Part 1…Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia…Excellent island tour…

Us, on the bridge overlooking the sea.

Here is an interesting link with detailed information about the island of French Polynesia including both Moorea and Tahiti. I’d mentioned providing more detailed information about the islands, but this link explains it much better that I could.

The view from the ship of Papeete, Tahiti.

As I write today again, we’re situated in our favorite spot in the Schooner Bar after a chatty breakfast in the Romeo & Juliet main dining room. There’s a tiny table onto which I can set my laptop giving me perfect ergonomics for the time it will take for today’s post and photo upload. 

This is the most comfortable spot on the ship and we can stay mildly entertained by the activity surrounding us at times; trivia or Sudoku games played in teams. On a few occasions, we joined in on the trivia games.

Typical busy city streets found anywhere in the world.

At the moment the ship has anchored a distance from the pier in Bora Bora and taking a tender is required to go ashore. Once we’re done here, we’ll unload our computers back to the cabin and take off for a little exploration of this island paradise, not unlike what we’d done yesterday in Tahiti.

Breadfruit tree.

With our friends Rene and Jeff, we grabbed a taxi at the pier, negotiating a fair price of US $20 per person for a tour of some of the highlights in Tahiti. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

There’s always a pizza place in every city.

Our driver Benjamin, who can be reached at 872 976 35, an elderly English speaking gentleman of Chinese descent who’s lived in Tahiti all of his life, was the perfect driver taking us in a safe and timely fashion to see the high points. His tour was similar to the four-hour bus tour at a considerably higher cost in considerably less time than going through the ship’s excursion department. 

Noni fruit in Tahiti.

In less than two hours we’d seen all the high points and with the photos, we were able to take, we couldn’t have been more content. The four of us were looking forward to the afternoon matinee back at the ship to see the excellent movie, Unbroken.

This cloudy view of Five Fingers Mountain.

One may ask, why in the world we want to go to a movie on a cruise ship while we’re in Tahiti?  For one, it was raining. More importantly…because we can. Plain and simple. Because we can. This cruise, like others, isn’t our once-a-year-vacation/holiday. 

The Mayor’s home in the center of town known as La Saintonge.

This is simply 18 days of our lives during which we happen to be using a cruise for transportation to Australia, during which we’re having a fabulous time, making new friends and checking out new locations we’ve never visited in the past.

Vegetation view from the bridge at One Tree Hill.

It was interesting to see Tahiti. Although it’s a beautiful island it didn’t call to us to return at some time in the future to stay for an extended period. The image we had in our minds of Tahiti was very different from reality starting out in the major city of Papeete which not unlike many other major island cities is busy, noisy, and filled with local and tourist traffic.

What a view at One Tree Hill.

Once Benjamin drove us beyond the hustle and bustle, of Papeete the island began to look somewhat similar to Belize in its massive amount of lush green vegetation, old run-down structures, a few historic buildings, mountains, and ocean views. I suppose after Kauai, Hawaii we’re a little spoiled. 

Closer view of the peninsula in the bay in Tahiti.

For many, Tahiti could be an ideal vacation spot staying in one of the many tropical themed hotels with boundless views, sports, and amenities. For us to live there, it becomes an entirely different scenario. 

Our wonderful new friends from Australia, Renee, and Jeff.

However, seeing the beautiful points of interest provided us with a degree of affection for its quaint and eye catching scenery and seemingly friendly people.

Instead of walking over the rickety stairway, Benjamin suggested we follow the path below to access the expansive view of the bay. The single Banyan Tree at the top of the steps was the basis for the name, One Tree Hill.

Back at the ship in time for the matinee, the four of us and two more, the couple we’d met at breakfast, Dee and Ron headed to the theatre for the heart wrenching, well-done movie.

Church in the center of town.

By the time we returned to our cabin, it was 5:00 pm, time to get dressed for dinner and head to the bar for happy hour. Happy it was, that hour until at around 7:00 pm we made our way to dinner for another fine evening of lively banter with more Australians at our table. 

Another church in Papeete, Tahiti.

After dinner, we went to the show, a ballroom dancing extravaganza that was highly entertaining. We’d had another perfect day aboard the ship. We’re not yet halfway through the cruise and excitedly anticipate each day as it comes.

Monument denoted Captain James Cook’s landing in Tahiti. Dark clouds were rolling in.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with Part 2 Tahiti since we had more beautiful points of interest to share than we could possibly post in one day.

Walkway to the beach area near the monument.

Have a pleasant start to the new week!

                                               Photo from one year ago today, June 1, 2014:

The charming streets of Ribeira Brava, our most convenient location for shopping in Madeira, Portugal. For details from that post, please click here.

