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

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.


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.

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.

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

To Zambia

 Posted by Elizabeth at 2:18 pm
Aug 192011

As we were no longer going to Uganda and Rwanda we needed to get to Zambia and continue on from where we would have been. That meant we had 3 long days of driving and 2 border crossings ahead of us. We left Tiwi Beach and headed for the Kenya/Tanzania border, crossing quickly and without any hassles.

Back in Tanzania the road instantly turned to dirt, the first part of which was OK, getting a bit worse as you got closer to Tanga, taking about 90 minutes from the border to Tanga. From Tanga on it was good tar. We managed to make it to Mikumi and stopped over once again at Tan Swiss knowing we could eat in their restaurant.

From Mikumi we headed for Mbeya. Once again we encountered the Tanzanian police. We were pulled over by a very arrogant officer who advised us we were doing 52km/h in a 50 zone. There was no way – we had just come to a complete stop behind a turning truck and our car will not get to 52 in 150 metres! We told him that the speed on his radar was not from our car (and as if their guns are calibrated well enough to pick you up 2 km over the limit). He then tried to tell Wayne it was an offence to drive in bare feet – yeah right. Wayne just kept telling him he was not paying a fine. Wayne had to get out to go and talk to him and after about 5 minutes the guy told him that if it was not the speed of our car to leave, so of course we did! We spent the night about 20km south of Mbeya at the ICC Mission for about $6. They will let you park on the grass and give you a room key for the shower and toilet.

From Mbeya we headed for the Zambian border. Once again the police were out in force. This time we were doing 67 in a 50 zone. Wayne kept asking where the 50km sign was as there was none. There was one arrogant officer again who just kept telling him he had to pay a fine and another reasonable guy who Wayne spoke to. Eventually Wayne was told that every village is a 50km zone whether there is a sign or not – makes it pretty hard when there are houses almost the entire length of the road to the border. Do we do 50km/h the whole way just in case? As it turned out we didn’t have 20,000 Tsh for the fine anyway as we spent the last of our money on diesel. Once we explained this we were given the option of paying without a receipt, surprise surprise. In the end we gave them 10,000 Tsh as we wanted to get going as we had a long day ahead of us. It is so frustrating though when you see so many unroadworthy vehicles being driven at ridiculous speeds. No one wears a seatbelt, half their lights don’t work, nobody obeys road markings or signs, yet it is more important to raise money by sitting with a radar than it is to make the roads safe. Oh well, this is Africa!

Next was the most confusing border crossing we have encountered yet. Leaving Tanzania was fine, but getting into Zambia was ridiculous. It went something like this:

  • Complete Tanzania departure form and get exit stamp in passport
  • Go to Tanzania customs office, find the guy in his office as there is no one at the counter and get him to complete our carnet.
  • Leave Tanzania and drive to Zambian side.
  • Go to immigration, complete entry form and pay $US50 each for a visa. All straightforward.
  • Now the fun part with the car begins.
  • Go to the exit gate and have the carnet completed but not stamped ((imagine completing it AND stamping it at the same place!)
  • Walk back to the building beside immigration and find the office where the guy will ask you to hand him the stamp (as he is so busy) so he can stamp the carnet. Tear off the slip yourself and hand it back to him.
  • Go to another office beside immigration (all of which are unmarked) and fight your way to the front of the 30 odd truck drivers that are also waiting in there, to be told he is busy counting up yesterday’s money and to come back when he is finished.
  • Go back when he has finished, hand over carnet and be told you need to pay 200,000 Kw for carbon tax and it has to be paid in Zambia Kwatcha which we have none of. 
  • Find a moneychanger and argue about the exchange rate as they try to rip you off (the few other times we have changed money at a border the rate has been more than fair and we have not had to bargain with them). Finally get them to agree to a fair rate and change money.
  • Return with the kwatcha and pay the carbon tax. You will be provided a receipt and your carnet returned.
  • Try and find the office (a shipping container past immigration) in order to pay road tax $US30 (which had to be paid in $US). Once again fight your way to the front of the queue, which is worse than the other queue. You must know which border you are leaving Zambia from as it is recorded on the receipt. Get your receipt.
  • After about 2 hours of running around you finally drive to the exit gate where they will check your receipts and carnet.
  • Finally you are in Zambia!

The first part of the road south is a mixture of good tar where you can do 100km/h but with huge potholes and road edges crumbling away thrown in just to make it interesting. There are heaps of trucks, once again travelling at speed, so it is a road requiring concentration, lots of braking and swerving around holes. Needless to say we saw several truck accidents along the way.

Kapishya Hot SpringsBy mid afternoon we reached Kapishya Hot Springs where we are staying for 2 nights. It is a lovely campsite beside the river as well as having a crystal clear 40C hot spring that has no sulphur in it. We even washed our hair in it this morning. They have excellent, really hot showers, flush loos and heaps of free firewood.

Having made it to Zambia we are now back into our more leisurely mode of travel thank goodness!

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