Cairo, Egypt: Egyptian Museum and Children’s Museum – by Barb

The first time we were in Cairo we stayed close to the pyramids. This time (as you’ve read in Caleb’s blog) we stayed right down town with the purpose of visiting the Egyptian Museum and the Children’s Museum. We were able to walk to the Egyptian Museum and spent a day there.

In the basement of the Egyptian Museum there is a Lego room for kids:


We also learned how to use the Cairo metro, which was a very economical way of traveling, and headed out to Heliopolis to the Children’s Civilization and Cultural Centre. One unique feature of the metro in Cairo is that they have “women only” cars. Apparently women were getting harassed and groped in the regular cars, so they introduced these “women only” cars. Women can also ride in the other cars, but if you’re on your own, these single gender cars are a great option. Hmmm. Not sure what that says about the culture.

The Children’s Museum was excellent! We ended up going back again a second day. We learned so much and it was completely interactive. Plus, there was a huge park outside the building, with a playground that the boys spent a few hours at. We were a bit confused at first, because you weren’t allowed to go into the centre on your own. You had to wait until a guide could take you through. Then you had to choose which floor you wanted to visit. There were 4 floors (not all of them were usually open) and you could only see 1 with your ticket. The guide would take you from exhibit to exhibit, show you how to play the games, or do the activity. No running wild through this place!


IMG_0913 DSCF2079 DSCF2074

DSCF2041 DSCF2032 DSCF2030 DSCF2027

DSCF2024 DSCF2022 DSCF2019 DSCF2018 DSCF2028DSCF2017

Staying in downtown Cairo was fine but I did feel more comfortable covering my head/hair. We saw no other foreigners and I felt it was better to respect the local customs. Of course, we still stood out like soar thumbs and everyone had a scam for us as soon as we set foot on the street. One man told us the Egyptian Museum wasn’t open yet so we needed to visit an art museum first (which turned out to be his buddy’s shop!). Another man asked where we were going and walked with us for 50 feet, then asked for money for helping us (even though we already knew how to get there and did not want his help!). We couldn’t trust anyone here. People would say, “don’t trust people that say X, but you can trust me” and of course, we figured it was just another scam! So sad. I missed the calm and quiet of the Luxor countryside!

Cairo, Egypt: Floorboards (A Story of Staying at an Egyptian Hostel) – by Caleb

IMG_0895After staying in Luxor for a week, we came back to Cairo to see the Egyptian museum, and to catch our flight to Kenya. This time we had to stay in a hostel, just like back in China, so we could afford the museum. We got lucky because my mom (who is always planning something for the trip) came across a few reviews on Trip Advisor (our friend) for this supposedly great hostel. Well, upon arriving in Cairo once again, the driver for the hostel picked us up at the airport and drove us through the city. We arrived at this tall building with a hole in it, at the base of the structure. I was assuming the hole was supposed to be an entrance but it was just sketchy beyond belief. I reassured myself that this was just the entrance and once inside the hostel would be nicer. After all, people did rave about this place on Trip Advisor.


We walked down this plain concrete hallway for a few meters, then a man told us which floor the hostel was on.


We approached this, how do I describe it, empty closet surrounded by a gate.


We entered the gate, stepped into the “closet” and up we went. Yep, this, was an elevator. All it was, was a closet on a pulley system with a stack of bricks on the other end of the cable. Obviously the safety standards here aren’t as strict as Canada.



Anyway, we arrived at the hostel in one piece. The inside looked a little nicer than the outside, at least the front desk did. We checked into our room and voila! This was going to be a loooooooonnnnnngggg four days in Cairo. Now, it wasn’t that bad; just a little rustic. First off, the windows looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in forever; plus, the shades were broken and every single sound coming from automobiles to people on the street could be heard from our room. To light the room, they hung a lightbulb from a chain, barely screwed to the roof. The bathroom was just plain tiny. You walked in and there was the toilet. Off to the side was a small platform which was where you stood to have a shower, while the water poured all over the toilet! Beside that was the sink, and keep in mind that all of this was crammed into a four foot square box.

Now, the reason this blog is called floorboards, I’m about to tell you. There was a big carpet in the middle of the room (and we all know to be cautious, ‘cause given the state of the building we don’t want to know what it’s covering). Against our wishes, the mystery was revealed. Nothing but floorboards. Floorboards that were broken and falling out and leaving big holes in the floor. Every step we took was followed by cccrrreeeekkkk. I was afraid to go to sleep cause I was worried I’d go to sleep on the fourth floor and wake up on the first, wondering what was going on, while staring up at a big hole in the ceiling. We were beginning to wonder whether people had raved or raged about this place on Trip Advisor! However, we are still alive and I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve just decided to consider this yet another experience!

