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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Day 376: The First Cataract

11.01.10: Off the train and then over to the High Dam port. Back in the god-knows-when, the British built a dam at the First Cataract. The First (and subsequent) Cataracts are a series of rapids that are impossible to navigate a boat over. Since you couldn't sail a ship over the Cataract, it seemed like a good place to plonk a dam – it would allow the Egyptians to better control the yearly floods and provide nice green energy for the nearby homes. In the 1950s the President of the newly independent Egypt, Mr. Nasser, decided to go one better – he would build The High Dam.. So large that it would wind up creating the largest artificial lake in the world, the High Dam was an impressive feat of engineering. However, by flooding the land south of the First Cataract and thereby creating this massive…

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Day 375: Odyssey Again

10.01.10: Here's what you need to do to get a visa for Sudan: Have two hours sleep Taxi to Sudanese Embassy Queue up at the window Be told to get a letter from own embassy Go to British Embassy Pay $50 for a photocopy of a letter explaining why the British Embassy will not write a letter Back to Sudanese Embassy Queue up again Give them letter explaining why the British Embassy will not write a letter Take application form Fill out application form Panic that you've given your Africa Lonely Planet to Mandy and consequently don't know what to put down on the form for where you're going to stay. Queue up again Be told that you have to photocopy the filled out application form Go down the road and get application form photocopied Queue up again Be given slip to take to Window 2…

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Day 374: Globe Alone

09.01.10: Again I woke up at 6am with every intention of visiting the pyramids, and again I looked to Mandy for moral support on this desire, and once again it was not forthcoming, not because she fell asleep again, but because she wasn't there. Deeply saddened by this revelation, I fell back asleep. It was one of those days during which, I just couldn't be bothered – not with The Odyssey, not with writing up my blog, not with those damn YouTube videos that the powers that be might just let you all watch sometime this decade. Well, then I wasted the day away in the Sara Hotel. There I met Veronica, a girl from Canada who had toured throughout the Middle East and had a ton of wisdom to dispense about Iran – she actually made me look forward to going there. Once I sort…

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Day 373: Goodbyeee

08.01.10: It was a restless night – I had to upload the last of my 2009 tapes to my computer so Mand could drop them off in Lonely Planet HQ next week. Uploading tapes to my computer is not a fun job – it means setting your alarm every hour to get up and change the tape. Mandy slept through it all, but when the 6am snooze went off, it was time to get up-up – I wanted to finally get inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. I've been to the Giza Pyramids a bunch of times – but as only 150 people per morning are allowed in the big one, I've never made it inside. But this time would be different. If we left now, we could make it for 7am, be first in the queue for Pyramid tickets and Bob's-Your-Uncle, Fanny's-Your-Aunt and Who-Killed-Cousin-Monty? I…

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Day 372: It Belongs In A Museum

07.01.10: Thursday started with a very early morning trip to the Sudanese Embassy – I missed out Sudan and Eritrea on the way up here, so Sudan was next on my list (Eritrea will have to wait, all of its land borders are currently closed). There, I was told to come back at 10, which I did (Mandy slept in, the lazy bugger) only to find they meant the 10th of January. It was closed until Sunday. A bit annoying, but no big deal – so long as I could get a visa on Sunday – Sudanese visas can take up to six weeks in Ethiopia. So I roused the Mandster and we headed over to the greatest/worst museum in the world – the Egyptian museum in Cairo. It's the greatest because it’s stuffed to the gills with more Egypticana than you could ever want. It's…

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