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31/12/2001
Today was spent mainly relaxing before going round to a friend's for a party. We ended up playing "Dance Dance Revolution" on the PlayStation 1. Much as I hate to admit it, the game is reasonably good. O.K., it's pretty good. Shame there are so few tracks. Anyway, apart from that and the Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machine on (practically) free-play we had a good evening. The food and drink was good too. Stayed up for the Big Ben chimes, and went home some time around 02:45. Happy new year.

28/12/2001
We came back in the morning from London and I began typing up the journal from the holiday as well as experimenting with the new software that came with the scanner. I may use some of it to revamp the gallery pages into something that takes a little less work to maintain.

27/12/2001
Didn't do much in the morning. The girlfriend went to town to fight some of her own work-related fires and then we met at a friend's house to drive to London for a birthday party at Pizza Hut, because we're so sophisticated. We ended up staying the night.

26/12/2001
In an effort to be more plebeian we decided not to waste our early rise and took a leisurely stroll to a computer outlet for the sales and bought a Canon CanoScan N1240U scanner for the girlfriend to scan in her photos as well as a USB hub and some other odds and sods. That's about it.

25/12/2001
A nice quiet day with lots of food, some presents and watching The Great Escape on the television. Oddly, the girlfriend had never seen it.

24/12/2001
When I checked my email this morning for the first time I found there were no status reports from the PFY for the past two weeks before closedown for Christmas. It was only after I got a few hundred messages in that I found an email from the Administrator to all office staff mentioning the fact that she'd gone into hospital the Saturday that we left for Egypt and had given birth on the following Wednesday (eight weeks early). This was a bit of a shock.

It appears that the mother and baby are doing fine at the moment, but it's thrown me into a bit of a mess as she hadn't finished the updates to the Databases of Doom for next year. She's promised to come in and leave things in a sane state. But I don't want her to rush back in too soon. As it is I went into work anyway (on Christmas Eve no less) to fight the most desperate fires and put in the backup tape for December. We also went shopping for some food, any food as the place was practically empty.

23/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
At 01:00 we got up and took a bus to the airport. The plane didn't leave until about 04:45. Both planes home were only about half full so I was able to lie down on four seats and get some decent sleep. To cut a long story short we got back to the house at about 17:30 Egypt time (15:30 GMT).

And that's it for the trip. We had a great time and took lots of photos that I'm going to have to whittle down to a sensible number. In the evening we went to see Lord of the Rings, which was reasonable, but not overly impressive.

22/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
I think I slept until 06:00 when other people woke. I was too cold to remember to get a photo of the camp like I had at all the others, I also didn't eat breakfast. Back in the jeeps we drove to the van and left for the road to Cairo.

We're on it now, 100km away from the outskirts of the city. We stopped once for a toilet break and chocolate purchase. I took my second last Antinal pill (which I need to keep the packaging from so I can show it to a pharmacist in the UK to find out what the hell is in it anyway) for the digestive problems.

[14:17] We've showered, repacked and said the majority of our goodbyes to everyone else on the second week's tour. The "Pharaoh's Hotel" is almost clean and has a working shower so we don't really care about anything else. We're all apparently meeting for a meal this evening but that depends on a few things. Most everyone else has gone to Saqqara (the step pyramid) and left as soon as we got to the hotel, so we're the only clean people in the group at present. I think we'll go out and get some new reading matter for the afternoon/evening/night/trip home.

[22:20] So we went out, crossed Cairo to the American University in Cairo and found their bookshop. We walked back and slept until it was time to get two taxis for the group to the same Italian place we went to on our first full night in Cairo two weeks ago. We've just gotten back.

21/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[09:45] We woke at 06:10 and sneaked out of the wind break to watch the sun come up. Everyone else woke up pretty soon after that and we ate, broke camp, etc. After some fiddling with the engines the Land Cruisers came to life and we toured out of the desert, stopping at the occasional point for photographic opportunities. In one place I climbed a fairly high chunk of white powdery rock for a stunning photo opportunity.

We drove to the road, transferred back to the bus again and are now on the two hour trip to the next oasis.