One of our favourite restaurants down the street:


Luxor, Egypt: Haggai & Family – by Clay

We had been staying at a lovely apartment called Home Sweet Home located in the idyllic countryside on the West Bank of Luxor. It was set in the middle of farmer’s fields where they were growing bananas, alfalfa, and several other varieties of crops.



In contrast to the city of Luxor this area was peaceful and far away from hustling caleche (horse-drawn carriage) drivers, felucca (sailboat) captains, and taxi drivers. Instead, we were surrounded by locals, many of whom were, not surprisingly, farmers.

DSCF2717 DSCF2735 DSCF1970

We were surprised to learn that most of the work was done by hand, the exception being the ploughing of the land. For this task a tractor was often hired to do the work in one day that would take several if done by the more traditional team of oxen. Transport of goods by donkey cart seemed quite popular though.


They had an extensive irrigation system that was fed by the Nile river. Gasoline-powered pumps would bring water up to several sluiceways that had been dug beside the fields and the farmers would divert the water to this field or that field by opening a cut from the sluiceway. Once the field was well watered the farmer effectively closed the cut with a pile of mud.

DSCF2788 DSCF2754

As you can imagine, the grass by the sluiceways grew quickly and to keep the growth down they would chop the tall grass, leave it to dry and then burn it right there where it lay. This made for a few interesting days where we thought the apartment was on fire but was just the neighbouring fields.


We were returning from Luxor Temple one evening, having politely declined offers from several aforementioned caleche drivers and felucca captains, and were walking back to Home Sweet Home. As we passed a farmer I nodded to him with a smile and a “Malhabam”, which means “Hi”. His expression seemed a bit taken-aback as we were obviously foreigners yet greeted him in Arabic. He asked where we were from, introduced himself as Haggai and then invited us to see his home. I was hesitant because I had become a little wary and jaded that everyone we encountered seemed to have their hand out for a tip, no matter how small the service or innocuous-seeming the question:

“Excuse me, is this the correct way to the ferry?”

“Yes, keep going in the direction you are going. Where are you from?”

“Canada, near Toronto.”

“Ah, Canada Dry – never cry.” (everyone we met who asked where we were from had some variation of this response)

“Ha, ha – yes, well, thank you”, as I turn to leave for the ferry.

“Wait! Wait! You give me money!”

Haggai must have sensed my hesitation and said, “There is no business here. This is from my family to your family. No business – that is not my way.”

So, with a little trepidation we entered a small, walled area where Haggai showed us his mango trees, his lime trees and a host of other plants they used for food and spices. He then invited us into his house which was a very rustic structure made of mud bricks. There were two small rooms, one that served as the sleeping area for the family and the other where we were that served as an eating area. Haggai offered us a bench to sit on while he and his wife sat on a mat on the dirt floor. Out back was an open-air cooking area where Haggai’s wife began to prepare tea. We tried to decline, not wishing to impose on her with our unexpected arrival but Haggai said it was their custom to offer tea to guests in their home. We chatted over tea and discovered that Haggai had five children. The oldest, Mohammed, was 18 and studying to become an engineer. The next two were in high school and the two that we met were in elementary school.


It was great to meet some locals and hear about their lives and this, again, was a revealing moment for the boys to experience. As we were leaving Haggai wished us well and said he hoped to see us again sometime. Somewhat surprisingly, there was not the customary request for money and that act alone helped restore some of my faith in the good will of people. We saw a lot of history and grandeur while in Luxor, including the Valley of the Kings and the Luxor and Karnak Temples, but this, for me, was a highlight of Egyptian culture.

Luxor, Egypt: A Week in the Countryside – by Barb

We had spent a few busy days in Delhi, India followed by some busy days in Cairo, Egypt. It was time to stop sight seeing for a few days,  settle in one spot, and get caught up on school and trip planning. I had found a nice apartment that we could rent for a week on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor and thought it looked ideal. Of course, you never really know until you get there but our fingers were crossed!

As it turned out, I think this has been one of my favourite places. It was out in the countryside but you could still walk up to the village in about ½ an hour.





We had farmers on both sides and we could sit on our balcony and watch them working in the fields.



A camel was grazing in one of the fields beside us and every few minutes a donkey cart, filled with the day’s collection from the field would trot past. It was perfect! I felt like we could relax, get some work done, but still experience the local culture.




The man who picked us up at the train station turned out to be the brother of the owner of the apartment. He apparently was tasked with the job of being available to us every day should we need anything. This included driving us places, helping us to get groceries, etc. While at first this seemed lovely, and we did have him drive us to The Valley of the Kings, we quickly learned that his rates were a little pricier than what we had hoped to pay, and decided it was best to use local transport as much as possible. He was clearly disappointed and would come each day asking us if he could take us any where or help with anything. We explained our tight finances and hoped he understood!

