Friday, March 31, 2006

Giza pyramids on camel

I spent the day on a camel tour @Giza pyramids. Got a lot of photos, incl sunrise from a rooftop. Went inside the pyramid (incredibly humid) & saw the tomb. Did some QTVR panoramas. Went up a hill, & got some long distance view of pyramids. Late in the day there was a sandstorm & rain! Got sick, because of lack of water/food. Sunset pic opportunities was nil (because of rain), & headed back to hotel for rest. I leave for all night bus-trip to Dahab in 20 min.

Monday, March 27, 2006

10am Mar 27, weather update

Univ of Athens prediction for Mar 27 (12:00 UTC, 2pm local time), clear skies. The low-pressure system moves on east.

Univ of Athens prediction for Mar 28 (12:00 UTC, 2pm local time), clear skies. The low-pressure system moves on east.

No prediction yet for Mar 29 (12:00 UTC, 2pm local time)..too far in advance.

signs of clearing @10:48am

I am feeling better about our weather prospects for Eclipse-day.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Raining on Mar 27 (morning), what!?

A steady rain greeted me, as I woke up @9am. Hmm..this is not good for my stress levels. 1st, a fairly significant car problem. 2nd, issues with lack of freedom-of-movement for our 4x4 (can't offroad south of Sallum near Egypt/Libya border). 3rd, weather issues. Rain is NOT a welcome sight near eclipse-day! However, see previous post for clear sky prediction (Univ of Athens) for Wed/Mar 29. This Low pressure area should give way to dual High-Pressure areas (sandwiching Sallum)

In the background of pic, is the Libyan Plateau (where many observation areas are setup, incl Scientist-Area). The plateau goes all the way to the Mediterranean.

I didn't expect our 4x4 scout turn into mud-bogging!!

everyone is excited about blogging pictures of themselves to the Internet

Blogging over breakfast @Sallum

Blogging from Sallum/Egypt

Blogging setup from house (Awaad's brother), using dialup connection. Had to bring in car-battery + Radio Shack inverter to power Powerbook. The 220VAC -> 120VAC adapter blew up in Marsa-Matrouh

Blogging & Sleeping.

Uploading multiple large files (video especially!) takes a long time, so I take a nap in between. Wakeup an hour later, & wrapup upload. I'm posting @5:43am, & have been up for 2hrs trying to get latest weather report. Looks good for Wednesday (Mar 29) E-Day, for 12:00 UT (about time of eclipse). No clouds expected, & high-pressure area dominant.

Here's what I expected:

1) freedom of movement (using 4x4) south of Sallum
2) difficult Internet access (if at all)

The exact OPPOSITE happened: almost no movement allowed south of Sallum (because of Egyptian military presence on Libya/Egypt border), & GREAT Internet access!

Dang, a eclipse LiveWebCast could be done from Awaad's brothers house! I probably come back to house after eclipse, & upload a few eclipse pictures before I head back to Cairo.

UPDATE: weather situation @5am local-time (Mar 27)

weather front @2am local-time, note "L 1014" (2nd one from top, right-side) planted over Libya/Egypt border

MeteoFrance satellite-image @1am local-time, note clouds over Egypt/Libya border

Univ of Athens prediction for Mar 29 12:00 UT (2pm local-time), no clouds on Libya/Egypt border. note 2 high-pressure areas sandwiching Libya/Egypt border.

I guess there is some cause for optimism.

"Forecast is what you expect, Weather is what you get"

We will see what happens on E-day, on March 29 (around noon local time for eclipse)

weather update for March 29, itinerary for March 30

Low-pressure area, causing the cloud-cover

uh-oh.., pessimistic weather prediction for Wed (Mar 29), eclipse-day

A more optimistic weather prediction (Univ of Athens/Greece)..some hope.

A corresponding optimistic weather forecast, corresponding to above

We visited the (only) hotel in Sallum, & discovered Dr. Serge Koutchmy had been in on Fri (March 24) inquiring about a place to store his telescope equipment. He is staying in Sidi Barani. As I was leaving, I was called over by a person (teacher of Arabic) who gave me directions to the high-school where Dr. Koutchmy will be observing eclipse. We plan to visit tomorrow, to exchange information/strategy on eclipse.

