BootsnAll Travel Network



My blog about me...

I'm too cheap, too lazy, and FAR FAR too paranoid to bring a laptop to Africa with me. Fortunately, it appears that despite the fact there is utter poverty, lack of access to clean water, and a whole lot of civil strife -- there seems to be Internet access everywhere. Hence, this will be my major form of communication to family, friends, and nosy nellies. Plus, reading other people's travel blogs has helped me immensely know what to expect on my trip, hopefully this will do the same for others.

Ending the Blog

September 29th, 2007

Hi everyone,

I started this blog almost exactly six months ago. It has covered a few months of pre-trip planning and angst, my actual travel adventures, and then some post-mortem reviews. At this point, there isn’t much more to say, and I think it is time to bring closure to the write-up. I had marked October 1 as my “return to normal life” date, the day where I begin to actively job hunt, to work part-time for my former employer to support me while job-hunting, to begin a strict diet and exercise regime, to do all those new year’s resolutions we tell ourselves we will do, but quite often never get around to.

I had a fantastic time, and I encourage anyone who can make the time and apply the resources to have an adventure like this should do so. Don’t let age, gender, or financial state discourage you, I met people of all walks of life in all circumstances traveling and getting a new perspective on life. We only live once, what a shame to not see what the world has to offer!

For future travelers reading this blog, feel free to contact me through the blog and I’ll answer what questions I can, and feel free of course to contribute comments. For my fan base (and I am still shocked when my friends and family tell me how they actually regularly followed my adventures!), thanks so much for reading and commenting, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

-Snarky

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Post-Mortem on Packing

September 22nd, 2007

On June 11, a little over 3 months ago, I posted a blog entry of my packing list along with photos of what I was bringing with me. That post is thus far the most visited of the whole blog, by several percentage points (it gets linked to in a bunch of places). I’ve also gotten many comments that people have found that very helpful. But the true test, of course, is how well that list held up. Now that I am back I can give a faithful accounting of what worked and what didn’t.

Let me start by saying that I learned very quickly that I both hate and suck at doing laundry in a sink. Some people do laundry every night, I found that my clothes simply didn’t get clean enough (I also DON’T recommed Dr. Bonner’s Soap as detergent). I would generally find it far more worthwhile to pay a hotel or hostel to do my laundry for me, but you must swing it correctly such that you’re in one location long enough to have them do it and have it dry. In Uganda, it rained far too much so I mainly had them wash it, and if it looked like rain, I dried it inside my room. So having a clothesline is a necessity, even if you don’t plan much on doing your own undies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Photos — all trip photos and videos, actually

September 22nd, 2007

Snarky in Sahara Desert I know I should link these in to their appropriate posts, but I’m finding working on the blog to be more time-consuming than I can handle right now, what with running around the East Coast visiting newly acquired relatives and all. So, you can see links to the Morocco photos, in fact all the photos going part-way through Uganda at the first link below. After that, I link to the individual pages for the photos that are at kodakgallery. You’ll need to sign in to see them, sorry. The baby gorilla videos are really short because they eat up memory. Read the rest of this entry »

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Arriving Home and Happy to be Alive

September 22nd, 2007

The next morning everyone had flights around 10am except me, who flight was around 1:30. Nonetheless it felt better to travel in a group, as in addition to my backpack (now slimmed down to 20 lbs) I had a plastic tote bag that had about 26 lbs worth of presents and a carpet that was rather precariously taped up and its 1/4″ straps could readily slice through my shoulder muscles (I had a near decapitation incident when I tried putting the bag around my neck). We traveled en masse to the airport on the train, and made it through the bottleneck of security that had us waiting around for 45 minutes so 200 people could pass single file through a metal detector that I’m fairly certain wasn’t actually on, and then got to the terminal.

But, actually we got to A terminal, not THE terminal. Read the rest of this entry »

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Day 11: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…

September 22nd, 2007

We were out of Essaouira by 9:30 and I was feeling pretty gnarly. I think the damp-fishy-sewage smell that pervaded the city had finally taken its toll. My throat was raspy and I was completely nauseous, but by the time we were an hour outside of town back in the desert I was fine, so that was good news. Overall, on the entire trip, apart from the bad cold in Tanzania, I never got sick once. Not a single case of “traveller’s revenge” or the cold fed through the tour group, or any other physical indisposition. As one who usually gets sick at the drop of a hat, I was pretty astounded.

We drove to the Marrakesh airport to drop off two people, then stopped in Marrakesh for lunch, with everyone having strict orders they were not allowed to shop, wander or otherwise delay the group. Our biggest ‘delay-er’ had been one of the ones earlier dropped off, so we actually succeeded in this mission! A few people stayed behind in Marrakesh, and we made it to Casablanca (in our now nice-and-roomy van with the loss of so many bodies) by around 3pm. It was sad saying goodbye to so many people, but I think a lot of us were ready to move on. As this was the end of my whole African Adventure, I was particularly eager to get back to American normalcy. If I had had another country on my intinerary, I could have readily moved on to that and traveled on indefinitely, but once my mind had accepted I’d be going home soon, it was time to do so.

Those of us leaving the next day from Casablanca were almost all staying in the same grubby Ibis near the train station and that night we decided to see the one sight there is to see in Casablaca – Rick’s Cafe! Read the rest of this entry »

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Day 10: Shopping and Dining Essaouira

September 22nd, 2007

As I had a great night’s sleep (thank you ambien) and a whole day ahead of me that promised to not involve sitting in a van at all, I was very happy. The tour company had offered the option of wind surfing/kite surfing if it was windy that day or kayaking if it wasn’t. It wasn’t windy but only one person wanted to kayak. I think the rest wanted to vegetate and shop. Read the rest of this entry »

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Day 9: Having one of “those days”

September 22nd, 2007

Ok, in my defense, everyone on a tour has “those days”. As noted earlier, one thing I learned from the trip is that I am not one for long tours. I think a 5 day tour is about the maximum I can handle without some serious independent time. Various of my compatriots also had had “their days” during the trip, each at various times when things went awry. “These days” are those where happiness and civility are sometimes put aside in favor of being an overt unpleasant bitch.

For me, this was “my day,” as the itinerary called for us to go from the Atlas Mountains to Essaouira, which overall should be a few hours drive. We had breakfast in Armed at 8am. We arrived in Essaouira at 7pm. I was not a happy camper. Now, I should point out in defense of the tour company, many many people were happy with the day’s itinerary. I just wasn’t one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Day 8: Was this supposed to be an athletic trip?

September 22nd, 2007

The next morning those of us who didn’t go to to summit Mount Toubkal left Marrakesh to drive to the Atlas Mountains where we would meet up with those who did climb. After some time we arrive in the village of Imlil where the van can’t go any higher and we get out to walk the rest of the way to Armed Village (pronounced and sometimes spelled “Aramed”, not “armed” as in being in clover with much weaponry). And walk we did.

