Hiking in Africa – Travel In Africa

Hiking in Africa - Travel In Africa

Traveling in Africa.

Part 2

 From: Phidam Enterprises Ltd[SMTP:phidam@swiftuganda.com] Sent: Monday, November 17, 1997 12:24 AM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: Dirty in Uganda (me, not the country)

 Good Monday morning to all!!!

 I hope all is well with my many desk dwelling friends back home. This morning I woke up in the capital of Uganda, Kampala. I spent the night on the front lawn of the local YMCA. They let you set up your tent and use the facilities for a whole $1.50. However, the YMCA is used as a play ground during the day so my tent had to be down by 8:00 a.m. to make room for the kids to play. The YMCA then takes my stuff and stores it for me behind locked doors.

 I spent my first four nights in Uganda eight kilometers outside of the town of Jinja. Jinja is on Lake Victoria and is the main source of water that feeds the Nile River. Wait to you hear about this place. The town itself is a dump, but the campsite was amazing. The campsite is on the Bujugali Falls. It’s a series of class 5 rapids. I don’t know why they call them falls. Anyways, I set up on the river and did nothing but read books for those four days. They had a place were I could buy food and drinks. Actually the only food they had was samosas and chips. It’s a popular place for the overland trucks to visit so I had plenty of company. Everyone comes to do the rafting. They wanted $65 from me to borrow one of their kayaks. By the forth day they came up to me and asked for $20 so I went for it. I about drowned. The strength of the water was incredible. The hydraulics of the water just wouldn’t let me back up whenever I rolled. In other words I really sucked big time. But at least I gave it a try.

 The campsite was as green as any rain forest. It should be because it rained the whole time. I would wake up in the morning and drain my tent out. One night I was sitting on the deck over looking the river and noticed all of the seagulls flying overhead. At a second glance I noticed that they were bats the size of crows. There were 1000’s of them. They must be good and fat, because the light poles around the campsite double in diameter each night from the enormous numbers of insects landing on them. With the bats in the air I don’t blame the insects one bit. And talk about insects. I don’t know what they feed on but they are huge. I’m still trying to figure out how they get into my tent. Nothing worse then waking up to something crawling on your face.

 Anyways, I hooked up with one of the overland trucks and they dropped me here. In two days I will head for the Ssese islands. I saw a flier that advertised a new campsite. They say it’s right on the beach. If I remember correctly I read about these islands in the Eboli book, what ever it was called.

 This system that I’m using does not allow me to check my incoming E-mail. I will continue walking around and try and find one.

 For those of you that will be mailing out those, “look at our new baby” Christmas cards I’d appreciate one. I just hope none of the new borns look like their dads. Please mail to:

COWPIE, John Poste Restante GPO Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Africa

 Well that’s about it for now. I smell so I think I’d better go and visit one of those things were the water falls on top of you. Judi once told me the name after she looked it up in the dictionary.

 Talk to you soon, John

From: Phidam Enterprises Ltd[SMTP:phidam@swiftuganda.com] Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 1997 5:22 AM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: Lot of shit going down in Cairo

 Howdy!!!! 11/18/97

 So I crawled out of my tent this morning and thought I’d go check out a few sights before wondering into town. First of course I had to remove my tent. I went and check out the tombs of the last three kings. Not much to look at. However, there are women that must live at the tombs for one-month periods. This way the king has a woman with him even though he’s dead. The women just sorta hang out, looking at their watches waiting for their one month to go by. Pretty boring time. The best thing about a king’s life is that at one time one of them had 84 wives. On second thought I don’t know if that is a plus or a minus.

