africa in review…

all in all I ended up spending about one and a half months in Africa. initially I had planned on seeing Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, but in the end I never got to Uganda, although I did add Ethiopia in there. I had great expectations for Africa. for me, in so many ways, it seemed like it would be the final frontier. I though it would be the most hardcore part of the journey and that I would see things there like I had never seen before. in some ways that is true, the safaris I went on were absolutely incredible and I saw an unbelievable amount of animals etc. this was definitely the highlight of east Africa.

I’ll have to admit though, that other than the safaris that I went on, I was a bit disappointed in Africa. I mean, yeah, I still had a good time of course, it did have a lot to offer, but I cant say that I felt as excited or passionate about it as I had Asia, India, or the middle east. it definitely wasn’t as crazy of an adventure as I hoped it would be. Africa was good… but it wasn’t spectacular. for one thing, I think maybe part of the problem was that it was expensive. it wasn’t nearly as expensive as Europe or Japan, but it was much more expensive than Asia, and I don’t really think that this high cost was warranted. honestly, the hotels, restaurants, etc were not any better than Asia (if not actually worse) yet they were often 4 or 5 times the cost. because of this high expense, I wasn’t able to do quite as much stuff here as I hoped. safaris were crazy expensive, climbing Kilimanjaro was crazy expensive, diving was crazy expensive. in the end, I had to avoid all these activities because of the price tag, whereas in Asia I did as much as I pleased. plus, in Asia I often felt like I could get a lot out of it without even doing any activities, whereas here I felt like unless I was on safari or whatnot, I wasn’t sure what to do.

I don’t know why this is so. how can Africa get away with charging so much for everything? Africa is less developed than say Thailand, yet they charge way more. I think maybe part of the problem is that Africa is far. it’s far to travel to, and flights to get there are expensive. this keeps a lot of budget travelers away. most of the people that come here are probably rather well off if they can afford the expensive tickets and can afford the expensive safaris, so the hotels feel like they can easily charge huge prices since their customers can afford it.

and in other ways… often I got the feeling like these places just didn’t care about business. I’m not sure why. waiters at restaurants would do a crappy job, or mess up your order w/ no apology. hotels would screw you over, and when you tell them you’re leaving and wouldn’t give them business, they just shrug. it really seemed like they didn’t care whether you came or went. the prices would be huge, the hotel would be empty, but they would still rather you just walk away than give you a discount. it’s very bizarre.

plus, the food there was not very good. in some ways, food might not be the most important part of visiting a place, but still, I love good food and I love trying new kinds of food as I travel. when you spend day after day of eating stuff that’s boring, it gets to you after a while.

the exception to my Africa experience was Ethiopia. Ethiopia was like it’s own world, and completely different than east Africa. I had decided to add Ethiopia in at the last minute, and I’m so glad I did. out of the 3 African countries, this is where I felt like I was really living an adventure. here I was really traveling off the beaten path and seeing things that were really uncommon. seeing all the different tribes and how they lived was incredibly fascinating.

through my trip, I’ve seen a lot of villages. most countries have tours where they take you to a village to see “village life”, but unfortunately often you kind of feel like this little village was practically set up just to be shown to tourists. it was hard to see if this was how the people really lived. not in Ethiopia. there I *really* felt like I was out in the middle of nowhere. people out there really lived a completely different life, and it was hardly influenced or even touched by the outside world. these people still followed traditions that have been handed down for centuries, still lived in their tribal ways, and were still often surprised to see foreigners.

the people of Ethiopia were really friendly and interesting, and I really enjoyed interacting with them. all the children that would come running out while screaming “you!you!you!” were so cute and funny. yeah, almost everyone we met asked us for money… but I really never got the feeling like this was all they wanted. I think they just figured they may as well ask since lots of foreigners might give them a handout. but once they asked, and we said no, they would still continue to talk with us and were genuinely interested in interacting.

