Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Krak des Chevaliers

Krak des Chevaliers

While in Jordan, we visited the ruins of two old Crusader Castles: Shobak Castle and Karak Castle. While both were fascinating in their own right, they were only appetizers before the main course in Syria: Krak des Chevaliers. This is the best preserved Crusader military castle in the world, and it dates back to just after 1000 AD. Crouching agressively on the top of a 650 metre hill in western Syria, it commands a stunning panoramic view of the countryside in all directions. The location is at the only historical crossroads between Antakya in Turkey and Beirut in Lebanon, and was a position of strategic importance during the Crusades. We only had time to make a stopover at the castle on our way to Palmyra, but it was worth the detour.

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On the road
in a yellow van

Meg, Toon, and the yellow van

After our wonderful week in Dahab, we crossed over the Red Sea by ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba in Jordan. Africa is behind us, and we are looking forward to new adventures in the Middle East. It turns out that even the traveling part of our next leg will be an adventure — while we were traveling through the Sudan, we met two Belgians, Toon and Ragna, that were driving up from Tanzania and headed in the same direction as us. Our paths crossed several times while we were still on the Oasis truck — we ended up on the same ferry to Egypt, and at the same camp site in Luxor. While we were in Cairo, we got an e-mail from Toon (or Tony, to us English speakers, since we have a tendency to butcher foreign names) saying that Ragna had decided to head back to Tanzania, and that he had two spare seats — would we be interested in joining him in his yellow van? We didn’t hesitate. It was one of those spontaneous travel moments that you hope for, and we jumped at the opportunity. After a few emails, we met in Dahab to compare schedules and see if it would work out for all of us. Although Toon left Dahab before us, we reconnected only a day later in Aqaba, and we were off together, sitting three across the front seat. Our plan is to travel together through Jordan, Syria and Turkey, as far as Istanbul if things go well. We’re excited! The van is great, and Toon has a spare tent and mattresses, so we can camp as we go. We’re looking forward to an excellent road trip together — so it gives me great pleasure to introduce Toon and his yellow van, our new travel partners!

Old ship at the Blue Nile Sailing Club

We drove the 11.5 hours to Khartoum in one day, mostly to make up for lost time spent waiting at the border. We were camping at the Blue Nile Sailing Club, which was much less posh than it sounds. We spent a couple of days there, mostly trying to adjust to the heat. Since leaving the mountains of Ethiopia, we’d dropped from 11,500 feet to barely over 1,500 feet, and it was hot. Afternoon temperatures were regularly above 40¬∞C. It was hard to believe that less than a week earlier we’d been huddled together in sleeping bags and long underwear to try and stay warm. Water was the drink of choice, followed closely by Coca-Cola. It’s actually ridiculous how much Coke we’ve found ourselves drinking, but it’s just so refreshing in such scorching heat. It’s also an easy way to get some sugar into our systems, which can be a good thing.

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My parents, and our two most avid commenters, just renewed their vows in Vegas. I’m so happy to have parents so much still in love. The fire must be rekindled now that all the kids are grown up and out of the house. But guess what mom and dad? We’re coming baaaaaaaaaaack! Haha, after our big voyage is over, we’ll be moving back into the basement for a few months to help us save and pay off some of our accumulated travel debt. Thanks mom and dad :) Congratulations.

After much delay, here’s the long-ago promised video of us sandboarding in Namibia! You can check out the original post here for all the details on our day on the dunes.

The source of the White Nile is near the town of Jinja, Uganda. A series of waterfalls and dams marks the start of the mightly river which runs from Lake Victoria all the way up to the Mediterranean. It is here, near Jinja, where some of the world’s best whitewater rafting exists. Since we missed out on the opportunity to raft on the Zambezi river near Vic Falls (because the water level was too high), we decided that rafting here would be a more than adequate consolation.

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Awesome beasts

This is a post that I’ve been waiting to write for over a year now. When we made our booking with Oasis Overland back in the spring of 2009, we decided to pay the extra money to reserve our mountain gorilla trekking permits well in advance. It wasn’t an easy decision to make — the permits cost nearly $600 a piece, which is no small pocket change for travelers. However, ever since hearing Douglas Adams’ account of hiking through the cloud rainforests of the Virunga Volcanoes to find these incredible animals* I’ve been indescribably drawn to the prospect of having the experience myself. It would have been unbearable to be in the heart of Rwanda, so close to the gorillas, without a permit in hand. So we bit the bullet, paid the money (gulp), and started counting down the months. Finally, our planned trekking day was upon us: June 29th, 2010, almost 14 months after booking. This was it. We were going to meet the gorillas.

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Fire! Fire! Fire!

A few nights ago, after a very long day on the road, we pulled off in to the bush to set up camp. It was already after sunset, and darkness was fast setting in. Everyone scrambled to set up their tents as quickly as possible, and cook group went to work on dinner. Meg and Steph headed off a ways to do some yoga, and the rest of us started to unwind a little. Just as we were finally starting to relax, we heard Meg’s voice faintly yelling from a distance: “Fire! Fire! Fire!” At first we had no idea what she was on about, but a few of us walked around the truck to where her voice was coming from. We saw Steph and Meg coming back through the bush towards us, and an orange glow quickly brightening in the distance, about 100 metres from the truck. There was a fire in the bush! Andi and Grant went to check it out more closely, and I climbed on the roof of the truck to try and assess the size. The flames spanned a stretch of about 20 metres or more, and it seemed to be moving quite quickly. The area in which we were set up was completely overgrown with tall, dry grass, and the wind was blowing hard. Luckily for us, the wind was taking the fire to the left of us, but we’d already noticed a couple of shifts in the wind earlier that evening. We decided that we needed to evacuate, and quickly: even though the fire wasn’t coming directly towards us, it was making its way across our exit path, and would soon cut us off from the road. Tents came down lightning quick, and food was carried still in the pots into the back of the truck. We all piled in, and made it safely out to the road. The fire glowed in the distance behind us as we drove on, looking for a new site for the night. It was a surprising bit of excitement, and I think we were all lucky that Meg and Steph spotted it early from their yoga location. I guess yoga club saves lives!

Lioness on the prowl

Although Antelope Park was full of horses and elephants to ride and other game to see, the real raison d’√™tre for the park is the lions. The Park is running a fairly new four stage program for breeding and reintroducing lions into the wild, and most of the activities on offer are designed to showcase that program. Meg went on a “breeding tour” to learn more about the system and meet some of the more mature lions. Her thoughts on the tour:

“10 years ago, Antelope Park was strictly a commercial lion breeding park, open to visitors as it is now. What that means is that they would breed and raise the lions only to sell them to the highest bidder when they reached maturity. They would usually end up in a big game park somewhere where some jerk-o with a shotgun and a pile of money could go out and shoot the King of the Jungle. For good reason, they were receiving a lot of heat for this operation and have since changed focus to strive and ‘save’ the lions instead. It’s controversial whether or not the lions do need saving. They’re not technically endangered yet because there’s still something like 35,000 lions on the continent, although one hundred years ago there were a couple hundred thousand. In countries like Ghana, where thousands of lions once roamed, there is only one left. Antelope Park will sell lions to Ghana once they’ve completed the 4-step breeding program.

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Farewell Debs

Bye-bye Debs!

A few days ago we said goodbye to Deb, who was leaving the truck in Harare, Zimbabwe. Even though we only got to hang out for a month, she was a special and integral part of cook group “CanEngland”, and she’ll be missed. Safe onward travels, Debs! Hopefully our paths will cross again one day.

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