We had extensive discussion on itinerary for Monday (March 27):

- military presence on border, rules out any 4x4'ing recon missions near Libya/Egypt border (south of Sallum)
- trying for various places south of Sallum: last house, at base of "cliff" (Libyan Plateau)
- south & southwest of Bugbuq
- two hills in southern Sallum
- scientist-area on Libyan Plateau west of Sallum

getting permits for Sallum, relaxing over dinner

making copies of passport & letter (Dr. Hady/Cairo University)

chill out after busy day, having dinner

"King's Meal", typical Egyptian cuisine. Green beans, lamb's meat, leaf dip, et al

hand-wash after meal

Bedouin contact in Sallum, place to stay & recon mission

Awaad Elmebedy ("big chief" of Bedouin in Sallum) is Omar's contact. We will stay with him overnight, & go reconnaissance for eclipse campsite tomorrow

Omar "taking care of business" at work..

meeting @guest-room

Mekyed & son

discussing eclipse plans: visit scientist-area on Plateau (west of Sallum), find Dr. Serge Koutchmy (IAP/Paris) & his observation site in school

Leaving Marsa-Matrouh, driving to Sallum

Omar driving

hint of clouds to the west..trouble!

uh-oh..more clouds!

Magellan GPS (Sport Track) & Nokia cellphone, prepared for 4x4'ing to look for isolated campsite. We want a perfect eclipse-site in the outback.

Leaving Marsa-Matrouh, Toyota Landcruiser fixed

Eating just before leaving, Toyota Landcruiser is fixed

solar eclipse flyer for Sallum/Egypt

Awad (Omar's ex-Navy friend, who arranged condo reservation in Marsa-Matrouh)

early Sunday morning (Mar 26) in Marsa-Matrouch

early Sunday morning in fruit-stand in Marsa-Matrouh

restaurant next to condo, I ordered beans in a Pita..GREAT! Reminds me of Baja Mexico & Mexican food.

Omar eating breakfast @restaurant

Blogging from Marsa-Matrouh

Blogging over dial-up connection in condominium (Marsa-Matrouh). Omar's old Navy friend knows the owner of the condo, which gave us the reservation. Unfortunately, the 220VAC -> 120 VAC converter bought @Radio Shack (Alexandria) was rated only for 20W, & it blew up! (the laptop accessory uses 70W). So, my blog only lasted 30 min.

Unfortunately, the car was being stored at Omar's friends house, so I couldn't pull out the spare-battery & use the inverter (12VDC -> 120VAC). Next morning, we did this (while Toyota Landcruiser is being fixed), which is how I'm blogging now..

Toyota Landcruiser prior to be taken to repair shop

"equipment malfunction" 80 clicks out of Alexandria

vibration noticed, thought it was a out-of-balance tire. All of a sudden, it got real bad & we had to pull off to the shoulder. Was sure it was a flat tire. Lo & flat tire! Omar removed left-front tire, to discover above. The caliper had been forced into backing-plate, causing the vibration. (inside of rim gouged the caliper, the caiper's secondary brake line had separated, causing a brake-fluid leak).

We discovered 1 of the 2 bolts holding the caliper onto the hub was missing, the other one was barely attached. We surmised that these 2 bolts were not tightened sufficiently at last check-up, & the caliper had worked itself loose to cause above condition.

Omar made a series of calls to his friends in Alexandria, & 2 teams of mechanics were summoned.

The 1st group arrive to dismantle the damaged parts.

The 2nd group of mechanics had spare parts: new backing-plate, new bearings (upper & lower), new caliper. The upper-bearing was damaged (tons of play) & had to be replaced. Unfortunately, the bolts to attached the caliper didn't work, so we plugged the brake-line & limped to Marsa-Matrouh on just right-front brakes. It was nightfall (~8pm) when everything was finished.

The plan is to get final fix in Marsa Matrouh (which is happening as I blog from the condominium, Omar & friend are doing it right now)

pre-trip preparation

Getting fuel-injectors checked out on machine, a friend at the shop..

Getting battery to power eclipse equipment.

arrival @ Cairo Int'l airport, @Alexandria, & shopping

arrival @Cairo Int'l Airport, the Magy Hotel staff member moving my 3 cases of equipment (70 lbs each), plus 2 other carryon bags.

arrival in Alexandria, on 1st class train (excellent service & food). Going to meet Omar Mansour, my 4x4 operator/guide to Sallum.

Omar Mansour @mall, we are getting supplies (food, blankets, etc) for our camping trip to Sallum