A Travellerspoint blog

ANOTHER VISIT TO CORK CITY

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Found a lovely period house to stay in while working for 2 weeks in Cork. 300 years old, all rooms decorated with antique furniture. Lovely hostess who is also a school principal!

Found a lovely period house to stay in while working for 2 weeks in Cork. 300 years old, all rooms decorated with antique furniture. Lovely hostess who is also a school principal!

The house overlooks the river Lee, with long walks along the banks.

The house overlooks the river Lee, with long walks along the banks.

Blackrock Castle is just down the road, which now houses an observatory

Blackrock Castle is just down the road, which now houses an observatory

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David did 2 weeks night shift in the Southdoc car. Here he is with one of the 3 Pats who serve as drivers and/or receptionists for the afterhours centre.

David did 2 weeks night shift in the Southdoc car. Here he is with one of the 3 Pats who serve as drivers and/or receptionists for the afterhours centre.


Although the weather was very cold, the bluebells and primroses were in bloom.

Although the weather was very cold, the bluebells and primroses were in bloom.

Clematis flowers are spectacular.

Clematis flowers are spectacular.


Not sure what these pretty clusters growing in cracks in stone walls are.

Not sure what these pretty clusters growing in cracks in stone walls are.

Canola blooms look as if God has taken a fluorescent marker pen to colour the landscape.

Canola blooms look as if God has taken a fluorescent marker pen to colour the landscape.

Another display of flowers adorning a wall.

Another display of flowers adorning a wall.

Any idea what these are?

Any idea what these are?

The well-known colourful English Market in the city.

The well-known colourful English Market in the city.

The fish stall with some interesting specimens!

The fish stall with some interesting specimens!


Sandi joined David after 2 weeks and we decided to revisit the beautiful cathedral in Cobh.

Sandi joined David after 2 weeks and we decided to revisit the beautiful cathedral in Cobh.

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After finishing work in Cork, we headed East to Rosslare to catch the ferry to France that evening. On the way we stopped to visit the Dunbrody moored at New Ross.

After finishing work in Cork, we headed East to Rosslare to catch the ferry to France that evening. On the way we stopped to visit the Dunbrody moored at New Ross.

The Dunbrody is a replica one one of the famine ships, which transported thousands of desperate Irish to America, during the potato famine during the 1850s.

The Dunbrody is a replica one one of the famine ships, which transported thousands of desperate Irish to America, during the potato famine during the 1850s.

The original ship's bell rescued from the original ship.

The original ship's bell rescued from the original ship.

All passengers were issued a ticket, before we boarded for a fascinating look at what they endured on the long journey.

All passengers were issued a ticket, before we boarded for a fascinating look at what they endured on the long journey.

This poor lady travelled steerage, and related how she lost most of her children on the voyage. She told us that the average Irishman ate 40 potatoes a day, which is why the potato blight affected their livelihoods so drastically.

This poor lady travelled steerage, and related how she lost most of her children on the voyage. She told us that the average Irishman ate 40 potatoes a day, which is why the potato blight affected their livelihoods so drastically.

Another lady from first class told us how the steerage passengers all had to use one bucket as a latrine, which could not even be emptied if the weather was stormy!

Another lady from first class told us how the steerage passengers all had to use one bucket as a latrine, which could not even be emptied if the weather was stormy!

The ship's galley provided very little food to steerage passengers, who had to bring most provisions with them. First class passengers ate at the captain's table. That evening we caught the overnight ferry to Cherbourg.

The ship's galley provided very little food to steerage passengers, who had to bring most provisions with them. First class passengers ate at the captain's table. That evening we caught the overnight ferry to Cherbourg.

Posted by davidsandi 05:18 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

CO. WICKLOW – THE GARDEN OF IRELAND

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The next three weeks were to be spent in the village of Carnew in the southern part of Co Wicklow.
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We drove from New Ross on the Friday evening after work, and found the GP, his wife and 6 teenagers excitedly packing their surfboards for their annual holiday in Kerry. “The Shed” is a stylishly renovated cottage in their garden, fitted out by Ikea, and was to be ours for the next three weeks. It is situated in the countryside, about 2km from the village and surrounded by ripe wheatfields, grazing cattle and sheep.
1IMG00174-2..26-1255.jpgIMG_0622.jpgIMG_0626.jpgGlorious potted geraniums in front of the cottage.

Glorious potted geraniums in front of the cottage.

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The surgery hours are not onerous [on Thursdays and Fridays only starting at 1100], but no appointments are made, so up to 25 patients can “walk-in” during the 3 hours of opening! Gumboots covered in cow dung, smelly feet, halitosis and BO are order of the day! The private patients are generally very genteel and their accent understandable. The mumblings of many others are often undecipherable! As found in the rest of Ireland there is a lot of chronic disease, genetic problems and cancer. Very few seem to have joined the dots between healthy lifestyle, healthy eating and health. Obesity and smoking are the big issues that no-one appears to clamp down on. Everyone grumbles about the weather [it’s been the coldest July on record!] One sunny morning, with the temperature a lovely 22 degrees, conversation was overheard in the waiting room complaining about the heat!
Sandi looking gorgeous and relaxed!

Sandi looking gorgeous and relaxed!


We’ve settled into a relaxed routine after all the recent stresses. The weekly shopping trips usually involve visits to 3 or 4 supermarkets: Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Dunne’s stores, to get the best of the bargains.
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In between her busy working schedule, Sandi cooks some wonderful dinners on a budget, and with no accommodation costs to pay, we are managing to live fairly economically. Working from "home" has its advantages and disadvantages, as Sandi experiences when she has to contend with the gardener who assiduously mows the large lawn every week for 2-3 hours, and the scores of country bees that fly in through the windows when left open.
Sandi's fynbos soap provides a fragrant reminder of home!

Sandi's fynbos soap provides a fragrant reminder of home!


Wednesday afternoons there is no surgery, so we drove up to Dublin the first week for an appointment with a prosthesis company. We were shown around the factory and given a personalised presentation about their products. We are looking at this as a possible business opportunity in SA.

The country lanes are lovely to explore on foot [as long as you don't get mown down by a combine harvester!]
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On David's birthday Sandi prepared a delicious 3 course banquet-for-two: mixed seafood starter followed by roast lamb and veg, finishing off with a divine Pavlova-ish meringue concoction with freshly made lemon curd and thick cream!
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On Saturday David had to drive down to Waterford for a long overnight shift. Sandi needed a homeopathic remedy which we did not have with us, so we Googled and phoned health shops, but they did not stock any either. We were given the name of a local homeopath in Thomastown, which was halfway to Waterford. We arranged to meet on Sunday to pick up the remedy. She told us about the local arts festival, so we decided to make a day of it, as David had managed to get a few hours sleep on his shift. We had a lovely chat with Breda and her English husband Jerry over a cup of tea, and found we had a lot of common interests. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the galleries and studios of Thomastown, looking at mosaics, ceramics, paintings, wood sculptures and crafts.
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Reflections in the river, running through Thomastown.


And to escape the squalls of rain we were obliged to stop in for a pint as well!
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On the way home we made a round trip to drop in at Hillview farm, to visit Rosemary, The Poached Egg Queen, and her family. Her daughter took Sandi down to the glorious veggie patch to harvest some delicious home-grown veg for our dinners!
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We were looking for an evening of Irish traditional music before we left this green isle, but heard instead about a weekly evening of storytelling and song. Armed with directions [which are invariably inaccurate!] we set off down narrow country lanes on Tuesday evening, to find the “House of Storytelling” tucked away in the woods, like Hansel and Gretel’s house.
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There was a surprisingly large crowd, only half of whom had managed to squeeze into the cosy and warm, but tiny, cottage. Another group was started outside with a circle of chairs.
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Paul, who comes down from Dublin every week, entertained us with guitar, songs and jokes.
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This old man of 80 plus gave a long recitation, without missing a word. Then a three year old girl was keen to share her version of “I’m a little teapot”. Mugs of tea were passed around, and we helped ourselves to cakes and scones. Everyone was expected to buy raffle tickets, to help fund the evenings. Our ticket numbers were drawn, but on further examination, it was decided that the series was wrong, so we weren’t winners after all! At this point, it was becoming very chilly outside, and as some folks had left, those remaining managed to squeeze inside the cottage, for the remainder of the evening. A “talking stick” is passed around, and when it comes to you, you can entertain in any way you choose. Some kids played pennywhistle and violin, some ladies sang ballads, one old lady gave an endearing, long recitation [in rhyming couplets] about school days when she was young. Everyone rose at the end to sing the Irish anthem accompanied by the accordion. It was an enchanting evening and we felt very privileged to have been part of this preservation of tradition and culture.

Breda had also informed us about the arts festival in Kilkenny, so we made that our project for Wednesday afternoon. Again it was about an hour’s drive away, but the countryside is so beautiful to drive through. First stop was a lovely old pub called Kyteler’s Bar, for a hot pub lunch as it was raining and cold and we were starving. At last we found the renowned Kilkenny draught, which no-one else in Ireland seems to sell. There were lots of foreigners in town, but not a lot of art to see. Flowers everywhere made the streets very attractive.
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Most of the shows were at times or dates that were not suitable for us, so after a few hours of trudging, and a severe case of “Disney foot”, we decided to call it a day.
St Canice's cathedral, Kilkenny.

St Canice's cathedral, Kilkenny.

