A little bit of Luxory

When asked to write an article on ‘travel’, I wondered what, or more specifically where, I could write about. Having initially considered writing about a recent girly holiday in Spain, I realised that most of the anecdotes were probably ‘you-had-to-be-there’ stories about drunken nights out, which would be of little interest to anyone who wasn’t. So instead, I opted to take a more traditional route, and write about my most memorable holiday. Three weeks in Africa.

If you have never been to Egypt, all I can say is, I doubt you will ever find anywhere hotter.

I realise this sounds like a stupid comment. Obviously it is hot being so close to the equator, but I don’t think you can realise until you get there just how hot that is. Listening to our tour guide for any period in such immense heat was a mission in itself, as we tried desperately to pay attention to her and not the increasing amounts of sweat. How all those ancient Egyptians took thirty years to build the pyramids in that heat is beyond me. But, despite the discomfort at the time, the experience of touring Egypt is still with me now. Having learnt about Tutankhamen, the Pyramids and the Sphinx in primary school, seeing it for real was a truly surreal experience. These wonderfully crafted ancient structures have transcended through history, still representing an ancient culture and way of life.

My journey began with a cruise down the Nile from Luxor to Cairo. This structured Egyptian adventure involved plenty of touristy excursions to the famous sites, including the ‘unfinished obelisk’, the valley of the kings, the Sphinx, and of course the Pyramids. Our tour guide, a lady who was very informative about the Egyptian culture and history and gave us lengthy explanations of various hieroglyphics on temple walls, accompanied us on these outings. A chatterbox tour guide is normally a bonus on sightseeing holidays, allowing you to soak up as much information as you can about the specific location. Egypt and its overwhelming heat, however, proved an exception to this rule.

Arriving in Cairo after the cruise, we spent the next few days relaxing at a hotel, recovering from the stomach bugs that tourists in Egypt necessarily submit to if they consume anything with even a hint of local tap water. After our days of rest and air conditioning at the hotel, we took a rather traumatic taxi ride through the crazy streets of Egypt to what was, apparently, an airport, but seemed a little more like a zoo of confused tourists.

From there we travelled in a very small plane to Kenya, where we then embarked on our next exciting adventure: a safari. As we got off the plane in the middle of nowhere and bundled ourselves into the awaiting jeeps, we all wondered what the next few days would hold. We didn’t have to wait long to find out. As we drove towards our camp we saw, by chance, our first animals: two lions, right in the middle of mating. This was both amusing and fascinating for all of us, who had, until this point, only seen things like this happen in wildlife programmes from the comfort of our own sofas. It turned out that it was the mating season at the time we were visiting, so after four days of being surrounded by lions, seeing them mating became quite mundane.

When we arrived to the camp, we saw what was to be our home for the next four days, tents. With no intention of sounding like an M&S advert, they were not just tents, they were luxury tents, complete with electricity, en suite bathrooms, and even hot running water – better than some European holiday destinations, that’s for sure! It was immediately a life I thought I could get used to; that was until I saw the massive spider at the top of the shower, and the crocodile watching me across the other side of the river.

We were warned in our introductory meeting not to leave the tents at night, just in case we came face to face with a wandering animal. An instruction I didn’t take wholly seriously until the second morning when I left the tent to find all of the camp’s fencing in pieces on the floor, and the trunked culprit standing stubbornly between our tents and the breakfast tent, being persuaded ever so gently out of the way by the leaders of the camp. From then on, I decided I should probably listen to the rules they prescribed. So, I adhered to the sign at breakfast, which maintained that I mustn’t feed their pet warthogs (Piggly and Wiggly), no matter how endearing they were in wanting to be constantly petted.

Although they were very luxurious, we did spend most of our days away from our tents, prowling the wilderness in jeeps with our designated wildlife drivers. It was indescribable being so close to such an array of wild animals and seeing how they survive in their natural habitats. The Lion King doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It was on the penultimate day that we were able to experience something truly unique. As we were driving past yet another pair of fornicating lions, our driver, Solomon, noticed how apprehensively the gazelle in the distance were moving and told us, with an air of experience, that they were trying to dodge a hungry predator. We slowly made our way over to the spot, and immediately saw that Solomon had been right; about four feet away from us was a cheetah.

We couldn’t take our eyes off it, and it couldn’t take its eyes from the trotting gazelle in front of it. We watched him slowly and majestically getting closer to his prey, using everything he could, including our jeeps, to hide behind so as not to give itself away. Then the cheetah suddenly made its attack, running at full pace towards his chosen victim until, in a flash, his jaw was around the gazelle’s throat. As I watched the flinching animal fight for its last breaths in the cheetah’s mouth, and then as he proceeded to devour the creature, I realised how un-fazed I was by this process was.

In any other situation or environment I would have been unable to watch one animal so savagely feast on another, nor would I have been able to stand watching the blood and guts without cringing. But in this environment it was the most natural thing in the world. This is how life for these animals works: it is a food chain, it is, as clichéd as it sounds, the circle of life. We departed from this scene as the vultures began to swarm the carcass searching for any potential leftovers, and returned in a daze to the camp once more, holding onto an experience which will always be a cherished memory.

My three weeks in Africa went by in a whirlwind of heat, temples and animals.

I know it is annoying when people return from adventures like this, telling you with somewhat pompous insight that ‘it was an amazing experience’, but I don’t think I can find any other way to describe it. It was an amazing experience, definitely more memorable than a drunken girly holiday.


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