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Saturday, February 23, 2008

We finally returned home!

Well, we got home around 2:00 am last night. Needless to say we had a great time on a trip that took us to many interesting locations. Unfortunately, I have about 8 Gigs of photos to go through so I'll post some of them later. Here is a quick review of where the Fly's, Ordelheide's and Pierson's went and what we saw. Enjoy!

South Korea: Arrived to Sub Zero weather where our breath easily froze, so we layered on the clothes... very cold for Guamanias! With a half day layover we went to a few palaces, saw the changing of the guard, World Stadium for Soccer, added pages to our passports at the U.S. Embassy. Loved their airport!!!!! They even had a vaccination center where we received our yellow fever shots.

Egypt: Arriving VERY early in the morning and were taken to the SDA conference by some very nice people. After braving the chilly air the next morning we headed back to the airport for a flight down south to Luxor. There we saw the Valley of the Kings, took a local boat ride on the Nile, saw Luxor Temple and the massive temple of Karnath....All very amazing. We also had some great Egyptian food...everyone loved the Falafel sandwiches on the streets of Luxor. We then flew back to Cairo that evening and once again slept at the Conference guest house. The next day we headed out to Giza to see the Pyramids and Sphinx. It too was amazing! The history, location, size... We even did the tourist thing and took camel & horseback rides over the dunes to see the panoramic of the whole plateau. After a little browsing at the Bazaar it was once again time to get back on the airplane and head for Tanzania.

Sudan: Ok Sudan wasn't on our itinerary but we found out we touched down there sometime after midnight. Even though we weren't "Allowed" to leave the plane, Eric and I persuaded a nice attendant to let us slip down the back step onto Terra Firma. A quick picture to prove our location and we were back on the plane. We were also quickly followed by ground security trying to find out what was going on and what we were up to. The stewardess said we were confused and really going to Kenya...It was good not to spend a night in a Khartoum jail...I doubt that would have happened!

Zanzibar & Tanzania: First of all we jumped from Nairobi down the Zanzibar. We had a very relaxing week on their powder white sand beaches of their east coast. We spent the first 5 days diving during the day and kicking back at night after a game of Aquire, Rook or Farkle. Our highlights were the close up dolphin swims, huge fish, new nudibranchs, Turtles, big Eels and the biggest lobster I've ever seen. Another highlight was a large bon-fire the hotel made for us on the beach. Great memories. The last two days down there, we went on a Spice tour and visited the Colubus monkeys. The spice tour was a very fun and informative surprise. Our local tourguides were hilarius and all the spices in form of twigs, barks, roots and nuts were awesome. I even enjoyed a little piece of Durian...Ahhhh! We also got up close and personal with the Red Colubus in their forests. That night we wandered around Stone Town and left the next morning for Arusha, Tanzania. The main stress of this trip was the Violence in Kenya made us change everything. Thus when we left Guam our Safari package was not yet Finalized. As you could guess the communication age in Africa hasn't yet arrive to all areas. So trying to arrange our tours through email was slow at the cost of $5 for 15 minutes or $7/min on the phone. Since we didn't want to spend too much cash we ended up not having the finalities done till we reached Arusha. In the end we went through a bunch of companies and ended up using Classic Tours which had the best price. After spending the night in a 1 star hotel we were surprised the be greeted with a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser outfitted with a refrigerator, Bean bags for cameras, and veerrrry comfortable interior. Over the whole Safari we didn't see one nicer!!! Our first day was in the Arusha national park. Very dense forest so we didn't expect to see much. Highlights included many of the regulars plus a lone elephant, beautiful birds, up close White Colubus and a few others. The next day our Safari started for real. We went to Lake Manyara National park, where we had great food, nice game drives and good lodging. Ngorogoro Crater with an Amazing View, lion kills, Rhino, Flamingos and many others. Serengeti where immediately after entering the park we saw a huge lioness perched on top a of a massive boulder looking out over the plains...Amazing. We saw the beginning of the Wilda beast migration and soon after saw a group of 3 Cheetah that passed right by our (and a few other) landcruisers. While there we saw the usually nocturnal Serval and Civit. There was also the dead hippo which was being eaten by sounds disgusting but it is very uncommon and interesting to watch. We then enjoyed the Hippo pools where we were only a few feet away from the massive yawning beasts. The best moment we had in the Sarangeti was when we went down a muddy road where others were afraid to venture on and found a pair of lions. The female was in heat and we watched as they tried to mate. It was obvious she was worn out and wanted nothing to do with him; but the ensuing scuffle provided us with a few seconds of heart pounding, deep throated growls that reminded us why the lion is King of Beasts. It was now time to head north to the Masai Mara!!

