Monday, May 08, 2006

New Hampshire- Shaken and Stirred

Monday, May 8th, 2006:

Been a while since a writing.... so blah,blah,blah, and all that. I just took a trip up Route 93, North, and went into the White Mountain National Forest. Spent 3 nights and 4 days on a solo camping trip which was freakin' great. Boy, my feet need to toughen up a bit, though.
The Kancamagus Highway, or Kank, as we "Noo In'glindehs" like to call it, although known for its scenic driving, biking, and multitude of day hikes, also offers access to the interior of the Forest for multi-day hikes. That's where I headed, 4.5 miles off of Route 93, exit 32.

Name's Bond, Mt. Bond. And this is the top. That's Mt. Washington in the background.

I went up two peaks, Mt. Bond and Mt. Bondcliff. I had two incredibly nice days and one drizzly afternoon/evening, but basically the trail to myself. Well, almost. I saw one woman, one crazy dude, and a black bear. Not too bad for 4 days, so there you go.
Cue the pictures.

Mt. Bondcliff, with Mt. Bond behind my head. If my expression seems a bit perplexed its probably because I had just had my first black bear encounter on foot. He crossed about 40 yards in front of me on top of the saddleback connecting the two peaks. He was a good sized bugger and I watched him for about ten minutes looking for food. Amazingly, he never picked up on my scent, which was definitely strong after all the uphill.

Here's that crazy dude I referred to earlier. His name is Calem. Met him a half mile from the top of Bondcliff, right when the snow was beginning. Wearing only Vans skateboard sneakers, a cotton T-shirt over a cotton jersey, and air force duct tape on his shins, he warned me of the postholing hell on top for the rest of the way. He did have a sleeping bag, a can of tuna fish, and a full bottle of Jagermeister. So, I took the obligatory haul(and then 3 more) to toast our meeting, and felt like shit for the rest of my postholing session. Then we said "bye" and he continued on his was back to the highway, a full 8 miles off, with two hours of sunshine left. Here's to walking statistics, just waiting to be recorded!!

What a place. Hard to believe it only a little over 2 hours from Boston.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dahab, A Tribute(continued)....

The Venus shop, Emad's shop. Mohammed is sitting on the left. Emad is not in this picture.

Last but not least we have two of the best friends I have made on my travels. These are the guys I hung out with the most out of all in Dahab.

Here's a blurry one of Emad(on right), owner of Venus, and Mohammed(behind at left). I saw Emad almost every day I spent in Dahab in fact, I maybe missed 2 days total. He may look quiet and sweet but he has a blood lust for chess. I sat many an hour with Emad and others playing game after game- while sipping on chai(tea) or hot ganzabil(ginger tea). For only learning chess 9 months before Emad is extremely good. Crafty, is the word. We had some good battles... and were well matched. I have been in contact with Emad since the bombings, and he is okay, I am happy to say.

And then there's Ibrahim. The restaurant soliciter extrodinaire. He spends most of his day talking with the tourists who walk by the Oxford Restaraunt and will remember their names, nationalities, as well as their promises to come back and eat for the whole time that they stay in Dahab! He is a sweet, a sincere, and a goofy guy who breaks the mold for many of the 23 year old males in the world.
I am very happy to report that Ibrahim has lived through the second bombing in his city of residence. The first was in Sharm el Sheikh last year. He must have an Angel looking out for him. Well, I hope he will have continued luck in his life, if it is only when he truly needs it.

And here's me manhandling Ibrahim, like the little brother he is.

Here's the tea shop battle: Chad against Emad- and Chad came out on top in this one. HAH!!! Ibrahim and Mohammed are there for all the shit-talking that they can handle. Sicilian Defense comes through!!
Its okay, after the match we went to a bar and I proceeded to lose four games of Ping Pong to Emad, so he got some revenge. Then we all danced to a generic DJ. That was my last night in Dahab. It was tough to leave but I'm glad those guys are still there.

Ahoya min ohm tanya(brother from another mother), that's what I am.

Dahab, A Tribute

A sunset opposite the Red Sea. Right near the walkway wooden bridge.

Perhaps you have heard, that on this past Monday, April 23rd at about 7:00 pm(Egypt time) three bombs were detonated in separate locations in Dahab, Egypt. Yes, that's the same Dahab I left not more than 3 weeks before. The place where I spent over 5 weeks SCUBA diving. Though it is the third time a terrorist attack has targeted a tourist area on the Sinai Penninsula in the last 18 months, it is the first time I can say that I'm personally affected by it. To think that I may have known some of the locals that were killed is more than a bit disturbing.
Turns out that about 30 people were killed in all, 60 or so wounded. Most of the casualties were Egyptian tourists, though 3 foreign tourists were killed also- many more were injured. It is sobering to think that I town I spent a good amount of time in and considered relaxing could have been so devestated by violence.
Here's some more pics of Dahab. I still love that place; I hope all the people recover soon and do well. And I hope all those people I still have not heard from are safe.

Here's the backside(non-Sea side) of Seven Heaven Hotel the place I resided at while in Dahab. Wish I had better pictures of it and the owners Samir and Atif, as well as all of the many awesome employees, but I'm no photographer so deal with it. A great place where I met at least a few good chaps and chicks. They're remodelling so it'll be even nicer the next time we get there.

