Mount Toubkal A Year After


I distinctly remember how I felt when I made it to the base camp, how I walked for over an hour or two while suffering from an intense cramp in my right thigh that made my pace super slow, and how I felt horrified being taught how to use an ice axe! Is falling even an option? I already fear heights, and have difficulties to look down. I decided that I will give up, and won’t continue the journey with my fellow hikers to the top, enough suffering I did the best I could yet my legs are not being of great support, and altitude sickness is slowly getting its toll on me.

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Mount Toubkal’s Base Camp by Kamil Fibak

But you somehow sensed how I wasn’t ok, you came to talk to me, and I with tears filling my eyes told you “I don’t think I can make it, I am not ok, it’s harder than Mt. Kilimanjaro, and I am not as fit”, you told me with total understanding “it’s alright if you don’t want to continue, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s not harder than Kili -though I still believe it is-, we humans as soon as our suffering ends we tend to forget how it was like, however bad things happen, and I myself almost give up on the way down from Everest, all you need is to rest, eat, put on warm clothes, and some cream on the cramped muscle, & then wake up the next morning, have breakfast with the group, and decide whether you want to continue or not”.

I woke up the next morning refreshed -though not totally recovered-, but I just couldn’t wait to kick the mountain’s ass, I couldn’t handle the idea of giving up without even trying.

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Hiker on Mount Toubkal by Peter Makholm

I was one of the last hikers in the group, but I kept going slowly but surely, stopping to rest every now and then, I saw one hell of a slope, pointed at it, and asked Samir my guardian angel, the guide who was accompanying me “should we follow this trail” he said “yes”, I cried in disbelief while hitting my poles to the ground, looking downwards and said “NOOOO”, he patted on my shoulder and said “it’s ok, next time”, I cried even harder and said “there’s no next time, I have to make it this time”, I wiped off my tears, continued walking until I almost finished the 1st slope, and started seeing some of the people in my group that I haven’t seen for quite a long time a bit faraway.

Believe you can and you’re halfway there. – Theodore Roosevelt

I even outran one of them who was dehydrated, and totally drained, I gave him one of my water bottles and shared some snacks, while trying to push him to continue -that moment when you encourage someone while you are the one who needs it most- I tried to keep him close as much as possible until the guide told me it was bad for me to slow my pace, I asked him to stay with him as I am in a much better state, he said that someone will come to give him a hand.

We continued until I could see with my naked eyes that I’m getting closer to the group, few of them were resting, too exhausted to keep moving, they were getting closer to the peak, encouraging me with their hand signs telling me that I did well, and to keep moving, or shouting me “Bravo Passainte you are doing very well, keep going, you’re almost there”. I encouraged those who were resting, and asked Samir to stay with them as they needed him more than I do, seeing the peak has given me energy that I have no idea where it came from.

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Me on the summit of Mount Toubkal

And the moment I reached the summit you were waiting for me out there with arms wide open, and a big “I’m proud of you” smile, I let go of my rented ice-axe and hiking poles, cried and cried and cried, tears were falling uncontrollably just like a pissing cow, you patted on my back while saying “Bravo Passainte, you made it”. I asked you: “did you believe in me? did you think I’d make it?”, while keeping a big from ear to ear smile you confidently answered: “the moment you finished the first slope, I knew you’d make it”. It was a proud moment where I wondered how could I have possibly thought of quitting? Do I have complete control over my mind, or does it control me? I found out that I’m bigger than any challenge, if only I believed in myself, and got rid of all negative thoughts that poison my mind, and influence my body & soul.

You can’t win physically, if you are losing mentally. – Billy Cox

Well, you were not just a chief who’s on duty to lead a group of hikers to the top of a mountain, or the owner of a company who’s seeking a returning customer, but a human-being who totally understands the fears, and needs of mountain-hikers. So if you saw someone; with unfastened shoelaces you’d warn him/her, not wearing sun-shades risking to get snow-blind you’d happily insist on giving him/her your own sunglasses, not wearing the appropriate clothing you’d ask him/her to change. And these are the characteristics of a leader who cares about every single person in the group, keen to provide his people with an unforgettable experience, and have as many people reaching the peak.

One year after I summited Mt. Toubkal, I’d like to tell you THANK YOU!

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A Moment of Decisiveness


FINALLY at Gilman’s point -210m from Africa’s highest point; Uhuru Peak-, so what the fuss is all about? it seems that the peak is within reach, yeeeeeey I’m gonna make it to the top. Hell no, I just can’t take it anymore, every part of me aches so hard, maybe I should stop for a sip of water, or energy drink? no no how about a mouthful of the strongest energy bar & a pill to kill this horrible headache, oh damn it, now my stomach hurts so bad, and my head is spinning around, what on earth is wrong with me? is it altitude sickness that got its toll on me? should I stop now before it becomes lethal? but how can I give up now? why can I barely open my eyes, am I already dead? maybe all I need is to sit on that rock over there and relax, then resume what I came for…hmmm, remind me please, what was it?
Why are my gloves all wet, and how on earth did the minus something degrees celsius find its way through my wind breaker & my 6 layers of wool and thermals? Ouuuh, here’s a rock to sit on, some hazy people are moving around looking as drained out as I am, aren’t we after sunrise? how can it be so dark or are these my eyes that cannot open anymore? It doesn’t matter because I am gonna lean on that rock now…
baaaam I hit the floor hard.

