Tahrir, one year on

The header pictures on my travel blog are some of my favourite travel photos. One may look just like a group of lads playing football, but it’s the location that inspired me to upload it earlier this year…

It was taken in Tahrir Square, Cairo, in January 2010.

Football in Tahrir Square, Cairo (January 2010)

Tahrir Square was a very different place a year ago today, when it was the focal point of the Egyptian revolution which eventually toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Today the name is synonymous with memories of violent conflict, and the blood of many people guilty mostly of “just” believing in the future and demonstrating for positive change.

One year on, I simply wanted to remember my memories of a peaceful place. And my hope that positive change may one day arrive in a country that I very much enjoyed travelling in (more than I ever thought I would).

A calm Tahrir Square, Cairo (January 2010)

Singapore Zoo

Landing from Borneo with 12 hours before my flight home, there was time enough for more exploring of Singapore. Having already seen a barrel load of monkeys on this trip, I decided to enlarge the barrel!

With my finances in end-of-trip mode I decided against an airport taxi, and opted for public transport to Singapore Zoo (it’s an easy ride to Ang Mio Ko MRT station, then a 138 bus, should you ever wish to try it for yourself).

You can buy a joint ticket for the Zoo and Night Safari but, having visited the Night Safari at the start of my trip, I can confirm it’s not worth bothering (too dark to see most animals properly. Or at all, in some cases).

Top tips:

1. Walk round, don’t take the zoo train. It’s not a huge area to walk round even in the heat (and/or heavy rain), and going at your own pace means you get to spend more than seven seconds with each animal.

2. After the entrance, turn immediate right for proboscis monkeys. Easy to miss, hilarious to look at with those noses.

3. The best bit (of course!) is the orangutans. Head to the center of the zoo, behind the middle restaurant, and you can see them swinging on ropes directly over the footpath. And your head! Here’s the most expressive Mother and her two babies (she’s carrying one) playing tig
image

4. Don’t ignore the Primate Zone (oh, and the zoo train can’t get in here), which has about eight different species.
Walking round a corner to see the Hamandryas baboons, in their enclosure carefully built to resemble their natural habitat of the African Rift Valley, I thought I’d stumbled upon a war council on the Planet Of The Apes
image
By the way… what is the collective noun for a group of baboons?
I’m going to refer to it as a ‘bum rush’ from hereon in!

5. Observe all signage
image

Other animals are, of course, available, but I concentrated on those looking a little like small dinosaurs in a certain light
image
…the ‘cool as’ penguins
image
…and otters . Who move too damn quickly to photograph (they probably have a very good agent who’s fiercely protective of their image rights. Or something).

Anyway, back to the monkeys…
I was taking this selfie with a statue of a famous former resident when the lazies in the zoo train (see above) came past. Cue much laughter.
image
I think I’m in a lot of people’s holiday photos.

Mount Kinabalu

Following a bumpy-as-hell bus trip broken up by another roti stop, the canopy walk at Poring Hot Springs and a shop in Ranau that jointly resembled Grace Brothers and the Naboo-tique, we arrived at Mesilau.

Our overnight stop was c.1,850 metres above sea level, and the starting point for our hike up the mountain. The hostel, with the mountain behind:

image

It started raining during breakfast (chicken sausage ‘Julienne’ style. Really) on Friday morning, and continued for a large part of the 8km hike. That doesn’t sound much, but think about 1,500m of climbing, and the effects of altitude. Also, the heat and humidity (wet inside your cagoule from sweat), plus the Mesilau trail is the hardest route up the mountain, with lots of ups and downs and some very steep climbs.

After many steep climbs, slippery wooden steps without a handrail, foot pain, breathlessness and increasing altitude sickness, I made it to the Laban Rata hut 3,200m above sea level

image

I collapsed into a chair, and promptly drank 11 cups of sugary tea before progressing to the (cold) shower, dry clothes and food.

Over the evening my headache and dizziness got worse, then the shivers started. By the time of the 2am alarm call (you leave the camping huts early to summit at dawn), I was also massively suffering from nausea and shivering uncontrollably, so I had to take the sensible option and not attempt the summit.

Finally managing to sleep a little, at 6am I got up to watch the sun rise. I then climbed another 300m up on the summit trail to see if the ascent & descent helped my altitude sickness. It didn’t. Only descending, once Dave, Yvette, Khan & Manit returned from the summit, helped.

(I’ve got to head off now, and will add more photos from the other camera at a later date. Til then, here’s the summit from a few miles away on the main road)

image