A Travellerspoint blog

Cairo to Istanbul in 21 Days - EGYPT!! (May 2011)

sunny 30 °C

We weren't in Cairo for more than 15 minutes and I almost had my first mini heart attack. Wowza! The drive from the airport into downtown was organized chaos at its best. I'm still AMAZED that we did not get in a car accident, and even more amazed that not one car (or pedestrian) around us didn’t either. If you haven't been in it yourself I'm not sure I can explain the traffic and driving habits in Cairo but I'll try... how about 5 lanes of traffic jammed on a 3 lane highway, weaving in and out beeping their horns to let other cars know what moves are being made. I didn't see one signal light used ever - car manufacturers for Egypt should save their money and remove the signal lights all together. You tube it, google it - just check out traffic/driving in Cairo for yourself. I have to admit once my anxiety attack subsided I did actually begin to find it quite amusing. And it's amazing what you get used to because by the end of our time in the Middle East it really was no bother at all - just the way it is.

But really....it deserves a mention but no more talk about traffic. We've done SOO many exhillerating and fulfilling things during our 21 day Intrepid trip.

Egypt eats - must eat the Koshari! It's a bowl of pasta, lentil, chick pea, fried onion and tomato goodness! And the description does nothing for it...it's delicious!! And one must eat kebabs of course but next time I will remember to bring my own hot sauce. ;)

The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Amazing, touristy, dirty (plastic bottles and garbage everywhere) but of course it's a must see and it doesn't dissapoint. We did our first camel ride at the pyramids. It was fun! I even got a smooch on the cheek from my camel, it was too funny! We did not go inside the Pyramids because of lack of time and fellow Intrepid travellers said the Egypt museum would be a better use of our time. So off to the Egypt Museum in the afternoon. The amount of history in the museum is mind blowing. Also worth checking out the Mummy Rooms, creeepy but very cool to see.
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St. Catherine's and Mount Sinai where Moses received the 10 commandments. We started our hike up Mt. Sinai at 3pm in order to arrive in time for sunset. There is a camel path that you can walk up but Ash and I opted for the steps of repentance. It was a great hike up and beautiful views all the way. Before visiting I didn't realize Egypt was so mountainous. After sunset we began our decent down the camel path in the dark. This made the up part look easy. Wow...with no lights to gage the end of the climb (or the camel patties!!) it really felt like we were never going to get there. But we finally made it (stinky shoes and all). I slept like a baby that night and was never so happy to see a single bed and a bug mattress before in my life. We also visited St. Catherine's Monestary - one of the oldest operating monasteries in the world. Again, the sheer history in this place just blew my mind. They have scriptures, paintings and artifacts that date back 4000 to 5000 years.
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Off to Sawa Beach camp on the Red Sea! Time for 24 hours of R&R in open air beach huts right on the sea!!! We did our first ever scuba dive here and it was a colorful experience. We saw every fish you can imagine, hightlights including a stingray, octopus and a MASSIVE sea turtle! I was like a kid again…it was a “Finding Nemo” experience I’ll never forget!
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It is so sad to see the desperation due to lack of tourism following the revolution. The revolution is viewed by most (about 80%) in Egypt as a great achievement but just a small victory with many more steps ahead. Notable is that during the revolution there were attacks on buildings very near the Egyptian Museum and it was the people of Egypt who banded together and protected the museum from any harm. It is said that political organizations ordered these kinds of attacks in an attempt to make it look like the protests were violent. I don't have an opinion or verification on the truth of these matters but I do know the Egyptian people are working hard toward change and what's NOT helping is the rest of the world avoiding travel because of the media attention from surrounding countries. Lumping all of the middle east into one bucket is just not the reality of the situation - the way I see it is that of all times to visit, this is one of the most amazing, rewarding, informative and historical times to go see for yourself what Egypt is all about.

