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Further Afield's Journal

Unlock the Mysteries of the Nile

Entry By: 
Joe F.

Egypt and the Nile, you can’t have one without the other. Egypt is a border country of two continents, Africa and Asia. The Nile is the longest river in the world. The river is geographically described as the White Nile which flows from Lake Victoria in Tanzania and the Blue Nile that begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia.

The two rivers converge at Sudan’s capital Khartoum and empties into the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Alexandria. Named after the Egyptian Emperor Alexander the Great who invaded Egypt in 332 BC, there was no major battle for this takeover, as the Persians had overstayed their welcome in Egypt, with their oppressive regime. 


The descendants of Alexander ruled Egypt for the next three centuries. Queen Cleopatra VII, was the last of Alexander’s reign and the last of the pharaohs. Her status, her power and her love affairs shaped Egypt’s fate.


As the Roman Empire continued its advance into what we now recognize as Europe, Julius Caesar was looking enviously southwards at Egypt, to get a foothold in Africa. Cleopatra’s father had almost bankrupted the empire’s coffers and got a sizeable loan from Caesar. On her father’s death, she came to power, she had to raise funds for the country to survive. With a power struggle raging between her and her brother she had herself smuggled into Rome, for the sole purpose of meeting Julius Caesar. She charmed her way into his quarters, he became infatuated by her beauty, her voice and her personality. To seduce Caesar, was her main objective. Having achieved her goal the two became inseparable. He followed her to Alexandria and in time she gave birth to a son and named him Caesarean ‘small Caesar’. 


The Roman senate was perplexed, Caesar had no male heir and now an Egyptian was likely to take the throne in Rome. Brutus and his conspirators murdered Caesar on March 15th ‘The Ides of March’ as it’s referred to in William Shakespeare’s play. Mark Anthony now comes into the play with his oration at the death of Caesar “Friends Romans countrymen, lend me your ears”. Shakespeare’s words not Mark Anthony’s. Having fought with Caesar he believed he would become ruler of Rome, but he had a rival, Octavian. Julius Caesar’s nephew, Mark Anthony fled to Egypt seeking help from Cleopatra and her military might. He certainly got the help he needed. Captivated by her beauty the pair began a love affair that became the theme for many love stories, of novels and movies. Together they had three children. Octavian declared war on Egypt, in essence was a war on Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. This turned out to be the last civil war of the Roman Empire. The battle was fought at Actium, off the coast of Greece. It was a decisive victory for Octavian. Like true defeated generals in Roman times the act of throwing yourself on your sword didn’t go the way Mark Anthony had planned. Badly wounded, he returned to Cleopatra where having locked each other in an embrace she released a snake that bit them both. Death is recorded as suicide. Octavian returned to Rome victorious and declared himself Caesar Augustus the Roman Emperor.


The capital city of Egypt is Cairo. A thriving modern city, with a vibrant economy and a thoroughly diverse culture. When you look at the skyscrapers, the transportation and infrastructure it’s difficult to imagine that behind all this is the world’s oldest Islamic city. The mosques, temples, madrasas, and fountains, these and so many other attractions all carry us back to an age when Cairo was the envy of the known world. The Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Sphinx, the statue of Alabaster white stone, are outside the city of Cairo and are believed to be the most magnificent ever built. Of the seven ancient wonders of the world, only the Pyramids of Giza remain standing. There are guided tours of these beautiful Pyramids on offer every day. Cairo, clocking in at 22 million people it is the largest city in Africa and indeed the largest in the Arab world. Sampling the cuisine in Cairo is an amazing experience, the food courts are as if you were going through a Christmas market all day every day, the odours of spices, the array of ornaments, the colours of rugs, carpets, garments and the presentations, one thing is a must you have got to haggle, otherwise the traders will be disappointed with the lack of challenge in the sale. 


Cairo and the Nile. Flying south to Luxor and joining the Nile River cruise. Hearing the stories of the burial places in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens of Egypt. Reading about Egypt in school and studying about Egyptian Pharaohs I was fascinated by their powers, their daunting presence and the command they had over their people. Tutankhamun, now there’s a name, nicknamed the Boy King, was crowned Pharaoh at the age of nine years, a huge task for a boy so young. He was helped by others for a few years, Tutankhamun was responsible for a rebirth of Egypt in a cultural revolution, restoring temples and monuments. He also had relationships between nations restored. That was about it for King Tut as he’s remembered, by the age of nineteen he was dead. The Pharaohs of Egypt had a belief, that they had an afterlife and so when they were buried they prepared for this.


