Showing posts from 2010

Greatest Hitz

For better or worse, this little corner of the internets has been sitting on ice cubes for awhile now. I no longer write on it because I no longer feel like I have anything exciting and noteworthy to say, and I'm not really dedicated or skilled enough to try and write interesting thoughts about mundane topics. I'm back home doing normal home things, which is kind of a let down after my life of fighting murderous baboons and drinking lumpy beer from gas cans. In the process of trying to find a company willing to give me money on a regular basis for use of my skill(z), it came to my attention that in this modern world of ours people really do Google your name to find out if you're some kind of weirdo. Such that this is the cornerstone of my web presence, I figure I should probably give my little soapbox one last lick of paint.

So without further ado: Picture Me Walkin's Greatest Hits, as determined by a committee of one and in no particular order.

5 Sweeping Generalization…

The End of Africa

(The end of Africa. Indian Ocean on the right, Atlantic on the left.)

Cape Town, the end of the journey. I'm here. Forgive me if I get a bit nostalgic.
I retired from my illustrious career in aid work on January 1 with the goal of traveling until I either reached Cape Town or ran out of money. On Monday, April 19th I pulled into the city limits of the southernmost city of note on the continent. Three and a half months, nine sovereign nations and roughly 11 thousand kilometers over the road. I spent most of this time not really thinking about the bigger picture of where I'm going or doing any significant planning. The map in head rarely extended much past the next town, and decisions were pretty exclusively made on a day to day basis.

(Cape Town and Table Mountain as seen from the V&A waterfront.)

The one constant, however detached, has been the symbolic destination of Cape Town. It's been my Mecca and I haven't turned away from it many times since I left Uganda. Havin…

Oh Cape Town

It's all but obligatory to rant and rave about Cape Town. It's one of those cities that everyone who visits loves. It's beautiful, laid-back, warm (so I've been told, I'm freezing) and definitely happening. The clich├ęs come pretty fast around here, the biggest being "it's not Africa, it's Cape Town." I hate to buy into it, but it's the truth. Cape Town is a world apart from Africa, even more so than the rest of SA is. It's full of beautiful architecture and parks, classy bars and restaurants and tourists galore.
( The Company's Gardens, basically the Central Park of Cape Town. The white building is the National Art Galleries.)

In short, Cape Town is great, with a surprising amount of things to do in close proximity of such a big city.

(More Company's Gardens, museum of natural history in the background)
The other day I took the opportunity for a visit to the cape of Good Hope and it's resident penguins. Visiting the penguins is pre…

Just call me Feather Baron

I seem to constantly flip flop back and forth between whether I want to on the beach or in the mountains. Honestly it's probably the enduring struggle of my life right now, which is a crystal clear indication of just how lucky I am. It's a clear cut case of the grass is greener: the beach is too easy and homogeneously beachy, everywhere else things just seem to go awry. After leaving the Drakensburgs after a great and very fun- if slightly ill fated- hike, we decided to stick to the beach for awhile and tour along the Wild Coast and Garden Route. The garden route and Wild coast are classic tourist brochure material, as the names would indicate. Perfect beaches, beautiful indigenous forests, amazing flora and fauna resulting from unique ecosystems created by the meeting of the icy Atlantic and balmy Indian oceans. On the beach is world class surfing, just back from the beach world class hiking. It is as great a travel destination for all ages as you're likely to find anywhe…


South Africa never ceases to surprise me with random reminders that I'm in a different world than I started in. Not to be a broken record, but South Africa really is not your grandfather's Africa of bumpy buses and mzungu mzungu. Yesterday I was driving down the silky smooth highway at the speed limit of like 90 mph, in itself a pretty huge contrast to East Africa. Then cars started whooshing by one after another. I took a closer look at what kind of machine could possibly be that much faster than the wicked matchbox car we had rented: 16 Ferraris, one after the other. I guess they were going for a little Sunday morning cruise session. Don't you fellas know that if you rounded a corner and found a herd of goats in the road at those speeds, eh!
To continue with the theme of where the hell am I: On Saturday, seeing as I was in Stellenbosh, the wine heartland of Africa, I went on a bicycle wine tour with a couple friends. It was a nice day (which around here means a nice clou…

Man vs Mountain (who do you think will win?)