At Valley of the Kings (no photos allowed near the tombs)





So, while in Luxor we would walk into town and pick up groceries from the local stores. There weren’t a lot of options. The stores were very small and poorly stocked. We had to get a bit creative with meals: what can you make with 3 eggs, a can of tuna, and some rice? There was only 1 package of meat in the freezer and we had to go to a different shop for fruits and veggies. Still, we managed just fine and it was nice to be able to do our own cooking.




Once in the village, there was a ferry that the locals used to travel across to the east bank, where Luxor city centre lay. We were able to catch this ferry for less than $1 for all 4 of us, so it was a great way to travel.

DSCF1898 DSCF1900 DSCF1913 DSCF1918

Once on the east bank we were harassed much more because the caleche drivers (horses with buggies) waited there for tourists. Unfortunately, Egypt’s tourist industry is suffering tremendously right now. We hardly saw any other foreigners; and of course this meant everyone was desperate for our business.

One night we caught the ferry across and visited the Luxor Temple. It was beautiful to see it in the evening. There was something special about seeing it lit up. I’d highly recommend it.







Another day we decided to catch a calech to Karnak Temple.




A lot of the time, we just enjoyed our home in the country. We watched some documentaries about the Egyptian mummies, got caught up on lots of school work, and tried to plan the weeks ahead.

DSCF1896 DSCF1972 DSCF2803





IMG_0889 IMG_0892

One of the highlights of our stay in Luxor was spending time with a local Egyptian family. You can read more about that in Clay’s blog….


Luxor, Egypt: Catching the Train! – by Barb

After a couple of busy days in Cairo we took an overnight train south to Luxor. I had arranged with the same company who provided us with a tour guide to the pyramids, for a driver to the train station. Not only did they give us a driver but they also sent us with a young gentleman who stayed with us while we waited for our train, made sure we got on the correct train, and helped us with our bags. He even bought water and snacks for the boys! At first we thought this was very kind but unnecessary. However, as one train after another pulled onto the single platform in the dark, dreary train station, and the only announcements were in Arabic that we could not decipher, we were quite grateful!

The trains that pulled in were in quite a sad state of repair. Not many windows remained, the seats were tattered and worn, and everything was covered in several layers of dust and dirt. The boys looked at me with a worried expression. I too wondered what kind of condition our sleeper train would be in. We had to spend 10 ½ hours on this vehicle – hopefully sleeping! I kept telling myself, that these were all trains the locals were able to take. We were not “allowed” to purchase seats on these trains, apparently for the safety of the tourists. The only train tourists were able to ride was the sleeper train, which of course, was much more expensive. I hoped that this also implied the train was in slightly better condition but I certainly wasn’t going to hold my breath!

Finally, after waiting 2 hours, and about 45 minutes after its scheduled arrival time, a train pulled into the station and our ‘helper’ claimed that this was the one! He had assured us that we were standing on the correct end of the platform to board our berths but as the train started to slow he began running down the platform, our two duffles swerving and careening behind him! We, of course, fell in line behind him, trying to get a glimpse of the cabin numbers as we ran past. Fortunately, we’d spent the time with our new friend, while waiting for our train to arrive, practicing our Arabic numbers. The boys have much better memories than I and they were able to yell out the numbers as we whizzed by.

Finally, at the complete opposite end of the platform, we saw cabins 17 and 18. We clambered on with our bags, said goodbye to our new friend , and moved in toward our cabins – still with a couple minute to spare before the train started to pull out of the station. The train was definitely in better condition than the many earlier ones we had seen. It had windows and the seats in our little cabins were reasonably comfortable. We had to book two cabins because each one only had two seats that converted to beds. As it turned out, there was a door between our two rooms that we could open to visit.


Once settled into our rooms, they brought us each a tray with our dinner. It was rice, bread, bread, stew and bread. In the morning our breakfast was bread, bread, bread, and bread so we were happy for the additional stew at dinner!


When we were ready to sleep we had to ask one of the workers to come and convert our seats to beds. The boys seemed to sleep not too badly. Clay and I, of course, woke up at every station we stopped at. We weren’t quite certain how we would know when to get off! Fortunately, with the “” app we could track the train and see when we were getting close to Luxor.  All in all, not a bad adventure!

Oh My Goodness! We’re Half Way There! – Reflections from All of Us

We have reached the half-way-point in our travels. In some ways, when we reflect back on the places we’ve been and everything we’ve done, it seems like we’ve been on the road for a long time. In other ways, it feels like just yesterday that we left and it’s hard to believe we are half way through.

