Dear Friends and Family,
Here is another monthly email, about my fifth month traveling in Africa. I should have written this a long time ago at the 24 hour internet cafe in Cape Town. But here from my office, three months late, will have to do.
1st month: Across the Sahara desert
2nd month: In Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana
3rd month: Ethiopia
4th month: East Africa
5th month: Zanz, Zam, Zim, Botswana, and Namibia
6th month: South Africa
Now I am in Durham, North Carolina at Duke University studying statistics for a Ph.D. Hopefully I will finish in four years.
I'm setting up a travel webpage with my old emails and some photos, I might even publish this email on the web.
Okay, I will. For this monthly email with photos go to:
sorry--sorry, it's not ready yet. Soon. My new email address is email@example.com. Please reply, and do so to my new email (only two and a half months old). Soon I will send everybody a link to my website with lots of interesting travel things.
I don't really know what to write about my time on the island of Zanzibar. It was really nice, but the street hustlers were really annoying. I enjoyed the Spice Tour and scuba diving and even some of the dala-dala rides with Ioanna whom I met in Arusha.
Probably the best long-distance travel I did in Africa (besides my plane from Ghana to Ethiopia) was the train from Tanzania to Zambia. How long was it? I forget (no I didn't), 44 hours. I covered such a long distance in so short a time. And I didn't feel as if I were missing anything. I saw a few giraffes and baboons from the train, and met some interesting Zambians. It wasn't a Great Train Safari, or anything out of the 1920s. Or maybe it was. Just chugging along, African savannahs, Baobab trees, people selling treats through the window at the stops.
My destination in Zambia was Victoria Falls. It's one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It really is, officially. I've been to so many fake "Wonders of the World", but Vic Falls is on the official list. It was very nice. I saw it from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides. I liked it, but it doesn't even make my "Wonders of Africa" list.
The best thing about Zambia was all the Dutchies. In Southern Africa I finally found a 'backpacker's circuit' and it was filled with beautiful Dutch women. One day I went on a Booze Cruise on the Zambezi River, just above Vic Falls. It was one of those miracles. I had met half the cruise members while watching World Cup soccer, nothing exciting (by exciting I mean hot chics to mingle with). Then the newcomers came on board--the equivalent of the Dutch bikini team. We saw rhinos and elephants and hippos and crocodiles while playing drinking games and taking pictures. The alcohol was all-you-can-drink and I wanted to get my money's worth.
Lesson #4 in Africa: Stay away from the Jungle Juice. Don't ever drink something if you don't know what's in it. Unless you've seen it mixed, or unless you've ordered it yourself, it's easy to forget that there's real alcohol in it. And too much, oh, too much is bad. I didn't get to enjoy the all-you-can-eat BBQ after the river cruise, or any of the Dutch ladies' company.
In Zimbabwe the three cute Dutchies I had convinced to come there with me convinced me to go on safari with them. I'd already had enough of the vehicle safari, but the girls were pretty. And the safari was good. Every safari is different even if the animals are mostly the same. I still didn't see a cheetah.
Further south in Zimbabwe I went on a tour of a national park to see the San bushmen cave paintings and some of the interesting rock formations. I saw those, but unbeknownst to me, the tour was really just another safari. Still, it was very cool. We got to walk outside of the vehicle. I learned all about rhino dung and giraffe droppings and some plants from the guide. Then we sneaked up to four rhinoceros. I asked the guide if he'd ever been charged by a rhino. He laughed. "All the time," he said. "Just hide behind a tree. They have poor eyesight."
I stayed some extra days in Zimbabwe using cheap internet and eating cheap candy. The economy was in a freefall while I was there so things were really inexpensive. People were preparing for the inevitable famine and a possible "Third Civil War". Last time I checked Zimbabwe was still on the map. I'm an informed person, but we just don't learn about Africa in the United States. I wonder if everybody's dead yet, either from famine, violent political repression, or AIDS.
My transportation after Zimbabwe, through Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa was miraculous. I still don't really know what makes for a good travel email, but I know a recap of the buses, cars, boats, hitchhiking I did isn't interesting reading. Anyway, all of the daily (the emails with a D in front of the number in the title) emails and the weekly emails (with the W) are online, or will be (with pictures). So all the details are up.
I fought to get onto minibuses, crashed into donkeys, road on boats with dead men, hitchhiked, well that's about it. Everything worked out perfectly.
In Botswana I went in the Okavango Delta in a dugout canoe just skimming through the marshes to see hippos and elephants and birds and other common animals. My guide was sickly, probably had AIDS. I've been away from Africa for a while now, so I don't think about it anymore, but now that I'm remembering, there's really no hope for some of those countries. Botswana has an HIV/AIDS infection rate of 60%. Everybody's going to die.
So the Delta was very cool. I went with two Hungarians Zoltan and Orsi. Then I traveled with them in their rental car to go on another, unplanned safari to Etosha National Park. All the time I end up going on safari when I don't really want to, again in cars, and each time it gets better and better. Safaris are great. Etosha was beautiful. It's a big, dry salt-pan lake and surrounding grassland filled with all your typical National Geographic animals. I saw everything again (elephants, lions, zebra, giraffe, baboons, antelope, ostrich, warthogs, oryx, wildebeest, meerkats, jackals, lots more) but no cheetahs. Namibia has 20% of the world's cheetahs, and 95% of those live on private farms (where they don't have to compete with lions or hyenas since they're for sure killed by the farmers). But I only saw ones in captivity.
Namibia was my favorite African country. It reminded me so much of Australia. The best was surely the Red Sand Dunes of the Namib Desert. For parts of three days I climbed on sand dunes with my tour group and took photos, approximately 600. How the heck did my batteries last? Sand dunes for the sunrise. Sand dunes for the sunset. They were so beautiful.
Then I went to South Africa, which will be the subject of my next monthly email. By then I will have some interesting things online.
West Africa I:
M email ,
West Africa II: M email , D&W , Photos
Ethiopia: Both M&W emails , Photos
East Africa: M email , D&W , Photos
5th Month: M email , D&W , Photos
South Africa: M email , D&W , Photos