Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

Middle East Top Three

Posted by Christy in Posts on 10 15th, 2010

It’s that time again! We have just left the Middle East for Kenya, and as promised in an earlier post, I will give my top three list for the area.

This is a little different, though, as we only visited two countries (Egypt and Israel).

Top three favorite adventures:

1.)    Trek through the Sahara Desert

2.)    Swimming in the Dead Sea

3.)    Boating in Nuweiba

Top three favorite sites:

1.)    Valley of the Kings

2.)    Pyramids

3.)    Old City Jerusalem

Worst three moments:

1.)    Illness in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan

2.)    Taxi Ride from Tabe to Cairo

3.)    Staying in Jerusalem Hostel

Top three favorite places:

1.)    Aqaba Desert

2.)    Nuweiba

3.)    Jerusalem



Midnight at the Oasis

Posted by Christy in Posts on 10 14th, 2010

It was time for our 4-day trek through the Sahara Desert. If there is one thing to know about Karen’s traveling style, she HATES tour groups. She opted for a private tour through the desert for the three of us with a guide, a driver, and a cook. This trek was one of my favorite ventures of the trip. I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy 4 days in the same scenery, but there are many different looks to the Sahara. I think it is best to let the photographs and videos speak for themselves:

Our lunch before heading into the desert Sahara sand dune Our driver Abdul

The only time our car got stuck We drank a lot of tea in the desert Walking along a dune

The White Desert Christy in the White Desert Under a rock arch

Sunrise in the White Desert Waking up to the "so damn bright" sun Camel trip through the desert

We ate really well in the desert Our group in the desert Riding on the truck

Aaron skiing in the Sahara

Christy with a Bedouin child

After the desert we returned to Cairo. Once again our taxi driver was falling asleep. Despite his best efforts (pinching his balls) he kept falling asleep at the wheel. There was no radio in the desert so Christy thankfully sang Lady Gaga out loud to keep him awake.

Karen left us the next morning in Cairo. We were sad to see Karen go, but were ready for our next adventure. Kenya, here we come!



Abu Simbel

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 10 10th, 2010

Before heading back to Cairo, Karen and I took a quick flight to Abu Simbel from Aswan to see the temples for Ramses and his queen Nefertari. Christy was feeling so sick she did not join us. The temples are really impressive. It is amazing that the temples were moved to its current location in the 1960s to save the sights from Lake Nasser. The Egyptians were building a new dam in Lake Nasser and the new water level was going to cover the temples.

Aaron and Karen at the Ramses temple

Aaron in front of Lake Nasser

There is nothing else to see in Abu Simbel so Karen and I caught an earlier flight back to Aswan to reunite with sick Christy.



Aswan

Posted by Christy in Posts on 10 9th, 2010

In Aswan we took a day to enjoy a private felucca boat ride on the Nile, which was again AMAZING. We really enjoyed our captain Ali, and the day was full of spectacular views.

Aaron steering the felucca boat

Aaron and Christy on the felucca boat

Aaron and Ali eating lunch in a Nubian village

Karen enjoying the peaceful boat ride

Ali our fleucca boat captain

One of the seven sunsets we got on the felucca boat

The felucca boat was a perfect way to relax after the chaos of Cairo and recover from our illnesses. The next day we are scheduled to fly to Abu Simbel.



Luxor

Posted by Christy in Posts on 10 8th, 2010

Soon after the pyramids, a sickness waved over Karen and I while Aaron started to feel better. I would continue to be ill throughout Luxor and Aswan. Karen and Aaron went to the Temple of Karnak and Luxor Temple without me, which Karen described the Temple of Karnak one of the most spectacular sites she has ever seen. Great, I missed it!

Entrance to the Temple of Karnak

Aaron wandering around the hypostyle hall in Temple of Karnak

The Luxor Temple

Karen taking pictures at the Luxor Temple

After Luxor we had to travel to Aswan by taxi. Along the way we went to the Valley of the  Kings. My favorite site in all of Egypt, the separate tombs are spread out all across the valley, and we only went into about 4 of them. The ones we chose were the ones that were the most preserved with the colorful hieroglyphics. It was absolutely amazing to see the walls covered in these illustrations that were thousands of years old. Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures, but I don’t think they would do the tombs justice anyway.



