Thursday, March 29, 2007

plan A: miracle on sand or anything is possible in africa.

Khartoum here i come!!!


i went to the sudanese embassy this morning dreading the worst. instead i came away with overnight service for a visa (of course, after i forked over $61 USD).

the outcome just shocked the bejeezus out of me. i was expecting a long wait.

why was given expedited service? to tell you the truth: I REALLY DON'T GIVE A RAT'S ASS. ha! It's fun to speculate though. I think it was a combination of the following:

1. i looked like i was from the PRC - peoples' repub. of china.
2. i waited quietly for 2.5 hrs. watching 42 ethiopians ahead of me in the que jump through the bureaucratic hoops in getting their visas. i actually didn't see any visas granted to them...
3. i applied for only a transit visa (i.e. go straight through, do not collect my 200 dullah) which was purported to be much easier to obtain than it's rich cousin, the tourist visa.
4. i showered and shaved this morning and put on my only long sleeved shirt.
5. the man behind the visa desk thought, "that poor chinese bastard has patiently sat there for the last 2.5 hrs. without saying a word. he needs a visa today or tomorrow."

having hindsight now, the 4 days of pounding the pavement was worth it (ok, i fit in some museum time). 2 trips to the canadian embassy to pay 50 bucks for a letter of introduction -- i got to write jackass steve h. for a refund. 2 trips to the egyptian embassy for a $50 USD visa -- i got to write jackass steve h. for another refund. and, 2 trips to the bank to finance this debacle.

so this is plan A. it's a bit complicated. the sudanese visa will be valid for only 2 weeks. unfortunately, i need at least 3 more weeks to look around ethiopia (the very basics). to borrow time, I'm heading to Harrar (way out in the east) after taking in the Mercato in addis, in 2 days. harrar is home of the famous Hyena Man. should be brill watching him feed the hyenas. i'll probable spend 2 or 3 days out there. then it's back to collect my sudanese visa here.

from that point in time, the clock will start. I've got 2 weeks to reach the sudan border. on the way, i've got to find the Lost Ark of the Covenant. that's tall order my friend...

upon entering the sudan, i will have 2 weeks to clear the country. fortunately, the visa is extendable in khartoum if there there are any "unforeseen" delays (effectively making it a tourist visa). khartoum will be brill. look out Royal City of Meroe.

on top of all this I have 2 months to reach wadi halfa, on the shores of Lake Nasser, and enter egypt.

it's gonna be brill.

did i mention i love to travel (especially when things work out).

(by the way, the plan B i was contempting was sailing to yemen via djibouti, hiring camels to cross into oman and then jump the strait of hormuz and land in iran. not a bad itinerary, eh? maybe next time)


Monday, March 26, 2007

out of touch...again.

middle: anna on the left and jeremy on the right. mercedes below. africans scattered in the rafters. desert outside marsabit all around.

hello my friends,

it's been awhile since i've been able to log in at all or when it's financially feasible.

let's get started. where did i leave off... yes, in kenya. the big crossing. suffice to say, the trip exceeded all expectations with regards to being bounced around. to summarize, i got to isiolo fine. from there i bumped into friends from nairobi, anna and jeremy. fantastic people. jeremy's from calgary originally. living in the uk now. anna a full blown english girl. their adventure involves driving their unmistakable yellow mercedes from capetown all the way home to london. last i heard from them in nairobi, they were trying to have the car shipped from to moyale on the ethiopian/kenyan border. there's no way the mercedes could have made it.

well, i'm in isiolo, another story in itself, and voila! there's this yellow mercedes in the back of this transport truck. i found anna and jeremy throwing back brewskies in a local watering hole and i ask for a lift.

half hour later, i find myself in the back of the truck riding in the backseat of the merc with 20 or so africans hanging onto the rails

the torture lasted through the night. the ride in the merc didn't help smooth out the jarring potholes. the saving graces were the brilliant starry night, outstanding music selection from jeremy's ipod (it played john lennon singin' imagine. how appropriate, eh?), and bottles of red wine and cheap whiskey to dampen the pain. let's just say everyone in the back was having fun.

i overheard one of the kenyans mention, "traveling's fun..." now that's hilarious.

we reached moyale within 48 hrs.

mursi woman. lip plate is not conducive to good kissing but will fetch alot of cattle for her family when she marries (if that hasn't happened yet).

from moyale, i and a couple of spanish guys, luis and antonio (also on the truck from kenya), headed for the Omo valley in SW ethiopia. the original plan was to head to Addis Ababa immediately, but i nixed that plan because of the anticipated rains. travel in the Omo Valley would have been impossible.

how can i describe Omo in the least no. of words? national geographic. it's a living ethnographic museum of sorts. there are 5 or 6 tribes there that still live traditionally. each having it's own language. in theory, they have the occasional dust up because of rustling each other's cattle, but it was pretty peaceful while i was there.

i can get into the subject of tourism and the effects of it on these and other tribes around the world but that would require me to write some kind of dissertation. but it's safe to say, the traditional ways will not last long in the Omo. the influx of outsiders, africans and tourists, and the bloody road they're building.

oh, i forgot to mention 2 birr for a photo. i would kill the first tourist to offer money for photos.

after 7 days in Omo, i'm in AA. my task is to try to get a sudanese visa. pronto. the canadian embassy is not expediting the process...

if i don't get the visa in a reasonable amount of time, it's plan B.

i have an idea of what plan B should be but i ask my loyal readers for their suggestions...


update: anna and jeremy, spur of the moment, decided to marry yesterday. i arrived too late to video tape it. oh well... they hired a coptic monk to perform the ceremony.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

i'm outta here...part 34

hello my friends...

tomorrow marks the beginning of perhaps the most interesting part of the trip.

i'm headed for ethiopia. for those with atlases or keeping score, i'm headed to the kenyan/ethiopian border via isiolo, marsabit, and finally moyale at the border. the tarmac ends at isiolo. public transportation ends at that point as well. thus, i will have to resort to hitch-hiking (in this case paying for a reportedly torturous bumpy ride on top of a transport truck all the way to the border.

after reaching moyale it's a 2 day torturous bus ride through the land of rock throwing kids to the capital of addis ababa.

i am so looking forward to getting there.

in the meantime, i'll be wrapping it up here in nairobi. you won't believe it but i had a great time here especially with the most interesting people/fellow travelers at the upper hill campsite. i'd like to mention a few of them. forgive me if i missed anyone. there was thomas (the german bicyclist - check out the link on the side bar), leonardo (the crazy kelownian who specialized in swedish chef impersonations), john (a true swede), claus (the mumbling dane), maria (the german girl), leo (the swiss marathon bike rider without a tent), frank and amanda from calgary, and tiffany (the american girl/burnt out lawyer cycling to capetown on the tour d'afrique - yes, the tour was in town).

well that's it from nairobi... i survived!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


nap time in the school of hard knocks.

more school kids...

not much time today kids.

arrived back in nairobi a few days back. i must admit it was with much trepidation. i started my "travel career" back whenever here. it was not a positive experience. those who know me know that i spent the first 4 days back then sequestered in my hotel room immobilized by fear.

my observations so far have confirmed a significant improvement in the security situation.

such an improvement, i ventured, on a tour, to one of the ginormous shanty towns that surround nairobi.

local tradition has it that tourists are scammed in downtown nairobi and shot in the slums.

well, it's not that bad...

it's a long and heart tugging story that i will write, at length, about later.

suffice to say, it's a must do tour when in nairobi. a full on, in your face experience.

will be in nairobi for a few more days getting ready for the biggest road trip so far.