An Ongoing Journey through Africa & The Middle East [PIC HEA


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Topic Author's Original Post - May 11, 2013 - 03:22am PT
I'd like to apologize ahead of time to supertopians because this post is going to be a lot of things but not all climbing and in fact it won't have as much climbing as everything else. However, it will have some climbing, once we get to that point! So I am going to continuously update this post as I go along and if anyone wants to come by and check it out thats great. If theres anyone in South Africa or the surrounding countries that want's to go climbing let me know how to get to where you are and we'll try and get there! We brought harness,shoes, rope and draws.

So heres where it starts....

We started with a flight from Anchorage to Seattle and then a nonstop to Durban. Which was a little intimidating at first but flying with Emirates Airlines is excellent. They have tons of free movies and tv as well as games with a screen at every seat. It's the first time I've actually gotten off an airline and had more to watch!

We rented a car for our whole trip there and the first thing we found was that Dubai's traffic is about as bad as it gets. It took us hours to find our hotel.

The next day we decided to visit the Dubai mall. After all we had heard there was ski resort in the mall and that was a curiosity. It also boasts being the biggest mall in the world.

It is indeed huge. They don't take things lightly here. This is the worlds largest indoor freestanding aquarium or something like that...either way it was amazing.

And we were introduced to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. They seem to have a lot of that, "in the world" going on here.

I need a bigger lens for that...

We also made sure to catch the water fountain in front of the mall. Very similar to the fountain at the Bellagio only with arabic music!

We went bowling...I won by one point.

One thing I noticed right away is that everyone seemed to have a job. The government really seemed to hire as many as they could for anyone one job. Look how many people were just getting this park set up!

This was the view from our hotel, the Al Sharq Hotel in Sharjah($55 us per night)

This is a clock at the Islamic museum in Sharjah.

Which also had excellent architecture.

There are mosques everywhere! There are also prayer rooms next to nearly every restroom.

This is a mix of old a new. Although its more of old and new design. The buildings could have been made at the same time as they are constantly using the old design to make new buildings which lends for a really unique and beautiful city design.

We took a trip into the desert on a tour since we figured out little rental car wouldn't make it 2 seconds on a sand dune (we almost tested this later). This trip, while generally enjoyable, was really just a tourist trap as expected. There was even a monkey tied up and looking not just a little sad and crazy.

This slightly inappropriate image shows his crazy side as he attacks a donkeys tail.

It is hard to see these animals tied up like this.

The next part of the tour was called dune bashing. Which was actually pretty fun. They guys push those toyotas to their tipping limit. Moving over the top of dunes and sliding down the sides at full speed sideways. Pretty sure there's nothing living out there, if there was, but it's fun for the dune junkie!

After that it was off to a tented city with falcon holding and crazy dancing which was topped off with a belly dancer, a two person camel, and the weirdest costumes I've seen. But dinner was good and the trip was overall enjoyable.

That was the first leg of our trip through Dubai and the UAE, sorry it's pretty much all the normal touristy things. We then hopped in the car for a totally different type of sights in Oman where we found sand beaches and beautiful mountains. That post is next. Oh and we have 3 months left of this this post is going to quite long!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
WA, & NC & Idaho
May 11, 2013 - 10:01am PT
Thanks Kelsey, some stellar pics.
What an interesting and different place!!!

Trad climber
Las Vegas
May 11, 2013 - 12:52pm PT

Fantabulous images Kelsey:

Bumpity bump, keep'm come'n !

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
May 12, 2013 - 03:14am PT
Very interesting! I usually travel alone so it's not a place I would go but very interesting to visit as an armchair travellor. I'm looking forward to more.
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
May 12, 2013 - 04:55am PT
Dubai is an armpit.
expensive armpit for sure but still an armpit.

and all those workers, not a one is a local
locals only work if they're billionaires and only then for a couple hours a day.

You'll dig Oman so much more. and there's killer climbing there if you have the time and find it, though there is so many FA's it won't matter.

cheers and eat some hulumi and olives for me

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
May 12, 2013 - 05:38am PT
Good stuff. See the world! It's interesting.

