Friday, September 7, 2007

Safari Man

Going all out with the Safari gear (along w/my handle bar stache) as my brother, Ryan and I prepare to check out some Lions, Tigers and Bears (well maybe not the bears) @ Chobe National Park in Botswana

Monday, August 27, 2007

Road Runner

check out the look on the red head in the back ground....classic!
This one's for all you animal rights activists...not only did I ride the Ostrich, but we ate it for dinner as well. OK, we didn't really eat Ostrich, but I would have had it not been the most expensive thing on the menu.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cape Town & Cape Point

Well, here we are, The Cape of Good Hope. Which, if we want to get technical, isn't really the southern most point in Africa. You would need to go another 150 Km down the coast to the unspectacular Cape Agulhas, but that's not where the infamous Jackass Penguins lurk about. So I took head to the words of wisdom that my friend Steve Dugan always lives by, "No Penguins, No Dice". The Cape of Good Hope does take the most Southwesterly point in Africa which, after roughly 12000 km (or 7,456 miles), is good enough for me.

I off on the garden route up the coast of South Africa through Port Elizabeth and eventually to Jo'burg where I'll meet up w/my brother, Ryan.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

View From Table Mountain

Wouldn't you know's clear as day when you start hiking and when you finally reach the top and you can't see shit:) At least I didn't get mugged, which seems to be the unfortunate liklihood for tourist hiking Table Mountain these days.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Adventure Brandon in Namibia

Even though I will spend the next week picking misc. chucks of sand from every imaginable part of my body, sandboarding the dunes of swakopmund, Namibia at 71KM / hour (while your face rests inches away from the sand) was well worth it.


I pulled out all the stops (note the cheesey smile and propped up elbow-as though I were taking my senior class photo's all over again:) with this momentous photo opp in front of Vic Falls. Seeing as though I've been in Africa for a good 3 months I felt compelled to at least pretend like I've gained some form of worldly knowledge so I opted to use the locals term for the falls...Mosi-Oa-Tunya, "The Smoke That Thunders". Aren't you impressed:)

Friday, August 17, 2007


I couldn't have imagined a better place to spend my 30th then the island Zanzibar. The lunar cycle played a helping hand in aiding the party atmosphere as there was a big Full Moon party the w/e of my birthday.
Some of the lovely youth of Zanzibar. But also sometimes the overwhelming youth - i.e. doing running leaps on your back hoping for piggy back rides. Cute, I admit, but after the 10th time uncle brandon gets a little worn out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Road Safety in Rwanda

Although Rwanda may be known for the horrific tragedies that took place in 1994, they certainly have done a lot to pay homage to those who were lost in the genocide (it is tough to find words to describe the magnitude of the Kigali Memorial Museum) while also attempting to move on. In fact, Kigali as well as the Rwandan countryside was some, if not the most, scenic and beautiful areas I passed through on my travels.

They are still working out a few kinks like allowing tourist access to $. I know sounds a bit basic, but it can be rather frustrating when you are in the most technologically advanced city in East Africa (with exception to maybe Nairobi) and their banking system doesn't allow for foreign ATM cards therefore leaving most travelers stranded with no access to $. Besides that Rwanda was fantastic!

Bon Appetite - Uganda sytle

Yummy yummy in the tummy. The one good thing about the ghetto style of travel (i.e. basing your menu selections of the cheapest item of the lot) I've been forced to employ is that you get quite a sampling of local foods....yeah!

And take note to the always present orange did come as a nice surprise that the orange/red dirt of East Africa (which is everywhere and thus embedded in every orifice of your body and luggage) finally allowed me some sort of justification for bringing so much orange shit with me to wear.

Mzungu in the Mist

One of the many highlights while on my lap of Lake Victoria was to visit the Mountain Gorilla's in Congo (and Mom and Dad - sorry for not mentioning we did this in Congo:) The deal is that you drop some serious coin for an hour visit with the gorilla's in their natural habitat of Virunga National Park (just over the border from Rwanda). After passing up on previous safari's (Kenya's Masi Mara, Tanzania's Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, as well as several scuba sessions) and other expensive adventures in Africa, I decided to cash in my extra pennies as well as my unborn child's college savings (oh yeah, and my parents 30th birthday gift that covered all expenses also helped:).

I was a little worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype, but when I saw that 500lb silver back drop a deuce within 3 feet of me I knew that it would be a moment I would never forget.

