A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

Only A Few Thousand Kilometres To Go

The Sinai Peninsula

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We had reached the pyramids but despite our feelings of ecstasy our journey was far from over. We had covered a gruelling 12000km but we still had a few thousand to go.

THE GREAT PYRAMID

THE GREAT PYRAMID

After a night in Giza admiring the distant grandeur of the pyramids we had a day absorbing their greatness before heading into Cairo proper where a fellow cyclist had kindly agreed to put us up.

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People often ask us what the most dangerous part of our trip has been so far and I believe it could possibly be dodging the traffic in Cairo. I have never experienced anything like it. More than once I felt all my confidence melt away, dissolving, leaving me completely stranded amidst 8 lanes of alien traffic. They never crawl. The traffic progresses by means of intermittent bursts of acute acceleration followed by abrupt brakes. There is a whole section in the Egypt Lonely Planet on how to cross the road in Cairo, the basic gist of which is “find a local, put him between you and the oncoming traffic, and run when he does” yet even following this formula I had to duck out of several attempts.

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Anne and Mo, her boyfriend, were absolute stars. Minutes after arriving at their flat low range stomach pains which had been grumbling erupted into the acute stages of full blown giardia. When we were recovered sufficiently to venture more than a few metres away from the toilet they did a thorough job of showing us the sights and giving us the low down on Cairo.

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The view from Mo's flat - 3 pyramids and the Nile!!!

Keen cyclists who had done a trip together from Cairo across the Sinai peninsula to the Red Sea a few months ago in preparation for a longer trip from Cairo to Germany (Anne’s homeland) Mo and Anne inspired us with their tales. Our plan had been to head from Cairo to Alexandria where we would pick up a ship to Europe. However it turned out after much investigation that this would not be possible and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves tracing Mo and Anne’s steps, well pedal strokes, across the Sinai desert en-route to Israel.

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Sinai is barren and beautiful. We stopped off to climb one of two possible mountains thought to be the Mount Sinai of Old Testament fame where Moses received the ten commandments from God, twice!

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It was incredibly cold on Mount Sinai and in St.Catherines, the little village below but on top of the mountain a cup of tea purchased from a Bedouin who spends his days camped up there also bought us the use of a thick camel-hair rug whilst we waited for the sun to set.

Sunset at Sinai

Sunset at Sinai

Our onward journey found us escaping the glare of the sun in this Bedouin stop where we were once more treated with heart-warming hospitality as we discovered these men had paid for our meal. They were in the area for a few months working with techniques to preserve ancient Coptic writings in the cliff face.

A Bedouin break

A Bedouin break

Cycling Sinai

Cycling Sinai

As we came to the eastern side of the peninsula we enjoyed a most fantastic, long and sustained downhill as we dropped down to the Red Sea below.

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The Red Sea

The eastern shores of the peninsula, and indeed the whole Egyptian coast line, were in the throws of expansion when a suicide bomber drove a van into the Hilton hotel in the town of Taba in 2004 stopping the development dead. Consequently the coastline has an eerie “ghost town” feeling as you cycle past deserted half built complexes. However we were happy to find somewhere with some life on the beach north of Nuweiba.

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Saudi Arabia

We sat on the beach watching the coastline of Saudi Arabia flush pink with the sunset. The Red Sea coastline is unbelievably beautiful and we were so pleased to find ourselves there. We walked into the water off the beach with a snorkel and mask and found ourselves submerged in an underwater paradise.

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We ended up staying a couple days longer than we had planned to.........

Posted by robandpol 11:41 Comments (2)

THE PYRAMIDS

WE'VE MADE IT!!!!

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Abydos temple really was something special. We were not planning to look around as there is such a plethora of ancient monuments in Egypt and we were starting to get the feeling 'seen 1 temple, seen them all'. however our lovely Dutch hostess - Yvonne - at the 'House of Life' adjacent to the temple was amazed that we would come so close and yet miss 'the most incredible temple in Egypt'. 'It is a place of supreme energy... i'll show you around!'.. it was an offer that could not be refused!

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The temple was incredibly intact - it had been built to last 4000yrs - although it had benefited form some 1950s renovation - it seemed that almost all of the structure was original.

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As it turned out Yvonne had been a temple musician in about 2000BC. So had an intricate and heartfelt knowledge of the temple's history and the meaning of all the beautiful carving and hieroglyphics.