The "Blue Hole" dive sight(at left). What a frickin' dive, too. It was overcast this day but we had sun when it counted- going in and coming out.

Here's a true Shark:
DiveMaster Terry(at right). He's South African, likes to party, and is the main reason that parents should never let their daughters go anywhere near Dahab. Needless to say, we had fun diving together- he made a lot of money off of me. Yeah, and it probably all went to beer.

Some more of the lovely Bedouin girls. They are cute but they're all gold-diggers. At least they don't listen to hip-hop....

To think that such a beautiful place could be the sight of a horrific attack....

Friday, April 14, 2006

Jerusalem, around the Wall

Kidron Valley(part of Valley of Jehoshapat)- just southeast of the city. The town of Silwan, an area that is known to harbor terrorists AND weapons, is visible on the left.

Here's a few pictures of what's around the Old City. Its kinda crazy- its been described as a crown surrounded by another crown. You see, the Old City is raised on a mound, and there are structures that form the "points" of the small crown. Then, there are the five or six mounts surrounding the city(mounts as in mountains, but really they're just hills) including: Mount Zion, Mount of Olives, Mount Everest, (no, not the one in the Himilayas), and Mount Scopus and a few others I can't remember the names of. At any rate, these mounts form the "points" of the larger "crown" that surrounds the Old City. Alrighty then.

Here's some of the stuff to see around the "Small Crown".

The Church of All Nations(or the Church of Agony) by the Garden of Gethsemane on the northwest foot of the Mount of Olives. The crazy bright gold crosses in the back ground are topping the onion shaped domes of the Church of Mary Magdelane. When the sun catches them just right the glow like they're on fire.
Here's the Garden(at right, which is to the left of the Church of Gethsemane). This is the place where Jesus is said to have come with His disciples and prayed alone the night before His crucifiction. This is also the place where he was turned over to the Romans by Judas Iscariot. And that is one "mother" of an olive tree on the right.

This is a few of the tombs by the Valley of Jehoshapat(see photo at top of page). I think they're(starting at the left) the Bnel Hezir Tombs and Zechariah's Tomb(at the right). Pretty wild, though. It seems that nobody comes down to see these things anymore.

The Franciscan Monastery by David's Tomb(on top of Mount Zion). I got up there a little later that day so the light was no good but the architecture is awesome.

I love this city!! Here's a picture from on top of the Tower of David(which is really the Tower of Phasael) inside the Citadel. You can see the gold Dome of the Rock to the right, the Russian Tower above and to the right of the Dome, and the steeple of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the left center.

The Western Wall

Also known as the "Wailing" Wall, on account of all the mumbling/sobbing prayers called out in its shadow. The most sacred place of the Jewish religion. The wall is said to have the original keystone to the First Temple- a temple that has been torn down, and will be rebuilt when the Saviour arrives again. So, the Jews pray to this wall.

The Wailing(Western) Wall. Directly on the other side of the wall is the Dome of the Rock(golden dome on the upper left) and its courtyard. Talk about two religions elbow to elbow.

The Orthodox Jew is a singular charcter. Usually clad in a black suit, a black derby hat, with two long locks of hair on either side of his face, they can be seen making there way to the Western Wall throughout the day. In the photo above they make up most of the crowd lined up at the base of the wall and are usually bouncing or stomping in a strange dance as they pray. It is required that when they pray that they pray with all of their mind, spirit, and body. The shuffling and stomping takes care of the body part. It is a sight to see.
Mostly I would just sit down in away from the prayers and watch all the people walking by. It was a very calming place to hang out for a few hours- a good place to get ready for or reflect upon the day.

The Dome of the Rock

This mosque is one of the most sacred of all Muslim places. Inside this building, which is a functioning place of worship, is part of the rock that Mohammed and the horse he rode leapt off and ascended into heaven. Mohammed, for all those who don't know, is a prophet that the Muslim people revere, much like the Christians revere Jesus. Here are a few pictures of the "Dome" and the surrounding area.

Here's the mosque, which serves as the main mosque of the Old city. Nothing like hearing that "call to prayer", that summons all religious Muslims to pray to Allah, five times a day.

Here's kind of a tough-guy shot of a friend near the mosque. I felt I should photo-shop in the cowboy hat and Marlboro cigarettte, but really its just some nice New Zealander(Kiwi) that shared the same hostel as I.

Here's the kicker: my three wives for the day. An Aussie, a Korean, and a Japanese. We went to the mosque together, during the allotted visitor time- but I left alone. Too giggly and disobedient. The Japanese girl didn't even wear a scarf to cover her hair. Ah, well, I'll leave the multi-wife thing to the Muslims and Mormons.

The Old City

I spent two weeks in Jerusalem. I repeat, I did NOT see any more of Israel because Jerusalem sucked me in and spit me out. I love this city. I should clarify: I love the Old City, that is, the walled city that has been torn down and rebuilt and still has some ancient ruins dwelling 20-30 feet underneath its modern streets. The rest of Jerusalem seemed fine and has plenty of nice museums and food places, but the Old City is so saturated with "stuff" that I wanted to move there.
Anyway, here's some shots from around town.

