Day 386: Don’t Tell Bin Laden, But…

21.01.10: Today, I just hung out in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Didn't do nothin'.. just hung about. Didn't go anywhere that might jeopardise my entry into other Middle Eastern countries, nope. Erm, how was your day? LIES! Yes, as some of you have already sussed out: I went to Israel today. Sorry, I couldn't say that until I got out of my last major islamic country (that being Indonesia). Won't let me in, see? And before I go off on a mad rant about how ridiculous the policy of most islamic countries who deny entry to people who have an Israeli stamp in their passport is, here's a quick list of other passport stamps to avoid: Cuba... if you want to get into the US without any hassle, it pays to not have a Cuban stamp in your passport. Nagorno-Karabakh... Where?! Good question! It was part of…

Continue Reading Day 386: Don’t Tell Bin Laden, But…

Day 385: Crossing Jordan

20.01.10: This morning we arrived in Nuweiba, the Egyptian border town from where the boat for Jordan departs. You see if you tried to go overland through Israel, which would be much quicker, it would mean you couldn't visit Syria, Lebanon, Saudi, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran... do I need to go on? An Israeli stamp in your passport renders it completely useless when it comes to travelling around the Middle East, so your best bet is to take the boat. Unfortunately for me, the ferry was very late departing and it was dark before I arrived in Jordan. Ahh, Jordan... Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and – best of all – Petra. Petra is the rose-red city of legend, set amongst sandstone chasms were beautiful buildings were carved out of the solid rock. You would have seen a little bit of it at the end of Indiana…

Continue Reading Day 385: Crossing Jordan

Day 384: Am I Still Here?

19.01.10: Dammit – I should have left Egypt on Saturday morning. Instead, here I am three days later still in Cairo. I woke up at noon and decided it was far too early and promptly went back to sleep until 3.30pm. Kendra doesn't seem to sleep and I guess her Oirish-breeding has made her impervious to those hangover things that affect the rest of us so. I was alright until we ordered some kushari and the headache started. That was at 7pm. I REALLY ought to be going now.. I ought to be... I ought... Maybe I'll just fall asleep on this nice comfy couch instead. Mmm.... NO! Come on, Graham you useless sack of ridiculousness, you're supposed to be racing around the world! We're up to 134 out of 200 countries... just the Middle East and we'd be up to 150... that would be three-quarters…

Continue Reading Day 384: Am I Still Here?

Day 383: Eric The Frenchman

18.01.10: To say I was being incredibly lazy today would be an understatement. Not being interested in doing, well, anything much. There was a bus that left at 10pm that would take me all the way to Amman in Jordan (via Nuiweba and Aqaba), so Kendra and I conspired to go get the ticket and go for some drinks before we had to leave. Well, that was the plan... In the event, (not that you'd know, because it wasn't covered in the news at all) Egypt was suffering from its worst flash flooding in decades. A dozen or so people had been killed by collapsing buildings and a British guy had died down in Aswan when his yacht capsized on the Nile. So the roads were closed and we weren't going anywhere. How bloomin' Biblical. So Kendra and I slinked off to the Stella bar in…

Continue Reading Day 383: Eric The Frenchman

Day 382: The Pyramid Scheme

17.01.10: I was planning to be at the Jordanian Embassy first thing in the morning, but you know what I'm like by now and after going to sleep around 5am, I had no real intentions of being up with the lark. I got there about 11am-ish only to discover that you can't get a multiple-entry visa from the embassy. Why I need a multiple-entry visa is a story for another day, but it was a bit of a blow for the smooth running of The Odyssey. So then I headed over towards The Pyramids. I was supposed to go last week, but laziness and procrastination got the better of me. There would be tickets on sale at 1pm to go inside the Great Pyramid, something that has always been a dream of mine. Whenever I've been to the Pyramids in the past, the Great Pyramid has…

Continue Reading Day 382: The Pyramid Scheme

Day 381: You Can’t Be Siwa-ous

16.01.10: This time last year, I had visited every country in South America. This year, I've been to one new country, Sudan. Pathetic! Well, I was soon to make amends... within a few hours, I would hopefully be hot-footing it into Libya and I'd be able to tick country number 135 off my list. I arrived in Siwa at about 6am and headed straight over to the Yousef hostel to meet Mana, the guy that the guys in Aswan put me onto. He offered me a room so that I could get a couple of hours shut-eye, and after my less-than-marvellous night's sleep on the coach over here, I was all too happy to say yes. It wasn't until after I had got up and had a shower that he told me that the room was gratis. What a legend! I tried to give him ten…

Continue Reading Day 381: You Can’t Be Siwa-ous

Day 380: Luke Warm In Alex

15.01.10: After me waxing lyrical about the Egyptian transport system yesterday, our train arrived in Alexandria three hours late (typical!), meaning that I was too late to get today's bus to Siwa, so I had to wait until 10pm and get the night bus. But Alex ain't such a bad place to be stuck-in for a few hours. Apart from the crime against architecture that is the new library, the city is much more pleasant than Cairo and has a wonderful coffee-house tradition. Maybe those tolerant Christian-types who burnt down the original library (and, in one swift move destroyed more irreplaceable literature and historical information than in a crazed Chinese Cultural Revolutionist's wet dream) could come back and go to town on this one. Although they might have to invest in an X-Wing, the damn thing looks like the Death Star. After a pleasant stroll along…

Continue Reading Day 380: Luke Warm In Alex

Day 379: Our Botanic Garden

14.01.10: After an interrupted night's sleep (I foolishly slept under the plug socket that everybody wanted to use to charge their mobiles) we crossed the Tropic of Cancer and came into port in Aswan. It would be a good four hours before they would let us off the boat, as the bureaucratic nightmare that is involved in letting a large group of people over an international border in Africa kicked into slow mode. While we were waiting, we got chatting to a young couple from Liechtenstein, who had been travelling all over Africa and the traumas they had crossing borders with passports for a country that few people have ever heard of. The night before, Barcelona Marc and I had befriended a couple of Egyptian guys, Rumor and Shabi – and once again, I was bowled over by the hospitality of people when they ain't looking…

Continue Reading Day 379: Our Botanic Garden

Day 378: A Change of Plan

13.01.10: I've got to say that getting back on the boat was a lot easier than getting off it, although you really have to admire the jaw-dropping amount of bureaucracy that these guys think is acceptable. What could have been achieved very quickly with a team of three officials, took over fifty officials an hour. Oh Africa, I shall miss you... Back on the boat, I met a bloke named Marc, who was from Barcelona (one of my favourite cities in the world), who had been living up in Alexandria for a couple of years. Chatting to him made me resolve two things – one was that I would attempt to get a visa on the border for Syria (something I've been told you can no longer do) and the other was that I would head out to Siwa Oasis in Egypt, near the border with…

Continue Reading Day 378: A Change of Plan

Day 377: The Second Cataract

12.01.10: Another fit of African bureaucracy before we could disembark saw us waiting for over an hour after we arrived, before we could get off the damn ship, but eventually, in drips and drabs, we all made it off the good ship and into the little town of Wadi Halfa. The only thing I know about Wadi Halfa is that it's where Michael Palin took the train to Khartoum – and, well, apart from that not much to report I'm afraid.. The ship would be going back tomorrow so I thought it only fair that I stay the night. I joined a gang of Aussie lads in the local guesthouse, a simple affair of single room buildings clustered around a central courtyard. Sudan isn't big on tourism. An intractable civil war between north and south (the Darfur crisis being a completely separate atrocity) has been rumbling…

Continue Reading Day 377: The Second Cataract