The journey continues, the clock ticks on. I woke up yesterday and realized that I only have two or three weeks left in Africa. After being here for so long and having no real timetable for most of the time, the return of a sense of time is not altogether welcome addition to my life. This is the first time in which time has had a significant effect on my life in quite some time. I've developed a disdain for doing anything that could be considered racing against the clock, anytime I hear anyone say the words "hurry" or "schedule" I kind of go glassy eyed. But on the other hand I have finally stopped wasting time. Not having anything to do other than exactly what I want to when I want to, I have no need for "killing time". I'm doing my best to live every moment, and since there's no one but me to judge me for the ways in which I choose to do it, I spend virtually every moment doing what I want. I have finally gotten over the idea of doing what I…

Cash or card?

I am in South Africa. I have made it, more or less, to the end of my journey. I never really thought I would make it this far, not at the beginning nor in any place along the way. Certainly when I booked a ticket to Uganda I didn't think that I'd by flying home from the other side of the continent, and I had a plan for how to fly home from every country I've stopped at. It's been a long and interesting trip, and luckily it's not over yet. Next up for me is lots of hiking in the Drakensburgmountains and possibly Lesotho, depending on whether our little car can handle it.

So I'm in South Africa, obviously. At the moment in Pietermaritzburg, a medium side city in the middle of I'm not sure where. I spent a few days in Durban, a big city (4 million or something) on the coast. No qualifiers about it, I am squarely back in the developed world. No more Japanese- Tourist pictures of the tall buildings or street-scapes, it looks like any other city you've been to…

Zombies, man sized fishes and surfing- all in the same breath

I finally managed to get myself away from the beach, but it wasn't easy. This makes, I think the fifth time I've been on the beach since I got to Africa (Kenya, Tanzania twice, Malawi, Mozambique), and it's hard to beat. I just find myself here over and over. The interior of the continent is much more interesting and exciting, but it's hard to argue with the beach. It's not hard to see why the interior of the continent remained relatively untouched for so long while the colonists flooded the coastline; the beach is just easy. Where ever you are whether it's Africa or Florida, the beach is  the beach and predictable and manageable.When people ask about the beaches in Oregon, I generally respond that we don't have beach so much as coast. Yes there are miles upon miles of pristine stretches of sand and ocean and the Dungeoness crab is as fresh and cheap as I imagine you'll find anywhere (hollaback Moe's), but the thing is it's just so windy and the…

Playing with the locals

First the story:
I'm in Maputo, the Capital of Mozambique. I know not a soul and nobody at my hostel speaks English. So I was really and truly on my own to see the city. I walked around and saw the sights of town a bit, but wanted something different. So I decided to do something I've wanted to do since I got to Africa: I picked a bus and got on it. I laugh when I think about doing that at home, that's what crazy people do. Whatever, I guess I'm that guy now.

I picked Costa du Sol, because Spanish tells me that probably means Sun Coast. If ever there was an inviting sounding place this was it, so I got on and rode the bus for a while. Then when the time felt right, I got off. I found myself on the coast, and since it's Africa the sun was there in abundance. I wasn't quite sure what to do from there, I didn't exactly have any clue where I was or what one should do an unknown portion of the way to the Sun Coast. A group of kids my age had gotten off on the same…

The best things in life are free

I didn't get a chance to throw up a proper post about this at the time, and I'd hate for this to get lost in the mists like my stories from Karamoja.

A couple days after I went to Victoria Falls Tommy, Olivia, Izzy and I went beck to the falls for one last look. After trying unsuccessfully to sneak into the national park we decided to just go hang out at the bridge between Zam and Zim (-bia and –babwe, as they’re known). If you ask the border control nicely, they’ll let you out onto the bridge without a passport or even paying a dime. Maybe its not as good, but at least it’s free.

Me being me, I saw a sneaky little path by the bridge and wandered off the road. Bad idea; I forgot I was in an international border crossing. Sneaky little paths on borders are for illegal immigrants. The soldiers were not pleased by my impetuousness. Strike that, I think they were quite pleased to find an opportunity to demand a bribe. “This is very bad, now we must lock you in a cell. Maybe you have…

Great Zcott!

