast

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:03 pm
Aug 152011
 

Finally we left Nairobi for the last time and headed for the coast. We had originally planned to try and make the coast the same day, however we left Nairobi later than expected, so instead we stopped at the Red Elephant Safari Lodge at Voi on the edge of Tsavo National Park. It is a lodge that allows campers in a spot near the pool, supplying a room key for the shower and toilet. It was a pleasant enough spot to stop over for the night and as a bonus we spent some time sitting at the national park fence and managed to see some waterbuck, giraffe, zebra, elephant and impala without having to pay a national park fee.

Gede RuinsLeaving Voi we headed for Mombasa and then up the north coast to the Gede Ruins. The ruins are from the Arab trading days with a palace, mosques and houses. Only the bottom parts of the walls are left in most places but it is an interesting place to have a wander through if you are passing by. From there we headed to Malindi where we were hoping to spend the night, unfortunately though all the campsites have been replaced by more lucrative hotels. Instead we headed back south, through Mombasa and down to Tiwi Beach where we spent the next 3 nights at Twiga Lodge. Our campsite was literally on the edge of the beach with some trees to provide shade. The locals come by each day allowing you to buy fruit, veges, fish, prawns, newspapers and the usual tourist things such as sarongs, baskets and necklaces, they did not hassle you though and moved on if you told them no thank you. We bought some fruit and one guy went and got a fresh loaf of bread for us for very little extra than we would have paid anyway. The camp has a restaurant with cheap meals and drinks. The showers are cold, but it was warm enough that they weren’t an issue. All in all it was a very relaxing and pleasant place to stay and an absolute bargain at only $US3 each per day.

Twiga Lodge, Tiwi BeachTwiga Lodge, Tiwi Beach

Nairobi …..again

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:42 pm
Aug 112011
 

Once again we are back in Nairobi and Jungle Junction and once again we have the pleasure of visiting Toyota. We arrived on our appointment day to be told they had it booked in for the day before – they had failed to update the appointment when we rang them before we left for Egypt to change the day. Finally they agreed to look at it today. When you book your car in they just do not want to hear what is wrong with it no matter how hard you try to tell them, so we proceeded to tell them the issues we were having (no power, heaps of smoke etc) to be told they could not look at the fuel system. What???? This is Toyota, the car is a Toyota, but they can’t look at the fuel system???? Maybe if it was the gearbox and required a specialist, but the fuel system? They told us we would need to go across the road to another place, so not impressed we took the car across the road and thankfully were met by people who were incredibly helpful, understood that we needed our car back today and said it should only take a few hours. They could do our service as well. Thank goodness! They even fixed our external light for us which had decided to stop working. It only cost $120 for them to fix the problem with the injectors and service it (we did supply parts), a definite bargain compared to home.

So finally our car is happy again and we don’t have to worry that we won’t make it up a hill. We are heading off to Mombasa and the coast tomorrow and finally leaving Nairobi for the last time.

Dashur, Saggara and Memphis

 Posted by Elizabeth at 9:31 pm
Aug 092011
 

The False Pyramid, DashurOur last day in Egypt we visited the sites as Dashur, Saggara and Memphis. Our first stop was Dashur to see the false andThe Red Pyramid, Dasour red pyramids. The false pyramid was the first pyramid and was built around 2500BC. It changes angles about halfway up the sides as they realised that the top would not meet in a point. The same pharaoh then built the red pyramid which is believed to be the first real smooth sided pyramid and his actual tomb. Again it is amazing to think these pyramids have survived thousands of years in such a harsh environment.

From there we stopped at Memphis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt. There is not a lot there, just a few statues and relics from around the area. There is though a very impressive statue of Ramses II. Its feet are broken and therefore it is lying down, but it shows you how huge and detailed it is. The carving is magnificent with fantastic lines, showing how skilled the craftsmen were at the time.