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One of the most interesting (but least profound) carvings is shown above. Ancient Egyptians are said to be able to see into the future - Whether this mason had a dream about lynx helicopters, tomahawk tanks and jet fighters or this is an impressive prank by some 1950's restorators will probably always add to the mystery of Abydos!

Unlike the majority of Egyptian sites Abydos receives virtually no tourists on account of the fact that an Islamic terrorist group targeted foreigners in the area - the last attack being in 2000. To combat this threat to the national treasury (tourism is the top source of foreign investment and spending in Egypt) tens of thousands of 'Tourist Police' were recruited to mind foreign visitors. These policemen have particularly little to do in the 600km between Abydos and Cairo as most foreigners still bypass the region. Us vulnerable white cyclists were therefore granted a compulsory escort of between 4 and 8 men in 1 or 2 vehicles - for the whole 600km....

Initially the company of stern policeman was a fun novelty - making us feel like real adventurers.

But after a while it became a bit suffocating - Stopping for an al fresco pee is alot less pleasurable with 8 armed Egyptians looking on!

Our excitement mounted as the road signs started a Cairo countdown 200km, 199km,198km etc, etc. The countdown also seemed to get the car/truck/bus drivers very excited too. As the volume and speed of traffic increased the road manners decreased so much so that Rob nearly got in a punch up with a minibus driver.

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The camels, however didn't seem to feel the stress in the air

It was a welcome relief to pull off the main drag, wash the dust off our faces and head towards the first of the Great Pyramids.

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Dashoun lies 25km south of Giza and seems to have been the practice ground for building pyramids. There is a VERY large pile of rubble showing where the fist attempt once stood. Second attempt was far more successful and still stands today - the famous Step Pyramid.... however it doesn't really count as a 'real' pyramid - the steps ruin the aesthetic grace somewhat.

The Egyptian architects then tried an extremely ambitious pyramid which was so huge and steep that it started to rip itself apart... so they had a quick rethink, reduced the angle creating the aplty named Bent Pyramid.

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Lessons were learned and applied to build the first of the Great Pyramids - The Red Pyramid.

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It was incredible to have the pyramids all to ourselves. Our bikes weren't even allowed in the carpark at Giza - let alone cycle them to the top of the pyramid!!

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We were also allowed to clamber around and venture inside... the entrance was through a rather small door 1/3 up the Red Pyramid. Then a 60 vertical meter decent down a terrifyingly steep and claustrophobic tunnel. At the heart of the pyramid were several vaulted chambers - revealing the incredible ancient technology - the enormous stones were cut and placed with perfect precision as if with a diamond saw and laser level. The silence was deafening - a perfect final resting place!

I say we had the pyramids to ourselves - that wasn't strictly true!

The last 30km into town were done in the rush hour traffic - racing against the fading light and concentrating hard on not getting run over.

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We pulled into our campsite just in time to hastily buy a celebratory beer and swig it wile watching the sun sink over Giza's pyramids and sky scrapers!

We slept well. We made it from South Africa to the Pyramids on our bikes, one bus, one train, 3 ferries, and a few free rides up the hills hanging onto the back of trucks!

Posted by robandpol 05:20 Archived in Egypt Comments (7)

DONATE

before reqding our next entry, consider this...

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We don’t want you to subsidise our adventure. We are simply asking you to give generously to one or both of the charities that are changing lives in the area that we have been living in over the past 2 yrs

So far we have raised about 2400 pounds for our 2 charities.. but we need more!!

Maybe you could give a lump sum of £10 or £20 or sponsor us per km – how about 1p/km? If you don’t think we’ll make it all the way home we dare you to sponsor us 10p/km!
(We will peddle an estimated 13,000km)

We have 2 nominated charities that we'll be raising money for.. it has been a struggle to set up donation accounts as both are South African and not British.

However we have now managed it.

Now a little bit about both:

HIPPOROLLERS:

Two widespread problems we have encountered while working here are fatal gastroenteritis amongst children and chronic neck and back pain in women.

Over 90% of Africans still do not have access to running water and survive by carrying relatively small volumes (usually 25litres) on their heads. This directly causes 2 huge problems:–

• Soaring rates of fatal childhood gastroenteritis: With water as such a scarce commodity, washing the childrens’ bottles is rarely a priority. The HIV epidemic is fueling this problem: HIV is transmitted by breast milk so bottle feeding is increasing.

