A Travellerspoint blog

ISRAEL

5 days back-packing the Holy land

sunny 35 °C

Israel, what a stunning complicated country.The one thing you mainly notice about Israel is its landscape. It is a country made out of hills and valleys. This was my last trip to the middle east and what a way to end it. It is when you are viewing the Golan heights, when you hike Mt Olive, when you step into the waters of the sea of Galellie, crossing into the West bank or floating on the dead sea, that you appreciate that chances are you will never see a place as wonderful as the middle east and Israel .. wow!!!!

Day 1

Arrived at the Ben Gurion Internationa airport , Tel Aviv. I was interogated prior to entry but I was allowed after being given a security rating of 6/7. My laugage was not availble when I arrived, I was advised to collect my laugage the next day. I purchased a train ticket from the airport to Jerusalem. I think I paid NIS 40.00 , I took a train from the airport to Tel Aviv, from Tel avaiv I had to take another train to Jerusalem. The journey from the airport to Jerusalem took me 2 hrs. From the train station in Jerusalem I took a minibus to the old city, I mistakenly got off the bus at the new city of Jerusalem . I decided to do some window shopping at the new city and I had lunch. I found a nice falafel sandwich place, where you could fill the sandwich with anything you want, it was realy nice and feeling, sadly this was a start which at the end of the week had put me off Falafels and humus for a long time. After having my lunch I decided to locate my hostel which was situated in the old city. I entered the old city via the Jaffa gate, I managed to locate my hostel beyond the maize coridors of the market. I then joined a free tour group around the old city. The tour group met around 14:00 at the Jaffa Gate and the tour lasted 3 hours. It was quite a wonderful tour. after the tour I went back to the old city and had dinner. After dinner I went back to the hostel for resting,to my suprise I was informed that I had booked a roof top room. This was the one and only time I slept at the roof top of which I believe it is a wonderful, fulfilling,cheap experience ONLY IF you have a sleeping bag. Since I had no sleeping bag nor did I have any of my laugage with me , this soon proved to be the most coldest evening ever. I inquired regarding changing rooms but the place was fully booked. I spent my first night in Jerusalem sleeping under the stars.

Day 2

I woke up early in the morning not that I had any reason to stay in bed longer since I was sleeping on the rooftop and as the morning approached it got realy cold. I left Jerusalem for Tel Aviv (airport) around 08:00.The bus From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv takes almost 2 hrs and costs NIS 20.00. I arrived at the airport to collected my bags and realised that I my camera & phone were missing. I filled the missing items form and with all the paper-work done and the realisation that I don't have a camera I had to come up with a plan. I decided to buy disposable camera's. I then took a bus from the airport to Tel Aviv, upon arrival in Tel Aviv I purchased a day bus ticket for Tel Aviv. The bus ticket allowed me to use it all over town & Jaffa. Tel Aviv & its sea shores are very easy to navigate. The buses are quite easy to get a handle of as well. When I arrived at the beach I met a man who was hiring out beach chairs,I am not sure if I was resting on his chairs while I had a place to leave my backpack or if I was looking after his chairs while he went around sorting out or collecting chairs. Anyways I managed to swim and take a stroll . I then took a bus from the beach to Jaffa, the bus took me +-30min. I think taking a stroll from Tel Aviv beach to Jaffa is a wonderful stroll, if you are ever around the area I will advise you take a stroll. I then took a bus from Jaffa to Tel Aviv ,upon arrival at Tel Aviv I decided to take a bus to Nazareth. I arrived at Nazareth around 22:00, it took me almost 2 hrs to locate my youth hostel. Since I was tired when I finally managed to find it I just went straight to bed.

