Thursday, September 1, 2016

POST36 - THE AFRICAN ACADEMY AWARDS (Last Post: The Best & Worst of Ungowa Africa 2016)

Africa Ungowa


Welcome to the FINAL POST (number 36) of the blog “Ungowa Africa 2016”!!!

I, amongst my family and friends simply cannot fathom how I survived 287 days (or 41 weeks or 9.5 months) of constant travel in a vast continent that is on the one hand unforgiving and the other hand highly rewarding. I survived the animals, the heat, the cold and some close-shave events involving people and natural phenomena. This post is dedicated to SUMMARISING for you, in five parts, this grand adventure by answering some time-honoured questions like “what was the highlight of your trip” or “what was your favourite country”. I have also included my favourite photos and some valuable people contacts, some truck improvement ideas and a “country ready reckoner” which helped me to differentiate the 30 countries and 1 territory that I visited in total. I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it so that I could capture the Africa that I experienced and bring it to your door step… This is John “Ungowa” Golfin signing off.

PS: The movie spectacular “Ungowa Africa 2016 - The Movie” will be in post production for the rest pf 2016 and will come to a cinema near you (namely my place or yours!) in early 2017. This blog will be updated with a link to the movie at as soon as the film is made and launched.


I travelled 38% of total days (109 of 287) and 50% of total distance (27,465 of 54,513km) by myself on 18 “solo” trips away from the truck.










1+) Best Overall Country: TANZANIA. It offers the broadest range of experiences: beaches of Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro, the Big 5 plus more wildlife and African iconic scenery of Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro. Culture of the Masai. I saw 60 species of wildlife in TANZANIA versus 45 in NAMIBIA.

1+-) Runner Up Country: NAMIBIA. It is the Sossusflei dunes and El Dorado food and hunting experience that did it. Not to mention the wall-to-wall desert scenery, Etosha National Park, Swakopmund town and skydiving that added to the resolute African experience.

1-) Worst Overall Country: WESTERN SAHARA. Poor cities, nothing to see, bland food, too hot.

2+) Best Wildlife Country: TANZANIA. Tarangire, Sergenti and Ngorongoro all have The Big 5 and we saw them in one drive!

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2-) Worst Wildlife Country: WESTERN SAHARA. No animals.

3+) Best Scenery Country: NAMIBIA. Namib Desert (Skeleton Coast), Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei Red Dunes.

3-) Worst Scenery Country: DRC. Constant rainforest - no variations, no waterfalls.

4+) Single most impressive scenery: The Limestone Chimneys of Lac Abbe in DJIBOUTI (Days 240-241).

5+) Best People Country: SENEGAL. Friendly smiling, waving people everywhere. 

5-) Worst People Country: CONGO. Police want money. Angry people. 

6+) Best Food/Culture Country: ETHIOPIA. 85 ethnic groups, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, many spicy dishes, humble people. 

6-) Worst Food/Culture Country: WESTERN SAHARA. Poor markets, bland food, no restaurants or street food. 

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7+) Best Infrastructure Country: SOUTH AFRICA. Well-kept roads, plenty of uninterrupted power, cleanest towns/cities, wifi everywhere. 

7-) Worst Infrastructure Country: GABON. Bad roads, lots of garbage, hard to find wifi, constant power outages.

8+) Most Up and Coming Country: ANGOLA. Helpful Police, tourist friendly, great coaches, Lubango.

9+) Biggest Surprise Country: RWANDA. Kigali very clean and modern in just 22yrs since genocide. Friendly people, organised.

10+) Best City: Cape Town SOUTH AFRICA (Days 156 to 160). Stunning backdrop, lots of things to do, great food, cheap, wines.

10-) Worst City: Nouakchott MAURITANIA  (Days 31 to 33). Dry, hot, dusty, dirty, nothing to see.


11+) Best Town: Chefchaouen MOROCCO (Days 5 to 6). On side of mountain, colourful, cosy, food.

11-) Worst Town: Bossou GUINEA (Day 48). Just a dirt road with lots of stalls and haphazard shack houses. Nothing to see or do.

12+) Best Bush Camp Site: Kinkon Waterfall GUINEA (Days 42 to 43, Christmas Eve & Day). Waterfall to wash in.

12-) Worst Bush Camp Site: Outside Rabat MOROCCO (Days 10 to 13). By roadside, cold, rained, no view.

13+) Best Facility Camp Site: Camping Azilan, Chefchaouen MOROCCO (Days 5 to 6). Nestled under pines, terrific WIFI, plenty of power, hot showers, clear mountain views, fresh air.

13-) Worst Facility Camp Site: Camping La Baie Ou Levrier, Nouadhibou MAURITANIA (Day 28). No space, no power, no WIFI, limited facilities, shit location.


14+) Best Upgrade Room: Mole Hotel, Mole National Park, GHANA (Day 63). Aircon, TV, fridge, private bath/shower/toilet overlooking elephants with swimming pool, bar and restaurant.

14-) Worst Upgrade Room: Stumble Inn, Elmina GHANA (Day 72). No aircon, no fan, no air, no light, no private facilities, can hear neighbours, single bed on door and milk crates.

15+) Best Solo Room: Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch ETHIOPIA (Day 244): superb views of Rift Valley, immaculate bures & restaurant traditional decor, excellent food.

15-) Worst Solo Room: Itegue Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa ETHIOPIA (Day 243): flooded toilet/shower with no taps, no water in basin, musty room, old blankets, poor condition building.

16+) Favourite Hostel: Arusha Backpackers, Arusha TANZANIA (Days 212, 215-217, 222). Cheapest single room (USD12) compared to dorm (USD10), very hot high flow showers, good internet, rooftop bar and restaurant with views, simple brekkie included, central location.

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17+) Best Night: Bush Camp Kinkon Waterfall GUINEA, Christmas Day (Day 43). Washed in waterfall, ate BBQ chicken dinner, danced until 1am.

17-) Worst Night: Camping/Hotel “Chez Alice”, 17km east of Lome TOGO (Day 80), hot, humid and no moving air - hardly slept in tent, tried to sleep outside under restaurant fan but mozzies would not give up...

18+) Best Run: Deadflei and the ochre dunes of Sossusflei NAMIBIA (Day 165): enormous red mountainous dune with a eerie yellow dead lake in the middle full of dried-out dead tree stumps.


18-) Worst Run: Bush Camp outside Rabat MOROCCO (Day 11). Cold and damp, nothing to see.

19+) Best Truck Dish: Foil Grilled Fish & Rice (Bush Camp near El Mhaijrat MAURITANIA, Day 31). Bought fresh from fishermen same day and lots of it. Close second if not equal first: Grilled Kudu & Salads (Bush Camp at Mowami Mountain NAMIBIA, Day 139). So lean and tender that you could eat it raw. Wonderful texture.

20-) Worst Truck Dish: Fried Spam with Powdered Mash (Bush Camp 10km south of Tianguel-Bori SENEGAL, Day 41). 99% fat & salt.

21+) Best Off-Truck Dish: Traditional Afrikaans Vegetarian (Day 166, Hostel “El Dorado Game Farm”, Etosha NAMIBIA).


21-) Worst Off-Truck Dish: Three pieces of roasted chicken that had little meat and that I could hardly chew at AUD15. A complete sham and rip-off in Mbeya TANZANIA (Day 207).

22+) Best Restaurant Experience: “Ben Abeba", Lalibela ETHIOPIA (Day 258, Beef and Vegetable Bayenetu with Rift Valley Chardonnay in an architectural masterpiece perched on a mountain top surrounded by valleys, peaks and clouds.

22-) Worst Restaurant Experience: Falling in the drain and then having rubbery tough chicken at a street restaurant in Kumasi GHANA (Day 65).23-) Most bush camp nights in a row without washing: 6 through all of IVORY COAST and start of GHANA (Days 57 to 62).


23+) Most nights in one location: 8 nights at Camping/Hotel "Big Milly's Backyard", Kokrobite (30km west of Accra) (Days 67 to 70 and 73 to 76).

24+) Most number of days in a row without rain: 54 from Day 55 to Day 109.

25-) Longest drive: SOLO5: 799km from Swakopmund to Okukeujo Resort Etosha National Park NAMIBIA (Day 143). ON TRUCK: 442km from Tarfaya MOROCCO to Boujdour WESTERN SAHARA (Day 26).

26-) Longest single day kilometres travelled: SOLO9: 1,207km from “Croc Valley Camp”, South Luanga National Park ZAMBIA to “Antelope Game Park”, 12km east of Gweru ZIMBABWE (Day 190): 32km (30min) to Mfuwe Airport, 70min (470km) flight to Lusaka, 45min (413km) flight to Harare, a 4.5hr (280km) bus drive to Gweru and a 30min (12km) car transfer to the Antelope Park.

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26-) Shortest Stay Country: MOZAMBIQUE = 1 night (Day 201).

26+) Longest Stay Country: NAMIBIA = 29 nights (Days 136 to 150 and Days 162 to 175).

27-) Longest Solo Bus Drive: 15.5hrs to drive 652km from Nairobi KENYA to Kampala UGANDA on "Easy Coach” (Day 225).

28+) Best (favourite) animal: Male African Lion.

28-) Worst (least liked) animal: Common Warthog.

29+) Best Experience (Highlight): Two hours with Professor (Sir) Victor Uwaifo (MON, JP) in his home and singing with him in his Chapel in Benin City NIGERIA (Day 93).

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29-) Worst Experience (Lowlight): Almost drowning in Rapid Number 3 (“The Bad Place”) during rafting down the Nile River in UGANDA (Day 235).

29+-) Runner Up Experiences (in order of merit):

Sleeping outside the Ura Kidhane Mihret Monastery and attending the Liturgical Feast Day of St Betre Mariam in the adjacent monastery of the same name. (Days 254-255)

Hunting Impala at Eldorado Game Park near Etosha in NAMIBIA (Day 168)

Skydiving in Swakopmund NAMIBIA (Day 142)

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Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park RWANDA (Day 230)

Solo 5 to Etosha, our own car, close to animals, BBQ game meat every night (Days 143-146)

Day-visit to the village of Agome Sevah, 80km NE of Lome TOGO, (Day 84). Intimate experience of local village life and the benefits of the “Dekamile Project” founded by Mandy & Rod Unger from the UK

“The Elephant Circus Show” at Halali in Etosha National Park NAMIBIA (Day 137)

2hr Morning Elephant Trek in Mole National Park GHANA (Day 64)

Todra Gorge Trek and tea with the nomads (Day 20). Blue sky, perfect temp, unreal views, intimate contact.



