Tag Archives: Nile River

From the Nile River in Africa to the Derwent River in Australia

The Nile River in Africa and the Derwent River in Tasmania Australia.  On two different sides of the world.

Q.     What connects these two rivers?       A.     Agatha Christie

You gasp.

In 1922, the now-world renowned detective fiction novelist Agatha Christie took herself on a ten-month Grand Tour of the British empire, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Previously she had spent time in Egypt with her mother in 1910. Her travels helped flesh out details for many of her ‘who-done-it’ mysteries.

For those of my blog followers who have not been devotees of Hercule Poirot, I recommend you read Agatha Christie’s story of Death on the Nile written in 1937, visit the theatre to see Murder on the Nile the 1944 play based on the novel, or watch anyone of the many films that have been produced based on this story. I would be surprised if you cannot access something on the internet.

The correspondence of her travels has been collated into the publication The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery.

 Grand Tour Agatha Christie bookcover

In this book we can read “From Australia we went to Tasmania, driving from Launceston to Hobart. Incredibly beautiful Hobart, with its deep blue sea and harbour, and its flowers, trees and shrubs. I planned to come back and live there one day. From Hobart we went to New Zealand.” Agatha Christie is, of course, referring to the expansive harbour on the sea end of Tasmania’s Derwent River.  She was also making a typical mistake that some mainlanders and most international tourists make. Tasmania is still part of Australia, even though it is a large island to the south.  So, when she left Sydney New South Wales Australia, I suspect Agatha sailed into Launceston Tasmania Australia.

A book reviewer at http://www.amazon.com/The-Grand-Tour-Around-Mystery/dp/006219125X: remarked “The Grand Tour is a fascinating collection of never before published letters and photographs detailing Christie’s travels around the British Empire in 1922. Most of the letters were sent to her mother and included photos taken with Christie’s own camera as well as newspaper clippings and various memorabilia. This collection is an insight into the thoughts and mind of a young Agatha Christie who had just published two novels and would later become the most widely published author of all time. She and her husband, Archie, embarked on a year-long voyage as part of a promotional trade mission, so there was work involved as well as various obligations as they visited South Africa, New Zealand, Hawaii and Canada. Her letters to her mother were, of course, candid which for this reader greatly added to their charm. I especially enjoyed Christie’s slightly wicked sense of humour, such as when she describes a fellow passenger as “the only young thing on the ship, but although very pretty, is a terrible mutt.” Her observations of both people and places are acute and fascinating to read.  Mathew Prichard, Christie’s grandson, has done an excellent job of collecting, editing and introducing these letters. We are in his debt for The Grand Tour reminds us that Christie was not only an outstanding author but a remarkable woman as well.”

The back cover of the book records:

“In 1922 Agatha Christie set sail on a ten-month voyage around the world. Her husband, Archibald Christie, had been invited to join a trade mission to promote the British Empire Exhibition, and Christie was determined to go with him. It was a life-changing decision for the young novelist, a true voyage of discovery that would inspire her future writing for years to come.

Placing her two-year-old daughter in the care of her sister, Christie set sail at the end of January and did not return home until December. Throughout her journey, she kept up a detailed weekly correspondence with her mother, describing the exotic places and the remarkable people she encountered as the mission travelled through South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Canada. Reproduced here for the first time, the letters are full of tales of seasickness and sunburn, motor trips and surfboarding, glamor and misery. The Grand Tour also brings to life the places and people Christie encountered through the photos she took on her portable camera, as well as some of the original postcards, newspaper cuttings, and memorabilia she collected on her trip.

Edited and introduced by Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, and accompanied by reminiscences from her own autobiography, this unique travelogue reveals a new adventurous side to Agatha Christie, one that would ultimately influence the stories that made her a household name.”

Walking the Nile River in Africa

Overseas followers of my blog may have already seen the four part series documenting a recent walk from the source to the mouth of the Nile River – I can see on the internet it was screened in some countries earlier this year.

This Thursday on WIN TV around Australia, the first hour will be screened from 8.30pm (Eastern Standard Time).  How thrilling!  What a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in such a journey albeit from the comfort of my couch.

Former British soldier, journalist and now explorer, Levison Wood started out in the African country of Rwanda and walked northwards through 5 other countries until he reached the Mediterranean at the northern edge of Egypt. This epic journey covering upwards of 4000 miles, took about 9 months after starting in December 2013 and finishing later last year.  Lev Wood has written a book of these travels.

Levison Wood Walking the Nile book cover

Websites including http://www.levisonwood.com/, https://twitter.com/walkingthenile; and https://www.facebook.com/WalkingTheNile provide additional information about this extraordinary achievement. Isn’t it marvellous that in this day and age, people can still undertake ‘pioneering firsts’ on this planet? “Everything” hasn’t been done already.

Australians, I urge you to join me on the couch this Thursday night to begin to see the challenges faced by this inspirational walker.

On a camel, then on two different sailing boats, followed by a 900 mile walk

Here is a little light relief with a piece of history which has nothing to do with my walk along the Derwent River. Blog follower Jo alerted me to the story of Zarafa. Have you heard the story of Zarafa?

