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Ending the Blog

Saturday, 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.


Morocco Photos — all trip photos and videos, actually

Saturday, 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 on]

Arriving Home and Happy to be Alive

Saturday, 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 on]

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

Saturday, 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 on]

Day 10: Shopping and Dining Essaouira

Saturday, 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 on]

Day 9: Having one of “those days”

Saturday, 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 on]

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

Saturday, 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 on]

Morocco Day 7: Intimate Details of the Hammam

Monday, 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 on]

Morocco Day 6: Let the Shopping Begin!

Monday, 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 on]

Morocco Day 5: Braving “Mount Puke-ed”

Monday, 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 on]

Morocco Day 4: Camels Suck

Monday, 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 on]

Morocco Day 3: Dates and Desert

Monday, 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 on]

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

Monday, 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 on]

Morocco Day 1: Planes, Trains, and Fes

Sunday, 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 on]

Morocco update

Sunday, 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!

Morocco is da bomb

Friday, 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…

Of Minaretes and Men

Saturday, 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 on]

More dahab photos

Thursday, 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

Snorkeling stories, Dahab

Thursday, 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 on]

Detailing Dahab

Thursday, 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 on]

Doing nothing in Dahab

Monday, 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…

Egypt photo links

Sunday, 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

Leaving Luxor, Divining Dahab

Sunday, 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 on]

Totally tired of temples, tombs, and touts

Sunday, 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 on]

Cruising the Nile

Wednesday, 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 on]

More photos — caught up!!!

Sunday, 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 on]

Abu Simbel, Sleep, and Heat

Sunday, 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 on]

Gorilla pics and baby gorilla videos FINALLY posted

Saturday, 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 on]

Egyptian Evening Extravaganza

Friday, 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 on]

Some Uganda photos posted

Friday, 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.

Egyptian Museum: Sensory Overload

Friday, 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 on]

Pyramids and People

Thursday, 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 on]

Arrived: Cairo

Wednesday, 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.

Review: Gorilla Forest Camp

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Gorilla Forest Camp (GFC).

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

You won’t be sorry. [read on]

The “its not a zoo” Zoo

Tuesday, 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 on]

Seeing the Gorillas

Tuesday, 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 on]

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

Tuesday, 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 on]

A brief post-gorilla note

Sunday, 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…

Photos – Ngamba Island and Kampala

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary photos

Various Kampala photos (no labels, sorry!)

The best 15,000sh you can spend in Kampala

Thursday, 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 on]

Chimp Sanctuary

Wednesday, 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 on]

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

Monday, August 6th, 2007


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.

Photos, take 1 – Murchison Falls

Monday, 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

Sipi Falls: Part 3. The true African transit experience

Sunday, 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 on]

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

Sunday, 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 on]

Sipi Falls: Part 1 Getting There

Saturday, 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 on]

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

Saturday, 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 on]

The adventure begins: Kampala

Tuesday, 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 on]

Safe and sound in Kampala

Monday, 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.