The gardens of Butler House.

The gardens of Butler House.


Exquisite rose-hips and roses in the same gardens.

Exquisite rose-hips and roses in the same gardens.

8IMG_0671.jpgFlower beds along the river.

Flower beds along the river.


On Thursday David opened the Health Centre to pick up the laptop to use at the clinic at nearby Shillelagh. The laptop was missing and the window broken! Crime makes its presence felt even here! Apparently, since the local Garda station has been relocated 2 years ago to Baltinglass [30km away], the crime rate has escalated here.

All too soon the three weeks came to an end and it was time for Sandi to catch her plane to Scotland. On Sunday David dropped her at Dublin airport and drove down to New Ross in time for the evening shift at Caredoc. Two memorable home visits were made on consecutive shifts to two patients that are so fat they cannot ever get out of bed - one was an elderly man and the other a woman in her thirties - incredible that people can get to that point!

Posted by davidsandi 13:07 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

FAREWELL TO MR STUBBY

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On Sunday, after a final leisurely farm breakfast at Hillview Farm, we bade Rosemary the Poach-Egg Princess a fond farewell, and made our way down the Barrow River valley to New Ross. Our home for the next week [which turned into 2 weeks] was to be at Glendower House with our hosts Michael and Margaret, where we had spent the last 3 weeks of our walk-about, in the winter, last November.
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Margaret's large garden is full of colour now, in sharp contrast to the pristine covering of snow last time we were here.
Winter 2010 Glendower House garden ...... and the same garden Summer 2011

Winter 2010 Glendower House garden ...... and the same garden Summer 2011


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David did a shift at Waterford again that evening, and one of the Caredoc drivers started expressing an interest in our van. We didn’t think much of it, as David settled into the week in a GP practice - with which he was familiar from the November 2010 work stint. Quite a busy practice with hospital visits twice a day.

Tuesday was half day, so we decided to visit the JFK [Kennedy] Arboretum again, as the weather was sunny and mild. The last time we visited here was in early spring and Sandi had sprained her ankle at the start of our walk, so hobbling the route wasn't much fun, even though she stoically refused to abandon the outing. Again we marvelled at the variety and splendour of the trees.
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The largest leaves we have ever seen.


The rhododendrons were coming into bloom.

The rhododendrons were coming into bloom.

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David tries to swallow a lilac bloom!

David tries to swallow a lilac bloom!


Fresh new growth on the spruce trees.

Fresh new growth on the spruce trees.

One could take a slow ride around the park in a trap.....as the more "well-fed" visitors would be inclined to do!

One could take a slow ride around the park in a trap.....as the more "well-fed" visitors would be inclined to do!


Sandi often had to physically restrain David from gawking, and rather too volubly muttering about obesity [in Afrikaans] and the irony of how it's always those who SHOULD be getting some exercise that don't. Sandi's concerns were more for the poor horses, who were sweating away, as they lugged their heffalumps up the inclines!
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We planned to advertise the van on www.donedeal.ie, as everyone said this was much better known in Ireland than Gumtree. Before doing so David called the Caredoc fellow to see if he was still interested, and after first saying “no”, he then said “yes”. Not wanting to get our hopes up too much we arranged to meet on Saturday for another viewing. David had only managed to secure a short shift at Dungarvan on Saturday afternoon, so Sandi explored the village on foot while David worked, and came upon these large, quaint, apple sculptures in a small side-street near the town.
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On the way home we met with the couple for a van-showing, and Sandi and his delightful wife hit it off immediately. They spent some time viewing the virtues of the van, which they appeared to love. So, with mixed emotions, we suddenly had a buyer, but we were thrilled that Mr Stubby was going to a good home! Since they have four sons, they were keen to use the van for what remained of their summer holidays, which left us needing to immediately find transport for our remaining time in Ireland.

As there was no work anywhere for David on Sunday, we spent the day booking airtickets from Dublin to Edinburgh, and from Edinburgh to Gatwick. Sandi also started looked at the donedeal website for secondhand cars, as we realised that buying a car was still going to be much cheaper than renting one, as summer care hire costs are astronomical. Courtesy of our kind B&B host, we had the option of leaving the car in Ireland at Glendower House, selling it, or finding locums to use it and defray costs that way. As we were soon to discover, compulsory car insurance in Ireland is not cheap i.e. €560 pa, if you do not have a “claim-free bonus”. Motor tax adds another €425 pa! We finished off the day by treating ourselves to a pub dinner at the Horse and Hounds - a nice change from bedroom fodder!
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On Monday, our host, Michael, contacted his garage man, who quickly arranged for a Polish man, who sells cars in his spare time, to contact us. He brought around a silver Ford Mondeo 1.6 for us to look at. It was perfect for our needs: big lockable boot, 11 years old, in great condition, drives like a dream, and we negotiated a price of €725. We were thrilled to have found such a bargain so quickly! We spent our afternoon off, unpacking, cleaning and clearing out Mr Stubby before driving him off [in tandem with the "new" car] to his new home in beautiful, coastal Tramore. Quite a hectic day: bidding a sad farewell to one and the excitement of buying another!
David's two prized possessions!

David's two prized possessions!


We now have transport when we choose to come back to Ireland, and can plan a camping trip to Provence next summer! We got so excited about the thought, that David insisted on buying a tent and inflatable mattresses at Tesco when we saw them on sale at half price the next day! Now we’ll have to come back!!

Posted by davidsandi 01:46 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

TALL SHIPS AND FARMYARD FROLICS

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On the way to Waterford, we stopped in at New Ross to buy some airtime for the phones and internet dongle. The roads into the centre of Waterford were all closed for the Tall Ships Festival, and 3 large Park ‘n Rides with shuttle buses were in operation, coping very efficiently with the half million visitors. We parked in the CareDoc carpark and from there only had a short walk into town. There were thousands of people on the quay in a very festive mood. Queues were long to explore the ships, but there were plenty of stalls to browse, and foods to buy.
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The balloon seller was dressed as a pirate,but it was difficult to capture his whole body!

The balloon seller was dressed as a pirate,but it was difficult to capture his whole body!


We had seen this fascinating musician with his troupe of moving puppets at Midleton, Co Cork before.

We had seen this fascinating musician with his troupe of moving puppets at Midleton, Co Cork before.

We trudged slowly back to the van to catch up on a little sleep, as David had a full night’s duty ahead. Fortunately the patients were distracted from their ailments by the festival, so the shift was quiet and David snatched a few hours sleep in the duty room, while Sandi slept in the van outside. Even the firework display did not disturb us.

On Saturday the sun came out so we took the opportunity to give Mr Stubby a good clean and scrub.
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David worked that evening till midnight, then joined Sandi in the van for a few hours. We needed to make an early start the next day, as we had to drive 2 hours up to our accommodation for the week ahead, drop Sandi to settle in, with David needing to get back into Carlow by 9am for the day’s duty.
The fully-equipped doctor's car used for home and hospital visits.

The fully-equipped doctor's car used for home and hospital visits.


Hillview B&B is on a dairy farm near the village of Kiltegan.
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We were given a little self-contained cottage next to a field with shy 3 month-old calves, frisky ducks and plump chickens.
Our cosy cottage

Our cosy cottage


Lovely moo-babies outside our window, with himself in the front, and the farm in the background

Lovely moo-babies outside our window, with himself in the front, and the farm in the background

Afternoon siesta for the calves with the glorious Irish hills beyond

Afternoon siesta for the calves with the glorious Irish hills beyond


It is always a great treat to be able to cook for ourselves, and we raided the bargain shelves at Tesco for salmon, lamb and pork rib, which together with Sandi’s special seafood chowder, made for excellent cuisine for the week.

Breakfast each day consisted of the best eggs we've eaten in Ireland, in over 2 years, prepared by B&B owner, Rosemary - the Poached-egg Princess of the Universe!
The happy hens who supplied the eggs for our breakfast

The happy hens who supplied the eggs for our breakfast


At breakfast each morning we looked out at the beautiful view and watched the antics of the wild birds as they flitted around the bird feeder in front of the window.

The view from the breakfast room.

The view from the breakfast room.

We laughed at the frisky calves, who played like children at dusk every day. The long summer evenings, spent looking over the hills and trying to talk to the calves, were very relaxing.
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Closer shot of our shy neighbours

Closer shot of our shy neighbours

The calves weren't the only frisky ones - the drakes were positively lascivious, nabbing the ducks at every opportunity, as they ran for cover. Raunchy bunch these waddlers!
Puddleduck and Co.

Puddleduck and Co.


David worked in a GP practice split between the 2 nearby villages of Hacketstown and Rathvilly.
Typical Irish townhouses in Rathvilly.

Typical Irish townhouses in Rathvilly.


On Saturday it was again a long drive down to Waterford for a day shift for David. The van radio had stopped working, and it transpired that the amplifier had probably blown. So he had no alternative but to sing loudly [and tunelessly] to pass the time. Some of you may remember this Irish ditty from younger years:

About a maid I'll sing a song ……… sing rickety tickety tin [melody and words available on application]

Posted by davidsandi 10:15 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

TORRID TIMES IN TRURO

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With 5 days to spend in Truro, waiting for the van to be fixed, we set about planning what to do i.e. making lemonade with our lemon. On Saturday we were invited to lunch by Anton and Kay Kruger, old varsity pals of David’s, who live in a lovely country homestead, just outside Truro.
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We headed for the veggie garden and tunnel to pick lunch: fresh, organic broadbeans, French beans, chillis, white radish, new potatoes, coriander seed, courgette, carrots, raspberries and strawberries. Yum! Nothing could taste better!
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The veggie tunnel.