• Chronic pain in females: 25 litres does not last a family long but it does do untold damage to posture, necks, shoulders and backs.

We will be raising awareness and funds for a local project - HippoRoller.org, a charity that aims to improve access to water for needy households by making it possible to collect 90 litres of water (4 times the amount possible using traditional methods) in less time, with greater ease resulting in better health and more time for other activities – like school!

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Women and children bear the brunt of responsibility for collecting water, spending 4-7 hours per day walking, waiting in lines to fill containers, and carrying them home. This prevents many children (especially girls) from attending school and completing even a basic education.

Hippo Rollers are barrel-shaped containers that roll like wheelbarrows with little effort making it easier for villagers on foot to transport life-giving fresh water to their homes.

A Hippo Water Roller typically lasts between 5 and 7 years yet some of the originals distributed over 10 yrs ago are still functional. A roller currently costs £55 to manufacture.

The Hippo Roller improves lives instantly. An African solution to an African problem.

HOW TO DONATE TO HIPPOROLLER

For UK Taxpayers who want to use Gift Aid:
It’s a little more complicated, because HippoRollers is a South African Charity.
We have a UK registered charity who will be collecting donations on our behalf for HippoRollers.

If you want to use Snail Mail:
email Beth Sutton at haveahug@hotmail.com and she will forward you the giftaid form to complete.
Please write a cheque payable to Winchester Vineyard
Write on the back and include a slip stating, Ref: HippoRollers Longwayhome
The Winchester Vineyard will then collect the cheques and transfer the money to HippoRollers. The Winchester Vineyard is a church that has agreed to do this on our behalf, as there have been some difficulties with making donations to this charity as it is South African.

Please send the gift aid form and cheque to:
Beth Sutton
Silverwood
Gardeners Lane
Romsey
Hants
SO51 6AD

For an online money transfer Please email Beth Sutton for the bank details of the Winchester Vineyard, and she will forward them to you, along with a gift aid form.
email: haveahug@hotmail.com
please reference email: longwayhome

For Non UK Taxpayers (or those who don't want the hassle of claiming Gift Aid)
This is DEAD EASY!
Scroll down the home page of the blog
Look down to the right hand side column until you reach Favourite Links
Click on Hippo Rollers,
On their webpage click on Donate, in the top right hand corner
You have to convert the amount you want to donate into US dollars
In the box: 'Please leave a note to us with your Donation' www.longwayhome.travellerspoint.com

Thanks for all you interest and support, it is very much appreciated.

LULISANDLA KUMTWANA - ORPHAN CARE PROJECT

This means 'reach out to the children' and is a brilliant organisation that supports over 4000 vulnerable children in the local community that Pol and Rob lived in South Africa.

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The catchment area for Lulisandla holds a population of 190 000 - 4000 of which are orphans or vulnerable children - such is the devistating impact of HIV/AIDs and family breakdown. Lulisandla supports the these children in the community. When mum dies they will usually end up with Granny or Aunt or family friend. This carer is elegable for a government grant for looking after an orphan. However the chances are the carer is illiterate and needs help to jump through the legal hoops. Lulisandla supplies this technical help along with helping with emotional and material needs through the 400 church volunteers that it coordinates.

We would dearly love to buy a 4x4 for the charity to help workers access vulnberable children - most are far from any paved road and the the current 2x4 is forever getting stuck in the deep sand or breaking down.

HOW TO DONATE TO LULISANDLA KUMTWANA

Scroll down the front page of the blog, and look to the right hand side column, under favourite links and click on the link to DONATE TO Lulisandla Kwmtwana (foster care project).
This takes you to SIM’s website: Serving in Missions, a Christian Missions Organisation, under the wings of which Lulisandla Kwmtwana sits.
Click on the link: Donate to SIM-UK, on the left hand side
Fill in your details, and amount to be donated.
Fill your donation amount in the box for Projects
In the box stating, If you are donating to specific missionaries or projects please provides names, write Lulisandla Kwmtwana, South Africa.
For the box stating Any other information you would want us to know about this donation please write: Reference – longwayhome

Posted by robandpol 00:45 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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