Back in my pre-trip days, when I was doing 4-6 mile hikes with my 30 lb bag to get in shape, this trek would probably not have caused me to break much sweat. As it was, I was afraid we’d need a defibulator by the time we were done with the 1 hour trek. I cannot believe how unbelievably bad shape I am now in. It’s a good thing I am unemployed as when I get back to LA I’m going to need to devote some serious time toward being able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Day 7: Intimate Details of the Hammam

September 17th, 2007

The next morning I sleep in and then do some minor wandering around the shopping stalls, not really buying anything, but looking around. Around 10 I go back to the carpet vendor and buy the last carpet (again, mucho fun).

After lunch I had my appointment at the Les Couleurs de l’Orient Hammam spa. As I consider myself somewhat of a spa connoiseur, I was really interested to see what a Moroccan spa was like. This was not an expensive spa, less than $45 for the hammam bath and the massage, but I was more interested in seeing the treatment than getting it at the poshest possible level. Hammam is just a general term for their baths, and most people use public hammams. I went to a private hammam which is geared for tourists, but I still felt it was a very interesting experience. For those not into getting the nitty gritty spa details, best move on to the next post. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Day 6: Let the Shopping Begin!

September 17th, 2007

As mentioned, most people got great nights sleep but one couple had been moved last night because of mold and another pair were stuck in a room that had a sewage problem. One was moved to another riad the night before, but the other stuck it out. The manager acted as though he didn’t know we were supposed to be given breakfast and breakfast ended up only being tea, juice, and “moroccan pancakes” which are somewhat oily nan-like pancakes that some loved, but I despised. There was not even any regular bread so I went out and got a couple of chocolate croissants from a nearby baker for 3 dirham (less than 50 cents), as I’m still taking malaria meds and need a decent quantity of food to keep the pill down.

Because of the problems with the other rooms, the tour company decided to move us all out of the riad because the manager was being quite the jerk (we noticed this as well). Though not keen on moving because we’d gotten good night’s sleep, we agreed we didn’t really want to give business to a jerk and we wanted to support JBT. At it turns out, the riads we were moved to were great. Mine in particular was FABULOUS – the L’Heure d’Ete. It was the only one we stayed in that was a restored house but restored into modern decor, not ‘traditional’. The place was great and the bathrooms were wonderful (best shower I had the entire time, I think). Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Day 5: Braving “Mount Puke-ed”

September 17th, 2007

The day dawns beautifully and most people are going to go on a walk through the valley after breakfast before we need to leave around 10. However, D’s international blackberry started working and given a choice of exercising my fat backside or checking email, I checked email. it had been about 6 days since I’d checked and I was started to get the shakes. Reception was dodgy and we found it would suddenly kick out unless you moved somewhere else in the room. The toilet was an especially good spot at getting reception. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Day 4: Camels Suck

September 17th, 2007

Camel Head I awoke a bit before 4:30 and wandered out into the pitch blackness toward where the camels are kept. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the stars were amazing. It was like the sky was blanketed with not only the regular-size ones, but also tons of teeny ones you never see at home. Also, Mars was super-bright, and showed up in my pictures almost as much as the moon did.

As I walked out, I really hoped some of the others would make it, as I wasn’t sure I wanted to go into the desert with just me and a camal guy. The camel guys were young berbers, ranging in age from 9 to early 20s, and they do this only before they get married. Once they get married they do other type of work. Apparently, lots of Spanish tourists come to these resorts and have a VERY good time with the berber boys so they love the young women tourists (especially those who apprently never got the message that Morocco is a Muslim country where hot pants and bikini tops are not normal modes of dress). Me, I prefer men who bathe consistently, but to each their own. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Day 3: Dates and Desert

September 17th, 2007

The next morning we drove less than an hour away and took a tour of the Ziz Valley which is a (the?) major producer of dates for Morocco. It was beautiful. Very “Jurassic Park” feeling in that there were these huge rock cliffs as background but this lush green center full of ancient-looking palm trees. We started the walk by going through the village of 25 familes (I forget the number of people but somewhere under 1000 I believe, maybe even just a few hundred). It was your usual brown rocky hovel teeming with boys. Some people on the tour gave them pencils and we were subsquently mobbed. It was very cute if you like kids, annoying if you don’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Day 2: ‘On the Road, Again’ Begins

September 17th, 2007

Overall I would sum up my tour of Morocco as a too many toos:

Too crowded
Too rushed
Too much time on the road

Don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoyed the trip. I loved Marrakesh and Fes, and met some great people in the group (including some other active Boots-N-All folk). I also really liked the people who ran the company and even though there were some problems, they did just about everything within their power to fix them, much at their own expense. I have no doubt they lost money on the trip with having to foot the bill for fixing some housing and people issues, and I would highly recommend the company –Journey Beyond Travel (JBT) — in part because of how well they tried to respond to issues in the interest of making their customers happy. I just can’t recommend the intinerary we did or traveling with this large a group. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco Day 1: Planes, Trains, and Fes

September 16th, 2007

Hello all! I am now back in the USA and getting used to having a washing machine again (how fabulous!), people driving sanely, and being able to drink the tap water. However, I’m going to chronicle my adventures from where I left off, so back to September 2…

Once again, I was told by my hostel guy in Cairo to be up at a certain time to make it to the airport at 7am for my flight, and once again I left almost an hour later and still was fine. Also once again the cab driver took me to the wrong terminal. You really have to watch what’s going on. The driver did not carry my bag so he didn’t get a tip.

The flight was uneventful, though it left almost an hour late, and when I got to Casablanca the airport baggage area was a mess. There were bags everywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morocco update

September 9th, 2007

These arabic keyboards are really frustrating to type with, so I will just update the blog when I return to the states in a week. Stay tuned!

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Morocco is da bomb

September 7th, 2007

Just a quick note to show I am alive and well. Morocco is awesome and I am spending a fortune. But there is limited email access (am borrowing an international blackberry that gets sporadic service) and all with arabic keyboards. So adventure tales will need to wait…

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Of Minaretes and Men

September 1st, 2007

We said goodbye to K and B with whom we spent a week in Dahab, and P, M, and I traveled back to Cairo by flying from Sharm el-Shek (I had had enough with Egyptian buses at that point). I am back in Cairo for the day and leave for Morocco tomorrow.