 So then I made my way back into town and took a look at the local English paper. “69 tourists killed in Egypt”. That’s some head count. I could only imagine my mom hearing about that. For those that don’t know I’m meeting my mom in Cairo on February 9. Don’t forget mom that the police did kill nine of the them. Since my travel that’s the second group of tourist that I’ve heard of killed in Egypt. Just last month I heard about five tourists killed on the coast of Kenya in Mombassa. Talking about Mombassa it’s impossible to get to it this time. El Nino has had a huge effect on Central Africa. The Sudan and Somalia deserts actually have water in them. They have not seen water in 100 years, so I’m told. The road that I need to head north to Ethiopia is washed out at this time. If it doesn’t open I’ll have to fly to the border town of Moyale, Ethiopia and then continue overland from there. This might not be a bad idea. Some Kenya rebels have been stopping buses heading north into Ethiopia and stealing everything. To stop this the Kenya government has been holding all transport trucks and buses and then when they get around 20 they escort everyone to the border. You gotta love life here in Africa.

 Last night a female traveler set up her tent at the YMCA. This is one tuff woman. She has had malaria 15 times, typhoid one time, bilharzias twice, giardia more times then she knows and other things I’ve never heard of. I found myself slowly backing up away from her. At one time she was admitted to the Yale Tropical Disease Division just to find out what she had. She said it took them five days to determine that she at that time had malaria and typhoid at the same time. She lost all her hair during the treatment.

 The address that I gave yesterday is where I should be around Christmas. I was actually thinking of heading north earlier to get out of this rain, but maybe I’ll let Egypt cool down a bit first. I did find a place to check my E-mail, but they want an arm and a leg so I passed. Some other time. This doesn’t mean you can stop sending E-mail to me. It’s all appreciated.

 THANKS! Cowpie

From: Phidam Enterprises Ltd[SMTP:phidam@swiftuganda.com] Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 1997 4:42 AM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: Back from my gorilla trek!!!!

 Hello desk dwellers,

 As always I hope all is well with everyone. I’m currently back in the Kampala the capital of Uganda. I started off this morning by, of course, breaking down my tent because I’m back on the YMCA’s front lawn. I never did say why I was sleeping there and not at the Backpackers Camp. Well let me tell you why. Through word of mouth I heard that the Australian owner of the place sorta has an enemy. It’s said that about five weeks ago a local who has a grudge against the Australian decided to throw a hand grenade over the fence. The explosion permanently damaged a backpacker’s right leg. A British backpacker told me that the British Embassy confirmed the story. So, of course I thought an optional place to sleep would be better since they never did catch the guy who threw the grenade. Anyways this morning I went to a laboratory to be checked for malaria. For the last eight days I’ve had this Judi COWPIE sized cold sore on my upper lip. For those of you that have seen Judi’s cold sores you know how big I’m talking about. Well I had several locals say that I have malaria because of the cold sore. Hell, I would listen to them over some book that tells me I don’t. So for a little under two dollars they take your blood (Mom I made sure it was a new needle. I even brought my own just in case). After 30 minutes the results came back, “No malaria parasites seen”. I guess it’s just a Judi COWPIE sized cold sore. Though I think I may have a worm. You would not believe how much food I’m eating and I pretty sure I’m losing weight. When people can’t finish their food I finish it for them. It looks like a stool test is on the calendar when I get home.

 Let me catch you up on what I’ve been doing. From here I went west into Uganda to the Ssese Islands in the Northwest portion of Lake Victoria. What an experience getting there. First you jump on a matatu (taxi van) to Masaka. From there into the back of a mini pickup with 21 others including their chickens. The poor chickens are stuffed in gym bags with only their heads sticking out. It’s a very uncomfortable sardine ride for one hour. Then into a ferryboat for one hour and back into another pickup to the campsite. The ferry ride as wonderful. Lake Victoria has no end. The lake just falls off the horizon like an ocean. The water has a high algae level. The green color is very strong. It was a very beautiful ride. A young German couple operates the Hornbill campsite. They have a place right on the lake. I hooked up again with two more Australian women here. We stayed around for two nights and did nothing but stay out of the rain and enjoy the view. We packed up our wet tents and headed out, regretting the pickup ride we knew was ahead of us.