Here are some of our thoughts at this point in our journey….(Compare these to what we said before we left. It is in the “About Us” section of our blog.)

What are your goals for the remainder of the trip?

My goals (Barb) for the boys, of perspective, passion, perseverance, and purpose continue to be the same. However, I would say that at this point we have already come along way toward achieving these goals. Certainly the “perspective” has been a constant. Everywhere we go and many of the places we stay cause us to reflect on how other people live and give us an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the many things we take for granted when living in Canada. The boys have often commented on how fortunate we are to live where we do. It is obvious when we huddle around a small fire in someone’s home in Nepal that we are so fortunate to have well-built homes with good insulation. It is impossible to list the number of times we have reflected on how grateful we are.

Perseverance has also been something I’ve been very pleased with. The boys have had to walk through the heat for hours, often without quite enough food or water. They have walked up hill until their legs ache. They have had to endure 8 hour bus rides that make them sick to their stomachs. And they have done this without much complaint. No, it hasn’t always been fun but they have amazed me with their perseverance and resilience.

Passion and purpose: I absolutely loved how passionate Caleb got about the situation with the bombies in Laos. We stayed at the COPE centre for the entire morning, until we got too hungry to stay a moment longer! And then we came back later to learn more. Caleb has a thing about injustice and the whole situation in Laos was just not fair. Connor is not as vocal about his opinion on things but I know he is passionate about something when he turns to me (as he has several times) and says, “I have to write about this in my journal”! He was keen to carry his journal with him as we trekked through Nepal so he could detail his experience as it unfolded. He also took loads of notes during our “Reef Talk” session so that he would remember all the kinds of coral we would see. I wonder, when we return to Canada, which of these interests may turn into something bigger. There are so many doors that have opened and you just never know where they might lead.

Oh, and I’ve given up on the goal of losing a few pounds! As I write this we are in Luxor, Egypt and surviving on a lot of carbs: rice, bread, pasta, cereal. It’s hard to find good meat, fruits and vegetables so I don’t think I’ll be dropping down a size any time soon! On the other hand, I think I’ll need to start a good fitness regime when I get home. We’ve done a lot of walking but often it’s not at an overly rapid pace.

For the boys, their goals have now changed a little. Connor says he wants “to make it ‘til Europe so we can meet up with family”! Caleb says, “Based on the trek in Nepal, and now that I know my personal limits, I’d love to try Machu Picchu and do the Inca Trail. I’d also like to continue to learn more about how other people live and how other cultures differ from ours. What do they have and what do we have? Making those comparisons help us to appreciate what we have.”

Clay wants to continue to experience different cultures as we travel; trying not to be tourists but rather to live within the cultures we visit.


What are you most looking forward to for the remaining half of the trip?

Connor: I’m looking forward to Europe and I’m starting to look forward to heading home so I can ride my bike and run around outside.

Caleb: I’m looking forward to Kenya & Tanzania – experiencing another kind of culture and seeing the animals. I’m also looking forward to Europe where we will spend time with family.

Clay: I’m looking forward to meeting up with the Workman side of the family. When you travel you can become rather isolated and insular and it makes you appreciate the family connections that you otherwise might take for granted.

Barb: I’m looking forward to getting the final half of the trip planned! I feel like I enjoy the trip much more when I have the months ahead drafted out and I know where we will stay and how we will get there. Now that we are half way through the entire trip, I see a light at the end of the “trip planning” tunnel.


What are you worried about for the final half?

Clay: I still worry about political instability and  government corruption.

Barb: I worry that I’ll miss something in all of the planning and we’ll end up stuck somewhere with nowhere to stay or a missing plane ticket! I also still worry about sickness. We’ve been incredibly fortunate with no major illnesses up until now and I really hope it continues that way.

Caleb: I worry that we might have a day where we can’t stand each other because we’ve spent so much time together! I’m not worried about sickness any more. I am worried about any upcoming road trips. I hate long curvy road trips! My fear of planes has improved. I’m now fine once we take off.

Connor: I still worry about getting mugged.


Our Top Experiences To Date


  1. The slum tour in New Delhi. It was very eye opening.
  2. Meeting Haggai (a local farmer who lived down the road from us in Luxor) and having tea with him and his family in their home. It gives you insight into how a good percentage of the population live.
  3. Having our own set of wheels for 5 weeks was great.


  1. The Nepal trek. It was really challenging but I felt great accomplishing it. I was really pleased that our guide said he thought I could easily manage the Everest Base Camp trek.
  2. Beaches in Australia. Boogie boarding on the huge waves was amazing!
  3. COPE centre in Laos. I learned a lot.


