Sunday, December 31, 2006

Long Ferry from Zanzibar

After a grueling trip, Megan and I have arrived at the Peacock Hotel in Dar es Salaam. The internet here is marginal, so we're attempting to post via email. Due to the religious holiday, everything in the city is closed, so this will really be out only option for posting today . . . hopefully it works!

Last night was glorious. After a fascinating tour of a spice plantation that included tastings of delicious and unusual fruits and teas as well as a great "guess that spice" game, we headed back to Stone Town for some shopping. Later, we headed to the rooftop bar of the Africa House Hotel to watch the sunset. Over a couple of Kili's, we watched the sun set over the Indian ocean while chatting with some Belgian guys about their recent climb of Kilimanjaro. The evening was beautiful. We then headed to Mercury's, a restaurant on the water named for Freddie Mercury, who was born on Zanzibar. Then we retired to our nicest hotel of the trip . . . still no hot water, but, by gosh, we had some nice air-conditioning.

This morning was not glorious. Our 7 AM ferry left at 10. Then the air conditioning went out twenty minutes into the three-hour trip, and we started sweating profusely . . . and so did everyone else, especially people who haven't bathed in a really long time. Then roaches started crawling around, and then a woman in the seat behind us vomited all over the floor. We're happy to be off that boat.

By the way, we now know that you can fly from Zanzibar to Dar in twenty minutes . . . for ten dollars more than we paid for the ferry.

Tonight should be a fun New Year's Eve. The hotel has a big party with fire breathers and dancers and bands and "yoga" (we have no idea what this means).

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Long Road to Zanzibar

First we want to thank everyone for the comments! We definitely feel the love . . . which reminds me of a Lion King song, which reminds me that we've been constantly thinking about the Lion King . . . here we hope to give a quick update of some juicy stories and interesting moments. We'll give the play by play in a few days from Dar es Salaam, where we will have basically nothing to do but hang out online.

We're here in Zanzibar at last. The past week has been grueling--as Megan so perfectly puts it, "it has been a trip of extremes." We've had some of our best travel experiences and worst travel experiences, and we sometimes have to think that the worst travel experiences will someday be our favorite memories.

An example. Christmas Day was an unusual one. The night before had been bizarre (can't even start that now), and we woke up Christmas morning at roughly five a.m. to the sight of a massive mosquito net and the sound of tropical rain. We joined the portion of our crew that had camped for the night at Miserani Snake Ranch (yes, great advertising for a camp ground . . . and yes, they do have a large collection of venomous African snakes . . . and yes, they remind you that most of those snakes live all around us in Tanzania). The crowd that had been camping was less than cheery, and we were soon ankle deep in mud trying to load vans to head to the Serengeti. Christmas was looking bleak.

But then an omen . . . a wonderful omen . . . our driver to the Serengeti was named Livingstone! We knew that would mean good things awaited us in the future. That was partially true and partially really really wrong.

While I'll get into animals later (yes, saw cheetahs, wildebeest, lions, topi, impala, giraffes, zebra, elephants, warthogs, rhinos, hyenas, jackals, ostrich, baboons, etc., etc., etc.), that night at the campsite was particularly interesting.

We had reached the campsite (which had no fences, barriers, armed guards or other barricade-like things) after braving roads that looked more like rivers, and we were exhausted by time we could attempt to pitch a very musty tent. The campsite had a sign that we initially dismissed: "Caution: Wild Animals May Attach Humans At Campsite." While we thought being attacked would be bad, being "attached" seemed somehow much, much worse.

Anyway, later in the evening, we sipped on a spicy cucumber soup followed by a tasty coconut rice. Then, the ever trusty Livingstone approached to give us some information. Apparently hyenas, jackals, and lions were frequent visitors to the campsite. We later learned that on that same Christmas night a lion made a kill just a hundred meters from a neighboring campsite. We also later learned of a woman who was bitten by a hyena on that very Christmas day.

The news was unfortunate as I had quickly acquired a taste for Kilimanjaro, a Tanzanian beer (say "it's Kili time!" to a local, and you're bound to get an excited response). I decided it would be in my best interest to not drink any more anything and avoid leaving the confines of our canvas shelter for the duration of the evening.

Such would not be my fortune. Around 2:30 in the morning, I hear an urgent request, "Brad, I need to go to the bathroom." My first thought was to deny her request and reason with her about the likelihood of wild beasts biting her bum in the night air. However, her voice contained a certain urgency . . . an urgency nearly every one of us would share in the days to come (and Brad still makes those urgent demands today!). I knew she had to go. I also knew that the sheltered lavatory near the campsite was a vile waste pit, a stinking filthy nasty vomitous cement hole in the ground with no lights. So that meant Megan would be using a bush, and I would be guarding for lions, hyenas and jackals that may be tempted to "attach" us.

Luckily, we were not attached, and we soon returned to our relatively safe shelter for the remainder of the night. Happy honeymoon to us, and a Merry Christmas to all!

In a couple of days, look for stories about the overwhelming popularity of G. Unit and 50 Cent (if you see "fity," tell him that Captain Salem wants him to come to Zanzibar). Maybe we can also give details of yesterday's 16 hour bus trip with no toilet during the journey . . . which involved naked swimming men and nearly being mobbed by a gang wielding machetes.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


After 26 hours in transit, we've arrived in Nairobi. We battled stinky airline seats, 50,000 disgruntled passengers camped out at Heathrow, bribed a London cabbie to break the law to get us to that massive disgruntled crowd, and we waited for what seemed like forever in a sea of moths to grab our luggage.

