I have been trying to upload a few videos... unfortunatly the upload rate is increadibly slow. Here is a link for the two I was able to upload to date. If I can ever get some good upload rates I may try to load more in the future. http://www.youtube.com/user/jonathansbarrett
The Nile valley around Aswan has been a wonderful area to visit for the past few days. Holly and I were able to view a number of ancient ruins and enjoy a few activities while in the area. Our first full day in Aswan gave us time to setup a few tours along with spending a few hours time on a felucca (small sail boat) sailing around a number of islands on the Nile. The next day (Wednesday) started out early (2:45 am - with an abrupt wake up from out hotel staff- just so we could wait 45 minutes for our bus) in order to make it to Abu Simbel for sunrise. On the way back to Aswan we were able to visit high dam (this dam created the second largest man made lake in the world), Philea temple (an interesting temple in a great location) and the unfinished Obelisk (also the quarry that the rock came from for one of the great pyramids in Giza). After the tour we quickly hopped on another felucca for a cruise down the Nile for a day and a night. This morning we got off the felucca and moved on by mini-bus to a few more temples (Kom Ombo was especially good) before arriving back here in Luxor this afternoon. Tonight we will work our way back to Cairo on the 1st class train... (I'm still impressed that Holly would hold the snake)
It's been a busy past few weeks with only minimal updates to our photo gallery and blog. This morning we missed our train down to Aswan. For a while we tried to find a bus company that does that route. After boarding five separate mini-buses to take us to the main bus terminal we ended up right back were we started, at the train station. Every bus says yeah, yeah get in... then drive a while and either get off here and catch another bus or pulls over and says how much will you pay to go there (this is after we had already agreed on a price before we enter the vehicle). By the fifth bus we eventually agreed to pay the 10 Egyptian pounds and still ended up back at the train station with the driver saying, yes this is the bus terminal. Then he wanted us to pay 20 pounds to get to the bus terminal when we told him, no this is not the bus terminal. Needless to say we never payed more than 1 EP (about 20 cents) for any of the lifts. With this we decided to take the afternoon off to work on flights and update our photo gallery a bit. This evening we will make the 3 hour train journey south to visit some more old ruins.
After taking a night train south from Cairo we arrived in Luxor this morning. Upon arrival Holly and I rented a couple bikes and explored the area. There are numerous temples and ancient building strewn about this area. Most notable would be the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple, Valley of the Queens and Karnak. Also the Nile valley is very spectacular.
Holly and I had a great time visiting in Nigeria. Mark and Joce showed us around, taking us to Yankari Park (a nature reserve and home of an incredible warm spring). Another day they took us on a great hike through this bolder field, which required a fair amount of agility. Then they drove us to Kano where we did some market exploring before they took us to the airport very early the next morning.
Well, not exactly where we expected to head to next, but we saw some tickets to Cairo last minute and went for them... So here we are... Today we flew from Kano, Nigeria to Casablanca, Morocco where we explored the city for a few hours before moving on to Cairo, Egypt. Our tickets were a bit uncertain at 4:00 am this morning, however everything came through fine in the end. So far both countries seem very modern (clean, organized and developed) compared to our last few countries. It's a nice change to have reliable power and fast Internet again (unlike last night when I lost power half way through shaving my beard).
Holly and I have been having a great time visiting Mark and Joce here in Jos, Nigeria. They have been showing us around the past few days and keeping us busy. We have been eating like crazy since we can make a number of things which we have been craving along the way. Such as crepes with strawberries & whip cream, salads, good meats and lots of colors... We are still working on getting a flight out of Nigeria, as it has turned out to be a bit of a challenge. We booked a few flights all which have come back rejected for various reason. Hopefully we can get one setup in the next day or two without paying too crazy of a fare...
After an intersting couple days with numerous stories to be told, some day at least, we made it up to Jos, Nigeria and are visiting with my friends, Mark and Joce. We had an excellent supper here with lots of greens and veggies, which is a luxury for us these days. It will be great to relax and have some local guides for the next few days.
Holly and I were able to pick up our visas today from the Nigerian Embassy. I thought it was about 75/25 that we were going to get them since we did not have all the required paper work right in front of us when we submitted our applications yesterday. And just the way they were when they took our paper work made me question our approval. It all worked out in the end and they must have received or saw enough to give us a few weeks in the country. I was especially surprised that they gave it to us in 24 hours compared to the required 48 hours (may have to do with us being there the day before, but not having anything close to what they wanted for paperwork and having to come back). With this being said we will be moving on from Accra in the morning heading East through Togo and Benin on our way to Nigeria.
The other night, Holly and I were walking about town looking for a spot to eat. We saw this decent looking hotel with a restaurant so we checked it out. When we went in there was a church service going on, but one guy got up and came to help us find another spot to get some food. He even sat down to eat with us so right off we were wondering what was up. We just thought he was trying to promote his business, but we were unsure. He seemed nice enough. After we ate he let us go and we thought... That was it, we actually just met a nice guy who wanted to help.