 From there we went to Lake Bonyoni outside of Kabale. This place was paradise. Let me first tell you about our ride there. We were in a matatu cruising at the 100 kpm they all drive. They are extremely dangerous and should be avoided as a form of transportation at all times. Unfortunately it was our only choice. So we’re cruising along and then the driver swerved to the right and “bang” followed by a second “bang”. It took the driver around 300 meters to stop the matatu. It was totaled. Here in Uganda, heck all of Africa, cattle are walked down the streets. Well we nailed two big steer in their hindquarters. Killed both of them and luckily no one hurt on the matatu. A bus was going by so we waved him down and jumped on. The matatu driver wanted our money for the distance traveled, but a quick flash of my finger told him forget it. When we reached the lake we got a lift in a dugout canoe to Bushara Island. The man gave reach of us a paddle to help him out. The women lasted about five minutes. A local church runs the campsite and the food was amazing. The sun even came out once and we went for a quick swim before the rain started up again. Are you guys hearing about the amount of rain East Africa is getting? Let me know. The view from the island looked out over the many green terraced hillsides. Uganda is one giant garden. All land is used.

 From there we went to Mgahinga National Park outside of Kisoro. This is in the far southwest corner of Uganda. We set up camp outside the front gate and put our names on the standby list to do a gorilla trek. The first full day we paid for two armed (AK-47) wardens to escort us to the top of Mt. Sabinyo. The mountain is 12,034 feet in elevation. It was a good day hike. On the top we made three big leaps from one rock to another. The first leap takes you from Uganda to Rwanda, the second from Rwanda to the new Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) and the third back to Uganda. Of course we did this many times until the laughing was too great. The wardens thought we were some strange mzungu (white people). As you walk around, if locals want your attention they say “mzungu”. Since you’re usually the only white around it’s a good bet they’re talking to you.

 The next morning we lucked out and an overland truck didn’t show so we went on a gorilla trek. With armed wardens we walked for 2.5 hours until we got to where they where the day before. From there, the guide tracks the trail of the gorillas. It took another 1.5 hours before I heard a grunt and then the guide responded back. We continued trekking through the bamboo until we came upon them. I mean we really came upon them. When they hacked away a piece of bamboo there was a huge silverback not more then 15 feet from where I was standing. This thing was huge. It would even give Brent some competition in the weight room. After a more careful look there turned out to be a total of eight mountain gorillas in this family. Two huge silverbacks protected the family. We were allowed one hour to watch them and take pictures. They are habituated over the years from people searching for them. We didn’t seem to worry them, even though they had one small baby. It was an amazing sight to see. It’s hard to believe that there are only 600 left in the wild and that the soldiers kill them during times of war. They are very human like. This place is where Dian Fossey researched the mountain gorillas until poachers killed her. I hear they also filmed “Gorilla in the Mist” here. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any of those really cool gorilla hand ashtrays. On the third day I said good-bye to the Australian women, because they wanted to continue. I hung out and did more hiking for three more nights. I found the place to be the nicest site in Africa. Rob and Steve would love the flora. I’ve never seen an equal.

 From here I’m heading back to Nairobi. On the way I’m hitting Lake Nakuru. That’s where all the flamingos are that you see in the movie “Out of Africa”. They estimated that at any one time there are over 100,000 of them. I figure a couple days nights to try and find a lift into the park and them I’m out of there. You need a vehicle to drive the lake. So I’ll need to hitch at the front gate. Wish me luck.

 I still have been unable to check for messages. As I said the one place in town wants too much money. I’ll check for sure in Nairobi.

 Also, December 3 comes to mind as someone’s birthday. So happy birthday.

 Oh, remember that women I talked about that were always sick. Well I heard through the grapevine that she picked up malaria again. Bad luck.

 Again I hope all is well. TAKE CARE, John

 From: BROTHER JOHN[SMTP:SORRYNOEMAIL@ROCKETMAIL.COM] Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 1997 12:31 AM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: Off to Ethiopia (I hope)

 Hello to all. I hope all is well with everyone.!!!