  1. The Great Barrier Reef. The reef was amazing because the coral was so close. You actually had to try hard not to touch it.
  2. Tobogganing down the Great Wall in China.
  3. The bike rides! (We biked in China and Thailand.)


  1. The Nepal trek. I loved being outdoors and hiking through the incredible scenery. It was also wonderful to meet the local people as well as to meet other travelers who were on a similar journey.
  2. Camping in Australia. Again, spending so much time outside was amazing, as was having our own mode of transportation. Australia is a stunningly beautiful country. I could have spent a year there!
  3. Bali Green Camp. I was so impressed with the organization of the camp and with how much we learned in 3 days. It was also wonderful to spend time with other families who valued travel and the Green Camp experience.


What have been some of your ‘key learnings’ so far?

China – the history; some of the cultural norms; how to get around when you don’t speak the language; the huge variance in the landscape around China; the impact of a large population on a culture; the food;

Laos – the difficult situation the country is in due to the bombies; all about rice, from planting to eating; about Asian elephants; the role politics plays in the country and its history

Thailand – the tribal people; the amazing food; kinds of Thai massage; the role of the markets; religion (monks)

Indonesia – the hospitality of family; Luwak coffee; kinds of spices and herbs; Balinese homes; composting; food dyes; flora and fauna

Australia – Sydney opera house; the unique wildlife; the history; the Great Barrier Reef; all about Bananas; the varied geography & climate

Nepal – the lives of the mountain people; the impact of politics on the country (India cutting off the fuel supply),

India – some of the cultural norms; life in the slums; the role of the backwaters; how to track tigers & wildlife; growing tea in the plantations; the role of politics; the history (Taj Mahal & Agra Fort), food (always spicy!); how to say, “please don’t add the chilis” – Caleb learned this for us!

Egypt – the history; a little about the culture; how farmers live;


  • we have learned key phrases to get around in the different languages;
  • how to deal with the touts and beggars
  • that you can trust people a lot of the time and there are some incredibly kind people out there
  • we’ve learned the key pieces that need to be arranged before moving to a new place – phone cards, food, money, map, accommodation, and transportation
  • that the four of us get along pretty well most of the time!
  • that we can be very flexible and adaptable!
  • we don’t need much!

I think this last one is HUGE. We have been traveling for 6 months with 2 duffels (one is about 20 kg, one is 15). Aside from having to buy a new pencil and eraser, and a longer rope for a clothes line, we have really lacked for nothing. It has been very freeing to carry all of our essentials with us and not to worry about rooms full of other “stuff”. I think I spend way to long, when I’m back home, managing our “stuff” and I’d like to lessen the hold it has on my life when we return. Say no to the stuff!


What do you miss the most?

Caleb: I miss home, especially the piano, friends & family, and having my own personal space

Connor: I miss school, riding my bike, my friends, and Joy Bible Camp

Clay: I miss playing guitar at church; friends & family (covenant group); and my regular chiropractic adjustments!

Barb: I miss chatting with friends, family and colleagues; and my own personal space


What do you think you will appreciate the most when you return?

Clay: I think after this trip when I come up against obstacles/problems I will recognize that often they are first world problems and often not worth the stress and anxiety that we give them . There are so many people who do with so much less.

Caleb: I will appreciate my piano and having some alone time

Barb: I will appreciate hot water, a nice shower, our car, and toilet paper!

Connor: I will appreciate our house, my bike, and having good wifi


How do you think your life would be different if you had grown up in another country?

Caleb: we’d have to be very careful with the money we spent; we wouldn’t have any allowance; the lives we have now would look like luxury to us

Connor: we’d speak a different language and have different customs


If you were to do the first half of your trip again what would you do differently? .

Caleb: I think I would skip China and spend more time in the other places.

Connor: I’d go down the toboggan at the Great Wall again!

Clay: I would bring a lot more back pain medication! I’d visit China when it wasn’t so hot.

Barb: I would rent a trailer and a car in Australia instead of a camper van. I’d bring more US cash. I’d cut down on the road trips in Kerala, India. While I did try to plan as much of thrip as I could ahead of time, I would try to plan even more to save having to do quite so much on the road.


Scariest Moments:

Caleb- I thought I had lost everyone in the crowds at the Terracotta Warriors. Even though it was only for a few minutes, I was terrified! Also, the Pandora experience in Jakarta, Indonesia was rather scary. Maybe if the dead bodies hadn’t moved I’d have been OK!

Connor – When I was sitting in the airplane and I saw big bolts of lightning flash outside the window.