That was not it though...
The next evening he came to our hotel looking for us. He even waited at the gate till we walked by. He then began to tell us his story. How when he went back to the service he found out that his little girl had been hit by a motor bike and had to go to the hospital for a broken leg. He then started to cry for us saying that it was his only little girl. Following that he finally came to the point that we knew was forthcoming. He could not afford the hospital bill and had not purchased insurance (which is only $25 a year). He then said the bill was for $34 and that he was able to pay $25, but needed our help for the last $10. Being a bit skeptical myself of anyone that approaches me I asked for the medical bill. He brought the following back to me in about an hour.
Bills from the ministry of health that looked 2 years old and with dates that were altered and no breakdown of costs that we had asked for. It was just a receipt for $12 that was scribbled out then written $25 over top. Very sketchy... We then asked the man from our hotel and he said don't mind him... maybe give him a couple Cedis if you want... He will probably use it for something else.
In the end we gave him gave him 5 Cedis ($5) almost just to get him off our back as we did not feel that his story was real. Especially after we talked to a few other people around. When we did give him the bit of cash he was not even thankful for that at first. He was like where is the full amount. In the end he did give us a bit of a thank you that did not really feel sincere.
What is your though? Do you think he was for real and we were jerks for not giving the full amount? or that he was fake and we supported yet another defrauder as I have done all to many times?
On Sunday we made it to Accra to start working on our Nigerian visas. On Monday we obtained very little success with our visa work, which was very discouraging. There was much more paper work than we had hoped and expected. Thankfully this morning things seemed to come together a bit better and we have a pile of paperwork now submitted. By tomorrow afternoon we will find out if things were put together properly. Hopefully it works so we can go visit Mark and Joce in Nigeria come the end of the week.
Ghana is a very religious country and many shops have names such as above. It is quite funny at times what the signs actually say and just their spelling (yes, even worse than mine). On the right, a good way to get some grub on the streets, lately unfortunately there seems to be more fat, skin and intestine for sale (which I am not a huge fan of) than actual steak (which I like)...
Holly and I enjoyed some time on the coast this past weekend. We had a chance to visit the Cape Coast and Elmina areas. We have finally moved on from the dry regions of desert/semi-desert/grasslands (at least during this time of year) and more into tropical vegetation with lots of green (a great change from the dry brown experienced over the past month). The beaches were lovely in the Cape Coast area, although we did not spend too much time on them as we had reports that there had been a few lost cameras/cash from travelers who wandered too far down the beach. We had time to visit the Elmina and Cape Coast castles as well while in the region. They were both interesting experiences learning some more history for this part of the world. Both the forts were originally built for trading goods (for gold), then unfortunately for the slave trade. Just touring around the dungeons and experiencing the stench (even without a few hundred people living in them) was almost gagging at times. Some of the stats that the tour guide gave were also unbelievable. The main point that stuck out to me was that of the 60 million slaves that were captured only one in three lived long enough to work as a slave.
Holly and I spent Wednesday and Thursday in Walewale visiting some of Holly's friends from her time there in 2007 with EWB. From my (Jon's) perspective it was a very enjoyable time getting to know a number of people Holly has talked so much about and experiencing more community life than what I typically get to see. Holly loved the welcoming and friendliness of the people and was pleasantly surprised how many people remembered her and how quickly it felt like home again. During our time we did a lot of visiting, eating, walking about the community, resting (as I had a bit of a cold) and playing with the kids. I know we were complaining about the cold before, now it's the heat... someone told us it was about 39 Celsius out mid afternoon and the power went off that evening. Everyone, especially Holly and I, were very happy when the power was restored so we could have use of a fan to take an edge off the heat overnight. During our stay there was a national clean up day. Schools and shops were closed although it seemed that the cleanup here is to simply set the areas on fire in hopes that it will burn the trash along the way. Unfortunately there is a lot of plastic used (water packages, poly bags for everything you buy and everything else) without much of a collection system so it does not seem like the majority of people have another option, which is a common occurrence over all my travels in developing nations. We are now in Kumasi waiting for a bus to Cape Coast at noon. Jon
Holly and I applied for our Ghanaian visas today. We were hoping that they would get them back to us today, but it didn't happen. Hopefully they will be ready tomorrow morning so we can start heading south again. We plan on visiting Walewale where Holly worked two summers ago. After a few days there we will continuing on to the coast.
After another interesting journey we made it to Ouagadougou (Waga-doo-goo), Burkina Faso this evening. Thankfully we were able to change enough money for the bus and entry visa. Once here we were able to find a bank machine that works which is great news. So far it seems like a very poor country from the drive through today. The temperatures are getting much, much warmer (I would even say hot) during the days. In the morning we hope to get some visas sorted out for Ghana and see what Ouagadougou has to offer a traveler. (at least fast Internet)