Posted by dee-n-ash 16.07.2011 14:02 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Iceland!! (May 2011)

Volcanoes, Glaciers, Craters, Geysers, Hot Springs, Waterfalls and Sexy Stockings.

sunny 14 °C

Iceland - WOW! It's amazing. As we were flying from Seattle to Iceland a fellow passenger who was connecting on asked us..."Iceland?!? Why?!? What's to see in Iceland worth staying for?!?" Well....let me tell you:

We arrived at 6:25AM Iceland time after a 7 hour flight and a 7 hour time difference. So when we arrived in Iceland we were operating as if it was midnight but we had to adjust to the fact that it was 6:30AM not yet having had a wink of sleep. Ouch. But guess what - worth it!!

Day 1. Arrived very jet legged, went straight into Reykjavik via fly bus. The drive in was spectacular in itself. It's one big volcano! The land all around is broken, black volcanic rock. Growing moss in some areas is the only bit of green. It's different than anything I've ever seen before. At the apartment we woke up our friend Greg (who arrived the day before) to announce our arrival. Then we went to sleep for an hour or so (sorry Greg! haha!). SO hard to get up but I guess that's what it takes to get into the local time zone. We had some food at Cafe Paris (I know this is a little funny but it turned out to be a good choice). :) We poked around Reykjavik for a bit and in the afternoon the boys had some beers and I went for another nap (while Ash and Greg were yelling at me not to be a wimp). In the eve we went for traditional Icelandic food with fish stew, Icelandic Haggis, dried/salted fish and Minke Whale. I tried the Whale and I didn't really like it. Gamey tasting and not cooked enough for me. The fish stew was just ok and I choose not to try the rest of the items. I think Greg enjoyed it which is good. Just not for me I guess!

Day 2: Super Jeep Tour!!! 8am start. Me, Ash, Greg, a girl Stupa from Czech Republic and the Tour Guide Ali. What a day. It was the most beautiful, scenic hike I've ever done. Not to mention the steaming lava at the top!!! Yup, we saw the lava from last years eruption up close and personal. And it's still steaming from the eruption a year ago!! Getting to the beginning of the 20km hike was a blast in itself. The guide drove us in a super jeep with super jacked up tires. Around the boulders and rivers?!?...nah, over em!!! haha. It was AMAZING.

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Þórsmörk Volcano Hike - Iceland

Day 3: Golden Circle Drive. Ash, Greg and I rented a car and hit the road. Good 'ole Vivian (our GPS lady voice) took us on the ultimate tour. I'm pretty sure the GPS must have been set on "scenic route" or perhaps "slowest route". Anyway, we didn't mind. Viv's directions just made the drive that much more interesting. An extra few kilometers and dirt roads to get to our destinations – no big deal!

First stop = Gullfoss (Golden Falls). A beautiful waterfall that plummets down into a crevice. What amazed me here was the very low (about knee height) rope barrier located very close to the edge of the rock. I was shocked at how close we were able to get to the falls with no restrictions. A little scary but allowed for a great view!
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Second Stop: Strokkur Geyser (a water spouting hot spring). There were many hot springs and geysers in this area including the 2nd largest called Geysir which erupts after earthquakes and last erupted in 2000. Strokkur Geyser however, erupts every 8-10 minutes so we had a chance to see it spout water at least a few times. What an amazing site!
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Third Stop – Þingvellir. The continental divide between North American and European tectonic plates. One of the few places where the divide can be clearly seen by massive cracks or faults in the earth. This was a very cool view of what the earth can do during quakes and just over time in general. A little unnerving if you think about it while you are there though because it’s probably about the last place you want to be if a quake happens. Sorry, no pic - camera battery died, boo.

OK…on to Reykjavik nightlife! Wow…the girls are TALL! And many very blonde (naturally!). And the current ladies fashion trend in Iceland without a doubt is – fancy stockings and an incredibly short skirt. And I mean every girl was wearing this. There was one girl in the bar wearing jeans - it was me! Haha. I really didn’t fit in with my backpacker style! I still very much enjoyed a couple of local beers - Gull and Thule. Yum! On the way home from a night out just a little before 2am the sun was already well on its way up. So strange!

