Archive for the ‘Journeys’ Category

Almost home

asleep at the airport

Looks as though our travels aren’t done with us yet. We are stuck at the Edmonton airport for the night. We were booked to fly standby on the red-eye back to Ottawa via Toronto. (My lil’ sister Lindsay works for Canadian airline Westjet and gave us discounted passes which require you fly standby). However, upon arriving at the airport and checking in, we were informed that the flight was fully booked. That is why we will be spending the night at the airport and why I am finally finding some time to write again. Hopefully, if all goes to plan, we’ll be on a plane at 6:30 tomorrow morning making our way back to Ottawa where we will be home, at last.


Home sweet home

Our ship docked at the Sydney harbour on the 7th of October. We could hardly sleep the night before, anxious with nervous excitement. We were up at the crack of dawn and went for one last meal on board the ship. We weren’t feeling all that hungry due to the butterflies so instead we made little sandwiches and stocked up on snacks for our journey that would take us from Sydney, Nova Scotia back home to Ottawa, Ontario. Finally we got the go ahead from the captain to disembark and our feet touched Canadian soil once again. We had a rental car waiting for us in Sydney to take us home.



many trains stations along the homestretch

We are on the homestretch now. Our path is very quickly taking us back to Canada for our due date of October 9th. This is no small task as there are still thousands of kilometres to cover overland. It’s a beeline with a few stops en-route to keep us sane, or make us go crazy — we’re not sure which yet.

Our next destination after Istanbul was Budapest. To get to Budapest we had to take a train. We had two options: via Bucharest or via Belgrade. Both were 32 hour journeys with a transfer and two nights sleeping on trains. Initially we had wanted to go via Bucharest and spend a day there, but we decided to change our plans and skip Bucharest so we could spend an extra day in Budapest. In the end we chose the route that went via Belgrade for the simple fact that it was cheaper. We stocked up on snacks and drinks and prepared ourselves for what was to be our longest train journey yet.


Oh no! (cont’d)

The day after we dropped off the van, the Toyota garage rang Toon in Palmyra. Bad news: aside from whatever problem was causing the engine to overheat, Vyv needed a new cylinder block. With a quick band-aid solution, they suspected Toon might be able to drive a few thousand kilometers on the old cylinder block. Considering a new cylinder block would cost 100,000 Syrian Dinars (ouch!), he decided to take the risk. They said that the van wouldn’t be ready for two more days, mostly because of the shortened working ours imposed by Ramadan. We kept our fingers crossed and waited.


Egypt's Western Desert

After nearly four months of driving through Africa, the last leg of our Oasis Overland truck journey had finally arrived. We set out from Luxor after a too-brief visit and headed into Egypt’s Western Desert for four days of travel on our way to Cairo. I have to admit that it was a leg of the journey that I was not too excited about at first. Our time in Aswan and on the felucca had gotten me used to the trappings of civilization again, and I didn’t relish the prospect of heading out into the unrelenting heat of the desert for another stretch of several days. On the other hand, there were a few things to look forward to on the way: we would be driving through the White and Black Deserts, and hopefully getting a few more nights of desert bush camping along the way. This was the home stretch, and Cairo was the ultimate destination, the end of our marathon overland crossing of the African continent. Only one little desert left to cross…


Sailing on the Nile

After arriving in Egypt via the overnight ferry across Lake Nasser, we spent three very relaxing days in Aswan. Compared to the Sudanese desert and Wadi Halfa, our accommodation in Aswan was pure luxury: our room had A/C, an ensuite washroom with shower, a fridge, clean sheets, good mattresses, a rooftop swimming pool, and even cold beer! On reflection, that description might be misleading to some: if, for example, you’d booked 2 weeks off of work to travel across an ocean and live in high style in Aswan, you would likely have considered the hotel a little shabby, maybe rough around the edges, or just straight up disappointing. But after a week spent camping in the desert in 47¬∫C heat, believe me when I say that it was a palace in our eyes. Welcome to Egypt indeed!

Feeling recovered and somewhat less cooked, we departed Aswan not on the big yellow truck, but on a felucca. For anyone who has never heard of a felucca before, it’s a sailboat, and there are hundreds of them on the Nile in Egypt. We had two boats for our group, each one big enough to hold about 12 people plus a crew of 3. What was in store for us was two days and nights of sailing on the Nile. It was something we’d been looking forward to for some time, but it well exceeded our expectations.


Shop on Main Street Wadi Halfa

We arrived in Wadi Halfa after what felt like our longest marathon journey to date: seven whirlwind days around Ethiopia, followed by a two-day long border crossing and four continuous bushcamps across a stinking hot desert. Our arrival was welcomed, yet still somehow anticlimactic. We were onto the homestretch, getting to Egypt, but the some of the worst was yet to come. Don’t get me wrong here, I am loving traveling through these parts of the world, but it is full-on. There is very little relief from the skin-melting, life-sucking, dry heat of the Nubian desert. After a while, even the hardest-worn traveler craves staying put in one place, a little shade, a cold beverage, a bucket shower, bare shoulders and knees, and sweet, sweet air conditioning…to name a few.


Crossing the Desert

Camping in the desert

After a couple of relaxed days in Khartoum (and one ridiculous Nile River cruise) we headed out of the city and into the desert. Our destination was Wadi Halfa on Lake Nasser, where we’d be catching a ferry to Egypt. Between us lay over 900 km of Sahara and Nubian desert, 300 km of which has no roads at all. We were in for four days of sweat, dust, dehydration and heat exhaustion, of beautiful nights under the stars and scorching afternoons under the sun.


Crossing through the Sudan is a leg of our journey that we have anxiously and apprehensively anticipated since booking our African overland trip; our path was to take us through the north-east corner of the country, and it is a stretch that has ever been on our minds. Anyone that has ever watched international news or read anything about the Sudan’s recent history will know that “the Sudan” and “danger” are nearly synonymous terms in many parts of the world. The Canadian Travel Advisory webpage says “Avoid all travel” to the Sudan, and advice from friends and parents is the same. Nevertheless, our truck was bound north through Khartoum and into Nubian Desert on our way to Egypt, a route which is happily distant from the much more volatile and dangerous regions of Darfur and the south. We were headed into the Sudan, and we where about to learn a few things about a country we seemingly weren’t supposed to visit.


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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