Upon leaving the DRC myself and the other guys I had been traveling with discussed the huge upside Congo has with Gorilla tracking and tourism industry as a whole. Sure enough 2 weeks later (and many of you may be aware of this) 1 silver back, 1 pregnant female and 2 other females were all shot to death (for no apparent reason). The Gorilla's that were murdered ended up being from a different family than the one we visited, but it was still a shock to see the pictures on the cover of Newsweek.

The articles and pictures are mind numbing....

The good news is that the community seems to be rallying around a massive campaign to put an end to these meaningless attacks.

And a thanks to my traveling buddy Dave Johnson for this great pic of the Gorilla's...what are the chances that my damn camera battery would have taken a shit on me 15 minutes into visiting the Gorilla's.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Lapping Lake Victoria

(A big thanks to my sister, Robyn, who took the time to highlight my route on the picture above)

Seeing as though I have already disgraced all of blog nation with my lack of posting I've decided to do one massive update and bring you all up to speed as to what the hell I've been up to (which, if I'm understanding this concept correctly, is sort of the idea of a blog anyway).

I have spent the past 1 1/2 months running (as opposed to swimming mainly due to the parasitic madness - i.e. Bilharzia, and Guinea worms that call Lake Vic their home) around Africa's largest body of fresh water, Lake Victoria while passing through Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Burundi and Tanzania. Last week I took a train from the the coastal city of Dar Es Salam, Tanzania to Malawi in order to adopt a child...j/k, but you would be shocked at how many locals were asking about that ordeal with Madonna. ("hey mister, you here to get baby like Madonna?"). I then spent the past couple days on the road from Malawi to Zambia and am currently in the capital of Lusaka. Plans are to keep heading south to Vic Falls tomorrow and then pass through Namibia for a couple days while in route to Cape Town.

After finishing the press conference, parade and ceremonial dinners in honor of my Cairo to Capetown journey j/k, I've decided to take some "time off" from living the hard life over the past 4 months:) and "leisurely cruise" up the Southern coast of South Africa. I'll finish my Africa journey by flying around Southern Africa with my brother, Ryan while attempting as many death defying stunts we can pack into one week (j/k Kari). If I make it out of that week alive I should get back to Chicago the first week of September (that is taking into consideration that I don't have anymore PR gigs to hit up prior to leaving:)

So there it is, the big update. I apologize those few dedicated fans for my few and far between updates. I hope to add some details (i.e. what I was actually doing while traveling through those countries) in my next post (which at this rate might not be until late September:). All the best!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Amesegenallo Ethiopia

A big thanks to Ethiopia for their friendly welcomes (see post below), generous hospitality, beautiful country and yes, their food as well (regardless of how not appetizing this looks)

What I'll miss about Ethiopia: not being there to celebrate their millennium which oddly enough is 9/11/07. The fresh mango/avocado/papaya/pineapple juices that were only .50 cents a glass, and as much as it looks like a dirty sponge - I'll will probably miss the injerra (pictured above) as well. The friendly people, especially the lab coat wearing bar tenders. The shoulder dance. And lastly, talking religion and politics with (get this) a sheik from the Sudan and a 50 year old hippie from Hawaii on the porch of our hotel.

I won’t miss: my ipod crashing in the Simien mountains due to the high about a meltdown moment - yikes. Fortunately the little guy was spared as was the 9K + songs. I certainly won't miss dealing with those little shits in Lailibela who make a habit out of feeding tourist long, made up saga's about their parents dying in order to pick up some extra spending $. Meanwhile in reality they are enjoying a pretty good Ethiopian middle class lifestyle w/all immediate family members fully operational. And lastly the daily pickpocket attempts at the market in Addis.

What I wished I would have packed: rat poison as well as some more warm clothes. Hell I would have even taken something w/ long sleeves as I froze my ass off for the 2 weeks I was here.
Wished I would not have packed: that's 2 for 2 on places that I didn't need a mosquito net, but this time it was due to the chilly temps. Really didn't need my board shorts either.

What I wished I would have had more time for: feeding the hyenas in Harar would have been pretty cool and what I really will regret missing was Southern Ethiopia - visiting the tribes of the Omo Valley (and that's not just b/c many of the ladies opt for the topless look:)

Friday, June 15, 2007

"The foot that is restless will tread on a turd"

Not kidding ya, this is a real live, legitimate Ethiopian proverb. And being that I have been known to be a bit restless (i.e. abandoning my career to travel the world), I decided to give this ol' proverb a run for its $ (sans the stepping in shit part) in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains.