Clay – Wandering around the hutong in Beijing with no idea of where our house was, was rather scary. We had no map and no phone card at that point. We learned from that experience. Also, reading that a shark had attacked a surfer on the same beach we had been at the day before in Australia was rather nerve wracking.

Barb – I didn’t like being in Cairo, and hearing on the news about people being shot down the street from where we were staying. But I think I was even more terrified trying to drive a scooter in Pai!


Best Laugh Out Loud Moments:

  • Playing charades on the train out to Blue Mountain in Australia
  • Daddy’s story about the possum coming to visit him in the camper van in Australia
  • Visiting Dizzee World in India – with hardly anyone else around and discovering many of the rides in rather ill repair
  • Watching Clay trying to eat his “non-spicy” meal in Thailand (which was still oh, so spicy!)


Most Challenging Moments:

For Clay: Climbing the 3,500 steps to Poon Hill in Nepal

All of us: trying to communicate in China

Caleb, Connor, Barb: the road trips in Kerala and the road trip to Pai

Coping with the Heat in China, Laos, and Thailand


Best Accommodation So Far:

Our Villa in Hua Hin, Thailand

Worst Accommodation So Far:

Our little apartment, in the hutong in China and the mud hut in Laos



Second half, here we come!!!  Can’t wait to see what surprises lay in store for us in the next half of the journey!












Cairo, Egypt: The Pyramids – by Connor

We flew into Egypt and stayed at the Movenpick. (My mom found an amazing deal online!) The next day we went to see the pyramids. We drove for an hour and a half and then I saw the red pyramid in the distance. It was giant. When I looked further in the distance I saw the bent pyramid. We drove past the red pyramid to the bent. We got out and our guide, Sue, said that we could climb up a little ways. Caleb and I climbed as high as possible.



We took a few photos and climbed down. We returned to the red pyramid and we were able to go inside it.



We went in a little tunnel and climbed down a ramp for about 10 minutes. It was hot and it was quite steep. We found a flat part where we could stand up. We walked a little farther and then saw the place where the pharaoh would lay.

                                          DSCF2568 DSCF2566

After leaving the red pyramid we went to see the other pyramids in Giza. We drove to a spot where the camels were kept. We got some photos and then got to choose our camels.

DSCF2627 DSCF2640 DSCF2662 DSCF2622

When I got on the camel it was very calm and well behaved. It sat on its hind legs and its chest was perched on its front legs.


The man tugged on the rope that was attached to its head. My feet suddenly rose from the ground and I was riding a camel for the first time!


The camel bobbed up and down as he walked. My mom had said that riding a camel would be uncomfortable, but now I was sitting on one and it wasn’t too bad! The camel trotted along and then we stopped. The man said that he would take a photo for us so we gave him our camera and he got a few photos.

DSCF2637 DSCF2640 DSCF2631 DSCF2662

He passed the camera back and we started on our way again. We returned the same way we had come. We went up the same hill that we went down. You had to get off the camel the same way you got on except backwards. The whole experience was different than I thought it would be, but it was fun.

After the camels, we went to see the Sphynx.


DSCF2693 DSCF2689 DSCF2674

We also got to see the mummy chamber, where they made the pharaoh into a mummy.

DSCF2686I will never forget my first camel ride and visiting the pyramids!


Cairo, Egypt: The Great Pyramids of Giza – by Caleb

As you’ve read in my previous blog, we went to see the Bent and Red Pyramid, but of course we still had to do the Pyramids of Giza. We arrived and we were all very excited, not only for the pyramids, but we were also going to go on a camel ride! We began with the first pyramid of Giza which was 140 meters tall, or something crazy like that.



Like the Bent Pyramid we climbed up a ways, however, this time we were able to climb up quite far. We could see a huge section of Cairo from up there.

DSCF2595Of course, we couldn’t stay up there forever, so we came down and moved on to the second pyramid of Giza.

DSCF2621This second pyramid was built by the son of the Pharaoh who build the first pyramid of Giza. His name was complicated to say so we just called him Kevin! This pyramid is smaller than the first pyramid but Kevin was smart; so yes, he did keep his pyramid smaller than his father’s to pay respect to him, but he built his pyramid on higher ground so it looks much bigger!

Finally, we saw the third pyramid which was built by Kevin’s son Matthew, or at least that’s what we called him. This one was smaller than the rest and behind it were three tiny pyramids which belonged to Matthew’s three wives.


After seeing these pyramids, we went on a short twenty minute camel ride around the area.


This was an amazing experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will certainly remember for the rest of my life.

Cairo, Egypt: The Bent and Red Pyramids – by Caleb

Of course, who can go to Egypt and not see the pyramids? Thus we booked a day of seeing ancient Egypt, or at least what remains. Now, when people say they saw the pyramids, most people imagine the pyramids of Giza. Along with the most well-known pyramids, the Giza pyramids, we saw many other pyramids and artifacts that are equally as important. The pyramids we saw were called the Bent Pyramid, the Red Pyramid, and the Step Pyramid.

