Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Favourite from the Five

As I have told you, I am able to design my own book cover for "Rough Justice" and I have been busy doing just that.

This time I am going to ask for your favourite of my five drafts instead of this being about my favourites. Please let me know which you prefer.
First, here is a short blurb to help you understand my designs:
When Niki’s partner, Logan, is kidnapped by poachers in Zambia, she tumbles into the sordid underbelly of a world where survival reigns and animals are sacrificed for financial gain. In order to rescue her man, she will fight all the way to the top and be stunned by what she finds there.
Okay, here goes.
No1. --------------------------------------No. 2

No.3 ---------------------------------------No. 4


Friday, May 23, 2008

My Five Least Favourite Aspects of Egypt

1) The Heat
Oven blasted waves of stiffling heat. I swear to you, any time after 8am, the air is like being slow-roasted. If there's a wind, then the oven has the fan on. Stay in the oven too long and you need to be basted. One pours liquid down the throat as fast as possible to counter the outpouring of perspiration but it's impossible to win the battle. We got close to 60 degrees centigrade in the sun. I looked at a chart on the internet and that's around 140 degrees centigrade.

2) The Hassling
These guys in the boat came alongside our cruise boat and wanted us to buy their wares. They stayed with us for almost an hour, hassling everyone to death. At first it was amusing, then it became heavy-handed when they started to lay a guilt trip on us about our wealth versus ours. This is, unfortunately, a scene which is repeated wherever you go in Egypt. The government has tried in various ways to stop this hassling of tourists, but, as far as I could see, unsuccessfully. How many times does a tourist have to explain, as they leave, that they haven't bought something because of the constant nagging and pressure to buy? We called walking through the markets, 'running the gauntlet'. At Abu Simbel temples, the stall holders were monitored by tourist police, who wouldn't let them hassle us, so instead, they talked non-stop about how we could buy in their stalls because they wouldn't hassle us. There was no way to shut them up. Unfortunately, many of us bought few things because of this problem. It really does wear you down, especially in the heat.
3) The Tummy Bug
I call it the Tummy Bug, capitalized, because it seems everyone has a brushing acquaintance with it. Most of us didn't get it until the last few days, including me and we got it to varying degrees. Fortunately, my dose was small but did the excellent job of cleansing me out and losing the few kilos I had gained due to the over-abundance of food we were offered. Of course, it was probably the food that was the culprit, coupled together with the heat which multiplied the natural bacteria in our stomachs to an unhealthy level.
4) The Dirt on the Train
Couldn't find an appropriate photo. Not the sand and earth kind of dirt - that's fine. But the 'couldn't be bothered cleaning' dirt is what is upsetting. I have travelled far and wide and I accept different levels of hygiene according to the country and the environment and don't even think about it. In fact, that's the point - I have never thought about dirt before when travelling. But when the first class train is comfortable and spacious but filthy because it hasn't ever been cleaned, then I start to actually see it and I question why it has to be like that. Unemployment is high in Egypt and they generally employ three men to do the job of one so that they have jobs. So, what happened to the cleaners in the trains?
5) There is no number five - couldn't think of one. So I guess the positives win - big time, actually. The negatives pale into non-existence beside the beauty and glory of this country. Except the heat, that is.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Five Favourite Aspects of Egypt

1) The Temples
Perhaps I have already mentioned my passion for temples, LOL so there's no need to say much else but they certainly are a great drawcard for Egypt.

2) The Egyptian people
I never felt threatened in Egypt even while walking along a street at dusk by myself. They were friendly, sometimes over-friendly in their efforts to sell you something, but I'll talk about that in my next post.
I also saw no beggars though I might have been lucky. Many people wanted money from me but they were always willing to give something in return even if it was only to show you a good photo angle.

3) The ancient Way of Life
Especially in the countryside, people live unsophisticated lives similar to those of 4,000 years ago. They cut the crops by hand, wash their dishes with dried grass, use donkeys, camels and horses for transport etc. In the second picture a man is preparing breakfast for workers with a simple cart and hot element. The men sitting on the ground are eating his delicious cuisine.
One of our group asked why they didn't use machinery and more advanced methods. Our guide explained that the culture wouldn't allow that to happen because it would put people out of work and looking after the family and neighbours is paramount. They all help each other out, working for each other, to make sure that no one wants for anything essential.