[22/12/2001 - 11:05] On arrival at the Ahmed Safari camp in the depression we had lunch. After some shade the girlfriend and I took some time to walk the three kilometers into the local town which was probably Bawati. We didn't go too far in before turning around and going back. As we reached the camp again the others who'd paid for the excursion were heading out into the Black Desert on an optional rough jeep trek affair. We made ourselves comfortable and read.

Around 16:30 the returned and we all drove out into the deep desert for the final night's camping. The sun again dropped from the sky and with it the temperature. We walked to the nearest monster dune and did some dune running before returning. Dinner was served and then blankets passed out as we played charades again amazingly successfully. Amazing given that the age range and the weather conditions. By 21:30 we were crawling into sleeping bags and hoping for warmth. My feet froze for the first time in the sleeping bag's history.

Unfortunately at 04:00 I was hit by terrorist action in the digestive area and had to get free of sleeping bag, blanket and get fully dressed and behind a dune with some toilet paper in less than a minute. That was fun. No really. I'd hoped it was a one off, but no. I ended up pacing back and forth in the pitch dark for half an hour to make sure that the danger was over. I went back to bed fully clothed and for the first time in years was freezing cold.

20/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[15:20] While the bed was a double one, had a fly netting around it and was on the top of a split-level room, the matress was very lumpy and I had a cricked neck in the morning. We showered and met the few other people camel riding for breakfast. The bus ride out of Farafra was no more than ten minutes. We waited by the side of the road until a convoy of camels came over the rise ahead.

Mounting was fairly easy and the ascent to three meters above the ground O.K. if you held on at the right moment. We rocked and rolled out into the White Desert for about two hours before dismounting in the middle of nowhere, finding the road and walking about half a mile to where the bus was waiting.

We drove back to the hotel, made sure our packing for the next two nights outside was correct and then had lunch. Oddly it wasn't falafel and cheese for lunch, but luke warm sphagetti bolognase. After the suprising repast we ambled the mile or so into 'town' to find an abandoned fort which refused to be found. Instead we ended up at an artist's house where he'd turned the entire building into his gallery. It was a little surreal, especially if you went into the garden. Although we never found the fort we did buy a bag of very nice and cheap biscuits as well as some fruit. We all headed back to the hotel and laid around in the shade until 15:00 when we boarded the bus for a forty minute drive to our tradeover point for more Land Cruisers to take us off road through the White Desert and to the camp site for the evening's camp. I've learnt some things that may keep me a bit warmer this time around.

[21/12/2001 - 09:40] The ride out was standard and the campsite in between to low bluffs. The two 4x4s were used as walls and we erected a three-sided wind break, lit a fire and watched the sun go down. With thin mattresses and blankets we made a floor in the almost-square and ate. As the cold rolled in again and the light faded we actually had a rather excellent game of charades. The two of us crashed out some time around midnight, while the others stated up to complete further rounds into the early hours.

19/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[17:20] The wind started up at about 02:40 and didn't die until after sunrise at around 06:00. I slept on and mostly off being a windbreak for the girlfriend. We watched the sun come up and then wandered back to the main camp. Breakfast was again bread, eggs, feta cheese and fig jam. Cleaned our teeth and broke camp before driving back to the bus at the Bedouin camp. I was in need of a refresh after a hard night but not tired, oddly. We drove to an iron-rich hot springs which has been captured in a pool complex where the water steams. The water was a slightly odd faecal brown colour but wonderful on the body.

One warm brown bath later and all smelling slightly of egg we reboarded the bus and drove to a tiny ethnographic museum in Mut where the custodian took us through every single exhibit in the place. It still only took twenty minutes.

From there we moved to the Old Village which now has a preservation order on it even though people live there. We walked through the whole thing, trying not to breath in the masses of particles in the air. After a cheap icecream we dropped off our guide for the morning and boarded the bus. A drive took us to a cafe we'd visited before for a drink. This time we stayed for lunch and collected bottles of lemon juice (drinkable) that we'd ordered previously.

We then boarded the bus again (getting bored of that yet?) and began the big journey of the day to Farafra, our next oasis.

[20:45] At Farafra we arranged for camels for the morning's activities, saw our rooms (pretty decent) and checked the shower put forth hot water. We went to have some food in the open air section and ordered hot chocolate to keep the cold out before packing for the following two nights' camping. It's an 07:00 rise tomorrow for the camel ride.