Day 3

I woke up early in the morning and joined a tour group for Nazareth, this tour was arranged by the hostel. We started the tour around 08:30 and we finnished around midday. I then decided to take a stroll around Nazareth and I met a guy who was in my tour group JP. JP was on his way to hike On my way back I met a guy I was with on my tour guide Jp. Jp informed me that he was on his way to hike mt Precipice, I then joined him. It took us 2 hours to hike it although the bulk of the time was due to us being lost. The sheer sloped mountain is 397 meters high, this provides one of the best, most beautiful observation points over Yizrael Valley and its surrounding mountains: The Carmel Mountains, The Gillad Mountains and the Tabor Mountain. On the way back you can take a different path overlooking the views. As we were on top of the mountain we were joined by a group of tourist. We then went back to the hostel, JP dicided that we went for a meal at a resturant he has once been durring his previous visit. The food was MAGNIFICANT yummy.... We then arranged to meet the next morning arounmd 06:30 for our trip to Tabgah & Galellie..

Day 4

I woke up around 06:30, I looked around for JP and couldn't find him where we had arranged to meet. I then left the hostel for hikking to the 'church of adolescence'. The hike took me a an hour. After the hike I went to the bus station to catch a bus to Tiberias. Suprise suprise on the bus I met Jp again.. we then went to Tiberias together. Upon arrival we went to a market and purchased fruits, we purchased nice huge grapes hmmmm. We then took a taxi for the beach side. We then decided to go to Taghba, Capernaum, Galeliee and the Jordan river etc. We then went to the beach for some relaxation, after lunch we decided to go our separate ways with JP. I took a bus for jerusalem & Jp to a bus to Nazareth. Upon arrival at Jerusalem I tried to catch a bus to Damascus gate inorder to get a bus to the West bank. I had difficulties getting a bus, I ended up taking a taxi which turned out to be a huge mistake which cost me NIS 120.00, total rip off. Anyways the taxi dropped me at the check point. I crossed over and I took a taxi to the nearest hotel. I checked into a nice hotel in Bethlehem. I relaxed and then went for a wallk in the evening.

Day 5

I woke up early in the morning, took a walk to the church of Nativity, I then went to Jericho etc. I took a taxi to the Jewish settlements in the westbank etc and I saw the art on the separation wall.I crossed over into jerusalem in the afternoon. I then took a minibus to Damascus gate in the old city. I then decided to walk though all the gates of the old city of Jerusalem.This was a magnificant walk indeed, I then went to Mt Olive, I took a walk to Calvary etc. In the evening I took a shower and then I took a bus from Jeriusalem to Tel Aviv airport. I missed my stop for the airport & I got off far from the airport luckly I still had time and I made it in time for my flight.

I Had to go through immigrations again.. after 3 hrs I was allowed to go through, Wow what a trip, it turned out to be more than what I had expected :)

Posted by Thuligal 12:32 Archived in Israel Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Mt Sinai

sunset view

sunny 35 °C

It is known as a holy site for the 3 main religions, its is also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa,Jabal musa. According to Jewish and Christian tradition this is the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. It is mentioned in the Bible primarily in the Book of Exodus.

Climbing mt Sinai has always been a dream for me. So much of a dream that I had to do it twice so far. I make it a point that each time I am in Egypt I travel to the Sinai peninsula and climb mt Sinai. It is one of those amazing experinces in life which each time you experience feels like the first time.The first time I climbed it I was on my own and I was allowed to climb it alone. This time when I climbed it I was with my friends. We decided to climb it for the sunset view.I travelled from Dahab with two friends and a group of other tourists. We arrived at St Kethrines monestry in the afternoon. Most of the other people in the group decided not to climb the mountain. Sadly we couldn't hike without a guide. We then had to find somoene who could act as our guide. We did manage to find ourselves a middle aged Egyptian man who acted as our guide. Luckly to qualify as a guide you don't need any tourism registration, you just need to tag along and make sure we don't get lost. Climbing a mountain with a non registered guide had its limitations: firstly: Langauge barier, our guide couldn't speak a word of English and we couldn't speak a word of Arrabic, the only thing we could hear was 'shwai shwai'- slow & 'yala'- lets go. Secondly: he had a limp & he strugled to walk, limping when you are climbing a mt Sinai which take +- 3 hrs to climb is a problem, especially since you need a guide to guide you not to follow you. Thirdly: for an Egyptian man he drank tea like an English man, if we knew that he was going to take tea breaks all over the place we would have arranged a flask for him. We started climbing early afternoon. As we were climbing our tour guide gave us directions through sign language while following us. Each time we reached a junction we always had to stop and look back to our guide to point us to the correct direction. We also had to make sure he was in our vicinity, we couldn't just go what if he went back or we couldn't recognise him. It was so funny because we kept listening at other groups guides as they explained the directions etc. I can't tell how many bottles of water we drank but as we approached the peak, we were sweating,were were tired and we were thirsty. As we viewed the sunset, there was no other better place to be than on top of that mountain. As we reached the peak we were amazed. Sunset view from Mt Sinai is AMAZING...We spent an hour on top of the mountain and we started hikking back. Going down the mountain took us 2 hours and we met up with other people. We decided to pay our guide before descending since we were not intending to wait for him anymore.The only thing about climbing mt Sinai for sunset view is the fact that you have to go back in the dark BUT I gues sunrise hikking is the same you will have to climb in the dark.