Ethiopia was definitely difficult travel. the hardest so far I’d say. horrible roads, dirty hotels, no running water, etc etc… but all these adversities actually made it all that more interesting. I don’t like taking the easy route. it´s always the difficult path that is most rewarding.

so that’s it for Africa. too bad I only saw 3 countries. I still really want to go to Uganda, and see the gorillas. I would love to go to Zimbabwe and Sudan, two countries that, the more I hear about them, the more interesting they sound. I guess there’s always a next time.

now let’s see what South America has in store for me…




we spent a week chilling on Zanzibar island. it’s a large island about 3 hours by ferry away from Tanzania. the time we spent there was divided between two cities: Stonetown and Nungwi.

Stonetown, on the southern side of the island is a rather large city, with the most interesting part being its core right next to the ocean. it is filled with old narrow mazelike streets that wind their way around crumbling colonial buildings. the main attraction here is to just spend time wandering around and getting lost, which we did. the atmosphere of the city is a cross between colonial and middle eastern. there is a large Muslim population so you see a lot of people walking about wearing robes of various kinds. and on the west side is the ocean, a brilliant absolutely pale blue color, with wooden boats bobbing up and down in its waters. the shore is lined w/ sand and palms. Stonetown is definitely a picture-perfect vision of an old city by the sea.

the city is filled with all sorts of nice restaurants and we visited many of them. we had good African food while sitting on cushions on the floor. we had western food at a place called Mercury’s, name after Freddy mercury who surprisingly was born on Zanzibar island. we ate at a delicious seafood restaurant, where our table was literally in the sand on the beach and we were waited on hand and foot. in the end, we kind of went overboard and spent too much money on food, but it was worth it.

while we were in town, we checked out some of the old landmarks like the old palace and the infirmary. these buildings looked really cool on the outside, but the inside wasn’t nearly as interesting.

one night, when we were leaving a restaurant, we saw this large millipede, and then right afterwards, I saw the biggest snail I’ve ever seen. this thing was as long as my hand. humongous.

after a couple days, we left Stonetown to go to the beach town of Nungwi. the previous night, we had an altercation w/ the owner of the hotel we stayed in. he wanted to arrange us a taxi, but we didn’t want to go at 8am when his taxi was leaving. he got totally pissed off and started bitching at us saying we only care about money and basically accused us of being cheap bastards. we told him that it wasn’t about money and that we just didn’t want to wake up early, but he wouldn’t listen since he was totally drunk. the following day, we got into an altercation w/ our taxi driver. I wont bother going into details, but he was flaming pissed, totally yelled at us, and said that we would see what happens to people that piss him off. ahh, sometimes it’s so nice to interact w/ the locals! 😉

Nungwi is a small village, and is roughly divided into a small town where only locals hang out and tourists hardly venture, and the strip of coastline that is packed with tourist guesthouses, restaurants, and bars. it’s a great place to spend some time, relax, and get away fro it all. we were totally lazy for the next few days. we slept in. we hung out on the beach and did nothing. we ate at the local restaurants which actually pretty much all had crap food and were overpriced. we spent every night drinking for hours at whichever bar we chose that night. not being much of a drinker, caryn stayed in most nights, so Joey and I would just head out on our own. it was nice to be able to just hang out w/ a friend and have some drinks.

the most popular bar on the beach was a place called chollos which was next door to us. one night, out of nowhere, like 30 people all showed up wearing costumes made out of black garbage bags. it was like a crazy whacky SF costume party, but instead it was here on the beach in Africa. so random! turned out that all these people had been on an overland truck tour and were celebrating the end of their tour. one night the “world famous dj Marvin” played and practically everyone on the island came to dance to cheesy music. even the Masai were rocking out and showing off crazy dance moves.

we found a scorpion in our hotel room one night. for the next several days I was afraid of walking around inside w/ the lights off.