Nairobi seems to have a lot of "foam" related industry. Can't get our heads around that one . . .

Can get our heads around one idea--bed!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

And it gets interesting . . .

While I don't have much time to write at the moment, the trip just got really interesting.

Getting to Africa takes quite a while. In our case, the crux of the trip is a plane change in London from Gatwick Airport to Heathrow Airport. While we only have three hours for the change, that would normally be plenty of time on a Saturday morning.

Add some heavy fog, and our travel could get dicey. Fortunately for us, versus the miserable lot desperately trying to get home to Manchester or Leeds for Christmas, British Airways is taking care of its bread and butter, and the long-distance international flights are still taking off (click here for futher updates). Every single domestic flight, roughly 40% of the volume of Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, has been cancelled. So, if I were to fake some serious optimism, I would assume that the airport will be 40% less crowded, allowing us to breeze through check-in and security (nevermind, I've placed roughly 25 rolls of film in a heavy lead bag in my carry-on . . I'm getting searched).

I'm suddenly a bit nervous. Then again, it could be much worse . . . we could be trying to leave Denver . . .

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ready, Set, Go

The trip is officially upon us. We have enough vaccine in our veins to survive nearly any epidemic (well, as long as that epidemic involves hep A or B, typhoid, yellow fever, polio, the current strain of influenza, or tetanus . . . as long as we stick to those, we should be fine . . . oh, and Megan is safe from whooping cough . . .). We started malaria medication today, and the plane takes off tomorrow.

First stop is Nairobi. We've been told that our hotel there is one of the safer ones--each floor has its own armed guard. From there we head south to spend Christmas in Arusha and then west to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. After getting our fill of uncaged wildlife, we will return to Arusha and then to Zanzibar. Finally, after a few days on the island, we'll return to Dar es Salaam to catch our flight to South Africa. The maps below show Kenya and Tanzania. The second map reaffirms my love for Google Earth: you can actually see the clarity of the waters around Zanzibar.

In Cape Town, we're staying in Camp's Bay at Atlanticview. The map below really gives a feel for the topography. Camp's Bay is sandwiched between Table Mountain and the Atlantic. After rough Kenyan roads and the heavy dust of the Ngorongoro Crater, a little South African wine on our balcony as we watch the sunset might hit the spot.

We've done all the preparation we can do. We've chatted with a friend who studied law in Cape Town last summer and another who worked on a game ranch near Kruger Park a few years ago--they have provided some excellent information. Thank you George and James!

We look forward to posting our updates (most unlike David Livingstone who, at one point, lost contact with the outside world for six years). As always, I'll be keeping a relative price index by charting the price of beer at each location. We'll see if anywhere tops the 23 cents (USD) I paid for Lhasa Beer in Tibet.

These trips tend to generate new friends, digestive fireworks and great stories. For now, Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Etc.! Etc.! Etc.!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Now finished with my final final, I can contribute to the chaos quickly forming in our apartment as we prepare for the honeymoon. The packing process at this point consists of a pile of supplies in plastic sacks, clothing strewn across the guest bed, and various other stacks of essential items scattered generally everywhere.

Mentally, I think we're much more prepared or at least as prepared as we can be. These sort of trips have a way of exploding stereotypes and preconceived notions about a place. So far, our notions of Africa are shaped by some combination of friends who hunt, friends who oppose hunting, Megan's public health experience, Bono, and, of course, David Livingstone.

Some background on the latter: I was studying in one of the SMU libraries this semester when my thoughts began to wander. Then my eyes began to wander and found a decaying book on a bottom shelf. The book was David Livingstone's Adventures and Discoveries of Dr. David Livingstone and the Herald-Stanley Expedition, published in 1872. On the title page, I found a passage that has been a major inspiration for future travels while simultaneously revolutionizing the way I think of the abbreviation "etc." Hubbard Brothers, the publisher, brilliantly advertised the book as:

A Complete Reliable and Graphic History of the Extensive Explorations, Important Discoveries and Thrilling Adventures of the Greatest Explorer of Modern Times, in the Richest and Wildest Country upon the Face of the Earth, Among Savage Beasts, Deadly Reptiles, Poisonous Insects, Etc., Etc., Covering a Period of Nearly Twenty-Eight Years, and Including a Full and Graphic Account of the Herald-Stanley Expedition, and What it Experienced and Accomplished, Etc., Etc., Etc.”

Next to the Herald-Stanley expedition, our travels will be relatively tame. We will unlikely document any unknown species or battle deadly reptiles. On the other hand, we'll also travel without any imperialist intentions through game reserves that offer shining examples of conservation. We're excited for our own "important discoveries and thrilling adventures," and hopefully our readers will enjoy this "complete reliable and graphic history." Regardless, I think Megan is already channeling a little Livingstone:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Getting Started

While traveling in China, I, Brad, sent a series of emails to friends and family. Little did I know, those emails were forwarded well beyond the original recipients. In response to some prodding from friends and family, Megan and I decided to create this blog.

The short-term purpose is to provide a central place to view updates from our upcoming honeymoon in Africa. Long-term, hopefully we'll be able to create an exciting record of our trips and possibly a great way for our friends and family to kill some time on Friday afternoons at the office.

Brad and Megan
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