Sounds of terrified people running towards me, lifting my paralyzed body before my head hits the ground, asking in worry: heeeeeey are you okay? are you conscious? what’s wrong? what happened?
– No, answer
Hitting me on the face, opening my mouth, and my eyes. Gluing my body to the big standing rock, supporting my body from the other side.
– No, response
In a deadly sleepy voice, not believing what I am about to say I responded: Don’t worry, I’m okay, I did not faint, I fell asleep.

A guy came with a can in his hand, looking for a tool to open it, poured some of its content in my mouth which turned out to be powdered glucose that tasted like red grapes, our guide Ismail asking me to tilt my head in order to help me drink some water to swallow the powder.
Ismail : Passanti, you scared me, I thought you fainted. Continuing: at this altitude you cannot sleep it’s too dangerous.
Me half conscious pleading, starting to cry: I couldn’t control myself, I literally fell asleep. Please, I’m so sleepy, I can’t open my eyes, haven’t slept for a minute last night; I’ll lie down for 10 minutes then resume the walking.
Ismail: Listen to me Passanti, so far you’ve done so well, and I’m proud of you, you’re a very strong woman but at this point I think that’s enough, you look so tired and I think we have to go back. I’m gonna give you a certificate, and…interrupted him in a decisive yet exhausted tone: No Ismail NO, I’m not gonna back down now, after all the effort done there is noway that I’ll go back without a trophy, without a photo at Uhuru peak, I will not accept going back telling everyone that I failed at reaching the peak, so whatever it takes I will finish that hike, i will make it to the top and take photos over there.
Ismail in disbelief: You cannot be hard on yourself, you can kill yourself and I am not gonna let you do that.
Me: Ismail I’m perfectly fine, all I need is some sleeping, if only you leave me here to sleep for five minutes I will be good to go.
Ismail: You can’t it’s dangerous and could be deadily. I’m gonna let you close your eyes for a couple of minutes, and then we will have to go. Less than 2 minutes later: Ok then, we have to go now, hold on to me until you make it to Uhuru.
Me: Please give me a hand & let’s make it to the peak.

My companion who did not show any emotions during the whole incident has told me after we finished the hike that at this very moment she thought that this is it, and that I will give up and it was time to go back, but after seeing my persistence and decisiveness she got all energized to finish that hike and make it to the peak, how awesome is that? 🙂

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The Pursuit of Mount Kilimanjaro


Have been daydreaming of this hike since 2009, since I read an article in an Egyptian magazine about a 40 years old woman, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, though she never had mountain hiking experience. I somehow had a “I wanna do it feeling” & thought that this is the kind of adventures that will give true meaning to my life.

View from the aeroplane, with my mobile

View from the aeroplane, with my mobile

But something was always keeping me away from fulfilling my dream, at first it was fitness, for God’s sake I am fat, not fit and my hiking experience is more or less zero, everyone around me whom I share with my thoughts, whether I receive rejection, disapproval, mockery or a very exciting “let’s do it” that when comes into action, all the excitement fades away, then lack of resources, I wanted to join a specialized agency, without getting ripped off, yet be sure that they are good, specialized and well organized, because such trips require people with experience, specially that the major concern about Mount Kilimanjaro is dealing with altitude sickness, that could be deadly as far as I know.

The dream kept seeming so far away, yet chasing me day and night. I’m still fat, not fit, the offer I got from a trusted company is too expensive compared to online prices, but my parents will never allow me to travel with any company, and if I join the climb with the trusted company I’ll have to save for a whole year and will not be able to join any other trips on that same year -which could be deadly to me.

One day, I was hiking for a couple of hours at Kleine Scheidegg in Switzerland, with 3 Swiss friends who were at their mid thirties whilst I was 25. They had to wait for me as I got tired very quickly, at first it was okay, I thought that maybe they are more acquainted to doing so much physical activities, a step following the other I felt like a “big fat pig” and thought to myself, “why am I doing this to myself? they are at least 10 years older than me, yet 10 times fitter than I am. Maybe you I do not train as much as they do, but I sure can do better, nothing can stop me but my laziness, and these foods that I enjoy so much, I have got to cut them all, I have to lose weight and become fit. This kind of tiredness is not acceptable anymore. Once I go back to Egypt, my one and only target will be losing weight and becoming fit.” And yeah that’s exactly what happened, I took it very serious, started training with a personal trainer, dieting, getting weekly fitness assessments and my body measured bi-weekly, till I was able to drop off 11 kgs and look completely different.

