Wow, I'm actually doing a blog (as if I don't already write enough already).
Doug's be bugging me for a while to do one though and as anyone with as
wonderful of a boss as Doug knows, it's always nice to make the big cheese
happy, so here goes...
After a long winter of tirelessly traveling the globe doing my very
best to keep all of you up to speed on the goings on of the ski world,
I needed a bit of a breather, so the boys hooked me up with two and a
half weeks vacation time. So after only being home for a total of three
weeks between December and May, what did I do? ...I went traveling.
After spending a month in China last May I fell in love with the
country and culture and really wanted to return to the area, so around
last Christmas I began planning a month long trip (with my good friends and NS contributing photographer extradoinaire Josh Anderson and Comor
Sports’ illustrious Nolan Blackie) to Tibet & Nepal complete with a
trek to Everest Base Camp. But after beginning to deal with the
bureaucratic hassle of actually going to Tibet and Everest via permits,
visas and other protocols of the Chinese government, as most everyone
knows, a series of protests and violence broke out in the region in March, and
the Chinese government expelled all foreigners and was refusing to let
more in, so the guide we had hired emailed us saying that 'it
would be extremely unfavorable of us to come.' We read between the
lines...no Tibet for us.
This left me with a substantial chunk of money set aside and approved
time off, with nowhere to go. I considered my options. Team Trennon was
going to an all-inclusive resort to Mexico to surf for two weeks. Blackie, who's
adventurous travel nature makes me look like a paranoid senior citizen
who wont leave their home by comparison (I mean the guy went to war
torn Uganda last summer for six weeks to do volunteer work and traveled
from village-to-village teaching kids how to properly brush their
teeth) was planning on heading off to Thailand and Cambodia where he
would wait to see how the elections went in Burma before heading there
for 10 days (and after the cyclone, no Burma for him, which makes me
think that traveling with him isn't all that great of an
idea...everywhere he intends to go goes to hell as he's about to get on
a plane, haha). And my sister was off to Costa Rica for two weeks,
which tempted me to embark on a kick-ass brother/sister adventure
through the jungles of Central America. All this considered though, I
knew I wanted to go to Africa or preferably, the Middle East. I'd seen
lots of Asia and Europe, and wanted to learn more about the Muslim
culture and go somewhere that would make me feel a bit out of my
comfort zone. I thought about it for about 30 seconds before realizing
I could have the best of both the Middle East and Africa in one package
while seeing remnants of an ancient civilization that had fascinated me
since I was very young...I booked a ticket to Egypt.
I landed in Cairo and was instantly overwhelmed by the beauty,
insanity, congestion, and disorganization of the city. 27 million
people, no traffic lights and no rules. I spent the first few days
there walking the streets on my own, and although many people were
quite friendly (in particular a Muslim who ran a Mosque in the city who
I took a long walk with while having an unforgettable conversation), I
was very taken back by the anti-Westernism that was so present.
Anti-American signs littered the streets, and as I walked into clothing
stores and food markets I was greeted with hateful stares and little
discussion...that is until I informed them I was Canadian. Although I
never once felt threatened it was undoubtedly the most intense and
uncomfortable few days of my life and in the end, an amazing learning
experience. As I always understood, Muslims are some of the most
beautiful, giving and devout people you can ever meet, but since the tragedy
of 911 and the unfortunate generalization they've received as
'terrorists' since then (arguably at the hands of the American
government and media), they really have been dealt a raw deal over the
past few years, and are understandably quite upset about it. After
experiencing this first hand I couldn't help but feel a strong sense of
empathy for them (plus an added respect), as opposed to being upset by
the discomfort I was caused because of it. Needless to say, it was an experience I'll
Following this, I went to the highlight of Egypt, what everyone comes
to see...the Pyramids. Even as a writer, I can still find no words to
describe my day there (which I will vividly remember for the rest of my
life), so as they say, a picture is worth a thousand of them...
They're absolutely stunning. To stand at the base of them and know that
they've been there for 5000 years and are ever so perfect was indescribably awe-inspiring.
Following the Pyramids I checked out the Sphinx and ended my day at the
Egyptian Museum before boarding a train to Aswan, the southern most
city in Egypt, where I spent long hours haggling in the markets for spices,
trinkets and artwork.
Following that I checked out Abu Simbel, the great temple built for Ramses II (aka the most badass Pharaoh of them all).
I then traveled near the Sudan border to visit a Nubian village where I
got my first true taste of Africa, where I interacted with some of the
poorest, simplest, happiest and most wonderful people I've ever met,
despite having little to nothing to their name, which as one can imagine,
was an extremely humbling experience.
sunrise near Sudan
I then boarded a very basic sailboat with some hilarious Nubian fellows
and embarked on a two-day cruise down the Nile towards Luxor.
swimmin in the Nile
Each night the Nubians cooked amazing dinners, danced and sang songs
under the stars, and I took the opportunity to have many a long talks
until the wee hours of the morning with them about their life,
religion, politics and the problems in the Middle East and Sudan that
each and every single one of them have been directly affected by in one
way or another.
Captain Jack and his first mate 'Smile'
sunset on the Nile
I then arrived in Luxor where I think I saw more temples in two days
than I've seen ski hills in my whole life, with the best highlight
being my lengthy donkey ride to the Valley of the Kings, and the worst
being that it was 52 degrees Celsius that day.
Queen Hatshepsut's Temple
Valley of the Kings
I then went back to Cairo before continuing further north to
Alexandria, which I was really looking forward to because I'm a huge
fan of the history of Alexander the Great.
fisherman on the Mediterranean
forbidden love on the Mediterranean (Egyptians aren't allowed to display affection in public)
After a few days sightseeing there and hanging out on the south shore
of the Mediterranean while eating good seafood I headed to the far East
of Sinai, where after visiting one of the heartlands of Muslim culture
I shifted gears to see the foundation of Christianity at Saint
Katerine's Monastery and Mount Sinai, the sites of the Burning Bush and
where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
the Burning Bush
base of Mt Sinai
chapel at the summit of Mt Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments
And finally, after all the moving around it was time
for a break, so I went further East to hang out at a ballin beach
resort for a few days in Dahab on the coastline of the Red Sea with the
mountains of Saudi Arabia in the distance.
I capped off my trip there by doing some diving and watched camels
freely run around the beach while enjoying some quality time at the
swim up bar considering it was only $22 a day for the all you can eat
and drink option :)
da swim-up bar
After that, it was back to Cairo to board my ten millionth airplane in the
last six months and then home to the normalcy of Canada, home of food that doesn't make you shit eight times a day, street lights, and clean washrooms that you don't have to pay to
In all my travels, I can confidently say it was the most amazing place
I’ve been thus far. To be deeply inundated in three completely
different cultures (Muslim, Christian and Nubian) plus seeing intact
remnants of the oldest and most advanced civilization in history
(Ancient Egypt) was again, an experience I will never forget, and I highly recommend it to anyone.