Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where did that baboon go?

From the balcony
As we turned a corner while jogging
Walking to the falls
In Zambia we stayed at a place called the Zambezi Sun, situated inside an actual heritage listed national park. The advantage of this is that as well as being surrounded by bush, animals were roaming free. Some real 'what the...!' moments included walking back from breakfast and finding 8 zebras munching on the lawn. Also one morning going for a jog we came across a giraffe and baby munching on a tree outside some apartments, and on our last breakfast a baboon had to be chased out of the kitchen by the chef and then led the chef and other staff on a merry chase around the grounds and the roof. When you see a tail hanging down from an eave you can't help but find yourself rooting for the monkey.

A break in the mist of Victoria Falls
We did do some actual touring. Firstly was a tour of Victoria Falls, which the locals call Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders). The name fits as we were there while the river was at its height and all you could mostly see is the rising mist and hear the thunder as the water crashes to the bottom. At one point during the trek we walked across a bridge and the water coming up from the falls would soak you from the bottom and then would rain on you as it came back down. The effect was like a shower from all directions at the same time.
Elizabeth mesmerised (and wet)
The power of the falls was palpable and the thunder deafening. In retrospect not the best time of year to actually see the bottom but you could certainly feel and hear it. You can see the spray from miles away.

The afternoon included a really relaxing boat trip on the Zambezi river on the African Queen, we didn't see that much wildlife but saw the most beatiful sunset (picture below). The next day was the fulfillment of a 30 year bucket list item, an African safari. We crossed into Botswana for a full day in the Chobe National Park. The morning was by boat looking mainly for the birdlife and the hippos, we also saw impala, elephants and a crocodile. The afternoon was by open 4 wheel drive where we saw literally hundreds of elephants in herds with whole families and we were so close we could nearly touch them. I am not sure I could ever go to a zoo again after seeing all these magnificent animals in the wild. I gave the guide the mission to find me some giraffes, which he did with only half an hour to go. We also added water buffalo and warthogs to our list.

On the final morning we walked to the railway bridge that crosses the Zambesi river and you get a spectacular view of where the water from the falls comes out. This was where the current bungie jump operator told us the rope broke for an Australian lady last year, not a good selling point. We needed to get a special pass as the bridge is no man's land between Zambia and Zimbabwe and then get another pass to get back in. Shades of that Tom Hanks movie crossed my mind where if something went wrong then neither side would let us in. Zambia and Botswana will go down as a high point in our trip to Africa, beautiful land, animals and people.

Monday, April 9, 2012

King and Queen on a budget

The temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Considering that most prices in Egypt are comparable to Australia we are being treated like Kings and Queens for pennies. Because of the unrest in Egypt and the military currently running the country after the overthrow of Mubarek their tourist numbers have plummeted. Consequently there are some fantastic deals. We were on an 11 day Wonders of Egypt package that cost $3500 total for the 2 of us. That has put us in amazing 5 star hotels with pools on the roof with panoramic views. Included breakfasts that have to be seen to be believed. A 4 day Nile cruise with all meals included. Our own personal driver and guide for seeing the pyramids, temples all along the Nile, valley of the kings and the valley of the queens and much much more.

Khan El-Khalili bazaar
Cairo for us was too full on, as people who prefer to be surrounded by nature and have a dislike of nick nacks and bargaining we were overwhelmed. But if you like that kind of thing then you will get your fill here. The pyramids of course were amazing and not to be missed but we were more in our element when on the cruise and visiting the temples and tombs in Luxor, Edfu and Aswan. We were surprised at the size of the rooms having never had a cruise before, bigger than some hotels in South America and the attention and attitude of the staff was superb. Nothing forces you to relax more than a cruise, you have nowhere else to go.

Karnak Temple
The tombs in the valley of the kings were amazing, no pictures as you were not even allowed to take in a camera, long deep precise tunnels under the mountains themselves to the tombs with every inch of wall and roof covered in coloured hieroglyphs and representations of the gods. Another surprise was the size, you could stand up straight easily, everything done by these guys was on huge scales, and thousands of years ago. Similarly the temples such as the Luxor temple were huuuge, you feel tiny and can see how intimidated anyone who came here would be. The final day in Aswan finished with a sailing boat ride and a belly dancing show that night. They liked to pull up audience members as part of their show, so as the performer Elizabeth is she spent more time as part of the show than watching it.

Alexandria from the hotel room
Then off to Alexandria where we were told not to cross the road on your own. Crossing the road is considered a national sport and we were told to ask the hotel staff to get us across the street if we needed. We actually crossed on our own and were then called locals (or was it loco). Traffic was still insane but the lifestyle here was definitely more relaxed. The Alexandria museum was brilliant with a different floor for every major different period covering 5000 years of history, and we finished off our trip to this troubled country at El Alamein and the war cemetery which had a special monument for the Australian forces that died here.
Lest we forget

150 year old graffiti

Umm what can I say? Elizabeth likes cats.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Puurrfect Peru and final thoughts on South America

7th March
Cats of Lima

Main Square of Cusco in Peru

There is a special syncronicity to ending the South America leg of our holiday here in Lima, Peru. If you remember we started in Buenos Aires where diagonally opposite our hotel room was a wonderful family oriented dog park (where I killed my camera). Well 10 minutes from our hotel in Lima was a park, a park of cats! Yes you heard me right, there must be 50 plus stray cats in this park, running up trees, hiding in the flower beds, sparring with each other etc. They are not just tolerated but celebrated and looked after by visitors in the park. Little bowls of water are put out, and they are fed scraps. This was heaven to Elizabeth who kept wanting to go back. Much fun was had by both Elizabeth and cats.

Lima apparently the city of love
We had heard a lot of mixed reports about Lima and so did not have high expectations, but like all of Peru we were extremely and pleasantly surprised, the place had a lovely atmosphere and energy, we found the people friendly, and the best and cheapest food and service in South America.

We think it was a protest for womens rights

Huaca Huallamarca Pyramid in Lima

Did you know that Lima has pyramids? How the hell did I not know that! Apparently so does Mexico, which also has a volcano on the natural wonder list. We are now trying to find a way of adding Mexico to our itinerary (thinks wistfully of Villarica). Peru also has a national drink called Pisco Sour that is threatening Elizabeth's teetotaller status (her now favourite drink after water).

Bye South America, it has been a ride, I have seen mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers and many more sights that greatly exceeded my expectations and blew me away. I have done things I never thought I would or could do and I have met friendly and genuine people whose lives were rich in their attitude to life even though we would consider them steeped in poverty. I did not even want to come to this continent so thanks Elizabeth for opening my eyes. What I won't miss. Insane traffic and constantly beeping horns for no apparent reason. Not being able to trust corn as a gluten free ingredient. Busy and inefficient airports. But these are minor inconveniences and we have already discussed the places we would like to return to. But onwards and upwards, Africa here we come...

Getting ready to leave

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