I use a Tortuga backpack. It fits me well, has a good waist strap, good zippers, and a cover for the straps when I check it. For a typical 5 month trip it weighs 7 kg fully loaded. I have to carry it, so I have strived for efficiency to travel with minimum weight.
I try not to have anything loose in my pack. I use packing cubes for clothes and mesh pencil cases in various sizes for meds, odds and sods, kitchen supplies etc. I get the mesh bags at a dollar store.
The only things loose are flip-flops, cup, bowl, plate, and a foldable bag.
When I take something out, I leave out the case it goes in. I then know that something has to go back in it before it goes back into my pack. I do not meet many people who have had things stolen, but many people have lost or forgotten things.
One outside pocket has a rain poncho
OUTSIDE ZIP COMPARTMENT:
3-4 plastic bags, various sizes
Traditional road map
Small thin world atlas
School sized notebook
10” X 7” Plastic with three waterproof compartments
small baby shampoo (washes me, my hair, and my clothes)
Black plastic soap holder. Inside is a bar of soap in a bag, and under it is a bank debit card in a RFDI protector sleeve.
Matching black plastic toothbrush holder. Inside is $200 emergency funds in cash
comb, deodorant, nail clippers, tweezers, flat sink plug, small sun screen, razor, facecloth
I only carry small sizes and once I get somewhere I will stay for a while, I buy larger sizes
Plug and cord for computer
Plug and cord for IPad
Cord for phone
External hard drive and cord
Powerbank and cord
Camera battery charger and cord
2 USB storage sticks
Memory card reader
Nano USB drive to transfer photos from android phone to Mac computer
2 Electrical plugs for USBs
Digital voice recorder
2 adaptor plugs
Pepto Bismol Pills
3 pkgs Neo Citran
Tiger Balm (also use as insect repellant)
I take all of the pills out of the containers and put them in little zip bags. Each bag has a little piece of paper with the name typed on.
Blood pressure meds
Restless leg meds
Toothbrush and paste
Good quality camping plastic knife, spoon, and fork
Steripen (to purify water)
Splenda sugar minis
3 in 1 coffee tubes
Paring knife ( do not take if you are taking your pack as a carry on)
2 pair lightweight cotton drawstring waist capris
1 pair long leggings
1 pair below the knee leggings
1 pair long athletic shorts
1 sarong (can be used as a dress-up skirt)
3 short sleeved Merino wool t-shirts
1 long loosed sleeveless top
1 short sleeve knee-length cotton dress
3 pair panties – Tilley brand, quick dry
1 sports bra
ODDS & SODS CASE:
AA & AAA batteries
spare luggage lock
small craft zip bags
1 large, 1 small carabiners
1 pair spare glasses
PADI dive card
copy of passport
copy of IAMATA card
copy of my prescriptions
International immunization book
Instead of a day pack, I carry a sling bag. It is hands-free and sits on the front of my body.
My sling bag has a padded shoulder strap with an inside zip compartment where I store $200 emergency cash.
When I travel it contains all the important things:
my wallet (with just the money for the day) copy of my passport, contact info
a clear zip case with my passport, airline ticket, accommodation reservation
WHEN I TRAVEL I WEAR:
I wear a homemade money belt when I travel, it does not have a zipper
long sleeved merino wool t-shirt ( I am usually cold on a plane or bus)
short sleeved merino wool t-shirt
long yoga pants
Once I arrive my computer is locked in the outside compartment of my pack, also my money belt and passport get locked in there too. My pack is small so I lock it to a chair or the bed with a metal coil and lock (like many bicycle locks)
I saw many changes in Egypt since I had visited 22 years ago. The pyramids have not changed. They are as impressive as ever and still inspire awe as you stand at the bottom and look up. The first time I went we had a young gal from Oregon with us. As we arrived she said “You know you have to ride a camel around the pyramids”. I told her I did not think that was a necessity, but she insisted so we did. I remember that ride as being uncomfortable and stinky.