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Days went by, this time only 2 things kept me from fulfilling my dream; having no people to go with at the moment, I had to wait till 2014 and it was still a 50:50 chance, and again no trusted company to travel with, but the insanely expensive one, not sure that climbing Mount Kili is worth not traveling for a year, it’s a tough call. One day I was bored at work, fed up from doing a job that I don’t like, started posting about this fact as a facebook status, an ex-law school colleague responded “you should work with my wife.”, sent him back but never received a reply. I started updating my resume, tailoring cover letters, decided to send my resume to several magazines & travel start-ups, on that same day I received a reply from one agency who thought that my resume was very impressive though I had zero experience in the field, but it seems that my cover letter did all the job -yeah I am a lawyer, my job is to convince people with whatever I have to say-, 2 days later they called for an interview, that was postponed a couple of days later, a week after I called them wondering why they did not reschedule the interview, they said that they have no vacancies, however they would like to refer me to another start-up after my approval, I agreed, received a call from this company, scheduled an interview, during the interview one of the partners told me “Hey, you know my husband, you went to college together.”, I asked her: “who’s your husband?.”, he turned out to be the same guy who told me that I should work with his wife. After the interview & after agreeing that I would do sales & feature them in my articles, she told me on a random note: “we are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on Dec. 26th, 2013, wanna join?.” I was puzzled, yet not believing that climbing Mount Kili could arise in the most random unpredictable way. I replied: “I really don’t know, I have to check with my parents, to check my vacations balance, who else is joining? I need to think but yeah I wanna join. I’ll give you my final answer by end of this week”.

After looking forward to several approvals from my parents, my boss, my best friend that her religious marriage coincided with my travel dates, checking my bank account that had no enough funds -had to wait for my salary in order to pay the trip fees-, I said “YES. I’m gonna climb Mount Kili.” Hung up the phone, still in disbelief, not realizing that it’s truly happening, feeling a bit fishy about it, thinking that it cannot be real, been planning for 4 years, yet the opportunity has suddenly arisen, “Maktoub”. Wasn’t worried about my fitness level though I haven’t been training regularly lately, as I was in the “I am bored from the gym and diet” phase, yet I was not worried at all as I have been working out for a whole year, doing different types of exercises. And I read a lot about the hike which gave me a feeling of comfort, yet an anxiety that was due to altitude sickness issues.

Pole Pole which means Slowly Slowly in Swahili (on the web)

Pole Pole which means Slowly Slowly in Swahili (on the web)

Next thing I know from the moment I said “Ok, I’ll think about it” is reading and re-reading about the hike, watching videos about the climb, about packing, making lists, knowing all about altitude sickness and how it could be prevented, about sleeping bags, about guides, porters, cooks, about what we are about to see, how is it like over there?, the weather, the people. Kept sharing like crazy with the people I am travelling with every piece of info that I read. Started to do some shopping, borrowing some stuff. Even my backpack was packed and re-packed several times, especially after speaking to someone who did it before.

The pursuit of Mount Kilimanjaro now seemed so real, Africa’s highest peak is only a couple of days away…

to be continued…

Experience (4): Beware of Bush Spiders!


You’d enjoy this series more if you read experience (1), (2) & (3) ;)…Enjooooooy!

The owner of the Lodge was named Dee, she showed us around the place; to me it was PERFECT, it just completes my fairytale, this is how I envision adventures. While avoiding the dogs everyone noticed that i feel uncomfortable in pets presence and all laughed out loudly telling me “so tell us again what the hell are you doing in the Wilderness of Africa???”. There were moths everywhere, yuuuuk –forgot to mention that I’m one Hell of a bugs Hater as well, they totally freak me out-, Dee told me in her stunning South African accent “You a’  in the middle of the bush my dea’ so you might see all kind of bugs, if you spo’ a spide’ this big -the size of her palm- don’t freak out, you’ll think that it’s following you while it’s just following you’ shadow, they a’ so funny”. In the back of my mind “No that’s so funny, it is spooky”. She showed us the patio where we’ll be enjoying our meals, the kitchen, and the rooms. It was still hard to believe that we are in the Wilderness of Mother Africa, I made it to South Africa, thank you dear God for turning my dream into reality.

Caption taken by me

Caption taken by me

We checked our bags in, me and Karen at the same room, a double cozy room with an African atmosphere, a wooden ceiling, a big window overlooking the bush and the bathroom was outside, looked exactly like a room that is meant for safarists. We both headed to the kitchen to help the guys out at getting the dinner ready, we were all starving after a long journey on the road. We got introduced to the 2 teenagers, Tineal -Dee’s daughter- & her school friend Nathan -Nattan in South African-, they were so happy to have us in the kitchen; who kept assuring us that the dinner will be ready in no time. Karen started to ask them to hand her the salad ingredients, I started to imitate her & asked for ingredients as well -that looked very fresh- and a knife, we started to make the salad while talking with Tineal & Nattan who told us “You seem to be very nice, you a’  the first guests who ente’ed the kitchen, just a couple of days ago we had a group of snob guests who  we’e complaning about everything. You know what, Wally told us that the’e a’e muslims in the group so I asked a muslim friend at school whe’e to buy Halal Meat from and he told me about a sto’e nea’  by that mum & I went to, to get all the needed food”. Nattan wasn’t as talkative as Tineal but he mentioned several times that he wants to come to Egypt one day as he is amazed by our ancient history.