On our way to the airport we stopped at the Blue Lagoon. It’s a geothermal spa and probably the most relaxing place on the face of the earth. I just LOVED it! The mineral rich water leaves your whole body feeling relaxed and your skin feeling soft! For any future trips to Europe I will definitely try to organize a quick stop in Iceland just to go to the lagoon. We only had a few hours but I could have stayed all day.
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Interesting Icelandic tidbits:
Approx population of 300,000 and about 200,000 of those folks live in Reykjavik. That makes for lots of room for quiet exploring! I recommend Arctic Adventure tours they have it all and our jeep tour/volcano hike was amazing
http://www.adventures.is/

The Icelandic language is one of the closest to the original Viking language. They are one of the few who can read the original Viking writings.

They have the 2nd largest Geyser in the world which only goes off aftert earthquake activity. Another large Geyser in the same area (Sukkor) goes off every 8-10 minutes.

Iceland was amazing!! GO visit!
Off to the Middle East!

Denise & Ash

More Iceland pictures at:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150595026820043.679087.560620042&l=be42ee9659

Posted by dee-n-ash 26.05.2011 07:27 Archived in Iceland Comments (2)

Alaska Cruise (with a quick trip to Hawaii first)

Honolulu for a weekend, Alaska Cruise including Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan

semi-overcast 10 °C

Sorry it's been a while...we are having fun! :)

As a last minute decision before saying goodbye to Canada we decided to use some points to do a quick trip to Hawaii. Waikiki beach baby!! Not too much to report on this one other than what you would expect. Wonderful weather, laid back attitudes, Tikki bars with daily drink specials and surfing! Have to give a shout out to Ash who rocked those waves!!! As for me....my first time surfing and I got up every time!! Not for long but I got up on that board and tried to hang 10. heeheheheee. It was so fun...doing that again for sure!!! A highlight was also the massive thunder storm on our way out...wow, never seen anything like that before!

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Us at Tikki's!
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Off to Alaska!!! Brrrrr. But worth it. What a beautiful place.

  1. 1 lesson learned on our first cruise...don't buy the excursions from the boat!! Man, was I glad Ash convinced me to wait on that one. We stepped off on our first stop in Juneau and the locals were lined up to sell us the exact same adventures for less than 1/2 the price! We saw the Mendenhall glacier in Juneau..so nice! And a large waterfall there too. Spent the afternoon checking out the city and checked out the local hot spots. Stop Day 2: Skagway. We went on a bus tour of the city, a drive up north into N. BC and got the entire story of Skagway during the gold rush. Scenery was fantastic. Stop Day 3: Ketchikan....best seafood chowder in a while!! Also..throughout our cruise we enjoyed a few of the local Alaskan beers. Ash's pick = any of the Alaskan brewery beers. Denise's pick = Alaskan summer ale (probably the nicest wheat beer I've had).

The scenery while on the cruise was just stunning. Only regret is not taking a cruise that went to Tracey's Arm or Glacier Bay where many icebergs are seen (a timing issue). The shows were fun...live entertainment and comedy every night. And eat...oh my!! All you can eat everything - ALL the time!!! Ash's meals consisted of the 4 food groups - chicken, steak, ham and fish. Not a vegetable to be seen. As for the me...the good news is I think I've gotten my money's worth twice over in cheese alone. haha.

Overall it was a great experience. Very relaxing, great scenery, lots of ocean wildlife (sea lions, whales, orca), birds and of course the beautiful ocean all the time. A good low key way to experience a sample of Alaska.

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Alaska Sunset
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Skagway
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Funny story:
When in Hawaii having a beer (surprise surprise), we met a man named Bob. Now Bob was a nice guy who flew airplanes into hurricanes to gather data for the US government - ya..there are people who do that!! Anyway...Bob hears we are going to Alaska and his wife being from Alaska he suggests we go to a specific bar in Juneau to say hi to "Jules". We also had to say hi to "Paula" in Ketchikan. Of course Jules also knows Paula well. It was just such a small town experience we had to oblige. Having stepped away from the tourist shopping/bars that the cruise tried to push us toward was the best thing we could have done. Jules gave us a message to bring to Paula and at Paula's bar we met Bob's nephew. haha....just love small town experiences! So fun!!