 WOW!!! Did you guys ever put a smile on my face. I finally arrived here in Nairobi five days ago and was able to check my E-mail. I had a total of 41 messages. I must have had a grin on my face for an hour. Thank you. I also received three letters form Hearn, Kathi and Milton.

 Congratulation goes out to Harvard for making the smartest decision of his life.

 Of course I would like to answer all E-mails but money says I can’t.

 Well this is the beginning of my fifth day here in Nairobi. I’ve been here waiting for my Visa application to be accepted from Ethiopia. I finally got it this morning. It’s not that they screen everyone; these things just take a bit of time. So tomorrow morning I’m on a bus for the town of Isiolo. Isiolo is 4.5 hours North of here at the base of Africa’s second highest mountain, Mt. Kenya. Due to the heavy rains and the fact that the road is dirt, Isiolo is as far as the bus service will take me. For the remaining 450km I will need to hitch a ride on a lorry heading North towards Ethiopia. A lorry is simply a flat bed work truck. Some travelers heading south that they want around $20 for the lift have told me.

 Now here’s the problem. Supposedly the roads are so bad at this moment that no traffic is heading beyond Isiolo. And when, or if, traffic does proceed it only moves when there is a large enough number to form a convey for protection against the bandits in Northern Kenya. Did you get all that? So, if I find myself waiting for more then five days I will head back here to Nairobi and take a plane to the border town of Moyale. From there Ethiopia has nice paved roads heading straight to the capital of Addis Ababa. The one thing I hate to do is fly and misses the scenery that I’ve heard of within the region of Northern Kenya. It’s supposed to be fantastic.

 Anyways let me tell you what happened my last day in Kampala, Uganda. I was walking the Hilton Hotel to take a free look at a U.S.A. Today that I found a certain store sold. She was getting used to me taking my free look and always greeted me by handing it to me. On the way I saw, along with the rest of the street, a thief steal from a lady. This thief made one huge mistake, he ran to slow. He was caught and brought back to the lady in the back of a pickup. You couldn’t see the man, because of all the flying fists and elbows, but you knew he was in there. They pulled him out of the truck and began to beat him with any object they could find. There must have been 50 people involved in the beating. He was doing pretty well until his battered arms couldn’t take it anymore and he lowered them, exposing his head. Big mistake. From there it only lasted another 30 seconds. I asked a local if he thinks the man will steal again and he said, “most likely”. The man will not go to jail for his crime and the locals know this, so this is their own form of punishment.

 The next morning I headed out to check out the flamingos of Lake Nakuru. After a seven-hour bus ride I was dropped off in the City and began a five-kilometer walked to the Lake. I the front gate I was shocked to see that they wanted $27 to enter. I’m sorry, but when you’re traveling that’s allot of money. I asked the guard why so much and he informed me that with the influx of tourist heading from Nairobi to the game parks the popularity of this place was also going up. So why not raise the price. Well they raised the price out of my limit so I walked the five kilometers back to town (taxi’s were to much). In town I pulled out my map and noticed a lake 20 km south. I asked a local elderly man if the lake had flamingos and sure enough it did. 80 cents later I was back in a matatu and off to the lake. The driver dropped me off on the road and I walked 1.5 km through farmland to reach the lake. Along the way I picked up no less then 10 local kids curious where the white man was going. This lake was beautiful and full of flamingos. I was able to get within 150 meters before they would fly off. And what a sight when they all take to wing and fill the sky with pink. And to think it only cost me another 80 cents to hitch a ride on a passing matatu back to Nakuru where I grabbed my main pack and headed off to Nairobi.

 Mom, don’t worry about the camera I’ll pick up one when I get home. For those of you that don’t know my new Pentax camera broke about three months ago in Botswana. So don’t expect allot of pictures.

 I hear there’s an E-mail service at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa so you’ll hear from me there.