1) Alpha OUMAR, Station Manager, Pita GUINEA who let us use his mobile hot spot: +224622620809

2) Dr Aly Gaspard SOUMAH, Bossou GUINEA, Director of the Institute of Environmental Research specialising in Chimpanzees:, +224622259829

3) Dethanou (Nounou) LOKOSSOU, Secretary General, Projet DEKAMILE,, +22891925510, +22822278889

4) Chief (Mrs) Nike OKUNDAYE, Founder/CEO, Nike Art Gallery Ltd and Foundation,, +2348034096656


5) Professor (Sir) Victor Efosa Uwaifo (MON, JP), Musician, Founder/CEO, The Revelation Palazzo Museum,,,, +2348034061495, +23423376521, +2347055688880

6) Benjamin (Ben) JAYIN JOMI, Tourist Manager, Limbe CAMEROON,, +237677246105

7) Sonia NUNES, Manager, Mirangolo Hotel, Lubango ANGOLA,, +244936807947

8) Wessel VAN WYKE, Phillipe, Staff, Swakopmund Car Hire, 6 Deluis Street Windhoek NAMIBIA,, +264811248606

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9) Dr K G SMITH, Dentist, 27th Floor, ABSA Centre, 2 Riebeek Street Cape Town SOUTH AFRICA,, +27214216804

10) Adri and Hanel PIENAAR, Address: Farm Eldorado, Outfo District, 10km south of Andersson Gate of Etosha National Park near Okaukuejo, GPS: S19d41m29s E15d93m49s, Cell: 081 302 2290, Tel: 067 33 3421, Email:

11) Joy MOYO, Manager Sales & Overlands, Address: Backpackers Bazaar, Victoria Falls, ZIMBABWE, Phone: +263 13 45828, Mobile: +263 77 3 930 244  or +263 712 404 960, E-mail:, Skype: joymoyo, Website:

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12) Norman & Christine BOURNE, Owner Mangers, Black Rhino Safaris, 43a Napier Street Hillsdale Bulawayo ZIMBABWE, Phone: +263 9 243987, Mobile: +263 712 221 284, +263 773 288 946, Email:, Website:, Took me on day-long safari of the Matobo NP incl Cecil grave, Rock Painting & lunch for USD100.

13) Masiya’s brother Sudza Mobile +263 773 376 259 took me to Khami Ruins for 1hr and back for USD30.

14) Abdulla M KHALFAN, Managing Director of Twiga Tours & Safaris, Stone Town Zanzibar, Mobile: +255 713 321 374 or 762 439 594, Email:,


15) Peter CHARLES, Managing Director, Bestday Safaris Ltd, Address: Zaramo Street, Near Main Bus Stand, Namvua Plaza, 2nd Floor, Room No.320, P.O.Box 16883, Arusha, Mobile: +255 767 130448 or +255 713 130448 or +255 784 130448, Email:, Website:

16) Dr Alfred MULEE, Physiotherapist, Address: Level 9, Ecobank Building, Muindi Mbingu Street, Nairobi, KENYA, Mobile: +254 712 109 886

17) Dr Adrian, Physiotherapist, Address: Kamwokya Street, next to Kanjokya House, Kampala UGANDA, Mobiles: +256 782 303 633, +256 701 078 119, Email:


18) Paul M MUIRURI, Managing Director, CLARION Tours and Travel Agency, Belphar House, 1st Floor Door No 17, Kenyatta Avenue off Court Road, Phone: +254 051 221 7500, Mobile: +254 713 287 563, Email: clarion, Website: clarion Organised Lake Nakuru safari on 7JUL16 and took me to physio and back to camp

19) Daniel JEAN, BAMBU Service Touristik, Mobile: +253 77 879120, Email: Organised Package in Djibouti

20) Natnael (Baba) HAILU, Owner Tana Hotel Harar ETHIOPIA, Mobile: + (0)921 160 033, Email:, helped me book flight from Dira Dawa to Addis Ababa by phone when internet was blocked

21) Olisarali OLIBU, Son of Mursi Chief of Butinya Village, Lower Omo Valley ETHIOPIA, Email:, Film website:, hosted our visit and gave interview on 15JUL16

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22) Mehari NEGA, Aksum Guide, Mobile: +251 920 040 855, Email:

23) Midhat MAHIR, Founder/CEO Mashansharti Travel, Mobile: +249 9 1225 3484, Emial:, Website:


1) BUNK BEDS: replace all seats with double bunks, right up to the beach. May carry less but cost could be the same if both Andi and Grant (for example) could both share driving allowing extra time in evening or night driving resulting in less total time for the whole trip and eliminating cost of tents.

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2) SOLAR CELLS: cover the hard roof with solar cells with protective perspex on top for passing branches to enable power during engine off times.

3) A REAL FRIDGE: install a fridge under the floor in the middle of the truck to cool drinks, meat and dairy (including emergency rations). Solar cells and engine could power fridge.

4) SATELLITE LOCATOR: carry a satellite phone for emergencies that emits constant locating signal and allows text messages only - one of our American passengers carried this - it only cost him $200USD with a $20/mth plan and is internationally available.

5) RAINWATER SHOWER: Install a rainwater tank around the edges of the truck to be heated by the solar cells that allows time constrained hot showers when in the bush or for emergency drinking water.

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6) PLASTIC CONTAINERS: Supply one square-shaped plastic container per person to fit in the overhead space above every person’s seat. Place snacks and other small items in here for easy access and use container for showering and washing at places with water but no taps or basins. Also prevents personal items from moving.

7) DRINK BOTTLE HOLDERS: Supply one bracket per person underneath the front of every seat to hold each person’s drink bottle. Easy access and prevents loss or rolling around.

PART 5 - THE COUNTRY READY-RECKONER: Here is how I quickly differentiated the many countries that I visited in Africa (key standouts).

1A) MOROCCO (No 2): narrow old Medina’s, tarjines, eggplant, herbs & prices, “Marjan” supermarkets, Atlas mountains, Todre Gorge.


1B) WESTERN SAHARA: strict Muslim, no booze, hot during day, cold at night, dry, sandy, desert meets Atlantic, starchy food.

2) MAURITANIA: lots of sand dunes but aqua green Atlantic coast with beach solution, very poor, run down cities, okra, no booze.

3) SENEGAL: best baguettes, lots of water melon, Saint Louis fishing culture, smiliest, friendliest people.

4) GUINEA: very poor, simple foods, lots of plantains, lots of bush camping, bad dusty roads, stacked up cars with people on top. 

5) MALI: rocky ridge formations, better services than expected, crazy Bamako capital.

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6) IVORY COAST: cassava, humidity, St Peter’s Basilica Replica.

7) GHANA: English, booming towns, sliced bread, palm wine, Fan Ice, South African wine, “hermata” Sahara haze.

8) TOGO: fetish and voodoo, coloured floor tiles and ornate gates, huge container terminal Lome, Fan Milk, batik & wax prints.

9) BENIN: invented voodoo, slave capital (Ouidan), villages on lakes, breezy Atlantic coast, Fan Yogo, lots of palm spirit.

10) NIGERIA: oil, art, crafts, peppery food, biggest economy & population, crazy drivers, palm oil, kissing sounds, Fela Kuti, Victor Uwaifo.

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11) CAMEROON (No 3): dual English & French speaking, millions of tiny flies, Mt Cameroon climb, Campo gorillas, Ben, Wilfred & Pierre!

12) GABON: roadside police checks, strict French, Libreville ministry buildings & promenade.

13) CONGO: two bad police encounters in Pointe Noire, Nescafe street wagons, calm quiet compact Brazzaville.

14) DRC: photography paranoia, noisy busy polluted Kinshasa, police wanting money, tasty tender beer skewers, huge meaty avocados.

15) ANGOLA: best promenade Luanda, friendly police, Serra da Leba winding road, way cheaper than expected.

16) NAMIBIA (No 1): Etosha wildlife, Namib Desert, Skeleton Coast, cheap game meat (kudu fillets raw), Swakopmund, skydive, Sossusflei, Deadflei, Spitzkoppe.


17) SOUTH AFRICA: wineries, Cape Town, Hermanus, Table Mountain, shark cage diving, most modern, Shoprite Supermarkets

18) BOTSWANA: donkeys, beef/steaks, the most elephants, Choppies Supermarkets, Government spends most on Education, Okavango Delta, Chobe River.

19) ZIMBABWE: Vic Falls, US dollars, Antelope Park, Chimanimani Ranges, Bulawayo & Matobo NP & Cecil Rhodes, no change.

20) ZAMBIA: Copper, Maize, Canoe Safaris, Lusaka Malls, hippo heaven, ZAMBEEF, expensive hire cars, Swahili - Ungowa.

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21) MOZAMBIQUE: Tete Corridor, cashews, transit - one night only.

22) MALAWI: Lakeside camp sites, swim, calf injury, chook buses, no tourist offering Lilongwe.

23) TANZANIA: Arab/Swahili, Masai, Kili, "Jambo Jambo", “Hakuna Matata", Serengeti, Ngorongoro Caldera.

24) KENYA: Coffee, Matutu (share bus), Nairobi traffic, Masai Mara, Al-Shabab attacks, animated people, roast chicken.

25) UGANDA: Boda Boda (motorbike taxi), Buganda Kingdom, Amin/Obote atrocities, Banana and Honey beer!


26) RWANDA: Clean Kigali, Volcanoes and Gorillas, lush tropical valleys, The Genocide.

27) DJIBOUTI: Hot and looks like Arabic peninsula, Lac Abbe limestone chimneys, cinnamon tea.

28) ETHIOPIA: Chat (leaves), coffee, injera, gasps/back breath, Orthodox, no receipt/no pay, fasting menus, bayenetu.

