May 2019: New Zealand / UAE / Egypt / Oman / New Zealand

It was a spontaneous month. We began near Auckland. We ended near Auckland. In between we travelled halfway around the world and back.

155 nautical miles (by sea)
17,900 nautical miles (by air)

AWARD. Congratulations Whitianga, New Zealand! You’ve won “Australasia’s Most Pissed Off People 2019“! The people in your marina office, chandlery, information center, library, newsagency and grocery store won it for you. They are visibly dissatisfied and have perfected the stink eye surly look. Aside from your ridiculously miserable people and bags of trash lying on the footpaths, you may be a reasonably attractive town. We’ll never know. We left ASAP with our clean laundry and some fruit and veg.

GREAT BARRIER ISLAND. Wow. Now this place is special. It’s remote and raw, yet is just a second from Auckland. If only it were warmer. Perhaps visit in summer to enjoy the following:

Surf (on the other coast, Dale hitched)

Pilot whales

Pizza oven

Hot baths

Hot springs




A kauri treehouse

LIFE. Our aim this trip is Fiji, and for the past two months we’ve been clawing our way north up the east coast of New Zealand from Nelson to Opua.

Along the way at Great Barrier Island, we heard about a rally of 40 odd boats leaving Opua for Tonga/Fiji in mid-May, exactly when we’d planned to leave. Boo. Forty boats travelling together. Boo. Rallies can be fun we’ve heard, but we don’t do them, they’re not our style.

Our little brains began ticking over. What to do? No matter how creatively we crunched our to-do-list and dates, it just wasn’t feasible to leave before the rally. Therefore, our only option seemed to be to pause and explore more of New Zealand until the rally left. Boo. We were cold.

We slept on it and the next day Dale was asked to help with a work project in Egypt for a few weeks. Problem solved. It’s not cold in Egypt. Interestingly, temperature is the reason I visited Egypt twelve years ago, that time, I’d been cold in Turkey.

Decision made, we searched for the ‘world’s smallest penguin’ on Tiritiri Matangi Island.

Found one.

And two days later Dale was on a plane to Cairo.

The girls and I stayed behind to lay-up MUSCAT 7 in Gulf Harbour Marina.

Of course Dale left us helpful video instructions with an engaging pissed-off-vibe delivery. It’s just his style. He doesn’t really mean to suggest I’m an absolute idiot.

Willow helped me pull up the tender three times until we thought Dale would be happy-ish with the result.

Lay-up mission complete, we too made our way to Egypt, via Dubai.

DUBAI. Our first stop was Happiness Street.

We marvelled at Burj Khalifa.

And smiled when a seahorse ‘cuddled’ its friend the sea worm at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.

We ventured out on the water.

On our own boat. Of course.

We strolled around Old Dubai.

Where there were helpful reminders on how to be a decent human being.

We visited Jumeirah Mosque through their ‘Open Doors. Open Minds.‘ program, which I highly recommend. Willow was astonished to learn many of the stories in Islam are the same stories shared at her Christian school in Australia.

I’m always a diligent student.

Our second stop was Dubai Parks and Resorts. Gee. Talk about middle-of-nowhere-expensive-theme-parks-only world.

BREAKFAST. I’m not a big breakfast fan and always balk at the prices charged for hotel buffet breakfasts. I can’t see the value. Happily, the girls were thrilled with early swims…

…and ‘special’ buffet breakfasts on our private balcony, muddled together from the convenience store down the road.

I did however find value in the private cabana at Legoland Water Park. It was worth every cent, and more.

RAMADAN. Ramadan was in full swing while we were travelling. It signifies the ninth month of the Muslim year and is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Strict fasting is observed from dawn to dusk – no drinking or eating is permitted in public during daylight hours. You can’t even drink water. Obviously this has its challenges when travelling with kids, but it also means no crowds! No lines! Everyone is too dehydrated and lethargic to go anywhere. We slipped behind trees and walls and into bathrooms for sips of water and bites of fruit and crackers. It was fun. I prefer anything to crowds.

We flew from Dubai…

…to Cairo.

We were thrilled to see Dale.

EGYPT. What a random experience. We spent most of our time in Cairo. A few days after we arrived, a tourist bus was bombed near the Giza Pyramids. No one was killed. But still. Dale continued to go off to work each morning and my job was to keep the girls safe. As a blessed Australian, I found it unusual to begin my day with the goal: ‘don’t get bombed’. I’m not even exaggerating. This was my goal.

Now I’m a savvy traveller, but not getting bombed is a challenge these days when you’re staying at an international hotel in a certain part of the world, particularly in a city where most tourist spots have been targeted by insurgents over the past 12 months in a series of near misses averted thanks to local police/army, who may or may not use methods of intervention contrary to international human rights law. Soon after the Giza bomb there was a series of government raids and killings in the Sinai in response. The lawyer in me felt outraged by possible breaches of the rule of law. The parent in me felt somewhat reassured about the safety of my kids in the short-term. Morality can be complicated when you’re on the ground with your kids.

Thankfully, the girls remained blissfully oblivious to this all. They had the best time. Egypt is a wonderful travel destination for children, but for the insurgents, pollution and some of the most dangerous roads in the world…

This is Cairo.

We stayed in a great spot on the Nile. It had a balcony…

…and a view of the Giza Pyramids, but only when the wind blew away the smog.