Aunt Karen = The Traveling Genius

Posted by Christy in Posts on 10 6th, 2010

Wow. Just… wow. We knew Karen was an expert when it came to travel, but we certainly have to admit that we underestimated her skills in planning the best of the best in what a country has to offer. Not only did we cover all the must-do’s of Egypt, but we also had a few little bonus activities that she read were some of the best. Turns out Karen’s sources were correct.

We started out in Cairo with the famous Egyptian museum. As you may have read in my previous posts, we all became ill at various points of the trip, and Aaron missed out on most of Cairo, including the museum. No worries, though. It is spectacular to see King Tut’s treasures in all their glory, but it was not by any means the activity I enjoyed the most. Caneras weren’t allowed inside, but here are some photos of the outside (I know, so exciting!):

Christy at the Cairo Museum

The Christy Sphinx at the Cairo Museum

Aaron missing out on the Cairo fun

You may be interested to know that King Tut was actually a very menial pharaoh, having only ruled for about 10 years and doing nothing of big significance. The ONLY reason why he is the most well-known pharaoh is his tomb is the only one found with its complete treasures. Other pharaohs, like Cheops, the pharaoh whose tomb was buried in the Great Pyramid,  most likely had a much larger fortune buried with him, but we will never know for sure thanks to ancient grave robbers.

The next couple of days we spent in Cairo, Karen and I dawdled around the city, seeing the Citadel (BORING) and a few mosques along the way. In one of the mosques my pants and short-sleeved top weren’t cutting it, so I had to wear a full robe to cover my head and arms. Usually the mosques were fine with shoulders and legs being covered, I don’t know why this one was an exception.

After I got my robe on we had an unofficial guide walk us around the mosque. Now, here is my definition of an unofficial guide: it is a person (usually a man) that walks with you around a particular site and tells you a little bit about it. He doesn’t ask you if you want a guide, he just takes on that role. So you don’t work out a price, or anything for that matter, and he just expects to be paid at the end. Well, this guy did have some interesting things to say, so we let him follow us around and paid him 20 Egyptian pounds at the end. Usually we just pay them 5, but he did walk around with us for a while. Well, 20 wasn’t good enough for this guy, he wanted 40. We didn’t want to argue with him, so we gave it up, but I was PISSED. How is it that I can’t show my freakin head or arms in the mosque, but this guy can scam people out of their money?! UGHHHHHHHHH…

Christy in a mosque

The Al-Azhar mosque

Veiled Christy in a mosque

Hooded Christy in a mosque

We also walked around Khal-al-Kalili bazaar as well as the Street of the Tentmakers. This was really fun because we probably saw about 10 other white people total. I felt truly enveloped in the culture walking among the Egyptians in the bazaars.

The Khal-al-Kalili bazaar

The tent makers' bazaar

The next day we went to pyramids, which by their own right our SPECTACULAR. The same thought of “I can’t believe I am here” just kept rolling through my head. The sphinx is a lot smaller than I expected, and at the same time the pyramids were much larger than I expected. Crazy how that turns out.

Christy with the pyramids

Christy excited to be at the pyramids

Christy with the Sphinx

After the pyramids we headed to the airport to catch a flight to the next amazing item on Karen’s itinerary, Luxor.



Racing Back to Cairo

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 10 3rd, 2010

Christy and I were really excited to get to Cairo from Tel Aviv to meet my aunt Karen. Everything was going pretty smoothly on our long travel day. Our bus ride through Israel was comfortable and air conditioned. We got our visas at the Egyptian Consulate within 20 minutes (versus 3 hours for the people in front of us). Crossing the border into Egypt went pretty quickly once Christy woke the sleeping border guard to stamp our passports. We thought our luck was going to continue when we got on a shared taxi in Taba to take us to Cairo instead of waiting for the next bus. Riding in the shared taxi was going to get us to Cairo several hours ahead of the scheduled bus service. However, our luck ran out halfway through the ride.

From the beginning, I was hesitant to take the shared taxi because of horror stories I have read on the internet. Most of the stories involve getting ripped off by the driver. The bus station attendant helped convince us to take the taxi explaining our tickets for the bus would be our tickets for the taxi, no additional charges needed. The other American’s waiting for the bus decided to have an adventure and take the taxi. Christy and I aggreed to go because we really wanted to meet Karen as soon as possible. Only Graham, from California, spoke out against the shared taxi. We should have listened to Graham, but instead all 15 of us piled into the shared taxi while the driver tied our luggage to the roof.