From where we were staying in Cairo it was a one and a half hour drive to our first stop, the Bent Pyramid. We made it through the crowded city and started to drive through the middle of nowhere. In reality we were driving through barren desert, otherwise known as the Sahara. We arrived at the Bent Pyramid a while later and despite the fact that here we were around this famous pyramid, we owned the place! It was just us and another couple. Plus, the place was very picturesque. The Bent Pyramid is called bent because, well, it’s bent! The reason for this however, is not because it began to cave in on itself but rather because there were changes and problems with the plan midway through construction. You see, the sides of the bent pyramid were at first meant to be around a fifty degree angle but that turned out to be too steep and it would not be strong enough so they had to adjust it to forty five degrees half way through the building of it. But that didn’t matter to us because no one can go up to the top anyway. Of course, Connor and I climbed up a few meters of the pyramid where the blocks were still steady and safe.



On the way back to the car, our guide, Sehamgabr (Sue), pointed out a small hole near the top of the pyramid. She explained that the ancient Egyptians believed in life after death and that there were five things that must be done to the body of the person to ensure the soul would live on in the afterlife. The first is called the ‘ba’. The belief of the ancient Egyptians was that the ba, or the spirit of the person would leave the body, take the shape of a bird, and fly to the sun god, Ray. Without the hole there, for the ba to leave the pyramid, the person would be alone and not anointed with his father, therefore having a terrible life in the afterlife.


Already our heads were filling with loads of information but Sehamgabr, or Sue, just kept it coming! Not one second passed when there was no information being processed in my brain and I’m sure that was the case with Connor and my parents as well.

Next, we went to the red pyramid, which was right beside the bent pyramid. (When I say right beside, I mean, like a kilometre).


The red pyramid got its name because they used red limestone, not because it was distinctly red. This pyramid we were able to go inside!




When we first entered through the hole in the pyramid, we just walked down and down, and down and down. We then entered a room that was very small but high. It was, of course, empty. This was not because of tomb robbers however. This was the fake burial chamber to misdirect the tomb robbers. We then headed up some stairs that had been placed there for our convenience, to the real burial chamber, which this time was empty because of tomb robbers, except for the large sarcophagus still left in the room.


We headed back the way we came and exited the pyramid. This was a great start to the day and an amazing experience you certainly can’t get from a textbook.

Agra, India: Trip to the Taj – by Barb

When planning our trip to India, the Taj Mahal was not originally on our agenda. We wanted to spend time visiting friends in Chennai, so I figured we would stay in Southern India. Many people commented, however, how incredible it was to see the Taj, and they highly recommended we visit it while we were in India. Even the boys, who aren’t usually that interested in buildings and tourist sights, said they were really keen to go there. So, it was added to our itinerary. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I didn’t want to visit – but it meant adding another destination, therefore more money, and moving again, and I wondered if a building could really be “worth it”.

Traveling to Agra from Delhi takes about 3 hours and we decided to visit in one day (rather than stay over there), so it meant getting up early. We asked for “toast to go” for breakfast from our hotel and climbed into our van before the sun was up, at 6:30 a.m. Connor, our “morning man” was bright-eyed and bushy tailed, as usual, but Caleb was not impressed with the early morning start. We don’t generally speak to him in the morning for about an hour, as it takes him that long to fully come to life. He sat, leaning against me in the back of the van, with his toast perched on his lap, for the first hour of the journey!

Any Antony, Krishna, or Vivek can take you to Agra. In fact the man with his little travel desk, in the front corner of our hotel, had offered to take us there when we first arrived in Delhi. I had decided, however, to spend a little bit extra and to go with the same company that took us on the slum tour: Reality Tours. They included a stop at a small village, a local lunch – that we would help to prepare, as well as a visit to Agra Fort, along with the Taj Mahal.

After driving for about 2 ½ hours, along surprisingly good (and straight) highways, we pulled off the main road and into a very small village. We hopped out of the van and walked along the one dirt pathway that made its way between the village homes and fields.


The villagers did not have regular electricity in this village – sometimes it would be on for 2-3 hours a day. So the homes did not depend on it. Instead they cooked over small fires inside the homes. The fuel source was cow patties – cow dung that they shaped into patties and stored in piles.


They would use this along with a few sticks or grass to serve as kindling. They also had to bring their water from the village pump – which the boys were keen to try.