18/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
Felt more O.K. when I got up this morning. We packed kit into our small rucksacks in preparation for the day's events and our first night under the stars and then went to breakfast. Same old fayre of flat bread, eggs, cheese and this time some jam that was more like toffee. Some people lapped it up, I was more worried about the fact that there was no best "before date" on it. Luckily there was some fig jam (the Australians on our trip knew of an acronym which is spelt FIGJAM, it's rather cool) which was edible.

We left the fleapit after having some excitement with the door lock to our room where we had to slip the key under the door so someone in the corridor could open our door for us. A twenty minute drive took us to a temple in an area called Hubis. The whole thing is being moved because of the rising water table from the Aswan dam. On foot from there we walked though a date palm plantation and agriculture area to a Coptic necropolis at Bagauat. There was no guide so we toured ourselves before getting back on the bus and moving on to Qasr Kargha. We had some time to kill before we were due for lunch so we took a quick walk through the souk. There were very few, if not no, hawkers trying to sell us things. The place was very much off the tourist trail. There were also a hell of a lot of flies. Still, we bought a kilo of very sweet bananas for the equivalent of twenty pence. At the far side we did a short loop through the streets and saw a good few hadge paintings (the resident has been on a pilgrimage to Mecca) on houses before going back through the souk.

Back on the bus to the hotel for the last time to have lunch, pick up our main luggage to have it strapped to the top of the bus again for the overnight. A three hour drive took us to the meeting point with our Land Cruisers, a Bedouin permanent camp. Everyone worth their salt has a Toyota Land Cruiser out here. Seems they do best with the heat and the cold. Anyway, we left the road and went further west, into the deep desert. About forty-five minutes of hard driving brought us to a small sheltered horseshoe depression where a windbreak had been erected.

While we took in the sunset over the dune fields the Bedouin guides prepared food for us. Night set in quickly and the temperature dropped rapidly. We were each given a thin mattress and a thick camelhair blanket as supplement to our own sleeping bags and told to find somewhere to sleep. Many of the group opted to sleep together in the windbreak but the girlfriend and I wandered a way away to position ourselves out of the wind and ready for the sunrise. The temperature dropped some more so we drawstringed the sleeping bags shut and went to sleep.

17/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
A nice late morning of 06:15 and we were packed and ready to go. Down at breakfast we met some of the people on our new trip into the western oases and said goodbye to the remainder of the people from our old trip still not departed for home or other trips in Egypt. After breakfast we and the new people jumped onto a really nice bus with leg room and spare seats. We became a convoy with two armed police vehicles at front and back as we travelled up the west bank of the Nile to Aswet before turning west, into the desert. Our away from the greenery of the Nile irrigation area the terrain became extremely dune-fixated. We reached the first oasis, Kharga, by first coming across the Kharga Depression. This was basically the land falling away by a few hundred feet into something akin to an abyssal plain. I got a picture.

By dark we'd reached the oasis proper and civilisation. The hotel was a fleapit, almost literally. Lots of flies though. The locks on the room doors were temperamental, at best. I was really suffering from the large lunch of badly cooked falafel we'd had during a brief stop at Aswet so I ate about two mouthfuls of rice and went to bed very early.

16/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[23:00] An 05:00 wakeup call to get us to the Valley of the Kings. Breakfast boxes at reception again and then a walk to the Nile for a launch over to the west bank. Another short walk and our group and another Explore group were standing among donkeys. Donkey riding. When it's freezing cold and the sun's not come up yet donkey riding isn't the best thing. Plus donkeys are a bit spirited. And there's no stirrups.

While you use "Hosh" for stop and "Yalla" for go, they tend to have their own pecking order and don't really respond to the weight on their backs. We had a disorganised gallop to the Colossi of Memnon and then it was up and over the mountain before leaving the donkeys to stand in the shade while we descended on foot into the Valley of the Kings.

Naturally, even at that time in the morning there were hawkers selling things, offering to help us down the rocks, etc. One of them latched on to Leanne and was very friendly in helping her down.

I talked all about the tombs (I think) the last time I was here in August of 2000 so I won't bother this time. Suffice it to say we went in two new tombs that were more impressive to me than the smaller more decorated ones in that they went very much deeper underground and were much larger. The temperature was much better inside the tombs at this time of year and the humidity much, much less. All in all a much better experience.