The veggie tunnel.

Picking raspberries.

Picking raspberries.

Lunch!

Lunch!


Sandi found the perfect raspberry to photograph.

Sandi found the perfect raspberry to photograph.


The woodpile.

The woodpile.

Kay's beautiful clematis.

Kay's beautiful clematis.


We arranged to rent a cheap car for the next four days so that we would be mobile, and managed to find one for £25 a day. The first one had a dodgy electronic lock and could not get into 5th gear, so the lady exchanged the car for us the next day, but gave us one with a dodgy gearbox instead! The joys of having only a Rent-a-Wreck budget. We spent several hours on Sunday wandering around the cute little harbour town of Falmouth. It was so nice to start relaxing without an agenda and without time pressure.
Lunch here was a pie and a beer.

Lunch here was a pie and a beer.

Falmouth harbour.

Falmouth harbour.


We then headed for Penzance, but missed a turn somewhere and ended up in the southern-most point of England, Lizard.
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How's this for a serendipitous find?


On Monday we drove to Ebford near Exeter, to visit cousin Judy and Rob, who, after 2 years are still struggling to sell their property. We stayed overnight [it felt like coming back to our old home] and had a lovely time catching up with them, before driving back the following afternoon.
Summer lilies in Judy's garden.

Summer lilies in Judy's garden.

David and Judy's post-prandial stroll.

David and Judy's post-prandial stroll.

On the way back we stopped in at a favourite antediluvian haunt: Trago Mills, a fascinating, time-warp, multi-department store, selling everything, and then some. The parking lot is full of eccentric statues.
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Stress levels were steadily climbing, as we waited for the van repairs to be timeously completed by Wednesday, as time would be extremely tight if there were any delays at all. David was just about to book the ferry crossing for Thursday evening, when an email came in expressing interest in buying the van. The couple would drive down from Plymouth that afternoon [Wednesday] to have a look, after we had picked the van up from the garage – it sounded really promising! Bob immediately phoned a friend, who offered us a reliable car for £600. So we had a buyer for the van and a car with which to travel to Ireland. Fantastic! All we had to do was to collect the van at 5pm, as we were assured that it would be ready by then, drive back to Truro in the rush hour traffic, give the van a quick wash and be ready for the buyers at 6pm. Our ferry to Ireland was a mere 30 hours away, if we were to cross the Irish Sea in time for David’s overnight shift at 6pm on Friday. Life is never dull in Nye-land!

We popped down to Truro centre to shop for the time in Ireland, as food and wine are so much cheaper in England.
Crabs in the market - which were however not on our shopping list.

Crabs in the market - which were however not on our shopping list.


The Drummer - a newly unveiled statue on Lemon Quay, Truro.

The Drummer - a newly unveiled statue on Lemon Quay, Truro.


Truro cathedral.

Truro cathedral.

But it was not to be so easy! The first blow was a call from the prospective buyer cancelling the appointment to view. This was followed shortly by a call from the garage to say that they had to order some brake callipers, which would be sent down from Exeter the next day. We both felt quite desperate with time running out. Our only option now was to take the van to Ireland and to use it while trying to sell it. An added stress was trying to find accommodation for Sandi in Waterford for Friday and Saturday, since there was absolutely nothing to be had in either this, or surrounding towns - not what were were expecting. It turns out that, unbeknown to us, David's shifts coincided with the Tall Ships Festival - an event that attracted half a million revellers to Waterford for the weekend! The decision was made that Sandi would sleep in the van, in the car park behind the Caredoc office. With that decision made we finally booked the ferry for 2.45am on Friday morning, and went to bed, praying for no more surprises. The emotional roller-coaster was however running at full throttle, and both our stress levels were stratospheric!

Sandi's Stress-Double!!

Sandi's Stress-Double!!

On Thursday morning David went into Falmouth with Bob to help him with packing up the boat, while waiting for the van to be ready. By 12.30pm the parts had still not arrived! Sandi was back in Truro stressing, and packing and unpacking to keep busy. By 2.30pm the parts arrived and they got to work on the van. We were assured that they would be finished with the repairs, and that the MOT would be issued by 5pm. This was really cutting things fine, as David still had to drive back to Truro, pick up Sandi and load everything into the van, by 6pm at the absolute latest, and start the long 6 hour drive to the ferry port in Wales. David got the key back at 5.20pm and the ferry countdown journey began. The whirlwind with which we loaded our belongings [by now all waiting on the lawn outside], was second only to the staggering blow of the whopping £627 bill [and they even forgot to do the oil change]. We hit the road in record time, leaving Bob's sanctuary at 6.10pm.
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We eventually arrived at the ferry port at 1.30am and were relieved to be able to board immediately. We grabbed our pillows, found a seat and fell asleep. The sun was rising by 4.30am and we had a greasy ferry-style English breakfast, as they stopped service at 5am. At 6.15am we disembarked in Rosslare, Co Wexford, grateful to once again be on the terra firma of this lush Emerald Isle, which has been one of our special homes-from-home during our 2-year walkabout. Although exhausted, we had made it, and the relief was beyond description!

Posted by davidsandi 06:19 Archived in England Comments (0)

MR STUBBY IN CONTROL OF OUR DESTINY

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Greetings friends and welcome to our resuscitated travel blog.

Our plans were to fly Emirates to Gatwick airport, arriving in the morning of 23 June. Then to drive down to Cornwall, MOT and sell the van, buy a cheap car, drive/ferry over to Ireland to work there for 7 weeks.

Day 1 went fairly well according to plan: we picked up our rental car and started driving. It was about the same price to rent a car for 24 hours as catching the train to Cornwall. It is mid-summer and the air is cold [8-16 °C] with patchy sunshine and showers. The winter weather is Cape Town is better than this!
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We soon noticed there was something wrong with the radio reception, and found the aerial was missing! We phoned the rental company and they knocked £15 off the price. We stopped over at cousin Ebu to pick up our post and were offered a “simple lunch” of delicious soup, smoked trout, prawns, potatoes, garden salad and strawberries and cream! All this was topped off with superb hand-made chocolates! Sandi preferred the violet cream ones, and David found the rose cream ones transported him instantly back to Bulgaria!

We were greeted in Truro by Bob, with whom we were to stay for a few days while we got Mr Stubby sorted out. Bear had already returned to France to welcome her summer guests. We were thoroughly exhausted after our long trip: 19 hours of flying and six hours of driving.
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Day 2 and things started to go pear-shaped! We found Mr Stubby in the driveway, under his winter cover, just where we had left him, except that by now the snow had all melted!
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We pulled the cover off Mr Stubby and found the interior was pretty dry, thanks to the desiccating granules we had placed inside, except for some mould growing on the front seats. He started immediately, which was amazing after 7 months! The wheels were locked at first, but David managed to free them up without too much difficulty. He set off behind Bob to follow him to the garage in Falmouth for the MOT [obligatory annual roadworthy test for those who don’t know] which was booked for 10h30. It immediately became apparent that the footbrake was not working properly….not an encouraging sign 10 minutes before an MOT!

After a 45 minute wait they started the test. An hour and a half later David was called in to be shown extensive rusting of parts of the undercarriage, disc brakes and pipes and a worn tyre. The quote for the welding needed and other repairs came to a whopping £500! The really bad news was that the job could not be done before Wednesday. That means that we have 5 days to cool our heels here with no transport, because we may not take the van on the road. It also means that we have no time to take the van up to London to sell. The recession is biting hard here, and it is beginning to look as if we will struggle to give it away. There have been no responses to our ad on Gumtree for the past week. There are much nicer campervans being advertised for next to nothing!

We have been considering our options: [a] scrap the van and save the £500. It seems such a waste! We then buy a cheap car for £500 to use in Ireland. [b] fix the van, use it in Ireland and keep it for camping in France next year. We could park it in Ireland, but it would carry on rusting and we would have the same situation next year again. We could go camping in France next year, but would have to abandon it in France before returning to the UK. [c] fix the van and try to sell it in London, but there is now no time to do that. [d] fix the van, use it in Ireland and try to sell it asap for half-price. Then rent a car for the remaining time there.

David helped Bob on his boat in Falmouth for a couple of hours. He is hoping to launch it for testing in the river and sea for 2 days, before parking it again on land until he returns from France in September.
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Posted by davidsandi 23:02 Archived in England Comments (0)

LAST THOUGHTS ON IRELAND and FOND FAREWELL

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We decided to go back to Ireland to work for the last 6 weeks, before returning home, to replenish our dwindling coffers. We were soon to discover that the financial turmoil in Ireland had become even worse than before.

We arrived in Monaghan, and were met by the GP's wife who showed us the apartment we were to stay in. She had kindly put some roses on the table, and milk, white bread and marg in the fridge [which we secretly passed on to the surgery staff the next day, since these goodies are not part of our chosen wholefood diet].
The view from the apartment window.

The view from the apartment window.