Christy getting ready to ride the shared taxi to Cairo

Our drive started off great. Christy and I have been in Egypt for about a month, riding in buses and taxis several times. In the shared taxi we found it fun to watch the reactions of the “first time in Egypt” Americans while our driver drove down the middle of the road and sometimes in the wrong lane of traffic moving back to the correct side moments before the oncoming trucks. Our driver got a little erratic when he started falling asleep. Chain smoking fixed the driver’s sleepiness problem but left only one hand on the steering wheel. We were amazed at our driver’s ability to pass cars one handed, and sometimes no handed when talking on his cell phone. If a drivers ability is measured in the number of cars passed compared to the number of passing cars we had the perfect driver. Our driver navigated the semi truck slalom expertly, passing the trucks alternately on the left and right. He only hesitated a moment on the final turn of the truck slalom when Trevor, the long haired California boy wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a trucker hat, shouted “Noooo! Don’t do it!” The ride started to get a little scarier when it got dark. Our driver used some combination of hazard lights and turning the headlights off to communicate to oncoming drivers. The messages flashing in his lights could not be figured out by any of the Americans in our group. We all got a little worried when the road under construction would quickly end, leaving us travelling at highway speeds on just a road of sand. Driving down the center of the road allowed our driver maximum space to maneuver the out of control vehicle drifting on the sand.

Then, like a drunken night that goes on too long, fun and craziness turned into property damage and fighting.

Somewhere around the Suez Canal, one of the bags tied onto our roof fell off and hit a car behind us. We did not notice the bag fall off. The driver of the taxi hit by the bag gathered up as much as he could and chased us for an hour until he finally got us to pull over. The driver from the taxi tried to get the woman who owned the bag to pay for the damage to his car. She offered him a thank you payment for returning her wallet and keys, but he got mad because he wanted her to pay for the damage. He started yelling at her in Arabic and the people from the 2 taxis bunched together to watch this argument play out.  To our American eyes we felt our taxi driver was at fault because he failed to tie down the luggage properly. Not once did the other taxi driver try to get our driver to pay, he just kept yelling at the woman. Finally, our taxi driver told the woman to not pay anything and got her back in our taxi. The 2 drivers then argued for 15 minutes. We were all sitting in the taxi waiting for the fight to break out but it stayed at intense yelling and pushing away outstretched arms. Here is a sample of the yelling going on outside of the taxi.

After the fight we were all anxious to get to Cairo. It was a long couple of silent hours waiting for the ride to end. We were all relieved to reach Cairo and get on the relatively comfortable and safe subway.

Christy relieved to be on the Cairo Metro



Wait…It has been 17 Days?!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 09 26th, 2010

Welcome to Petra Camp, our new home away from home!

We were originally supposed to stay for only 5 days… which turned into 7 days… which turned into 10 days… which turned into “What the hell? Let’s just stay here until we have to go to Israel!”

By the time we checked out, we had been at the camp 17 days, and had made some great friends.

Another great thing about the camp is that it was very cost-friendly. We stayed in a hut (without AC) for about $8 a night, and then we had the same breakfast every morning for about $4 and dinner for about $12. We averaged out to about $30 a day (we purchased water and snacks throughout the day as well), which fit in very nicely with our budget!

Our days spent at Petra Camp were all very similar. Here was our agenda:

10 AM – Wake up, take a shower

11 AM – Eat breakfast

11:30 AM – 3 PM – Sleep or read in the hammocks by the ocean

3 PM – Snorkel or swim in the ocean

4:30 PM – Take a nap or relax after swim

7 PM – Eat dinner

8 PM – Play cards, watch movies, or play pool with our new friends

12 AM – Go to sleep

There was sometimes a hike up the mountain, a boat ride with our new friend Bart, or a bike ride around town mixed in there as well.

As some of you may know, I have some anxiety issues and idle time usually doesn’t suit me well. I have to be doing something at all times, or at least have access to the Internet, to keep my mind pre-occupied, or I go crazy with my general worries. But at Petra Camp, I could do nothing except just sit, and I was completely calm. I don’t know if it was just the place, or if I have changed during my trip, but I can tell you I have never been so relaxed in my life.

I would like to end my post with a video of one of our new friends, Achmed, teaching me a Bedouin dance. As you can see, it didn’t go well.