Today P, M, and I meandered around the city and visited two old Mosques. At the first one – Al Ghuri — we had really nice guides who were very helpful and kind. The mosque was beautiful and we went all the way up the minarete and had amazing views of the Cairo, though we didn’t feel like the railing at the top of the minarte — the tiny, ancient pieces of wood stopping from us falling hundreds of feet to our deaths — was all that stable (addendum: P, who works in contruction, has since informed me we were only 60 or so feet up). The stairs were a bit trecherous and at one point there was no light and M and I were not exactly being “mosque-level modest” with our skirts hiked up our thighs to avoid tripping down the steps. Oh, and fashion note, big skirts and headscarfs make you look fat in all photos. Or at least, they make me look fat. Read the rest of this entry »

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More dahab photos

August 30th, 2007

Dahab moonrise

Not much in the way of new photos. The first in the set is actually moonrise over the mountains of Saudi Arabia, though it looks like sunrise. It was taken from one of the on-the-beach hotels as I’m drinking my strawberry juice. The rest of the photos can be found at the link below

More Dahab Photos

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Snorkeling stories, Dahab

August 30th, 2007

A note about snorkeling. I only do this once a day in the late afternoon as usually wind and the tides make it difficult to snorkel otherwise. Almost each day I’ve gone snorkeling in a different location and I can see why the Red Sea is one of the worlds great dive destinations. Even though I’m not into diving, the snorkeling is wonderful. I like it better than when I snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef last year because there you needed to go out on a boat for an hour or more to get to locations, here I can just leave my clothes on a chair and walk out to the reef, and come back whenever I want. Of course the negative is you are walking out ON the reef and that is really difficult (and bad for the coral). To get around this, several of us have become masters of swimming in 8-inch-deep water to get out to the reef. The problem with swimming in water that shallow — sea urchins. I have come to dread sea urchins almost as much as my phobia of sharks, except that at least sea urchins don’t come after you… but I digress… Read the rest of this entry »

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Detailing Dahab

August 30th, 2007

Sorry for the lack of detail of anything I’ve been doing. I’ve been lazy about keeping my notebook handy which means memories slip through my brain pretty easily. I’ll try to recount events that may (or may not) be of interest, but most of my time has been spent eating, vegetating, or snorkeling.

In case my other posts have been making you jealous, be comforted in the fact that yesterday I managed to sunburn myself possibly to a crisp (I could feel the heat radiating off my skin as I type) and the bottom of my feet my be covered in blisters. So there, paradise has its drawbacks, too. But, I get ahead of myself… Read the rest of this entry »

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Doing nothing in Dahab

August 27th, 2007

Yeah, not much to report. If you want your days to pass quickly despite doing pretty much absolutely nothing, Dahab is the place to do it. Here your 12-step program to doing nothing, as I did today:

1: Woke up, 7:30
2. Went down to breakfast 8.
3: Sat in breakfast spot eating, reading, dozing, talking until 11.
4: Internet: 11-12
5: Hung out and talked people: 12-1
6: Ate lunch, read, and talked with M: 1-3:30
7: Napped: 3:30-5:30
8: Snorkled: 5:30-6:30
9: Showered: 6:30-7
10: Internet: 7-8
11: Dinner: 8:30-10:30 (expected)
12: Sleep, time TBD
13: Rinse and repeat as needed.

My friends are going to go hike Mt. Sinai to see the sun rise, which involves leaving at 11pm the night before, driving for 2 hours, then hiking starting at 1am. I’m told it’s amazing and a “must do” while here. Unfortunately, I more “want to want to do it” rather than actually want to do it. Laziness is infectious…

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Egypt photo links

August 26th, 2007

As I indicated earlier, the temple photos and scenes of the nile all blur together. But the Nile scenes from the Cruise really were spectacular. Probably the best thing I’ve seen in Egypt other than Dahab.

Dahab photos

Hot Air Balloon photos, Luxor

Valley of Kings, Valley of the Queens, Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Collosus of Memnon photos, Luxor

Luxor and Karnak Temples, Luxor

Kom Ombo and Edfu Temples, Egypt

Nile Cruise and Nile Scenery photos

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Leaving Luxor, Divining Dahab

August 26th, 2007

The next morning I did a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. I did this because a) it was much cheaper than the one in the Serengeti ($80 vs. $450) and b) every person who posts to the travel boards that they did a balloon ride said it was the best experience they’d had in Egypt and it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, it isn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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Totally tired of temples, tombs, and touts

August 26th, 2007

Luxor was quite fun, as much from the people I met and hung out with as for the sites the town has to offer. I did do all the usual stuff, which includes half a day on the East Bank seeing Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, and the Luxor Museum, and the West Bank which included the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Colossus of Memnon, and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

There are people who say “you can spend 2 weeks in Luxor and still not get bored.” I can only say in response “you are freaks.” Having been to the Pyramids and Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Abu Simbel, Temple of Philae, Kom Ombo, and Edfu already, by the end of the few days Luxor I have sworn “As God Is My Witness I will Never See Temples Again.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Cruising the Nile

August 22nd, 2007

Hi all. Am writing from a hotel in Luxor this is nicer than I expected it to be. They offer internet, which is great, but it happens to be the one computer behind the front desk, so that’s where I’m sitting now, with keyboard in my lap.

I took a 2-day cruise from Aswan to Luxor on the M/S Renaissance, which is a 5 star cruiser, but they are all mostly 5-star cruisers. Within the 5-star grouping, I suspect this was the lower end. But it was nice in many ways. rooms were very nice as were the bathrooms and showers. the food was edible, but nothing exciting. It seems most people got sick, but i think that’s pretty common on cruises. I can feel a cold coming on, but no stomach ills or anything.

Did have a few adventures though… Read the rest of this entry »

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More photos — caught up!!!

August 19th, 2007

Despite being the the one-horse town that is Aswan, I am blessed with the BEST internet connection I’ve had yet in Africa. Been uploading my photos like a dickens! Internet is $2/hour here and there’s nothing else to do in town, so a good use of time and resources, I’d say! In fact, I am now completely caught up with both blogging AND photos!! Yeah!!! Read the rest of this entry »

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Abu Simbel, Sleep, and Heat

August 19th, 2007

So this is what they mean by “hotter than hell” I think.

Despite being told to be ready for the taxi at 3am, we didn’t leave until closer to 4 for a 5:15 flight. I did not sleep, it was too noisy. Got to the airport and had a bit of series of minor misadventures. Taxi driver took me to international, not domestic terminal. He suggested I walk there, I suggested he drive me there. I pay, I win. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gorilla pics and baby gorilla videos FINALLY posted

August 18th, 2007

Sorry it took so long, but they were quite the bear. Note that my camera is really not good enough to take photos in a dark forest without a flash (not allowed) so these are the only decent ones that came out, out of probably 200+ or more. Many are blurry, but I left them in so you can get a sense of how close we were, etc. The videos are short as they take up a lot of memory Read the rest of this entry »

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Egyptian Evening Extravaganza

August 17th, 2007

Well, it is 1:30 am and I need to leave for the airport at 3 and sleep is not happening. Friday night in Cairo is NOT a quiet place (neither in the streets nor my hostel). So, I’ll do one last update before I leave. Word of advice, consider the overnight train rather than a 5am flight if you’re going to Aswan or Abu Simbel, I suspect you’ll get more sleep on the train!

T, C, and I (T and C are two of the students studying arabic who want to work for their respective countries’s various 3-letter-acronym government branches) had decided to go downstairs to the shops on our street around 8:30pm for us to shop for more conservative clothes (headscarf for me, long-sleeve tunics for all of us). The only long sleeve stuff I have is really heavy weight and no fun at all to wear in this heat. The shops really get going around 8pm on Friday night. Then we were joined by H, the aussie guy, and instead of walking around we found ourselves in a cab going to the main bazaar, Kahn-El Khalili. H is the kind of guy who fun follows and bad things never seem to happen. Despite my not wanting to go that far because of my middle of the night flight … oh well, we were off… Read the rest of this entry »

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Some Uganda photos posted

August 17th, 2007

Rather than re-link, if you’re interested, go back to the Lake Bunyoni and Gorilla Forest Camp review posts and photo links have been added.