This time a friend from Vancouver had joined me, and he had never been to Egypt before. He too thought that camel riding was an intricate part of the experience. We were at the gate when it opened and managed to beat the tour bus crowds. We were alone with the Sphnix. As we got closer to the big pyramid he decided he would like to go inside one. I had “been there, done that” so had no desire to do it again. We met an old camel guide and were talking to him. He told Troy not to waste money to go into the big pyramid – had would not see anything, and the ticket to the smaller one was much cheaper. Troy had to walk back to the entrance to get that ticket. I stayed to talk to the old camel guy. He had been a guide for 45 years. He told me when he first started someone had given him a card. He did not know what it was, but took it home and kept it. He continued to get them, and someone finally explained they were business cards. He decided to keep them and put them in a book. He told me he now had a big book, and he invited me to come to his house to see it.
Troy went inside the smaller pyramid – said it was a waste of time and money. We then rode the camels out into the dunes in order to look back at the pyramids. Once again it was uncomfortable, but this time the camel did not stink.
After Troy left I call the old guy and he came to meet me to take me to his house. He only lived a couple of blocks from where I was staying, down a winding little alley. He opened the door to his house, and there was his camel’s ass. We walked past the camel and a couple of feet from its head his wife and daughter were seated on the floor preparing food for dinner.
We went into an adjoining room with carpet and big pillows on the floor. Everything was spotlessly clean. His daughter brought us tea as he smoked his shisha and showed me his “big book”. He knew it inside out and could find cards within seconds. He also showed me a photo of his grandfather with his camel at the pyramids. He walked me home and thanked me for visiting. I kept his card to bring home with me. I do not have a big book to put it in, but I will always treasure that memory.
Years ago when I visited Egypt, I took the train from Cairo to Luxor. I had read Egypt had bought some new trains so I was excited to “ride the rails’. The train I rode the first time was old and dirty. I am sure it was the same train this time, only older and dirtier. Oh well, part of the adventure. I stayed in a Nubian guesthouse in Aswan – certainly the most colourful place of this trip. I took the train to Aswan as I wanted to visit Abu Simbel. Vans full of tourists leave Aswan early each morning for the 3-hour drive to Abu Simbel. The desolation of the desert was interesting. We did pass one oasis and the green colours were electric against the endless background of sand. Abu Simbel consists of two temples that were moved when the new dam was built as Lake Nassar flooded. They simply cut the temples into blocks, numbered the blocks, moved them, and put them back together. They are amazing, and I saw more tourists than any other place I had been in Egypt.
I left Aswan by train to go to Giza. It was a long trip but interesting all the way. The train was old and dirty, the passengers were warm and friendly.
Luxor has been called the greatest open-air museum in the world, and I would have to agree. Luxor was at its best between the 11th and 16th centuries BC. Coming from a country that is 150 years old, I can not even comprehend that amount of old. The city of Luxor is built on the east bank of the Nile. The Valley of the Kings is across the river.
Luxor and Karnak Temples are the dominant structures in Luxor. Both complexes are huge, and both are well preserved and the reconstruction is ongoing. Many parts of both places are in their original state and it is incredible to see how they have withstood the time and elements.
Both temples can easily be visited on your own. Doing some research before your visit will greatly enhance your time. I so enjoyed wandering around trying to imagine what things were like when they were built – and also how they were built. It is so unfortunate the tourism industry in Egypt is currently suffering hard times. Often there would only be 2 or 3 tour buses in a parking lot that could hold 100. I felt so fortunate to be able to spend so much time almost alone.
Taking a tour of the West Bank is the easiest option to see the Valley of the Kings, and some of the lesser known sites. The Valley of the Kings is really just a big gravel pit, but once you enter the tombs the colours and details of the paint is beyond belief. A 6-hour tour that included transport and guide was less than $3. and none of the admission fees cost more than $6.