The following two weeks were spent in the GP practice during the week, with David travelling for several hours on the weekends to do CareDOC shifts in Carlow. Even though the weather was brighter down south, it remained gloomy and depressing in Monaghan, which is wayup north, near the northern Ireland border. David couldn't stop commenting on the majority of people in the town, who he thinks are very sloppily dressed and who all look depressed - much like the shopping-mall population we observed in Livingston [Scotland]. Is this sad phenomenon due to the weather or the economy? Who knows.

We were surprised to see how big Halloween is in Ireland. The shops are full of costumes and scary decor, and in the housing estates swarms of kids mob the houses "trick-or-treating". Every town and village seems to have their own fireworks display. When David returned from Carlow, he had to face his own Halloween surprise!
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We decided to finally start our low-carb diet while staying in the apartment. The idea is to eat no more than 20gm of net carbs a day (did you know that a tomato contains 3gm of carb?) It means that one eats mainly protein and fats, which is actually easier than it sounds. Vegetables are restricted to mostly raw or steamed greens [not that we mind that], but most fruit was off limits initially. Our digestive discomfort rapidly disappeared, and hunger was not a problem as one remained satisfied for up to 6 hours. We even had hot cocoa [yay for organic Green & Black's cocoa powder] in the evenings, with a dollop of [lactose-free] cream - what a treat!

Within a couple of weeks we had each lost 2kg and pulled our belts in a notch! The only problem with such restricted eating plans can be constipation, for which Psyllium husk powder is recommended. When water is added it swells alarmingly into a gelatinous mass, and can be a challenge to get down! Sandi swallows it nestled into a bowl of sugar-free jelly, dubbed Psilly-jelly by us, which makes it palatable for her. David has his with soya sauce and pretends he is eating dim sum! Research has shown that when one consumes little carbohydrate, one's metabolism converts to burning fat. Also the high fat intake is not harmful to cholesterol levels, if the carb intake is kept low, and eggs are free range.

David came across some more interesting Irish names among the patients: Sadhbh (pronounced Sive), Saoirse (Sersha), Cahill or Cathal (Ca-al), Aodhaghan (Agorn), Aoibhinn (Avin) and Eoghain (Owen). We both find some of the more rural Irish accents difficult to understand, but generally the lilting accents are a delight to the ear.

The following two weeks were spent at a GP practice in New Ross, down in the SE of Ireland .
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We stayed in a B&B called Glendower House, and continued our slim-down eating plan by enjoying a standard Irish breakfast every morning, without black and white puddings and potato hash browns, and added some grapefruit. Dinner would be roast chicken and coleslaw or green salad, with chicken salad the next day, or smoked salmon, or cold meats and cheese, etc. All a tad tricky without cooking facilities - but we managed with some innovative planning. Since we were avoiding bread, Sandi created salmon or salami rolls [in place of sandwiches] with layers of lettuce and mayonnaise, rolled up into little bundles - delicious! One evening we brought the induction cooker/hot plate in from the van, and fried some chops and caourgettes on the bathroom floor. Unfortunately, the bathroom and bedroom reeked of garlic and chops for 2 days, forcing Sandi to burn incense for several days to dissipate the pong. Oh, the joys of confined living!
Bathroom chef!

Bathroom chef!

The last 10 days in Ireland were spent doing CareDOC after-hours shifts in various locations, so we decide to extend our stay at the Glendower, as we had a lovely big room and bathroom, and it was fairly central to the shifts in Wexford, Enniscorthy, Gorey, Clonmel and Cashel, none of which are more than 90 minutes drive away.

The Irish people are very angry with the Taoiseach [Head of Government] and the ruling Fianna Fáil party [Soldiers of Destiny] for the mess that the country is in. After the Celtic Tiger boom years, we now have the Celtic Crash, and in fact today [26 Nov], an Irish newspaper has issued a pack of playing cards with faces and quotations of the main poker-faced politicians and bankers/jokers responsible for gambling away the fortunes of an entire country.
Death of the Celtic Tiger.

Death of the Celtic Tiger.


It all began with the banks flooding the market with unsecured loans, followed by the government guaranteeing these enormous loans when the banks threatened to crash, in September 2008. To date it still appears that the top banking culprits have escaped penalties. The country is rapidly running out of money, and is borrowing from the international money market at ever-increasing interest rates. Belatedly, the government is bringing in €15 billion budget cuts, but has denied for weeks that an EU bailout is on the cards. Suddenly, this past weekend, the Taoiseach announced that in fact the EU has been asked for a €85 billion bailout package to save the country. It is quite understandable why everyone feels they have been betrayed and lied to, and all the papers, radio and TV are full of angry commentary. And then [earlier this week], the Green party pulled out of the ruling coalition, thereby forcing a snap general election early in the new year. We are certainly living through a tumultous couple of weeks here. Interesting to be part of history in the making!

We were pleasantly surprised to meet up with Bob and Bear again [our house-sit chums from France], who came to Ireland to view a boat they were hoping to purchase. They drove up to visit Sandi one morning and then we drove down later to join them at their hotel in Co Wicklow for a cosy winter dinner and catch-up.

At this point, with no further offers for the van, Bob and Bear kindly offered that we could park the van on their property in Truro, Cornwall, for a few months, until our return. We have realised we will have to return to Ireland to replenish the coffers after a few months, since we don't yet have any work lined up back home. We would use the van while working in Ireland and probably do some more camping, before selling it in the summer, which would be a much better time to sell it anyway. We decided to purchase a motorhome cover to protect it from the ravages of winter weather, so Mr Stubby is going into hibernation until Spring.

On the last weekend, David was to work in Gorey, about an hour's drive from New Ross, but thereby hangs a tale. On the Saturday morning we were astonished to open the curtains to a white wonderland outside our window! We were in the midst of a heavy snowfall as temperatures plummeted.
IMG_4568.jpgIMG_4577.jpgIMG_4582.jpgFeeding the hungry birds with muesli.

Feeding the hungry birds with muesli.


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Besides the awesome beauty of snow, the absolute silence of snow falling is profound. So different to other elemental sounds, like rain.

David set off with trepidation down the road, which was so thickly covered in snow and sludge, that he could only travel at 15km/hr. After 20 minutes, and not even out of the town yet, he called CareDOC to advise them of the impossibility of getting to the treatment centre in Gorey. Parked on the side of the road, he observed another van slithering crab-like down the hill towards him! He turned around and crept carefully back to the B&B - much to Sandi's relief.

The following morning he was up early to reassess the situation for the Sunday shift. The van doors were frozen closed, as the overnight temperature was a record -7.5 degrees! Michael, who runs the B&B, advised that the roads would be very icy and treacherous, so David had to beg off duty again. Another day's earnings were lost, but David survives to live another day!
Sandi, demonstrating how slippery the ice is!

Sandi, demonstrating how slippery the ice is!



We managed to travel to Clonmel for the last red-eye shift, then back to Wexford on roads which by now had been salted and gritted, so were drive-able, but we were still extra cautious. We camped in the lounge of the local Whites Hotel to drink Guinness, eat our last seafood chowder, use the free internet, and generally while away the time until our ferry leaves at 21:00. On landing in Wales at 01:00, we intend to drive through the rest of the night to Cornwall, where we are going to park the van, but are a bit concerned about weather predictions for further heavy snowfall during the night, and lots of snow already on the ground in Cornwall!
Red-breasted robins are so cute!

Red-breasted robins are so cute!

And so, sadly, our two year walk-about comes to an end. Can it really be two years already? The time has just flown by. It has been a wonderful opportunity for new work and leisure experiences, which we could not have enjoyed without the opportunity of earning euros in Ireland. Out of 22 months away, we have spent 9 months in Ireland, working to finance our travels, and also having to send a considerable amount home each month for mortgages, insurances, wages, etc. Keeping the home coffers liquid in fact took 50% of our monthly budget, which meant we had to live frugally - something that could be a bit frustrating at times. However, the work in Ireland was a real blessing, without which our journey would have been very different - so no complaints!

Pondering our adventures so far, we find it has been a time of new togetherness for us both, as we have had more time in each other's company than at any other time in our 30 years of married life. We have tried to enjoy each day to the full and attempted to "live in the moment/present" and actually put our personal philosophy to the test. There have been difficult times, during which we have helped and supported each other, but those have been balanced out by the times we have fun, interspersed with joyful belly-laughs that we still have together, just about daily. It has been a very freeing time, as we shed most of the attachments (both emotional and professional) and responsibilities which occupied our busy lives at home. We have also eschewed many material comforts, in order to travel like gypsies on the road; but this makes our appreciation of comfort even greater when it is present. We are grateful every day for our many blessings, not least of which are our loving family and friends, many of whom have kept in touch and cheered our hearts when we have felt most alone.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. -Anais Nin

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. -Anais Nin


Slán go fóill
David and Sandi

Posted by davidsandi 15:59 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

AUTUMN IN SCOTLAND

semi-overcast 12 °C

We took the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer in Scotland, having driven for 6 hours, from Cork city. We still had nearly 2 hours of stressful driving along narrow wet roads, competing for space with loads of HGVs, before we arrived in Livingston. It was wonderful to be with our friends, Bernie and Estralita, again.
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We could just relax and keep warm, and felt no inclination to go out and do things. We had hilarious and naughty evenings in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, quaffing wine, and generally having [often outrageous] fun around the table, while eating wonderful food. Old friends - treasures indeed.
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Sandi made some potent strawberry daquiris.

Sandi made some potent strawberry daquiris.