In 1922 a group of archaeologists from England discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. The tomb had never been opened since the time it was built. The mummified remains of Tutankhamun were found in a solid gold coffin. Jewelry, bows and arrows, a chariot, food and clothing, in total over 5,000 pieces were discovered. Some of these artifacts are brought to museums worldwide now and then for exhibition purposes. 


Cruising on the Nile with visits to the cities of Edfu, Esna and Kom-Ombo, see the Temples, and gardens. Meet the local people, find out about their community, see the wealth that the river has brought to the region. When one gets to Aswan, one discovers why the river is venerated by the Egyptian religion. In the ancient calendar, the year began with the first month of flooding, the God Hapi was the deity of flooding and fertility. A dam was built in the early 1900s on the Nile for flood control. The Aswan Dam was built in the 1950s and what a wonderful exhibition of engineering genius this is. The river Nile is over 4,000 miles or 6,600 kilometres long, the Aswan dam is about two thirds of the distance from its source. The dam controls the water levels of the river basin, the amount of agricultural land that depends on the river is vital to the area. The dam acts as a reservoir for storing water in times of excess rainfalls, thereby reducing the risk of flooding, in times of drought the reservoir provides the capacity for irrigation systems to be used. The resulting feature of the dam is the decrease in food shortages and famine. 


The source of the river Nile has been a major topic of discussion and inquisitiveness for over a century and a half. The famous saying “Dr. Livingston, I presume” was issued by Henry Stanley upon locating Dr. David Livingston at Lake Tanganyika, in November 1871. 


David Livingston was a physician from Scotland, working in London, U.K. He was married to Mary Moffat, who was from a very prominent missionary family, in 18th century. David became involved in missionary work in Africa, while there his obsession to find the source of the Nile overwhelmed him. He had this belief that if he could solve this mystery he would achieve notoriety and people would respect his views on world affairs. David’s work was dedicated on ending the East African, Arab-Swahili slave trade. He had been sending back reports on his experiences and travels to newspapers in London that were very well received. Then for two years, nothing was heard from him, it was thought that he was dead. In 1871, Henry Stanley, an Englishman, working as a journalist and explorer in Africa had heard of a white man who was sick in a nearby village. Ironically he was being treated by Arab slave traders. Walking into the camp, Stanley with that savvy accent, didn’t just shout out “Hi David”, the term was “Dr Livingston I Presume”. Very British.


Dr Livingston named Lake Victoria after his sovereign Queen, Victoria of Great Britain. He died of malaria in Zambia in 1873. A statue was erected to remember the time he had spent there. 






Natures Spectacular Show

Entry By: 
Joe F.

The Sun, the brightest star in the galaxy, it’s over 90 million miles or 150 million kilometres from the Earth. It’s the largest object in the solar system, the energy pulsating from this star has a magnetic field that holds the universe in place. With its gravitational pull, the poles attract and repel objects yet still keeps the planets and their moon orbits stable and on course. 

The Sun has been worshipped throughout millennia, long before scientists and astronomers had found out by their studies of the stars and the universe what the significance of all of these heavenly bodies meant. Farming is one of the oldest occupations on earth and the people involved in such activity were well aware of the importance that the Sun’s effect had on their livelihoods. They recognized that everything depended on the Sun, from the growth of crops, to seasonal changes and the length of day and night. Without understanding or any explanation to what was happening, it was accepted as a fact of nature. The Sun, Air, Water, Earth and Fire, these were the main elements of the Gods in Celtic mythology. The summer Solstice, around June 20th is the longest day of the year while the winter Solstice on December 21st is the shortest day. The halfway points between each of these dates are the Equinox, equal day and night, on March 21st and September 23rd. The Earth is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees in its orbit around the Sun. This is important for the amount of heat that the Earth receives during the year at various destinations worldwide.

The amount of solar storms occurring in the spring of 2024 are more frequent than usual. The reason for this is, the Sun’s magnetic field goes through a solar cycle. Studies have discovered that every 11 years or so, the Sun flips, meaning that the north and south poles of the Sun switch places. When this occurs there are enormous amounts of magnetic and solar storms on the surface of the Sun. Shooting stars, fantastic auroras in the night skies, lightning storms that are capable of causing power outages on Earth. After another 11 years the cycle repeats itself. There are a number of eclipses each year, some are partial, others are total, the fact that we don’t know of them is because of the regions where they’re visible. On April 8th 2024 a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible in the Northeastern part of the USA and parts of Canada. It’s a major phenomenon when it happens to cities and towns that are on the path of the eclipse. What’s happening is, the Moon, that’s neither a star or a planet but described as an “astronomical body”, passes between the Sun and the Earth in a complete alignment, blocking out the light of the Sun on the surface of the Earth. Watching this movement is a procedure of nature in slow motion, as the Moon starts to consume the surface of the Sun, in a disk like shape, eliminating the light from Earth. The Moon’s progress over the Sun will take over an hour. The totality of the eclipse lasts for a number of minutes and during this period temperatures may drop by 3 to 5 degrees C. As the orbit continues the reverse happens as the Moon moves away from the path. 

