Friday, 20 February 2009
Yesterday, in a sandstorm, we made it to Giza to see the Pyramids. Which (to my surprise) are as astonishing as they are said to be. The boys will write about our trip in the next couple of days, but here are a few pictures, for the record, of the Jangano Team at the Pyramids.
This afternoon we are heading to Alexandria with Rick and Kate and Anna, Joe and Sam for the weekend: then on to El Alamein to pay our respects, and out into the Great Sand Sea for ten days of desert adventuring.
Which we will tell you all about as it happens!
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
We are now in Cairo staying at Kate and Rick's house with their dog, their parrot, their two guinea pigs and Sam, Joe and Anna their children.
Today I woke up and played Lego. I went down to breakfast I had Frosties then we went to a huge castle. We went to a mosk (mosque) which was quite impressive. We went to another huge mosk which must have been a couple of hundred feet tall.
The we went to the prison where you looked through the bars and saw dummies of the criminals. We got some crisps then we went to the museum. We saw two fighter jets and six or seven tanks. I saw a missile about 10 meters long and two DUCK (amphibious cars) and a bulldozer. Inside the museum we saw loads of gun and models.
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Saturday, 14 February 2009
But silver linings and all that.. it meant that we had the time to visit St Paul's monastery, one of the earliest monasteries in the world dating back to the 4th century. It is a Coptic monastery: the Coptic church split from the rest of the Eastern Orthodox church because the Copts believe that Christ was purely divine and not also human. We fortuitously gave a lift to an architect who was bringing some blueprints to the monastery and he arranged for a wonderful English speaking monk, Father Matthew, to guide us around the original cave where St Paul lived for 90 years in the 3rd to 4th century AD. He (St P) lived on dates and a half loaf of bread that a raven brought each day. When he died St Anthony instructed the two lions present to dig a grave and sent St Paul's palm frond garment to the patriarch at Alexandria; reputedly many miracles were performed in its presence. The chapels, including St Paul's cave, are adorned with beautiful icons and frescoes of saints and martyrs: all the paintings are at least 200 years old and many nearer 600 years old. Superficially they resemble the iconography of Ethiopian orthodox churches but a lighter less stylised technique is used
We saw the grinding mills (some of the mechanisms dating from the 14th century) where the monks ground their flour until recently and we ate freshly baked bread rolls cooked by novice monks. We drank from the original well spring which provides only 4 cubic metres per day - insufficient for 85 resident monks and many 100s of day visitors, and now supplemented by piped water from the Nile, 100km away. They make wine too, from grapes grown in the Nile Valley. We didnt get to sample that but had a cup of tea instead. The original refectory dates from 6th century and judging by the layer of dust over it, possibly hasn't been used since.
The newly constructed monk cells and cathedral, and restorations have been done traditionally and sympathetically, using the local stone and blending into their surroundings. Sad that the same principles have not guided the coastal developments. We got back to Cairo in time for a delicious supper and an exciting if ultimately unsatisfactory England-Wales rugby match.
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
No its not a whole load of my school chums. It's that Jambanja and Mahali are back in Jangano hands. They have been under the control of Sudanese business men and then Egyptian bureaucrats for the last week but have just been cleared from customs.
When dad and Gus drove the cars up the ramp onto the barge in Wadi Halfa we were apprehensive as to how long it would be before we got them back. The infamous unreliability of the Lake Nasser shiping companies held true and it was three days before they actually pulled out of port. This was because the captain decided to load 200 tonnes of cement onto the barge. Then they strapped four barges together with some fishing line and pushed them down the lake with one motor.As a result it took 2 and a half days to complete the journey.
It is well known that bringing a car into Egypt takes at least two days so we prepared ourselves.It was Gus and dad with the amazing Karmal fixing and 'backsheeshing' (bribing) for two days that finally got our cars out of 'prison'.
And what excitement it was when we saw two laden Toyota Land Cruisers coming down the road. We are free, no more taking nag and carriages or knackered Peugot 504 taxis to get around.
We're leaving Aswan tomorow and heading up to Cairo. I'm actually really feeling a need to move on now after a week here.