The people were very friendly and invited us to sit and have tea. They brought what looked like a bed frame (made with rope and sticks) out of the house for several villagers to sit on and provided us each with a plastic chair. Then they brought us each a tin cup with a small bit of Chai Milk Tea (typical Indian tea) in the bottom. They seemed very amused by the boys and with the help of our guide one of them asked Connor if he was hungry. Connor surprised us by replying that he actually was a little!

After about 10 minutes of sitting and trying to communicate in our non-existent Hindi, one of the women (who was covered from head to toe – even her face was covered with a cloth) brought out a basket with some naan-type bread and a bowl of potato sauce.


Everyone gathered around to watch the boys eat it! Our guide showed Caleb and Connor how to break off a piece of bread, fold it, and use it as a scoop to scoop up the sauce.


Connor took a nice big scoop………….and then his face started to form these strange contortions! He gasped, “Water! Water!” I handed him our thermos of water, which he began to glug back. The villagers started to laugh! They found this most amusing!


One of them signaled for us to come into the house to see how the bread is made. We slipped off our shoes and walked in to see the small fire in the corner. Everything was covered in flies and the smoke from the fire filled the very small room, but the people were just so kind to share it with us.



After visiting with the cows and taking some pictures of the little children, we were on our way again.

                DSCF2331 DSCF2332 DSCF2336





                                    DSCF2346 DSCF2347

We drove through Agra and pulled right up in front of the walkway leading to the Taj Mahal. We were, of course, welcomed by many touts, all claiming they had “best price” for us. As we walked down the road way, the camel carts rode past us, carrying some of the tourists who had opted to enter in a different manner.


Entering the Taj Mahal, as with most places in India, required you to go through a security check. Women must go through a separate entrance from the men, so I went on ahead through the short women’s line and met the boys on the other side. Clay got stopped because he was carrying a flashlight and a 4 inch mini tripod for the camera, neither of which were allowed. Our guide had to return these to the van.

We were all keen to see this impressive building. Our guide had explained the history and background to us in the van on our way there, so we felt we knew a little bit about it. The entry to the building contained a number of tourists but was not nearly as busy as we thought it would be.

We walked in through the main entrance, under the archway, and could see the Taj Mahal ahead of us.

DSCF2360 DSCF2361

It really is quite spectacular but I think what makes it even more interesting is the story that goes along with it. To think that all of that money and time was spent for Shah Jaha (emperor during the Mughal empire’s period of greatest prosperity) to create a “perfect” building for the body of Mumtaz Mahal, his favorite of three wives and beloved companion who died during the birth of their 14th child.



DSCF2377 DSCF2362 DSCF2365 DSCF2373

We were so interested in the story behind the building that our guide sat us down under a tree and spent a half hour or so explaining the history to us. After that we put on our little shoe covers and joined the line that flowed through the front of the building, around the tomb, and out the other side. When you get up close you can see how precious gems were painstakingly carved into the marble to form the symmetrical designs on the building. The designs inside are even more stunning. And of course one of the “guards” pulled us aside and with his flashlight showed us how the colourful red stones glow, when the light is shone on them. (Then he held out his hand for money!)

DSCF2393 DSCF2394 DSCF2397

So, am I glad we went to the Taj Mahal? Absolutely! But I would still argue that it is the experiences (not just buildings) we have had and the people we have met, that are the most valuable part of our travels. It was thanks to learning the story about the Taj and meeting the people of Agra, that made this yet another incredible part of our journey.

After visiting the Taj Mahal, we set out for lunch at a wonderful homestay. The woman there showed us how to make a vegetarian meal and we each had the chance to roll out our own puri (Indian bread).

DSCF2413 DSCF2415 DSCF2418 DSCF2421To finish off our trip, we visited a marble shop, where they showed us how the gem stones are cut and shaped, and then carved into the marble, in the same way it was done in the Taj Mahal. This was followed by the typical sales pitch and an offer to mail us a giant 3000 lb marble table, to which we politely declined!

                              DSCF2422 DSCF2423 DSCF2426

The final stop was at the Agra Fort. This is considered one of the finest Mughal forts in India. Construction of the massive red-sandstone fort, on the bank of the Yamuna River, was begun by Emperor Akbar in 1565. Further additions were made, particularly by his grandson Shah Jahan (the builder of the Taj Mahal), using his favourite building material – white marble. The fort was built primarily as a military structure, but Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace, and later it became his gilded prison for eight years after his son Aurangzeb seized power in 1658.

DSCF2427 DSCF2429 DSCF2430 DSCF2434 DSCF2441 DSCF2444 DSCF2445 DSCF2449 DSCF2453 DSCF2459

It was a long day and one filled with an incredible amount of history. We were all very happy to sleep in the next day and spend time processing everything we had learned.