We climbed back out of the Valley and paid a quick visit to queen Hatcheptsut's temple over the other side before collecting the donkeys again and heading back at a much faster pace to the donkey stables. When we reached the stables (on the wrong side of a main road) we were told to get off and not hold onto the reins. This was because the donkeys knew the way back from where we'd stopped. Some people were dragged as the donkeys dashed across a busy main road with no glances left or right, others where butted out of the way. Short tempers those animals.

Back across the river we crashed out until 15:00 when, three to each we went for another calesh ride out into the suburbs of Luxor, through two villages (one of them Nubian) and back to the hotel in one hour and fifteen minutes.

At 18:30 we met again at reception and took the launch over to the other side of the river again to have a nice final meal in a place overlooking the river. We reminisced about the past week before some people headed off to find somewhere to party the night away before their flight home. Those of us here for another week went back to the hotel to prepare and sleep.

15/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[07:30] Too hot and too cold last night. I assume it's some kind of fever. Pounding headache too. We were up at 04:45 to be able to join the convoy to Luxor. Not exactly as dangerous as travelling in Middle Egypt but we still have to bunch up about 100 coaches and buses with a police escort through the mountains.

[21:30] The only mildly dangerous thing was Wa-el's (our driver) driving. He wanted to be at the front, as did all the other coaches. Through the desert, Quena and into Luxor where we were suddenly surrounded by greenery for the first time in a week. I recognised a few places from our last visit, like the front of the museum as we passed it.

At the hotel we bade goodbye to the driver and checked in. Two hours rest and we took a calesh (horse-drawn gaudy thing) to the Karnak temples and back. At the temples I vanished to use the toilet while the group was show the stones in a reasonable manner. I got some more photos to add to the ones from last time. We returned to the hotel and had a further two hours or relaxation before some people went to the Karnak sound and light show and we went for food.

The first real meal I'd had in a few days was some omelette and a falafel. This defeated me. We walked there so we walked back through the bazaar. Noisy experience even late at night. Once back at the hotel the two of us went searching for an ATM and found a bank with attached foreign exchange. Once we got back to the hotel we fell asleep very quickly.

14/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
Another really early morning to get on the road from Sharm. To be honest there's not much to say about a day spent almost entirely in the van. We drove. All the way up the coast of Sinai to Suez. Along the way our driver suddenly took a turning and wouldn't tell us where we were going. We ended up at a sulphur spring by the sea. By it was a cave that we were shown into. It got narrower and narrower and lower and lower until we were forced to crawl on our stomachs. Eventually it was too hot and we came back out. For a few minutes I understood what claustrophobes must feel like. Outside again we found that the cave system was crescent-shaped and the other end was a tiny barely person-shaped hole from which fumes were billowing.

Back on the bus. Up to the Suez tunnel and then south, down the coast to Egypt. We were heading for Hurghada as our eventual destination. At about 14:00 we stopped for lunch and it was at this time that my loose bowels began again. Not that you wanted to know that, but this is a journal after all. On top of that I caught the girlfriend's cold as well. My appetite went and my head felt like it was full of concrete. The group decided to take a detour up to St John's monastery (adding about an hour to the total journey time). I stayed in the van and gave the camera to the girlfriend and tried to sleep the headache off. Everyone came back to the van at about 17:30 and we drove through the gathering darkness to Hurghada about two hundred and thirty kilometers away. On arrival I remember getting to the room and then sleeping. The girlfriend went out for food with others and came back later.

13/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[23:00] I woke a good few times during the night. The girlfriend and I had gone to bed while the other stayed playing rope tricks so I shouldn't have minded but I was so hot. Really roasting. As it was I still managed to sleep through sunrise. Took a toilet break in the dunes with a shovel and some matches. Out here toilet paper doesn't degrade, you have to bury the shit and burn the paper. We had breakfast and packed ready for the afternoon departure. First of all though we picked flippers and goggles for snorkelling. A ten minute drive by our guide took us to a coral reef where I snorkelled for the first time. Relatively easy to master (except for the diving under water) even with short sight like mine the views were amazing and the fish within biting distance sometimes.