That why I love the US and despise the Islamic world.

Have fun. Seriously. I'm a little jaundiced after my tour of the globe.....
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
May 12, 2013 - 08:49am PT
I'm having trouble making the connection between blurrs sentences though I suppose it makes sense to him.


The Granite State.
May 12, 2013 - 10:50am PT

Nice photos, Prez, keep 'em coming.
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
May 12, 2013 - 11:13am PT
Nice photos, thanks, can't wait for the next installments.

the land of milk and honey
May 12, 2013 - 11:22am PT
Great shots - looks even better than real life. If I don't ever have to go back to the UAE, I won't. And yes, Delhi Dog is on the money - the working Emirate is a rare creature.
Oman on the other hand - rad. Not sure what will happen after the Sultan passes away though, so enjoy it now. With the exception of the major cities and seaside resorts, there isn't much in the way of tourism infrastructure in Oman - it reminds me of Baja in this regards. Good fossil hunting too.
I look forward to seeing more of your trip!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
May 12, 2013 - 12:19pm PT


Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
May 12, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
I'm having trouble making the connection between blurrs sentences though I suppose it makes sense to him.

My point is that I'm glad I was able to see what I saw, but was always happy to come home. That's all. And yeah, I did India too. Calcutta sucked, Varanasi pretty cool.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 12, 2013 - 01:02pm PT
Ya know, most Alaskans just go to Hawaii. :-)

Most entertaining. Good shootin', of course!

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
May 12, 2013 - 09:31pm PT

I was there in 2005. Those drivers for the dune tours and NUTS!! Our guy was throwing rooter tails while fishtailing past the MP's when we were leaving the base. LOL

Topic Author's Reply - May 25, 2013 - 02:51pm PT
Thanks everyone for the comments! Your right about Emirates...just not that much outside of the city, and I'm not much of a city person. So here's Oman which was awesome!

We decided to head from Dubai into Oman since we had heard some really great things and had no idea what to expect. We did hear from the hotel reception that the people there would be very nice. We drove directly from Dubai through the desert and toward Hatta. The Omani border was surprising easy to cross although we did have to purchase insurance for our vehicle. Even if you have insurance through the car company it is necessary to buy Omani insurance which is about $50US for a week. One of the first things we noticed was that the terrain became instantly mountainous. Our drive brought us to a small little lagoon with a dive shop near the end of the day after we had driven through the town of Muscat. The King of Oman takes incredible car of his people and there is a lot of money that goes into the country. Their currency is also one of the best in the world and the US dollar is about .30 Omani Rials. We learned quickly that Oman could get expensive quickly. This little lagoon dip actually cost us $6US per person just to swim. But it was worth it to swim in the Sea of Oman. Also I did a little deep water soloing on the shoreline and it was excellent climbing!

We spent our first night on the beach in a small town called As Sifah which surprised us. We had heard that everyone in these countries was going to try and kill us constantly! Being Alaskans we get an even greater dose of paranoia then they get in the lower 48. We stayed in the car because we hadn't yet bought a tent. Because of the humidity and heat it was probably the most uncomfortable night of sleeping I've had in years…but the sights were amazing in the morning.

I just barely caught a crab.

Shasta in the morning with our car which we named Pinto Bean.

As Sifah is a beautiful town with miles of empty beaches that is gearing up for a future of tourism. With mountains behind and a crystal clear sea in front it is worth a visit for sure!

We took a little hike down the beach, you can put a tent down anywhere and going around the corners just lead to more beautiful beaches.

A view of Shasta with the beach of As Sifah in the background without a single person on it.

Unfortunately the rocks are pretty sandy and these on the beach were not very good to climb.

Empty beaches, mountains, and Pinto Bean.

There making the effort to keep it clean…unfortunately it's not working yet. But they did have lots of people out cleaning.



We pulled off the road and took a small hike to top of a peak which gave us a view of the their mountains and it also gave me my first snake interaction of the week.