Posted by Thuligal 14:45 Archived in Egypt Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises Comments (0)

24 hrs to fall in luv with Istanbul

With luv from Istanbul

sunny 40 °C

Turkey

is known as the only country in the world which is situated between two continents. It is part of Europe and the Middle east. When I made arrangments on this trip , I was often asked : Which part of Istanbul do you want to arrive at i.e Asia side or Europe side. Since I took a budget airline I landed at the Asia side of Istanbul.
Istanbul airport, Asia side

Istanbul airport, Asia side


Istanbul has the qualities of making you to fall in love with it at first sight. It looks stunning, rich in culture, rich in history,the atmosphere as well seem to set the mood right for you have the combination of the sea and the hot temperature .Turkish people are warm and welcoming as well. As I landed at the airport I was greeted warmly by the immigration's officer: 'Merhaba' I responded 'Merhaba', not really sure how I was meant to respond.
Turkish visa stamp

Turkish visa stamp


With the immigrations procedures completed I then had to find my way to the buzzing great city of Istanbul. Since I was planning to be in Istanbul for one night I planed to purchase my onward bus ticket before sighseeing. I took a bus from the airport to Harem bus station. I purchased my ticket from Istanbul to Antakyia . With the ticket purchase I decide to let the fun begin, I took a boat ride from Harem (Asia side)to Bosphorous (European side).Its amazing how much you will notice the difference between those two sides.
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boat riden from Harem to Bosphorus

boat riden from Harem to Bosphorus


When I arrived at Bosphorous I was amazed at the livelyness of the area, I got off the boat just outside the magnificant 'blue Mosque'. I then took a bus from Bosphorous to Taksim square.
Taksim square

Taksim square


When I got off at the Taksim square which is reported to be the central point especially for tourist. From Taksim square you can take a tram/bus or walk to the Sultanhamet. I tried to follow the directions highlighted on my accomodation confirmation email. As I walked down the Square I soon found myself in the mist of buzzing shops, all of a sudden I thought I was at Oxford street (London). There were designer shops all over the place complemented by a Mcdonalds's. I managed to resist shopping and finally made it to my booked hostel which was situated next to the shops. I dropped my bags around midday and I took out my lonely planet guide and decided where to start sightseeing this beautiful, magnificant city. I was advised to take a bus to the grandbazzar area. I took a bus and got off somewhere close to the baazar. The grandbazzar is a magnificant maize of shops, it is reported to have +-4000 stalls in it. Inside it you will find it to be filled with carpets,spices,turkish sweets,silverware and fake designer brands. Please do polish your huggling skills before you go to the graand bazaar for sovergnier shopping. You must also be prepared to get lost once ot twice to say the least, it is a huge market.
Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar


I finally managed to escape the hassles after buying a Turkish flag key holder. I then decided go somewhere much relaxed, where I wouldn't be hassled much. I visited the iconic Topkapi palace, the Aya Sofya,the blue mosque,the hyppodrome,the basilica cistern,beyazit and Suleymaniye. I then went to the Blue Mosque and found people gathering awaiting to break their fast. It was like a picnic at night. The children were running all over the place, the teenagers were giggling and checking their mobile phones while their mothers were busy dishing the food. I bought myself a stick tofee and I enjoyed the atmosphere around me. I then went back to the hostel for freshning up preparing myself for a night to remember. The Taksim Square came to live in the evening, people come out.. resturants were full, music from the clubs was blasting, as I walked down the street on my way back to the hostel, I was suprised to see the number of people still stralling down the streets.. I then knew that as I was on my way to sleep this city was not going to be sleeping anytime soon.

