Blog hiatus officially over!

Apologies to followers of the blog for the lack of posts, but I promise there has been a good reason for it!

For the past two weeks, I have been road-tripping around my home country, Canada, starting in Halifax, Nova Scotia and ending in Ottawa, Ontario (with a quick loop via Toronto and Niagara Falls thrown in for good measure!) It’s always a great feeling to go back home, and it was even better to be able to show my friends around some truly beautiful parts of the country. The weather was hot but not too hot – we missed the 45C heatwave, thank god! – and we covered about 4,400km in total.

But enough from me – how about some pictures, I hear you ask? Take a look…

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Travel round-up… and all that fantasy authors have to live up to.

Well, the trip is over and I’m finally home after a quick pitstop in Vienna. Already I’ve had one day at work and it hardly feels like I’ve been gone at all!¬†Oh yes, except when I came back after work and sorted through all 1,500 photos (just that many?)… it’s been an unbelievable experience, and I can’t recommend Oasis Overland highly enough. We saw loads but barely had to make a single decision – which made it incredibly relaxing too. The pace was great, and we never felt rushed through a site (or, for that matter, bored of one!)

Highlights?

  • Camel ride to the Pyramids of Giza
  • Abu Simbel
  • Haggling the markets of Aswan
  • Hot-air ballooning over Luxor
  • Tomb of Rameses VI in the Valley of the Kings
  • My quattro stagioni birthday cake in Hurghada
  • Breakfast at Shams in Dahab
  • Night Dive bioluminesence
  • Wadi Rum scenery
  • That first glimpse of the Treasury in Petra

Egypt and Jordan are both destinations that have been high on the ‘to visit’ list for quite some time, but that desire became even more heightened after selling The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. I’ve got a few videos coming up (probably over next week) that will tell you exactly why these far-flung destinations mean so much to the book.

But even more than being just ‘inspiration’, being privileged enough to actually visit these sights and not just stare wistfully at other people’s travel blogs has been a humbling experience. As an avid reader of fantasy, I’m used to being swept away to exotic locations that I can never hope to visit. But the more I travel, the more I’ve come to realize that, as fantasy authors have our work cut out for us trying to imagine anything more weird and wonderful than some of the locations that already exist on this planet.

But boy, do we have fun trying.

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Petra, city of wonders.

When we walked into Petra, our guide Ibrahim had only one comment: it’s totally empty. He recounted a story of being there in 2010 and barely being able to move through the Siq – the thin fissure in the rock which marks the entrance to the main city. Apart from camel drivers, donkey touts and another group of French tourists, it felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Which for us was, of course, fantastic.

I think the beauty of Petra is impossible to describe in words. Honestly, even photographs don’t do it justice. At one point in the Siq, our guide told us to stop and close our eyes. He then manoeuvred us 15 paces through the rock, positioned us in a line and made the big reveal. The first glimpse of The Treasury peeking through the rock, the contrast between the natural and the ornate so extreme here.

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The Treasury is the Petra show stopper, and it also stands as a testament to what the mysterious Nabatean civilisation achieved: a blend of Egyptian, Roman, Greek and their own construction, a welcome touch of home for weary travellers and a great display of wealth for wily traders. That the Bedouins managed to keep the city so secret for so long adds to the wonder, of a city lost to time and to history.

Beyond the Treasury (once you can tear your eyes from it), the vastness of the city continues behind. I think this is what I didn’t expect of Petra – just how BIG it is. In all, with a big hike up to the Monastery area (another immense structure), we spent 10 hours exploring the site. By the end of it, as the sun was setting, we were all exhausted and awed. And even that felt like barely scratching the surface.

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Sadly, it’s now the end of the trip. We are currently in the Christian city of Madaba, having had a float on the Dead Sea, visited Mt Nebu, where Moses died, and St George’s Church, which contains one of the earliest examples of a map, in the form of a mosaic on the floor. Stunning.

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Goodbye Egypt, Hello Jordan!

Two days ago, we said goodbye to sunny Dahab, fully relaxed and newly qualified as Advanced divers.

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Yesterday was mostly spent travelling, as we took a circuitous route around the Gulf of Aqaba to avoid a potentially dodgy ferry ride across the Red Sea. That meant we spent a grand total of 15 minutes in Israel, but got us to Jordan without too many delays.

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After a delicious lunch in Aqaba, we had a quick explore of Aqaba castle, a peak at the world’s tallest flagpole and a half hour tour on a glass bottom boat. Lots of young boys were diving precariously into the harbour, dodging speedboats and larger yachts along the way.

From Aqaba it was a short drive to Wadi Rum, the magnificent desert home of the Bedouins. We stayed in a (not so) traditional Bedouin camp (complete with lovely flush toilets and shower facilities!), but the modern luxuries were a welcome sight for the majority of our group who have come down with some kind of Dahab belly. We stayed in goats hair tents and were treated to their traditional music though, which was both unique and magical.

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Up early to watch a misty sunrise, then we were whisked off on a desert safari. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me so far, as the scenery was so dramatic — truly breath taking.

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As if that wasn’t enough, we even got to walk in the path of Crusaders at Shoubak Castle and drink from a spring said to have been created from rock by Moses. We are now in Wadi Musa awaiting a day at Petra… And I for one cannot wait!!

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Dahab: ultimate relaxation

How to describe a place like Dahab? A diver’s paradise, seafood galore, meals on pillows surrounded by fairy lights, shisha smoking until dawn… It’s pretty blissful all round!

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Most of the days so far have been spent diving – both Lofty and I are completing our Advanced Divers course. We’ve seen the magnificent Blue Hole and the Canyon, two of the Red Sea’s best dives, with the help of our excellent instructor Ibrahim of Big Blue dive school.

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At night, it’s been seafood all the way. Dahab is a stunning town, with all the restaurants lining the waterfront and shops the other side. Here, unlike in Aswan or Luxor, there is very little hassle. Last night we celebrated the fourth (and final) birthday of the trip! We had the whole restaurant up and dancing, and the fun spilled out over onto the street. It was one of those perfect capsule evenings: great food, pretty lights, lots of dancing…

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And the best part is we get to do it all again tonight.

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