All I could think to myself as we walked along in the pouring ran was,"13 months of sunshine" (The Ethiopian Tourism Slogan) my ass".
It ended up pissing down rain most of time during our 2 day trek, but the brief moments of clear weather opened our eyes to a land full of craggy peaks and some of the most stunning scenery I've ever seen. Not to mention the hundreds of Gelada Baboons that were running (and as most baboons do, humping) about (you can see a few of them playing in the picture above).

In the end the scenery was well worth the "damp" (the term used to describe the conditions by our guide) conditions.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tribal Boobs

OK, I know your thinking I've hit a new level of immaturity (which is partially true) considering most of you had to immediately close this blog upon initially seeing the boobs. In my defense I would like it dually noted that wonderful publications such as National Geographic have printed countless pictures of breasts and all for a good cause mind you. Even though my blog may not be able to quite reach the status of a National Geographic, my tribal boob photo does serve the same cause (well kind of). And let's face it, it wouldn't be a trip to Africa if I didn't include a tribal boobs pic. Not the mention the fact that this shot pails in comparison to some other porn you guys are sending around the internet, sicko's :)

This poster was actually up on the wall in one of my hotel room in Addis Ababa which lends the mind to wonder what type of place I was staying in...let's just say that there were hourly rates available. Fortunately or unfortunately I wasn't the one making the walls rattle in the middle of the night :)

Down to my last days in Ethiopia as plans are set to head to Kenya for a short stint and then off to Uganda. I have definitely been pleasantly surprised by the diverse and adventurous travel that Ethiopia has to offer (both inside and outside of their hotels). I know it's early in my trip, but I think it will definitely be tough to knock Ethiopia from the top contender for the highly sought after travel award - Cairo-to-Capetown's Diamond in the Rough Award.

Next up: my full Ethiopia review and arrival into the not so hospitable capital of Kenya, Nai-robbery.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Operation: Summer Cut

When asking for a "trim" at the barber shop in Ethiopia be prepared for something similar to this...probably a good thing b/c the fro was getting a bit out of control.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The True Source of the Nile

Ethiopia's Lake Tana is home to one of the sources of the Nile. Even though it seems like almost every country in Africa lays claim to some sort of Nile source, I am told this one is pretty legit. This portion of the Nile that heads northwest through Sudan into Egypt is known as the Blue Nile although it looked awfully brown to me...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Splinter, Is that You?

It doesn’t matter how luxurious the hotel, there will imminently be a gamete of noises that start squealing, clucking, barking and wrestling starting and continuing at all hours of the night. This is not uncommon to find in 3rd world countries so I had come prepared. I have found that the (orange, of course) ear plugs that I brought with me to be the savoir of my attempt to get somewhere close to 6 hours of sleep (and for those of you that know me well, you are well aware of my passion for getting a full nights rest.)

Inevitably through the night, I have fallen into the habit of not only removing but throwing these helpful, but somewhat uncomfortable ear plugs all over the room. Sometimes within the bed’s frame, other times they will be completely on the other side of the room. This spastic (but involuntary) action that takes place at some point throughout the night creates a morning or mid night ritual of scouring my hotel room in attempt to locate the plugs.

It is in these site excavations that, depending on the quality of establishment, I find some of my more adventurous stories (as sad as that is to say).

I have had the honor to have come across items ranging from pregnancy test (no worries, it was negative), underwear and fortunately ball point pens - which & I know this sounds a bit extreme, are equivalent to gold in this country. It seems as though every encounter I have involving the action of writing something down (i.e. receipts, phone #’s, e-mail address etc :) becomes an out right battle to either protect or attempt to “borrow” the sacred pen.

It was in the early morning hours of this past Sunday I was awoken to yet another one of these inescapable noises. Not surprisely I couldn’t quite place what the hell it was that was the source of this commotion, but I really didn’t care considering the current time and the looming 6AM wake up call I had. After a few feeble attempts of slapping around my bed in the pitch dark, I angrily crawled out of the bed to locate my flashlight. For those logical thinking folks that are still following along at home, you might be wondering why a simply flick of the light switch might do the job. Well this unfortunately wouldn’t do much good as power outages mysteriously strike the guest portion of the hotel but not the main office where the staff is chillen’..ummm.