 Take Care, John

 From: BROTHER JOHN [SMTP:john@infodesk.gemel.com.er] Sent: Monday, January 05, 1998 7:48 PM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: Africa by bus

 Hello from Asmara, Eritria!!!!!!!

 I hope that everyone had a happy and safe Christmas and New Year. Also, I hope this message finds all well. I thought I’d start off with where we last let off, Nairobi. First off before I go into that I hope this E-mail finds its way to you. They have a strange set-up here were I have to hit the “Enter” key after each line. So I’m sorry if it turns out hard to read on your end. Also, I am unable to check my messages. For sure in Cairo.

Anyways, if you remember I left Nairobi heading for a city called Isiolo at the base of Mt. Kenya. I was hoping to hitch a ride from there to the Ethiopia border city of Moyale. I waited for three days with no luck. With the road washed out not even private 4 X 4’s were going through. So I headed back to Nairobi and paid $110 (Ouch) for a two hour 600 Km flight to Moyale. My first inter-Africa flight. It was actually nice because the pilot flew at around 3500 feet so I could see everything.

 I spent a total of a little over three weeks in Ethiopia. The country is picture perfect Africa. Straight out of the pages of a book. The country has a canyon that must be equal to the Grand Canyon. In the Southwest you have people with plates in their lower lips and in the Northwest you have the neighborhood where Lucy, our oldest upright relative, was found. During my three weeks I hit Moyale, Awasa, Dire Dawa, Harar, Addis Ababa, Bahar Dar, lalibela, Gondar and Axum. Sorry if that bores some of you. My brother has a co-worker from this country and I thought he would be interested in my exact spots.

 The most interesting of these places to visit was Lalibela. Lalibela has 10 monolithic churches carved out of the side of hills or straight into the ground. King Lalibela made them somewhere around the 12th century. When I say monolithic I mean right into solid rock. It must have taken 100 years to build all of them. It was an eye opener.

 By far the worst place I’ve seen in Africa is Addis Ababa. That place must have grown out of camel fecus. It smelled something bad. There were times when I was walking that I’d have problems breathing and my eyes would water. I couldn’t walk more then 50 feet without someone throwing their hand in my face and asking for money. It was non-stop. I would see topless, blind, pregnant women in the streets looking for any kind of handout. Most of these women would also have a baby on their back.

 Since we’re on the subject of Ethiopia let’s talk a bit about the buses. First off, I don’t want you to get me wrong. I enjoyed Ethiopia and they have by far the best buses in Africa. Where I’m going with this is that the Ethiopian culture has this thing against opening windows. The Ethiopians, especially the elders, believe, so I’m told, that you can get sick from the incoming wind, or something like that.

 So close your eyes and picture it 100 degrees outside on a 12-hour bus ride with no air conditioner and all of the windows closed. Basically you find your liquefied brain oozing out your pores, people sneezing and coughing with billions of air-born pathogens multiplying within the warm air waiting to be vacuumed up your nose. But hey, at least with the windows up we don’t have to worry about that horrible wind getting at us. That would be tragic. Yes I dreaded the bus rides. One trip I couldn’t take it any longer so I cracked open the window a quarter of an inch. The sound of the incoming wind sent a dozen evil eyes in my direction. I promptly closed the window. I probably killed five locals just that one opening.

 Since I’m in the complaining mode let me tell you another story. After I finally made it to Moyale I scored a hotel. I thought at first I’d be glad to be out of my tent, but I miss it already. Anyways, it was your normal place for around $1.30 with mosquitoes and the occasional cockroach. It came around that time to find the drop toilet. Well it didn’t take long to find. At about 25 meters away I couldn’t see it but smell it. We’ve all heard of the elephant grave yard, while I think this drop toilet was where all drop toilets came ones they were full and had no more usable life, or space in this case, left in them. I decided that I’d hold out for a while.

