Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Winston Aldworth: A really bad image

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Travel Editor Winston Aldworth considers the true cost of a great photo.
People have been scrambling up the sides of the pyramids for centuries - but most of them didn't have iPhone 6s and Twitter accounts. Photo / Andrej Ciesielski / Caters News
People have been scrambling up the sides of the pyramids for centuries - but most of them didn't have iPhone 6s and Twitter accounts. Photo / Andrej Ciesielski / Caters News

There exists, somewhere, a photo of a certain Travel Editor - younger and drunker than the one pictured above - scaling the side of the Beehive in about 1994. He got a fair way up, though it couldn't be said he knocked the bastard off.

The intrepid explorer reached, perhaps, a third-floor balcony before lights flashed, sirens rang and he rapidly descended before disappearing into the night, sprinting alongside his boozed-up companions (one now a teacher, another a well-regarded surgeon and the other some sort of genius engineer).

Happily, these events occurred in an age when there was no such thing as Twitter, the invention of the selfie lay beyond the mettle of mortal man and a business called Instagram would reasonably be presumed to be a dodgy strip club delivering hot totty to your door.

In short, if those of us over 30 had the worst excesses of our youth published on social media, we'd be left with nothing to tut-tut about today.

Which is where Andrej Ciesielski enters the discussion. The 18-year-old from Munich scaled a 4500-year-old pyramid at Giza on the outskirts of Cairo in search of a great photo. Mate: Respect.

It's an eight-minute haul up the side of the pyramid and - as the cover of this week's Travel reveals - young Andrej has an eye for a great photo. Seriously, Dear Reader: How does your best holiday snap compare to his?

But there's a flipside to his impressive climb.

Egyptian authorities are understandably keen to avoid damage to their stunning pyramids and scaling one of the things can land you three years in prison. "I was told that I did risk prison," said Andrej. "Although on balance, I thought the photos would be worth it." He's since been banned from the country for life.

Of course, people have been scrambling up the sides of the pyramids for centuries - but most of them didn't have iPhone 6s and Twitter accounts.

Today, with our fancy cameras and alarming social-media connectivity, one man's plucky scramble can quickly become a generation's shame. Blokes like Andrej - whose chutzpah, frankly, I admire - could ruin things for the rest of us.

And it gives all travellers a bad image. Not only could an unofficial scramble up the side of an ancient pyramid genuinely damage the very things he's there to celebrate, but such oafish antics make local communities less likely to engage with visitors, less likely to share the coolest things about their culture and, regrettably, less likely to profit from the world's fastest-growing economic sector.

The Beehive doesn't compare with the pyramids of Giza (after all, the most far-fetched Egyptian reincarnation myths couldn't account for Judith Collins' return to Cabinet).

But, regardless, I won't be climbing back up there.

- NZ Herald

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Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

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