food food food

food food food


As I was still stralling back to my hostel I decided to get the Turkish ice-cream. Let me be frank my record best ice-cream in the whole world is the Mango sorbet from Tala Talib Square in Cairo BUT I believe the Turkish ice-cream is competing for that position. Its main distinguish feature is the stickyness and its resistance to melting. It is also not too sweet either. The ice -cream man demostrated their skills as well when their serving you. It was a lovely evening to remember, I then started wondering maybe I should spend another day in Istanbul but I had a plan and I had a long journey ahead of me. I arrived at the hostel and I found fellow backpackers in my dormicilary. My 8 dorm room soon proved to be the most amazing experience ever. We had a guy who felt it was too hot for him to keep his cloths on , he decided to take off his cloths, not a nice sight when you wake up and find a naked person with his duvet cover not covering him. We were shocked for a while but it became a joke when having breakfast. Durring breakfast I met Dan from France, he soon proved to be a most valuable travel budy. He gladly assumed positions of a bodyguard and a navigator. He was into town planning so he understood the city very well, he could easily read a MAP!!!! (I do have a soft spot for man who can read a map & who have common sense of direction). With him on my side I didn't have the hassles of Turkish man holding their prayer bids and checking me out, nor the young man giving me funny looks nor the teenage boys following me around and trying to take my picture. After breakfast he took his map and I just relied on him ,we left the hostel aroung 09:30. Luckly he had adventurous taste buds, we tried a number of different Turkish foods.I started with freshly pressed pormagranade juice & carrot juice yummy. For lunch we went for a Turkish meal, the veriety of Vegeterian delights hmmmm, I was amazed of the options I had. Exausted and tired of all the walking we went back to the hostel around 16:00. I then freshened up and took a bus for my next destination, with Dan left behind I had to take my map out again ohhh dear I was about to get lost . I was intending to take a bus to Bosphorous and then the boat to Harem BUT my plan didn't go according to plan. When I took the bus I mentioned Harem, something good came out of this misfortune because the bus took me on the Galata bridge magnificant view indeed. I got off the bus at a certain place where I had to walk to the bus station. I tried to catch a bus but since I was on some kind of a motor way, my only option was to cross the road and then walk almost 30 mins to the bus station. I finally made it for 19:00, when inquired about the bus and leaving time I was informed of Turkish time. As I am familiar with African time I understood the concerpt Turkish time. The bus finally left around 21:00, I paid TL60.00 for a trip from Istanbul to Antakya. Luckly the bus drivers were nice to me, they allowed me to use their internet.
bus drivers  @ Harem bus station

bus drivers @ Harem bus station


On the bus I was seating next to a family who were fasting, they kept eating durring the night. It was so funny because they couldn't speak a word of English but we communicated in sign language. I recall them offering me food of which I politely declined since I can't eat after 18:30 and I also followed the girl each time she went to the toilet since I didn't know which toilets were male or female.I finally arrived at Antakya around 11:00 in the morning. I then got on the bus for Allepo. Wow what a lovely beautiful city, Istanbul is definately on my list for best cities in the world.

Posted by Thuligal 11:43 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

LEBANON in 4 days

backpacking Lebanon solo

sunny 36 °C

Lebanon is a small country, travelling from one end to other end is not a hassle at all. Entering Lebanon from Syria is not difficult at all, I entered via the HOLMs border post. I arranged my Lebanes visa prior to my trip, this did save me time and hassles at the border post. I took a shared taxi from Holms to Tripoli 'Trablous' ,I had to pay almost SL 500.00 when exiting Syria . I am not really sure why I had to pay this amount. They explained to me in Arrabic but I just couldn't understand why I had to pay it.