Around lunchtime we got out and headed back via some mangrove swamp-type areas and the very tip of Ras Mohammed. Over lunch at the campsite one of us who'd paid extra had a diving lesson (SCUBA) which he loved. The afternoon was spent breaking camp and finding out more about our dive master guide. Around 16:00 the jeep arrived back from an errand and we packed in, leaving the new SCUBA initiate to do a night-dive with the guide and one of his assistants.

We drove to Sharm al Sheik and the Falcon Hills hotel. Nice rooms. We had a quick shower, took the opportunity to re-pack before going shopping for food for the monster road trip tomorrow. Not that the ferry is broken after all, it's that they cancelled that run because it's Ramadan. On our way back from shopping we met our driver who took us into the tourist part of Sharm and left us to find food. A good restaurant did fish dishes and was actually quite cheap, so we ate there. We flagged down a taxi to get us home after dropping off one of our number in the Old Market part of Sharm first.

12/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[20:30] We actually got up at 07:30 in the end. We went for an actual sit-down breakfast and then waited for the jeep to arrive. When it did it turned out that it and all other 'jeep safaris' would actually be Land Cruisers. No real loss. We got in and set off at high speed back north along the road we'd come in on. We stopped for a little while before we turned off into the desert. The engine noise changed substantially as we shifted to 4x4 and locked the differentials. The terrain was very broken in places and had very little vegetation. Twenty minute's drive brought us to the start of what looked like a small canyon. We jumped down about five feet into the sand and began to walk along it. The photos don't quite do it justice as the view was amazing.

At the end the canyon opened out into an oasis in which a Bedouin family had made their home for decades. The jeep was also there. We drank hot sugary tea in the Bedouin dwelling and then we were off in the vehicle to the second canyon. This one was even more impressive than the last one and got very narrow in places, necessitating us to clamber and drop two meters in some cases. This one ended at a dead end where some German people had worked on the sandstone into shapes. We turned around and headed back. The jeep took us back to the Bedouin camp where we were served lunch. After being charmed by the children we left late and were rushed across the desert over dunes and through tight bends. Quite exciting.

At the hotel we packed very quickly and loaded up the van for the drive to Ras Mohammed. This took two hours. I read. At Ras Mohammed we decamped into 'jeeps' again with the luggage badly strapped to the top. Hair-raising eighty miles per hour cornering along desert roads lead us to the camp site outside the city on the shores of the peninsula. The tents were already pitched and the food cooked so we laid out our bedding, explored and then settled down to listen to our guide who turned out to have had a very full life. He was a qualified dive master, had had his family killed in an accident, lived in the desert for two years, lived with the Bedouin, run a dive school which had been contracted to work with the cast of the English Patient and was well known all over the Middle East. He also had a good line in the real story behind Egypt's socio-political history.

11/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[23:10] Oddly, getting up at 02:30 wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. We headed for the main complex of the hotel from our semi-detached cabin and received a 'breakfast box'. Large cake-style boxes with bread, cheese, and a drink. We emptied them into our rucksacks. Once ready we took a ten minute ride to the monastery and, with a few hundred other people, camel herders and trinket salesmen, began the ascent in the dark. Climbing a winding and sometimes steep path crowded with camels and idiot tourists while having to watch your own footing and ignoring what felt like almost subzero temperatures was actually quite fun as three of us from the group of nine set a faster pace and headed on up.

There were yurt-type affairs every mile or so of walking which offered hot drinks and snacks. There were also camels in the dark. It took about two hours to reach the top and it appeared that we had beaten all but about five others. While the other two took refuge with hot drinks I staked a claim near the edge in preparation for the sunrise. The rest of the group arrived about half an hour later. We waited. At around 06:20 the sun came up. Fairly good. Note quite as good as the sunrise I caught on camera from the top of Masada in Israel as it came up over the Dead Sea, but good nonetheless. After a while we began to head back down again. While many people took the steps back down rather than the path, we took a leisurely stroll down the way we'd come up. We all met at the Monastery anyway, just a few minutes before it opened. While crowded inside we did get to see what was apparently the direct descendant of the burning bush.