Cheers!!
Denise n Ash

For more Alaska photos see:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150582523805043.674944.560620042&l=283a076c85

Posted by dee-n-ash 15.05.2011 12:40 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Fun in Canmore and Road Trip to Whistler!

Canmore, Alberta to Whistler, British Columbia

sunny 10 °C

Our days of enjoying the winter wonders of Alberta and BC have come to an end. What a wonderful adventure. I can honestly say that the beauty of Alberta has certainly impressed me. I have seen much of the East Coast of Canada (which is amazing!) but until this trip had not experienced the wonderful West Coast. I will be back.

Our final events in Canmore included a few days boarding at Lake Louise, some lazy hours reading at the local coffee shop, an ice walk at the Grotto Canyon and a fun night out at a local pub.

The Grotto Canyon Ice walk was interesting. We didn't realize it was an "Ice" walk until we got there. We opted out of renting metal cleats for our shoes to save $20 (in an effort to act like the poor travelers we are supposed to be!). The Grotto Canyon walk is a couple of KMs up the frozen water in the canyon. Picture an ice rink on an incline. Let's just say that not having cleats made the ice walk very interesting! It would have been a lot easier with cleats but the slipping and sliding without them actually made the trip quite fun! haha!

Ash trying to find a way to go...
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Me in Grotto Canyon
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Ice climbers at the falls
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Rocky Mountain Sheep between Canmore and Exshaw on our way to Grotto Canyon
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Our days of snowboarding at Lake Louise has us ready to take on a few new mountains. As we move on from Banff/Canmore our road trip takes us to Kicking Horse and Revelstoke on our way to Whistler.

Kicking horse was fantastic...fresh snow waiting for us when we arrived made it a ton of fun. Ash really enjoyed the snow through the trees...though for me, the mountain kinda kicked my butt! ha! It's a tough mountain with something like 80% black and double black.

Revelstoke was an interesting one. TONS of snow. It was a great day of boarding but the one thing that was a bit difficult was only 2 lifts and 1 gondola with little signage. Not knowing the mountain caused a couple of trips back to the gondola when aiming for the chairs. Going all the way back down to the gondola wasn't great - not much groomed on the lower part of the mountain made for a rough trip over moguls and crunchy, hard snow. Once we got familiar we stayed up high and enjoyed the ride! Revelstoke is a mountain to watch out for. BIG plans for expansion especially in the village. If it goes well I think this will be a must visit location in a couple of years.

On to Whistler!!! Ok...I was very excited for this one. All I've heard about over the past few years was Whistler, Whistler, Whistler! It seems like all skiiers and boarders have been there except me. Now that I'm ready let's do it!! I was like a kid in a candy store when we arrived. I had no idea the village was so big and lively. A Lululemon right in the village!! Heated outdoor patios for an apres ski drink!!! I think I'm in heaven. :) The mountain also lived up to my expectations. Since Ash worked at Whistler previously he showed me around the runs. We managed to find some fresh snow and the groomed runs were in great condition too. The slush riding this time of year was especially fun! Whistler was a blast. I'm ready to book a 1 week group package for 2012 whenever you are!! Who's IN?!?! ;)

Me, top of Whistler Mountain
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Ash, Olympic Rings in Whistler Village
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The boards are now packed and on a Greyhound bus somewhere between Vancouver and Toronto. On to the next stage of the travels! After quite a roadtrip across Canada we've arrived safely on Vancouver Island. The next couple of weeks will be enjoyed relaxing and taking advantage of Mom's cooking - yum! It'll be great to spend Easter with the fam. Then the overseas adventures begin! The next post will be somewhere over the icy cold waters of Alaska or in Iclenad near that volcano that starts with an "E" that no one can pronounce. ;)

Safe and happy adventures wherever in the world you are!!
Denise (& Ash!)

Beer(s) of the Day:

Revelstoke's Mt. Begbie Brewing Co.

  • Powerhouse Pale Ale
  • High Country Kolsch

Posted by dee-n-ash 17.04.2011 22:42 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Hangin' in the Rockies

Continued adventures in the Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise Area

sunny 1 °C

We are still having a blast in the beautiful snow capped mountains!! Here's what's been going on since the last entry.