Here is a picture of its tail. I didn't take any more pictures of it because it had viper like flanks on its head and I decided to leave it alone.

More beautiful scenery.

And windy roads.

We assumed they filled in this area for some type of industrial area. When we looked closer we noticed it was for a soccer field.

Their ketchup was decent but had an odd taste to it, too sweet.

But their food was delicious.

Their boats are called Dhows and look like viking ships of past.

Their canyons usually include watery areas called Wadi's although not all Wadi's have water. I'm still not sure what actually constitutes a Wadi.

Our trip took us to Hoota Cave. We were basically just driving and following the signs that looked fun. Unfortunately the cave was closed but they didn't feel like posting it until we arrived at the front gate!

But it had already lead us into the mountains so we headed further into the beautiful peaks to see what we could find. The roads reminded me a lot of the deserts in the US.

The peaks in the area are incredible and have some crazy canyons. None of which little Pinto Bean was going to make it to.

The road were treacherous in areas, so much so I didn't drive down them, which is unusual for me!

With small cities accessible only by a 4x4.

On the way back we also stopped by a fort and took pictures. The hillsides are filled with forts of all different types and ages but we only stopped at this one, which was closed. Doh.

We drove on afterword toward Emirates.

After a wonderful few days we decided to drive back to Emirates for our flight of Dubai. It didn't leave for another day or two but we wanted to make sure we were back and able to find a place to stay. We drove the rest of the day and ended up about an hour outside of Dubai and slept on the side of the road. I just didn't have the energy to drive into town. The next morning I woke up and felt instantly sad about leaving Oman. I really wanted to be back in Oman in the quiet country with the less crazy drivers and the more beautiful countryside. So much so that I actually turned the car north and drove right through Dubai and toward the Musundam Peninsula, which is part of Oman. We drove back through an Omani Checkpoint for the third time in two days and into a small town where we found a small tour group doing Dhow rides and snorkeling trips. Since the trip was pretty affordable we hopped on and found ourselves riding one of these very stable and comfortable ships. They obviously know how to travel!

When you get on the boat it is just a bunch of pillows and carpets, quite a comfortable ride where they bring you delicious tea.

The waters were crystal clear with an adequate amount of sea life. Nothing over abundant but some nice sights for sure.

Now thats cushy living….

Sea life…

The sights of the Musundam Peninsula and the Straight of Hormuz are incredible. The mountain peaks rise directly from the sea to thousands of feet hight. It is such an impressive sight that it is often called Norway of Arabia.

On our way back we saw dolphins which capped off a beautiful and relaxing day in Oman.

Impressive driving by our captain.

One last impressive mountain guarded by a castle.

We drove back that night finally happy and the next morning we were on a plane bound for Durban, South Africa. I have to admit to being nervous, I have friends that won't touch foot down in South Africa because they are afraid of being instantly murdered or robbed. I honestly have no idea what to expect….and that is exciting.


Topic Author's Reply - Jun 5, 2013 - 11:41am PT
We finally made our way down to Durban, South Africa after a rather enjoyable 8 hour flight from Dubai. We quickly drove to our hostel at night and arrived at Ansteys Beach House. We didn’t know what to expect except that everyone was either going to mug or carjack us. At least that’s what we had learned from the news and every person we talked to in Alaska. I have a friend who wont come this way because his South African friends convinced him that the sides of the roads were littered with bodies and nobody cared to stop. While this may be true in some areas, we never found them. Durban is a bustling town and has a beachfront called the Golden Mile where everyone seems to congregate.

Ansteys is on a different beach 20 minutes from Downtown Durban and much quieter. It is also an excellent price especially for camping.

The city has much to due, unless you lose your king.

We continued the path of a real tourist and went to the large mall called Gateway to try and find some sandals. Instead we found a wave machine! I had always wanted to ride on one and found it to hard to pass up. We got an hour of just Shasta and I, it is a lot like snowboarding!