Am about 1/2 way there to uploading the Gorilla pics, but not sure what kind of connection I’ll have in upper egypt.

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Egyptian Museum: Sensory Overload

August 17th, 2007

Well, to begin. today is not a good day to enjoy much of anything. My body is in agony from doing the pyramids yesterday. Partly, it is a sign of the deterioration of my physical being, and part it was really hard going up tons of stairs and then down long tunnels hunched over practically in half. In any case, pretty much every footstep hurt, and every step up or down stairs agony. So this was not the ideal day to go to the Egyptian Museum which has a lot of stairs!

My original plan had been to go to Islamic Cairo in part because — no steps! But setting out at around 9am on a Friday morning (their “Sunday”), well it was like a post-apocolyptic city, for all there were people around. An empty Cairo is much more frightening than a full one. So I decided to reverse routes and head to the museum. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pyramids and People

August 16th, 2007

Did the whole “Pyramid thing” today. It was cool and surprisingly a little hum-drum at the same time.

The taxi driver who picked me up yesterday at the airport picked me up again today at 8am to begin our tourist-du-jour adventure. I wasn’t sure whether he was the wisest choice of drivers, but the hostel guy (who has been Mr. “let me help you”) said he was trustworthy and other hostel folk said the price (120 EP or about $24) for the day and multiple sites was a good price. In the end, I was very glad to have had him. In addition to lots of good advice, he brought along Sophie, his 12 year old daughter to accompany me to two of the sites (she pretty much got in for free), as she had never been there before. She spoke very little English and was kind of shy, but I liked having her along. If nothing else, it seemed to reduce the number of hasslers I had. Read the rest of this entry »

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Arrived: Cairo

August 15th, 2007

Arrived in Cairo. Was on a 4:30am flight, so got up at 1:30am. Urgh. Slept most of the way.

It is 90 degrees at 9am. The hostel owner was SO helpful when I arrived, he sent his 17 year old son out with me to help me get a new sim card and money for my phone. Don’t think I would have been successful without him. Today I’ll toodle over to the museum, tomorrow it is “pyramid day”.

Stay tuned.

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Review: Gorilla Forest Camp

August 14th, 2007

Gorilla Forest Camp (GFC).

If you go to Uganda.
If you go see the gorillas.
If you can afford it.
STAY HERE.

You won’t be sorry. Read the rest of this entry »

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The “its not a zoo” Zoo

August 14th, 2007

I’m currently in a quite cheap internet cafe at the Uganda Wildlife Authority park in Entebbe, which is in essence a zoo, but you’re not to call it that. So far as I can tell, the only difference between it and a zoo is that the animals inside are all in some way injured, orphaned, or otherwise cannot be returned to the wild.

On the whole, it’s a somewhat depressing place, as it has cages or small enclosures much like an old American zoo, maybe circa 1970s. However, I got her very early this a.m. and was the only person here so I had the animals all to myself. Most of them have a look of desperation about them (except the Rhinos which don’t emote at all, and the lion who just looked bored), but you can get very very close to them. I was maybe 6 feet from the lion, and he and I just looked at each other for a while. Read the rest of this entry »

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Seeing the Gorillas

August 14th, 2007

In some ways, I suspect what I post here will not be much different from other people who have posted about seeing the gorillas. If you’re into it, which you must be if you’re willing to pay the price, it really is almost magical. My dad asked me ‘why’ and I’m not sure I can articulate it any better than anyone else. There’s just something about being a few feet away, in the middle of the jungle, looking into faces so much like your own (technically they’re our second-nearest living ape relative, after chimps), seeing them amble around utterly uncaring about you staring at them … I don’t know, it is just pretty incredible. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lake Bunyoni: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

August 14th, 2007

As I have fewer than 24 hours left in Uganda, I feel pretty comfortable saying that my most recent trip was both the best and the worst experience I have had while in the country.

Ironically, the reason it was awful was because I went on a very expensive, high-end luxury tour that screwed me over left and right. Pieces of it (not in control of the tour company) were amazing, the the rest was so awful, that I must share. Don’t get me wrong, nothing awful in the “I lost a limb and am scarred for life” (much), in fact most of it in hindsight is very very funny. It just wasn’t at the time. Read the rest of this entry »

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A brief post-gorilla note

August 12th, 2007

Just a quick note to say I am alive and well, but not readily connected here in western Uganda. I probably won’t get a decent post up again until Egypt (next week) and who knows when I’ll get the photos posted. Meanwhile, I know this is out of order and I have lots of adventures to share, that happened before today — but you know how I keep saying “it doesn’t get much better than this?” well it does. So, here’s just one example to share:

I’m in a room lit only by flickering candles and the dimming sunlight from outside.
I’m lying in a steaming bathtub so large that when I touch my feet to one end, I submerge my head on the other.
The cool air from outside conflicts with the steam rising off the water in the huge tub making a wall of white that drifts around the room.
I’m looking out through a curtained opening in the room wall, looking at trees and birds.
The only sound that occasionally drowns out the birds is the very loud clap of thunder and the rain.
But this is no “sounds of the rainforest” soundtrack, this is the real thing.

I spend more than an hour soaking in the tub, reflecting on the fact that today I saw the mountain gorillas. Honestly, I don’t think it CAN get much better than this…

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Photos – Ngamba Island and Kampala

August 9th, 2007

Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary photos

Various Kampala photos (no labels, sorry!)

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The best 15,000sh you can spend in Kampala

August 9th, 2007

Ladies, after your basic needs of food and shelter are met, if you have the disposable income and want to treat yourself to a pedicure so divine it damn near should be illegal, get yourself to the Garden City shopping center, go to Sparkles Salon and ask for Moses. For the ~$8-10 USD believe me, you won’t be sorry!

It was so fabulous, I’m going to write a post just dedicated to this pedicure. Anyone other than women and metrosexuals should not bother clicking the “read the rest of this post” link.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Chimp Sanctuary

August 8th, 2007

These are my last few days in Kampala so mainly I have been souvenir shopping and hanging out around the hostel talking with folks. For example, I met “D”, and ex pfizer guy who mid-life quit his job and is traveling around the world freelance writing for some papers in the midwest. He’s about to go to Sudan and spent a week in Congo interviewing some general last week. He was there when the latest group of gorillas were killed (more on that below). Read the rest of this entry »

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Photos Take 2 – Jinja, Bujagali Falls, Sipi Falls, Masindi

August 6th, 2007

Photos:

Jinja and Bujagali Falls

As with the Murchison set, these are not well edited, so there is much repetition. Sorry!:

Sipi Falls, or the Hike From Hell photos

Masindi is the town were we stopped for lunch on the way to and from Murchison Falls. The food at the place we ate at was awful. Didn’t have time to label these, so just view these as a typical medium-sized Uganda town. The mopeds are what I’m talking about when I refer to a boda-boda in my blog. Note how people cram on them even with kids or pile them high with stuff. The guy with the water jug collects water from afar, bicycles with it to a location like this, and then people come up and get water from him.