29) SUDAN: Hot & humid, Nubian antiquity, snuff, Travel & Photo License, Alien Registration, whole BBQ chickens.

30) EGYPT: Dry hot heat, kafta, Kartoush (ancient Egyptian version of a “dog tag”), "welcome friend to Egypt”.



END OF BLOG: This is John “Ungowa” Golfin signing off Houston...

Friday, August 26, 2016

POST35 SOLO18 - TRIUMPHANT ENTRY (EGYPT): Days 280-287 of 287, 18-25AUG16, 1,812km to total 54,513km, Luxor to Cairo EGYPT (Country 30)

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9 PLACES VISITED: 1) Hurghada, 2) Cairo, 3) Giza, 4) Saqqara, 5) Memphis, 6) Alexandria, 7) Tal Basta (Bubastis), 8) San El-Hagar (Tanis), 9) Suez Canal at Ismalia.

8 OVERNIGHTS: 1-2) Room at the “4 Seasons Hotel”, Hurghada, 3) Room at the “Havana Hotel”, Cairo, 4-8) Room at the “La Luna Hotel”, Cairo.

3 RUNS: Hurghada, Cairo (2)

1 SWIM: Red Sea (Hurghada).

13 ANTIQUITIES VISITED: 1) Egyptian Museum (Cairo), 2) The Great Pyramid of Cheops (Giza), 3) The Pyramid of Mekrenus (Giza), 4) The Pyramid of Chephren (Giza), 5) The Sphinx (Giza), 6) The Step Pyramid of King Zoser (Saqqara), 7) The Temple of Ra (Saqqara),. 8) The Sphinx of Memphis, 9) The Great Statue of Ramses II (Memphis), 10) Kom El-Shuqafa Monuments / Catacombs (Alexandria), 11) The Serapeum and Pompey’s Pillar, (Alexandria), 12) Tell Basta Complex, Bastet Temple (Tal Basta), 13) San El-Hagar Temple & Tombs (San El-Hagar).

GRAND TOTAL KILOMETRES TRAVELLED: 54,513km (The truck itself travelled 41,646km).

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Welcome to the SECOND LAST blog post of “Ungowa Africa 2016”!!! This post officially ends the itinerary of my journey but Post 36 that follows will be the last post and its purpose is to summarise this epic adventure by listing the “best” and “worst” of my trip in over 20 categories. It will be called “The African Academy Awards” and feature my favourite photos.

This post completes the recording of all 287 days of my Ungowa journey - 41 weeks or 9.5 months. I cannot believe I have made it - riding triumphantly into Cairo on 20 August 2016 at 2:37pm. It was an amazing feeling and very reflective. One of the greatest achievements of my life. The most time I had been away from home and easily the “hardest” trip ever undertaken. This post takes you from Luxor to Cairo via the resort city of Hurghada on the Red Sea and covers my 5 day stay in Cairo including day trips to The Pyramids of Giza, Alexandria and the Suez Canal. My last day and night with the truck and the Oasis group was on Saturday 20 August 2016 and the period from 21 to 25 August inclusive is officially covered by my last Solo Trip - Number 18. These solo trips have been the highlight of my experience and proven to me that I can travel the rest of the world alone. I am now “Africa trained”!!! It is a major achievement.


All together, 30 different passengers from 14 countries travelled on the truck, not including the 3 crew (one was a trainee for a short time). Of the 22 that started with the truck in Gibraltar only 10 were originally bound for Cairo and only 6 completed the entire trip in Cairo. Only 6 people, including me. I was in Africa itself for a total of 285 days because the first two were spent in Gibraltar. I would spend another 14 nights in Greece and 1 on the aircraft travelling back to Australia - this makes a grand total of 302 days (or 43 weeks or 10 months) away from Australia from 13 November 2015 to 10 September 2016 - a record for me. This blog post begins with a two day rest in the city of Hurghada on the Red Sea.


This place is home to 500,000 people and probably another 500,000 of tourists! It was discovered due to a very colourful deposit of coral nearby and became an internationally renowned spot for diving and snorkelling. Nowadays it is an “all-inclusive” package holiday destination for fat Russians. It is the “Benidorm” of England in Spain. I have never seen so many apartment block in one place. Most of them were half-built, a sign of our “terrorist times” with so many attacks and demonstrations in EGYPT affecting tourism in a major way. I managed a run and swim in Hurghada and it was always my dream to do a proper swim of the Red Sea. I was now complete. Only Cairo to go. Riza and I also met two young tourism entrepreneurs who showed us around the Hurghada Marina and helped us find 2kg of fresh fish to BBQ and enjoy from their roof top terrace overlooking the playground of rich Europeans or Saudis looking for wine, women and weed!


At precisely 2:37pm on Saturday 20 August 2016 I rode triumphantly into Cairo sitting in the “Vit memorial seat” on the truck and grinning from ear to ear. It was a wonderful moment of victory and satisfaction. I had made it. Cairo was huge and at first very ugly. Thousands of huge neglected and dirty apartment blocks as far as the eye could see. The main highway or ring road coming in was elevated and it reminded me of a very old version of Shanghai only more crowded. There was traffic and rubbish everywhere and it was very smoggy and hot. Cairo and its suburbs has 26 million people - more than the population of Australia. Just how things operate here in any manner of order is overwhelming. Where does all that sewage go? It is only later, during my five day solo in Cairo after the truck did I see the cultural side of Cairo that I really liked.


It is a classic city with a pulse. Lots of European influence, especially French, in its huge grand old buildings - large shutters, balconies, high ceilings, creaky wooden floors. Egyptians love to come out after sunset and just stroll down the main boulevards giving the place life and spirit. The day after I left the truck I visited the Egyptian Museum which has 120,000 items of antiquity on display. If you spend just 10sec looking at each one, it will take you 333hrs to conclude your visit! The objects are fabulous but they are not laid out well. The building is grand but very old and there is a new museum being built next to the Giza Pyramids to take over from this one - a page out of the Acropolis Museum idea - it should be terrific. The highlight of the museum is the complete collection of items from the tomb of Tutankhamun and the 12 royal mummies of Kings & Queens. 5,000 items were pulled out of the young King’s tomb which was never touched. (PHOTO BELOW LEFT: My illegal photo of the 11kg solid gold death mask of Tutankhamun taken from across the museum into a glass room at 60 optical zoom).

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You can see his throne, bed, gold thongs and of course his 11kg solid gold death mask which is probably the most recognised object globally and a symbol of Ancient Egypt. The 12 mummies average 3,400 years old each and are remarkably well preserved. You can see hair, lips, eye lashes and even ears.

Most are very dark in colour. It is strange to see the huge pyramids and temples and tombs dedicated to these pharaohs then to actually see their real bodies in this one place. All that for 12 people. On the evening after my visit to the Egyptian Museum I was introduced to the Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza in light and sound show on site. It was a great way to see them for the first time - a tear came into my eye as I laid eyes on them for the first time. It was almost mystical and I felt I was in another world. A world long since gone but still making its presence felt. The light show could have been better - more light and brighter. The narration was good and told the story of the pharaohs and the gods of Giza in the form a factual fairy tale. The next day I saw them in the hot light of day. Three large pyramids for father, son and grandson pharaohs. They are not the oldest but the Great Pyramid is the biggest in the world and one of the seven wonders of the world. The Great Pyramid was much bigger than I expected but the Sphinx was much smaller. The Great Pyramid reaches 131m and is 3.2km around the base.


It was built from 3 million blocks each weighing between 2 and 3.2 metric tons. It is an amazing structure up close. I visited the there main pyramids and walked around them. I also climbed inside The Great Pyramid of Cheops to the burial chamber. It takes 10min and it is very cool inside. There are no hieroglyphs or statues. It is very plain. The passages at one point are very small and you almost have to crawl through. The actual burial chamber is a decent is with a very high ceiling - only the outer grant sarcophagus bottom exists. I then went for a camel ride from a place called “The Panoramic Viewpoint”. From here you can see all three pyramids in a row plus three of the smaller pyramids built for the pharaohs wives. The camel ride took me out to the desert where all 9 pyramids are visible in one row. It was the camel ride of my life. In comic proportions.


My 60-something camel driver decided to answer his mobile phone with both hands and dropped the reigns to his camel with me on top. The camel realised he was free and went for it! Started galloping away with his master yelling and shouting behind. He had no chance of catching this animal. In the meantime my balls were being crushed since a camel gallop is nothing like a horse gallop - you fly up in the air ad come thumping down. Eventually the animal slowed due to the slope and heat and headed back tot he other camels at camp almost as if under a radar. The other camel drivers came running and the other tourists just took photos of me alone on my camel that refused to be handled. Eventually a young guy dived on the dragging rope and rolled in the bucking animal. This was the highlight of my day.


I also visited the oldest pyramid in a place called Saqqara which is stepped. I ended the day in Memphis the ancient capital of EGYPT from 3100-1700BC. There is not much left there except a giant statue of Ramses II lying on his back like the sleeping Buddha of Bangkok. I did a day trip to Alexandria and a day trip to the Suez Canal. Read all about these in Day 285 and Day 286 respectively. Alexandria is also quite grand with huge old French style buildings on a fabulous harbour overlooking the blue Mediterranean. The Suez Canal was fantastic - so deep and long.


I could not believe that my mum and dad passed through here 60 plus years ago on the way to a new home - Australia. It was something I had to do and see with my own eyes. It took 10yrs to build and I earned that construction was started by farmers using pick axes and not machinery until much later. The canal is 193km long but saves 7000km of sailing around the bottom of Africa. I saw the canal in Ismalia and it was approx 500m across. My last day in Cairo, EGYPT and Africa was spent walking the city sites of Cairo, in the Muslim district. The highlight was a place called the “Citadel of Salah Al Din” which is high up and has commanding vies of the city. It is also the biggest Islamic fortress in the world with a huge Mosque inside.


I visited another 3 mosques and ended up in a huge market called “Khan al-Khalili” with a billion souvenirs - none of which I liked! I completed my last day in Africa with a haircut and a sumptuous picnic dinner watching Raiders of the Lost Ark because it is based on “Tanis”, a city I visited yesterday. By 3pm I was packed and ready to go. Ungowa Africa 2016 would be officially over tomorrow at 8:15am when my Egypt Air flight takes off for Athens. I remember turning out the light after my movie and thinking - isn’t it amazing that a massive 287 day adventure actually has an ending and it is as easy as flicking a light switch off… Ungowa was done!


SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Please stay tuned to Post 36 - the LAST POST after this one that SUMMARISES the highlights of my trip and the best and worst moments of my trip over several categories.

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DAY 280 of 287, Thu 18AUG16, 289km, Room at the “Nile Valley Hotel”, West Bank, Luxor (Elev 73m) to Room at the “4 Seasons Hotel”, Hurghada EGYPT. It was sad leaving Luxor. This is one place I could come back to, despite the heat. The cruise, the sites, the river, the relaxation was terrific. But another side of me was glad to leave because it meant getting to Cairo and to the end of my journey. I was ready for it. The antiquities of Abu Simbel, Aswan and Luxor had prepared thoroughly for my photo and film shoots of the antiquities of Cairo - especially Giza. The truck left Luxor at 7:30am passing the main valleys and then swinging east to head towards the Red Sea. As expected, once we left the vicinity of the Nile, there was nothing but desolation, rocky hills, sand and not a single piece of green in sight! This continued for many hours whilst I finalised Post 34. It was one of the toughest posts to put together because of the richness in information and the huge volume of photos. It weasels hard remembering one temple from the other. 

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It was my intention to relax in Hurghada, especially ahead of 5 days in Cairo in 40+C heat! Hurghada is the "Benidorm” of EGYPT for the Russians! Just like the English swamp the coastal concrete jungle resorts of Benidorm city on the Mediterranean of coastal SPAIN with their “all-inclusive” pool and buffet package holidays, so too the Russians do the same with Hurghada on the Red Sea of coastal EGYPT. The only thing going for Hurghada is the colourful coral and diving/snorkelling off the coast - which started it all but was never regulated. The place is now overrun with concrete towers and fat Russians. The other reason for heading to Hurghada is to avoid the more dangerous road that straddles the Nile River from Luxor to Cairo - this has been a target for tourists for a long time. The Red Sea coastal road is apparently more secure and less travelled. The ride on the truck was not as hot as I expected. The wind was dry and the absence of humidity made it very bearable. We were surrounded on both sides by mounds of beige rock. Could not see a horizon for a while.

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Then it came. A bright blue line in the distance. It was the historic Red Sea. It opened up into a turquoise ocean with blue bands. Very tropical. Very beautiful. Not red at all!!! I never thought I would see the day that my eyes would see the Red Sea. This is the sea that my mum and dad had sailed down in the early fifties on their way to a new land, right past the point I first gazed on it. Amazing. Here I was gazing on history. Hurghada (Pop 500,000) soon emerged. You could tell. Apartment block after apartment block. All low-rise, no taller than 5 or 6 levels but enormous in size - big square blocks, one next that other for miles. Most were semi-built. My immediate thought was that the banks of Egypt and Russia must own a shit-load of property here due to the foreclosures caused by the collapse of tourism. This city was originally founded for the beautiful coral in the area and a whole diving/snorkelling industry sprouted as a result. Eventually this was overtaken by “package” tourism. First the Cairenes, then the Saudis and now the Russians.

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The explosion of construction was fed by the Russians and the view that they could not get enough - but they stopped coming once the tourist attacks, plane crashes and bombings started. I had never seen so many apartment block in one place before. Eventually we came to what looked like a centre, with its mosque and market and pulled up at our hotel not that far from the water - you could see it in the distance. The time was 12:30pm and it very hot. I settled into my room and decided to go for a quick scout to find my local shop for supplies and to check out the coast and where I would swim the Red Sea. There were small family run mini-markets everywhere - no big supermarkets except in the Russian malls. The Red Sea was very colourful, very clear and very warm. It would be a great swim. By 2pm I was back in my room and decided to watch a movie and relax. Good move. Had a snooze along the way which put me in a great mood for drinks and dinner later that night. I was excited to know that we had rooms until Cairo. Met Riza in the arvo and we enjoyed some fresh cheese with some giant olives I had bagged in Aswan and the wine flowed. We all had dinner together at a cafe next to the hotel and enjoyed fish and calamari washed down by the local STELLA Lager. It was a relaxing night and most people were looking forward to Cairo. Another early sleep given the 5:30am rise for a run the following day. Today was the 280th day I was away from home and given Greece I would get to 302 days away from home by the time I left Greece to fly home on Friday 9 September. Amazing stats.


DAY 281 of 287, Fri 19AUG16, 0km, Room at the “4 Seasons Hotel”, Hurghada EGYPT. Today was a day of reflection and relaxation. I reflected as a ran the deserted streets of Hurghada, thinking “How did I get here? How did I make it to the end?” Only two nights to go and I would leave the truck for ever and be on the downhill run of Solo 18 to the end of Africa Ungowa 2016. It was hard to fathom but very welcome. I was tired. And this is where the “relaxation” objective came into play. The run was tough because I continued to cough out the flem in my lungs. I thought I could beat it in a couple of days but it was persisting - my theory was that the constant aircon of the last two weeks was the culprit. In any case I soldiered on and made it back for a cool shower and prepped for my walk of the town. There is not much in downtown Hurghada.

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I visited the Grand Mosque and the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Shenouda which was near the end of a morning Liturgy (Mass), probably in connection with the feast of the Formation of the Virgin Mary. The church was full and very nice inside. I counted 5 priests officiating plus a host of Deacons and Altar Boys. The appearance of the Mass is a mixture of Greek Orthodox and Catholic. The Coptic Priest wears the oval shaped Cardinals hat and Holy Communion is served up in the Catholic way - wafer and chalice. This is probably one of the major differences between Coptic and Greek/Russian in that the Coptics believe that wafer and wine REPRESENT Christ’s Body and Blood whilst the Greek/Russian state that it ACTUALLY IS Christ’s Body and Blood in a mystical manner that is inexplicable and incomprehensible - this is why the Greek/Russian priest cannot touch the bread and wine with their hands and why it is served from a chalice directly into the mouths of the faithful. No one can touch the Holy Gifts and disease cannot be spread from them. After church I wondered through the streets looking for the public beach which I had seen in google maps but got lost. None of the taxi drivers knew where my hotel was because it was a dump and not popular. So I wised up and told the third driver to take me back to the Cathedral because I knew my way to the hotel from there. It worked. I continued to the coast and photographed the Red Sea. Nice.

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Back at the hotel before noon and read an email from Riza advising me that she had discovered “Hurghada Marina” and a fresh fish market nearby. I googled earth the place and it looked great for visiting and swimming so I put on my cozzies and off I went. I met Riza near cafe and she introduced me to Ahmed, the owner. We got talking and he invited us to meet his business partner. We walked to his unit in the marina complex. This is an 8 year old development that features a central marina full of huge expensive cruisers and surrounded by low-rise apartments with huge touristy restaurants and bars at their base. It was very colourful and about 2km from one end to the other. Most apartments and boats belong to Europeans who holiday here instead of putting up with expensive Mediterranean based mariners. French, Italian, German and Dutch are the key members. We met Hassan, a young Lebanese guy who has been working in the tourism industry with Ahmed in EGYPT for the past year. He explained to us that small business in Lebanon is hard to set up and there is still not enough tourists and too much corruption amongst the bigger players to make it worthwhile.

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He and Ahmed confirmed that the Egyptian tourist trade has also been hit hard, especially by the demonstrations and bombs in Cairo and the recent Egypt Air plane crash which is suspected to be caused by terrorists. It has started to pick up in the last few weeks with some Arabs visiting from Saudi but still has a lot of recovery left. The Saudis will visit no matter what because they are looking for what they cannot get in their own country - women, wine and weed!!! We also met Hassan’s over-enthusiastic dogs - a giant one year old female German Shepard called “Paris” and a little stray Jack Russell called “Jack”. Surprisingly the dogs took to me quickly and calmed down. We then made plans to go to the beach next to the complex and then come back to eat some fresh fish from the market. Riza planted herself with other sunbathers on the very small beach next to the complex but I plonked myself into the coast and swam from hotel to hotel, private beach to private beach. The water was very salty so buoyancy was not an issue. The view below was better than I expected. Multi-colour coral, many fish and even sea urchins. The coastal slope fell away sharply into very deep blue water just next to me. Awesome feeling, like flying above the slope of huge mountain that just disappears below you.

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There was a bit of chop on the way back but I managed 1.6km and enjoyed it very much. We then walked to the fish markets with Hassan and Ahmed and picked out two big fish caught that morning and weighing in at 2kg! One was a red sea bass and the other like a bream. They cleaned and cooked the fish and the total price was AUD21. We stopped by a bar in the complex while the fish were being prepared and enjoyed some cool beers - just what I needed after a very salty swim - my lips were shrivelled up! We then took the fish and some extra beers back to the apartment and enjoyed another fabulous grilled fish affair - soft flaky flesh and a very almond-like creamy taste. Nice. The beer was a perfect accompaniment. As it was now nearing 4pm and I was close to collapse because of my activity today in the hot sun and coughing galore - we decided to call it quits… but after just one more drink from the roof top terrace. Terrific views and a great chat about what the two young entrepreneurs would do next… They both walked us down to the taxi and before we knew it we were back at our illustrious hotel! I was spent. I showered and lay down. It was 7pm when I stirred. Did not want to do anything due to the fish feast at five so I treated myself to ice cream to celebrate this fine day of sport and friendship and because tomorrow morning was the FINAL TRUCK WAKE-UP ahead of my triumphant entry into Cairo. I slept at 8:30pm not only because I was tired but I wanted tomorrow morning to come as quickly as possible!!!