 

Part 1…Visit to the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and photos…More will follow when we can get online…

 

Here they are, the Great Pyramids of Giza.

It was hard to believe we were there!

Yesterday morning, Friday, we boarded one of 25 air-conditioned buses with 40 passengers each for a 12 1/2 hour excursion to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza (most renowned), the Sphinx, The Pyramid of Zoser, The Egyptian Museum and the Papyrus Institute.

The streets of Cairo.
The almost three hour drive from Alexandria Egypt to Cairo was a mixed bags of desolate desert landscape and a scattering of small villages along the traffic laden toll roads and narrow highways.

View along the drive from Alexandria to Cairo.

The traffic was lessened by the fact that it was the Egyptian weekly holy day although you wouldn’t have known this as we whizzed along the dangerous roads with trucks and cars seemingly oblivious to staying in their own lanes or observing any speed limits.

Many times, we nearly missed having an accident both on the drives to various locations during the day and again at night on the return drive to the ship in the rain, in the dark. Our hearts in our throats, as the bus veered in and out of wildly erratic traffic, the ride back to the ship, left all of us stressed and exhausted.

Pottery for sale along the busy highway.

The day? Surreal. I recall seeing the Pyramids in history books as a child, wondering how and when I’d ever be able to behold their wonder. Tom felt the same. But somehow, while there, among the camels and pushy vendors, there was little sense of reality.

Oddities were in abundance, odd to us that is. The black suited security guard sitting on the front seat in the bus as we sat back a few rows, unintentionally revealed a machine gun which Tom surmised was an Uzi.

 

The chaos on the streets was comparable to what we’ve seen in movies.

Much to our curiosity and surprise, Mohammed, our security guard, glomed on to us as we walked the uneven stones and steps around the various sites we visited throughout the day. 

Often staying close at our sides, while others wandered on their own, Mohammed frequently offered me an outstretched hand down rough terrain and up and down steps, leading and pointing us to short cuts and steering us  to particularly interesting artifacts.   

Kids as young as 8 and 10 years ago were driving these motorized tuk-tuks.

He’d obviously worked this tour many times in the past, going as far as leading us to a clean restroom when we requested, where we each paid US $1 as we were handed a dollop of toilet tissue.

We tipped him at the end, unsure of this would insult him. It did not. At times, Tom and I giggled that we had our own ‘security”. At other times, as he guided us toward narrow and winding desolate paths, we both hesitated, wondering, if his attention was some sort of ruse, for us to be kidnapped by awaiting cohorts, for our kids to be contacted with ransom demands. 

 We did our best taking photos as the bus sped by the vendor stands.

The vendors…we’ve never seen anything like it.  They touched us, shoved us, trying to make
eye contact, trying to make a sale.  It’s a good thing we decided against a camel ride. We saw firsthand, that the camel owners offered a ride for US $2, only to be charged, $20-$40 in order to get down the 8′ from the back of the camel. 

We heard women from our ship discussing how they were invited by a camel owner to take a free photo of a camel, to have their camera snatched, only to be returned for $60. Aware of this and determined to get a few camel shots, I pretended to be taking photos of the background scenes, thus explaining why our included camel photos are from the side.

Note the cars cluttering the road. 

Although much was included in our tour, the ride, entrance to the sites, the elegant buffet lunch in the 5 star hotel in Giza, two bags of water and snacks (we gave ours to Mohammed and the bus driver) for a total cost of $169 each, the constant pressure to spend money was overwhelming.

Buying one single item put the vendors on a frenzy to almost attack the shopper as “live bait.” We only spent $1 for a decent stack of postcards to send to family (if we can find a way to get stamps, a real challenge), immediately hiding them in a pocket to ensure we weren’t hounded further.

We were also warned not to rent horses.

Several times, Mohammed shooed the vendors away from us. For the times we were alone, we kept on our sunglasses, eyes peeled on the ground to avoid tripping on the rough terrain ignoring every vendor in our path.

At one point, as we walked along a narrow path, Mohammed only 10 feet from us, a group of four officers, identically attired, with guns, uniforms, hats, starched white shirts with epaulets, all sitting atop four militarily adorned camels began waving at us as we approached them. 

Struggling to take camel photos without our camera being snatched, it was tough to get a good shot.


I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this scene, only to discover, that they too held out their hands as we passed, looking for money. We scurried away, unwilling to succumb to their plot.

For a time, we wondered if their “outfits” were a scam when we heard that there were numerous photographers dressed in Royal Caribbean attire, pretending to be “official RC photographers”
when in fact they were not.