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Photos, take 1 – Murchison Falls

August 6th, 2007

Because it has been impossible for me to upload photos to my kodak site since leaving Tanzania, I’ve switched to flickr. But, I’m still having a LOT of trouble with photos, but here is the first set from Murchison Falls. I really was not able to edit these well, so there are way more than there need to be. Lots of photos of hippos, crocodiles and the falls, but I am having a tough time editing them. Sorry you’ll just have to slog on through.

Snarky’s Murchison Falls photos

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Sipi Falls: Part 3. The true African transit experience

August 5th, 2007

Got up in time for dinner, ran again into the Irish couple who not only did all the water falls but went on to another one farther away and seemed quite well-rested and chipper (what are these people, freaks??). I have an excuse that the bruise I got on my thigh when I slipped and fell the other night has turned a spectacular shade of black/purple, so maybe that’s why I am mush compared to everyone else around me. Clearly when I get back I am going to need some serious getting-back-in-shaping. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sipi Falls: Part 2. Up, up, and more up

August 5th, 2007

I wake the next morning around 8, quite happy to see the hurricane lamp did a good job drying much of my clothes. I might actually have both clean AND dry underwear to change into at some point!.

I go down for breakfast and have a “rolex” which is an egg/vegetable scramble inside a chapati – a local favoriate, apparently – which was quite good. I then meet up with Joseph, my guide for what I later termed “the hike from Hell.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Sipi Falls: Part 1 Getting There

August 4th, 2007

I decided to leave Bujagali Falls as originally planned when the night before I felt the local rodents had too intimate a knowledge with my banda.

Checking out was great because they actually take traveler’s checks, so I had a chance to dump a couple of those otherwise-worthless pieces of paper and got some US dollars in return! I followed the “its so easy” directions everyone gave me about taking the shuttle from Bujagali back to Jinja, a boda-boda (with my full baggage) to the bus park, and ask for the matatu to Mbale (pronounced “Bali” as in Bali, Indonesia). Read the rest of this entry »

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Did I really say I wanted adventure and exercise? Be careful what you wish for…

August 4th, 2007

Well, I said I wanted adventure, and adventure is what I got. Just as a taste, it included

1) one bicycle boda-boday with me and my full pack rushing across town to get to the correct matatu
2) one 1+ hour ride in a matatu built for 8 that was crammed with 19 (including the 5 kids of various ages)
3) one bus breakdown that included about 30 people sitting on the side of the road waiting for the bus company to figure out what it should do
4) one 7km hike that damn near killed me from exhaustion
5) no electricity at one of the places I stayed for 2 nights and nobody there seemed to have much concern Read the rest of this entry »

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Bujagali Falls: It doesn’t get much better than this

August 1st, 2007

So I’m at the Nile River Explorers hostel in Jinja having just had a bone-warming hot shower and gobbing conditioner on my hair. I’m now in clean (ish) clothes and am waiting for them to figure out my room. I had wanted to stay 2 nights at their campsite at Bujagali Falls, around a 15 minute drive from Jinja, but they only had the second night available and were going to put me in a room at the hostel for the first night. Then, they had a cancellation and I was able to stay a the campsite at both nights.

When I got to the campsite and they showed me to my room, it had such a great view that I asked if I could book it for a third night. Read the rest of this entry »

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Succumbing to Peer Pressure, or “what the hell am I doing here?”

August 1st, 2007

As those who know me can attest, I’m not the type to give in to peer pressure. Especially those who have been trying to get me to drink all through school (miz JS!). Normally, I am very good at resisting doing that which I don’t want to do. Somewhat stubborn, in fact, some might say…

I had decided to go to Jinja, a town located at the ‘source of the nile’ (where the nile starts from Lake Victoria), about an hour from Kampala, with the idea I’d just go visit, and not do the number one thing people do here in Jinja — White Water Rafting (grade 5 rapids).

See, I don’t really like the water, I don’t like adrenaline-rushing, life-threatening experiences (I’m fairly wussy that way), and I’ve never done white water rafting before so doing it at grade 5 to start would be really really stupid, don’t you think? So as I was sitting in the raft heading for our first rapid I was thinking to myself — “what the hell were you thinking??!” Read the rest of this entry »

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A true vacation Sunday

July 30th, 2007

Yesterday was sunday and I decided to do a true ‘vacation’ day, which means I did very little at all.

I got up late, I lounged by the “pool” (the pool is indeed an inground pool, but it is about 15′ x 10′, so it is more of a ‘soak in the cool water to get out of the heat’ pool than a ‘swimming’ pool) for a couple of hours, where I met two americans from Cooperstown, NY who were about to go back to the US after a month in Uganda working for an NGO they had formed to help refugees from Congo, Burundi and some from Rwanda (catering to french-speaking refugees, seems there’s an NGO for everything). Read the rest of this entry »

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Bye Bye Boda Boda

July 28th, 2007

Got back from Murchison Falls yesterday and today came into Kampala to keep working on my Cairo ticket and to update the blog. As I get more comfortable with Kampala, I am coming to enjoy the city more and more.

Today I even did what is very like the most dangerous thing one can do in Kampala — I had a boda boda ride (I actually had two!). Read the rest of this entry »

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Murchison Falls: Part 3

July 28th, 2007

So, as we were up early anyway, we got to watch a gorgeous red sunrise over the Nile.

After breakfast we left to go hike the waterfalls before the long drive back to Kampala.

The hike was strenuous at times, especially given how bad shape I’m in having not exercised in several weeks and given the crappiest of crap food I’m eating, but all I can say is WOW.

If you are in Uganda, you really must go see these waterfalls. Read the rest of this entry »

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Murchison Falls: Part 2

July 28th, 2007

So, the agenda was to be: day 1, drive to Murchison Falls. Day 2, game drive in morning, back to camp for lunch, boat drive down the nile in the afternoon. Day 3: hike up Murchison Falls in the morning, drive back to Kampala. Read the rest of this entry »

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Murchison Falls: Part 1

July 28th, 2007

After arriving in Kampala I spent a night in my private hostel room which was really good, and the next day as noted earlier, D helped me into Kampala so I wandered around a bit. It was my goal also to buy my ticket to Cairo but I ran into a snag. It was really expensive (like, $1000) to buy the ticket in advance from the US so I figured I’d just buy it here. After all, who the heck is going to Cairo from East Africa in August?? Well, apparently a lot of people. Read the rest of this entry »

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Planes, trains, and automobiles (but no trains, actually)

July 28th, 2007

Looking back I can see I’ve left out some bits and pieces of my story thus far, so I’m going to try to go back and fill them in now.