As the beam of my flashlight swung across the room I took faint notice that what I had come to realize was some sort of chewing noise had now fallen silent. After following my standard operating procedures for attempting to discover the plugs I had come up empty handed. So I lazily flashed my torch under the bed and to my wondering eyes appeared not jolly St. Nic, but 2 giant African rats swapping spots on a buffet table which included a used condom, ½ eaten piece of ingella (the dirty sponge looking material that was served with most Ethiopian dishes).

A word to the wise, when first surveying a prospective hostel/guest house to determine whether the potential spot was suitable do a quick check under the bed.
Not surprisingly, The Bahir Dar Hotel in Ethiopia does not win my recommendation. Especially room 18.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Obsessive Compulsive Carving Disorder.

Here in Lailibela, Ethiopia the past time not only includes the infamous Ethiopian shoulder dancing, but a shit load of stone carving as well.

Similar to the massive amounts of man (and women) power utilized (or exploited depending on how you look at it) to build a lot of the famous sites around the world, the rock hewn churches of Lailibela were built with the dedication of many. A bit insane when you think they carved these churches out of a single piece of stone, but impressive none the less.

A classic sight I witnessed while walking the streets of this religious powerhouse was when I noticed local lady stopping one of the priests and asking for a blessing. Apparetly this a rather common request and something the priest seemed to managed with ease. Upon finishing his work the priest took no more than 4 steps, unzipped and took a piss in the ditch. I am not a very religious guy, but I'm assuming that is not customary in the states???

Similar to the Pyramids of Giza, you are definetly left in a stupior as you look out over the 11 churches of Lailibela and wonder not only the obvious, how did they manage to construct these suckers? But also what sort of disorder were these people suffering from that made them do all this carving?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Welcome to our Country

"Welcome to our country" is a relatively common (and a bit over used to be honest w/you) opening line for the touts and streets vendors to utilize as they attempt to pull one into their world of trinkets and tourist shops. But when I heard a new and improved version of this intro from a random local walking the streets to Addis Ababa,

"Hey, Mr. America - welcome to our mother fucking country" I, oddly enough, actually felt more welcome then I had before :) At least he wasn't trying to con me into some scam, which is unfortunately quite common.

The less touristy Ethiopia has been a welcomed change from Egypt. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of street vendors, hawkers, and beggars hassling you on most roads, but that is somewhat understandable considering the overall wealth (or lack there of) of this country. Like in most 3rd world countries, a tourist is a walking dollar sign to these people and they are just looking to feed themselves and their families. This is the line of reasoning I attempt to remind myself as the daily badgering continues. At the end of the day, it's a bit ridiculous to overlook the unbelievably fortunate position we, as westerners are in compared to the average life (and living conditions) the people in 3rd world countries are forced to live...OK then, off the soap box and onto the travel stories...

Outside of that interesting welcome I received, I have really enjoyed the hospitable and friendly people ...not to mention the scenery (in all senses of the word) as the ladies of Ethiopia are easy on the eyes. After meeting a great group of backpackers at my hotel in Addis Ababa, I was lucky enough to catch an Africa Cup (soccer) qualifying match between Ethiopia v. Congo. It was my favorite memory thus far on the trip. For the first time I felt like I was doing something with the locals as we cheered on the Ethiopian team (logically we chose to cheer for the team who's fans encompassed 99% of the crowd). And when I say cheer, I mean everything from chanting, & singing in coordinated fashion to lighting random shit on fire (anything from pieces of paper to blankets and shirts as well as opposing fans - j/k) . Obviously the level passion these people had for their team was, to say the least, rather intense and a lot of fun to be around.

Next up will be traveling to the northern Ethiopian cities of
Lalibela - home of a shit load of churches
Gonder - which is at the base of the Simien Mountains and
Bahir Dar which lies on Lake Tana - one of the sources of the Nile.
For those of you wondering about the picture, yes that is the most ridiculous visor you've ever seen. The all leather piece has Ethiopia's tourism slogan written across it "Ethiopia : 13 months of sunshine". When you buy cheesy touristy things you might as well go all out :)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Blog Neglect and Thoughts on Egypt

Although there might have been some worries that I had given up and/or shit the bed on this blog thing, but not worry folks - I'm still alive and kicking in Africa! Sorry for the massive delay in posting. Some of this can be blamed on blog neglect from yours truly, but a larger portion of the lag time was due to the fact that Ethiopia doesn't allow access to blogspot. Don't know exactly why, but I think it might have a little to do with them still working out this whole internet concept:)

Here are a some quick (thoughts might be an exaggeration) "notes" on Egypt.