SAILING. We were out on the Nile on a felucca within 24 hours of arrival.

Old mate was a star.

THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA & THE SPHINX. We visited before the bomb. The structural engineer in our family was pretty excited… His driver from work joined us.

It was my second visit to the pyramids and it was as awe inspiring as I remember the first time. It was also as annoying. Oh the hassles and heckles. We gave in to a camel ride for the girls and this made things even worse. A horse ride too? Another camel ride? A private guide? Postcards? Maps? A guide book? Water? Soft drink? Sigh. Oh Egypt.

A security guard grabbed my phone and took this photo of the girls inside one of the Queen’s pyramids. The same guard fined me on our way out. “Tut tut. No photos inside the pyramid.” Sigh. Oh Egypt.

Oh Hazel.

Oh Hazel.

Bickering here.
Bickering there.
Bickering around the world everywhere.

THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM. Old stuff jumbled together.

Animals. Mummified.

And not mummified. Yet.

DAHSHUR AND SAQQARA. We hired a guide and set off south from Cairo. Dahshur and Saqqara are home to the ‘practice’ pyramids, where it seems the techniques used to build the Pyramids at Giza were perfected. We found the ‘trial’ pyramids even more fascinating than the ones at Giza. They are in the middle of nowhere. There were no crowds!

The Bent Pyramid (2613 – 2589 B.C.). It’s bent because the angle they started with was too steep and cracks began to appear when they were halfway up. You can see where they reduced the angle.

The Red Pyramid (2613 – 2589 B.C.). This was our favourite. It’s the first ‘perfect’ pyramid and was built by the same dude that built the Bent Pyramid, Sneferu. Sneferu was Khufu’s father. Khufu went on to copy (and trump) his dad by building the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The interior was jaw dropping. We climbed down a narrow 65 meter passage into three chambers.

The ceilings were a corbelled designed. Amazing.

The Step Pyramid (2667 to 2648 B.C.) This is the first pyramid built from stone, before this they were mud brick.

The Pyramid of Teti (2345 – 2323 B.C.). This is one of the first pyramids with writing inside.

Our guide took us to a papyrus factory on our way home where I was guilted into buying a paper with our names in hieroglyphics. I’m a sucker in these situations. The craftswoman wrote ‘Dale’ twice and omitted ‘Hazel’. We didn’t realise until we were back at the hotel. Obviously I was thrilled. Sigh. Oh Egypt.


Pompey’s Pillar. Ruins surrounded by ruins.

Catacombs of Kom al-Shuqafa. An amazing underground maze of tombs with ghosts around every corner. It’s worth a visit to Alexandria just to explore these if nothing else.

Fortress of Qaitbey. Built on the foundations of the Pharos Lighthouse.

Bibliotheca Alexandria. I love libraries and this is the modern version of the world’s first and greatest library – The Great Library of Alexandria, which was founded in the third century B.C. Apparently every ship visiting Alexandria back in the day had to hand over its manuscripts to be copied and kept in the library.

OTHER STUFF IN CAIRO. Whilst keeping a low profile we found some pretty cool stuff to do away from the tourist hot spots.

Al-Azhah Park

Child Center of Civilisation and Creativity


Iftar feasts

Pharaonic Village

The girls were obsessed with mummies

MUSCAT. This is a place, as well as the name of our home, if you’d believe it. It’s the capital of Oman. The original owners of our boat lived here or met here or transitted or saw it on a map or something. Anyway, the corny prospect of flying home via Muscat to MUSCAT 7 was too much and of course I had to do it, especially when it presented an opportunity to visit a new country (and was value for money!).

This is Muscat.

It was hot.

The girls rode bikes! It’s been a long time between bike rides.

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.

The girls asked politely and reasonably why the ‘women’s pray room’ is ordinary and not as fancy as the ‘men’s pray room’. Our guide didn’t have an answer. Hazel refused to let it go. She went on and on and on. I let her. I couldn’t help it. All the locals we met were so lovely and welcoming to the girls, and proudly had daughters. Perhaps one day these men (we met no local women) will share their stunning place to pray with their wives, daughters and granddaughters too.

Mutrah Souq

Sunset swims


JEUNESSE Winter Journey kept me up at night. I couldn’t put it down. Thanks for the recommendation Haidee. Toni, it’s a great read, but not uplifting. Small Fry annoyed me to no end. I couldn’t handle Lisa. What an entitled pathetic needy brat. She needed a smack and her mum needed a job instead of spending her life sponging off a Jobs. What an embarrassment. Have they no shame? Palace Walk, the first book in Naguib Mahfouz’s The Cairo Trilogy, was a reread inspired by visiting Cairo again. It is brilliant of course. The Noble Prize Committee doesn’t get it wrong. I was however shocked by the enslavement of the mother and daughters. I don’t remember it being that bad on my initial read in my early 20s. Perhaps I felt above/immune to gender roles back then? Interesting. Rich People Problems was part of another trilogy, this time the third book, the drawn out ridiculous end – entertaining yet increasingly annoying trash. Unlikely to be recognised by the Nobel Prize Committee.

WILLOW More Boxcar Children for good solid mysteries. Classic Colin Thiele for a heroine who insists on enjoying what she loves in the face of adversity. Peter Rabbit for your sister who adores him. The Incredible Shrinking Girl for an original tale told with creative font.