DAY 1

On arrival at Tripoli I went sight seeing, I visited the Souq al-Sayyaghin (gold souq), souq al-attarin (perfume & spices) & the crusaders fortress. There wasn't much to see in Tripoli , I will advise you to arrive in the morning. You can spend the day sightseeing and then procede on your travels in the evening. I decided to spent a night in Tripoli since I was tired and I needed to rest.

Tripoli.jpg

Day 2:

Early in the morning I took a minibus from Tripoli to Bcharre. I paid LL3000 ($3.00) for a 3 hour journey. As I paid the fare I was thinking to myself what a rip-off, especially after spending almost two weeks in Syria where everything is cheap. As our journey took us to the beautiful Bccharre, the AMAZING scenary soon unfolded to me. I then thought to myself I would have paid a lot of money for that beautiful journey,all of a sudden the entire trip was worth every penny spent. The Ceders area is a mountanious, scenic, bendy area wow!!! if you are ever in Lebanon please do visit the Ceders area its worth the trip. Upon arrival at Buccharre I checked into a youthostel. I paid $10.00 per night. Since I arrived in the afternoon, I dropped my bags and then decided to go sightseeing.I was advised to hitch-hike to the ceders, just when I was on the road I got a lift which dropped me at the ceders at no fare at all. I then went hikking inside the ceders, there is no entrance fee to the ceders but you pay donation (anything you want).
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After hikking the ceders I then hitch hikked a lift back to Bccharre, I managed to get a minibus going back. Upon arrival at the hostel I decided to go around looking for a resturant. It is amazing how difficult it is to find a vegeterian meal in most resturants in Bccharre, the fact that it was ramadan didn't help at all. I ended up buying chickpeas with nan-bread. In the evening I met up with other fellow travellers at the youthhostel and we decided to go for a walk around the town. We also made arrangements to meet at 06:30 the next morning for more hikking to the caves, Arrabic coffee and breakfast.

Bchharre

Bchharre

Day 3:

We left the hostel at 06:30 and we went hikking for the caves. We followed the directions from the lonely planet guide but the road highlighted was being renovated due to this we couldn't reach the caves. We ended up having a heated debate regarding which travellers guide is the best. After a number of attempts we decided to stop our attempt to hike to the caves and procede on our journey's. We had Arrabic cofee and then we took a shared taxi to the Baaka valley. There are no transport connections between Bchharre & the Baaka valley.We took a taxi to Baalbek which is the administrative headquaters for both the baaka valley and the Hezbolah party. Funny enough when we were hikking at the ceders there was a rumour circulating that two tourist had been kidnapped in Baalbek, not really sure if the rumour was true or not. Anyways we still proceded on our journey from Bccharre to Baalbek, the journey took us 2.5 hrs and it cost $25.00 each. It was a bit much expensive but we arrived at our destination before midday.

Jupiter temple

Jupiter temple

Upon arrival at Baalbek we decided to check into a hostel. We manged to secure a room at $10.00. We then went sightseeing the Jupiter temple;Venus temple;temple of Bacchus etc. We finished sightseeing around 15:00. we then decided to return back to the hostel and collect our bags since we had decided not to spend a night at Baalbek anymore. I thought we were going to have problems checking out of the hostel but it was easy, I advised my travel budy to checkout and I went into our room and grabbed our bags. We then took a minibus to Zahle from the front of the Palmyra hotel.
Wine_cave.jpg
The minibus dropped us just outside the winery and we went for a winery tour. My travel budy was excited since he drank his wine and mine since I don't drink alcohol. Durring our winery tour we met a couple who knew my travel budy. They offered me a lift to Beirut in their private taxi. I arrived at Beirut around 19:00 and I took a taxi from their hotel to my hostel. I did manage to avoid a rooftop room and I was in a 3 bed dorm.. I went straight to bed

Day4

I woke up early in the morning and I took a minibus to the cola bus station (Beirut). I then took a minibus to Tyre, I arrived at Tyre around 09:00.I went sight seeing the old town of Tyre, beautiful area indeed.
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In the afternoon I took a bus to Sidon, I went sight seeing etc.
Sidon.jpg
Upon completion I took a bus back to Beirut.I arrived at the Beirut early but I got lost going to the hostel. I arrived at the hostel around 22:00. I was very very tired that evening, so I took a shower and went to bed.