I also got to visit Hatshepsut’s, Mortuary Temple. I felt it was best just seen from a distance. We also stopped to see the two huge Colossi of Memnon statues and Medinet Habu. The latter was certainly one of my favourites as there was a lot of very well preserved hieroglyphics. How many man hours did it take to create that incredible work?
I rode a felucca on the Nile to see the sunset, and a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings to see the sunrise.
Luxor was a great lesson in history, and the best part – there was no test after.
I had not been to Aswan before. I wanted to see the two huge Abu Simbel temples that were moved before the Nile Valley flooded and created Lake Nasser. Nubians were forced to abandon their homes when the valley flooded, so I thought I would stay at a Nubian Guesthouse. It was certainly the most colourful place I have stayed. Abu Simbel is located 230 km. south of Aswan, and is close to the border of Sudan. Vans and tour buses travel in convoys across the desert, and there are numerous police checkpoints along the way.
The desert is pretty flat and desolate most of the way. We did pass one area where there were rocky hills. We also saw one oasis – a lovely patch of green trees and flowers in the middle of nowhere.
The temples of Abu Simbel were built in 1260 BC. In 1968 they were relocated to avoid them being submerged when the high dam was built. They were simply cut into blocks, the blocks were numbered, and they were relocated and reconstructed. Each block weighed about 20 tons. There is not a lot to see inside either of the temples, but the outside of each of them is very impressive. It is incredible how well the hieroglyphics have withstood the test of time.
A hot air balloon ride has always been on my bucket list. Unfortunately, it is just not a budget activity – unless you are in Luxor, Egypt.
Early morning balloon rides over the Valley of the Kings are popular and affordable.
I booked my tour with Sindbad Balloons and the experience was professional from beginning to end.
The one drawback is pickup time is before 5 am. The sun gets up early in Egypt. We had tea or coffee on our short ferry ride to the west bank of the Nile. A short drive and we were at the launch site. It was so interesting to watch the balloons being inflated, and lift off 6 at a time. We were given a safety briefing to read, and then an oral briefing from the pilot. He made it very clear that they took safety very seriously.
We boarded the basket – it is divided into sections, with the pilot and his tanks in the middle. We slowly rose and it was amazing how smooth and quiet it was. We glided over several temples. The pilot was able to turn the balloon so we each had a 360 -degree panoramic view.
We rose to 500 meters and just floated along in the morning breeze. The green of the agricultural area was a sharp contrast to the desert sand. It was thrilling to see some of the temples from above.
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I flew from Dubai to Amman. It was easy to take the shuttle bus from the airport to the bus station. Once there I began my endless fight with Jordanian taxi drivers. Even the locals call them “mafia”. Dubai was all big and shiny – Amman is all box-shaped sand-coloured buildings. I stayed at a hotel one block from the Roman Theatre. I think the hotel was built about the same time, but it was clean and the staff were pleasant, so I was fine.
I spent a couple of days just walking around the little streets and enjoying the souks. Amman has some pretty steep hills so walking was usually a workout. I felt very safe. As the sun goes down and the temperatures cool off, the city heats up. Vendors pile their products everywhere and the pressure to “Come and look” increases. I went to a huge fruit and veggie market. Some vendors had loudspeakers announcing what they sold, others just yelled. It was chaos at its finest. I tried to buy a couple of bananas, but they wanted to charge me $6.
I planned to go to Jerash for a day. It is a small city within an hour from Amman. It has incredible Roman ruins. I took the local bus and spent about 5 hours just wandering around the very large site. I loved standing in the seating area of the chariot racing track. I am sure it was the site of lots of excitement in its day. Many of the ruins were very well preserved. It could be improved if someone cleaned up the garbage and the endless cigarette butts. Walking back to catch the bus, I took a wrong turn. I ended up on a little street. An old man had a tarp spread out under an olive tree, and he was up a ladder knocking the olives down. His wife was giving him directions. They did not speak English, but she got their young son who was able to tell me how to get to the bus.