We finally drove on to our main reason for the trip. A wedding in Cintsa of some of our friends from Alaska. They were from South Africa and had been in the area before. The first thing we did was go to a Inkenkwezi Private Game Reserve and pet a full grown Cheetah. The loud purrrrrr sounded like a cat inflicted with the tones of Barry White.

Despite their friendliness they still looked fierce.

There were also many other animals milling about, such as Warthogs.

We then headed to a place called the Lion Park. Everything in South Africa is a game reserve of some kind so its pretty hard not to tourist into it. Might as well dive in head first.

I suppose if you've pet a Cheetah, you need to pet a lion cub.

The cuteness is nearly unbearable.

I look over my shoulder and see that I am being watched...

They have a few other animals, which probably should be set free in their native lands as they appear a little more caged the comfortable. But i still wouldn't want to walk in their with them.

I think they are watching me, not as friend or foe...but more as a snack before the Impala entree.

This one looks innocent enough...

And then theres those teeth....

Then the party began. There was something like 15 Alaskan's who flew down for this and their family from NZ and South Africa, it was one of many Braai nights!

More to much more. I hope someone has the patience to look through all these?!
John M

Jun 5, 2013 - 12:03pm PT
Wow...I had no idea the water was so beautiful. So much desert and such beautiful water. What a juxtaposition.

I have a friend who use to live in South Africa. She lived in a poorer part of Johannesburg in a church compound. She said there was gunfire every night and many mornings there would be someone dead in the streets. The cops don't come that fast. But she also said that she felt very safe outside the cities. just that going out at night walking wasn't a good idea in some areas of some cities. The daytime was fine she said, though in Nairobi she was driving and was nearly carjacked. She had a priest with her and the priest told her she better keep going and if she had to run the guys down, then do it. So it can be spicy. haha..

I am enjoying the pictures. Thank you for sharing them.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jun 5, 2013 - 12:09pm PT
More, we need more!

So interesting to see a part of the world that is really unknown to me.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jun 5, 2013 - 12:14pm PT

Topic Author's Reply - Jun 6, 2013 - 02:53am PT
Alright since I actually have internet today as well I am going to continue the South Africa trip report and try to catch up!

There is lots to do around Cintsa, which is near East London. We stopped randomly by a game reserve called Areena and there was a tame Giraffe walking around. You can get pretty close to these guys although its best to keep your distance.

And I mean you can get realllly close.

They also have some other animals such as the one that this prehistoric looking foot belongs too.

One of our friends, Tara, decided she wanted a nice Ostrich Coat. Unfortunately it just wasn't big enough.

That is one ugly bird.

While we stayed at the Cintsa houses we had plenty of fun surfing and swimming. In fact there was a 5 meter great white spotted off this beach the week we were swimming, yikes! Thats a first for me, swimming with great whites around.

We then got another day at Inkenkwezi for the wedding lunch and our first time seeing Elephants in Africa. They are amazing.

These little brothers were also enjoying the elephants.

There were also many birds

There was a short trip to Nahoon Dam that we stopped by on a random drive around South Africa. Mmmm...drinking water....

On this drive we found an elephant sanctuary where they let you ride them. Shasta was pretty excited so off we went!

All of the trainers had been formally trained and certified as handlers / trainers in Zimbabwe where they were from. The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is over 80%!!

You then get to feed them a bucket of food which is like eating one M&M to an elephant.

Feeding an elephant is a really interesting experience. They have trunks that work as vacuums and their mouths are strange.

You can actually put your hand right inside of their mouths and feel their strange tounges pull at the food.

Elephants are pretty wonderfull

But there not always happy when you are out of food!

So we said our goodbyes they went off to eat a real meal.

Kwantu Elephant Sanctuary had another spot called Kwantu Game Lodge so we headed over there too to see some more lions.

Then it was back to the Cintsa house...for some monkeys.

Okay thats all I have for now that are uploaded. There are still tons to upload that I just won't get a chance to unless I can find some fast interent. I'll keep on that hunt! Thanks everyone for your awesome replies too! I enjoy posting this trips but its not as much fun to post them when nobodys looking!
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