It was so interesting, so far removed from our reality and simple lives.

Yes, we appreciate the poverty in this area of the world and respect these relentless individuals working seven days a week in the scorching heat in an effort to feed their families. But there was no way, any one of us could save them from their plight by buying a single useless trinket.

We were told before departing that tourism in Egypt was down considerably. But with multiple buses from multiple ships, we couldn’t imagine room for any more tourists in our midst. The lines to enter various sites were lengthy and uncomfortable in the scorching heat.

The desert was eerie…so unfamiliar to us.

To our good fortune it was only around 90 degrees at the sites. Toward the end of our day, a sandstorm came up, our eyes becoming irritated and scratchy, mine particularly with my contact lenses. 

By 6:00 pm, we commenced our return journey to the ship, back to Alexandria, will proved to be a three hour drive in the rain and in the dark on the traffic jammed highways.

The Pyramids have become greatly commercialized over the decades.

By then, we felt dirty, hungry and exhausted, needing to eat more out of necessity than hunger.
Luckily the buffer, the Windjammer Cafe, stayed open until 9:30 leaving us no time to shower and change for dinner.

Back in our cabin, we couldn’t wash the sand off our bodies quick enough and crawl into our comfortable bed quickly drifting off into oblivion.

Mohammed in black leading the way for us.

A once in a lifetime opportunity was not wasted on us. We will always be grateful for the experience. The history of the sites we visited from our knowledgeable tour guide in the six plus hours of driving time, could never be shared here with our limited access to the Internet. 

Mohammed posing with the three security guards on camels.

Many great web sites exist that are readily available for your perusing. Unfortunately, our MiFi is not working in Egypt as we’d hoped. We expect that some type of “block” is being utilized preventing our access. As a result, we cannot spend time finding links to share at this time. 

Here we are, in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza.  What an experience!

However, we’d be happy to answer any questions to the best of our ability via comments on our blog or personal email.

We captured this photo during the sandstorm.  It was windy most of the day.

We’ve included as many photos as the poor ship’s connection will allow. Tonight at 1:00 am we will begin our transit through the Suez Canal. The captain explained it will take approximately 13 hours for the full transit.  In the dark it will be impossible to see anything. 

The Step Pyramid, one of many we saw yesterday.  There are 110 pyramids in Egypt.

Our goal by sunrise is to find ourselves a perfect spot to witness the transit as we did when we traveled through the Panama Canal, a mere four months ago.

 The artwork on the handmade papyrus was astounding in detail.

Tom’s desire to check off two items off his “bucket list” will be fulfilled: full transits through the Panama and the Suez Canals.  Little did I know that when we booked these experiences,  that I
too would be entranced by their rich history.

 If we owned a “wall” we may have been tempted to purchase one of these works of Egyptian art.

Nor did either of us have a clue as to what wonders we’d discover at every turn, including even the scary parts, much of which await us and some of which are behind us. Soon, the Gulf of Aden, the upcoming emergency drills, the guards on board with yet more Uzi’s, the lights off at night…

 Photo of artwork at the Papyrus Institute, our last stop on our excursion.

Preparations for the upcoming trip to the Pyramids…

Digging through our two remaining large suitcases, we pulled out our Africa clothes. In in After all, tomorrow we will be Africa, an appropriate time to wear our lightweight bug resistant pants and long sleeve shirts. 

The ship’s excursion staff explained in our daily bulletin that no matter the temperature when visiting Egypt and the Middle East, we must not have any exposed shoulders, knees or cleavage. 

With the recent donation of our three large suitcases, I began worrying that I didn’t have a remaining pair of “below the knee” Capri pants in a light color. We both only have shorts and blue jeans.

Tom to the rescue!  He dug out the suitcases to reveal the new clothing we’ve yet to wear that we’ve been saving for going on safari in Africa; lightweight, cool, made of natural fibers and, the bonus of insect resistant with a non toxic fruit derived substance.

Our clothing, shoes and desert hats (that cover the back of the neck) are neatly stacked for an early morning start when our group will gather in the Savoy Theatre at 7:15 am in preparation to disembark the ship and board the awaiting air conditioned buses for the 3 1/2 hour drive to our destination. 

_____________________________________________

Getting connected while out to sea has been difficult to say the least. Tom is unable to
download his daily Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper on his Nook app. I have been trying to buy one of our precious young grandsons a birthday gift but unable to bring up Amazon.com since we left
Barcelona on Monday.

Without photos, I can post by continuing to try to get connected, however weak throughout the day. Going to any website with photos is a lost cause. From time to time, we can receive and send email.