The day I was leaving I got packed and checked out of my hotel. As the hotel was on a very steep hill I planned to flag a taxi in front of my hotel. There was NO traffic. I walked down the hill to a big main street – and there was no traffic there either. The street was all blocked off as there was a marathon in progress. I asked a police officer where I could catch a taxi and he pointed and said “5 minutes”. He certainly must walk faster than I do – it was about 3 kms. Once again I was so happy my backpack weighs so little.
Jordan is not a budget destination. As a Western tourist, I am used to paying more than locals in poorer countries. I felt this was taken to an extreme in Jordan. A bus trip that cost me 7.5 JD ($10) cost a local $2. By the time I left the country I felt most locals considered me a walking ATM. The price difference in much poorer countries has always been much less.
I have lived in a Moslem country and visited many places with mosques, but I had never had the opportunity to tour one. In an effort to promote understanding, some mosques in UAE now offer tours. I toured Jumeirah Mosque and found the tour so interesting and informative. Prior to the tour, we were offered crepes with date syrup and the creamiest, silkiest, nicest cream cheese I have ever tasted. There was also fresh dates and tea and coffee. The Arabic coffee did not resemble coffee as we know it at all. I was expecting dark and thick, and this was more like tea. Appropriate clothing was provided free of charge for tour guests. Women were expected to have heads, shoulders and knees covered, men needed to be covered from above their navel to below their knees.
Our guide explained there are 5 Pillars of Islam and Moslems are expected to:
- Declare their faith
- Pray 5 times a day
- Charity – they are expected to donate 2.5 % of their savings annually
- Fast – during the month of Ramadan they do not eat or drink during daylight hours. This is to teach patience, and act as a reminder there are people in the world who do not get to eat every day
- Haj – once during their lifetime they are to make a pilgrimage to Mecca
She went on to explain that the first 2 are mandatory. The other three depend on each person’s situation.She had a young man come in and show their prayer ritual – it takes 2 minutes. Men are expected to go to the mosque if possible, women are not.
She also explained the dress code. The Koran simply says that women should dress modestly. They consider women’s hair very sensual, and so for that reason, it is kept covered. The abayas are a loose long coat and she says they are cool to wear, and no one can see what is being worn underneath. She said her daughter has, more than once, attended university classes wearing her pjs under her abaya. She went on to explain in most countries wearing a veil is a personal choice, and the main reasons for wearing it have nothing to do with modesty etc. Women wear a veil to prevent their faces from getting sunburned, and to keep the sand out of their mouth!
Jumeirah Mosque was very typical to UAE, not too large and quite understated. In Abu Dhabi, I visited Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque. It is the burial place of the first President of UAE and is breathtaking. It cost more than half a billion dollars to build. It is Italian marble with floors and pillars set with semiprecious stones. One of the chandeliers weighs 12 tons and it took 1200 women over a year to weave the 5700 sq. meter carpet.
I now have a whole new understanding of the Moslem Religion.
The tallest structure in the world proudly towers over downtown Dubai. The Burj Khalifa is a 2722 feet tall beautiful building. It has 160 floors. Started in 2004 it was completed in 2009 at a cost of $1.5 Billion dollars. It took 22 million man hours to build and each day on the site there would be 12,000 workers from over 100 different countries. It holds 17 world records including the highest display of fireworks in the world. Every New Year’s Eve over 1 million people show up to view the spectacle.
Visitors are whisked up 125 floors in one minute on one of the high-speed elevators. There are two floors dedicated to viewing decks. I was amazed how far I could see, and they say the tower is visible on a clear day from 100 kms away.
Tickets can cost as little as $27, if you do not want to see the sunset. Prices increase for sunset and fast track, so you do not have to stand in line for so long.
My ticket was for 5 pm but I did not get to the top until 6:10 because the lines are so long. If you go, get in line early.