MemphisMemphis

Saggara was the first royal burial area, followed later by Giza and then the Valley of the Kings. There are a number of pyramids here, the most impressive being the step pyramid. Unfortunately they are “restoring” the pyramid and are completely redoing the surface of it and it looks like they have smoothed over the bottom step. Someone needs to tell them about conservation rather than recreating it! In the complex we went inside one of the smaller pyramids. There is a small steep tunnel that leads you into the burial chamber where there is a stone sarcophagus and hieroglyphics decorating the walls.

Step Pyramid, SaggaraSaggara

Before we left for Egypt people told us what a terrible place it was, how much they were hassled and ripped off. As we were with a guide and driver most of the time we were probably sheltered from it somewhat, although when we were on our own we were not really hassled that much, certainly no more than other places we have visited. The only thing where we felt slightly ripped off was our meals. None of our guides wanted to take us to a cheap local place as they did not want us to get sick, and that is fair enough, but it is frustrating when we are used to shopping in the local markets and cooking for ourselves and as it turned out we both got sick anyway.

The most annoying thing about Egypt is that everyone wants to be tipped for every minor thing they do. A guy at the airport wanted a tip because he lifted our bag, turned without moving his feet and put it on the xray machine (and we had tried to do this ourselves). You have got to be kidding!

Whilst we were there we saw no signs of unrest and did not feel unsafe. There are police everywhere, although most of the time they are sitting talking or sleeping, so I’m not sure how much use they are. The traffic is pretty crazy, but again no worse, and perhaps even slightly better, than other places we have been and we would have had no issues driving ourselves.

By the end though we were both more than ready to back in our own car, cooking our own meals and being able to go where we want when we want. Independent travelling is definitely better! We are both glad we visited Egypt and saw the things we did, but neither of us are in a great hurry to return.

Alexandria

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:06 pm
Aug 072011
 

We were met at the train station in Giza and driven the 3 hours or so to Alexandria. Alexandria is a popular holiday destination for Egyptians as it is on the sea, has beaches and real waves. We spent about half a day visiting Montazah Gardens, the Citadel, an absolutely beautiful mosque, Pompey’s Pillar, the library and the catacombs. The catacombs were interesting but I am not sure the drive to Alexandria is worth it unless you want a seaside break with a couple .sites to visit.

Citadel, AlexandriaMosque, AlexandriaPompey Pillar, Alexandria

Luxor

 Posted by Elizabeth at 9:28 pm
Aug 062011
 

Our first stop in Luxor was the Valley of the Kings, a desert valley where the pharaohs were buried from the 16th to the 11th century BC. So far they have found 63 tombs with the tomb of Tutankhamen being the only one that was found completely intact, including all its treasures (which we saw in the Egyptian Museum). The most recent tombs were found in 2006 and 2008, so there are probably more still to be found. We went inside 3 of the tombs (unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos). It is amazing that the colours of the engravings have survived thousands of years and are still quite bright. They certainly went to a lot of effort to create and decorate their tombs.

Next was the temple of Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled Egypt but dressed and behaved as a man. The temple has been reconstructed using the remains that were found and it is quite different to any of the other temples as it is built into the rock face and consists of 3 levels. Each level has a row of columns across the front of it. Most of the statues though are missing or damaged and the decorations are either gone or quite feint.

08062336a_resizeHatshepsut Temple, LuxorHatshepsut Temple, Luxor

 

Karnak Temple, LuxorWe stopped briefly at the Colossi of Memnon, 2 large statues that were once part of a temple.

Next was Karnak Temple Complex. This temple is HUGE and has been added to by about 30 pharaohs over the years. It is made up of various temples, pylons, and other buildings as well as a sacred lake.

 

 

Karnak Temple, LuxorKarnak Temple, LuxorKarnak Temple, LuxorKarnak Temple, Luxor

That night we caught the sleeper train from Luxor to Cairo. It was OK, but definitely not as good as the ones in China. The food was terrible, both dinner and breakfast, thankfully we had bought some snacks to take with us just in case. Neither of us got much sleep as the train is quite rough and then we were woken about 4am for breakfast, an hour before arriving in Cairo – we could have slept another half an hour as it did not take us an hour to be ready!

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