Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finding History II

11th November 2006 Somewhere near Aswan.

As I write this we're gently cruising down the Nile on our Felucca, lying in the sun, and generally just blobbing out. I bought some supplies this morning - 24 bottles of water and 24 bottles of beer. I also picked up a kheffiyah and along the way sold my watch. I got about 50 bucks for it so I've actually come out ahead on the haggling today. More so considering the watch was just a cheap knock off I picked up in Thailand.

5pm - Stopped for dinner and beer and discover the booze is non-alcoholic. Egypt strikes again! As the sun sets we're sitting around on deck having a smoke on a water pipe. Life doesn't get much better than this. The guys at home would be so jealous - I must send them a card and let them know what they are missing as this is definitely the best part of Egypt.

12th November - On the Nile.
12.30 pm - not much happening today. Got woken at the crack of dawn by the muezzin then paid a quick visit to a temple at Kom-ombo. Back on the Felucca in time for a quick rain storm. Not what we expected in Egypt with the desert so close.

5pm - We've just noticed how the crew on the felucca are preparing our meals. All the food and utensils are being washed in the Nile ... I foresee a lethal case of the shits somewhere in the immediate future!! Still it's probably irrelevant as we've been swimming in the river several times. So if dysentery doesn't get me he Bilharzia still might.

There's a mixed bunch of us on this boat. Tim and Anton (South African) are OK. They've been working in Israel before coming here and are looking after a pair of Hungarian guys who don't speak much english (and even less Arabic) and are trying to save them from being ripped off by the locals. There's an Aussie called Richard - a physio by trade having a bit of a world wander. And lastly, but not leastly, there are what I like to call the hard core trio; Seamus (Irish) and Michael and John (both Aussies). They're into their pot and generally having a good time as often as they can.

6pm Still moving downriver after dark which is a little hairy as we have no lights on our Felucca. It makes it hard for the multitude of tour barges, that ply incessantly up and down river, to see us.

13th November Still on the Nile.

7am - Wow what an eventful night. We sailed as close as we could to Edfu after dark. As the light dropped we could see these filthy black clouds and lightening way off in the desert. Assumed it was a sandstorm. We somehow lost the guys on the other Felucca so just tied up and had some dinner.

Then it started to piss down. The rain was coming down in bucketfuls and there was absolutely no shelter on deck where we've been sleeping at night. We quickly looked like a motley bunch of bedraggled souls so the skipper and his offsider took pity on us and invited us to share the small cabin they have at the front of the boat. Talk about cramped - just try getting 8 people into a space designed for two. It made drunken twister look mundane! Poor old Anton got hit on majorly by the skipper. Tim's a blonde chap and the Arab's love blondes (of either sex). They have a saying "Women for work, boys for pleasure". He fled outside and ended up sleeping outside in the downpour muttering something about preferring pneumonia over a stretched sphincter.

9.15 PM - caught up with the guys from the other boat. They were happy to see us as we're carrying all the food. Their night had been as wet as ours but worse in that they had bugger all to eat.

We met another group of Felucca cruisers today. Turns out their trip was an absolute horror. Drugged food, girls sexually molested by the crew, and widespread tummy bugs. One girl was so bad (ie running at both ends) they resorted to putting a life jacket on her and towing her behind their boat. Not so pleasant for her - but less shit splatter on board .... apparently.

Our Felucca captain gave us a good send off. Though Anton copped it again. The captain was imploring him to stay with him. Even blew him a kiss or three as we were on the bus leaving. Needless to say we thought it was hilarious. Anton was less amused.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finding History

So I've just moved house. Shifting is always an interesting experience. Not so much for all the hassle and stress, but more for the stuff you find that you forgot you even had.

After having most of my possessions packed away in boxes for the best part of three years opening some of them turned up all sorts of unexpected stuff.

Case in point the travel diary I kept from a trip I did almost 13 years ago. Here are a few excerpts:

4th November 1996 (Bangkok)
Went temple touring this morning (Golden Mount and Golden Buddha) in a tuk tuk. A nerve-wracking experience in BK traffic - involved a lot of flinches and prayers. Pretty cheap though at 20B an hour but you have to put put up with the scams the drivers try to snooker you into. Usually gemstones. I bought a watch for 600B which promptly broke when I tried to put it on.

Bangkok 1 - me 0.

Somehow in 35 degree heat I've managed to catch a cold. Go figure that one out!

7th November 1996 (Bangkok-Cairo)
4am - currently flying over Saudi Arabia and can see cities and oil rigs in the gulf all lit up like candles. We made the airport safely tonight but did see a American tourist getting ripped off in Khaosan Road over a tour. The people at the travel agents looked like they were about to deck him. Their country their rules I suppose. But if the guy hadn't been so obnoxious to them maybe they might have been prepared to compromise?

Flying on Egypt Air which is interesting, Food is ok and the service is good but I think me and Lisa (my travelling companion) are the only westerners on the plane.

8.30 am - Drama in the wee hours!! Lisa was majorly culture shockede on our arrival (to be fair I was too but perhaps not quite as openly as her). A tout tried to rip us off and our taxi driver subsequently did as well. The 20 pound fare from the airport was probably about right but then the driver added on a heap of extra charges which I'm sure were dodgy.

7.45 pm- What a day!! It began with Lisa still being apprehensive about being ripped off by unscrupulous Egyptians. This wasn't helped when we were accosted at the hotel's reception by a pair of gentlemen offering us a deal to go and see the pyramids. Lisa was very worried and I was none too confident myselof either!

