With recent events unfolding in Egypt, I am thankful that I took the time to check out the pyramids when I was there a couple of years ago. I guess it’s important to take the time to visit places like this when you have the opportunity, as you may not get another chance.
These ancient wonders look very different in real life – not like anything you see in a book or on a screen. While the Great Pyramid of Giza is the most famous, there are in fact three main pyramids; the Great Pyramid of Khufu, The Pyramid of Kafhre and the smaller Pyramid of Menkaura. In front of the pyramids lies the Sphinx, carved out of a single block of stone.
Most people don’t know that there are actually pyramids everywhere in Egypt. Certainly the main ones get lots of attention, for very good reason, however, some of the earlier versions were not nearly so long lived or successful.
While I visited these sites by car over a couple of days, I was also able to go out into the desert and get a view from a local’s perspective. If you want to be a ‘tourist’, there are lots of guided tours to choose from … however, if you want to be a ‘traveller’ it’s often best to take the path less travelled – and the local inside information (and help) will often yield spectacular and surprising results.
The difficult part of writing a blog entry about this subject, is that there are so many things to say, so many things to see, and so little time and space – it doesn’t do justice to an incredible place, which you should visit if you can.
If you ever have the chance to visit somewhere noteworthy, always go … just in case you never get the opportunity to go back.
My last post got me to thinking about the last time I went sailing, and it turns out that it was a Felucca trip out on the River Nile, not too long ago. I found that Cairo was an engaging city, with a fantastic blend of modern society and reminders of ancient civilization. While most people want to rush off an see the pyramids, myself included, it seemed that an evening on the River Nile allowed a quite different perspective.
Stepping onto a Felucca is like stepping back in time – not stepping back 10, 50 or 100 years, but stepping back to the days of the Pharohs. These simple wooden boats ply the river now, just as they have for centuries. I suspect the ‘captain’ of today is no different than in times past … a wizened old man with a quick smile, who tucks his Galabeya (tradition Egyptian male dress) around his waist, squats at the stern and steers with his feet. Felucca’s are usually furnished with cushions on the seats around the gunwales and feature a fixed table in the middle, perfect for bring-your-own picnic or party.
With the wind, we sailed downriver while the sky faded to black. The city lights seemed somewhat distant, but a reminder of the modern age. It seemed that many of the other boats were filled with locals who were enjoying the cool evening on the river, although I’m sure there were other travelers soaking up the experience as well. My friends and I had bought some fresh bread, and other local fare, and were able to enjoy a lovely meal while tacking to and fro across the river. While 2-3 hours on the river sounds like a long time, I can assure you that it seemed to go much too fast – and I wasn’t at all ready for the evening to end (but couldn’t miss my early morning flight the next day). Multi-day trips up/down the river are possible, and if you have the time – would be an incredible experience.
When in Cairo, or elsewhere along the River Nile, take some time to go out in a Felucca. Plan ahead so that you have all you want to eat and drink – but don’t do this the night before your flight home.
My son Luke was recently a good neighbour to the man living next door to the holiday house we had rented in Lake Tekapo (he had offered to help dig a hole that the man was digging in his garden). The man was so taken by this offer, that he offered Luke a free flight around the Southern Alps the next day. So the next day, we went for a flight …! Before we got to the mountains, we passed over one of the spectacular braided rivers that are found in New Zealand. From what I understand, many people have not seen a braided river, so I thought I would simply attach a few photos to give you a glimpse of one from the air.
I also thought it would be a good idead to attach a close up view, so you can better see the detail of this braided river. The colour of the river is natural, and is typical of glacier melt … I believe it’s how the silica particles in the water reflect the light.
Given the circumstances, I thought I should also add a photo of Luke standing in front of the plane that we went up in. It was a perfect day for a flight, without any clouds to speak of.
Teach your kids to be a good neighbour … and don’t turn down free flights when they’re on offer.
If you live near the ocean, it’s not common that you think about taking a day trip to a mountain pass. However, if you’re in Christchurch, New Zealand – it is just a day trip up to Arthur’s Pass, one of the very few places to cross the Southern Alps. For those unaware, the Southern Alps take up most of the South Island of New Zealand, and push up out of the ocean to over 12,000 ft (3,700 m). I recently took my family on this day trip, and everyone enjoyed themselves (although we all liked different parts of the trip).
While it is just a couple of hours drive from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass, it’s worth taking extra time to stop and experience the sights and places along the way. There are many paddocks of sheep along the way, and when it’s spring – you can watch the lambs frollick and play with snow capped mountains in the background.
However, a real gem to visit along the way is Castle Hill. It is widely considered to be the epitome of New Zealand’s South Island climbing scene, where on any given day one can find rock climbers bouldering the unique limestone outcroppings. Nearby Flock Hill station was used for the filming of the climactic battle scenes of the 2005 movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – you can imagine the scenes quite clearly while standing amongst the huge rocks. Also of interest, back in 2002 Castle Hill was named a “Spiritual Center of the Universe” by the Dalai Lama – and it certainly does feel quite peaceful.
One of the many walks in and around Arthur’s Pass village, leads to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall. The steep climb results in a refreshing view of the waterfall, complete with a bridal veil effect from the wind and gravity which war against each other.
Taking a day trip is a great idea, but pack a picnic lunch and look for places to spend extra time soaking in the beauty and peaceful setting of any wonderful place you find along the way, like Castle Hill.
For those who can’t sleep on long airline flights, there is a solution. Many of us have wished for a chance to lay down for a nap without having to pay 2-3 times the economy fare for one of those business class seat. It used to be possible back in the old days when flights were not jam-packed full – I can vividly remember the pleasure and comfort of having a whole row to myself (or the envy towards anyone else who won the gate agent lottery for a seat assignment like that). Now, Air New Zealand offers ‘Sky Couch’ options (aka Cuddle Class), and this provides an opportunity for various seating configurations – all of which are more comfortable than a standard seat assignment. On the 13 hour flight from LAX to AKL, my wife slept for the first seven hours … which is simply amazing since she can seldom sleep on a long flight. She would have enjoyed stretching out for longer, except made the mistake of looking at our daughter and subsequently swapping seats with her.
The Sky Couch is a configuration whereby the seats are similar to Lazy-boy chairs, with footrests that come up to seat level (and fill the space where your legs would normally go). When you do this for 2-3 of the seats, you have a nice wide flat surface where you can stretch out. Each such row was provided two fluffy pillows and a duvet, so made for a significant improvement over the standard thin pillow and blanket. Additional seat belt components were provided for use in any of the various seating configurations (all very self explanatory once you got used to the idea).
On our flight, I remained seated on the aisle while my wife stretched out with her feet resting in my lap. She also tried lying the other way, and said that both were quite comfortable. Many other passengers on our flight seemed to follow this seating configuration, although several other options were clearly possible. I stayed awake long enough to watch a few movies on what I would consider the most advanced entertainment system I’ve seen on any airplane flight (and I’ve flown extensively on several airlines in the past).
The following link takes you to the Air New Zealand site which further describes the Sky Couch concept:
In addition, here is an external and independent link to the Airline Reporter.com article which gave this revolutionary seat concept an “Awesome Medal”: http://www.airlinereporter.com/tag/sky-couch/
Take a long trip to the homeland of Air New Zealand, and pay the extra to travel in cuddle class … you’ll arrive more rested than otherwise, for a fraction of the cost of business class. However, do stay awake long enough to enjoy at least one movie on the high-tech entertainment system. This seating option is presently available between Auckland, Los Angeles and London.