I just dug all those alleyways- especially at night.

Here's a few pictures of the inside and outside of the wall.

I'm BAAAACK!!!!(The Church of the Holy Sepulchre)

Went across the Jordan/Israel border in my own coach bus. Not the limo I expected but it definitely showed Israel's goodwill toward Americans.

Friday,April 14th, 2006:

Well, I'm back at home, in the States. Hard to believe that whole crazy trip is finished. Good news, however, another crazy trip is always starting.... Today, I took a trip down to the basement of my Mom's house. There was lots of cleaning to do in a dungeon-like environment. Cobwebs, fungus, and mouse nests all greeted me with tender charm. I must have ran up and down the stairs with arms full of mildewy boxes a thousand times. Yeee-hah!
Anyway, it was bout time for an update so here it is. Jerusalem.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed place of Jesus' burial. The tomb is nearby and you can walk in and see A tomb, NOT the tomb of Jesus. I also visited the Garden Tomb, which is more likely to be the place of the tomb for large reasons... but this one is inside the walled city and attracts pilgrims from all over the world.

The Holy Sepulchre: Here is a picture of the building built over the place where some believe Jesus was buried AND the larger structure built over that(the Church).

Another shot of some part of this Church.

And here's a bad picture of the stone slab(lower left, with people kneeling before it) that Jesus was laid upon after he had died. Many people come to this and cry and kiss it.

And here's one that kind of makes it look like Jesus has a disco ball head, but in reality its a mosaic, on a wall, and that's a hanging lantern partially covering His face.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Krak de Chaveliers- Another(yawn) Castle

Back to Syria, between Homs and Tartus: TE Lawrence called it the "finest castle in the world", or something like that. Who cares? I don't. Its really nice though. It is the best preserved(or close to it), however, and would be any geeky Dungeon Master's wet dream to run a D&D campaign in it. Check your hitpoints at the door 'cause, "Valkyrie is about to die."
Its had an assorted history, like most of the things in these parts. Its got a great position and is fortified like a muthahf_ckah. And its got a restaraunt too- that's new in the last few decades, not orginal.

Enough about the facts though, here's some more pictures.

Lot of stone went into this thing. Fun little towers and doors all over the place.

Gandalf, the orcs are too many! What are men supposed to do against so much evil? Take a break at the restaurant and fuel up on good chicken, that's what. Better bring your gold pieces cause its pricey.

All in all it was a good place. Never taken by storm, and has kept up against the elements quite well.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Dead Sea

On the last day of my visit in Petra I went to the Dead Sea- the body of water between Israel and Jordan. It is a beautiful place even with all of the trash on the beach. Its so salty that its hard to swim because you float like a cork. This makes it easy to do all sorts of things that you can't do in other waters, such as, putting your feet and hands above the surface! When I was in 5 feet of water I couldn't touch the bottom as a result of this super buoancy.
The salt is like battery acid in the eyes, however, and I found this out. Good thing I had bottled water on hand to rinse out the pain.

The Dead Sea. Notice the white crust on the rocks from the salt accumulation from the water. Notice the Arab style haircut, too. Can you say, "cropped"?

Here's the proof. All limbs(and head, mind you) above the surface. Jesus may have walked on it- but I'm just a little lazier, I guess. The water leaves this nasty oil on your skin. Very bizarre.

The mud is supposed to have medicinal qualities. All it really seemed to do for me is to make me appear more CaveManish.

Petra- Take 2

Just part of the mammoth city.

So, made it back to Jordan to see Petra again and this time the weather was perfect. So I spent two days hiking around there. Let me say this: Petra more than lives up to its reputation. Petra is HUGE. People have spent half ther life here assisting in the restoration of known sites- and more tombs and structures lie under the ground awaiting discovery. There is so many different places to explore that it makes the legs quiver just thinking about it. Its beautiful hiking too and not too hot when I was there- as it will be in less than a month.

Quick facts(kind of facts, anyway) about Petra:
-It is an ancient city of stone. Buildings are actually carved into the sandstone of the mountains!
-It was mostly built from 100BC to 100AD but the Romans did quite a bit in the 3rd-4th Centuries(please don't quote me on that)
-Moses and his sister were known to hang here. In fact, her tomb is supposedly there somewhere.
-Although the facades of the buildings are spectacular, the actual space in them are small and disappointing
-Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade featured Petra in some of its footage

At any rate, its an incredible place. In my opinion, it should be among the Seven Man-Made Wonders of the World. Hopefully my pictures can capture its beauty and immensity.

From far away it almost seems like a two-dimensional carving....

....but as you get closer you can see the many layers.

...and layers and layers. There are caves everywhere around here that served as dwellings for most of the people. Sometimes they are still used by the desert-dwelling Bedouin.

It all starts by following a road through a gorge that gets pretty narrow- especially with the walls that sometimes go up 300 feet.

Then it opens up to the Treasury- the most well known of the buildings. Recognize it from the movie?

But the shining jewel must be the monastery of El Deir. Damn.