The flight home was about the only uneventful part of the journey. Two days ago, facing the Giza Pyramids, I couldn’t bring myself to understand, to appreciate, what it means for this journey to have come to an end. Back in South Africa – exhausted – I couldn’t help myself skimming some of the photographs, some of the writing lying in my unpacked bag. Slowly, I am starting to feel the ending.

It was Friday morning when I was in the desert. It was cold. The dust  kicked up overnight covering Cairo and much of the pyramids in what looked like a dirty fog. I was on a horse – called Black Tiger. Seriously. Plodding over the sand, the morning sun started to burn through the dust as it rose, until the pyramids came into view. They looked something like this.

Pyramids at Giza

The pyramids at Giza. A fitting end to the longest dream of my life.

Two days later, and I am home. Back in the shell of the house I left almost two months ago to start what feels like the longest dream of my life. I’m too tired to feel the disconnection yet. Awake enough to fear going to sleep. To fear the end of the last day of traveling. The best answer that my tired brain can produce to the question of “how was it?” is to try and imagine living what feels like a decade worth of places, discoveries and learning. Then returning and discovering you have only been gone a tiny fraction of that time. It’s like that. Narnia – only real.

It’s like that. Narnia – only real.

I am quite sure that nostalgic pining will come soon. Like a demon in the photographs, the little postcard, the journals. Lurking in every rich piece of evidence that it actually happened. Tonight it waits in the wings, knowing it will have its chance in time. That there will be a wistful smile waiting for it soon – one which will last as long as my memory does.

But tonight is a bittersweet quiet – the kind you get when you remember lost love. Smiling at what it was. And smiling in the memory that you were a part of it. Reflection can come later. The bittersweet quiet comes first.

Light on Heiroglyphics

Like Narnia. Only real.

Categories: Africa, Cape to Cairo, Egypt, Travel
  • Janine

    Glad to hear you have made it safely home. :)

  • Thanks for sharing the journey with us. I understand completely what you have said about it feeling “like Narnia, only real.” I felt the same way when I visited Tanzania. It was only just 16 days, but it feels like a lifetime of experience wrapped up in that small amount of time. The world I returned to was eerily similar. All that had just happened in my world was completely and totally ignored in the larger world. How could those 18 days that meant so much to me have past so unremarkably to everyone else? I’ve always struggled to explain the feeling to others. “Like Narnia” is an excellent description for that feeling!

  • Francois van Dyk

    Thank you! I was lucky enough to stumble accross your site just as you started your jouney and have followed your progress with great interest! Very enlightening!

  • Well done Richard! It’s been fantastic reading your blog posts! I will not rest until I have had this experience too.

    Would love for you to share your story at New Ideas for Africa. Let’s have a meet up once you’ve re-integrated into society. As if that’s possible!

  • Welcome home. Wherever that may be.

    And the journey is still on. Just the physical part is over. Can’t wait to hear the rest.

  • All good things come to an end eventually, Love the pyramid photo.

  • What an incredible trip! I’m looking forward to the writing to come…

  • Karen Naidoo

    Hey Richard,

    Thank you for a great blog … Cape to Cairo is a dream of mine and through your blog I have vicariously lived my dream – I will be doing the trip in 2011. Your blog will be a great guide in my planning. Congratulations and welcome home …

  • @Greg: Absolutely – I think it’s impossible to really explain the size of the thing in your life to people who ask on your return. It feels, though, as if it was a piece of life well spent whenever such a (relatively) short time stretches to accommodate so much. It reminds me how much I am actually capable of doing and learning.

    @Francois: Thanks! I hope that what I can put into words and the occasional picture had some of the same magical effect as the journey itself. Except for the lorry ride – I wouldn’t wish that on anyone :)

    @Lesley: You absolutely must go. So much will change in your head in the course of traveling. I’d love to meet up some time. Though I’ll bein Grahamstown from Saturday for a bit, I should be up in Johannesburg in Feb and will definitely pester you to meet up.

    @Eileen: Thanks! When the man at South African immigration said “welcome home, countryman”, I just wanted to leap onto the counter and hug him. Unfortunately, they frown upon such behaviour in airports these days. I actually had some interesting good karma in the people who emailed, finding this blog from yours – and got you a present in Egypt to say thanks. But there is a blog post to be done on it first before it goes into the post :)

    @Rob: Those pyramids really are as big a deal as they make them out to be. Like full-size mountains.

    @Karin: I think life in Grahamstown and surrounds will be an interesting change from what I was doing in my day to day before leaving to go to Cairo. In a way, it’s a nice way to continue exploring – putting off the feeling of ‘returning’ in a way. I promise to keep up trying to get up to (and write about) interesting adventures along the way.

    @Karen: You must absolutely go in 2011. It will absolutely stretch your world in so many different ways. And (touch wood), is actually nothing as dangerous as it is hyped up to be. With some decent planning and a sense of humour, you will have an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. I hope you will share stories from your own journey when you go!

  • such fantastic photos you have shared with us! the hardest part of coming home is, indeed, re-acclimating to real life. and, taking your experiences, and figuring out who you are now. it’s a challenge – one that we’re lucky to have!

  • AI

    You are a wonderful writer. I am nostalgic for Egypt and I haven’t even visited that part of the world. Keep writing. Thanks very much.

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