In the early 1800s exotic animals from Africa and beyond were still sensational to the inhabitants of Europe so, over time, various animals were transported thousands of miles from their home territory to amaze strangers and for political purposes.

The giraffe Zarafa, when gifted to King Charles X of France in 1826 in 1826, became an international sensation in consequence of the challenges faced in her travels.  Zarafa’s journey started in the country of the Masai when she was loaded onto the back of a camel. On reaching the Nile River, she boarded a sailing vessel and travelled northwards to Alexandria. From here she was moved onto a larger boat, with a hole cut in the deck so her head could lift up and out, and sailed for 32 days across the Mediterranean to France. Finally she led by a man in a long walk from Marseilles to Paris over 41 days, and by all accounts she became healthier and more robust with each step.  Fed with the milk of three accompanying cows, Zarafa was considerably taller at the end of her journey.

You can read more at:

Apparently, Zarafa’s stuffed remains can be viewed in France at the La Rochelle museum. I would be interested to hear comments from any blog follower or other reader who has visited this museum and the remains of this giraffe.

Fashion progressed (or suffered) as a result of Zarafa’s arrival.  Apparently Parisienne woman piled their hair so high they needed to sit on the floor of their carriages, and men wore elongated hats and ties as the new trend of ‘a la girafe’ emerged.

Rosetta on the Derwent River

My next walk along the Derwent River will start half way through Berriedale and pass by the suburb of Rosetta before moving onto others. I have tried to discover how Rosetta came to be named and, while I learned a little of its history, I am not certain why it was given this name.  However, I believe that our local suburb of Rosetta is indirectly named after an Egyptian town.

I suspect it all started around the time when the internationally known Rosetta Stone was found in 1799 (note: the first European settlement along our Derwent River started in 1803).  The Rosetta Stone was found by French soldiers, (under Napoleon Bonaparte’s command) who were rebuilding a fort in Egypt, in a small village called Rashid (but known as Rosetta by the Europeans).

Wikipedia offers the following information: “Rosetta (Arabic: رشيد‎ Rašīd IPA: [ɾɑˈʃiːd]; French: Rosette) is a port city on the Nile Delta in Egypt, located 65 km east of Alexandria. Both the Arabic name Rašīd (Interesting unrelated sideline is that Ar-Rašīd meaning “The Guide”, is one of the 99 names of Allah) and the western name Rosetta or Rosette (“little rose” in Italian and French respectively) are corruptions of a Coptic (language from the native Christians of Egypt) word, Rashit or Trashit.”  I can pronounce Trashit, Rashid and Rosette/Rosetta so that they sound similar. Can you?

Read http://www.touregypt.net/rashid.htm#ixzz3NvMb6Iyk for more information about the town of Rashid. Apparently the highly green Egyptian town on the Nile River was typically tranquil with vast gardens, orchards and date-palm plantations, in addition to a multitude of beautiful historical houses, inns and mosques adorned with exquisite decorative inscriptions and woodworks. The town was known as the ‘Rose of the Nile’ by Europeans. I guess the name Rosetta was given to our suburb for the underlying European meaning of rose; a thing of beauty.  Hobart’s Rosetta is located on the southern side of Tasmania’s major river in a beautiful setting within the City of Glenorchy as part of the Greater Hobart Area.  However it is neither a city nor a port.

In 1807 as part of the Alexandria/Fraser expedition to Rosetta in Egypt, British forces led one group of local inhabitants in a civil war against another group led by a local leader.  Britain’s intention was to break the Ottoman-French alliance. As a result, in the first decade of the 1800s, I suggest that Egypt would have been highly visible in English news and the battles would have been known in the colonies.

Irene Schaffer, a Rosetta resident and local researcher offers historical information about the original settlement at http://www.tasfamily.net.au/~schafferi/index.php?file=kop79.php. John Berrisford and wife arrived in Australia from England on the First Fleet in 1788. Then, in 1808 John and his family sailed to Hobart Town. In subsequent years, they settled along the Derwent River in the area now known as Berriedale Bay and which extended to the south-east past Rosetta High School, and they built Rosetta Cottage (later renamed Undine Inn). 140 acres of land, now part of our suburb of Rosetta, was granted by NSW’s Governor King to John Berrisford in 1813.

My last walk along the Derwent River finished at MONA a little to the north of Rosetta. My next walk will start by passing Berriedale Bay. I look forward to seeing the old house – albeit with extensions and renovations since John Berrisford was alive. A photograph of this property, now known as the Rosetta Colonial Accommodation, can be seen at http://firstfleetfellowship.org.au/stories/john-hannah-beresford/. This website also provides more detail about the Berrisford family and their history.

Perhaps, through news from England, John Berrisford heard that Rosetta was the ‘Rose of the Nile’ and, in believing the British intrusion into Egypt was glorious, named his house as a show of support.

As a contrast from the historical background, I have located a contemporary profile for Rosetta. The population is 2567, the median household weekly income is $1050, the median age of residents is 45 years, the average household size is 2.4, almost 60% are married or in a de facto relationship, almost 40% are either under 5 years of age or over 64 years of age, weekly rent is $340, and the median house price is $319,455.