Caption taken by me

Caption taken by me

The salad was ready, the food was ready, Dee called to us & said: “toni’t we have cottage pie & chicken pie fo’ dinne’ so enjoy you’ meal”. The food was yummmmi, Dee baked us fresh bread that we spread butter on, we kept eating for long and had refilled our dishes several times, while telling each other that the place is amazing and that some of us couldn’t believe that they were in the middle of the bushes. There were all kind of bugs flying around even dropping in our plates -on the first 2 days I was disgusted, and said to myself “Are you seriously enjoying this?” then I got used to it to the extent that I would just shake my hand to scare them away then continue eating-, we were done eating Dee started to discuss our itinerary telling us about a hell of things to do. Spotting animals at Game Reserves, sharing cages with them at Rehabilitation Centers, River Ride, Watching a Lion Kill, Elephant Safari, Tree topping that Karen and I mentioned, Sky diving -that I mentioned. We were set to go tomorrow to Kruger National Park  as planned then to Moholoholo Rehab Center. We also agreed on going skydiving –I will skydive but all of them will come to watch and take photos-, tree topping -Karen & I- & going on elephant safari -all of us- in the days to come if only we had time. The biggest argument was about going to a Lion Kill or not, our votes were half and half -I voted not to go spot that animal kill which I thought was very cruel and heart aching, but I now regret it badly, & wished I could see it, for God’s sake that’s Mother Nature!

by National Geographic

by National Geographic

After eating, talking and chilling out. We all headed to our rooms to unpack. I went to the bathroom, but after what Dee said I had to double-check every spot to make sure there wasn’t any bugs hiding or any unseen creepy creatures. Thank God that I did because this is how I’ve spotted the biggest spider in my life, standing next to the toilet as if waiting for me -adrenaline rush again, an Egyptian proverb says “When you get scared of ghosts, you find them right there waiting for you”, it was a spider alike the ones on tv, on National Geographic or Discovery Channel; those huge ones with thick hairy legs. Running towards the door in hysteria “Kareeeeen, Heeeelp, I just spotted the biggest spider in my life, it is too big, please help me get rid of it & I’ll do you whatever you want”, she laughed out loudly & said: “You’ll do me anything I want?”, I nodded “Hell, yeah”. We headed to the bathroom, I showed her the monster that scared the hell out of me & she simply crushed it with her sandals -while they were on- it felt like if the spider was running all over me, she then removed it with a toilet paper & put it in the trash can, unable to control her laughter she told me “that’s the biggest spider you’ve ever seen??? It’s a small one, you must see the ones that we have in Arizona”.

Caption taken by me

Caption taken by me

I went back to the bathroom after double-checking again every spot, you never know what surprises might be hiding, I seriously had a feeling that the spider would come alive out of the trash can and haunt me down for eternity, I showered while imagining that snakes will suddenly come out of the wooden ceiling, then went to my room to get ready for bed, Dee came to give us water jars, and to show us the way to the fridge where I can put my water flask and energy drink ready for tomorrow. I got my clothes ready; black bermuda pants & a t-shirt that I bought from Turkey from a souvenir shop in Grand Bazaar -a.k.a. Byazite-, put them on the chair, along with socks and shoes, because I knew that by morning I’ll be too exhausted & too excited to get myself ready for the long awaited journey, packed my backpack, it already contained half of my pocket money put in secret pockets, my passport, my guide book, binoculars -borrowed from a close friend in college-, sun glasses, cap, camera, its lenses, an umbrella -borrowed from dad, that he had since he was in Budapest, sometime like 18 years ago 🙂 -, a chocolate bar. Even put my Vitamins & Malaria pills next to bed to swallow them first thing in the morning.

After I was done packing, my roomy was already sleeping, I took a tiny notebook out of my backpack and while staring at the window, enjoying the sound of shower rain, I started to write short notes, only highlights about what has happened in the last couple of days and decided to write everything about this yet unforgettable trip. I almost couldn’t sleep from the excitement as well as the sound of shower rain. But finally I fell asleep while dreaming of my first encounter in the wilderness of Africa.

on the web

on the web

Experience (3): South Africa Baby!


Please read experience (1) & (2) before moving to (3) as it is a series of events…Enjoy 😉

 

We finally made it to the airport 17 minutes before the gates close, we were running & running and it only got better when the security check point was beeping uncontrollably while we were passing through it, I had to take off my shoes, my belt, my earrings, loooots of things…Might seem frustrating, but I’ve got to admit that this was the BEST part of the day, it felt like if we were part of the famous AMAZING RACE show, it was absolutely AWESOOOOME. While checking in and getting our boarding passes, the guy at the counter asked us with astonishment “Why are you soooo late?” we told him that it’s the damn company’s fault, we asked for a ride at 5pm while they insisted on 6pm as they claimed that the airport is close by & the traffic would be prefect by then. From his tone we could feel that we missed our flight again, and we’ll spend another day from hell in Nairobi, but luckily he smiled and said “Relax, don’t worry, the plane is waiting for you”, in the back of my head I was like “What, the plane is waiting for us??? Seriously ? I feel so important” and yes we were relieved after he told us that they were waiting for us, the plane was waiting for us,hahaha. Ok, I felt like Pffffff, South Africa Babyyyyyyyyy!!!