In ancient Mythology, the Druids believed that the eclipses happened when the Sun was locked in a battle with the spirits of Darkness. Other theories were that Celestial beings were trying to destroy the Sun. The truth is the harmony and well-being of the Earth relies on the Sun and the Moon. We see the influence that the Sun has on the Earth, the Moon has its effect on the Ocean’s tides, the Moon’s gravitational pull causes the oceans to bulge on the side closest to the Moon, giving us high tide and causing low tide on the side opposite to the Moon.

There has been a sizeable increase in the population of the world in the last century, each of us are having an effect on the climate and the temperature of the planet, by our actions or lack of same but none of us can deny the responsibility we have in the preservation of this beautiful world. For generations coming after us, ad infinitum, let’s hope that they can have the enjoyment of experiencing the wonders of the universe.







New Zealand/Australia
Entry By: 
Joe F.

New Zealand is one of the youngest countries in terms of its human history. It was the last large and livable place in the world to be discovered. The Māori people that were first to populate these islands came from the Polynesian islands in the Pacific Ocean. 

The Māori’s or Kiwi’s as they are known, are rich in history and a mainly oral culture, and the myths and legends of this indigenous race have been what the children of the upcoming generations hear as part of their education. 

The Māori’s were seafaring people, passionate about sailing or canoeing. Back when Europeans thought they’d fall off the edge of the world, if they went too far, these people set off in their waka (canoe) exploring the ocean and seas. The ancient mariners had passed down their skills of reading the stars and judging distances and directions, Sirius is the most prominent star in the southern hemisphere, the ocean currents were what today’s highway would have been. Stories are told of sea creatures and phantom ships that guided sailors home; Seals that had taken on human form to marry a sailor that they fell in love with and then on stormy seas or winter gales when the sailors were in fear of losing their lives, their wives would return to the water to be with them, saving them or dying with them.

In sporting circles in New Zealand the world revolves around rugby, The All-Blacks are the National Rugby team. On the day of a game there is a wonderful array of colours, pomp and passion displayed by the visiting and home supporters, crowds are gathered at the venues long before the game and the atmosphere is palpable. The stadium is tense prior to the start. Instead of the National Anthem being played and sung the All-Blacks perform the Haka (a war dance). This is an old Māori custom that used to be performed going into battle. When facing a powerful united team, with them stamping their feet, shouting words of war and angry fists and arms depicting their intentions, the hope is that it would raise the hair on the heads of the opposing team. That alone might unsettle them and it could be worth a few points on the scoreboard.