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We had planned to put ourselves onto a low carb diet for 2 weeks, but as we were enjoying the food and wine so much, we kept on putting it off!
IMG_3666.jpgA Scottish BBQ on SA National Braai Day.

A Scottish BBQ on SA National Braai Day.

We needed the time to pack our last two crates, which were to join the other 10 being collected from Judy's house by the shipping agent. We advertised Mr Stubby, our darling van on Gumtree, washed it several times and had a few interested buyers, but no sale. Then, on cousin Judy's advice, we performed a ritual to bid the deva of the van farewell - imagine the sight of Bernie prancing around Mr Stubby on a frosty Scottish afternoon, with incense wafting out the doorway, and David and I earnestly doing our farewell-van thing behind her! What will the neighbours think?!! Unfortunately, as our departure time drew near, and we had still not sold the van, we had to book it on a ferry for our return to Ireland. We hoped that we might still sell it in Ireland, failing which a kind farmer (who is a CareDOC driver) had offered to store it on his farm until our return in the summer.
Bernie aka Mystic Meg reading Tarot cards at the local Holistic Fair.

Bernie aka Mystic Meg reading Tarot cards at the local Holistic Fair.

We had also been invited to use their house as a base, while we considered doing some package trips to different parts of Europe. We went to see the local travel agent, who suggested the cruise on the Nile, which sounded just right. So, no Europe - but lovely hot Egypt instead. We wasted no time in booking the trip for 2 weeks later. We also looked at a 4 day trip to Rome, but eventually decided it would have to keep for next year.

Bernie took us into Edinburgh for the day and we wandered in and out of shops, ate good food, and had lots of fun before heading home again. The architecture in the centre of the city is so interesting!
IMG_3641.jpgIMG_3642.jpgIMG_3643.jpgLooking up towards the castle from Prince's Street.

Looking up towards the castle from Prince's Street.


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While the girls trawled through M&S, David went up inside the Scott Monument. It was built 170 years ago to commemorate Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish novelist and poet, who wrote Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, amongst others. David climbed the 287 spiral steps to the top; the passage became so narrow in places that both shoulders touched the sides!
IMG_3646.jpgIMG_3647.jpgClose-up of the stone-work showing where it has been restored in perfect detail.

Close-up of the stone-work showing where it has been restored in perfect detail.

The views of the city from the top were spectacular!
IMG_3649.jpgIMG_3651.jpgTowards the Calton Hill, with its unfinished "Acropolis" memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars, and the sea beyond.

Towards the Calton Hill, with its unfinished "Acropolis" memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars, and the sea beyond.


Towards the castle.

Towards the castle.

The nearest point at which we could join the Thomson tour to Egypt was Manchester airport, which was 5 hours away by road. We decided to go via Newcastle-on-Tyne so that we could visit the Bracchis again. This also meant that we would only have a 2 hour drive in the morning, to be at the airport by 07:00. When we were close to the Bracchis, our satnav, Molly, decided that the shortest way to cover the last stretch was to take a walking track through the woods! We bumped along, with Mr Stubby getting scratched and dented by branches on either side, unable to turn around. Finally, after about 2 miles, we emerged on the other side, rather bruised and worse for wear! Sue, Kev and the lads were astonished that we made it through the narrow lane, which they considered a physical impossibility for any vehicle - let alone a hulking great LDV van!
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On our last weekend, Bernie had to attend a workshop in the Lake District, in the pretty town of Keswick. The rest of us decided to go along and make the most of it. We booked into the very nice Highfield Hotel, and enjoyed a superb 4-course dinner that evening. We were having such fun and laughing so much, that the other diners must have thought we were bonkers! We had stunning views over Derwentwater from our room.
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We enjoyed browsing through a lovely street market on the Saturday, and discovered a unique jewellery shop called Expressions, from which we did not emerge empty-handed! Sandi dragged Estrelita back to the shop, and we are happy to report that a birthday present for Bernie left with her too!

We strolled along the edge of Derwentwater, admiring the beautiful scenery.
IMG_4496.jpgIMG_4500.jpgIMG_4502.jpgSome trees along the edge of the lake had amazing root systems.

Some trees along the edge of the lake had amazing root systems.


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Autumn chill was really in the air and the leaves were changing colours.
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The time in Scotland flew by, and all too soon it was time to leave our dear, kind friends and head back to Stranraer, bound for Ireland.
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Posted by davidsandi 09:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

UP, UP AND AWAY ...... A BALLOON RIDE OVER THE NILE

sunny 35 °C

On our last day in Egypt, we rose again at 03:30, and were taken to boats for crossing of the Nile to the Westbank. Even though it was only a short trip, we were kindly offered tea on board.
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With mounting anticipation we arrived at the launch site, to see about 10 enormous balloons laid out on the ground, and starting to inflate. The carnival colours in the pre-dawn dark, the bright flames, and hissing gasses was quite a surreal experience - and we hadn't even boarded our ballon yet. This candy-striped one was ours, and the bright colours glowing in the dark were a thrilling sight!
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The ground crew helped each of us into the basket, which held 16 plus the pilot.
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We were reassured that the pilot was fully qualified and experienced. He gave us brief instruction on how to brace for landing, before we lifted gently into the cool morning air.
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Interestingly, we experienced no fear or discomfort, looking over the edge of the basket, so we could relax and enjoy the scenery stretching out before us. It was silent up there, except when the pilot fired up the burner periodically to gain some height, which made one heck of a racket and was head-scorchingly hot to boot! We could clearly hear donkeys braying and roosters crowing as the sky lightened with dawn. It was entrancing! While we drank it all in, the pilot gave us fascinating insights into Egyptian life, and interesting facts about the temples we were sailing over.
The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.


The Valley of the Kings lies behind the temple.

The Valley of the Kings lies behind the temple.


Green, fertile lands on the Westbank, with Luxor on the other side of the river.

Green, fertile lands on the Westbank, with Luxor on the other side of the river.


The ruins of the Temple of Ramses ll, called the Ramesseum.

The ruins of the Temple of Ramses ll, called the Ramesseum.


One can clearly see where the fertile land ends and the desert begins.

One can clearly see where the fertile land ends and the desert begins.


The Temple of Ramses lll.

The Temple of Ramses lll.

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The irrigation canals, which run parallel to the Nile from Aswan to Cairo.

The irrigation canals, which run parallel to the Nile from Aswan to Cairo.

Our pilot then homed in on a village, and we sailed low over it. It made us feel like peeping-toms as we could see how the local people really live, but they cheerily waved to us from their cool and airy beds on the rooftops. Many houses seemed to lack roofs altogether!
IMG_4420.jpgIMG_4429.jpgIMG_4440.jpgOne can clearly see the second floors, in their unfinished states.

One can clearly see the second floors, in their unfinished states.


A flock of goats being herded down the road.

A flock of goats being herded down the road.


By now the sun was rising over the desert.

By now the sun was rising over the desert.


People still in bed, with their animals in the yard.

People still in bed, with their animals in the yard.


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Many slept in the streets!

Many slept in the streets!


IMG_4457.jpgIMG_4458.jpgCrops drying on the roof.

Crops drying on the roof.


IMG_4466.jpgIMG_4472.jpgWe then swept down even lower, brushing the tops of the sugar cane.  This was testament to the pilot's skill, as he also managed to reach the greatest height, and kept us up the longest, with his skilful use of the air currents.

We then swept down even lower, brushing the tops of the sugar cane. This was testament to the pilot's skill, as he also managed to reach the greatest height, and kept us up the longest, with his skilful use of the air currents.

All of a sudden it was over; we received the command to brace, and without any further warning, landed with several hard jolts on a narrow road. The ground crew was there to meet us, and quickly packed up the deflated balloon. Tips all round! We were each presented with a personalised Certificate of Flight!
Heading back to Luxor in time for breakfast.

Heading back to Luxor in time for breakfast.

This ride, and the Nile trip, was our 30th wedding anniversary to ourselves, and we loved every minute of it. The balloon ride was definitely the cherry on the top! The hour spent in the dawn sky was worth every penny of the 75 pounds [sterling] we each paid. In fact it was so awesome, we hardly spoke for a while afterwards, just savouring the incredible experience of floating in the sky like a flamboyant bird of paradise.

All that remained was for us to pack up, dish out the week's tips to the staff on board, and fly back to Manchester. We picked up the van late that night from the long-stay carpark, and set off back "home" to Livingston aka Hotel Bernie and Estrelita. At about 02:30 we stopped for fuel. To our shock, David's debit card was rejected, and so was his credit card! We now had a full tank of diesel, no cash, and an unsympathetic garage attendant! Rather stressful, but the situation was resolved by waking Bernie, who once again came to the rescue, by giving us her debit card details, with which to complete the transaction. Phew!

Posted by davidsandi 10:41 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

A DAY TRIP TO CAIRO

sunny 43 °C

We decided that we could not leave Egypt without seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx, so at the start of the trip we booked a day-excursion to Cairo, not realising how full our regular daily schedule would be. We had to get up at 03:30, were given tea and cake and a rather stodgy and dull packed breakfast of white rolls, cheese, meat, and water, and driven to the airport for our flight. The only others from our group who chose this excursion were a lovely couple, Lynn and Gary, from Wigan near Manchester.
We flew with Egyptair, which has the head of Horus as its insignia.

We flew with Egyptair, which has the head of Horus as its insignia.