South Africa map

South Africa map

The flight was much better than the one from Cairo, comfortable chairs, lots of space, the food was delicious, everything was great, but as usual I couldn’t sleep much, though dead from exhaustion, I have no idea if my insomnia had to do with excitement or with the fact that I am not a big fan of sleeping inside a moving vehicle.

And now we landed on the South African territory, Jo’burg to be more precise, I could feel it in my fingers, could feel it in my soul that a life changing journey is about to begin. A so clean airport, but not special, it’s not a Schiphol Airport style -Amsterdam Airport-, the thing I noticed was the wrapped screens that they will be using for Commercials to promote for the 2010 World Cup that should be held in SA. I took 250$ out of my hidden pockets in my backpack very carefully, as I was freaked out from all what I’ve read about SA’s lack of security, gave them to Dr. Mohamed for exchange at the Bureau de Change which unluckily was closed. Wally & Emil were waiting for us, took us to Avis Cars Agency at the airport to pick our rented cars. The guy working there was a sweet heart, seems like south africans have potential ;). We all headed to the garage to pick a Hyundai & a Toyota. I went with Emile & Christine in the Hyundai, Magdi & Dr.Mohamed with Emil in his black EOS car, Karen & Sarah with Wally in the Toyota and the journey began. It was too dark to see how Jo’Burg looks like. Half an hour later we were checking in at Randburg Inn that wasn’t fancy which isn’t really a concern, we are the kind of people who aren’t fans of luxury, what else could we need but a clean bed, bathroom & good eatable breakfast? Wally & Emile left to sleep over at a friend’s place. I shared rooms with Karen, once we got in we unpacked & slept like a ROCK.

We woke up the next morning around 8am, packed, and got ready to leave. We had continental breakfast, I actually had a very healthy breakfast Yogurt mixed with Paw Paw & Red Guavas, it was my 1st time ever to see and try those guavas and second for the pawpaws, the Red Guavas are VERRRRY DELICIOUS. Emil joined us at the table along with his gorgeous friend who rents lenses and camera equipments, he kept telling us about what we should taste in South Africa, he was specially speaking of their national alcoholic drink “Amarulla”, I have to admit that later on when I saw how the bottle looked like I wished that I wasn’t a Non-acoholic person, hahaha. I had Marulla drink though, the fruit from which the Amarulla is made.

Wally paid the bill, we hurried out of the restaurant towards the cars, Emile, Wally & Emil stuffing the bags inside the cars, we the girls taking photos of the surrounding area, mainly the hotel and the buildings around, we didn’t cross the fence that surrounded the hotel, then Wally & Dr.Mohamed decided to go the bank for money exchange, they were really late, I have no idea for how long but I was worried and thought they were kidnapped as the bank was being robbed by burglars or something -again fears from what I’ve read about SA’s lack of security. They were finally back & we were SOOOO ready to go.

On our way the 1st thing I noticed that there was south african beggars in the streets, as well as people selling nuts, caps, flags, anything & everything. Our 1st stop was like 15 minutes from where we started. We stopped at a Gas Station. Gas Stations in SA are way more bigger than Egypt’s, more fancy & tempting, you can waste a hell of time inside in order to buy snacks. Freshly baked cookies & pastries everywhere, chocolates & energy drinks half priced from Egypt’s. I bought myself a Muton Curry Pate -Lamb Curry Patte AWESOME- that Wally suggested, an Energy Drink, Biltong (South African Pastrami that Wally & Emile tried to persuade me that it’s the best south african snack, but I didn’t like it at all, I’ve tried ostrich with barbecue sauce and gazelle, but sorry guys it’s YUUUUK!) & Energy Raspberry candies, a pack that contained fruits -apples, a pear & a banana-, a Ginger Cookies sachet -the BEST GINGER COOKIES I’VE EVER TASTED- & a Vodacom Sim Card -an SA line to get in touch with my folks-, my snacks were very safari & adventures oriented :D. Everybody got himself enough snacks to be ready for the next 5 hours drive to Phalaborwa.

SA highways are totally different from Egypt’s, other than being too damn clean, you see greenery everywhere, and by greenery I mean plants that are green, not mostly grayish -Egypt residents you know what I mean. The ramps were extremely high going up & down all the way, I was a bit concerned that the cars won’t be able to run over those ramps. The city seemed to be very nice and clean, people seemed to be civilized, it looked like Europe that I only see on TV & that I have never been to – by the time I wrote these stories, I haven’t visited Europe yet, but now I have visited 8 European countries. The weather seemed to be not bad at all; it was sunny, a typical summer day. Suddenly the weather totally changed; as we were driving it was sunny, on the left there were grey clouds, on the right it was SHOWER RAINING, then it was no more sunny, there was lighting -not similar to the one we have in Egypt, you know how it looks like in movies when you see those lines of electric charges? This is how it was- and thunder -usually i get really scared I was literally petrified, it seemed like the end of the world, like we would be swallowed by the sky. On the way I saw one of SA’s football stadiums; I was really glad and hoping to see them again live in 2010 SA World Cup. There’s always Rainbows after the Rain, and that was it. We saw like 4 or 5 Rainbows, it was something that we Egyptians have never experienced. We stopped again in a Gas Station, and bought some more snacks that I didn’t include in my diary (so I don’t remember what they were). But while arranging one of my drawers back in Egypt I’ve found a receipt from Belfast One Stop from which I bought Homebake Pies that cost me 12.75 Rands -I really don’t remember at all.