We drove back to the complex. We packed, showered and then left the place at around 11:15. The drive to Dahab was two hours. On arriving we stayed out of town and headed for a shanty town cum resort strip with no tarmac down by the sea. We drove through this, and then out along the beach front for about half a mile to a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Once rooms were sorted some people went to explore the strip for lunch while we stayed, read and slept.

At around 18:45 we met and headed for a beach-based place for an evening meal. While beating off cats with our sandals and water bottles we ate well and had some interesting conversations. Towards the end of the evening out driver (who'd been smoking a water pipe) came over and joined us before we all went back at 23:00. Another early morning tomorrow, but only 06:30.

10/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[20:20] Woke at 08:00 and went to breakfast. Around 09:00 we were all sitting in the van ready for a full day's travel while the driver and hotel staff tried to tie on the luggage with a very short piece of rope. They weren't very good at it. As we pulled away (thirty minutes late) we tried to make ourselves comfortable on the small seats. Some of us (as we entered the busy streets) began to take a few photos but a police car appeared to be taking far too much interest in what we were doing. As it turned out the police were there as a casual escort. Out of town on the road to Suez we accelerated, only to be pulled over by a motorcycle policeman who was pointing to my main rucksack which was hanging from the side of the van by one strap. We stopped and it was rescued. About an hour later another bag made a bid for freedom. At this point the people in the back took over and redid the entire roof ourselves.

Secured we drove on. And on. Occasional checkpoints and two kilometers of Suez tunnel under the canal and we were in Sinai. We turned south, down the coast. It's a long way to St Catherine's Monastery by Mount Sinai so we stopped at one of the many unfinished/abandoned tourist resort mega-complexes on the Red Sea and had lunch. It was at this point that Leanne found out that the ferry which was due to take us from Ras Mohammed to Hurghada was 'broken' so we would have to drive from Ras Mohammed back up to the Suez tunnel, and then down the coast of Egypt (look it up on a map). This was going to mean another day and a half in the van. Annoying.

We drove away from the setting sun, inland. The sun went down, the stars came out and our driver (observing Ramadan) ate. We arrived at about 18:30 at a hotel a little way from Mount Moses. Once unpacked (untying the luggage from the second rope we'd purchased for the driver at a petrol station) we turned on the heating in the stone cold room, went for a buffet dinner and came back to sleep. We rise at 02:30 in the morning for a pre-dawn ascent of Mount Sinai to see the sunrise.

09/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[20:40] We landed in Cairo at 03:30 and collected our bags. After passing through a rather surly man on immigration control we were met by a tour rep. who lent me some money ("Baksheesh") to use one of the loos. Most things in Egypt work on tips. Someone's there to give you a little hand and you pay them 1LE (Egyptian Pound) or less. Anyway, I was lent the money because we had no local currency that small yet. We tried to use one of the ATMs while we waited for our bags and were a little shocked by the first message which appeared which told us the card had been retained. At 03:45 in the morning, running on very little sleep this was a little hard to take in. However, it continued to work and let us get all the way up to asking for money before telling us that it wasn't working, and gave us the card back. Seems ATMs in the airport don't work at night.

Our tour guide was waiting for us outside with a people carrier. She's nice, young and a New Zealander taking some time off from other work on a five month contract with Explore. A twenty minute drive through night-time Cairo got us to the New President Hotel on Zamalek (an island in the Nile in Cairo). At 04:00 we piled out, got our room and crashed out as quickly as possible. The hotel's a bit dingy, but clean and with drinkable tap water. At 07:16 (I know) we were woken by the Ramadan sunrise bells and the wakeup call rang the phone at 07:30. We took showers to attempt to wake us up before a breakfast where I ate mainly pitta bread and drank coffee. By 08:30 we'd piled out of the hotel and, with the rest of the group we'd just met, drove through Cairo to the Giza plateau. As we drove, our tour guide for the morning (not Leanne our guide but a local) explained Egyptian history. Eventually the Pyramids appeared out of the smog and we drove to them.

Big, neatly piled stacks of rock. Huge.

We took photos, went inside the second largest one (Chephren's, pronounced "Kefren") and wandered around the bases. While we wandered a few of the group paid to go into the Solar Boat building. After that we wandered down the hill to the Sphinx. A nice looking shaped piece of rock, even if it's half-demolished. Funnily enough I knew the layout of the Giza area from playing Delta Force: Land Warrior. Sad but true. More photos.