A new guide met the four of us, and several others who joined from different ships, and we were driven by coach for 90 minutes through Cairo to the Pyramids - in silence. We could not believe this young guide/Egyptologist missed so many opportunities to tell us about the buildings we passed or about culture and life in Cairo! So different to Sahar, who used every opportunity to enlighten us about her country and culture, in the most enthralling way.
The traffic is hectic, especially as there are no lanes marked on the roads.

The traffic is hectic, especially as there are no lanes marked on the roads.


We passed the Citadel on top of a hill, which was built in 1176 by Saladin.  Next to it is the Alabaster Mosque built 150 years ago.

We passed the Citadel on top of a hill, which was built in 1176 by Saladin. Next to it is the Alabaster Mosque built 150 years ago.


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We passed this ancient quarry, where red sandstone was mined in antiquity, and from where the stone for the Collossi of Memnon came.
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Our first glimpse of the pyramids.

Our first glimpse of the pyramids.


The great pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.

The great pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.


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The second biggest pyramid, that of Kafhre.  At the top one can see the remains of the polished limestone covering, which originally smoothed the surface of all the pyramids.

The second biggest pyramid, that of Kafhre. At the top one can see the remains of the polished limestone covering, which originally smoothed the surface of all the pyramids.


Close-up of the pyramid building blocks, showing how the sandstone has eroded.

Close-up of the pyramid building blocks, showing how the sandstone has eroded.


A perspective on the middle pyramid, which is the one we could enter.

A perspective on the middle pyramid, which is the one we could enter.


The subterranean entrance to the middle pyramd.

The subterranean entrance to the middle pyramd.


We had to leave our cameras behind, and descend in a stooped position along a passage for 75m to get to the central burial chamber. All there was to see in the sarcophagus chamber was some graffitti by Belzoni, an antiquities dealer 200 years ago.
Sandi took her life in her hands by snapping this picture of one of the Tourist Police. They get very upset if they see you taking pictures of them.

Sandi took her life in her hands by snapping this picture of one of the Tourist Police. They get very upset if they see you taking pictures of them.


The pyramid of Menkaura is the smallest of the three.

The pyramid of Menkaura is the smallest of the three.


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Next to it the pharaoh built 3 tiny pyramids for his wife, mother and daughter.

From the official viewpoint, one can see all three pyramids on the Giza Plateau.
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Sandi and Lynn.

Sandi and Lynn.

Crowned with a pyramid.  We had to capture this for an amusing perspective on having a "pointy-head"!

Crowned with a pyramid. We had to capture this for an amusing perspective on having a "pointy-head"!

Nearby the camels rested, waiting patiently for tourists to ride them.
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We then moved down the hill to the Sphinx, which at first impression, was smaller than we had imagined!
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Close-up, one appreciates how big it is, especially considering that it was carved out of a single block of bedrock!
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The one has a nose, and the other not!

The one has a nose, and the other not!


Most of the body was buried beneath the desert sand, and one can see scaffolding at the rear, indicating on-going restoration work.

Most of the body was buried beneath the desert sand, and one can see scaffolding at the rear, indicating on-going restoration work.


Gary and Lynn.

Gary and Lynn.


It was fun trying to deceive one's perspective!

It was fun trying to deceive one's perspective!

In front of the Sphinx lies the ruins of the Sphinx Temple, which may have never been completed. Next to it is the Valley Temple of Kafhre, built at the same time as the Sphinx, and built of the same easily-eroded sandstone. The walls were originally dressed with red granite from Aswan, and the floors paved with alabaster. The cut-outs in the floor originally held 24 statues, one for each hour of the day.
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By this time, we were ready for lunch, so were driven to a restaurant [TGI Fridays] on a ship moored on the Nile, for an utterly vile meal. Even though hungry, since the breakfast wasn't very palatable, Sandi found it impossible to eat the grilled chicken meal, which was cremated - not grilled - and David managed to choke his down with glugs of over-priced beer! Several folk complained, but the guide couldn't do anything about it, and the restaurant staff wouldn't, and couldn't give a damn into the bargain. What a disappointing experience - certainly not up to Thomson Travel standards - particularly as the excursion was at significant extra cost.

We passed many blocks of apartments in the city, studded with thousands of satellite dishes.
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The afternoon was spent at the Cairo Egyptian Museum, where we joined throngs of tourists, all milling and flapping around the rather shabby and tired displays.
IMG_4366.jpgStatues and ancient artifacts are dotted about the gardens.

Statues and ancient artifacts are dotted about the gardens.


The pond contains both lotus and papyrus plants, representing the Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively.

The pond contains both lotus and papyrus plants, representing the Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively.

It was so difficult to hear our guide inside the museum, that we eventually wandered off on our own to explore the treasures of Tutankh-amun. This small, enclosed exhibition was utterly spectacular. The famous burial mask and triple coffins made of solid gold and beautifully adorned, are truly breathtaking! We could only gasp in wonder at the intricate engravings on the coffins and the perfectly preserved jewellery. What a civilization!
One of the three coffins in which his mummy was encased.

One of the three coffins in which his mummy was encased.


The iconic burial mask from the side, showing a false "beard".  Egyptian men were clean-shaven, and beards were sacred to the gods.  Pharaohs were endowed with a beard to signify god-like qualities.

The iconic burial mask from the side, showing a false "beard". Egyptian men were clean-shaven, and beards were sacred to the gods. Pharaohs were endowed with a beard to signify god-like qualities.


Tutankh-amun's scarab pectoral, encrusted with precious stones, and worn on the chest.

Tutankh-amun's scarab pectoral, encrusted with precious stones, and worn on the chest.


One of Tutankh-amun's pendants, displaying goddess Wadjet, depicted as a cobra, and the wings and eye of Horus.

One of Tutankh-amun's pendants, displaying goddess Wadjet, depicted as a cobra, and the wings and eye of Horus.

Unfortunately we couldn't take photos inside the museum, as one of the cabinets in King Tut's room had an ancient condom on display, which would have made a rather unusual photo for the blog.

After a hectic, but very interesting day, we boarded our plane for the flight back to Luxor, arriving back on the ship at 22:00 - to two plates of yet more bread rolls and cheese, as we had missed dinner. A considerate gesture, but too much refined white glue for our constitutions, so we munched some fresh pomegranate seeds instead. On checking the schedule for our special 30th Anniversary excursion next morning, we could only laugh when we saw that we would have to be up again at 03:30! Obviously, sleep is not a priority on this trip!

Posted by davidsandi 10:19 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

LUXOR TEMPLE

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The last temple that we visited in Egypt was the one right in the middle of Luxor. It was begun by Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmosis lll in 1400 BC, and also dedicated to the triad of Amun, Mut and their son, Khonsu.
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The large entrance pylon built by Ramses ll.

The large entrance pylon built by Ramses ll.


Two remaining large statues of Ramses ll. Four others were never found. Note the crevices in the pylon wall which would have held cedarwood masts, flying pennants.

Two remaining large statues of Ramses ll. Four others were never found. Note the crevices in the pylon wall which would have held cedarwood masts, flying pennants.


The side of his throne.

The side of his throne.


Just to show how big his toes are!

Just to show how big his toes are!


Ramses ll placed two red granite obelisks at the entrance.  They were given to France in 1830, but as they weighed 250 tons each, only one was transported and now stands on Place de la Concorde, and the other one remains here at Luxor.

Ramses ll placed two red granite obelisks at the entrance. They were given to France in 1830, but as they weighed 250 tons each, only one was transported and now stands on Place de la Concorde, and the other one remains here at Luxor.


Looking through to the Peristyle Court of Ramses.

Looking through to the Peristyle Court of Ramses.


Columns in the Court, topped with papyrus buds.

Columns in the Court, topped with papyrus buds.


This mosque was unwittingly built over the temple before it was excavated, and remains an active place of worship today.

This mosque was unwittingly built over the temple before it was excavated, and remains an active place of worship today.


The Court is surrounded by statues of Ramses lll.

The Court is surrounded by statues of Ramses lll.

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Statues of Amun and Mut.

Statues of Amun and Mut.


Workers restoring the columns in the Colonnade built by Amenhotep lll.

Workers restoring the columns in the Colonnade built by Amenhotep lll.


The Sun Court of Amenhotep lll.

The Sun Court of Amenhotep lll.


Beyond the two courtyards, we found plenty of carved pictures on the walls.
IMG_4215.jpgIMG_4224.jpgTefnout the lioness goddess.

Tefnout the lioness goddess.

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The inner sanctuary towards the back had been modified by the occupying Roman legion so that they could worship their imperial cult. The walls here are painted over with typical Roman scenes.
IMG_4227.jpgMany building blocks had been moved around and reused, and as one can see, not always placed the right way up!

Many building blocks had been moved around and reused, and as one can see, not always placed the right way up!

On returning to the front entrance, we now had a chance to get a closer look at the Avenue of Sphinxes. Note that these have human heads, in contrast to the ones discovered at the Karnak end, which have the heads of rams.
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Posted by davidsandi 00:22 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

THE GRAND TEMPLE COMPLEX AT KARNAK

sunny 42 °C

The Karnak temple complex is the largest religious complex in the world, covering 200 acres and includes a large sacred lake, which was used for ritual navigation of images of the gods during festivals. It is a city of temples built over 2000 years and dedicated to the Theben triad of Amun, his wife Mut and son Khonsu. Building commenced in 1300 BC and was added to by 30 different pharaohs.
A model of the central Temple of Amun, which is the only part open to the public, and showing the sacred lake to the right.  This great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls.