Actual photo of the highway where we were, Caption taken by me

Actual photo of the highway where we were, Caption taken by me

We went on and on and on, it was a 5 hours drive. We were having fun, talking every now and then, Dr. Mohamed & I completely stunned & admiring what we are watching all the way, Wally bragging about his homeland, & Karen telling us about the beauty of nature in the US. It began to get dark, not because we were close to sunset, but because of a fog. Hell it was scary; it was intense to the extent that I bet that Wally wasn’t able to see anything while driving. Seeing forests was the most exciting moment to me, I was day dreaming of seeing them live one day. Extremely tall trees, a looot of them, hundreds sitting next to each other maybe even thousands.

We were sick of sitting in the cars, so wanting to start our Photography Experience, our Expedition. And FINALLY Wally pulled over, I thought it was another stop & didn’t dare to ask, since I didn’t wanna know that this is another stop. The view was a bit scary, we were surrounded by the bush, entering a wooden yet fancy house. A woman was waiting for us, with 2 dogs -I am one animal hater who feels uncomfortable in Pets’ presence, specifically dogs licking hater-, 2 teenagers – a boy & a girl. They welcomed us & Wally told us that this is the lodge where we are going to stay. Suddenly I was in another world that took me to survivor TV show, I was SOOOO EXCITED, I’ve heard and read about lodges but never been to one. I felt like we are in a Scary yet Suspense Movie where the kidnappers would hide in the bush around the lodge and the hero will come out of nowhere to save the hostages -hahahaha, i am hallucinating. It’s time to get some good sleep…

( More photos will be posted to the upcoming posts 😉 )

Experience (2): Plane Chase


(Please read Experience (1) first as it is a series of events ;)…ENJOY)

 

on the web

Emile & Karen went to the lady at the tickets check telling her that she had to find us a flight to Jo’burg, so her reply was that she’ll find us seats in the South Africa Airways flight heading to Jo’burg in a couple of hours. THE LADY WAS LYING, THERE WAS NO FLIGHT. After they talked & yelled at another guy, they got us single rooms in a 5 stars hotel back in Nairobi, breakfast at the transit area, lunch in the hotel and air tickets to Jo’Burg scheduled to leave Nairobi at 8:40pm…I was & wasn’t Wowing about it (wasn’t: 1. because I was already planning to go to Kenya right after South Africa & 2. I was psychologically prepared to go directly to SA, so I was DISAPPOINTED, VERY DISAPPOINTED, was: because after a bloody hectic day we’ll get to get the least that could have been done by the damned Kenya Airways so called Pride of Africa). So we went to the transit area to have our breakfast, Emile waited in the row 2 get us breakfast vouchers, we tried to log onto the internet, but in vain, although lots of the transiters around us had access. I wanted to find a way to contact my parents because I knew that if I didn’t update them of our status they’ll get extremely anxious, but the roaming service wasn’t working as well. The transit area was nice, full of people, and the overall of the airport is not bad at all –thought that Kenya Airport will be the worst, but it really isn’t, I can call it an average one. We went to the restaurant, we could see the rain from the window facing our table & the aircrafts landing and taking off. There was birds flying, it was raining all the way, the weather was fresh & nice. I didn’t eat half of the breakfast that was composed of Red Beans -that tasted very sweet as it is served with sweet ketchup sauce, yuuuuk!, strange eggs neither omelet nor scrambled, sausages, fries, bread, butter & jam-, as it was somehow strange and untasty. I had two cups of Pure Kenyan Tea for the first time, that was AWESOOOOOOOOME.

We stayed in place until we started to get ready to go, we filled in the Visa application forms, went to the visa counters, got our Transit Visas and VOILAAAA our bags are not there yet, we waited for like half an hour, started taking pictures, Dr. Mohamed slept on the floor, and finally here are the bags, we are heading to the hotel to get some sleep, Youpiiiiiii!!!