The process of going through the required multiple steps several times a day in an effort to connect to the ship’s WiFi is time
consuming and frustrating. It’s difficult to get the login page to appear.

One of the ship’s officers approached us as we sat in our familiar comfy booth this morning, apologizing for the poor service.  He explained that even “the bridge”
was having difficulties with the satellite signal which is vital for their navigation.

From time to time, we get an unexpected steady green light, as a sign of life on our Xcom Global MiFi. 


When the light is a steady hot pink, we’re fully connected.  The steady green allows us to get email but unable to open web pages.

By early tomorrow morning, Friday, the ship will dock in Egypt. By 7:30 am we’ll be departing for our 12 1/2 hour excursion to Cairo, the Pyramids and the Sphinx. If we both do well crossing the desert on foot for 3 1/2 hours, we’ll book another excursion for early next week. We shall
see how that goes.

The thought of an opportunity to visit a Bedouin Tribe was appealing until we talked to others having experienced this excursion on other cruises.

Apparently, something is lost in translation when such a visit day after day to the same tribes, as it’s orchestrated for tourists,.The
authenticity of their lives is lost in the cruise-lines-designed commercialization. 

Perhaps, while we’re in other parts of Africa for nine months beginning August 31, 2013, we’ll encounter opportunities to visit various
tribes in their natural habitat in a less contrived manner. 

This same commercialization is evident on all of the excursions offered by the cruise lines. (I realized that I’ve mentioned this many times). In order to see historic sites such as the upcoming events of tomorrow,
it makes sense for the sake of safety to go along on the excursion rather than
venture off on our own. 

We’ve heard enough horror stories on the news of wandering tourists being snapped up in life threatening scenarios. That won’t
be us, carelessly wandering about in a high risk area during political unrest.  We’ll always chose safety over adventure.

The shopping on the excursions is the equally frustrating, often with one quarter to one half of the time designated for the
excursion. The endless array of trinkets, wall hangings, pottery and jewelry,
although appealing to many tourists, have no place in our stuff free lives. 

For example, tomorrow’s tour requires approximately 5 hours of driving time, 3 1/2 hours of walking to see the exhibits, 1 1/2 hours for lunch in Cairo, ending in what may prove to be a full 2 full hours of shopping.

Most certainly, we’ll look at the handcrafted items, taking some photos, appreciating the quality, hard work and dedication of the
craftspeople striving to earn a living as they spend the better part of each
day in the sweltering heat.

In one of two seminars we attended yesterday, we were told not to give money to beggars and to keep our sunglasses on when shopping. Apparently, one’s dilated
pupils are a dead ringer for expressing interest in an item.  The vendors have learned to read this sign resulting in their relentless pursuit of making the sale, hoping desire for the item will win over desire to negotiate.

If I did in fact, want to make a purchase, my inclination would be to pay the asking price, if at all reasonable.  These people are very poor, living in war torn and ravaged countries to which tourists have shied away.  (We were told yesterday, that we’ll encounter few tourists in many areas as opposed to a few years ago, due to fear of
political unrest). 

As a result, their economy has greatly suffered leaving many vendors scrambling to feed their families.  Haggling seems petty when us tourists have been able to spend $1000’s to go on a luxury cruise.

In an effort to keep our eyes wide open, we try to learn as much as possible from our fellow travelers and visitors to our blog,
many of whom email us as opposed to posting in “comments” available at the end of each post. 

Please, feel free to do either. If you post comments offering us suggestions
or sharing your own stories, we are able to share them with all of our readers on our site. We love hearing from people we meet, family and friends and our readers from all over the world.

Last night we joined our new friends for dinner in the Sound of Music dining room for yet another good meal, impeccable service and attention to every detail in my limited diet.

After dinner we walked along the “Royal Promenade” to the Savoy Theatre for a rip roaring laugh fest with a hilarious comedian. Could Tom laugh any louder?

Last night for the third night in a row, I slept
through the night, a full seven hours.
This is a rarity for me.  No melatonin, no Tylenol PM and no Formula 303 was necessary to get me to drift off into much needed oblivion. 

The comfortable bed, blankets and pillows, coupled with the smooth seas must be a
factor in this uncommon phenomenon. 

These next 12 days hold much for us to behold, adventures beyond our wildest dreams, with the ongoing opportunity to engage with world travelers of varied interests and experiences. 

This, my friends, is how we’ve envisioned ourbtravels…full of wonder, swept up in the rich history of each area all the while in awe of its people and cultures that helped shaped our world. 

We’ll be back on Saturday with photos of our visit to Egypt,  In port for four days, we’ll be able to use our MiFi for a fast connections enabling us to upload photos.

Joyfully, we carry on…