A model of the central Temple of Amun, which is the only part open to the public, and showing the sacred lake to the right. This great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls.

This derelict complex is still capable of overshadowing many of the wonders of the modern world and in its day must have been awe inspiring.
There is a regular pattern to New Kingdom temples [such as this and the ones at Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae and Luxor]. First a monumental pylon leading to an open court, surrounded by colonnades. Then a roofed hypostyle hall followed by smaller rooms leading to the sanctuary in which the image of the god was housed. They were called festival temples and were arranged to suit the processional ceremonies that were held within their walls.
In their day the temples were brightly coloured and probably looked something like this.
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There is a long avenue of ram-headed sphinxes leading up to the large pylon at the entrance. This originally connected with the processional avenue of human-headed sphinxes leading to Luxor temple 2 miles away. Amun was originally represented as a goose, but as he grew in importance he was represented as a ram.
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Images of chariots seem to abound on the walls of the pylon.
IMG_4156.jpgIMG_4157.jpgA procession bearing gifts.

A procession bearing gifts.


The Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life.

In the courtyard, there is a large statue of Pinedjem l, who reigned over Egypt from 1000 BC as the High Priest of Amun.
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Two of the columns in the courtyard are still unfinished.
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A mini sphinx.

A mini sphinx.

The Hypostyle Hall is impressive; with its 134 columns, it is still the largest room of any religious building in the world.
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Close-up of a cartouche on the ceiling of the Hypostyle Hall, which retains its original colouring.

Close-up of a cartouche on the ceiling of the Hypostyle Hall, which retains its original colouring.


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The capstones resting on the columns weigh 70 tons each, and it is thought that the builders used a ramp of mud-bricks to drag the slabs into position.
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Around the main sanctuary, lie hundreds of stones, all waiting to find a place in the puzzle of reconstruction.
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A worker sifting through the sand.

A worker sifting through the sand.


Aother one chiselling away at the wall; hope he knows what he is doing!

Aother one chiselling away at the wall; hope he knows what he is doing!


It gets very hot working on the columns!

It gets very hot working on the columns!

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God Amun with his crown of two feathers; a remnant of his goose connection.

God Amun with his crown of two feathers; a remnant of his goose connection.


Column with Lotus flowers.

Column with Lotus flowers.

Column with Papyrus flowers.

Column with Papyrus flowers.


Sandi with Mandy and Gillian in front of the obelisk.

Sandi with Mandy and Gillian in front of the obelisk.


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A fallen obelisk.

A fallen obelisk.


These carvings were so deep, they were meant to last!

These carvings were so deep, they were meant to last!


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Near the sacred lake, is this statue of a large scarab beetle. The legend says that if you run around it 7 times in each direction, your wishes will be granted. So we held hands and ran around it!
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Near the entrance, but 500m from the bank of the Nile, is this excavated quayside where ships would have docked in ancient times.

Near the entrance, but 500m from the bank of the Nile, is this excavated quayside where ships would have docked in ancient times.

We would love to know what these black fruits and fragrant flowers might be!
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Posted by davidsandi 00:11 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

LUXOR aka THEBES

sunny 40 °C

Luxor is the city into which we flew, where we boarded our ship and from where we departed. Most of the shops and businesses are situated on the East bank of the Nile.
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Today, it appears run-down and dilapidated, but in ancient times it was known as Thebes and was the religious and cultural capital of Egypt for centuries until the Greek period. The main god of the city was Amon, who became linked to the sun god Ra, thus creating the new 'king of gods' Amon-Ra. His great temple, at Karnak just north of Thebes, was the most important temple of Egypt right until the end of antiquity.

Luxor is becoming known as the world's greatest open-air museum, as new archaeological discoveries are being made daily.
The excavations of the Avenue of Sphinxes are carving through the centre of the town, to reveal the full 3km Avenue, which runs from the Temple of Luxor to the Temples of Karnak.  The avenue was built in 350 BC, but was only discovered recently, and of the original 1300 sphinxes, over 600 have been discovered beneath the desert sand.

The excavations of the Avenue of Sphinxes are carving through the centre of the town, to reveal the full 3km Avenue, which runs from the Temple of Luxor to the Temples of Karnak. The avenue was built in 350 BC, but was only discovered recently, and of the original 1300 sphinxes, over 600 have been discovered beneath the desert sand.


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Sadly, 800 families have been forcibly bought out, and their homes and other important buildings are being demolished in the centre, to expose the full extent of this processional avenue. A cartouche of Cleopatra has been discovered along the avenue, proving that she once visited the place.

The Egyptians are generally poor, but seem contented. The government has guaranteed jobs for all, which means that there are often many people employed to do the same job, but this also means that wages are low. We were astounded to learn that our erudite guide, who has a Masters in Egyptology, earns a paltry LE 60 a day (= ZAR 60, = £5 Sterling). Hence the importance placed on receiving tips as a means to supplement one's income; every bus ride, boat ride, photo opportunity, etc. was not without the expectation of a tip. Tipping is a fundamental way of life in Egypt - it's not offensive [to us], but was a bit expensive [for us as South Africans], since our currency parallels the Egyptian pound. It really saddened us to observe how often many of our fellow cruisers refused to hand over a bit of dosh e.g. to coach drivers - and volubly complained about the tipping culture to anyone within earshot. It seems that the annoyance factor generally exceeded the compassion factor - even though tourists have so much more ready cash than these poor folk will ever have. Sandi kept muttering "mean spirits"!!

Many of the houses are made of mud bricks and the second and third levels seem to remain in an unfinished state. This is apparently a provision for the sons [when they marry] and their families to build and complete each level, in which to live.
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Many of the side streets are narrow and dusty, and side-walks don't exist!
The public buses are more like converted bakkies, and if you cannot afford the bus fare you are allowed to hang on at the back!
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Donkeys are also an important and affordable means of transport.
Sugar cane transporters, mama donkey and her foal.

Sugar cane transporters, mama donkey and her foal.

Sometimes the donkeys are lucky enough to get a ride too!

Sometimes the donkeys are lucky enough to get a ride too!


The caleches are for the tourists, and the drivers constantly good-naturedly hassle one for a ride when one is seen walking. Notice the loads of orbs on this photo. "How dare you walk when you can see I need a fare?"
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There are very few traffic lights in the city, perhaps due to great resistance to their introduction, by the drivers. They showed such great impatience in waiting for them to change, that the lights actually show how many seconds until the change!
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On the river, the main form of local transport is the faluca.
Falucas moored in front of the Winter Palace hotel.

Falucas moored in front of the Winter Palace hotel.

The tourist markets, or souks, have a variety of goods, which can be bought at reasonable prices, as long as one barters earnestly. Bartering is as fundamental to Egyptian tourist life as tipping!
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Sandi herself became a regular item for whom the men were keen to barter. The Egyptian men were full of admiration for my beautiful wife. When the first one asked how much I wanted for her, I replied modestly "a hundred camels." Very quickly the price rose with successive traders to "five thousand camels, three pyramids, and a Mercedes Benz" to a final best price of "a million camels, half of Egypt, and the Luxor Temple". Sandi reckons it is fantastic for a gal's self-esteem! Of course, she is more valuable than the best offer, so I still have her!

On the other hand, the shops for the locals are very different to the tourist ones.
The local butcher.

The local butcher.


A woman making sun-dried bread for sale, down a side-street.

A woman making sun-dried bread for sale, down a side-street.


Breakfast falafel on the streets.

Breakfast falafel on the streets.


Water vessels in front of houses with free cool water for anyone passing by.

Water vessels in front of houses with free cool water for anyone passing by.

We passed this colourful mosque on the outskirts of the city.
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National elections were coming up soon, with many female candidates, demonstrating the government's gender equity drive.

National elections were coming up soon, with many female candidates, demonstrating the government's gender equity drive.


Pedestrians are "shielded" from the dangers of this construction site by gay cloths hanging in front of it.

Pedestrians are "shielded" from the dangers of this construction site by gay cloths hanging in front of it.

The West Bank of Luxor is far less populous, but boasts the Valley of the Kings, the two temples of Ramses ll and lll and the Collossi of Memnon.
Looking across to the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings behind the hills.

Looking across to the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings behind the hills.

Posted by davidsandi 23:53 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

DE-NYES AND DE-NILE

WE ARE SAILING......

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Cruising on the Nile is obviously a very popular pastime, attested to by the large numbers of ships we saw, often berthed three abreast at major stops.
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Our cabin was air-conditioned and comfortable, with a large picture window through which we could watch life along the banks slipping by.
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Typical mud-brick houses

Typical mud-brick houses


Palm trees loaded with dates

Palm trees loaded with dates

Felucas on the river

Felucas on the river

On our first evening we found the beds had been turned down, and a sculpture of towel-art on our bed!
Day 1 towel-art.

Day 1 towel-art.


Thereafter, the cabin stewards created a new one every evening, and hung about in the passage waiting to revel in our exclamations of surprise and delight. We soon discovered that whatever was left on the dressing table became fair game for their creative outlets - as the rest of the towel art will show further down. They could hardly speak a word of English, but appreciated our admiration!
Day 2 towel-art.

Day 2 towel-art.