What I’ll miss about Egypt: Paved roads, shisha shops on every corner, fast internet connections, shawarma's and overall a relatively easy style of traveling...oh yeah and all the ancient Egyptian stuff too :)

What I won’t miss about Egypt: Being dry humped (i.e. assaulted) by every vendor, taxi driver, shop owner while attempting to walk down the street, swamp ass from the extreme heat…

What I wished I would have packed: more baby powder & anti bed-bug spray (there was a ramped outbreak in my guesthouse in Cairo - fortunately I was spared)

What I wished I would not have packed: Didn't really need the mosquito net, warm clothes or shoes for that matter.

What I wished I would have had more time for: The Sinai and scuba diving in the Red sea are obvious misses, but I would really have loved to make it out to the Oasis’s, which lie west of the Nile. I think this is the hidden gem of traveling in Egypt.

For a variety of reasons (namely genocide in Darfur & supporting a bullshit government that is allowing this to go on) I opted not to travel overland through Sudan so my next stop is Ethiopia. (OK, I was a little bit scared too:) I did, however, meet several backpackers who have braved both the biblical temperatures (120+ in the desert) as well as the massive lines for visa's. Surprisingly all of them had fantastic things to say about the people there and their experienes. Anyway it's on to Ethiopia for me!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Orange is the new black

Random packing note...after finishing the first cycle of clothes I stuffed into my backpack, I realized that of the 5 short sleeve shirts I packed, I somehow managed to bring not 1, not 2, but 3 freaking orange shirts. This is in addition to the orange rain coat & orange hat I packed. Hell, even my damn ear plugs are orange. I'm thinking of picking up an orange banana hammock for the beach...preferably neon. And don't worry I'll post that picture for you if and when I do track down that speedo.
Maybe you guys can start wearing some orange bracelets (e.g the yellow "live strong" lance Armstrong) to bring awareness to my cause j/k...which I really don't have at this point besides simply wanting to travel the world. Something tells me that won't rally up to much simpathy or followers for that matter. I will contemplate a more socially conscious cause on my next 15 hour + bus ride. Surely I can come up with something good with that amount of time :)
BTW, would someone please kick the Cubs in the ass for me!

Crocodile Nile

After another battle of fending off the swarms of baksheesh (Egpytian term for tip, in other words give me some $ for standing here looking sad at you, you rich westerner) hunters, my new traveling buddies (a kiwi named Paul & his Spanish girlfriend Maria) & I finally arrived into Luxor. To my surprise it wasn't my back that was sore from the 11 hour overnight train ride (which is a great sign for my future overland travels), but my groin from the 3 hour camel ride 2 days prior. One of the many joys of exiting my 20's I suppose :)

I don't want to mis-lead you with the title, because I (fortunately or unfortunately) didn't have a dramatic run in with a massive croc while cruising the Nile (Steve Irwin style - RIP). In fact the only wild animal I've seen thus far in Africa has been a heard of cats that tend to convene on the temple sites.

Truth be told there really aren't any crocs in the Egpyt portion of the Nile. They have all have been "rounded up" and put on the southern portion the Lake Nasar Dam which leads into Sudan. At least that's what we were told while our Felucca Captain was attempting to persuade us to go for a dip. Crocs or not I opted out of taking a few laps in the Nile regardless of the 100+ temps. It might have been the worry of running into the one croc that slipped the round up sessions, or it might have been the fear of a much smaller and more deceptive creature known as a guinea worm that really prevented my plunge into the Nile. It was either that or a lovely case of schistosomiasis (AKA Bilharzia). I'll leave most the details of how these fun filled parasites work within the human body up your imagination (or feel free to do a quick google on these bad boys), but let's just say that a common point of entry involves one's urethra. Anyone up for a dip now?

Despite the lack of crocs sitings my overnight trip down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor was rather relaxing. In between drifting off to sleep, smoking the tobacco filled (for those of you concerned about a potential career ending drug test upon my return from Africa:) shisha (aka hookah) and just lying there in the sun sweating my ass off, the random memory of cruising down a slip-in-slide (which had the branded name of Crocodile Nile) popped into my head. After that memory came floating into my knoggin' I was sure to double check that it was actully tobacco that we were smoking. In fact most of my trip down the Nile to Southern Egypt was pretty sweet. Some of the highlights included...

