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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
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
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
[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
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.
[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.
[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,
[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
[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.
[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
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
[14:30] Been fighting with Oracle's JInitiator this morning. I used to use
126.96.36.199 but for certain reasons we're to upgrade to 188.8.131.52 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.