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DAY 282 of 287, Sat 20AUG16, 497km, TRIUMPHANT ENTRY INTO CAIRO AND THE LAST DAY AND NIGHT WITH THE TRUCK. Room at the “4 Seasons Hotel”, Hurghada to Room at the “Havana Hotel”, Cairo EGYPT. This was the day I had been waiting for. A day of triumph. A day of relief. A day of release and joy. It also marked 280 whole days with the truck - 104 of these was on my own! That is 37% of the time in Solo mode - it had clearly saved me! Had no trouble getting up at 5:30am to greet this fine fine day. I did my truck pack and locker placement FOR THE VERY LAST TIME in time for my last truck departure at 6:30am. I reflected. I had NEVER been late for a truck departure in the 176 days that I climbed aboard it of a morning! I was very proud of that. I sat in Vit’s seat as I had promised him so many months ago - that I would survive and persist and end up riding into Cairo in his seat - triumphantly - like a General returning from a successful military campaign! Reading this, I know Vit would be very proud. I think Doug would share this thought also - here is to both of you Vit and Doug!!! Hurghada was quickly replaced by the desolation of EGYPT.

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Then was nowhere nearby and the Red Sea disappeared form view - the coastal road to Cairo will see the Red Sea for less than half the time - the road is mostly just slightly inland. By mid-morning we could see distant oil rigs which explains the once again ridiculously low price of fuel here at AUD0.30/Litre. I blogged away and also did some book work. I would be caught up and ready for the antiquities and day visits of Cairo in Solo 18. As I looked around I realised that the group was down to only 10 people with 6 of us having been there since Day 1. Six out of ten that were meant to finish. 10 compared to 22 that started in Gibraltar - not all 22 were bound for Cairo but the numbers told the story. It was a comfortable ride and everyone was on a high. At one point the Red Sea was right besides us - another sandy, greenness desert terminating against a fabulous turquoise blue body of water. No waves this time and you could see the other side of the Suez Strait - the place my parents had sailed down on their way to Australia over 60yrs ago! We even spotted two schools of dolphins! After a brief lunch stop at a servo at 11:30am we soldiered on to the outer ring road of the city where we picked up a guide to take us to the hotel - Cairo traffic is famous all over the world.

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The sea of huge born apartments that is outer Cairo started to appear just before 2pm. I made sure I was sitting in the “Vit memorial seat” for my triumphant entry into my final destination. My first impressions of Cairo were bad ones. It looked like an ancient version of Shanghai only twice as crowded and three times as dilapidated. We rode on an elevated freeway full of cars and winding its way around a sea of huge deteriorated apartments that looked they had been through five world wars. Washing hanging outside the windows and rubble and garbage in most places that were visible between these towering structures. This is why it reminded me of Shanghai. It was hot and smoggy and these apartments seemed without end. Then at around 2:15pm, what looked like hotels and commercial buildings started to appear in better condition than the apartments. We then crossed the mighty Nile and the city centre quickly unfolded revealing large tree lined boulevards with tons of shops. It looked like a very crowded, ancient version of Paris or Athens - apartments everywhere with shops at their base only more crowded and dirtier. There was still a lot of rubbish visible. Somehow despite the messy look there was a definite buzz, a pulse of culture and life about it. People and cars everywhere. This city also LOOKED “experienced”. What could I possible mean by that. Easy. It looked like it had been to hell and back AND to Heaven and back.

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There was a dichotomy of culture and survival playing out before me on the same stage. That stage was Cairo. It is easy to argue Cairo as an ugly city but that extends only to the eyes. One of many more senses. Take in the rest in and you may see something beyond the obvious. A city that that literally awoke next to antiquity - Giza - pushing with life (and death) since 2700BC!!! I find it hard to judge a place with 26 million people that rests near a plateau, the plateau of Giza, none the less, that dates so far back in Human history. Half way according the Jews - they claim Humanity is 7,500-9,000 years old and I agree with them because of what I saw today and what I would see in the next 5 days. Antiquity. This is term that describes that passage of HUMANITY. Not dinosaurs. Not bacteria. Not millions of years. Enough of this. Time to land. And land we did. 2.37pm was the OFFICIAL TIME of the end of my physical kilometre truck journey. Got a “truck spot” outside the “Havana Hotel” and let me tell you, I was NOT in Havana but in HEAVEN!!!

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This was the place of places for me. The end of the end. My room was great and I knew this was a great end!!! I can now remember taking my MAIN BACKPACK of the truck for the LAST time to take it to my room in the Havana and it was a dream for me. I can remember the first time I placed that same pack in my locker in Gibraltar that Sunday evening that we arrived. It was a whole world gone by and I was very melancholic about it all. I walked down those “truck steps” at the back for the last time at 2:39pm and never looked back… Our OASIS Farewell dinner was a LONG affair atop a tall building nearby that must have been owned by a Greek. Every second song was Greek! We arrived at around 7pm and ate around 8:30pm. That is why it was a LONG affair because the food arrived the following morning…

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I was coughing my brains out. Felt shit and wished I was in bed but braved it because it WAS an important night. Ate my dinner, ceremoniously farewelled the group at 10pm and made my way back to my room to die in peace and PROSPERITY! I was finished. I was done. I was over the moon. Africa had dealt me many blows but I was on top. I had made it to Cairo. I had defied gravity and best of all I HAD DEFIED THE TRUCK.

DAY 283 of 287, Sun 21AUG16, 44km, Solo 18, Room at the “Havana Hotel”, Cairo to Room at the “La Luna Hotel”, Cairo, Run4 EGYPT. Today is the start of a Solo. The last Solo. Not Han Solo, but Solo 18. Up at the crack of dawn to do my first run in Cairo - people tell me “you will never run Cairo - you will be lucky enough to be able to cross the street”. Wrong. It was easy. The good mews about Cairo is that most people sleep in and do not get started until later. The REAL traffic is in the afternoon and THAT traffic is indeed deadly. But you cannot run in the afternoon. It is way too hot. My run this morning took me along many inner city housing apartments where real life lived. Lots of people drinking tea on the streets waiting for their bus. Lots of garbage. Everywhere. The temp was great and eventually I reached the Nile. Ran along it for just a short while before turning back. It was a tough run because my cough was worse and I could hardly breath through all that coughing. I was glad to get back to the hotel and happy that I had done Cairo.

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I would try again on my last day since all mornings from now on would be very early starts for booked tours. I packed up and went down to the brekkie room to say one final goodbye to the group. I hailed a taxi outside and Andi was there to help me with my luggage - I was also taking Riza’s bags to the same Cairo hotel I was staying at. I farewelled Andi and could not help taking one last look at that yellow truck as I sped into the Cairo concrete forest. My hotel for the rest of my stay was a good 15min away but the morning traffic was OK. The hotel had no street frontage except for a small sign about a mall corridor that led to their lift. Lucky for me that I spotted the sign. The cabby was kind enough to watch my bags since I had to take them up in three trips. I was dripping with sweat. The reception was also hard to find. I went through the corridor and arrived at an inner cavity between buildings that looked like a garbage alley. My heart sank. No reception, no signs in sight. Lucky for ma a young guy emerged from a set of stairs on the left and he guided me to reception on level 3. They sent me to a second reception on level 5 where I was booked.

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It became apparent to me that there were two hotels in one: La Luna on level 5 and La Bella Luna on level 3. Level 5 receptionist was very good and took me to a huge room. The building was a classic old style Parisian Greek building - wooden floors, very high ceilings, solid double brick walls, balconies with huge louvre doors and shutters. I got a room with my own toilet/shower and a very large and powerful air conditioner. I was happy now. About 10min before coming up the lift I was ready to retreat and go back to the hotel I came from! Do not judge a book by its cover! This however was a hard cover to ignore and I would have to email Riza to warn her. She was staying in the same place and would freak out when she saw the mall corridor entry and all that garbage. I settled in, emailed her and then prepared for my assault on the Egyptian Museum today. I was off at 10am and was only 10min walk from the museum. It is located on the Nile in Tahrir Plaza. It is a grande building but very old and very pink! The Hyatt is right next door.

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Entry is very cheap at 75 local or AUD10. This museum is HUGE and has approx 120,000 items on display. The store room underneath has tens of thousands more! That means that if you send just 10sec looking at each one, then it would take you 333hrs to look through the entire museum. Such is the scale. The place has a central hall fall of large items, surrounded by smaller rooms with everything from statues, vases, jewellery, sculptures, papyrus, sarcophagi, mummies, chairs, boats etc taken from the tombs and temples and pyramids throughout all of EGYPT. The rooms that surround the central space are organised by period from the oldest to the newest: 1) Archaic, 2) Old Kingdom, 3) Middle Kingdom, 4) Hyksos Period, 5) New Kingdom, 6) Late Period, 7) Ptolemaic Period, 8) Roman Byzantine Period. The most prolific and cultural period for ancient Egypt was the New Kingdom that featured Ramses II and Tutenkhamun. The items on display are fantastic but they are not well organised. They are all over the place with no set path or route to see them. Most have labels in Arabic and English. There are hundreds of sarcophagi, most are empty but many do contain mummies that are wrapped. The upper floor has the two best exhibits of the whole museum: Tutenkhamun Tomb Contents and The Royal Mummies Chamber. The former is the complete collection of every item placed in the tomb of Tutenkhamun in 1327BC and discovered in 1922 with no theft in between. It is the ONLY tomb that remained FULLY untouched and intact.


All other tombs were violated with most having all their contents removed including the mummies. Some had the mummies and sarcophagi left behind but all object disappeared. The Tukenkhamun section was fabulous. There were 5,000 items placed in his tomb and ALL are on display here. You can see his bed, gold slippers, throne, personal effects like clothes and of course his very famous 11kg solid gold death mask and number 1, 3 and 4 of his 4 coffins. Number 2 is in his tomb in Luxor. I also saw the four jars containing the organs of the king but they are covered. The mask and coffins are in a separate room that is especially humidified with no cameras allowed. I resorted to my powerful zoom lens to photograph the death mask from OUTSIDE this room from across the hall! The mask and coffins are a work of art and in terrific condition.


The chamber of Royal mummies is also separate and costs an extra USD20 to see but worth it. Inside are 12 mummies with unwrapped heads, arms and feet. Every one of them is more than 3,000 years old with an average of 3,406 years old and the state of preservation is amazing. There are a total of 12 monarchs totalling 40,873 years of death - they are as follows with their year of death in parenthesis: 1) Tuthmosis I (1292BC), 2) Tuthmosis II (1479BC), 3) King Amenhotep I (1504BC), 4) Queen Ahmose Meritamum (1504BC), 5) King Sequenenre Taa II (1539BC), 6) Queen Hatshepsut (1458BC), 7) Tuthmosis III (1425BC), 8) King Ramses II (1213BC), 9) King Seti I (1279BC), 10) Tuthmosis IV (1388BC). 11) King Amenhotep II (1397BC), 12) King Merenptah (1203BC).