To begin, my trip from Arusha to Kampala was fairly uneventful, but interesting none-the-less. I had been told by Precision Air to get to the airport 2 hours in advance. When I got to the airport the security staff couldn’t for the life of them figure out why I’d come to the airport 2 hours in advance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hungy Hungry Hippos, or things they don’t prepare you for growing up in New Jersey

July 28th, 2007

I’m awoken out of a benadryl-induced coma-like sleep to the following sound right near my ear:

RIP, RIP, RIP, shuffle, swoosh, shuffle, swoosh, grunt, RIP, RIP, RIP, shuffle, swoosh, RIP, RIP

And after about 2 seconds I realize that less than 10 feet away from me, grazing just outside my tent, is a hippopotamus — the most deadly animal in Africa, responsible for killing more people than any other critter on the continent.

And then another thought hits me. Wow, I really need to use the bathroom. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Impala Hotel

July 24th, 2007

I’ve given myself some time before posting this review, as I’ve been churning it over on how to write it.

The question is not did I enjoy my time at the Impala Hotel in Arusha, that answer is easy — I did not. The real question for the review is, was it a good value and on this I am torn. I’ve waited some time before posting the review because I feel it important to balance the issues of ‘expectations’ — you can’t expect the same as if this were a hotel in Europe. I also didn’t want to write with “fresh off the plane” prejudice. I wanted to take into account the resources available in Arusha and the ‘frame of reference’ that needs to provide. This is not a well off area and so a ‘luxury’ hotel (as it bills itself) here needs that taken into account.

Now that I’ve been in Africa for 2 weeks and seen a variety of other places, I feel more solid in my critique.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The adventure begins: Kampala

July 24th, 2007

Today the adventure began.

First, everyone I’ve met so far at the hostel (and it’s a very social place!) has been interesting. Fairly intellectual conversation, as many of the people here are either academics doing research or volunteer work, or college students spending their summer vacations doing volunteer work. Lots of discussion of politics and the causes of poverty.

Today “D” was my hero. He’s here doing his PhD research on political conflict and yesterday he said he was going into town today and offered to show me the ropes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Safe and sound in Kampala

July 23rd, 2007

Just quick note to say I have arrived safe and sound at the hostel in Kampala and even successfully managed to use an ATM (it took two banks to find one that would take my card). Whew!

Very social place, so far have met americans, irish, scotish, and french travelers. Everyone seems very nice.

Internet connection as the hostel is free, and therefore slow and dodgy. Am going into town to learn how the public transport works, get a feel for Kampala, go to an internet cafe, and buy Harry Potter.

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Final thoughts upon departing Tanzania

July 22nd, 2007

Tomorrow I leave Tanzania for Uganda, and as great as the trip has been thus far, I’m eager to leave. So far I’ve been on the ‘vacation’ part of my trip. Granted a very cool and exotic vacation, but nonetheless, everything has been neatly planned and organized by the tour company, and all the places I’ve stayed have been varying degrees of western comfort (review of my hotel in Arusha to come in the future, I need to ponder that review further before I write). Other than deciding what meals to order, walking into arusha on the first day here to get my ticket to Entebbe is the only independent thing I’ve really done.

Once in Uganda, this trip goes more from vacation to adventure. Granted, all is not that wild. I still am flying in, and someone from the hostel is meeting me at the airport. Plus I’ve got a 3-day trip planned thru the hostel in a couple of days, but until mid-August my schedule is completely open to come-what-may plans as they arise.

So, bring on the adventure! Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

July 22nd, 2007

Now, I should start this review with the preface that we were only there about 12 hours, if that, as we arrived around 7 and left early the next morning.

The lodge was the most “hotel-like” we stayed in, although you still went into open air to get from section to section. The main bar area was like a ski lodge, with big picture windows looking out into the crater, and a large central fire place to gather around. Everyone was playing cards or games and just sitting around drinking. There were young acrobats for entertainment who were pretty damn impressive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Serengeti Serena Lodge

July 22nd, 2007

This place is just weird. Uber-high quality and posh, but weird.

The ‘bungalows’ for lack of a better word, are supposed to be, I think, like Disney-fied Masai huts, but the end result is you feel like you’re in homes for Hobbits from Lord of the Rings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Tarangire Tented Camp

July 22nd, 2007

Of the three luxury lodges we stayed in, all very different, in some ways Taragire Tented Camp was my favorite.

First, the view is amazing. It overlooks a valley with a couple of rivers in them and you can see impala, zebra, wildebeast, and elephants all traipsing around at wee size, but still totally visible. Almost like action figures. We didn’t see any predators there, other than vultures. It doesn’t look real. You feel like you’re looking down into this “toy” or artificial valley created just for your pleasure viewing, like something out of Star Trek or Harry Potter (oh, HP update — don’t think I’ll find a copy of the new one here in Arusha, I think it will have to wait until Kampala. Am avoiding all news sites until I get a copy). Read the rest of this entry »

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Ngorongoro Crater – Where were the fish in the barrel?

July 22nd, 2007

The thing about Ngorongoro Crater is the hype. I think this was the single most-hyped place we visited. Everyone we met, everything we read, said Ngorongoro is THE place you MUST visit. There are animals everywhere. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Yeah, well it ain’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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Serengeti – “Endless Plains” and plain endless

July 22nd, 2007

Serengeti is Masai for Endless Plains. Boy howdy they ain’t kidding. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tarangire National Park – a thesaurus entry for “Wow”

July 22nd, 2007

Once inside the park, all I can say is Wow. It was amazing. The landscape, the animals, everything about it. Even though we later went to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, this was my favorite park of all three.

It’s funny how your first excitement is to see animals that you quickly become immune to. At first you’re lik “Oh my god, stop! Impala!” and you take a zillion photos. Then “look, zebra, stop!” take a zillion photos. Wildebeast, STOP. Take a zillion photos.

The drivers amusingly do as you ask, but by the end of the first day you’re like, “oh look, more zebra. No, no need to stop”. By the end of the second day, you don’t even point them out anymore. Zebras, wildebeast, dik-dik (antelope-like things that are the size of a very small dog), they are just everywhere! Read the rest of this entry »

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On the road to Tarangire

July 22nd, 2007

7/15/07

To begin with a brief update, I met my safari-mates shortly before we left on our trip. Overall, things went very well, we were three low-key single women who got along amazingly well, given our crammed together conditions for 7 days. My roomate was “M,” who works for a newspaper in Arizona. This safari is her 30th birthday present to herself. For my 30th birthday, I went out for fondue, so she is clearly the cooler of the two of us. Our trip-mate “N” is from West Virginia and works in a manufacturing plant for a certain large car maker, for which several of my classmates from school also work (you know who you are). N is a hoot. This trip is a life’s dream for her, and she has been working toward saving for this trip for a long time, and everyone at her plant helped her saved coke bottle-tops so she could get frequent flyer miles for half her trip (smart cookie!). Her exuberance at everything she saw and did was positively infectious! We were all very lucky, as three strangers meeting for a week-long trip could be a recipie for disaster, yet worked out dandy.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Jambo from the Serengeti

July 17th, 2007

Jambo! (hello)

I am on the world’s most expensive internet connection ($20/hour!!!) so no real post here other than to say I am alive, well, and am having an AMAZING time!!! We just arrived at our weird but luxury lodge in the Serengeti and spent 2 days at luxury lodge in Tarangire Natl Park which was indescribable (not really, just indescribable at $20/hour). Will try to post in depth once I am back in Arusha in a week.

