Notes about Stuff

Trip Start Sep 15, 2009
Trip End Nov 21, 2009

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Notes about tour and the way thing work

The way things work on this trips goes something like this. We have 1 truck, 1 tour leader(not guide), 1 co-driver, 1 cook(who is a local), and 20 tourists.  We have a set itinerary that we follow pretty well and it takes us around the various sites.  The two leaders are British and the local cook never touches the wheel which is a surprise to me.  You would think you would have a local to drive but he just sits there doing his thing while the two guys drive.  The truck is a bit on the old(26 yrs old) side but it seems to run fine.  The seats on the truck are basically airplane style with two tables in between four seats a piece.  The very back is bumpy when the roads are crappy.  All the passengers have been assigned jobs and we all pitch in setting up camp and food prep duties.  Three others and myself are the tent and sleeping pads take off and on guys from the roof of the truck which I enjoy because it is a little dangerous on the roof and provides a little bit of exercise.  Other jobs include cleaning the inside of the truck, fire maker, safe key custodian, and a few others.  We also all rotate on food prep duties which only happens once every six days.  We basically help the cook set up and down for meals including peeling and chopping vegetables.  After a few days we are all pretty automatic on what to do each time something happens.  The cook group of the day even helps out with shopping duties at times.  So far, the food has been awesome!  Usually we have fresh veggies, some kind of meat product, and rice, noodle, or potatoes.  It's all very fresh and fills you up each time.  I just found out that I will have the same cook for the entire 2 months which is good because so far the food has been excellent, but I kind of wish we had a different cook for a little bit because the recipes will change.  I can’t complain though.  After the meal is over, we all have to wash our own dishes in three separate buckets and proceed to flap like a bird.  We have to flap, swing, shake, or whatever else to make our dishes dry before we put them back.  How we sleep:  We all have tents and they are two man tents and I share with a British guy who I’ve only actually slept with two times because the other times we are in our tents from the upgrading of others.  Money situation:  We all paid money when we booked the trip but we didn’t pay the full amount.  We have to pay what is called a "kitty" payment to our tour leader when we arrive.  That way he can have cash on hand to pay for park fees, food, campsites, and other stops along the way.  I had to pay $1120 in cash along all the others.  I find it ironic, if somebody knew how much cash the truck was carrying from country to country, we would be robbed very quickly.  There is probably $30-$40,000 in USD cash on the truck. And that’s no BS!!!  We have a safe on board that we call a “pub” in because the locals will probably recognize the word “safe” and know what is up.  So we all keep our little travel belts there with passports and wads of USD cash and take it when needed.  I’m surprised but then again I’m not surprised at how much USD is accepted here.  At the border for Rwanda, the Aussies had to pay there visa of $60 in USD.  As I go around the world, I find more and more evidence that the US dollar is the supreme currency and accepted in places you would never think of.  As for the tour leader and not a tour guide thing, they are basically our chauffeurs around the continent.  They take us from point A-B in a timely manner, let us know what is going on, what time to be somewhere, reserve whatever is next on the journey, and that is basically it.  There is no speaker system with a guy talking about look left or right out the window and an explanation about whatever.  Like I said, they are just leaders and not guides.  Which I think is good and bad.  Good because they are native English speakers and you can chill with them more and you can relate to them better, but bad because there are times where I would like to know more about the history, people, why this or that is at what I am seeing.  But it is what it is and it’s not bad.  The two British guys are 35 and 29 and I think escaping something back home and just kind of escaping life in general.  Kind of blue collar guys who are easy to talk to.  As for the passengers, there are 20 of us like I said.  A Danish guy who is kind of a nerd but I like him.  The young Brit guy who is my tent buddy who is cool but pretty dorky.  A 30’s something Aussie scientist who is pretty cool.  2 retired Brit guys, one is quiet but nice, the other is the life of the party and funny as hell!  A Swiss-German 35 yr old guy who is probably my go to guy here.  Him and I click really well and he is the funniest guy.  You would never know by what the way he talks but he is some thing like a 5- time black belt in Judo and also a chemist.  This guy is so straight-forward in what he says and has some really funny stories.  He is only here for 2 weeks which sucks because I wish he was here for more.  There are 3 couples on board.  One from Australia who are 30 something, one from England who are again 30 something, and one from New Zealand who are in their late 40’s.  Then there is a woman from the Netherlands, 4 from Australia, and 1 from Canada.  Not sure if I’m missing anyone.  Ironically enough, there are 5 lawyers in the bunch and most of the people here have pretty respectable professions.  Age range here: 23-69 yrs old.  In all, we all click pretty well.  I think we have kind of fallen into the new guys and old guys groups.  The ones who have started a long time together seem to hang together a bit more, then the new people like us hang out and talk more.  It probably happens that way.  But we all get along quite well.  And it may just be me, but as I’m writing this now, it has been exactly been 7 days since the start of the trip and I think everyone on the tour really gets along in a way you can only get along if you are together all day and in really close quarters.  I guess it’s kind of a honeymoon period for us all, where nothing really bad comes out of us and you only see the good side.  But it’s nice though.  Everybody on the trip are really good people.  Justifiable by the way we interact, and the way everyone is always smiling and waving at all the people and especially kids who wave to us barefoot and dirty.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not some kumabyaa singing church loving group, everyone is just a hardcore traveler and a lover of life.  As I like to think of as myself.  This kind of trip is called overland and classified as a camping trip, but it’s really not that bad.  I’m not really a hard-core camper but the camping hasn’t been that bad.  In the 7 or so nights on this trip, we have only had 2 nights in bush camping where all the animals are fair-game to us.  The other nights are usually in some kind of enclosed campground/hotel/hostel.  With shower facilities and a bar.  I’ve only upgraded one time so far because  the Swiss-German owed me money and I didn’t feel like putting up or taking my tent down.  So we got a tent with actual beds inside overlooking a lake.  All for $13 total.  Not too bad.  But I like to just sleep in the tent because it is already paid for and it’s more fun. 
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