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Visiting the mummies was the highlight for me because I felt I already knew them having seen many temples and pyramids dedicated to them or built by them and having heard their stories and seen them as hieroglyphs on the walls of antiquities. There is also a strange calm about that room - almost as if they will one day spring to life again. Another great exhibit was a room dedicated to Alexander The Great. Mainly statues but also some jewellery that he apparently wore. He was declared an honorary King of Egypt and declared himself a Pharaoh and son of the sun god Ra. More on Alex when I visit his city Alexandria on Day 285. (PHOTO BELOW: Mummy of the great Ramses II - almost got arrested…).


Finally, what I did not like about the Egyptian museum is that 90% of exhibits are unprotected and exposed - I saw people leaning on them, kids with ice-cream fingers stroking them, people putting cameras on them for automatic shots etc. Most of these items are at least 1500-2000yrs old and should be protected. I left the museum at 1:30pm after 3.5hrs of visit. On my way back to the hotel I noticed a cinema called “Odeon”, like the old one in Sydney and because it was so hot and I was buggered from my run and the 3.5hrs of standing up in the museum - I decided to watch a movie at 2:30pm. Had a quick rest at the hotel and sat down to interesting movie equipped with ice cream and chips. An interesting story about a dad who raises his six children in the forests of Canada, teaching them survival skills as well as literature and politics.

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Their mother has deep depression and living alone in the city - she commits suicide and the dad and kids travel to the big smoke for her funeral. What happens next is very comical and the basis of the film so I will not spoil it her. The movie is called “Captain Fantastic". After the movie I went for an extended walk around the area of my hotel. I broke myself in for a haircut and colour from my last day and also found an “Egyptian” candy shop to buy my nieces their souvenir sweets - this is what they asked for!!! I was now set for Thursday - my last day in Cairo and EGYPT and Africa. Not long after I returned to the hotel, Riza checked in.  I was right. She hated the downstairs but actually liked the inside of the hotel and her room. She also agreed that it was in an excellent part of town. I has discovered that our area was famous for shoes - every second shop sells them and Egyptian love to wear new shoes.

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The streets below our hotel swarm with people after 4pm. It is madness but colourful, noisy and great to look at. The temperature is also much better at that time with the odd breeze. I now prepared for my first Cairo excursion - the Light and Sound Show at the Pyramids of Giza with the Sphinx with dinner included. I was tired but looking forward to my first glimpse of the Great Pyramid - this for me would confirm that I was in Cairo and complete the end of Africa in my mind. My guide was spot on time at 6pm - he knew the hotel and met me at level 5 reception. After our intros, my first question to him was “how did you find this place” and he said that he knew it. Amazing. Ahmed is a degree Egyptologist and University Lecturer. Sadly this is not enough to raise a family so he does freelance guiding to make ends meet. On the way to Giza (one hour away) he have me a short intro to Giza and the antiquities there because he was also my guide for tomorrow when we would visit the same area properly for a whole day. There is special seating for the show immediately in front of the Sphinx and surrounding buildings with the pyramids in the background.

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I arrived just after sunset and tears came to my eyes as I gazed on what I felt was “the icon of antiquity” - the Sphinx with three giant pyramids in the background and a clear starry sky with sunset glow all around them giving them a timelessness that is hard to describe. I thought of Aunt Rosie, the first Golfin who had travelled here in the fifties and is in all our living rooms sitting on a camel with the SAME scene behind her that I was now gazing on with my own eyes some 70 years later. These are the things that move me. I sat in the front row as there were only 15 other people at the show in a stadium that seats 1000. It is summer too and that summarises the sad state of tourism in EGYPT right now. The show began at 7:30pm and ran for 50min. Overall it was OK. Not great. There is a very clear loud male English voice doing most of the story telling and narration. There is mix of fact and fable as the voice recounts what life was like back in the times of the Old Kingdom went the pyramids at Giza were built.

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For me there was not enough light in the show - most of the time the buildings were in darkness or very low light - too low to properly photograph and impossible to film. Once the lights came on they were not strong enough or long enough for good photos or film. After the show we went to a typical glossy tourist restaurant with no beer. Not good. The itinerary did not say anything about no beer and I wanted to celebrate the end of my first full day in Cairo. So we moved. Went to another touristy restaurant that serviced beer - expensive beer and no that cold. Pity because it ruined a good meal of kebabs and veggies done in Egyptian spices, much like food in MOROCCO. Bottom line - if you want a boozy dinner, do not book the dinner option of the Giza Light & Sound Show - do it yourself to ensure you get a non-touristy restaurant and cheap beer! I was glad to back at the hotel and sip some cold wine in my cold room. I toasted to the beginning of the end. I was now free of the truck for ever and on course to see a great city and prepare for Greece.

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DAY 284 of 287, Mon 22AUG16, 87km, Solo 18, Room at the “La Luna Hotel”, Cairo, EGYPT. Ahmed was glad to see me at 7am. We agreed to start today’s tour of Giza, Saqqara and Memphis one hour earlier so I could be the first into Giza to photograph the Great Pyramid without any other tourist in the way! Unreal. The drive out to Giza was only 30min. The Pyramids emerged like alien spacecraft, not quite belonging to the skyline of messy apartments that was Giza. We drove straight to “The Great Pyramid of Cheops” which is the largest but not the oldest pyramid in EGYPT. It WAS 146m high when Pharaoh King Cheops had it built in 2654BC but in the 18th Century the top bricks fell from all the climbing and it reduced to its current height of 136.5m. It is 3.2km around the entire base with a slope of 51 degrees. It is made from a stack of 3 million large limestone blocks each between 2 and 3.2 metric tons (1-2 Toyota Camry each!).

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The base of the pyramid is 63m above sea level and the inner chamber is another 42m above the base. It took 100,000 slaves 30yrs to build and was completed just 2yrs before the kIngs death in 2656BC. He reigned for 24yrs from 2680BC. This pyramid is truly big. It is very impressive and you know you are in Ancient Egypt when you see it together with the Sphinx and the other two pyramids belonging to Cheop’s son and grandson. I walked around the base of Cheops and then climbed into the inside chamber where the body of Cheops was placed. Sadly, his body and all his possessions were stolen by thieves within days of the sealing of the tomb because it is said that the thieves were a group of slaves that helped build it. This is the most plausible story since the passage to the chamber had no gate - it was sealed by the last block a few metres above one of the bases of the pyramid and the seal was not visible. It is rumoured that one of the thieves was involved in placing that last block! Not a single person appears in all my photos of this wonderful structure and this was always my wish which is why I visited by myself with a private Egyptologist as a guide.

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“The Panoramic View” was the next site. Ahmed and I decided NOT to visit the second and third pyramid next because I was again keen to take photos of all the pyramids from a special viewpoint without people and also from a camel further into the desert that surrounds the pyramids without 500 other camels in front. It worked. The viewpoint is not in a great location because you can still see cars and tourist buses drinking here and they get in the way of the photos. Silly. I told my guide and he said that it is a common complaint. Yo have to wait till the road is clear which at busy times is NEVER! I was lucky being there first. But that was planned and not luck! The viewpoint allows you to photograph all three major pyramids together. There are another six smaller pyramids that were built for the waves and children of the three principal pharaohs. I met my camel driver, Abdel who helped my mount and took me into the desert to photograph all nine pyramids together - the only place you can do this. The ride was worth it for this reason and the fact that you are all alone. Abdel filed my dag dancing both on and off the camel - it was the pinnacle of my film! Then the craziest thing happened. Abdel takes a mobile phone call and accidentally drops the rope to the camel - I was on the camel and Abdel was walking it around. Without hesitation the animal, called Booby Marley (after Bob Marley) suddenly realises he is free and takes off!!! With me still on top!!! The bloody thing starts to GALLOP to get away from his screaming master. Abdel is so old that he had no chance of catching the camel, especially in the sand! I desperately held on while my nuts got squashed and my dangling larger camera kept hitting me in the chest as that animal galloped.


Eventually it slowed to a walk again. I was screaming every foreign word I knew to mean “stop”. No result. It just kept going. Lucky for me it turned towards the other camels back at the starting point and took me there - I missed out on stopping at the bottom of the valley to shot a panorama of all none pyramids side on. I had the shits that I missed this opportunity but the chance to film a runaway animal with its owner chain it and a tourist on top was precious and very rare. As I got closer to the Panoramic Viewpoint, the other camel owners started to shout and circle the animal - all the other tourists there gasped when they saw me and started taking photos of me instead of the magnificent pyramids in the distance!

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You can only impugn in how many Chinese Facebook pages I now appear in. The sight of a lone tourist on a runaway camel with lots of Arabs chasing it must have looked like a keystone cops movie to them! Unfortunately for me the animal was spooked and every time a camel driver rushed forward it galloped away and cause me great pain again! Eventually a young boy who drove a horse and carriage had the audacity and courage to jump in front of the animal and grab the rope. I was safe again. As I dismounted I was rushed by every camel driver in the place - “are you OK Sir?”, “you strong”, “you not scared”. The organiser who sold me the camel was very embarrassed as was the driver when he eventually returned. I laughed. That little episode cost me 45min so I had to speed up my visit of the two other major pyramids. Next was the smallest of the three and furthest away from the Sphinx and entry - "The Pyramid of Mekrenus” (2638-2616BC) who was the grandson of Cheops. Out of respect to his grandfather and father, his pyramid is the smallest at 66.5m tall and only 540m around the base. “The Pyramid of Chephren” (2651-2638BC) being the son of Cheops is in the middle standing at 131m tall and took 12yrs to build. It is 1,829m around the base.