Also, there is a super-loud Tanzanian soap opera on the TV behind me which is very distracting!

Lala Salama! (good night)

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Arusha-day 2, revised

July 14th, 2007

7/14/07 7:30pm Hotel internet

Have great internet connection right now, want to take advantage of it.

This is a revision for my last post because I learned a lesson today — write about days events after they happen, not before.

I was unexpectedly driven to my tour company’s local office so I got to see a bit of the area outside of Arusha. I was expecting to just get driven into town but instead we went the other way. The paved road ended only a couple of minutes from the hotel and it was then I realize my previous post joking about Arusha being ’1st world adjacent’ was dead wrong. It’s pure 3rd world. Kendall, as you noted, the poverty really just slaps you in the face. Read the rest of this entry »

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Arusha, day 2 – yawn

July 14th, 2007

7/14/07 10am Hotel internet cafe

Nothing earth-shattering to report, so some details people have been asking: Weather is in the 70s, overcast both mornings I’ve been here, it heats up when the sun comes out in the afternoon.

The hotel is/was hosting an Interpol conference so there are people from all over the world, which is quite nice. A little weird to be eating breakfast the next table of people in various arab-army, flight-suit military uniforms much like one sees on TV if one can stomach the current news. Most of the other tourists seem to be Americans, Dutch, and Japanese, with some Aussies and Brits thrown in. Read the rest of this entry »

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The charms of Arusha

July 13th, 2007

7/13/07 Arusha. Internet Café

Spent about an hour today wandering around Arusha which was more than enough time to see its ample …charms for lack of a better word. Actually, no that’s a rotten word to describe it. It doesn’t really have much in the way of charms.

On the one hand it’s definitely interesting. On the other, only so much. Read the rest of this entry »

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A fashion segue

July 12th, 2007

A random thought that hit me as I was in the amsterdam airport with the bazillions of other people traveling to Mt. Kilimanjaro (the flight was as large if not larger than the LAX to Amsterdam flight).

You can tell safari travelers by the way they dress, but it’s pretty funny to see the variation. Khaki is definitely the color of choice (with reason, bright colors either scare animals or attract tse tse flys, so I’m told), and there were lots of people in their safari vests. But the true fashion item of choice were the convertible pants (pants that zip off segments into either shorts, or capris, sometimes both on the same pants).
Read the rest of this entry »

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Sleep is for the weak — and the not so easily entertained

July 12th, 2007

7/12/07 10:30pm. Greetings from Arusha.

The trip out went as well as could possibly be expected. No delays, no lost luggage, my ride was there to pick up me, so all is well.
Read the rest of this entry »

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All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go

July 9th, 2007

Tomorrow I have to give back my computer to work, so this will be my last post stateside, as they used to say (or maybe they just said that on TV).

If all goes right, I have a 10.5 hour flight from LAX to Amsterdam, a 2.5 hour layover, and then an 8.5 hour flight to Mt. Kilimanjaro. All I can say is, thank god for Ambien.

Final to do list:

  • Become officially unemployed – check Read the rest of this entry »
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    Revenge of the little piggy

    July 4th, 2007

    This little piggy went to market,
    This little piggy stayed at home,
    This little piggy had roast beef,
    This little piggy had none.
    And this little piggy went…
    “Wee wee wee” all the way home…

    Apparently, the little piggy who had none likes to take its revenge when I travel.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    The Cher Hair update

    July 2nd, 2007

    Inquiring minds want to know:
    Where am I at 9 days and counting?
    (Translation, I have nothing more interesting to write about:)

    First, for those of you who seem to be dying to know, the response on the Cher Hair was mixed at first, though now that it has poofed up a bit and people have gotten used to it, the response has been largely positive. The first responses were:

      Me: “So what do you think?”
      Them: “Um, well what do YOU think? That’s what’s important”
      (not reassuring!)

    Of course being a part of the Groucho Marx School of Belonging, I had other friends who said it looked fantastic, which immediately means I must discount what they say. My friend AS would say I look fabulous even if I pulled a Britney Spears.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    The countdown begins — Oh, and I now have Cher Hair

    June 24th, 2007

    I lied in my earlier post. Or, rather, I was grossly mistaken.

    Being a retentive planner, you don’t get bored when you have nothing left to plan — you get utterly freaked out.

    Granted, I’ve accomplished a lot, but I still feel like there’s so much left to do. I wish I’d been born with that gene that allows you to say “I’m leaving for a round the world trip tomorrow and haven’t thought about what I’m going to bring yet.” OK, they probably end up with sore stinky feet and are cold at night and don’t have packs of oral rehydration salts “just in case” like me, but in the end, they may be the happier for it.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    ‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
    Don’t let me out of your sight

    June 18th, 2007

    The Travel Blog: A new form of Chick-Lit.

    This post is dedicated to anyone who has ever had to fight the “women-shouldn’t-travel-alone” battle. I’ve created this entry compiling info on women who are traveling solo out there right now, or have traveled solo in the past. And these are just a small segment of those who happen to blog! If it’s not listed here and you have another solo-gal blog, please add the link to the comments section.

    I hope anyone reading this post will recognize, accept, and embrace the fact that while traveling poses dangers to both men and women on the road, suggesting that somone not travel alone because they are a woman is a true belittlement. As long as one is willing to accept the risks of the road, they should do so regardless of gender.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Don’cha wish your backpack was packed like mine?

    June 11th, 2007

    One of the negatives of being a retentive planner is that eventually, you finish planning. Then you get bored.

    Right now, there’s nothing left to buy (dangerous, b/c then I might start buying what I don’t need). There’s nothing left to figure out how to pack. There’s nothing else to do but obsessively re-read guidebooks and travel websites.

    In the absence of anything better to write I’ll answer the burning question of what am I bringing with me. Well, that’s the backpacker’s “half full” perspective. The friends/family/normal people “half empty” perspective is – what aren’t I bringing with me? Or, more usually, “you’re only bringing how many [of whatever]???”

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks

    June 9th, 2007

    I began this blog the night before my first class of my final quarter of my MBA program. Today I had the final class of my final quarter of my MBA program. My last take-home exam is done, ready to be handed in on Monday. Graduation is Friday.

    After 3 years; 20 classes; 40+ tests, midterms, and finals; dozens of cases, conference calls, and presentations; late-night bar visits the number of which I am unable to count; and 1 somewhat bizarre trip to Australia, I am a free woman.

    Actually I am a woman with a whole lotta student loans about to come due, but I’m free in spirit.

    Today I got a pedicure, I went shopping, I ate dinner and read a newspaper (not a case, not a binder section, not an article, but a newspaper!!), I went shopping, I schmoozed around a bookstore for an hour, and I went shopping. That, my friends, is what free people do.

    All I can say is: Bring on Africa… before the real world of jobs, responsibility, and debt take me back in the fall.

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    Passing the Bill Bryson test

    May 28th, 2007

    The good news is I passed the Bill Bryson test.
    The bad news is, I’m in a whole world of hurt right now.