The deal was 25 pounds ($NZ11) for a ride to Giza, Saqqara and then back to the hotel refreshments included. Too good to be trues we thought. However this guy (turns out he is a dentist .... "just call me Doc'")was very insistent. He even pulled out a folder full of glowing references from other backpackers as well as a TYNT article in which he featured.

At this point I began to be convinced ... barely. Lisa was very dubious and left the decision up to me (if something goes wrong I get the blame?).

Took the chance and it paid off!

First he took us to a cafe for coffee and a nargileh (water pipe). Spent a very happy half hour there. Then it was off to a papyrus institute. More free drinks. I caved and bought a scroll for may father. Fisher, an errant Aussie whom we'd collected on the trip bought two.

Next it was off to the pyramids where we were plonked on the back of some very scrawny horses and rode round the area for about three hours. Poor creatures - they are so badly looked after that they literally drop dead from exhaustion (there was evidence to be seen!). I refused to trot or gallop my steed. I felt bad enough riding it to be honest.

We went inside Chrephen Pyramid. If you suffer from claustrophobia I'd suggest giving it a miss. I climbed the Great Pyramid (against all the rules - more on this later) and thenj it was off to the Stepped Pyramid at Saqqara. Spent the late afternoon and dusk walking around the ruins.

The Doc' bought us dinner then helped us book a felucca crusie on the Nile. The total cost of the day (including the cruise that we're about to go on and its associated travel and accomodation) was less than $NZ100. Not bad for a first day in a new country.

That's the saccharine stuff. I'll pull out some of the dodgier episodes and post them later.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


'Tis the end of days ....


BTW what I had last week (see below) was in no way related to the current goings on.

Although I may have said that I had Swine Flu before it became fashionable.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at a press conference of a soon to be retired MP when the first stirrings happened.

Deep down in the recesses of my gut things began to get a bit squirelly. You might know the feeling. It's when you think your OK but deep down somewhere inside you have this suspicion there's a little demon that's about to fuck you up.

The longer the press conference went, the worse I felt. And, boy, did it go on. For nigh on 50 minutes we were treated to some of the finer points of law on legislation around property rights and ownership. Half an hour in and I really wasn't feeling too good. 10 minutes later I was feeling even more rotten and lurking in the back of my mind was the nagging suspicion I really was about to throw up. Not something you want to do at the final press conference of a MP who's had a three decade political career.

So as the presser dragged on I became increasingly scratchy. And I feel I really should apologise to my colleagues who were at the event too. My apparent shortness of temper was nothing to do do with the continuing questions. It was the fact I really wanted to get the hell out of there before something truly dreadful happened.

Sure enough just minutes after the event was over I was hunched over a toilet emptying the very depths of my stomach. Much to the discomfort and dismay of the person that happened to walk into the bathroom halfway through.

And that's pretty much been the pattern for most of last night. Horrendous projectile vomiting on the hour every hour. Feeling like my guts have been forcibly wrenched from my insides on a long length of dirty rope and wondering where the hell it was all coming from. Surely after the third or fourth spew there can be nothing left to lose? But no it seems stomachs are like the Tardis - they can fit more on the inside than you'd ever suspect.

Every muscle from my thighs to my throat have had the most rigorous workout they've had in ages. Never mind the ab-master - if you want to tone your abdominals try chowing down on raw chicken and let the salmonella do the rest. I swear to God the crunchies you do when dry retching are far more intense than anything you can achieve in a gym.

Still, as bad as last night was, it pales in comparison to this experience. I reckon I've got off lucky.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Basin Reserve and Significant Moments in NZ Cricket

Well, at least the ones I have been at.

February 1986 - Richard Hadlee gets his 300th test wicket claiming the scalp of Aussie Captain Allan Border.

And then there's yesterday. Saturday April the 4th 2009.

Perennial test batting bunny Chris Martin calmly lofts Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh back over his head for a four.

(and I'm gutted I can't find a photo of this momentous occasion)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Funny Thing

Yesterday Christchurch hosted an international conference on potatoes.

Ok that's strange enough. It's kind of weird that something so humble as a potato can be the the subject of international focus.

But what made the event so delightful was one of its attendees.

Yes it was former NZ Prime Minister Jim Bolger - aka "Spud" Bolger.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dark Days

It's a pretty fraught time to be a journalist in New Zealand at the moment. Retrenchment, lay-offs, cut-backs, and redundancy are words with which we are all becoming too familiar. A wide range of broadcasters; TRN and Radioworks in radio, and Prime and TVNZ in television, are all in the process of shedding staff.

Or, as out bosses like to tell us, adjusting to the current economic climate.

90 staff are being axed at TVNZ of which around 20 are from news and current affairs. This follows on from cuts TVNZ made but a year or so ago when around 160 people were sent down the road. It's hard to see what fat, if any, there can possibly left to trim within TVNZ's news unit. How on earth they're going to cover morning news, the midday bulletin, the 4.30 pm bulletin, news at 6 and the late news, beggars belief. Add into that its commitments to TVNZ7 and its news service and one has to surmise it's an impossible task for those that are left.

But as bad as things are at TVNZ the situation at Prime News is far far worse. Its 5.30 news show already operated on a shoestring and, with no disrespect to those who work there, its quality always was well short of what it should have been. This is now going to go downhill double quick. From what I've been told the production, camera, and editing staff have pretty much been massacred. The show will now be piped out of Sydney based on the efforts of 4 video-journalists (three in Auckland and one in Wellington) and very limited production support.

Basically Prime News is now terminally fucked. There's absolutely no way they will be able to produce a credible news programme on those numbers. My suspicion is that their bulletin will either be cut in length, or canned altogether, within six months.

To all my colleagues out there who are now facing a fraught future. My sympathies are with you.