Gone Walkabout Gone Walkabout

Travelogues, articles, and photos by
Sean Connolly

Egypt (, Jordan, and Israel)

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[Only five months after I returned from my trip around the world, the nine-to-five routine became unbearable, and so I once again grabbed my backpack and went walkabout. I still had places left that I didn't manage to get to last time around, and so I decided to explore Egypt and Israel, plus throw in Petra just because I had people telling me from one end of the world to the other that it was worth it. (It was.) If I ever find an ISP that gives me unlimited disk space, I'll put some of the better pictures up here, but in the meantime, just a quick story from the road...]

16 May Airplane to Amsterdam
Just when you thought the traveller was gone forever. It begins again.

When I boarded the train on my way to New York, I was immediately in "travel mode." In New York, a helpful woman at Visitor's Information at Grand Central Station pointed me to the Egyptian Consulate and provided a free map. A quick subway ride, a few directions, and I was there. I was a bit nervous about whether or not I would get my visa on such short call, but $23 poorer and 10 minutes later, I was walking out with my visa. I wish they were all that simple... It was a cold, rainy day, and I was soaked to the skin. I felt completely out of place in my summer clothes when everyone else was bundled up. A stranger in his own land... When the time finally comes, I hopped a bus right outside Grand Central to the airport for $13. I easily caught my flight, and I was off.

It feels like I have entered a dream. I guess, somehow, I had given up hope that I would ever really travel again after my last trip around the world. Absurd, I know, but that's how it was. For the last four months, I've been back at the old grind, working long into the night most days. Now that I am here, I must make sure to appreciate all aspects, and not just let the time pass...

17 May Cairo airport E£3.91 = US$1, NG1.65 = US$1
Bit of excitement on the flight. Guy in business class becomes seriously ill, twitching and groaning away. Doctor that happened to be on board declared it an emergency and we had to land at Glasgow, Scotland. All during this, I'm talking with one of the stewardesses, learning Dutch. Very nice girl. She even flirts a little, which was fun.

Get to Amsterdam, friendly goodbye and to the airport. Got a little cash from an ATM, train into the city. Talking with Aussie guy. He highly recommends Siswa, other than the 19 hour ride there... Groan. Strange feeling being in Amsterdam again. Been 4 years almost to the day. Not much has changed, but I have. I felt comfortable strolling the streets. Blond, buxom beauties bouncing beautifully all around, many taller than myself. Ah, I like Dutch girls... Just wandered the streets without much purpose, I even knew my way around. Certainly better than in Philly or New York. Stumbled across the Internet Cafe. Hey, why not. So as I sat there typing merrily away for G2.50/20 minutes, I'm slowly getting high as well, because this place is also a coffee house. Gotta love it! Sent off a couple quick emails to Rebecca and Mom, then off for more walkabout until time to return to airport.

4 hour flight to Cairo, bit unpleasant with full flight and four, count them, 4 squalling kids who never shut up. Eventually do get there. Changed a bit of money, wait in the long queue for passport control. Then out the other side into a dark, dreary arrivals hall. A little pestering from transportation folk, but these guys are small time, and cause no stress.

Now, the long wait begins. Got through immigration at 1:30, must wait now until dawn to go into the city. Why not just go in tonight? Remember Singapore? Remember Bruxelles? Remember Paris? I'd rather wait 6 hours for the sun than wander the dark streets alone, trying to find a bed, or going with one of the touts to their scummy and overpriced place. At least I'm inside this time, unlike Bali... But now what do I do? Very tired. Yawn!

18 May Cairo
Eventually, the sun comes up, people start arriving, and the new day begins. Not at all impatient, but a bit tired. Took a quick look for the bus, but eventually just said hang it and grabbed a taxi for E£18 (with a bit of haggling). Cool driver, no English, but very friendly. And whacko! Most of the trip was going the wrong way down one way roads. Eek.

Got me to Ismalia House, they don't have a room yet (6:30), but wait and one will likely empty. So I sit some more until 10:00 when a single room clears. Wasn't sure of the standards in Egypt, but the place was good enough for me at E£20. Took a nice, long, hot shower - ah! Then slept the next five hours. Not enough sleep, but it did return me to the land of the living.

Out in the lounge chatting away with the usual mix of travellers. Strange to be back. Despite my travels, though, I do not fit in. The true traveller is a sensitive beast, it can detect the newcomer to its midst... Basically, I'm still too wound up from work, and worn out from the journey. Early bed.