Back to back Steak Sandwich days!!! Monday night special at the Drake pub in Canmore VS. Tuesday night special at the Elk & Orseman in Banff. Now I love the Drake (as I mentioned before they have Old Fashioned Pils on tap!!) but their steak sammy just couldn't compete. Winner = good 'ole Elk n Orseman in Banff. YUM!

Enjoying a Pils at the Drake:
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The following day we headed out for a road trip to Fort McMurray followed by Edmonton. Time to see friends and family...yay!!

We busted out of Canmore at 6:30am into a snowy, foggy, dark morning. Luckily it started to clear around Calgary and the sun started to rise. We pulled over at a Timmy's in Leduc and it must have been about -30 degrees!! ouch! I took over the driving and it was clear sailing.

UNTIL....we took the left onto highway 63 to Fort Mac. If any of you have driven 63 you know exactly what I'm talking about. For the rest of you I will try to explain (401's got nuthin on 63). First of all, we are the ONLY car on the road. Everyone else is in a truck, 4x4 of some kind, a snow plow or a transport truck.

It's a single lane highway where I find myself having to pass:

  • big transport trucks (that I can handle)
  • snow plows (a little harder but I got it)
  • and then, not once but twice...I have to pass a house!!! On the back of a truck! This "house" is taking up the full lane in my direction and 1/2 the lane coming the other way. It was so crazy!!

Ahhh..arrived at Dad's place in fort mac a little more stressed for the drive but fridge full of ice cold beer sure helped out there. ;) Thanks Dad!! Jules arrived shortly after (she flew - smart!) and the family fun began! It's pretty cold in Fort Mac in Feb so we hung in, caught up, played trivia, warmed up in the hot tub, ate good home cooked food and enjoyed plenty of great wine.

A week in Fort Mac (and 10lbs heavier I'm sure!) we set off to Edmonton. Ash - highway 63 out is ALL yours. haha!

Arrived in Edmonton (still frickin cold!!) at Brad and Riina's place on Wednesday night. Straight away...fed home cooked food with beer! Oh my...I see another 10lbs coming! It was so nice to catch up with Brad and Riina and although we missed little Kai because he was asleep we had plenty of time in the next few days to spend throwing balls, playing hockey, blowing bubbles and wrestling (I always lose!). We had a nice relaxing visit and to my liking spend lots of time staying warm inside! We did venture out to a new Brazilian BBQ restaurant. All I can say is ...meat! Ash was in heaven. haha. It was very good and I'm pretty sure Ash got the value for both of us out of the all you can eat menu. ;)

Back in Canmore....Snowboard, relax, stroll main street, relax, relax, repeat. :)

Thursday, March 10. Our 2nd powder day at Lake Louise (15-20cm!!). Just the most AMAZING day snowboarding EVER!!!!
We are talking black diamond powder bowls, hopping off the chairlift, ducking under the rope, scooting over the fence, around the trees, off the beaten track, making our own trails kinda fun!!!
The snow was so fresh and soft I could have done any run that day and rocked it! How much fun did I have you ask?!?! I was fast asleep BY 9pm (you guys know me...that's a huge amount of fun!).

Next day's adventure was a hike to Johnston Canyon.
With no expectations we were blown away. What a beautiful hike on a warm sunny day. We stopped at the lower water fall and it was a frozen beauty. The lower falls were on the other side of a naturally formed cave through the mountain! On to the upper falls...it was huge, and although frozen the force of the water still coming through was pretty spectacular.

Johnston Canyon Upper Falls
(check out my new video clip editing talents at the beginning and end of this vid! - woah..fancy! ha!)

Johnston Canyon Hike
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Ash on the Catwalk through the Canyon
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Here we are in front of the cave (naturally formed) that goes right through the mountain!
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No new beers to suggest (try Pilsner, Elk Lager, Kokanee, Grasshopper & repeat) but will do a summary of suggested eats and drinks in the area before we leave.

Lots o Love from Alberta,
Denise (& Ash!)

PS Readers: Please don't forget to leave us a comment!!

Posted by dee-n-ash 15.03.2011 21:59 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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