4) The Nile
This is the longest though not the biggest river in the world and is the life blood of Egypt. The majority of the population lives along its banks. It buzzes with the activities of life and was never far from our sight throughout our ten days in Egypt. Apparently, below the Aswan Dam, the water is so pure that you can drink straight from the river - so our guide said, but we didn't test his words. I love seeing such powerful forces of nature just as much as I enjoy the man-made marvels of the world like the temples.

5) The History
Egypt is all history from the pyramids just outside Cairo to the temples to the Valley of the Kings, (see photo beside the Shinx) where you can find the most amazing tombs decorated with vibrant colours. It's easy to get immersed in another time when life was full of beauty and danger, when the people were ingenious, proud, fierce and believed deeply in a complex, unifying culture. As a New Zealander with our short history, such places amaze and thrill me.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Another Contract for a Book

A short note to let you know that Red Rose Publishing has offered me a contract for a book, Rough Justice, that I wrote some time ago. I can even design the book cover, which is exciting. I'm expecting edits to come some time soon. Thank goodness I have finished those for Beneath the Surface - at least I think it's not coming back my way again. I still don't have a firm date on that one's release yet. I will keep you informed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My 5 Favourite Egyptian Temples

I am back from my holiday to Italy and Egypt and have recovered enough from the two-day journey home to post a little about my wanderings.

When in Egypt, one sees many incredible temples and risks the widespread disease of temple fatigue. I, however, was not inflicted by this common ailment and will continue to search the world for the most unique and awe-inspiring temples. Egypt has the second largest temple in the world after Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which I saw last year. I will have to research the third largest and head there next.
Meanwhile, I will start with the second largest and my favourite Egyptian temple:

1) Temple of Amun at Karnak
This temple was immense, atmospheric and beautiful. Definitely my favourite. It was started around 2000 BC and was still being added to in 100 BC by Cleopatra. This temple can be seen in various movies as it typifies an Egyptian temple.

2) Abu Simbel
Cut into the rock face, this enormous structure was raised 61meters to save it from the flooding by the artificial lake , Lake Nassar, created by the Aswan High Dam. The 20 meter high statues represent RamsesII, known as the great builder. He ruled Egypt from 1290 - 1224 BC. Next to it is the smaller temple built for his favourite wife, Nefertari.
More amazing than this surprisingly intact temple with its clear drawings and beautiful colours, was the four-year process which saw the temple saved from the encroaching waters. Many nations came together to save this truly precious piece of ancient history.
Reaching this temple required a three-hour bus trip from Aswan in a convoy with a military escort. These stretches of bleak desert are the ideal spots for terrorist attacks. No one has forgotten the 1997 attack at my next temple.

3) Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
This amazing temple is built up against a cliff face out in the desert - a hot, sandy desert which saps your energy and causes copious outpourings of liquid from the body. There's no need for a toilet because it's virtually impossible to replace the fluids fast enough to counter the perspiration. Did you know you can perspire from your eyelids? While I was there, Egypt was gripped by a heat wave and we often reached temperatures in the mid to high 50's (centigrade.) This is the temple where terrorists killed 48 tourists in 1997. When chased by the locals, they then killed themselves. I kept a keen eye out over the cliffs for any untoward movements in our direction.

4) Temple of Kom Ombo
We stopped at this temple on the banks of the Nile while cruising between Luxor and Aswan. It was in a particularly picturesque setting and worth the risk of a heat stroke. This temple is dedicated to two gods, Horus and Sobek. Sobek, the crocodile god, was much needed in this spot as the river here was noted for crocodiles until early this century.

5) Philae Temple
This temple was also saved from the raised level of the river caused by the Aswan Dam. It now sits on an island in the Nile. The deeply etched carvings and drawings on the walls and ceilings of all these temples depict the life and death journey of the Pharoahs. Only the high priests and the Pharoahs were allowed into the inner sanctum of these temples and I often wondered at the egoism involved in such a decision. Like all religious buildings present and past, they represent man's desperate need to believe in life after death - the need to conquer the fear of death.