Monday, 9 February 2009
jangano2009 youtube channel. It's a story about crossing the Nubian
desert. When Max and I edited it we set it to "Paris, Texas", theme
by Ry Cooder, but unfortunately some clever chappy at youtube spotted
the copyright infringement and so it is now "muted". But the pictures
Benedict: Yesterday we spent the whole day sailing on the River Nile. At first, I was a bit worried we were going to sink. Also, I have lots of cuts, so maybe I’d get bilharzias. But in the end, nothing happened like that and I felt really great. We had a good refreshing swim, where there wasn’t any bilharzias. Fortunately, there wasn’t any crocs; we reckon they’ve all been killed. Our felucca had this big king size mattress on all the wood, which we lay on most of the time. We played games and ate and read and listened to music. We played Sudoku and wrote diaries. It was so fun and so relaxing. Captain Kiwi and his ship mate made us a brilliant lunch, just like a buffet! My best part of the day was the swimming. I loved our day on the felucca!
Alexander: Yesterday, we went on a felucca. A felucca is like a big boat with a huge sail and a very tall mast. The captain’s name was Captain Kiwi and he gave us some lunch, which was fish and rice and salad. We stopped at a little island place and the captain and his mate cooked our fish. Me and my friend Ben swam in the Nile and played Lego on the beach. It gave me an influence to maybe be a sailor when I grow up! My mum and Ben and me stroked a little donkey, which was cute. We found a tiny, tiny shell. Me and Ben played a game where we were like cabin boys on a ship! That was quite fun! We saw for some reason, lots of fire engines and ambulances going along the road. We saw party boats with loads of people on, which we hoped was nothing to do with that. We were on the boat for about 7 and a half hours, relaxing and playing games on our i-pods and listening to music. It was a really good day and really fun.
Saturday, 7 February 2009
Another cool thing is that, becasue we slept out in the desert a lot, nobody really cared if went to bed in our pyjamas or our clothes.
And nobody really cared how dirty we got either. Which was just as well, as some of us got VERY dirty indeed!
When Mummy wasn't looking, we got to play some really great games. This was my favourite - it was called "Let's Pretend Alexander's a Donkey". It is a great game.Another thing about the desert is that all the grown-ups become more relaxed and they don't seem to notice all the dirt and stuff any more. Maybe it's because they're also really dirty....
The best thing about being in the desert in Sudan, though, was that everywhere we went, without exception, they have these awesome great big sand pits, which are free for anybody who wants to use them. We could play as much as we wanted, wherever we wanted.
As ever the little boys attract a lot of attention - not all of it completely desirable! They are enjoying a bit of downtime: the most successful item in the games box has been Alexander's huge crate of lego, which of course we complained about when we were packing back in Harare, but which provides the boys with hours of constructive entertainment. Number two top toy has probably been the set of carefully selected toy cars and tanks he brought (including a bright pink Lotus Esprit that my brother Mark might remember). We got the cricket bat out in the desert, and Max pumped up the soccer ball to play with the friendly youth we met on our first afternoon in Sudan. He and I have enjoyed a few games of Scrabble: I better sharpen up because he beat me for the first time (I think) a few days ago. Harry Potter has also been a great inspiration for the boys imaginative play (lots of scrambling on rocks, shouting 'Expelliarmus' and 'Expecto Patronum' and searching for suitable wands - which as you can imagine is something of a magical feat when you are in a desert with no trees). Ben and Alexander are ploughing their way through all seven volumes. And I have to admit I have also re-read the entire series since the beginning of the trip, with greater enjoyment, and less irritation at the grammatical glitches, than the first time. Maybe thats the effect of travelling and becoming more relaxed and mellow by the day....
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
And we would, if we could... but for the last seven days we have been
travelling hard across the Nubian Desert in northern Sudan. And I
know, from painful experience, that computers don't like deserts.
Now we are in Wadi Halfa, where the road north through Sudan runs out
into Lake Nasser, and where the Jangano team will be boarding a ferry
up the lake to Aswan in Egypt. We are staying in the airy, leafy
courtyard home of a Nubian family under a veranda roofed with split
palm trees and cardboard boxes - it doesn't rain often in Wadi Halfa
(the last time was in 1996!).