Kenya: After crossing the Boarder at Isebana we were a little disappointed to leave our Great Guide Emanuel and his massive 4x4. We were met by our new guide Joe and his diminutive van. Even though many Kenyan companies use them and they work fine it just didn't do like the Cruiser!!! Anyway, a wild ride the Mara ensued with Joe beating the tar out of his truck. We did need to hurry though because shortly after entering the Mara and a stretch of very "Slipper When Wet" road a massive rainstorm followed us in. As I remember the Mara's massive plains with the random acacia trees was awesome. The black rain and clouds in the distance made the backdrop for some wonderful pictures. In the Mara we had downgraded our vehicle but upgraded our accommodation's to the Sarova Tented Camp.......So Nice!! The place was beautiful and the food was terrific. Due to the violence in Kenya the usually packed hotel had 3 groups of guest which was a little heartbreaking. They made the most of it and gave the VERY Personal Very Good service. They even make a special Bush Supper (Usually $70 per person) at no extra charge. The Mara netted us Tons of Elephants, all the regulars, 5 Servals, a Civit, a Caracal and many many Lions!! Unfortunately the only big animal that eluded us the whole trip was the Leopard. As people can't see everything or you have no reason to come back. After the long dusty, bumpy ride back to Nairobi we did a little curio shopping in the city center. Barganing was hot but a little sad as well. It seems people were a little more urgently needing to make a sale due to the downturn in tourism. The next morning we took a little time to go see Maxwell Academy. It's changed a lot and there is now a beautiful Conference Headquarters on the hill behind the school. Hopefully the changes in progress will work for them down the road. We then made a mad dash to hotel and to the airport! Goodbye Kenya!

Egypt: One more day to hit the Bazzars and the museum. We first braved the masses to see Egypts history. Mummies, Sarcophagi, Carriots, Internal Organ containers and of course King Tuts crazy Gold, Jewels, $$$ encrusted things. That is something you shouldn't miss if you are ever in the area. We then headed back to the bazaar to buy some last minute items. Alabaster, Scarfs and some spices. We then enjoyed our last Egyptian meal. I must say I love their food, especially the falafel sandwiches. With a fond farewell we headed for the Airport...not Egyptians most prized possession right now. Even long time taxi drivers don't know where to go. Nothing is labeled and you pretty much have to guess which terminal your at...if you can find the terminal that is ;-) We finally did, said goodbye to the Nile Valley and head for Dubai.

United Arab Emirates: Dubai was a metropolis of money. We stayed at a 1-2 star hotel and the cost was still in the hundreds. Since we got in at 2 am we only got a few hours of sleep. Bridge and early we headed out on a sand dune Safari. Our driver flew around the desert side swiping dunes in a way that made Shoshanna cringe with fear we were going to role over. We then got a Camel ride that was more the photos than to be a spice trader of old. That's Okay because most had their fix in Cairo. After that we tried our hands at Sandboarding. All of us strapped on snow...sandboards and gunned straight down the hill. Some of us tried other variations that led to sand down the pants and bruises...Needless to say it was fun and an experience. We then headed into town for a city tour. Off to see the 7 Star Burj Al Arab, from a distance, the museum which was quite nice, took a river taxi, hit the gold Souks (Didn't Buy anything), and saw their mammoth mall! All in all it was a nice place to see for a day; but the traffic was horrible and their airport was strangely not well thought out. Many were sitting/sleeping on the ground because their were no chairs, and lines seemed to be a theme of the city.

Our trip was a blast, everyone got along fine, and now it's back to the grind for a while!! When I get our things more organized I'll post some pics. So check back and let us know what you have been up to while we were gone!!!

Pictures to Follow!!

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