Life is sadly not easy, a little unfair? we waited in the bus for another half an hour, & only God knows what the HELL were we waiting for. Some travelers came along a nun and an asian guy as far as I remember…Then we finally moved, but it seemed like the ENDLESS ROUTE, I’ve got to say “OH MY GOD” in Janice’s way -F.R.I.E.N.D.S sitcom-, it was FREAKIN’ CROWDED, the bus wasn’t moving, we started to make up jokes & laugh hysterically about what has been going on since we put our feet on the Kenyan territory, Karen slept, Christine got stunk by some kind of Kenyan bug. We arrived to a nice hotel and were READDDDYYY to go, but it turned out to not be OURS…DAMMMMMMN!!! The driver was SO DAMN STUPID. He took us to our hotel in another 1 hour or even more, so we spent 2 hours and a half in the traffic. Viva Egypt’s Traffic (no kidding).

on the web

At last, we arrived at the hotel “Lycos 5*”, we were already exhausteeeed, the lunch was already set, so we decided to check in, to drop our luggage, go eat, then sleep. At the Restaurant, the food was AWESOME, I liked it very much (unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the dishes), there was Lamb meat, Aubergine, Rice, all Kenyan Traditional, had the worst Lime Soda ever, and for dessert I had Pineapples, Papaya- called Paw Paw- & Passion fruit. It began to rain fiercely right after we finished the main course. As soon as I was done eating I so wanted to walk in the rain, actually their rain is totally different from ours. What we have is SO CALLED rain, but what they have is SHOWER RAIN, and it literally is. I walked a little around the pool (where we were having lunch), then ran to hide from the rain, but unfortunately I fell on the sliding floors, God that hurt, all i was concerned about is that my camera doesn’t fall as well, Emile, Wally & Karen helped me get up, then we all went back to our rooms to get some sleep, I took a shower, put on my pajamas, made my 3 minutes free calls (Called my Lovely sister Ingy back in Cairo & Habiba in Kenya who told me that she won’t be able to come see me as she finishes work at 5pm and we were supposed to leave at 6pm), then slept. It took me a long time to sleep, but finally I slept, dunno for how long but when i woke up I felt like I haven’t slept at all. Packed again, headed to the reception for check out, again suffering from stomacheaches, mustn’t be very familiar with African food yet, so Dr.Mohamed gave me medicine. At 6pm sharp we were on the bus, it was a minibus, driven by a woman. On the way we were on the verge to kill her, she kept telling us every half an hour that we only have 15 kilos left, but those 15 kilos seemed like FOREVER, an hour after the other went by, already two hours and a half on the road with no hope to making way to Jo’Burg…With extreme anxiety mumbling in the back of our heads “Oh my GOOOOD, NOOOOOOOO, NOT AGAIIIIN, we will miss our flight again and will never get to Jo’Burg, the Photography Expedition dream is slowly fading away”. It is already 8:30pm, GAME IS OVER 😦

Experience (1): South Africa Here I come


 

Stars alphabetically

Christine: Fine Arts Graduate who works in an advertisement company

Emil: South African. Famous Professional Photographer in South Africa

Emile: Club Founder, Fine Artist

Karen: American. Amateur Photographer

Magdy: Amateur Photographer

Prof. Mohamed: Architect & teaches Architecture in Egypt. Amateur Photographer with a deep & profoud Photography background.

Sarah: Professional Photographer who owns a Studio in Egypt (by then she didn’t own the Studio yet)

Wally: South African/American.Club Founder. Famous Sports Photographer in the U.S.

Me: By then only Amateur Photographer & Beauty Appreciator & a Law school fresh grad

 

Me with enthusiasm full of anxiety: Hey Mum, Dad Cairo Camera Club is organizing a trip

Mum & Dad disinterested: Where to?

Me: South Africa, Youpiiiii 😀

Mum did not comment. And Dad: So you wanna go, huh?

Me: Of course. It’s a DREAM. It won’t be like any trip, it’s a Photography Expedition.

Dad: Who’s going?

Me: Two of the Club founders & five other people that I know. We’ll be a group of 8.

Dad: Are they good people?

Me: Of course they are, I would have never thought of telling you about this trip if they weren’t good decent people.

Dad: Note that you’ll have to know every single detail about the trip, you’ll have to tell us where exactly are you going to stay? what are you going to do on daily basis?

Me : Sure I will

Dad: How long are you gonna stay? and how much does it cost?

Me: 10 days, it’ll cost 2000$ & I have the money

Dad: 2.000$ is veryyyy good. But how come you have 2,000$? From where did you get them?

Me: I kept saving money since I’ve heard of that South Africa trip, and as if it was planned by God that my grandpa gave me 5.000LE when I passed my last year in college and by chance I saved another 5.000LE

Dad: I think it’s a great chance. In one hand it’s organized by a Photography Club, it’s not expensive & on the other hand you’ll get to see South Africa and to do the hobby that you are passionate about.

Me: Does that mean that you’ll let me go?

Dad: If you really want to, then go ahead

Mum in disbelief, totally numb to say anything. Ingy my sister was like COOOOOOL!

Dad’s words sounded INCREDIBLE to me. Am I sane or have I gone totally out of my mind? Have I become deaf? Am I dreaming? OH MY GOD, I AM ACTUALLY GOING TO SOUTH AFRICAAAAAAAAAAA…

Me in excitement: Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, I really wanna go, Please let me goooo…thank you, thank you, thank youuuuuuuu…Ingyyyyyyyy I’m going to South Africa, Muuuum I’m going to South Africa…Yeeeeeeeeeeeeey!

on the web

on the web

I’ve been excited for this trip, since I’ve heard that Cairo Camera Club is planning to take us there… I think that this was the most exciting moment in my life, I was too thrilled for the trip. It was a bit similar to my excitement to my trip to Turkey with mum and sister as it was my first time to go a western country, but this time the excitement was different, it was intense. I’m going on a Photography Expedition, my National Geographic thoughts about Adventures are turning into reality, I’m gonna travel on my owwwwwwwwwwwwwwn…Youpiiiiiiii!

