The Airport and the Ghetto, The dodgy way.

In your face evidence of the Revolution

In your face evidence of the Revolution

It was early morning on our last day in Egypt, we were picked up from our hotel in a rather unusually clean, neat and dent free van for Egypt by a very fluent English speaking Egyptian man and a driver who spoke not a word. As we were loading our bags into the van we witnessed our very first bit of aggression in Egypt. Yes we had been hassled and stared at the entire time in Egypt but this morning the usually rather quite for Cairo street corner was in a ruckus. Directly outside our hotel lobby was a full on fight. There were approx 10 guys all yelling there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on. This was both intriguing and a little worrying as we were only a block away from Tahrir Square which was the site of the all the violence and protesting throughout the revolution. Was this an insight in to something to come???

How much can you fit on a van?

How much can you fit on a van?

Before we knew it we were on the road and we felt safe, well for now. The roads were unusually busy for this time of the day even for Cairo’s lofty standards. We hit traffic almost as soon as we hit the bitumen and our driver and transfer guy were talking a little too quite for my liking even though they knew far too well that I could speak no Arabic. Then the driver took a turn down a side street. My wife turns to me and asks do you know where we are going? To which my reply was sure I know all the back streets in Cairo…. We drove down more and more side streets each dodgier then the last. I remember looking at the doors of the van and making sure that they were all locked, but then thinking is that a good thing or not? What if I need to make a quick run for it? Are these doors child locked? We drove passed something that resembled a local tip. But as far as I could see it was just a car park that had a few broken down half stripped cars and the free space around them was a good place to chuck all the apartments rubbish. The roads were getting rougher and rougher and skinnier and windier and just overall dodgier.

We had been in the van for over an hour now and we were starting to get worried that we might either miss our flight or worse not make it out of Egypt. You could just think what our over stimulated imagination was doing to us. I had all these ideas of what was going happen, what I would do if the worse did happen and trying to keep an eye on the way that we came in just in case we needed to run for it? But that was useless as sack of hammers, the roads were so windy and every corner looked the same just maybe more dilapidated then the previous one. I managed to gather the courage to ask our transfer guy were we were. To which he replied the traffic was bad so we take a short cut just 5 more

Workers in Cairo

Workers in Cairo

minutes. I took this as “We are buggered” and so did my wife. The bitumen gave way to desert sand and even more unfinished apartments then before. We drove passed a makeshift mechanical workshop under an apartment block. Out front there were a bunch of “Half Cars” yes half cars. They were stacked up 3 high in this very narrow laneway. A bunch of very dodgy looking guys hanging around smoking. We then stopped at this corner. It might have been a shop or even a brothel who knows. There was an old man sitting on a rackety old chair at a white dusty table smoking a huge extravagant Shisha pipe. I thought to myself this is it and by the look on my wife’s face so did she. I gave her a re-ashoring look and crossed my fingers.

A man and his DonkeyOur Transfer guy wound down his window and started speaking to the old man. There was a lot of pointing and nodding but the entire thing was very calm. I noticed my own breathing slowed down and even I felt calm, then we were off again. Down some more side streets, passed a few men on donkeys carry all types of goods unassumingly to market then we popped out on this major hwy, I was stunned. I was certain we had managed to make our way completely out into the sticks. That Ghetto we drove through for the last two and half hours was right in the middle of Cairo. We had to dodge heaps of traffic because we were not on an on ramp, more just a dirt track that was made by the locals to get access to this huge hwy. Across 3 or 4 lanes up onto the medium for a U-Turn and we were presumably heading to the Airport.

When we arrived at the airport the Transfer guy asked us for our passports. Now we guard our passports with our lives and really do not like to hand those over, especially to a guy that got us lost for over two hours in the dodgiest part of Cairo. He explained that it is job and that we should give him our passports. I looked at him for a while and decided to hand him our passports. He then walked us up to the counter, read all the crazy signs, helped us get through customs and right up to our gate. He filled out our forms and explained to us our flight details and even what to expect. It was a huge help as we would of really struggled to get through that maze of Arabic and would of tried to fill out the form in English, as he explained would of caused even more drama. We were ever so grateful for his help and now were so relieved that we had actually made it there safely. We thanked him and handed him a tip. Still very new to the tipping thing we hoped it was enough. His smile and a big thankyou made us feel we did ok.

You can follow my adventures on the mykombiandi facebook page:

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Thankyou,

Shane

Scammers, Muggers, Lisa and The Worm, Welcome To Paris.

Day 1-3 of The Big Chill,

Paris Daysheet

Paris Daysheet

London to Paris:

Day 1:

We have a brief meet up with our Contiki Crew who we will be spending the next 46 amazing days together with and then get to know each other over a beer or 10. We were each given a colour sticker and told “Go To The Bar”. We found all our fellow “yellows” and got to chatting.