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It is also known as “The White Pyramid” since Chephren decided to differentiate his tomb by coating the outside in small limestone tiles to give it a smooth white shiny appearance. Unfortunately the passage of time caused the “tiles” to come away and collapse leaving only the tiles at the top so the pyramid as the appearance of a cap or hat at its top. He got his wish - it is still the easiest to pick out. From here it was a short drive to the Sphinx which was not as big as I expected. Standing at only 16m high it is long at 36m. It has the face of Chephren and took 7yrs to build being completed in 2644BC. It was carved out of a single piece of sandstone and is the largest sphinx in EGYPT and the world. Giza was chosen by Cheops since it was on a high plateau and away from people and an existing cemetery. He felt that the combination of these three reasons might deter thieves. It didn’t. All three Pyramids were sacked and the mummies taken and they have never been recovered. Lost for eternity. It was 12:30pm when I left Giza.

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I had been here for almost 5hrs and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I was now part of a large “club” of people that had visited the most recognised of  the seven ancient wonders of the world. My next stop was the ancient town of “Saqqara” about 27km further south. This was an ancient cemetery and home to the very first and oldest pyramid on the planet: “The Step Pyramid of King Zoser” built as a stepped pyramid by the famous architect and doctor “Imoteb” who was so loved by his King Zoser (2690-2676) that he ordered he be buried next to him in his own structure. The stepped pyramid was scaffolded on three sides since it is losing “its steps”. It was finished along with the “Temple of Ra” next door in 2686BC. Most of the temple has fallen leaving only the central columns which were partly restored.

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Next to the temple is a vast field of many many more tombs and way in the distance you can see the “Bent Pyramid” and “Red Pyramid” of Dahshur only 10km further south. No need to go - too hot! My tour ended with a visit to the ancient capital of Memphis (3100-1700BC) but it was sad that only a few antiquities remain in the area the size of a big supermarket. Saqqara cemetery used to extend another 25km all the way to Memphis but has disappeared. Most Egyptologists agree that there are still hundreds if not thousands of ancient tombs still waiting to be dug up between the two places. At Memphis there are several sarcophagi in a yard but the highlight and reason why most people visit is to see the giant statue of Ramses II housed in a museum and flat on his back like the sleeping Buddha in Bangkok Thailand.

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This statue is 18m long and was completed in 1200BC. Apart from the missing lower legs and arms the rest is in excellent condition and the torso looks new! There is also the “Sphinx of Memphis” outside but much much smaller than the one in Giza. I was glad to be headed back at around 2pm - it was so hot in Saqqara and Memphis that I felt like passing out. I arrived back at the hotel on time at 3pm and promised Ahmed a good review online. I had a much needed COLD shower and lay down to cull the many may pictures I had taken today over a cool glass of white. It was many more glasses until I finished. I met Riza for a few rounds and then she went off for sunset photos in the Muslim district which I would visit on my last day on Thursday. I had a wonderful whole chicken from across the road and spent some time with Riza before anther early night since we were both going to Alexandria at 6am the next day...

DAY 285 of 287, Tue 23AUG16, 463km, Solo 18, Room at the “La Luna Hotel”, Cairo, EGYPT. Another day, another guide. This time it was “Islam” and our driver Wael” and they were taking Riza and I on a full day trip to Alexandria some 200km from Cairo on the Mediterranean Sea. We left at 6am and drove for almost 3hrs. The landscape is very flat but not desert.

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There are farms and many industrial areas and it is populated the whole way! It was quite misty when we left but this quickly cleared up to a blue shy day, dotted with fluffy cumulous which would make for great photos. Alexandria (Pop 7m) is the second largest city with the largest port in EGYPT. It was founded by Alexander the Great in 332BC when he defeated the Persians in the Middle East who had also occupied EGYPT. Alexander granted EGYPT autonomy and in return he was corned honorary King in Memphis and also declared himself to be the son of the sun god Ra. Alexandria was the capital of EGYPT from 300BC to 969AD when Cairo was founded. The main industry of Alexandria is the port and the export of crude oil. We arrived at 10am after a brief stop for coffee and croissant. The city is old and full of waging, unpainted crumbling apartments just like Cairo but on a much smaller scale.

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Our first visit was to the “Kom El-Shuqafa Monuments (Catacombs)”. This is one huge underground complex built by the Romans in the 2nd Century AD to bury aristocracy. The word “catacombs” is used only because the complex with its many vaults resembles the Christian catacombs of Rome but it was never used to hide or bury Christians. We walked around visiting the many values and observing the strange fusion of Egyptian Hieroglyphs with Roman and Greek art which renders its own version of the former style. The tombs were surprisingly cool but full of subterranean water which is in the process of being pumped out. Alexandria itself is also hot but very humid being on the water. This place was home to thousands of bodies and it is in the middle of inner city suburb surrounded by units. They were found accidentally by a docket falling through a hole in 1901. Bones are still being discovered today. Our nest stop was close by and called “The Serapeum and Pompey’s Pillar”. This is another ruin surrounded by apartments and comprises an ancient temple dedicated to the god Serapis and a 26.8m tall lone column dedicated to General Pompey of the Roman army. The pillar is actually part of the temple which was built in 294AD.


There are also two smaller sphinxes in front of and on wither side of the column. Everything else is rubble. We stopped for a tea outside and watched a few ancient falling apart trams roll past us. We then drove to the New Harbour towards the New Library of Alexandria. This is where Alexandria comes into its own. A whole row of classic French style apartments with huge shutters and balconies overlooking the calm blue Mediterranean. Tears came to my eyes to gaze upon this body of water which connected this land and with Greece and the body of water that we had crossed to get to Africa. A poetic finish.


I would leave Africa over the same body of water that I came. The foreshore was clean and reminded me of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city also. The new library is simply stunning. A world class structure inside and out. It is built on the site of the old library which was destroyed by war in 48BC. The new complex was started in 1989 and opened in 2002 at a cost of USD220 with funds from UNESCO and private donors and the Egyptian National Government. The complex consists of the main library modelled like a ancient disc, a 3500-person conference centre, science museum and a planetarium.


The library is made of high quality black granite and various  woods and steel and glass and holds 3 million books written in 80 languages with room for another 2 million. The oldest book dates to 919BC and there is a huge digital collection of Arab books and manuscripts - the biggest in the world. The outside wall of the library is covered in 4,200 engraved letters of every alphabet in the world. We went on a guided tour with two others then had free time to visit the Antique Manuscript Museum or three other different exhibitions of art, Alexandria old photos and ancient art. This place was easily the highlight of Alexandria and its proud centrepiece. There were also many school children visiting from both Alexandria and Cairo.


It was now 12:30pm and time for lunch. We enjoyed some fresh fish right on the harbour with views across the bay. Wonderful. Our last site was the “Citadel of Qaitbey” a fortress built in 1480AD on Pharos Island, on the exact site of the ancient “Lighthouse of Alexandria” which was built by King Ptolemy I in 297BC but crumbled into the ocean by four earthquakes in the 8th, 9th, 11th and 14th Centuries AD. The lighthouse is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was 120m high with rectangular base, hexagonal middle and cylindrical top with a 7m statue of Poseidon to cap it off. No trace of any of it has been found. We walked around and inside the fortress but it is completely empty.

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There were many many locals visiting that afternoon and it was frightfully hot and humid. The views of the city and Mediterranean from here is excellent. I also noticed that many of local here have very elongated olive shaped eyes and look more like the people in the hieroglyphs than anywhere else. The younger boys also dye their hair jet black and put in a very shiny glossy hair gel and come it with differing width brushes. Strange. By the time we hit the van at 2:30pm we ready go back for a one hour sleep and shower!!! Fortunately we had ample tie to snooze (and blog) in the van. It was not until 6pm that we arrived at the hotel given the entry into Cairo at the classic afternoon peak hour. Time for a cool shower and some white wine to calm us down before dinner. Lucky for me that the receptionist knew a restaurant very close by that served Egyptian food and wine! Perfect for our Culture Club farewell dinner.

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We walked there around 7:30pm. It looked like a Parisian cafe with its long room, wooden furniture android table cloths. It also had pictures of Egyptian movie stars and singers all through the modern era - some terrific black and white photos that looked like the golden years of Hollywood. Dinner was fantastic. All the usual vegetarian goodies with veal as the main. The whole wine was also great. Riza and I recounted all our solo adventures and some of the less memorable moments on the truck and it was truly overwhelming trying to remember the sheer volume of what we had done, seen and experienced. It was our final evening. It was the official end of the Culture Club - it had lasted the whole time - we even had olives and cheese in the desert of SUDAN, in DJIBOUTI and finally here in Cairo - tonight. We also talked about the last dinner we had with Roberto and could still remember how much fun it was. Now I was alone - the surviving member of a club that lasted almost 10mths. Incredible. It was a night of refection and thanksgiving. We were in Cairo and in one piece!

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DAY 286 of 287, Wed 24AUG16, 432km, Solo 18, Room at the “La Luna Hotel”, Cairo, EGYPT. It was hard saying good bye to Riza. Her cab came by at 6:45am to take her tot he airport at exactly the same time as my guide and driver turned up to take me to Suez at 7am. If it were not for Riza and Roberto it would have been so much tougher for me to survive the truck - they made all the difference and I was thankful to have them. We were the “Culture Club” for almost the whole trip and not only did we partake of the daily ritual of wine, cheese and olives but also travelled together on our famous “solo” trips which became the envy of the truck. Now we were no more. Roberto was in GEORGIA and soon Riza would be in Barcelona SPAIN. I was alone in Africa. For just two more days. Then I too would leave this great continent bound for GREECE. I watched as Riza’s taxi pulled away and wondered whether I would ever see Riza or Roberto again.

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It was now my turn to speed off in my brand new Kia Cerato. My driver Hazim and Guide Michale welcomed me and off we went. Our morning drive took me north-east through the eastern part of the Nile delta to a city called “Tal Basta” (Pop 55,000) in Arabic. It took just over 2hrs to get here through farmland criss-crossed by channels from the delta. Inside the city Tal Basta is an ancient site called “Tell Basta", also known as “Bubastis” by its Greek name. It was a religious site and royal residence from 943BC with the following buildings: The Bastet Temple, Governor’s Palace, houses of his officials, two tombs and a cemetery. The temple has collapsed and is just piles of granite blocks. The other dwellings have disappeared since they were made of mud bricks and dissolved in the rain over time. A new admin office has been built to manage this and other ancient sites in the area and is also used as offices by the excavators. Work has stopped because funds have been channelled elsewhere. The site has some status and hieroglyphs organised on pedestals for display.

