Trip Start Sep 15, 2009
42Trip End Nov 21, 2009
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What can I say that I haven’t already said before? If you can’t tell from my writing that I absolutely had the best time of my life, then I either didn’t write it properly or you’re border-line retarded. I really enjoyed every minute of the trip down right down to the very end. I know everyone else that I traveled with did too. And if they didn’t enjoy it, then they sure could hide it well. The tour leaders and cook told us that we were probably the best groups they have had. And the cook has been with the company for the past 9 years so that really says a lot. But I think the difference between my Europe trip and this one, comes down to one thing. The people I traveled with. In Europe I was really only with a new friend for 2 maybe 3 days at most. And for me it takes time to really open up to a new person and that really isn’t enough for me. On my Africa trip, we were together for at least 2 weeks so for me, that was at least enough time to open up properly to them and develop a friendship. The longest I was with someone was the full 8 weeks and Ras the Dane and I became good friends over that period. There will definitely be a few people that I will remain friends with in the years to come.
Africa was really everything that I imagined it to be and so much more. Africa is truly a really amazing place and I highly recommend everyone to travel there at least once in their lives. What makes Africa truly special, is the local people. I’ve seen and met so many people who really having nothing in their lives and are genuinely happy. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like a few more material objects in their lives. But by nothing I mean tattered clothing, minimal food and dirty water, a mud hut for a home, and no health care. All they have in their lives is the means to live through farming, and the sense of family and community. It really is an amazing thing to witness. Most of them would gladly invite you into their mud huts and share the only food they have with you. Another thing that comes to mind as to why Africa is special are the kids of Eastern Africa. Kids will be kids and they faces light up when they see you. Just by your white skin they automatically smile and come running over to you or give the biggest wave. I remember when traveling on the truck for endless hours, no matter how tired I felt or in a slightly mad mood about waking up at the crack of dawn or whatever, I would return there gestures with the biggest smile and wave. It’s the least I could do take make their day just a little bit better since a lot of the kids have dirty tattered clothing and bulging bellies from malnourishment. I will grant you, some of the kids would hold their hands out as to ask for money or food which is probably a byproduct of years of charity organizations coming over and giving handouts by the white man. It was weird because certain towns you would see all the kids hold their hands out but some different towns all you would see is smiles and waves. We were told at the start of the trip not to give handouts to children because it would only encourage begging and I already knew that. Most of the time the rule was obliged but at times some in the group really couldn’t hold back. And if you have some unwanted piece of clothing or extra food, I can’t think of a better place to give it to than a family or child in need. But I truly believe the spirit in Africa is extremely strong despite all the years of slavery, colonialism, famine, diseases, and civil unrest. What choice do you really have in life? In life you really have two choices; one is to live your life the best possible way or to succumb to the pitfalls of life and bend to torment and misery. I like to think Africa is choosing the former in this case. Africa has a 5% growth rate as a continent which is good but it will takes years if not decades to overcome the thousands of years of nothingness. I remember taking a tour of a school system on the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro with a British expat, and he remarked how Eastern Africa is now starting to use more cement to build homes instead of with mud and sticks. Hearing something like this for a Westerner was pretty remarkable to think how something like the materials of their houses have just now moved to cement and it is the year 2009. Excluding South Africa, I would expect in 10 years time the infrastructure will dramatically change for Eastern and Southern Africa. There is already major roadwork going on in a lot of these countries where the money filtering in from the likes of the EU, the US, Japan, and China. Depending on the financial and current situation with myself, I would like to come back to these countries that I’ve visited with my own vehicle in about 10-15 years and see how they have developed. I think it will be dramatically different in many areas.
-Back to how the trip was. Why else the trip was a truly remarkable one? Besides the people, was the low-stress atmosphere of the trip. That is the one of the reasons I joined the trip. I paid for someone else to think for me and all I have to do is just listen what was going on for the next day. Every evening at dinner, out tour leader would tell us what time breakfast was, what time we were leaving, and what the schedule of events were. I have to admit, my ears were listening but my brain had simply been turned off for some time. I could hardly remember what time breakfast was because I didn’t really want to think about it. I have been living the past 9 years in the military on a calculated time based schedule of events. As they say in the military-if you’re 5 minutes early you’re on time, if you’re on time then you’re late, and if you are 5 minutes late, then you’re fucked! So as you can imagine I was always stressing about being somewhere for whatever event on time and everything else that went with being in the military. I had read the itinerary for the trip when I booked it 6 months prior to it and then again read it before I left. I knew from before basically what it was all about and I really couldn’t care less about the schedule from day-to-day. I’ll let the tour leader worry about the schedule and I’ll just sit in the truck and talk, play a game, or read a book. That was really very nice and I’m going to really miss it. I’m going to have to retrain my brain to think again.
The wide variety of things we saw and experienced were truly world-class. I’ll try to recap the biggest and best things on this trip in order. Bribing an official for a better date on my vaccination card. Watching hordes of birds, pelicans, and eagles diving into the water for fish and sometimes catching them. Getting diarrhea in the middle of the night in hippo and lion country. Walking with and observing wild chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Being driven around by Rwanda’s #1 artist-DJ Kevin. Visiting a Pygmy village and the Rwanda Genocide Museum. Being mistaken for the actor-Jason Statham by little kids and crossing the equator two separate times. Watching every kind of African animal imaginable and also watching a leopard and lions eating a fresh kill. Even watching two lions in a real live hunt and kill a warthog just like I remember as a kid. Witness 1,000’s of water buffalo migrating across the plains together. Eating all kinds of African dishes. Growing a beard for the better part of 5 weeks. Playing Cricket for the first time with some Brits and Aussies. Shopping for a skirt and a tube top for another guy. Myself dressing up in a skirt and short shirt. Being called “Mzungo,” which means white person hundreds of times. Jogging in the middle of small towns and cities and high-fiving little kids and total strangers. Bungee jumping 111 meters over a canyon, and flying in a micro-light flyer over Victoria Falls. Walking with three living breathing lions and actually petting them and holding their tails as they walk. Mt biking around the town and past villages with hordes of kids chasing you. Witnessing a herd of elephants crossing a river with only their trunks sticking up out of the water. Spending your B-day with a naked tribe called the San Bushmen and having them dance around a fire at night with a lightning storm in the background. Having a friend tell you to put on a cheesy Crocodile Dundee hat, grab the beer bottle and look this way….all while you’re looking like a pedophile while shirtless and have a ton of kids around you. Witness a giraffe bending his front legs while trying to drink water. The exhilarating feeling of quad biking at neck-breaking speeds up huge sand dunes. Somersaulting down huge sand dunes like a little kid and not worrying about all the sand everywhere on your body. Getting one of the best tours by one of the most entertaining and energetic Japanese women in the desert. Hearing all the hoopla about the biggest eating contest of game meat for weeks when in Cape Town, and upon arrival find out that the restaurant isn’t all you can eat game meat. Eating a variety of game meat to include; crocodile, kudu, springbok, ostrich, and oryx. Visiting Cape Town and driving down the beautiful coast line with blue waters and mountains on either side of you. And lastly, the wonderful people who I encountered. The African people all over the continent and especially everyone in my group. It wouldn’t been nearly as much fun without them.
Each activity was so amazingly incredible and made me want to travel for infinity. Given my situation and cash-flow that wouldn’t be possible. At least not yet…… I already knew that I really loved traveling before this trip but I realized that I really want to continue to see as much as the world I can before I die. There is just to many places to see, exotic foods to eat, people to meet, and cultures to go explore. And there is only one way to do it and that’s to just get out there and try to see it all while I still can.