- having lunch @ the owner of our hotel's house with his famil
- having his 4 kids (ages 5, 8, 15, 19) constantly laugh while pointing at me repeating the word "Shamsia, Shamsia" which I eventually was told referred to my hair and translates to "umbrella". I guess a haircut might in order.
- Touring the Valley of the Kings and Queens as well as the Temples of Karnack in Luxor.
- Discovering (not through sampling - thank you very much) the numerous forms of Viagra that the Egyptians have managed to create. The obvious pill form, spray, cream, tea, and last but certainly not least suppositories...the Viagra market is huge over here...hehe.
- Visiting a steroid induced version of Ramses II's tomb/statue in Abu Simbel. This cat definitely had to of had a complex of some sort.
- Hanging with a great crew of travelers at our hotels in both Luxor and Aswan!

I don't know if it was the 6 1/2 hours in a van packed with 25 people or the 3AM wake up call (for those of you who have experienced my morning habits know that this is an extremely painful for both me and anyone else who unfortunately encounters me:), but (and it pains me to admit to this) I began to suffer from temple fatigue. I know it sounds ridiculous, but my days of looking at a bunch a rocks with rivers, snakes, birds, tigers and feet (aka hieroglyphics) written them are numbered as are my days in Egypt as I am back in Cairo working through the logistics of traveling to Ethiopia. It's been great but I think its time to dig deeper into Africa.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Da' Pyramids

My tour of the Pyramids around Cairo, which included Giza, Saqqara & Memphis began with a 4AM wake up call - Ouch, I thought I was on vacation :) Besides listening to my camel constantly regurgitate his breakfast, the sun rise over Cairo and "The Great" Pyramids of Giza was breathtaking.
We (the guide & I) rode out into the Sahara for 40 min's, positioned ourselves on top of one of the 100 sand dunes, and watched the sun come up. It probably makes for a rather romantic setting if your not sitting there alone with an 18 year old Egyptian kid & a Camel eating his stomach bile :)
After having run the gauntlet of camel & horse hustlers, souvenir hawkers and would be guides we finally arrived at the pyramids. Regardless of the hundreds of tour buses, with loads and loads of camera wielding tourists(myself included) "The Great" Pyramids of Giza certainly weren't a let down. The grandeur of these things, not to mention the intricate level of detail that went into piecing together 2.3 million 2.5 ton blocks far out weights the obnoxious setting that they lie in. What the ancient Egyptians were able to accomplish was quite impressive, everything except the inbreeding and consequently, major deformities (can't win them all I guess)
I fortunately or unfortunately got a bit caught up in the moment and signed myself up for every tour, entrance fee, camel ride possible regardless of price (The Budget Police have already issued a warning to me on my spending habits). My favorite by far was scampering through tunnels inside the pyramid (again a bit pricey, but hell when is the next time I'm gonna be hanging out around Cairo).
After staring up at these massive objects, you start to understand why there are so many theories tying the elaborate construction of the pyramids to Aliens (from outer space you insensative jerks, lets not get into politics here...please, the elections aren't for another 1 1/2 years :)
Seriously, The Khufu Pyramid at Giza screams E.T., hell there a big neon banner hanging on the side with "I miss you Elliot" written on it, not to mention the signs pointing to the top of the pyramid that reads "Going home? This way". Come on, you do the math.

Anyway, it was a long budget imploding day, but "truly" (only my family will understand that one) a once in a life time experience!

A couple brief observations on Egypt:
- An "Omlette" with your free breakfast means 1 hard boiled egg...punks.
- Safetly in Egypt is a non issue (thus far, knock on wood), but pen theft has been out of control!
- I can kind of understand the lack of public interaction between male and females within the Muslim world, but the level of affection between males is down right creepy. Seriously, it's not OK to give your wife a hug in public, but you can rub give your buddy a rub down while walking down street? (not that there is anything wrong with that:) I'm not judging here, just observing.

I'm off on an overnight train to southern Egypt (or what they refer to as Upper Egypt) for a tour of the Valley of the Kings & Queens in Luxor as well as the gigantic statues of Ramses II in Abu Simbel. The weather has only been hovering between 105 and 110...thank goodness for baby powder :)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Walk like an Egyptian

Rumor also has it that one has to update these crazy technological wonders called "blogs" more than once a week in order to make them even somewhat after slacking a bit upon initially arriving in Cairo I gave myself a "Stuart Smalley" pep talk (for those SNL fans of the early 90's) in front of the mirror today and promised myself to attempt to update this bad boy at least once every couple of days.