 Well night finally came and I couldn’t wait. I felt like I was entering ground zero of an atomic S-bomb. It was bad. It actually hurt my sinuses. This was worse then having to go through the cosmetic section of Nordstrom’s. The worst part was the cockroaches. I believe they knew I was in no position to hurt them so they used my white butt, like Santa uses Rudolf’s nose, to guide their way in and out of the hole. I finally made it out, probably sterile, but thankfully out.

 After working my way north I made it here to Asmara. Here, I’m one happy camper now. Well, actually one happy backpacker since I haven’t been in my tent the last month. They have western food here. I got on a scale the other day and found that I’ve lost a total of 16 pounds. Who needs Jenny Craig? Just come and visit Africa. Lose weight and take in the sights. Anyways my first night here I ate two cheeseburgers, order of fries, milkshake, and 1/2 liter of milk. I’ve been eating like that for the last three days.

 I’m currently working on getting my Visa for both Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I need a transit Visa for Saudi Arabia in order to take the boat from here to Suez. The boat stops off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Wish me luck. I heard I could set my tent up on the deck. It’s a five-day trip on the Red Sea for around $150.

 I need to get going. There’s someone looking over my shoulder.

 Take Care, John

Judi, Can you please sent a copy of this to the following:

 tvasey@imco-inc.com and sundberg@irwd.com

 From: BROTHER JOHN [SMTP:john@infodesk.gemel.com.er] Sent: Thursday, January 08, 1998 3:41 PM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: Asmara

 Good Morning to All!!!!!!

 It’s Thursday morning here and I’m hoping to get a hold of my Saudi Arabia transit visa today. The main reason is that I heard the boat leaves only on Thursday nights. So if I don’t get it today you can see what the problem is. It’s actually not that bad. The city of Asmara is by far the nicest city I’ve seen in Africa. So it’s a good place to hang and wait. The last few days I’ve caught three movies. Granted the movies are 10 years old but they’re new to here. They only cost 50 cents. The town is an Italian looking town. Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why John, Oh mighty traveler that you are, is it that way”. While let me tell you. The Italians began coming to Eritrea in the 19th century. In 1890 Eritrea was declared an Italian colony. The Italians invested mass money by building roads, railways, ports, factories and even entire cities. However, after Mussolini got his ass kicked in 1941 the Italians were forced to give up their claim on Eritrea. That’s a quick history lesson.

 Well I did something yesterday that I thought I wouldn’t do on this lengthy African excursion of mine. I actually didn’t believe I was capable of it. Earlier yesterday morning I, yes BROTHER JOHN went to a museum. I know that’s a huge cultural leap forward for someone like myself. I was sorta nervous as I approached the front doors. I pictured upon entering that I’d be struck down by lightning. The all-mighty museum god would not allow someone of my demeanor, one who avoids culture at all cost, into his/her home.

 Fortunately I made it past the front doors. Since my entry was so uneventful I thought there must be a backup plan to oust me. I imagined a set of speers shooting from the wall or a giant boulder rolling on me as in those “Indiana Jones” flicks or a robot like the one from “Lost in Space” flaring its arms at me and with its computerized voice squeaking “Danger Danger”. It would grab me by the collar and shorts and hurl me through the doors. No such events occurred. So with a successful entry I tightened my shoes to begin my Olympic record speed walk through the museum. A couple times I slowed down, to view a weapon or some woodworking tool, but slowly got back to my pace and was out of there in record time. I had to hurry because I was holding my breath. I still didn’t trust the museum god to let the likes of me into their home.

 If you don’t hear from me tomorrow I’m most likely on my way the Saudi Arabia.Oh yeah, go back to my original address at john nCOWPIE@rocketmail.com

 Molughela Abraham – I’m using a private companies system. The name of the company is Tfanus Enterprise at 17 Ras Dashan Street, tele 124050. Maybe you and your dad can communicate through here. It’s only 15 Nakfa to send. The exchange currently is 7.2 Nakfa to 1 USD.