(the Great Enclosure on the left, home to only the most favored wives of the king)

While in Zimbabwe we decided to check out Great Zimbabwe, the largest pre-colonial structure in sub-Saharan Africa. There's not a lot to say about it really, the pictures really tell the story.

(The king and his buddies live on the top of the hill. Sorry, no girls allowed)

I don't really remember the facts unfortunately. It is dated to around the 15th (or was it 12th?) century. It is now accepted that it was built by bantu speaking peoples, despite the best efforts of white historians to ascribe it to just about anyone other than the Natives- Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, whoever.

(Scholars postulate that this structure could possibly be phallic in nature. Hard to imagine)

It was thought that about 2000 people resided there in its heyday, with status determining who makes it inside the walls. It was abandoned well before the colonists arrived, for unknown reasons.

(The walls appear to be built haphha…

Forget what you heard about Zimbabwe

(Beautiful central Harare)
Zimbabwe has a reputation that precedes it. Tell someone you're going to Malawi or Zambia and more times than not they'll just stare blankly with an obligatory "Is that in Africa?" Zimbabwe however, people know. Zimbabwe carries a specific set of images to most Westerners with a solid grasp of current events (I think). Think about the word Zimbabwe, what comes to mind? For me it was three things. Robert Mugabe: governmental mismanagement at the most unimaginable scale. Trillion dollar bills: The utter failure of an economy and the highest inflation rate in the world outside of a war zone. White farmers getting their land stolen: official government policy placed any land owned by whites up for grabs to any squatter with a gun and started a land rush to the bottom. Zimbabwe in the Western media is a Bad Place whose president is leading them to their own destruction as fast as his old legs can carry them. I was under the impression that white …

One for the Record Books

(The Zambia-Zimbabwe bridge over the Lower Zambezi river)

(Tower of mist from Victoria Falls, "The Smoke that Thunders")

Saturday was definitely a day like no other. I had been complaining about things being too slow and uneventful for the last week or so, but when it rains it pours. Highlights of my day include:

1: Spending the day hiking and chilling around at Victoria falls, which does justice to the title of one of the 7 Wonders of the World*
2: A standoff with a troop of baboons whereby an unwitting AZN tourist nearly had her purse snatched.
3: A sunset booze cruise on the Mighty Zambezi where we saw hippos and crocodiles, in between drinking our faces off of course.
4: Getting a phone call from my family- post booze cruise, and wishing my Dad a happy Father's Day (It was his birthday, so an honest though not particularly impressive mistake)
5-6: More or less unknown
7: Waking up in a hammock at the wrong gueshouse, conversations with an unknown +44 phone number (England)…

Livingstoned- UPDATED

(Mango Drift on Likoma Island, Malawi)

I am now in Livingstone, Zambia, on the border with Zimbabwe. Livingstone is a very cool city; mellow, clean, with a lot of food and things to do. It's roughly the size of Mbale, which makes it very comfortable for me. It was the nation's capitol pre-independence, so it has a lot of nice older buildings and a good layout. It would be a nice place to spend a few days even if it had no tourist attractions at all. But Livingstone does, have a little toursit attraction of its own to offer. In the local language it's called "the smoke that thunders," and though I haven't been to see it yet I have seen the mist hovering about 10 kilometers outside of town. It is also often refered to as The 7th Wonder of the World, Victoria Falls. I don't really know the specifics, and I know there's a lot of wiggleroom about "biggest" when you talk about lakes and waterfalls. Whatever the case, I think they say this is the b…

My life as I see it

Another day, another town, another country. I've been zooming around from place to place for a while now and sometimes it feels like it's hard to straight just where I am. I guess it's the nature of backpacking and trying to cover a vast distance in a limited amount of time, but I spend a lot of time feeling pretty untethered. I've been in Africa for close to a year now, and travelling/ homeless for about 2 months since leaving Mbale for Southwest Uganda. In that time I have been through countless towns and villages, 5 capital cities (Kampala, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Lilongwe, Malawi; Lusaka, Zambia), and covered a distance of I don't know how many thousand kilometers.

I've travelled by bus- both what Paul Theroux refers to as "chicken buses" and more Western luxury ones, car, truck, ferry, motorboat, sailboat, rowboat, canoe, motorcycle, bicycle, and of course on foot. I've crammed into taxis, matatus, dalla-dallas, matoly…