one day we walked down to the local “aquarium”. this was a place where there was a closed off natural lagoon, and there were a bunch of sea turtles inside. you could feed the turtles kelp and they were huge. you could even swim w/ the turtles if you wanted to, but we didn’t. some old guy did, and totally manhandled the turtles, holding on to them, and pulling them out of the water. “look at them!! they’re so beautiful and docile!” he would yell as the turtle frantically struggled to get away from him. it was painful to watch.

we walked back along the beach and just took in the beauty all around us. I’ve never really been a beach person and don’t care for the beach too much, but sometimes I really understand why everyone loves it. there’s just something about the sand, waves, and sky that blend perfectly together. as we walked, we watched the waves come crashing onto the shore. we saw tons of little local children racing around the beach. we saw large wooden boats, most of them only partially built just laying on their side waiting to be finished. little Muslim girls, covered almost head to toe, giggled and jumped around near the water trying to avoid getting wet. tiny white crabs scrambled along the beach, ducking into their little homes when we approached. it really was a nice walk…

our last night there we ended up meeting up w/ dan, a guy from America who I had exchanged emails with a long time ago. this was back before either of us had left on our rtw trips and we had been so excited and couldn’t wait to get started. and here we were, me one year into my trip and him 7 months into his, here on Zanzibar island. we talked a ton about how our trips had gone, what we had seen and done, and what we still had ahead of us. it’s always cool to cross paths with people on the road. we hung out w/ him and his friend Alex, ate at an all you can eat barbecue on the beach, and then caught a taxi with them on the way back to Stonetown the next day.

our last night in Stonetown, we realized that maybe we left Nungwi a bit early. all of us probably could have used some extra time on the beach. oh well, there’s still more time for that. our last night in Stonetown, we went out to the night market. a bunch of people set up food stalls near the water. the whole area is smoky from all the grills going at once. people yell to try to get your attention, selling their small skewers of food. each grill was loaded w/ a variety of different skewers, each a different color: pink lobster, light grey tuna, brown beef. all of it was quite good, and the atmosphere made it even better. the whole time in Zanzibar, we had been really sheltered, eating at places specifically designed for tourists, so it was nice to eat w/ the locals the way they do. the next morning, we walked around Stonetown for the last time, and then we took the ferry back to the mainland. The ferry ride back was much smoother than on the way there.

ahhh… it had been a really nice week on the island…


not much happening

arggghh. ever since Ethiopia, I’ve been so behind with my blog. I still haven’t been able to catch up. damn. anyways, after the 2nd safari, there were several days when not much happened. here’s a quick summary:

8/25/05 continued..

after returning from the safari, we treated ourselves to a more expensive room w/ a TV and everything. we went out to eat at an indian/italian restaurant (weird combination, eh?) across the way which was very good. at night, Joey and I went to the hotel bar and had some drinks, and by the time we got back to our rooms, we were too tired to take advantage of the TV. doh.


we spent the day in moshi, a small town near the base of Kilimanjaro. our main priority was to figure out what we would do about climbing Kilimanjaro. what company would we go with? what route would we take? how would we get our gear? well, in the end, the more research we did, the more we realized that kili would be an impossible undertaking for us. the cheapest route, Marangu, was 700$ and this exhausting strenuous 4 day climb turned out to have an only 10% success rate!! everyone else ended up giving up due to the extreme altitude. the next easiest route, one where we would actually have a good chance to get to the top was over $1000. OUCH! we just couldn’t afford that kind of money. there was the possibility of trying to go w/ some cheap independent operator, but we read a bunch of horror stories about that. apparently, sometimes these guys take you up the mountain, and then just ditch you!! you wake up, crawl out of your tent, and there you are all alone with no guide, gear, or porters!! also, a lot of the cheaper companies give you total crappy gear that doesn’t fit, sleeping bags that are too small, etc etc. climbing Africa’s tallest mountain was a serious undertaking, so we decided we just couldn’t risk this. so we gave up. it really sucks cause we were actually really excited about climbing. I had wanted to climb the mountain for months now. *sigh*. oh well… maybe some other year.