19 May Cairo
Up early to check out the pyramids. Hotel does a thorough tour for E£15, and had considered it, but the last two items on the tour were a visit to a papyrus factory and a visit to a carpet shop. Uh huh. And you want me to pay for this? So instead, I traipsed out to the microbus station, just across the square. Haram? (Pyramids?) Na'am, haram! This way! 50piasotos later, guy pulls over, "haram?" Yes. Feyn? (Where?) He points and I look up to see the Great Pyramid towering over Giza city.

Pyramids at Giza, Egypt
15 minute or so walk later, I had met Micheau and ___ from Brazil. The three of us attacked the mammoth place. Student ticket for E£5. Wow. Very impressive. The sphinx was far smaller than I expected, but the pyramids themselves were incredible. We spent the next 4+ hours exploring the place. Camel drivers, horse drivers, postcard sellers, etc. annoy as expected, but very manageable. Most remained friendly even after we said no (for the 10th time). We walked all around the middle pyramid first.

We reached the smallest of the three large pyramids. A stairway goes up on the outside surface, then a long climb down a rather narrow, very steep, very hot shaft into the pyramid. Not for the claustrophobic! We followed this passage until we were deep within the pyramid, down into the burial chamber. For a moment, the three of us were alone with two other girls there. Both of them were standing motionless up against the wall, spread out with their arms braced on either side of them. Hm? The three of us looked at each other, shrugged, and joined them. Again, like in the Himalaya, I reached out to sense the flow. What? There was a very powerful feeling here. In Nepal, I was surprised at the brightness I felt, "bright sparks into the air" I believe I said. This time, again, I was surprised. Somehow, I had expected to feel something similar to the mountains, energy shooting upwards into the air. Instead, I found something completely different. Yes, I definitely felt energy here, but rather than being directed outwards, it was coming down. Not the oppressive weight of all that stone pressing in, though I did get that as well. The energy was flowing down and into the land around me. I could almost picture it moving through the pyramid and pouring into the sand and stone around me. I could also somehow feel the other pyramids, though I could not quite grasp them, nor did I get anything from them. Well, it surprised me, and I don't think I was alone, as we all continued to stand there, ignoring the tourist mobs who laughed, took pictures and ran on to the next sight. I never asked the others what they felt, it was just too weird, but as we finally moved to leave, they both had the same expression on their faces, one which I probably shared with them. A mixture of peace, power, and awareness. Hm.

After emerging into the blessedly cool (relatively) air outside, we proceeded to climb a nearby lookout point where all the tourist buses pulled up. There was a good view of the three big ones, and some of the smaller ones. Of course, the camel guys were there, and the junk sellers, etc. The other two decided to take a camel ride up to an even better viewpoint out in the desert. I passed, so they haggled the deal and moved out. I decided what the hell, I may as well walk out and check it out. I followed them for a few minutes, but then their driver, who had not been happy with the deal they did (E£5 each) changes his mind and turns off back towards the pyramids. I never heard the rest, as I was soon over the next dune, but the last I heard was them screaming at him to keep his deal. They never did make it up to the lookout. I did though, and got some good shots of all 9 pyramids. I later met them wandering back around an ancient graveyard, glum from their failed haggling.

Out last stop in Giza, of course, was the Great Pyramid. There were other sites to see, such as the Pharoah's Boat, but we decided it wasn't worth E£5, so we kept moving. Along the way, Michael stops to buy postcards from one kid. This shifty kid watched him open his wallet to pay. Immediately, he slapped his postcards down on top of the open wallet, pretending to show Michael some new card to buy. But as the kid moves them away, half of Michael's money is in his hand! Stupid Brazilian, he just yelled, took his money back, then proceeded to buy these postcards from the same kid! I would have slapped him one at the very least. Anyway, around the Great Pyramid to the entrance. E£5 more, and we're in. It was much larger inside than the small pyramid, but nothing too special. All the passages had to be maneuvered at a duckwalk, so it was hard work on the knees. Yikes! I got a different feeling here, almost as if something was interrupting the flow. There was nothing there. We explored a bit more, flirted with a Russian lady, and stumbled out, escaping from the Pharaoh's curse. We took one last wander back to the Sphinx for a closer look, and we were off.

Sorry to tease you with only the beginning of this trip, but the rest of this journal is lost to time. My notebook was dunked in the Red Sea about halfway through the trip, and I managed to salvage only this much. I never bothered to start a new one. Only memories and photos remain...

Petra, Jordan Western wall, Jerusalem, Israel
Petra Jerusalem

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