    If you’ve lived under a travel rock for the last decade or so you might not be familiar with Bill Bryson, but he’s a laugh-out-loud-funny travel writer. I was given my first Bryson book when my friend KH was visiting me and reading In a Sunburnt Country (which apparently has now changed the title to proper english spelling, but unless I was on drugs I swear was spelled ‘sunburnt’ on my copy), about Bryson’s travels in Australia. She left me the book when she was done and from there it duly sat on my shelf for a year or more destined to be unread because I was “not into nonfiction.” Foolish me.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Maladies of Malaria meds making me mad…

    May 23rd, 2007

    Course, this alliteration would have worked better if I’d gotten Malarone rather than Doxycycline…

    For future travelers, learn from those who came before you:
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Snarky NPR

    May 13th, 2007

    OK, this post has absolutely nothing to do with travel. I can’t even stretch to make it fit. It happens to be tangentially about money management, which is only a coincidence given my last post. But that’s about as much a connection I can make.

    Yesterday I was partaking in one of my all-too-rare-yet-favorite activities, the post-work nap. For those of you with things like kids that prevent you from doing this, all I can say is two words: nyah nyah.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    For the record, I am NOT a cheap b@#$!ard

    May 10th, 2007

    It has been brought to my attention, mainly by me actually re-reading my entries, that from reading this blog it appears that I am officially, certifiably, the cheapest person on the planet.

    This is not true.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Shoe Shopping by Spreadsheet, or Getting My $75,000 Worth

    May 2nd, 2007

    Once my backpack anxiety ended, my new anxiety became shoes. As my good friends CM, LG, and RB can tell you, plus everyone on the BnA Travel Gear page, I have been obsessed with what shoes to bring on this trip. Given that my friends were about to throttle me, I decided to apply my MBA training to this question, and solve the shoe dilemma via a spreadsheet.

    If you think picking what shoes to bring on a trip like this is easy, you’re clearly missing an X chromosome.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Give me your tired, your poor, your gear-head fanatics…

    May 1st, 2007

    … and you’ll find them on line at 6:30am outside REI for their used-gear sale. We may be freaks, but at least we’re freaks in like company.

    $30 got me my required second set of convertible pants, plus a pair of shorts, one packing folder, and one water-proof document-holder-thingey that I’m not really sure is what it is, but was only $4.
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    I hated it so much I went back for more…

    April 27th, 2007

    After thoroughly trashing Lush products in my previous post, I naturally decided to go back and try more of their stuff.

    Clearly Lush is a successful company that doesn’t need me to tell it what to do, but what it needs to do, is fire whoever names its products.

    As noted earlier, in anticipation of my trip and my goal to bring as little stuff (and liquids) as possible, I bought a $5 sampler of Trichomania “bar” or solid shampoo, which in latin, or greek, or some historical language no one uses anymore except Latins or Greeks, means “excited about hair”. Well, that’d be a totally cool name if wasn’t pretty much already the name of both a sexually transmitted parasite, Trichomoniasis, and a disorder that causes people to pull out their own hair, Trichotillomania.

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    Who names a shampoo after an STD anyway?

    April 19th, 2007

    Lush did not change my life. I’m rather sad about the fact as I was really hoping it would.

    As a result of my addiction to toiletries, I have been experimenting with “bar” shampoo, in the interest of traveling with fewer liquids and with one product that should last the entire trip.

    In case you’re not familiar with Lush, their value proposition (important term learned in MBA school) is:

      We believe in making effective products out of fresh organic fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils and safe synthetics, without animal testing, and in writing the quantitative lists on the outside. We also believe that words like FRESH and ORGANIC have honest meaning beyond marketing.

    I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that “in quantitative lists on the outside” might be translated from another language. They are a British company, after all.

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    $395, 3 Shots, and One Closed Consulate Later…

    April 18th, 2007

    Holy $#!@ shots are not cheap.

    Went to the travel clinic today instead of my regular doctor because the shots are way cheaper (believe it or not!). I was planning on going back to work after but decided to come home and pass out instead. I must admit, I think it may have been the best sleep I’ve gotten in weeks, but the fact that I was operating heavy machinery across town was probably not the best of ideas. I wonder if there’s a condition called “DUV” Driving Under Vaccination? Read the rest of this entry »

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    Confessions of a Toiletry Addict

    April 16th, 2007

    Hello. My name is Snarky, and I am a travel-size toiletry addict.

    One of the many bits of travel advice from seasoned travelers is “don’t bring too many toiletries. There’s almost nothing you can’t buy along the way.” This may be true, but when you’re an addict, there’s a little voice in your head that constantly says “but maybe they won’t have it, and it’s so cheap, and it’s so small how much weight to your pack can it really add, and it’s so cute!” Read the rest of this entry »

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    Backpacks don’t care how fabulously long your legs are

    April 10th, 2007

    Not that I’m the type that obsesses about things (ha ha), but you’d think getting a backpack for my trip shouldn’t be THAT difficult, right? Let me take you on a tour of Snarky’s World of Anxiety.

    First problem: I’m short (5’2”)
    Second problem: I’m short-waisted short.

    If upper-body matched my legs, I’d probably be a leggy 5’7” or more (and maybe blonde and bubbly, too!). On the other hand, if my legs matched my torso, I think Mini-Me and I would hit it off rather well. So, I basically go from legs to neck, with a few well-placed diversions in between. Read the rest of this entry »

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    “You’re going WHERE?”
    The Who, What, Where, When, WHY, and How

    April 8th, 2007

    What NOT to say when someone tells you they are going on a trip to Africa:

      “Are you going to bring home an orphan baby?”

    It wasn’t all that humorous the first time, it’s definitely not funny the fifth or fifteenth time and beyond. They’re doing a good thing that most of us wouldn’t do, so they get no snarkiness from me.

    So why AM I going?
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Shots suck worse the next day

    April 4th, 2007

    When they put one in each arm so you can’t sleep on EITHER side during the night, and so the next day you’re both in pain AND exhausted!

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    Shots Suck

    April 3rd, 2007

    Today I did two things trip-related. I got two of my 10,000 shots (OK, 7 shots, but still!!) and went back to REI to further obsess over backpacks. Regarding shots have you by chance kept a rigorous history of all vaccinations you ever received as an adult or child? Yes? Well good for you — you’ll save yourself a lot of money and pain before traveling. For the rest of us, there’s needles. Lots and lots of needles (and lots and lots of MONEY). Read the rest of this entry »

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    Why REI has smart cookies working for them

    April 1st, 2007

    When I was an anthro student there floated around a list of jokes such as “you know you’re an anthropologist when you see someone with a limp and the first thing you think is how you’d like to see the wear patterns on their tarsals.” It’s funny if you’re an anthropologist, believe me. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Snarky who? Snarky where?

    March 31st, 2007

    When I was learning to read, my dad was not going to sit and listen to me recite juvenile dribble. If he was going to listen, it might as well be to something worthwhile, so I remember at about 7 years old us reading Lewis Caroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” together (none of that “Alice in Wonderland” fluff for us!) We might have been weird, but we were highly literate.
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