for a funny account of someone’s climb on the mountain, check this out:

Moshi, the town we were in, would almost be a pleasant place, except for the millions of touts. every person in town works for a safari company, a climbing company, or another tourist agency. every step you take in town, you are bugged by people who want to sell you tours. it drives you crazy after a while.

other than being really depressed by our decision regarding Kilimanjaro, we didn’t do much that day. ate at the Indian restaurant, twice I think! and ended the night in the hotel bar, drinking our troubles away. we heard about some club in town which sounded interesting, but were too afraid to go there in case it would be swamped w/ hookers.


since we weren’t climbing Kilimanjaro, we decided to do a quick hike around the area just for fun. we made an arrangement to hire a guide, but he ended up trying to rip us off, so we backed out. in the end, we decided to just do it ourselves. we took a taxi to this hotel that was several kilometers out of town, and then just started walking. it actually turned out to be a pretty fun hike. we had no clue where the hell we were headed, so it was kind of like an adventure. we walked and walked. we passed coffee plantations, and then eventually got to a more jungleish are where we walked through large banana trees. we found a small village and walked through that, waving at children and other people who lived there. eventually, we ended up walking by more coffee bushes, and then out of nowhere we saw this huge compound in the distance.

at first we thought this place was a hotel. we thought we’d go there, have a drink, and then make our way back. as we got closer though, we noticed that this definitely didn’t look like a hotel. instead, it was all surrounded by barbed wire, had lookout towers, and looked more like a prison than anything. we thought about turning back, but we were now curious, so we walked closer. after getting through all the trees, we got to the front of the compound and saw a girl sitting on the porch. she yelled out “karibu” (meaning “welcome” in Swahili). I yelled out “do you speak English” and she answered in Swahili, though I don’t know what she said. she yelled out a few m ore things, and then as Joey and I approached the place closer, she yelled out something that sounded like “please, no!” and grabbed a rifle that had been sitting behind her. oh crap! we decided to not stick around and see what she meant to do w/ the rifle. we turned around quickly and got the hell out of there. we still have no idea what that place was. prison? military camp? al-queda?!

we returned back to town, ate at the Indian place again, and went to sleep.


the next morning, we took a bus to Dar Essalam. it was a 7 hour bus ride, but the roads were paved, so it wasn’t that bad. actually, this bus ride was really cool cause they gave everyone on the bus free sodas. at one point, we stopped for the usual bathroom break where everyone, both men and women, scrambled into the bushes. it’s funny how I’ve gotten totally used to this and it’s totally the norm for me now. what’s the big deal, right? but then I was thinking, could you imagine if this happened back home? if a greyhound bus just stopped in a field and told people to go to the bathroom behind bushes?! people would be so angry! eventually we had a lunch stop. we asked how long it would be and it turned out to be only 10 minutes!! everyone had to get there chicken and fries in a sack, and then squirted tons of hot sauce on it and ran back on the bus. the whole bus slowly munched their chicken and fries on the bus.

hours later, we got to dar Essalam. we had dinner at a hamburger place called Steers where we had eaten in Kenya. the one in Kenya had been so damn good!! this one sucked though, and I had lots of bone chunks in my burger and the whole thing was just nasty.


didn’t do too much today. had breakfast in a tasty cafe. across the street they sold t-shirts that said “mzungu” on them. we had no clue what that meant, so we asked our waitress and she started giggling and then said she didn’t know. well, it was obvious she knew but wouldn’t tell us. later we found out that it means something like “white man” or “foreigner” or something. it’s not meant to be an offensive term either, I guess that’s just what we are called.

