Archive for the ‘Local Culture’ Category

Photographing the Sudan

Our Sudanese photography permit

Here’s a photo of the wording on the photography permits we had to obtain in the Sudan. They don’t mind if you take pictures of the sand, but pretty much everything else is off limits. Oh, and you’d better only photograph sand that makes the country look good. Or else.

Tourists

Show off

It feels a bit strange to be back in a land of mass tourism. It’s nice to have modern conveniences once again, especially fast internet, but we’re also subject to rip off tourist prices and swarms of inappropriate tourists. We’re still in an Islamic nation where women and men are encouraged to cover their shoulders and knees. However, 95% of the tourists either choose to ignore this or are completely clueless. Check out this dude strolling through Edfu Temple.

We’re not out of Africa yet, we’re in Egypt, which has a distinctive Northern African/Middle Eastern feel. And so it feels as though we’ve left Africa behind us now, although the continent will surely stay with us for years to come.

We’ve covered roughly 20,000 km overland, across 12 different countries (excluding Egypt), not really knowing what to expect as we moved from one to the next. We enjoyed every country we visited, but a few definitely stand out in our minds, namely Namibia for its spectacular desert scenery, Malawi for it’s warm and friendly people, and Ethiopia for it’s unique culture and breathtaking mountains.

Here are some of the small things that will remind us of our time in Africa:

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The Ethiopian landscape

Ethiopia feels unique amongst the other 11 African countries we’ve visited so far. The borders separating Ethiopia from its neighbours feel natural, whereas most borders in Africa were created for the convenience of the colonizers — mashing together or splitting apart a multitude of different tribes and religions under one flag. As soon as we crossed over from Kenya into Ethiopia, things were decidedly different. We started climbing. The scenery in Ethiopia is some of the best we’ve seen anywhere in the world. It rises to a plateau, spanning most of the country in a spectacular highland of mountains and valleys. No wonder Ethiopia produces some of the world’s top runners! There are endemic plants and animals found nowhere else, including the very cool gelada baboon, the mountain ibex and the Ethiopian wolf.

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Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

We left the Oasis truck in Bahir Dar for a 6-night tour of Northern Ethiopia by bus. Although we left the truck, 20 of the 23 people on board opted to do the same tour, so it was the same crowd (mostly), but a different vehicle. We were in for a driving marathon, spending 43 hours on the bus and covering nearly 1200km in 7 days. We were on a mission to visit three significant destinations: Lalibela, home of the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia, Axum, the ancient centre of the Axumite Dynasty, and the Simien Mountains National Park. Lalibela was our first stop on the loop, and the one that I was looking forward to the most. We would be visiting 11 churches there, each one carved by hand into the solid rock of the surrounding landscape. According to one of the guidebooks we read, these rock-hewn churches would be one of the 7 Wonders of the World, if only they weren’t in Ethiopia. I suppose what they mean by this is that the churches simply aren’t that well known outside of the country, and had they been in, say, Egypt (perhaps alongside the pyramids), they would likely have attracted much more attention, along with much larger crowds of tourists. The hidden advantage of the situation is that the churches are not yet overrun with outsiders and sightseers, and many of the churches are still functioning as they always have. We felt like an extremely large and unwieldly group as we made our way through the small underground passageways that connected the buildings, but we felt (perhaps paradoxically) fortunate not to have to share the sites with any other large and unwieldly groups. Such is the joy of visiting a tourist attraction not yet discovered by tourists!

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Our teams didn’t fare well in the truck pool, but it was still a blast watching some of the matches. We watched the final game on a projector screen in a large, dark room filled to the brim with people in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The power kept flickering on and off, but thankfully managed to stay on for most of the game. Mark and I were rooting for the Netherlands, as were most of the people we were watching with. It just wasn’t meant to be. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Congratulations to Spain, and to South Africa for being such a great host! How cool to have been in Africa for this World Cup.

It’s World Cup time! Although we’re not in South Africa, it’s still exciting for us to be in Africa — the buzz is felt throughout. We’ve started a World Cup pool on the truck, which makes watching the games more interesting, especially since there is no Canadian team. Our picks were drawn at random. We’ve got Slovenia, Mexico and Ivory Coast. Go Ivory Coast!

Me an Helen with some village cuties

Malawi certainly is the ‘warm heart of Africa’, as the guidebooks say it is. We’ve been greeted everywhere with genuine warmth. After spending a night in the capital city of Lilongwe we made our way to Lake Malawi, which spans the length of the narrow country, to Kande Beach, a campsite midway up the west side of the lake. Upon arrival we were in awe of the lake and the size of the waves it manages to conjure up. I suppose it’s on par with one of our Canadian Great Lakes. I’m not sure how it stacks up size wise, but it’s ginormous and is surrounded by lush rolling hills.

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In a few short hours we will be on a plane to Africa, leaving Southeast Asia to our memories. We had such a fantastic time here. It’s about as far away as you can get from home for us. There are many different religions, languages and customs. All this makes for exciting travels, and was for the most part (excluding Sumatra) relaxing and easy. Before leaving, there are just a few random things we wanted to reflect on. For those of you lucky enough to have visited this part of the world, I’m sure you will be able to relate.

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Coconuts in Cambodia

I’d like to start off by declaring it a huge honour to be given posting privileges by wewander hosts Mark and Meghan Gosen. For those who aren’t familiar, myself (Mike Davis is my birth name) and Sarah Davis (my begrudging wife) are long-time bridge partners of Mark and Meghan, turned friends. Since Mark and Meghan left the soils of North America, the friendship has made a transition to more of a stalk-er, stalk-ee relationship. Until February 17th…

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