Time was running short for the Egyptian Museum so back into the van we went and into town. Cairo traffic is amazing. Liberal use of the horn, no indicating and pedestrians everywhere. It's suprising how few accidents there actually are.

As we didn't buy a camera ticket in the museum there's not much I can say about the place. Lots of impressive obelisks, coffins and statues. Tutankhamun's stuff was fairly impressive. By 14:30 we were out and free for the afternoon. Some people went wandering, the girlfriend, four others and I went to the Nile Hilton for a drink and to change some money. After a while we left two of that group to wander and the remaining four walked the three kilometers back to the hotel. We showered, rested and then all met up to sort out tour details with Leanne before a short walk to an Italian place called either "Dido's" or "Al Dente". The food was great. While everyone else went to see a whirling dervish we both opted for an early night.

08/12/2001 - Egypt Trip
[01:40 09/12/2001] Woke early yesterday morning after not sleeping too well. Nerves over the trip I'd imagine. It's not the terrorist activity which has made me more plane-wary, but the more informed I am about what can go wrong in mid-air. A little too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Finished packing and last few emails sent we took a taxi to the station, a train down to London and the Piccadilly Line tube all the way to Heathrow. Three hours in the airport got boring, but a meal at Pizza Express and a trip to Dixons where a new Vaio with a blank Administrator password was "secured" with the password "wh00p$" helped banish boredom for a while. All in the name of security, of course. I also visited a Saab showroom and rather than use their 'secured' browser to look at cars, I broke out of the setup, logged into my habitual MUD and said a last few goodbyes to friends I'd missed previously.

The first flight was about a three hour jag to Athens on which I tried to doze in some of the many spare seats. Olympic food is pretty good, the TV was fairly bad and the turbulence on landing no worse than usual. However, the wait in a tiny part of the airport from 22:30 to 01:00 was mind-numbing. Luckily we identified another couple on our Explore tour by their luggage labels and engaged them in conversation. Once they realised I was a techie they got me looking a the manuals for their new digital cameras. For some odd reason I found myself telling one of them about RFCs and why email is for email not for attachments, etc. At time of writing this I'm in a rather cramped Boeing 737-400 (the first plane being an Airbus A320-600, or something) surrounded by snoring Japanese men and screaming Egyptian children. We're en route to Cairo and I need some sleep before the Pyramids later today.

The BOFHcam is closed until 23/12/2001, at which point the intervening time will be written up and the photos downloaded to the gallery. Come back after 24/12/2001 when things will be updated as time allows. Given the quality of the programmes on television at this time of year, this could be quite quickly.

07/12/2001
[09:20] This is the last entry you'll see until at least 24/25 December 2001. Just to remind you, I'm heading for warmer climes in the shape of Egypt. As mentioned before you can follow my progress (perhaps sending assassins to find me en route by looking at the map and itinerary at the bottom of the page on Explore Worldwide's site.

This morning I will be trying to do as close to bugger all as makes no difference. This afternoon I'm helping my previous boss with Lotus Notes and introducing her to the concept of writing web pages. My first bit of advice will be "go on a course" followed by "go on some more courses" and then lastly that she should "write conformant HTML or suffer my wrath. Yea verily, although I be not in your part of the Institution any more I will make most strenuous efforts to get in your face and ruineth your day, should you not." I think this should make sure things go according to plan.

[10:50] Game of the Month is this laser game. WARNING! It's a monumental time-suck.

[15:55] Getting to the end of the working year for me now. I've been playing the laser game all morning and helping the old boss understand Lotus Notes and the fundamentals of HTML.

[17:20] And now the time has come to vanish from your screens for a few weeks. I leave you with the entire Journal to date and the upcoming British outlet of O'Really T-shirts at The Register very shortly. Comments, queries and/or praise will be replied to when I get back. Purchasing details should go to them. With luck the stuff should be there in time for the Rush. Otherwise there's something to spend your present money on in the new year. I'm off to sunnier climes and jeep treking/snorkeling in the Red Sea. The PFY's here for the next two weeks so you can stare at her. See you soon.