Joey and I spent the rest of the afternoon running errands. we went to the post office. we got a bunch of money from an atm, since we were going to Zanzibar the next day and there would be no atms there. we bought ferry tickets. we exchanged money for dollars (on Zanzibar you have to pay for hotels rooms in dollars, not sure why.). eventually, when joey and i were ready to leave the post office, it started pouring like crazy.we decided to run for it. we ran full speed through the downpour, jumping over puddles and dodging cars that gor in our way. we got lots of funny looks by everyone else who stoff under overhangs keeping dry. we got so totally soaked, but it was all kind of funny. later on we went to a bookstore. big mistake. we left there $100 dollars poorer with 6 new books. we unsuccessfully shopped for shoes. we eventually ate dinner, did more internet, and went to sleep.


in the morning we took the ferry to Zanzibar. 3 hour trip. the ride was hell. probably one of the most rocky ferry rides ever. caryn came really close to vomiting and Joey and I felt awful as well. luckily, we survived the trip since the sea settled down eventually.

there’s this tribe that lives here in east Africa called the Masai. they are very recognizable because they still wear their traditional red checkered robes and loads of silver dangly jewelry. it’s pretty crazy that we can just be sitting on this ferry, and there will be a few Masai tribesmen just chilling on deck talking to each other. we randomly here and there see them in the city as well, walking down the street and whatnot. it’s pretty cool that these guys have preserved their own unique heritage, even when they live amongst the much more modern dressed Tanzanians. later, on Zanzibar, we would even see these guys in bars and clubs. so funny. a huge dancefloor full of tourists and locals, and then you’ll see these dudes in tribal robes totally rocking out to American pop songs.

… so that’s it for those several days. yeah, yeah, I know this is kind of a boring entry, but not that much happened on those days, so what can ya do?


safari #2


we woke up in the morning and it was time to go on our next safari. this time we would be going to Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania. this place was supposed to be really cool because not only could you see lots of animals, but the scenery was supposed to be amazing as well. also, in this crater, there was a good chance of seeing a black rhino which is super rare. there was some confusion at our hotel, and for some reason, when our driver arrived, the hotel staff told him that we had left at 5am and had never come back! well, eventually things were sorted out and we were on the way. Joseph, our guide/driver, was the nicest guy you could ever meet, but he was also totally disorganized. he had to call back to the office to figure out our lunch situation. then he had to borrow money from Joey to pay for the lunches. he wasn’t sure how we would get the sleeping bags that we needed for the night, etc etc etc.

eventually, we picked up our box lunches and were off. we made the mandatory stop at a gift shop on the way, and refused to buy any souvenirs for the insane prices they were offering (about *10* times more than what they should be!). after more driving, we soon entered the park and were on the crater rim. the inside of the crater was quite hazy, so photos of the view didn’t come out so great, but the view was still amazing. the crater itself was HUGE, and you could just barely see to the other side. inside, you could see that the landscape was quite varied. some parts had lots of trees, others were dry gravel, and there was even a huge dry encrusted soda lake in there too. we slowly descended down the bumpy road into the crater, avoiding several overturned trucks that had been unlucky.

when our driver paid our park admissions, I realized that we had way overpaid for the safari. we had paid $120 per day per person, which comes out to 720$. it turns out that park/camp fees were a meager $210 for all of us! the remaining $510 seemed a bit much to pay for renting a van for 2 days and food. *sigh*. oh well. we finally got to the crater floor, and started exploring the place. I really enjoyed the park. there wasn’t as many animals as the Masai Mara, and the animals there were much more spread out, and in a way, I think I may have actually liked it this way better. it felt more real and natural that way. each time we spotted an animal, it was much more of an event, since we weren’t seeing them every 2 feet. also, the other really nice thing was that there were much less vans here than in Masai Mara. often times, we’d be the only van that we could see, and it felt a lot more peaceful and pleasant that way. the cars here were required by law (and monitored by rangers) not to drive off the tracks, so our presence didn’t seem as destructive here either which was nice.