 Take Care, John

 Judi, Please provide again to the following

 sundberg@irwd.com tvasey@imco-inc.com

 ———- From: BROTHER JOHN[SMTP:SORRYNOEMAIL@ROCKETMAIL.COM] Sent: Thursday, January 15, 1998 10:52 AM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: Finally in Cairo, Egypt

 Howdy from Cairo, Egypt,

 As usual I hope all is well and I want to thank all of you for the E-mails. Again I found myself with a smile after seeing 20 messages on my screen. Thank you!!!!

 I also want to thank those of you (this sounds like I won an Oscar or something) that have been helping my sister around her new home. All I ask is to leave me with something to do when I return. I’m going to have an extra eight hours more per day than the rest of you and I need a good house-remodeling job to kill that time.

 So, lets start off where we last left off. The day after my last E-mail from Asmara, Eritrea I was on a bus, with a Saudi Arabia transit visa and boat ticket in hand, heading for the port city of Masawa. I only had to wait one night before the boat rope broke and I was off to Jeddah. That one night in Masawa was educational. I met one sole backpacker who’d gotten off the boat coming from Jeddah. He talked this and that about a thing called “Ramadan”. He went on and on about the problems this “Ramadan” caused him while traveling by boat from Suez, Egypt. I, of course, had no idea what this “Ramadan” was he’s talking about. To me “Ramadan” sounds like the name of one of those cars on that Saturday morning cartoon show “Transformers”. By day it’s just a Toyota, but when trouble arises he transforms from Toyota to a giant fighting ninja robot named “Ramadan”.

 I went along with him trying not to show my ignorance on the subject. I’d throw out the occasional, “Yeah that Ramadan”, “That’s what I’ve learned”, “ah-ha”, “Really”, “Wow” and so on. All I learned was that for a one-month period those of the Islamic faith don’t eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. If you are caught, your butt can be hauled to jail until Ramanda is complete. This, of course, caused concerns within my devious little mind.

 The boat ride was uneventful… just like a B.C. Ferry but with people in bed sheets walking all over the deck.

 After waking up in Jeddah I began my walk through the city. I was the sole person on the streets. I thought the fumes from that Moyale drop toilet must have drifted this way and nuked the city. Actually everybody sleeps throughout the day to rest for the nightly activities. After two hours of walking I found a mom and pop store open and grabbed myself a handful of Snickers. Of course I was lectured, I think, not to eat until sunset. I gave the clerk my best “Who me” look and left. Within 30 seconds I was pinned between a bush and an apartment building savoring those peanuts, caramel and chocolate. After a few more hours it was back to the hotel and the boat company brought me back to my departing ferry.

 The boat trip was similar to the first in that it also took three days and two nights. However, I was unaware that this boat was registered in Saudi Arabia. Yes, that meant nothing to eat between sunrise and sunset. After the first day I found myself starving. I thought of unthreading my underwear and forming a fishing line. Then use the spiral from my notebook to form a hook. I’d catch a fish and then crawl to some unseen place and eat my sushi away form roaming eyes. Luckily, I didn’t have to go the those measure. I found they had a cafeteria that opened immediately after sunset. I was front and center when those doors opened.

 On both trips I found a great place to sleep on the deck. The weather was kind and I never had to pull out my tent.

 Anyways that puts me here in Cairo. I’m hanging here for a couple a more days, so send me some messages if time is available. I’d love to hear from all. From here I’ll head for the Sinai region to do some diving. Maybe even slap on the old Speedo and do a few laps in the Red Sea. I’m only kidding I don’t want to gross anyone out. I know what women think about those things.

 Talk to you soon


 Duncan – thank you for the pictures of Judi’s home. They turned out great.

 Rob – You don’t even need to ask me if you can borrow my stain glass toolbox. Just ask Mom or Judi to slag it for you.

 Judi – Can you also send this along with any olds ones you may have to the following address. jvanhout@gte.net Mom may have the old ones if you don’t. Thanks. Also, continue sending messages to those two from last time.

