Tuesday, 24 November 2015

It's time to move on!

We're taking a train south to Aswan today. I've been on overnight trains in China, Vietnam,Thailand and India...and this was probably one of the cleanest! I've always loved train rides, especially long journeys. When I left home for three months a few years ago to travel from China to Turkey by train, I was actually inspired by a girl's journey on the Trans-Siberian. I just love lying there, drinking, eating, reading, meeting the neighbors, looking at the scenery and falling asleep...

It took 13 hours; me and my mom slept pretty much the whole way.

Aswan is much more laid back than Cairo; it's nice to just walk along the Nile and enjoy the fresh air. We visited the famous Philae temple, which can only be accessed by boat. This temple was moved from one island to another because it was submerged when the high dam was built. It took 8 years to move the temple piece by piece to another island. Not only it has survived, but many people added their little piece of story to it. Early Christians that were persecuted by Romans hid in this temple and disfigured the pagan figures out of fear. We can also see the marks from people carving their names on the walls from thousand years ago.

Aswan is more famously known for its markets because it is considered the southern gateway to Africa. We went shopping at a local market. My mom is pretty bad at bargaining, and I really hate doing it. My best technique is simply walking away and they end up giving it to you for very cheap. We also noticed that many people wanted pictures with us. A police at the pyramids wanted a picture with us. Shopkeepers wanted pictures with us. It's a great way to break the ice with the locals. They say we look like sisters.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

You can't really say that you've seen the world unless you've seen Egypt. So, here I am!

I actually thought that Cairo looked pretty advanced; we didn't really get stared at on the streets and people have been very helpful so far...but my mom is shocked. She's not used to dusty and dirty streets, donkeys sharing the streets with cars, taxi drivers stopping right next to us to get our attention...

Honestly, people discouraged me to come here because there were some incidents in western desert resulting in the death of 12 people. However, these things can happen at anytime and in any place...I once went to Turkey the day after it got hit by a bomb. I was also in Paris a few weeks before the terrorist attack. You will never know when or where...and the reality is that the majority of people are good, and the press have been very unfair to Egypt! I really wish more people knew this.

Going to Egypt has always been a dream of mine...We visited the pyramids of Giza and even went inside one of them. It was quite fun going down those narrow tunnels, which were not ventilated and with limited light. I felt like I was in a movie.  These pyramids have stood the test of time, remaining largely the same for more than 4500 years. You can't help but just stand there and wonder how?! How did the Egyptians move those massive blocks of rocks across the desert? How did they pile those rocks up into a pile? How did they shape them in perfectly rectangular blocks?

Today was probably one of the best days of my life :)

Rome, day 3 and 4

Thursday, 19 November 2015

We spent the rest of our time in Rome shopping on Via del Corso and discovering little corners on a hop-on hop off bus...

We're going to Egypt tomorrow and I can't wait!

Rome, day 2

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The second day in Rome was entirely dedicated to the Vatican, haha. That place is huge!

We first went to St. Peter's Basilica. We took the stairs to go to the top; I think there were 551 steps in total according to Google. It was so narrow, steep, and hot that I had a moment of panic. Luckily, nobody in front of us was too slow, because it would be my nightmare to be stuck between those walls. At some places, we had to walk slightly "diagonally" (if you know what I mean), because of the curvature of the dome. Once at the top, we were able to look down on the crowd inside the Basilica and the amazing view of the city outside.

After that, we did the Vatican museum, it was very pretty and the amount of art was overwhelming. It was a pretty cool experience overall!

Rome, day 1

Monday, 16 November 2015

On the first day in Rome, we walked a lot...we went to the Colosseum and walked the whole area around. Just the usual. It's pretty compact here and the whole city looks like a museum. Here are some pictures...

As we walked home at dusk, we saw thousands of starlings wheeling over Rome. It's as if they were dancing across the sky in a beautiful pattern...kind of like a screensaver. I later read somewhere that it's a usual sight in Europe. It was just beautiful.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

So, I promised my mom that I will travel with her to Italy and Egypt...

My experience with her so far isn't what I expected. We have different traveling styles; I like to wake up late, eat breakfast slowly, visit one place or two, drink a coffee and maybe read something, stroll around and relax for the rest of the day. My mom apparently likes to wake up early, have breakfast in a hurry, visit tons of places and go back to sleep. It tires me to be honest...but I tell myself that I've been lucky enough to travel around the world, whereas my mom worked hard all her life and never really went I'm trying to be patient.

We went to Pompeii on the first day and visited Mount Vesuvius, since my mom has never been on an active volcano. It's a volcano that you can drive to the top or almost and walk the rest which takes 30 minutes.  It is known for the destruction and preservation of Pompeii in AD79. Pompeii was pretty intact when rediscovered in the 17th century, and it's really cool to see what it was like 2000 years ago. The excavation  has been going for 3 centuries, and a big part of it is still buried.

This is the second Roman ruins I've visited, but this one is much better preserved. You can still see the beds made of rocks, and signs that says "beware of dogs", fountains, water pipes, brothels and "sexy" paintings on the walls. It's pretty amazing!

Saddleback and Basin

Thursday, 12 November 2015

I never wrote about that 13-hour hike due to laziness, but here it is...

Last time we went hiking in the Adirondacks, we went for the loop of Saddleback and Basin which should've taken us 11 hours. It was very steep, but considered as the most beautiful and challenging trails in the region...and I completely agree. That hike ended up taking us 13-14 hours...

I brought my cousin, who is young, fit and loves climbing, Christina, who is fit as well, and Johnny who isn't so fit and did not sleep the night before. He couldn't follow us at a good pace so Christina stayed with him because she didn't want to leave him alone. Me and my cousin waited for them at every intersection because we didn't want them to get lost. At every intersection, we waited 20-30 minutes, which you might think isn't a lot, but that added up to two hours of waiting time.

Around 7PM, we arrived at an intersection with a stream, so we stopped to get water and to wait for them. It was getting dark and there were thunderstorms and light rain. We waited for a good half an hour before they arrived, and we started getting cold. At that point, there was still a little more than 11 km left. Me and my cousin thought it doesn't make sense to wait for them at the next intersection under the rain and in the dark, so we told them where to go and asked them to meet us at the car.

If you've ever been on a long hike, you'll know how demoralizing it is to hike with someone who is much slower or much faster than you, which is why we separated into 2 smaller groups. Shortly after we separated, the sky turned completely dark and the rain got heavier...which is quite scary because I've never hiked in such darkness before. We finally reached the car a little bit more than 2 hours later. I decided to drive to town to get some food while my cousin stayed there to wait for them.

When I started driving away on that small road, a police car stopped me. I was like...uh oh. He said that someone from Montreal called because he didn't get a safety call that he was supposed to get. I wondered who could that be, and it turned out that it was Christina's husband. I explained the situation to the police, and talked to the husband on the phone. The police was really helpful and suggested that I contact the rangers if I don't see them after an hour, which is time that should take them to come back. He also showed me the way to the closest place to get food. At that point, I started worrying for them because I forgot to ask them if they had a headlamp!

After buying food. I drove back to the mountain and luckily, Christina and Johnny, came back safe! Thank god.

I was really tired that day, and had to drive 2 hours to go back to Montreal. I remember how pissed I was at Johnny, climbing those steep rocks on the upper mountain, ascending Basin in the rain, running short of water, getting my slave-cousin to go get water in the stream, how scary it was during the last few seconds of sunlight, panicking but trying to remain calm, the smoke blurring our sights a little, coming across nocturnal animals, being scared of bears coming for us...but now looking back at it, it was so much fun and so many good memories!

It was definitely one of my most memorable hikes!

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