We woke early and met down at the Contiki “Coaches” do not call them busses, you have been warned…….. Day one takes us from London to Paris. We all jump on the coach and in play the “Get to know you games” A handy way to pass the time while we were stuck in the London Traffic. We soon realised that we had a massively diverse group of travellers from all over the world and all walks of life and an amazing Contiki Staff, I like to take this opportunity to make a shout out to our brilliant Tour Manager, Nathan, our outrageously skilled “Coach” driver Rado and the super star cook Vee. You guys made this tour.

Our first stop was the English Channel. We jump on a ferry and cross over to France. As we are leaving Dover Port we get to see the “White Cliffs of Dover”, pretty awesome way to sail off into the distance. We grab some grub, they take either Euro’s or pounds and a beer and start chatting away.

When we land in France we drive past Calais, World War 1 battlefields in the Valley of the Somme into Paris and set up camp. I constantly wondered if the “Stereotypical” French idea was real. This was quickly proven correct. I had my first glimpse of a Beret wearing, black and white stripped donned man riding a bike with a large French Stick hanging out of his bag. Needless to say i was already satisfied with France. That night we ventured into town, watched all the bright lights, The Eiffel Tower, drove up the Champs-Élysées and did bog laps around the Arc de Triomphe. It would of been a site to see, this huge orange Contiki bus going around and around the Arc de Triomphe so fast that bags were falling out the over head compartment, we then went out for some dinner then hit the clubs.We were introduced to a song which pretty much turned into “The Tour Song” Excuse my language “Niggerz in Paris” By Jay-Z and Kayne West. Through out the tour when ever this song was played the entire crew “Lost Their Shit” and lifted the night to an entirely new level.Here is a link to the Epic song that stretched the entire way from Paris to Amsterdam.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubRUS8GupLUThe first night on tour lived up to the hype. It was HUGE!!! We were drinking straight from flavoured Vodka Bottles whilst dancing on tables, at one stage I did “The Worm” on said tables. This turned into “My Move” for the rest of the tour. After we all made it back to camp we realised that we were one guy short. No idea where he was, could not get hold of him and no had heard from him. It was not until the next day that he surfaced at our meeting spot, The Arc de Triomphe, still in his clothes from the night before. Turns out he got mugged, lost everything and couldn’t remember where we were staying, he ended up sleeping on a park bench.

Day 2-3:

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

As close as i could get to the Famous Painting.

As close as i could get to the Famous Painting.

Check out how many people are in this tiny room.

Check out how many people are in this tiny room.

We had a free day in Paris so we made the most of it. We wondered up to have a real close look at the Eiffel Tower, explored the endless galleries at the Louvre and got as close as we could to the Mona Lisa. Which is the tiny painting in a huge room with 100’s of people all trying to get a glimpse a take a snap. One thing really annoyed me in the “Mona Lisa” room was there, was a big sign saying “No Flash” yet no one seemed to take any noticed and flashed away. Whilst taking the “I’ve been there” photo we had our first experience of the dodgy going on’s of the many people who will try and scam tourist all over Europe. This guy comes over to us saying “Free Eithiopia”  He did not look legit and had this real suss looking paper for us to sign and asked for a donation. Turns out that these guys are everywhere and it is a scam. So please do not get caught out.

We wondered up and the down the glitzy Champs-Élysées, in and out of glamorous shops. I had a sneak peak in the Toyota shop and had a close look at the amazing Toyota Hybrid Concept supercar. We even

champs elysees Toyota store

champs elysees Toyota store

had the French version of Macdonalds. Now I know this is not very backpacker style but we had just come from Egypt and had a serious case of, what can best be described as, “Egyptian Belly” and just needed some western food. I had it once and never again. It is just like Macdonalds back home but more expensive and just a greasy.

We made the trip out to France’s most well-known château, Versailles, which was once home to “The Sun King” Louis XIV, and a hot spot of the French Revolution. We had to fight our way through the hords of crowds all fighting to get into the château. There were tour buses everywhere and just as many scammers here as there were at Louvre. There were also heaps of people illegally trying to sell you souvenirs. It is rather amusing when the police come out, you should see these guys scatter like rats and just disappear, only to return as soon as the police have left.

My first taste of Escargot, French Snails....

My first taste of Escargot, French Snails….

We meet up with the rest of the crew and got re-united with the bloke who got lost the previous night. We made our way over to this tiny little restaurant and had my first taste of escargot. I must admit, escargot is actually rather tasty. We were treated to a Cabaret show complete with Can-Can girls and plenty of French Champagne. Which I must say taste much better in France.

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and even on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0U2gFCvUe9Bm-Y3Riafrw

Adventure of Epic-Ness

The Big Chill

Contiki Europe 2012.

We arrive in London late at night but it is still light? We have our first taste of the famous London tube and arrive at Contiki Headquarters knackered after our flight from Cairo to Heathrow but I cannot sleep, I’m just too excited. We will spend one day in London before we start our epic Contiki adventure that will take us over 46 days across 20 countries and visit 27 world heritage sites.

Our route through Europe

This is going to be an adventure……..

Little do we know what lies ahead of us? What we will learn? What we will experience? What we will see? And who we will meet?

Stay tuned for all the Epic-Ness that is a European summer.