 From: BROTHER JOHN[SMTP:SORRYNOEMAIL@ROCKETMAIL.COM] Sent: Monday, February 02, 1998 8:15 AM To: i@uswnvg.uswnvg.com Subject: One more week till mom


 I’ve returned to Cairo and WOW!!! With the completion of Ramadan this place has awakened like a sleeping giant. The place is swarming shoulder to shoulder with people. It’s a loud polluted metropolis, but there’s a certain character that makes this place inviting.

 As always I hope all is well with those that receive this message. Congratulations to the Rickett’s on the birth of their baby girl.

 OK, so lets start off from where we last let off. I jumped a bus in Cairo and eight hours and one fan belt later arrived at the beach community of Dahab. Dahab is located on the Sinai Peninsula. Dahab is by far the most comfortable place I’ve seen for budget travelers. You wouldn’t believe this place. It’s a lazy place with nothing to do but sit on your keester and bake in the sun. When the sun becomes too much you simply unstick yourself from your seat and cool off in the water. And let me tell you desk-dwellers, it feels refreshing. Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it, it’s also some of the best snorkeling in the world. Just thought I’d throw that in for those that are reading this within their stuffy offices. For a little over $1.00 you can rent mask, snorkel and fins. Not bad, eh!

 It’s hard to describe the place. It’s a Bedouin village converted for the comforts of those like myself; poor budget travelers with no job, home, car or relationship. In other words for losers on the run. Let me describe an average day. After emerging around 10:00 from your room, you stagger through the heat to plop your white ass in one of the many beachfront restaurants. The restaurants are all the same. They’ve covered the beach with blankets, pillows, beanbag chairs and speakers. Usually Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Led Zep is playing. You know the music! Anyways, the minute your ass is in place, a shadow engulfs you asking how they can best please you. For 5 Egyptian Pounds (EP) you can get a huge breakfast with sausage, eggs, yogurt, toast, chips and tea. 3.40 EP = $1.00. You figure it out. My brain got turned off around six months ago. I can hear my old boss, Steve Malloy, wondering if it’s actually ever been on.

 Anyways, until dinner you do nothing but soak up sun and snorkel. We’ll call it soak and snork for short. This goes on for around seven hours. When you get thirsty you’d order a 1 EP coke. Dinners usually cost between 5 and 10 EP’s and they’re amazing. From there you leave your imprinted ass and head for the free movies that are played each night in one of the scuba shops.

 On my last night in Dahab a group of us climbed into a taxi and headed for Mt. Sinai. It took two hours to summit. The sunrise was beautiful. On the climb down we hit St. Catherines Monastery. The monastery, it is said, is build around the burning bush that spoke to Moses.

 Dahab was a place I had to drag myself away from. Many travelers have been there for up to three months and have not seen anything else of Egypt. It was a hard place to leave but after six days I jumped a bus for Cairo.

 I was back in Cairo for only one day before I was seated in a bus heading to Siwa. Siwa is an oasis about 35 miles from the Libya border. I heard that they filmed parts of “The English Patient” there. That movie was definitely a major tease to the male viewers. Right out of the gate the movie has flak, from anti-aircraft artillery, filling the screen. You can look around the theater and see all the males lifting out of their seats and leaning forward towards the screen for more action. The airplane is hit and crashes hard into the ground. All the guys are happy. However, after the crash the movie takes a 180-degree turn and becomes a major chick flick. Even won some awards. A true guy movie never wins squat. That, of course, is my sole opinion.

 Anyways, Siwa was a five nighter. I went and hit three separate forts from the thirteenth century and swam in several of the natural springs that surround the town. It cost 7 EP’s at the hotel and the food never exceeded 10 EP’s. Life in Egypt can be cheap if you try.

 Well it’s time to go. I’m going to catch a guy flick called “The Best of the Best Kick Boxers”. A true guy flick.

 Talk to you soon, John

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