Cruising the North island, you’ll see Auckland port, a harbour with an impressive amount of yachts and boats. See the whales and dolphins through a transparent sea of blue waters. Enjoy the cuisine along the seafronts. Tongariro and Napier are towns hugging the coast as you make your way into Wellington. The city of Wellington is the capital. Visit the parliament building, the museums, galleries and so much more. It’s also a busy seaport with fishing vessels, and ferry boats. 
The South Island has a great selection for the tourists. The simple port of Picton is where the ferry service boats dock when arriving from the north island. Places to visit: Christchurch, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt. Cook National Park, Franz Josef Glacier, Dunedin on the very south of the South Island has its Penguin colonies and the Royal Albatross plus Emerson’s Brewery tour.
One of the renowned citizens of New Zealand is the late Sir Edmund Hillary. Born in Auckland in 1919, he had a keen interest in mountaineering from an early age. He achieved notoriety by becoming the first man to climb Mount Everest, in 1953, with one of the Sherpa support team, Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese-Indian mountaineer. Hillary was knighted that same year by Queen Elizabeth II. Edmund reached the Antarctic and the South Pole in 1958. This is truly a remarkable story, Hillary and his crew were part of a large group of a Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE). Accompanying the expedition were scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and geologists. Hillary and his four man team set out for the Pole on three modified Massey Ferguson tractors, using half and full wheel tracks to drive through the snow and crevasses. As well as the tractors they had four sets of dog teams. The mission of this team was to leave food, fuel and other provisions at depots along the way. The team were making steady progress even though Hillary was not to go too far ahead of the main party. As they got closer to their end goal he ignored orders and continued to the South Pole. Read Hillary’s book ‘Nothing venture, nothing win’. With Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, in 1969. Sir Edmund Hillary flew to the North Pole in 1985, becoming the first man ever to complete the three Pole Challenge, the North Pole, the South Pole and the Summit of Mount Everest. It’s a challenge in modern times for many people to achieve.
New Zealand and Australia are still part of the British Commonwealth. Their armies were called upon during WWI, their troops landed on the shores of Gallipoli in Turkey in June 1915, their steadfastness, courage, bravery and humanity are considered outstanding in the annals of the 1914-18 war.
The island of Tasmania lies about 250 kilometres south of Australia. It was discovered by Abel Tasman in 1642, he named the island Van Diemen’s Land, after the Dutch governor who had sponsored the expedition. In 1769 Captain Cook of Great Britain mapped and claimed the island for His Majesty King George III. He renamed it Tasmania. The island was set up as a penal colony in the late 1700s. Convicted prisoners were deported from Britain and Ireland with guardsmen to hold them in a stockade. Female prisoners were also shipped to Tasmania. This was an exercise in populating the island. The island is ruled by Australia.
Settlements started to be developed. Hobart is the capital and largest town. Since about 1810 agricultural development projects were promoted, religious communities grew, a school was opened, a flower mill, a brewery, a post office and horse racing tracks. The population is just in excess of 500,000 people and the size is 85,000 sq. kilometres. There are about 2.5 million sheep that contributes to Tasmanian exports.
Captain William Bligh, he of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame, arrived on the island in 1809 after being removed as governor of New South Wales in Australia, his hope was of getting the governorship there. He didn’t, he had overstayed his welcome in Australia.
The Talbot family, whose roots go back to the French Norman invasion of England, which occurred in 1066, arrived in Ireland in 1171. They were granted a sizeably estate of land outside of Dublin in Malahide. A castle that was the family home of the Talbot’s still stands there today. It’s owned and operated by the Irish Tourist Board and is open to the public as a tourist attraction. The Talbot family survived on the estate until 1973 when the last member the Honourable Milo George Talbot died without an heir. However, back in 1821 William Talbot of Malahide, Ireland was granted 3,000 acres of land in Tasmania by the British government where he developed a sheep station and extended the farm to 8,500 acres. He named the estate Malahide, Rose Talbot inherited the property. She had never married. Her cousin, one Richard Talbot inherited the property in Tasmania after her death in 2009. To this day, the estate is still owned by a member of the Talbot family.
Onto Australia for the 3rd part of the cruise. Australia and Tasmania are members of the British commonwealth. Dutch explorers had arrived in Australia as early as the 1600 and they named the landmass New Holland.
Captain James Cook led the British expedition in 1770 and was first to map the eastern coastline of Australia and claim the continent as part of the British Empire. Looking at maps of the seas around the continent we recognize from their names of all the explorers who have been there, the Torres Strait, Bass, Cook, Cape York, New Caledonia and so on. 
Botany Bay in Australia, where James Cook first landed, was set up as a penal colony and a naval base for the British fleet. Botany Bay was later renamed Sydney. Not all the ships carried convicts. There were free men and women, retired army and sailor personnel as well as adventurous tradespeople. William and Mary Bryant, two convicts who were on one of the ships of the first fleet, the ‘Charlotte’, had met on board and married shortly after arriving in Sydney. The journey from England to Sydney usually took over eight months. After WWII the Australian government needed to expand the population of the country, the £10.00 fare, which was the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme that was introduced to attract immigrants from Britain. This scheme lasted until the mid 1970s. During the period that the £10.00 fare lasted it’s estimated that 1.5 million British people would have travelled to Australia, a number of these were from Commonwealth countries. 
The coastal cities and destinations that you can visit on a cruise would include Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and Brisbane, national parks and the Great Barrier Reef, that’s now a UNESCO heritage site. 
With a total number of 75 million sheep the export of meat and wool is of enormous importance to the country. Border control at airports and seaports are extremely thorough.
The population of Australia is 26 million people, it’s small in comparison to its size. The main employment is in, oil and gas exploration, mining of different minerals, finance, timber products i.e wood-pulp and lumber, chemicals, imports and exports, education and taxation. 

St. Patricks Day

Entry By: 
Joe F.

The 17th March is the feast day of St. Patrick, the Patron saint of Ireland. It’s celebrated all over the world wherever an Irish person has ever set foot. Some would have had no choice in the destination they ended up in. In the 1600 and 1700s deportation out of Ireland during the white slave trade had males and females sent to Barbados, Montserrat (known as the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’), Jamaica, the British West Indies, and the Leeward Islands.