I’ve been always dreaming about a trip without my parents, not because I don’t want my parents to be with me. It’s just that I wanted to be independent, act however I like, get late with no arguments or yelling, and to be honest, travelling without parents is really different, as you get to do things that your parents won’t normally allow you to do -like sky diving, tree topping, river rafting, I’m not talking of getting drunk or clubbing like a party animal because such things do not interest me at all-, you get to be responsible of your pocket money and find ways to manage it so you don’t become broke. I actually had plans to skydive & to go rafting, but it seems that my mum’s prayers for her 21 years old girl to not go out of control were much stronger, than my so called foolish intentions.

I was Really Excited, and Anxious in the mean time, hours before the trip, I was worried to forget something, to be late, to miss the plane, to not have fun. I was traveling with people that I barely know. It’s maybe the Excitement that made me feel this way, i really don’t know. I spent the day relaxing at home, then buying the remaining needed stuff, mainly grocery, took my Malaria tablets, and a week or 10 days before took 5 shots (Yellow Fever, Cholera, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, I don’t remember the fifth), but it was ok, I could handle the PAIN and the fever for the sake of TRAVELING). Arrived at the Cairo Airport 5 minutes before our scheduled appointment, my closest friends called me to say goodbye and wish me an extraordinary trip; Safi -my very old school friend since kindergarten-, Ingy -my school friend since 1st secondary & Hashem -my best friend since first year in college-, Menna –another friend from college- called ten minutes after I got to the airport, so my lovely sister Ingy answered & told her that I already left. I found Sarah & Christine at the airport, said goodbye to Mami & Ingy, and was TOTALLY READY TO GO.

Prof. Mohamed arrived, then Karen & Emile -who was late due to Karen’s delay-, the first surprise was Cairo Camera Club caps for all of us -that Karen bought us-, Wouuuhouuu!!! That’s the Spirit :D.

Most of us wore them right away, checked in our bags together, then went to the Duty Free Shops, God 2 hours and a half to goooo…We were already EXHAUSTED as our flight was scheduled to be at 1:00 a.m., and I WAS too READY to BE in Johannesburg (Jo’burg as they call it). A tinny tiny detail that might not add a lot, I went to the restroom, and on my way out my Passport FELL OUT of my hands, but THANK GOD the janitor warned me. Al-Hamdulelah time passed by FAAAAST, we were boarding. Ay yay yay!!! Kenya Airways, seats were tight, but the plane was half empty so I’ve seated on 18 F, Prof. Mohamed on 18 D, 18 E was empty. The take-off was ok, but the meal WAS NOT. It was grilled chicken taste-less, spices-less, nothing was added to it, yuuuk, but what to do we were all STARVING, boiled spinaches with meat sauce, bread & butter, salad, & a WEIRD Mousse Chocolate. Then a Quick landing in Khartoum Airport, I thought it was an Emergency Landing I swear, but it turned to be mentioned in our ticket that there is a 45 minutes transit in Khartoum. WA MA ADRAK WAL KHARTOUM, tribal people were on the plane, I bet that they were refugees transported from Khartoum to Lagos (as we knew later on), what a pity they didn’t know the use of toothpick, 2 girls were climbing on the back of my chair, and my hair was constantly BEYETSHAD. I switched seats, and sat on 18 E, and it only gets better the TALLEST guy -coming from Khartoum- on the plane was sitting next to me, GOD that was tight, he looked so Bohemian, & smelled like SHIT, I suddenly felt dizzy from the food, the smell, the heat, I wanted to throw up, but I didn’t. Had Really bad stomachaches the whole flight, even after taking medicine, then thank God we arrived to Nairobi, to switch flights & go to JO’BURG BABYYYY…

As we got to the Airport, there was no ways of transportation from the plane to the gates. It was raining and we were carrying our carry on bags -back packs stuffed with cameras, lens & related-, and some guard told us that we have 15 minutes left to catch our connection flight –which was not very accurate- at gate 12, while we were near gate 1 :D…We were RUNNING & RUNNING…Emile, Prof. Mohamed, Sarah & I in the front, Karen, Christine & Magdy backwards. We arrived 15 minutes before the flight takes off, the guy at the front desk told us there is NOWAY we can get in. We were going TOTALLY CRAZYYYYY, he was very cool about it, staring at the ceiling, as if happy that we missed it. We asked the counter lady to let us in, she didn’t answer either, speaking to another group, we started yelling “GUYS LET US IN, IT WASN’T OUR FAULT THAT WE WERE 30 MINUTES DELAYED IN CAIRO AIRPORT”, the plane was still in the gate, Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s Irritating!!!

Emile was yelling, Karen as well, I started to yell…the flight was off, and we are still in Nairobi…DAMNNNN!

…to be continued…