Day 5

I took a bus to Babylos.The bus from Beirut to byblos took less than 2hrs.
Byblos.jpg
I went sight seeing and swimming. In the early evening I took a bus back to Beirut. I then took a shower and went for dinner. In the evening I took a taxi to the airport. At 23:00 I was at the airport..... WONDERFUL trip indeed !!!

Posted by Thuligal 13:19 Archived in Lebanon Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Holiday fling

Is it true romance or a spare of a moment

overcast 0 °C

…. My flight seat screen starts flicking, I stare at the screen wondering what/who could it be. I then received a massage reading: ‘You have a miscall from seat 26E’.Oh dear, was that what it was, a call ? Who could it be, I called back the seat and the response I got: ‘good morning I hope you are having a lovely relaxing flight‘. It then occurs to me, while awaiting my connection flight earlier on , I had a conversation with a gentleman who asked me for my seat number, I thought it was for comparing seats, although I did find it odd when I realised that he was travelling first class. He kept me company the whole length of our long journey. when landing he did ask for my mobile number….

While having breakfast at a youth hostel in Luxor (Egypt) I sat at a table next to Tom. Tom was from the USA and had just arrived in Egypt. I gave him advise on how to tour the land of the Pharaohs, I then later joined him for his day tour and decided to take a bike ride to the valley of the kings & queens. We had the most amazing conversations on those two days we spent in Luxor. While in Paris I met Mat, in front of the Eiffel Tower, I asked him to take a picture of me, the next thing I know we were going out for a meal and he waited for me at a train station for two hours. He didn’t have my number to check if I was still coming nor did he know which hotel I was staying at, all he did was to wait until I arrived later, we had a lovely wonderful meal. We then visited the museums together the next day. He was a man after my heart, he could read a MAP how wonderful is that. I still think of Mat with a smile. Now J While strolling the street of Paris I met Karim in a coffee shop. What I remember is a nice Italian meal, engaging conversations with his friends and listening to him playing a guitar. I have never appreciated a guitar nor understood theories about life presented in French than I did in those two days. The next thing I know, I am receiving emails with greetings, ‘Ca va‘, ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Amour’ giggling…

While travelling back from a friends place Jamal he sat next to me and we had the most wonderful two hours journey. It was odd he was like a mini me, we shared the same views in life, same thoughts, same interests it was seriously odd. For a second I thought I knew him from somewhere, maybe in my past life. We talked endlessly until we arrived at out destination. As we approached our destination we saw a number of Mediterranean restaurants, he said: do you like Mediterenian cusines, I like all cusines but lets just say I said yes I like it. When we arrived at our destination we said our goodbye and he got off the bus before I did. I then started smiling, wow it was nice to meet someone you think you know although you never met him before.Well I thought that was just a breeze of fresh air and it had passed. when I got off the bus I found him waiting for me. Oh I smilled again, he then asked me for my number.. ooops I don’t know my number, to which he gave me his busines card.. lets just say we went for : Lebanese meals, salsa dancing classess etc..

I then ask myself, is it ok to flirt while you are on holiday. If it is ok, when do you flirt? Is it when meeting a stranger at the airport, is it when meeting someone in the restaurant or is it when you are on the day tour bus, you meet someone and the next thing you are arranging the rest of your holiday tour with his holiday and calling your hotel to change your reservations. Regardless of the response I love it when I suddenly go through my rucksack and find that one dress I always travel with in case of emergencies. When I can’t wait to get to my hotel room and take a quick shower and change from a travelling buddy into lady. we could be meeting for an hour, for the first and last time in our lives … lets talk, lets go for a drink, a meal, take my number and email address, email me in langauges I do not understand ... We met by chance and I am sure we are not going to know each other forever nor am I expecting us to email each other everyday but lets have fun NOW.. travelling solo need not to be borring,be careful, go with the flow and have fun life is too short but no matter what you do don't do anything I wouldn't do :)

Posted by Thuligal 06:34 Archived in South Africa Tagged people Comments (1)

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