We moved out from Khartoum last Tuesday, after four days staying with
Shaun and Amy and their lads Oscar and Noah. Cleaned the cars,
changed oil, sorted out permits, did a ton of laundry - the four days
of "housekeeping" it seems we need when we hit a big city and set
about catching up with ourselves. Without Shaun and Amy's hospitality
it would have been a whole lot harder. Thanks guys!
Since then we have more or less followed the Nile on it's "big bend"
- where the Nile turns north, then south, then north again in a
thousand kilometer 'S' across the Nubian desert. All along the
river's length here we have seen the remains of four thousand years
of civilisation - Pharaonic, Nubian, Kushite, Roman, early Christian,
and Islamic. Strange elongated pyramids, like the ones at Jebel
Barkel and Meroe; the lion temple at Musawarrat, built by the
Egyptians two thousand years ago - and across a shallow valley, the
sprawling great compound, possibly once used as a training area for
At Old Dongola we clambered through the fortress of the ninth century
Christian kings of Nubia. And in a village on the east bank of the
Nile we passed a small, battered, forgotten Meroitic pyramid, a
memorial to the British soldiers of Kitchener's Army who died in the
recapture of the Sudan from the Mahdi a hundred and fifty years ago.
Sudan is one of Africa's most brutalised countries - at war with
itself, in the South, in Darfur, and in the Khordofan region pretty
much without cease since Independence. Yet strangely it is also one
of the safest countries in Africa to travel through, so long as the
traveller sticks to a wide corridor either side of the Nile. So
almost uniquely in these troubled times it is possible to camp wild
in the desert without fear of militants or other nasties. Which is
exactly what we have done - seven days of desert driving (and on one
day, a hundred kilometer, straight-line transect across the desert,
eight hours of startling arid beauty, white dunes, pale golden pans,
hard black rock outcrops, and at the end of it a delicious wadi with
a stand of thorn trees at the foot of razor-edged dunes).
We have come into Wadi Halfa dusty and dessicated, the cars carrying
kilos of sand in every crevice, exhilarated and exhausted, with a
real sense of achievement.
And also a knowledge that we are at the end of an era. Everywhere
along the hard road north from Nairobi to Wadi Halfa we have passed
road building teams. Half the construction equipment in Africa must
be deployed here, and the snaking ribbon of black tarmac is evident
along the route. In a few months time - perhaps even by the end of
this year - it will be possible to drive from Nairobi to Wadi Halfa -
and therefore from Cape Town to Cairo - almost without leaving the tar.
Which will be excellent for Africa, of course - fast roads and
reliable cellphone signals will transform the opportunities for those
who live and trade along this route. But there is a sense of
something passing, too. By the time our children are old enough to
drive the length of Africa, they won't necessarily need a 4x4 - it
will probably be possible to do this journey in a Mercedes.
So tomorrow we take the ferry to Egypt - approaching the apex of our
trans-African parabola. On up the Nile to Cairo, the children already
excited about the prospect of the Valley of the King, "proper"
pyramids, and the Sphinx. Across the Nile delta to Alexandria -
and then the long road back home...
Mahali crosses the Nile on a ferry
At the Pyramids below Jebel Bekhar, Karima, Sudan
Gus and Robert surveying the Nubian Desert
The Jangano team, Karima, Sudan
Desert Sunset, Nubian desert
Dawn in the desert, the day of the Great Transect
The Nubian Desert
Mands and Nicky presenting perfect pyramids at sunrise (downward dog, to yoga initiates)
Mahali on the piste (English joke)
there are quite a lot of rocks. It doesn't rain very much. There are
lots of little desert animals like gerbals, desert foxes, camels and
insects. There aren't many people here, but the one that do, live by
water in oases. We have been in the desert for seven days. In one of
those days we only drove in the desert and saw the road once. When we
were doing that I went on the side of the car the whole day (mostly).
I have only slept in a tent 2/7 times. The other four times I have
slept outside on a yoga mat with my pillow and my sleeping bag under