Saturday, November 28, 2009


after spending 6 nights here in dahab, we're headed to cairo on the overnight bus tonight. fortunately dahab is a really nice place to spend time, laid back, backpacker friendly and cheap (and expensive) food options. unfortunately the main thing to do here is dive and snorkel, which we partook in neither. erick was interested in snorkeling but it's been really windy these few days so he never got a chance.

we did go up to st. katherine and see the world's oldest monastery, including the burning bush, and hike up mt. sinai, where moses received the 10 commandments. it was a nice hike, even if we didn't do the typical touron sunrise hike.

after cairo, aswan, luxor, western oases, alexandria, then we fly off to greece. less than a month before we head home for christmas... we're looking forward to good burritos and chocolate.

Monday, November 23, 2009

turkey, syria, and jordan pics

new pics posted from turkey, hot air balloon ride, syria, and jordan:


we made it through another country, jordan, and are now in country #22, egypt, after a long and drawn-out ferry ride. the ride itself was only 1 1/2 hours, but they boarded us 2 hours before and made us stay on the ferry another hour after we arrived in nuweiba, egypt. then we had to buy visas and stuff, so we ended up traveling for 13 hours yesterday.

we're in dahab, egypt right now, in sinai. big diving town (on the red sea), very, very touristy and americans everywhere! strange being in a place so touristy again.

jordan was okay, not as good as we'd hoped. we went in with very high expectations, but things were a bit different than we'd envisioned. first, everything was extremely expensive, close to western european prices for standard middle east service (similar to accommodations and food we got in syria for double the price). people weren't as friendly and we felt that many were trying to rip us off, like in areas with lots of tourism. of course coming from syria (and iran before) we were comparing it to two less developed (tourism-wise) countries.

site-wise, we were impressed. jerash, near amman, is the largest intact roman ruins site in the middle east and it was better than anywhere i've seen in western europe. unfortunately we were a little tired of ruins by then. petra was amazing, as cool as it looks in the movies and pictures. the entrance through the siq (canyon) is spectacular. we had fun hiking around petra, even with not so good weather. went through a fun little slot canyon, wadi muthlin, the second day, which was one of the nicest canyons i've seen, including utah.

wadi rum was fun, we spent 3 days there (the bus to aqaba was full so we stayed an additional night). unfortunately there's great climbing but we had no way to climb, so we just hiked and scrambled through some canyons. mostly french climbers in pretty big groups, no americans. the rocks and routes looked very similar to red rocks but a lot less developed and many areas had bad approaches (through sand or necessary to hire a 4wd or camel). maybe one day we'll go back and climb.

we have no desire to dive here, so we're trying to find something to do. there's great climbing in sinai (granite cracks) but again we have no gear and hiring a guide is ridiculously expensive. we'll try to boulder a bit, but we heard you need to have a guide to go into that canyon. we'll see...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


we made it through syria no problem. only had to wait at the border for 3 hours for our visas, while they faxed Damascus and waited for an answer. we did save $114 each by getting the visas at the border and not in the US. our time isn't worth much these days so it was worth it.

spent a few days in aleppo, they have a nice citadel there and took a day trip to st. simeon church, which was a Christian pilgrimidge site in the 5th century. pretty impressive. then headed to hama where there are cool waterwheels from the 13th century including one of the world's largest (ASME plaque to prove it) and a day trip to a well-preserved crusader castle, crac des chevaliers. only downside is erick got pretty sick from some ice and laid up for two days in the hotel until cipro worked its magic.

then went to palmyra, very nice roman ruins in the desert and free! spent a couple days in damascus, big city and lots of tourists and came to amman, jordan yesterday. went to visit jerash, most intact roman ruins in the middle east today, also very impressive. unfortunately I think we've both had enough roman ruins for a while.

Syria was surprisingly touristy compared to where we've been recently and very easy to get around with english and not knowing arabic. people, especially kids were very friendly, always saying hi but not the same curiosity of westerners as iran, probably because they see so many. jordan is a lit more western and touristy. don't think we've seen do many american tourists since rome and i cringe everytime I hear a loud american tourist, which was a lot today.

tomorrow we'll most likely head to Petra or maybe dana nature reserve.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

cappadocia, turkey

we made it to goreme yesterday here in capadocia amidst a snow storm and freezing weather and met up with erick's ex-roommate matt and his girlfriend leanne.

since it was freezing (literally, the temperature was 0 deg celcius) we decided to head to derinkuyu where there's a large underground city, parts of which are 4000 years old). it was cool to wander around and it was dry. only bad part was we had to wait for buses for a total of half an hour in freezing weather. took a while to thaw our feet out.

this morning we had the hot air balloon ride and the weather actually cooperated and it was dry. it snowed a bit overnight so it was really beautiful. there were lots of balloons and tourists (~25 balloons so a pretty crazy sight). the ride itself was beautiful and amazing and well worth the cold and cost.

today it actually cleared up and the sun came out. we went for a couple hikes in the surrounding valleys, saw fairy chimneys up close with churches and houses.

we'll stay here another day then take the night bus to the border and try to get into syria on Thursday. we'll try our luck at getting visas at the border or may be denied and turned back to turkey. rumors that blogspot is blocked in syria so not sure when i'll post again.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

new photos, finally

just posted lots of new photos, including all the iran, armenia, georgia, and snowy train ride photos:

snow on halloween

we successfully made it to country number 19, turkey.

we spent a day in sighnaghi Georgia, east of tbilisi. it's located in wine country, perched up on a hill with the old city wall still intact. very beautiful. managed to get in a little hike the first day to a monestary and holy spring before the weather turned bad.

headed back to tbisili and took an overnight bus to trabzon, turkey on friday night. managed to spend most of my birthday on some sort of transportation. first was that overnight bus with the Georgia-turkey border crossing at 2 am. luckily our bus had 7 people including us so the border crossing was quick. from Trabzon waited a couple hours in the bus station and took a 5 hour bus to erzurum. we didn't realize Erzurum was so high and cold so the actually had a decent sized snowstorm going on and a few inches on the ground. a snowy halloween.

we lucked out and ended up getting train tickets on an overnight train out of ezurum to Kayseri. ended up being the nicest train compartment we've been in, only 2 people, chairs, sink, refrigerator. after 15 hours on the train we got to Kayseri this morning at 6 am and found a bus to urgup (cappadocia) where we'll spend one night before heading to goreme to meet erick's roommate matt. maybe have a belated bday dinner since all we ate yesterday was bread, cheese, clif bars, and bananas.

it's surprisingly cold here in turkey, we were looking forward to warmer weather, and at least in eastern turkey, no one speaks english or german and there are very few ATM machines.