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The Bastet Temple was dedicated to the cat goddess “Bastet” who was the protector against evil spirits and the goddess of fertilisation (as cats can have many kittens in one birth). The ancient Egyptians believed that cats could see spirits and possessed the ability to restore life to a dead body which is origin of the expression of “a cat has nine lives”. For the ancients it was 7 lives because the number 7 is ritualistically important. This complex was also used by King Teti and King Pepi I. This site also contained a Christian Church dedicated to the Holy Family since the locals believe that Mary, Joseph and Jesus stayed here during their escape from King Herod. The church was destroyed by the Romans when they left. This is also the only ancient site that I visited that had a police guard and asked to see  my passport. After our list they insisted on escorting us to our next site but we politely refused. They held us back for 30min before letting us go. I pushed my guide telling him that I would make an official complaint at my embassy back in Cairo. This may have done the job. We quickly departed and made our way towards the city of “San El-Hagar” (Pop 45,000) also known as “Tanis” by the Greeks. We drove for over 60min passing many small towns on very poor roads jammed with traffic and arrived there at around 2pm. The site features a huge temple, mainly in ruins, dedicated to three gods: Amun, Mut and Khonsa.


It was built in 1200BC by Ramses II and was as big as the Kanak Temple in Luxor. All that is left now is several pillars, collapsed obelisks and a few upright statues of the children of Ramses II. This site is unique in that it was governed by high priests during the 21st Dynasty who decided to add tombs to the temple to trick thieves since none of them expected to find tombs inside a temple. Three of these tombs have been discovered in the temple ruins. This place was also the capital of Ancient Egypt from 1200-850BC. Tanis is also the setting for the place where Indiana Jones found the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was glad to finally be on our way to the Suez Canal. We would see it at the city of Ismalia (Pop 750,000) which roughly half-way along the canal from Port Said in the north to Suez in the south.


Islamic is also home of the headquarters of the Suez Canal Authority that runs the canal. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. After 10 years of construction, it was officially opened on November 17, 1869. When construction first began, excavation was performed by thousands of farmers using pick axes. I kid you not 0 this is what my guide told me. The canal is 193.3km long but saves 7,000km of sailing around the bottom of Africa! It extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez. In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the canal (47 per day). The canal is a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake. It contains no locks system, with seawater flowing freely through it. 

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In August 2014, construction was launched to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass for 35 km to speed the canal's transit time. The expansion was planned to double the capacity of the Suez Canal from 49 to 97 ships a day. At a cost of $8.4 billion, this project was funded with interest-bearing investment certificates issued exclusively to Egyptian entities and individuals. The "New Suez Canal", as the expansion was dubbed, was opened with great fanfare in a ceremony on 6 August 2015. On 24 February 2016, the Suez Canal Authority officially opened the new side channel. I arrived at Ismalia at around 3:30pm and we saw the canal from three vantage points: 1) From a bridge over Lake Timsah through which it passes, 2) From the beach of the Mercure Hotel which also overlooks the lake but you can wee the canal line a little better and 3)

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From the “Street 6” ferry crossing which crosses the actual canal itself into the Sinai Peninsula, which is clearly visible opposite. The third vantage was the best because you see the actual canal and not the canal mixed in with the lake. The canal width at the ferry crossing is 500m across. The canal is level with the land and looks like a river with straight sides. I stopped for a while and wondered what my mum and dad were doing when they passed here almost 70 years ago. It was a strange moment for me. At 4:30pm we had lunch. Yes, Egyptian timing. I kept it light because I was keen to have another roast chicken tonight. At 5pm we headed for Cairo. I was determined to get the blog text and photos for this post completely up to date on my 2-3hr drive back. I would try and post tomorrow night if possible or from Athens Airport if I ran out of time. The drive back was very smooth and I arrived at the hotel at 7:30pm. Grabbed my favourite chicken, had a shower, finished my photos and settled down to a movie. I was now the sole survivor of the Culture Club and ready to face my last day in Africa tomorrow, alone… but very happy!


DAY 287 of 287, Thu 25AUG16, 0km, Solo 18, THE FINAL DAY OF UNGOWA AFRICA 2016!!! Room at the “La Luna Hotel”, Cairo, Run6, EGYPT. I simply cannot believe that I am now writing down the events of my LAST DAY in Africa. This is it. The day I though would never arrive. It seemed so far far away but now it is here! My last run in Africa too! I set out at 6:30am and ran along the Nile. Fitting. It was a good run but I needed the toilet after half-way. I made it. I was grateful that I overcame my calf strain and here I was running on the very last day of my mammoth African adventure. Today was Muslim Quarter day for me. Easily some of the biggest, grandest and oldest Mosques you will see in the world! I decided to catcha cab out to the Citadel first so I could see the view in the morning when it is the clearest. I would then walk it back to the hotel and only use cab if I was running out of time or was too hot and bothered. It took my cary taxi driver 30min to get to the citadel - he took me around the world. Lucky I negotiated a fixed price but I think he was trying to raise it by using his meter.


It did not work. It was a good idea to take the taxi because it is high up near a mountain. “The Salah Al Din Citadel” is the biggest Muslim fortress in the world. It was built in stages between 1176 and 1183AD and has a huge intact stone wall. Inside are many large buildings: 3 Mosques, 2 towers, 4 museums and a palace. The Sultans of the time used to live and pray there and plan their military campaigns here. The main “Mosque of Mohammed Ali” is huge and was built in 1848. The view of the city from this Mosque is terrific. Also from this elevated spot I could see the next two Mosques on my visit just below.

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It took me10min to walk to them. The first I visited was “The Mosque of Al Rifah” built from 1989 to 1911AD by the King of Egypt at the time of the same name. This Mosque quickly became a favourite for the royal family of EGYPT and is the place where the last King “Farouk” was buried after he died in exile in 1965. This Mosque is built in the “Mamluk revival style”. "The Mosque Madrassa of Sultan Hasan” is right next door. It is even bigger with a huge open air prayer area with hundreds of hanging lamps everywhere. Built 1356-1363AD by the Prince of the same name aged just 22 but he died unexpectedly which is why it took a few years to finish and cost an absolute bomb! From here I caught a cab to “Bab Zuweila Gate” which is the only surviving gate of medieval Cairo in the south. It has a narrow street leading to the “Al Azhar Mosque” and the huge markets of “Khan al-Khalili”. That was a good walk because it was mostly in the shade given the narrow streets. I lost count of how many times I said “Sorry, I have no money” just to avoid being played and hassled. When they hear this they back right off because it is all about money. No one has ever done me a kind turn without putting out their hand. When you hear “Where are you from” - this actually means “How can I take your money”. One guy even had the audacity to say that “How can I take your money”, My reply was simply “you can’t because I do not have any”. There was silence after that…




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Sadly the “Al Azhar Mosque” was under repairs and closed so I walked to the “Mosque of Sayedna el-Husseyn” built in 1154 and right next to the markets. It was already noon, so I decided to photograph it from the outside only and head into the “Khan al-Khalili” markets. They are overwhelming. Souvenirs everywhere and repeated a thousand times. I was constantly invited to come in. This time the call phrase was “What are you looking for” and my reply was always “I don’t know”. Unfortunately the souvenirs were either too bulky, breakable or just very cheesy and not really reminiscent of Africa as a whole so I decided I would stick to my film as the key souvenir for all my family and friends. I would buy my brothers kids a huge bag of local sweets which is what they asked for.

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Mum would get duty free perfume which is what she asked for. I spent a good 90min in the markets simply observing people and trying to find something unusual. No luck. I bought my last cab back to a spot 500m from my hotel where I had seen a sweet store on my first day. Picked up sweets for the nieces and extras for some of my closer relatives and friends - a bit heavy but would all pack easy and not break or leak! I then spotted some terrific leather scandals that would go with my Ethiopian outfit so I snapped them up. I was done shopping. It was now 2pm and I wanted to pack and complete this post. I also needed to visit the hairdresser that I had met on my first day reconnaissance of the area. I made an appointment today for 5pm to trim and colour my hair - I was converting from “bush pig john” to “IT Consultant John”.

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I also did not want to shock my Greek relatives! After a nice long cold shower I packed my big bag and sat down at 3pm to complete this post. Tapped away until 5pm when it was time to go to the hair dresser. When I arrived he closed his shop and worked on me for an hour for the equivalent of AUD15. Meticulous without he scissors and applied so much hair colour that I looked like a pharaoh! I then bought my chicken and headed back to the room. Paid my room bill and I was done. Settled down to watch Alien - the first film I watched when I arrived in Africa - poetic justice for what was an unbelievable journey. I remember turning out the light after my movie and thinking - isn’t it amazing that a massive 287 day adventure actually has an ending and it is as easy as flicking a light switch off… Ungowa was done!

EPILOGUE: Ironically, my silly quiet wrist watch alarm woke me up at 3:30am. My loud mickey mouse analogue clock did not go off because I forgot to set the alarm switch to “on”. Lucky for me. I did have a backup and asked the night guard to wake me at 4am just in case I dosed through both.

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My taxi was on time and at 4:30am I sped through the near empty streets of Cairo. My driver was a nice man from Alexandria and he explained how hard it was to find work there. Pity because it is a very liveable city. Cairo airport is big and modern. It did not take me long to check-in and before I knew it I was asleep on a lounge chair very close to my gate. Slept from 6 to 7am. Boarded on time. I was the last person on the plane and paused at the foot of the outdoor stairs. I turned to the tarmac behind me and whispered “farewell Africa - thanks for a great adventure” and with these words ascended the stairs into the waiting 737-800. At precisely 8:35am on Friday 26 August 2016, Ungowa Africa 2016 ended as the wheels of the B737 left African soil and ascended into the smoggy air above Cairo. As I gazed down at the huge expanse of brown apartments I wondered if I would ever set foot on Africa again and if so when?

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Africa has the equivalent of the “United Nations” called “African Unity” based in Addis Ababa, the capital of ETHIOPIA. It has 54 member countries and a building that is to die for - huge, shiny, polished metal and glass and makes the UN building in New York look like an old train station!