In the dining room, we enjoyed buffet-style meals; but with only small daily variations it tended to become monotonous (There are only so many different ways one can prepare so-called sea bass!) We were allocated to a table for the whole time, and became friendly with our table companions, Mandy and Gillian.
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The Egyptian waiters could speak a little English, but had a great sense of fun, often pretending to drop one's plate, and would demonstrate tricks with matches after supper.
On the top deck, which was open, there is a bar and a plunge-pool. Many of the English passengers lay about all day, cooking like sausages in the sun, but we found the heat stifling until it eased a little after dark.
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Drinks on board are very expensive, and we had been advised to pay for an all-inclusive drinks package. Sandi ordered a Bloody Mary at the bar one evening, which threw the barman into a quiet flap! After eventually getting Sahar to translate the word "tomato", he disappeared for the third time. We had almost given up waiting, when he appeared, proudly bearing her drink, then stood back for her appreciation. The drink looked rather anaemic, but Sandi took a gulp and spluttered! He had gone down 3 levels to the kitchen, pulverised some fresh tomatoes, added loads of water and a shot of vodka! Try as she might, Sandi couldn't even pretend to like it, as it was beyond vile. Rather strange to put a cocktail on the drinks menu when no-one knew what it was! Maybe it was just another bit of quirky Egyptian humour.

The locals seem to do everything in the river; washing themselves, clothes, and their livestock.
Water buffalo cooling off.

Water buffalo cooling off.


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Donkeys really are beasts of burden in Egypt!

Donkeys really are beasts of burden in Egypt!


The belt of agricultural land on either side of the river is irrigated with water pumps like this.
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Boarding The Crown Prince after visiting Edfu Temple.

Boarding The Crown Prince after visiting Edfu Temple.


As we left Edfu, we noted the buildings were colourful, in contrast to the usual mud-brick houses. This is probably due to Nubian influence in the southern region.
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Sunset over the river was spectacular every day.
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Another evening revealed another towel-art creation!
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David took the opportunity to tour the workings of the ship and kitchens, and was impressed with the triple filtration system in place for treating the water. Here is our skipper on the bridge. We learnt that they get to know the river intimately from a young age, as an apprentice for many years, then pass some exams to become a skipper, with little formal education.
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The Nubian dancers, who entertained us while berthed at Aswan, performed a series of unsophisticated, but colourful dances. They also brought on a witchdoctor and a horse, which went around intimidating the passengers!
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Day 4 towel-art

Day 4 towel-art


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The high-light of the week was the much-publicised Galabeya Evening. A galabeya is the dress-like garment worn by traditional Egyptian men and women. Most of the English passengers on our tour group bought galabeyas and got into the party spirit, but the German tour group declined to take part!
Sandi, Mandy, David, Gillian and Sahar

Sandi, Mandy, David, Gillian and Sahar

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With our table waiter, Mahmoud

With our table waiter, Mahmoud


It was a fun evening, and several of us were chosen to play silly games.
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We won two bottles of beer on a raffle, which was a bit wasted on us as we had unlimited drinks on board!
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Day 5 towel-art

Day 5 towel-art

Interesting brick-work on this building in Aswan.

Interesting brick-work on this building in Aswan.

We noticed that the crew had to flatten most of the sun umbrellas on the sun deck, before passing under this low bridge at night. Again, we see plenty of those mysterious orbs; what could they signify?

We noticed that the crew had to flatten most of the sun umbrellas on the sun deck, before passing under this low bridge at night. Again, we see plenty of those mysterious orbs; what could they signify?

Day 6 towel-art

Day 6 towel-art


And the final piece-de-resistance; Day 7 towel-art

And the final piece-de-resistance; Day 7 towel-art

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Sunset on the second last day.
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Posted by davidsandi 10:25 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

ASWAN AND THE TEMPLE THAT MOVED

sunny 43 °C

During the night we sailed further south, passing through a large lock on the way. On arrival at Aswan in the morning, we disembarked to explore the local market. The city lies just below the large Aswan dam, which was built to regulate the seasonal flow of the Nile.
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A group of us piled into two taxis, which were more like rusty jalopies, to get to the market. Baskets of dates

Baskets of dates


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Sahar arranged a visit to a spice shop, where we were entertained by the owner's colourful explanation of his wares.
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Sandi and I found a papyrus shop selling painted papyri, and asked Sahar for guidance about prices. She wasted no time in berating the trader for selling fake papyri made of banana leaves, which unleased a torrent of curses and insults to her! We felt embarrassed for her, even though we couldn't understand a word, but she was unfazed. We scurried off to explore different shops.
IMG_3939.jpgA charming young boy making sand pictures in bottles.

A charming young boy making sand pictures in bottles.


IMG_3944.jpgNote the basket of tamarind balls in the centre.

Note the basket of tamarind balls in the centre.


A group of uniformed schoolgirls on lunch break.

A group of uniformed schoolgirls on lunch break.


Men at work; playing games and smoking hubbly-bubbly on the sidewalk!

Men at work; playing games and smoking hubbly-bubbly on the sidewalk!


Many of the English tourists are terrified of the constant "hassling" by the traders, and headed back to the safety of the boat rather than explore the market! We found the Egyptian men have a wonderful sense of humour, and love nothing better than to have a really tough bargaining session. Sometimes we really did not want a particular item, but the price would get so low we eventually gave in. Suddenly you became his best friend and he may have added in a little gift! They genuinely are disappointed if you do not haggle, as, at the end of the day, they are keen to sell their goods.
The sign does not always mean what it says!

The sign does not always mean what it says!


This is a caleche, of which there are hundreds in every town. They are often very decorative, and popular with the tourists for a ride around town.
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In the evening we had booked an excursion to the Light and Sound show at Philae temple. We took a boat ride to the temple which is situated on an island in the Nile. As we approached the island, the temple was illuminated and shone like a beacon in the dark. The show consisted of a narration about Isis, to whom the temple is dedicated, and Osiris, while the lights played on the walls and pillars.
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That evening, back on board the ship, we were entertained by some Nubian dancers, dressed in gaily coloured costumes.
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On Sunday morning we visited the Aswan High dam wall, which was built in 1970 to replace the old dam wall built in 1902. The dam enables the Egyptians to control the annual flooding of the Nile, and also generates hydro-electric power. Unfortunately, it also deprives the farmland downstream of millions of tons of valuable, fertile silt deposits. The Lake Nasser it created is 550km long, and extends right into Sudan. We spotted a couple of crocs swimming near the dam wall.
IMG_4006.jpgIMG_4009.jpgThe lotus-shaped visitor centre.

The lotus-shaped visitor centre.

Looking up from inside the lotus.

Looking up from inside the lotus.

Detail on the inside of the petals.

Detail on the inside of the petals.

Our next stop was a genuine papyrus factory shop, where we were shown how papyrus is made.
IMG_4019.jpgIMG_4021.jpgSome examples of beautiful papyrus paintings.

Some examples of beautiful papyrus paintings.

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We drove past the modern Coptic Cathedral in the city, but did not have the opportunity of visiting it.
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We then returned to Philae temple for a guided tour with Sahar. The temple is situated on a small lake between the Old and New dam walls. As it was now daytime we could appreciate the boat ride to the temple island, situated among many other islands.
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The original Philae island was situated high above cataracts on the river, but after the first dam wall was built, it became partially submerged every year between December and March. When the High dam wall was completed, the temple was completely submerged. With international aid, a coffer dam was built around the island, and the water drained out. Over the next 8 years, about 20 000tons of blocks and artifacts were dismantled and reassembled on the nearby island of Agilkia, where the temple now stands in its fully restored glory.
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Sahar pointed out to us how the impressive columns in temples were shaped. They are erected into position as rough-hewn blocks, before being rounded and carved in situ as seen here by comparing an unfinished column with a finished one.
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Note the ornate papyrus flowers on the capital here. The papyrus represented the Kingdom of Lower Egypt.
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Here we saw evidence of the presence of early Coptic Christians, who had carved their crosses on top of the obliterated heathen murals.
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This is an early Christian altar, situated in a corner of the temple.
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The Sun god Ra with a king on the right.

The Sun god Ra with a king on the right.

This tiny carving depicts Hapi the god of the Nile.

This tiny carving depicts Hapi the god of the Nile.


Sahar, with her heat-beating equipment; a fan and a parasol.

Sahar, with her heat-beating equipment; a fan and a parasol.


Carving of the lotus flower,which is the heraldic plant of Upper Egypt.

Carving of the lotus flower,which is the heraldic plant of Upper Egypt.

Isis suckling her son Osiris.

Isis suckling her son Osiris.


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An interesting mud-brick storeroom near the temple.

An interesting mud-brick storeroom near the temple.

Our last excursion for the day took us on a scenic boat ride around the islands on the Nile below both dams.
The famous Old Cataract Hotel, where Agatha Christie's Murder on the Nile was set.

The famous Old Cataract Hotel, where Agatha Christie's Murder on the Nile was set.


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The Mausoleum of Aga Khan on the sand-dunes of the west bank.

The Mausoleum of Aga Khan on the sand-dunes of the west bank.


Kitchener's Island where he created formal botanical gardens.

Kitchener's Island where he created formal botanical gardens.

Tombs of the Nobles on the west bank.

Tombs of the Nobles on the west bank.


Returning to the city of Aswan on the east bank.

Returning to the city of Aswan on the east bank.

Posted by davidsandi 06:17 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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