06/12/2001 (Retroactive)
[08:55 - 07/12/2001] Got up late, logged on, checked email. Waited around. The post arrived (with our traveller's cheques) at around 10:30. Wandered round to a friend's house, did some stuff and then went to the cinema. First up was the Bruce Willis film 'Bandits'. A moderately good film with some redeeming features. Unfortunately the 'twist' was telegraphed so badly/heavily that there was no shock at the end. For us at least. The other two people in the cinema might have been mildy suprised.

There was an hour before the next film we were seeing so we went shopping for the friend's girlfriend whose birthday it is today. Happy Birthday Helen. I bought her an X-piece Japanese dinner set from me and the girlfriend, it also being a Christmas present as well. Once that, and some other small purchases (like a PlayStation One) had been made (in a shop where the staff didn't know where the smart chip reader was on their card reader and refused advice claiming it was for memory cards (too much time spent in front of games consoles)) we headed back in to the cinema to watch Spy Game. Brad Pitt and Robert 'extremely craggy' Redford in moderately good form. By the time that was over it was about 17:30. We headed for work briefly to pick up previously purchased presents and then wandered back to the house to hide them.

I cycled home and people then arrived to watch Farscape (which is developing nicely now) before a few selected Stargate SG-1s.

05/12/2001
[16:00] I've spent the whole day working on preparing two new NT images for pushing out today and after Christmas when people no longer require one of the applications. Because of the weird and wonderful security settings I have on there there are some annoying pitfalls which actually make me want to move to Windows 2000 and then "on log off reset everything" security settings. Plud GPOs appear to make a little more sense, and have more in them by default. I'd imagine it's as easy to add new settings to them as it is with the ZAK, etc.

The PFY and I have also been working out what she needs to know while I'm away. This includes things ranging from virus warning on a workstation all the way to a powercut which kills the hard drives in all the servers.

[16:20] I'm not in tomorrow, mostly to have a good time and get into the spirit of actual holiday. I'll also be buying some decent rock sandals and other useful things for Egypt. We may spend the afternoon evening and night in the cinema, though.

04/12/2001
[09:45] Can I just point people at this Gary Larson fan who doesn't take his job too seriously.

[15:45] Fighting with install scripts and hotfixes all day. Not exciting, not fun.

[16:00] Although I am making progress now I understand the differences between binary values and strings in the Registry. That helped a lot. Also some odd but consistent behaviour to do with calling functions without arguments, even if they don't really need them.

[17:10] Well, I think I've solved things, for the moment. Everything 'works'. Now all I have to do is come up with a way of making it actually look like a nice solution, and seeing if there's a way to modularise it and package it up for other people. For the moment though, I'm going home.

03/12/2001
[10:40] First day of the new month and there was freezing fog out on the streets this morning. Which was nice. Also nice was the fact the PFY isn't here today so I can slack and do all the stuff that needs doing without having to think about allocating her tasks. Truth be told she's pretty independant now, which is useful. She gets an upgrade next year anyway, at which point she'll be a peer rather than a slave.

A whole slew of DVDs arrived this morning. Which is nice. Babylon 5 DVD (finally), Shrek two disk set, Toy Story and Toy Story 2 pack, Fifth Element (Superbit edition) and Roughnecks the Pluto Campaign (animated series called Starship Troopers). So I'm happy. Today's work will consist of hacking about with Iexpress-based hotfixes, the registry and Javascript. Which, should it all work correctly, could save this place over two thousand pounds on an off the shelf product. Of course, if it doesn't work I'll just go ahead and buy the thing anyway.

[14:30] Been fighting with Oracle's JInitiator this morning. I used to use 1.1.2.27 but for certain reasons we're to upgrade to 1.1.8.13 before the end of January to ensure that a Pentium 4 problem is circumvented. Naturally, when I tried to install the new version it all went a bit Pete Tong. Uninstalling and reinstalling both versions and Netscape didn't help. Now it appears to work some of the time, and not at others. Needless to say IE works all the time which is really annoying.

[14:40] Oh, in case anyone was wondering where I was going next week for sixteen days, you could take a look at this Explore Worldwide link for a detailed idea of what we'll be up to. Like I may have mentioned before I'll be keeping a journal on the trip with an actual pen and writing it up over Christmas.