after driving around some more, we spotted two lions who were hunting some wildebeest. the wildebeest were just standing around, not having a clue, and the lions were slowly but surely creeping up closer and closer. the scene was *so* intense. the lions moved ever so slowly, each paw cautiously stepping forward so as to not make any noise. earlier, we had been really hoping to see a kill. what could be more exciting than to actually see a powerful lion attack its prey? but now that the scene was actually playing out in front of me, I really didn’t want it to happen. the wildebeest just looked so innocent, meek, and oblivious… I really didn’t want them to be slaughtered. the scene became more and more tense as the lionesses got closer, but then something happened… I dunno, maybe the wind shifted or something, but all at once, the whole herd of wildebeest bolted. lions cant run fast for very long, and the wildebeest were still out of range, so the lions didn’t even attempt to give chase. the situations were hopeless.

the lions stopped their slow careful stalking, and trotted forwards looking for more animals. the vans followed, and soon enough, there was another small pack of wildebeest. the lions decided to attack from both sides this time. one lion went right, while the other circled around to the left. once again, everyone was totally tense. as the lion on the left got closer and closer, finally the wildebeest picked up on it, and all of them dashed frantically to the right… towards the other lion. this one caught them totally by surprise, and they swerved trying to escape. the lion, now within striking distance, gave chase… but it wasn’t fast enough. once again, the wildebeest got away. in the end, we never saw a kill, which actually is probably a good thing.

later on we took our lunch in this area that had tons of monkeys. these guys were brave, and honestly, a bit menacing. they kept running at the car to try to snatch our food. these guys weren’t afraid of humans either. if you tried to scare them or stomp at them, they would just lunge toward you and bare their teeth. at one point, one of them actually got in our van, and we all freaked out and jumped out. it jumped to the roof of the van and wouldn’t leave, instead it kept baring its fangs at us. sheez, if these things were a little bigger, I’m sure they’d fully take us on and probably win.

eventually, we headed to where we would be camping, and there was more confusion. our tents hadn’t arrived, and there were still no sleeping bags to be seen. finally, we got our stuff, but then, our food wasn’t ready. all the other people were being fed by their cooks, but we had to just stand there in the cold and dark waiting. we didn’t even have any chairs to sit on! when we finally did get our food, we ate fast, since we were quite hungry and then went to bed, a bit nervous that wild animals might come to our tent.


the next day we set out again, back into the crater. this was our last day on safari, and we were really hoping to see the remaining two of the big 5, a leopard or a rhino. we were in luck, in just a few minutes, our guide got a phone call from his brother who was down in the crater. he had spotted a leopard and told us where it might be. unfortunately, the leopard had been seen several hours prior, so there was a good chance that it may have moved by then.

we were lucky though. when we arrived on the scene, there it was… a leopard. it was sitting on this bent tree trunk, just relaxing. leopards are very solitary animals who usually kill their prey and then pull it up into trees. they really don’t like to be disturbed, so it was a bit surprising that the leopard didn’t make a run for it. unfortunately, the leopard was kind of at a distance, and it was a bit hazy out, so my photos of it didn’t come out all that great.

we spent the rest of the morning driving around the crater, and after several hours, we drove up to the place near a lake where someone had spotted a rhino. at first, we didn’t see anything. but eventually, after peering into the distance, we finally saw a little black dot, that may possibly have been a rhino. the guide said it definitely was a rhino, but honestly, I wasn’t convinced. we didn’t have any binoculars with us, but luckily we were able to borrow some from another van. looking through the binoculars, I was able to focus on the dot a little better, and finally a small rhino-esque shape began to form. it was still tiny, and very difficult to make out, but finally I had to agree that it had to be a rhino. I took a photo of it through the binoculars. the photo came out fuzzy and pretty bad, but sort of kind of you can make out a rhino shape.

we had done it! we had been able to see all 5 of the big 5. it had been a really exciting safari. very different than the Masai Mara. I’m still not sure which safari I liked better. the Masai Mara definitely had more animals and it was really exciting, but Ngorongoro had somewhat more of a relaxed feel, and the scenery was definitely better.