Thanks to those of you who endured the tear jerker in the first post (and even to those of you who wisely skipped most of the first post - I would have done the same:) I do owe a great to deal to those peop's that were mentioned in post 1 and the very least I could do is acknowledge what they have done for me. I certainly wouldn't be sitting here in a blistering hot internet cafe full of hookah smoke hammering away on this commodore 66 with a bad case of swamp ass had it not been for those folks... so cheers for that:)

I also wanted to thank those of who were kind enough to pass on comments or e-mails. I certainly appreciate the words of encouragement, suggestions and even the harassment from those of you who like to pitch me shit:)

One last bit of admin - a few good suggestions came through for me to provide my rough itinerary (I think a few of you have been talking to my mom) so here is my general plan of attack for my attempt at Cairo to Capetown after skimming through the guide book, random articles and searching the internet. Chances are I won't end up doing most of this, or any of it, but hell you never know...
Egypt - Spend a couple weeks seeing the sites such as the great pyramids of Giza, visit the Valley of the Kings & Queens in Luxor, The great temple of Abu Simbel, take a 2 night felucca(fancy Egyptian word for sail boat) trip along the Nile, ride some camels in the desert and then head over to the Sinai for some scuba diving in the Red Sea, swing by infamous backpacker haven - Dahab, & maybe cruise up Mt. Sinai before heading back to Cairo.
Ethiopia - check out the capital, Addis Ababa all the while being certain to steer clear of the many "working ladies" that like to approach nice white boys from Seattle (Thanks to Mike G. for passing on that head's up), explore the tombs and ruined palaces (i.e look at bunch of big old stones lying on the ground) of Aksum as well as Africa's Camelot - Gonder, do a little trekking in the Simien Mtns, visit the Blue Nile Falls & Lake Tana.
Kenya - try not to get mugged in the capital of Nairobi (commonly known as Nai-robbery), hit up my first safari in the Serengeti's Masi Mara reserve. Swing by the great rift valley (I'm starting to notice that a lot the main attractions in Africa that always begin with "The Great...". I think I'm gonna start implementing this tactic in my everyday encounters... And finish up my Kenya visit with a relaxed trip to Lamu which lies on the Indian Ocean.
Uganda - hang 10 with some Gorillas in the Biwindi National Park, swing by the Caribbean style - Ssese ilands in Lake Victoria, visit the Murchison Falls, and say hi to some crocs and hippos in the Queen Elizabeth national park.
Rwanda - Virunga Volcanoes to view the rare mountain gorillas of Parc National des Volcans & the monkeys of Nyungwe NP.
Tanzania - Hike at Ngorongoro Crater, dive off the Mafia Islands, hit up a little safari action to see the (guess what word is next) "Great" Wildebeast Migration in the Serengeti, & lastly after a little volunteer stint - soak up the sun and spices of Zanzibar Island.
Mozambique - Do a bit more diving in the Bazaruto islands, & log some more chill time in the back packer hangout of Tofo.
Malawi - a possible horse safari in the Nyika National Park and then its off to Cape Maclear.
Zambia - "The great" Victoria Falls! OK they don't use "the great" in front of this African attraction, but I'm sure they are great.
Namibia - Do some sandboarding in the adventure town of Swakopmund, then cruise the desert vast lands of the Skeleton Coast.
South Africa - Hit the wineries just north of Cape Town, visit Robin Islands which was Nelson Mandela's unfortunate home for many years, tour the shanty town of Elias Motsoaledi Settlement, and celebrate my journey of Cairo to Cape Town. I'll cruise up the coast and fly out of Johannesburg on Sept. 3...just in time to make it back to the states to watch the Cubs head into the playoffs & the Boilers start thier season off with some Wins :)

(Let's pretend I was actually on top of this whole blog deal and this post was done on Thursday night - May 17)

After finally settling into Cairo & switching hotels to a cheaper (you all know that I love to save a buck:), but more backpacker friendly option (i.e. crappy service, shared bathrooms, and mattresses that were built during the same era they lego'd together those pyramids) I am finally set to see some sites. Tomorrow's agenda includes a camel ride to catch the sunrise in the Sahara Desert overlooking The Great Pyramids of Giza. Tour the Pyramids of Giza, the schnoz-less Sphinx, Saqqara and Memphis and then head back to the hostel for a dinner cruise along the Nile.