Australia was another penal colony during the early 1800s. Some of those felons were indentured slaves, these were immigrants that bartered their trip with a guarantee to work for a certain length of time. Others were criminals who had to spend years of hard labour working there.

Once upon a time it was a disgrace to be considered a relation of a deportee that had ended up in Australia, nowadays there are those that consider it as a badge of honour. Songs of the ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ and films about ‘Ned Kelly’ are sung to rapturous applause. Watch the all-day celebrations, ‘Down Under, Matey’. 

The largest parade is in Dublin City with a four-day festival for the occasion. Parades in every city, town, and village, marching bands, from all over Europe, North America and Canada, sporting events such as rugby, football, hurling, horse racing, and athletics. 

Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland in 432, introducing Christianity to a pagan race of people. Patrick had come from what is now Wales in the United Kingdom. The Roman Empire had spread to England and Wales in the first century. With the Romans came learning, we know that Patrick had a certain ability to read and write, so he started to preach Christianity. Very shortly he had a number of followers. Through his teachings and the establishment of a church in Saul, Co. Down, Ireland was to become recognized as the birthplace of Christianity in western Europe.

For Saint Patrick’s day join in the celebrations, wherever you may be, with music, songs, dancing, storytelling and parades. Let the woes of the world, the financial strains or worries of living, the turmoil and uncertainty of tomorrow be eliminated from our minds for this day. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you all.



Planes, Boats and Trains

Norway and Finland
Entry By: 
Joe F.

Let me introduce you to a trip of intrigue, enjoyment, colour and sheer beauty. You won’t regret it or forget it. Come fly with me, come fly, let’s fly away, in the words of ‘Frank Sinatra. On the opening day of your vacation you’ll arrive in Helsinki, Finland, the most northern capital city in Europe. Staying at a hotel in the city centre.


The following day experience a guided coach tour of the city with its outstanding architecture and attractions. It has been described as the most beautiful of small capitals worldwide with the relaxed atmosphere, the Bohemian nightlife, an array of second hand shops and the friendly characters you meet.

A train journey takes us to Rovaniemi in Lapland, the home of Santa Claus, on the way you’ll see the hundreds of reindeer in the farms. After seeing the old guy with his white beard you get your photo taken in the workshop.

With all of this snow we wonder how people get around, the answer is simple when you visit the husky safari and enjoy a sleigh ride. These dogs are amazing, their strength, determination and discipline leaves one with the utmost admiration for them and their handlers. Meet the local Sami people of Lapland and spend some time listening to their stories of Northern Europe.

Crossing the border into Norway and arriving in Kirkenes, a coastal town on the Barents Sea, one of the most important ports for harvesting king crabs. The town is 400 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and it’s reputed for being the best place to view the Aurora Borealis. The Snow Hotel is home for the night.

The train and coach transport has ended for now. The cruise begins in the Arctic Circle, sailing along the northern coast and stopping at the port of Vardo, other fishing ports are Batsfjord and Berlevag. A trip on a snowmobile under the northern lights, stopping at Honningsvag the most northern town in mainland Europe at 71 degrees north latitude. Breathtaking. Rounding the coast the cruise liner heads south. Looking at the fjords and glaciers, the mountains and waterfalls, one thinks of the Vikings and their long boats that left these shores to travel to God knows where. Remembering Roald Amundsen the first man to set foot on the South Pole with his team of four others in 1911.

Crossing the Arctic Circle, the density of population is increasing, towns are bigger, the economy has improved due mainly to the North Sea Oil and Gas fields. Over 60% of Norway’s landmass is afforestation, 90% of housing is timber framed. Arriving in the town of Kristiansten visit ‘The Wooden City’, history museum, it’s also known as ‘The Dried Cod Capital’ of the world, with almost 100% going for export. The fishing boats and processing facilities are so impressive.

Cruising into the city of Bergen at the end of this section of the trip we disembark with our luggage. There’s a coach tour of the city and then to the hotel. 

Morning call for breakfast and another day’s travelling. Boarding a coach to the village of Flam, transported 3,000 feet up to the train station, we pass a small hydroelectric power plant that runs the train to Norway’s capital Oslo. This is described as the world’s most scenic rail journey.

The final day of your vacation is spent in Oslo, touring the city by coach, and enjoying some free time to browse. Join the friends you have made throughout the journey for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant, sharing memories and laughter. Of course exchanging emails, addresses and phone numbers.

We bid a fond farewell to Finland and Norway. To a trip that one will never forget.

Contact Further Afield Travel and Tours for details.