Quick note on crossing the street - it is complete and utter chaos. Crosswalks, street lights and pedestrians don't matter. These fella's are humming along at a gentle 60 MPH regardless of what's in front of them (surprisingly I haven't seen 1 accident so props to thier skills -I guess?). Point is, I sat attempting to cross an average 2 lane street for 20 minutes as numerous locals played Frogger with the traffic (no shitting ya, just like the old Atari game). The straw that broke the camel's back was when an 80 year old gal went humming past me with no fear. I now wait for a crew of locals to cross the street and then go weaving through traffic with them (don't worry Mom - I'm being as careful as I possibly can) I guess The Bengals were onto something.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Journey begins...

Rumor has it that one’s trip really doesn't happen unless you write a blog about it (what happened to the days of intruding your friends, families and distant friends e-mail account with a lovely impersonal mass e-mail?) and after planning this son of a bitch for what felt like 20 years, but was actually only 2, I figured your god damn right I’m gonna write a blog, bad back and all:) So here we are in blogville, which I've creatively named after my arrival and destination cities, crafty eh?

(WARNING - For those of you who are just looking for cool/fun/interesting information regarding my trip – please respectfully skip this section and for those of you who have some time to kill, get the tissues ready :)

Speaking of that 2 years of mayhem that led up to this trip I’d like to throw out a few (OK ...a lot) shout outs to those who have honestly made this endeavor possible for me (I feel like I’m accepting an Oscar for Christ sake).
- My parents, although they have questioned my sanity on several occasions (and their own sanity for paying for my college education) have been very supportive in my extended sabbatical from “the real world”.
- The same goes for my brother, sister and sister in-law, who have allowed me to lean on them on several occasions especially when it came to family gift exchanges such as (don’t read this Mom) Mother’s Day, the (don’t read this Dad) upcoming Father’s Day etc. And have been very giving hosts when I’ve been passing through the windy city.
- The 30 or so Doc’s who have prodded (not the prostate exam sort of prod you sicko’s) at, inspected and attempted to (and in a few occasions actually did) help my ailing back. The most important (and of the few successful) of those being Jordan (paid sponsor - Proformance Rehab in Eastlake (206) 322-2842...j/k) who honestly didn’t give up on me regardless how shitty my attitude became (i.e. “What the hell do you mean I’ve ‘re-herniated’ my back, you’ve got to be F-ing kidding me!”)
- Torrie (K.U.–wana). It was my honor to serve for over 1 ½ years as her “Manny” (definition: part man, part nanny) for her little rug rats - Tilda-girl, Kramer - the 20lb thoroughbred of a feline and to the silent meow master, Tigger, may he/she (the gender thing is a long story) rest in peace.
- The spark plug who sorted through the chaos that my trip planning had become and helped finalized this adventure for me, major props to Ms. Natalie Collins. When I say finalize I guess that could also mean f-ing endless calls to the airlines with ridiculous hold times, non-stop support, and that trip to Maui 2 weeks before I left, wasn’t so bad either :) (see the above mentioned K.U.- wana for the other half of that going away present)
- Jimbob (yes, that’s his real name), the resident master of the shire (definition: his basement with 5ft 9inch ceilings) for which I lived for 6 months. JB helped see me through my financial woes (i.e. free rent) after I retired (without a true financial retirement) from corporate America.
- And to all of you who listened to me bitch, complain, whine and cry about my god-for-saken back for the past couple years this includes, but isn't limited to “everyone’s bud” Dustin Vanlue, the fuseloge of the landhawks-Jonathan Fussell, Kyle Ozzzzwald-who was instrumental in preventing me from sitting at home feeling sorry for myself on the w/e's , the chairmen of my “don’t pack so much shit” campaign & "don't just sit on your ass all the time" influence - Aaron Wiehe, humanity’s women of the year 5 years running – Ms. Amy Conner, the folks at Plymouth Poultry who were unbelievably supportive of my adventure to Africa (regardless of the number of complete meltdowns I had while working with them:), my good buddy Brian Marks, my boy Curtis who was there with numerous motivational speeches for me, my soon-to-be fellow Pac NW buddy - PJ, the Laoation lover – Pie, my hommies back in J-burg and last, but certainly not least my good friend and traveling buddy who continues to inspire me with his "I'm going to kick my brain tumor's ass" mentality as he battles on with his fight against the 3cm diameter tumor in his head - my thoughts are with you Dugan!
As you can see (for those of you that have made it thus far) I’ve had an endless, and life altering amount of assistance in my struggle (i.e scratching and f-ing clawing type of struggle) to get over my back injury and make this trip happen! There is no way I could possibly think about mentioning my trip without touching on the impact these people have had not only on this adventure, but also my life! Many, many, many thanks and now it's onto exploring Cairo!