Category: Vacation 2016: East/South Africa

Our travels to Europe (Iceland/Netherlands/Bavaria/Salzburg/Istanbul) and Africa (Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South-Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland).

A Rocky Start

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Iceland has a lot of rocks. I suppose it doesn’t really have more rocks than other places; it just seems that way because Iceland’s rocks are so visible, unadorned by trees and shrubs. The lichens and tundra and, on this day of the summer solstice, the stands of lupine, only seem to emphasize the jagged…

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In Iceland, The Future Has Already Arrived

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We had a brief, but interesting, conversation with our host, Vilbert, in Keflavik about the radical transformation that is about to take place in the world economy. This is currently one of my favorite topics, but it seems to have barely penetrated the consciousness of most people, so I was delighted when Vilbert brought it…

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Family Reunion

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We continued to Amsterdam early the next morning with only one glitch: they were even more strict about the weight limits. Once again, we were scrambling to redistribute the weight among various bags, and our gear, so carefully organized for a five-month odyssey, was now in a state of near-total entropy. We decided to purchase…

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Bicycling in Bavaria

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Before we tacked a visit with Karel’s family onto the beginning of our trip, we had already arranged a week-long bicycle tour from Munich to Salzburg. The idea was to break up the long, long journey from Colorado to Madagascar, and give ourselves time to get over most of the jet lag. Under the new…

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The Land That Time Forgot

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Madagascar is sometimes called The Land That Time Forgot. It is one of the poorest countries in the world and relatively undeveloped. We knew, when we made our travel plans, that we were in for a roller coaster ride of experiences, some of which would be amazing, and some of which would be very challenging….

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Madagascar is Burning

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Frank was there promptly after breakfast to begin our day-long journey to the Tsiribihina River. With his modest amount of English and our modest grasp of French (the official second language here), we were able to learn bits and pieces about what we saw as we climbed across the spine of the country on one…

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Le Leçon Des Mandarines

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We rode the last few miles to the river down sandy tracks through the bush. It all seemed so remote, which is why we were surprised to be greeted by a mob of children and a few adults at the river bank. They stared at us unabashedly while our guides conducted mysterious negotiations and then,…

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Outlaws and Rustlers

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In most of Madagascar, a zebu is the most valuable thing you can own. Investing in zebus is the Madagascar equivalent of owning a portfolio of blue chip stocks, because you can expect your herd to increase in size and value over time. But it’s much more than that. The zebu can also pull a…

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Fady

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One of the unique complications about traveling in Madagascar is that each region, village, and tribe has its own set of taboos (fady) that visitors are expected to observe. These might be mundane, such as a prohibition against eating pork, but they were sometimes so esoteric, our guides were at a loss to even explain…

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Zebu Shit Saves the Day

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The last morning of the river trip was a short paddle to the rendezvous with our new driver, Michel, who would be with us for most of the rest of our travels in the country, and a new guide and facilitator, Stella, who would take us to see Little Tsingy and Grand Tsingy. At least,…

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Walk On Tiptoes

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Our new driver was named Sosoe. He spoke little English, but that didn’t stop us from kidding around—he definitely had a sense of humor. Sosoe liked to go fast whenever possible, and didn’t mind slamming on the brakes if necessary. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard tires squealing on a dirt road. We were…

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A Magical Reality

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Only a quarter million tourists visit Madagascar each year. The busy season, such as it is, starts in July and continues into February. We started our tour there in early July, which meant that most of the people in the little villages we passed through hadn’t seen a vazaha in nearly half a year. Karel…

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The Avenue of the Baobabs

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After a couple of days exploring the Tsingy area, we were presented a choice by the tour company. Stella would be leaving us, so for the remaining weeks in Madagascar it would be just us and our driver. But which driver? We liked Sosoe, but he spoke almost no English. His ride was certainly newer…

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It’s a Small, Small World, and a Big, Big World

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Traveling the world has never been easier. An ordinary person with a passport and some money (a modest sum, by American standards) can reach almost any country on the planet in 24 hours or less. You can place a phone call or send a message or a photo almost anywhere in a matter of seconds….

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Civilization: Not Always All It’s Cracked Up To Be

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In the morning we angled back inland through the bush. We skipped the tour of the village at Belo sur Mer, which is famous for the sailing cargo boats they build there by hand, because there had been a death there the day before, and the community was in mourning. The drive was long, bumpy,…

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The Day Of The Rhinoceros

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I have never experienced a true monsoon season. I can only imagine what it must be like in some countries where it rains virtually non-stop for half a year. How do you build a bridge over a river that’s a reasonable hundred meters wide for much of the year, but swells to more than a…

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The Rhinoceros Does It Again

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Michel had issued our marching orders; we needed to leave our idyllic seaside sanctuary in the early hours and drive a difficult, sandy stretch of coastal road before it got too warm. The last two cars to make it through had taken six hours to reach Salary Bay. The Land Cruiser, tires half-deflated, hubs locked…

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Isalo

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The most scenic part of our journey through Madagascar began as we climbed into the mountains that form the spine of the island. We spent two nights at an incredible lodging built almost entirely of local stone, with no effort spared to show off the artistry of the masons. Just as impressive were some of…

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Shipwreck Economics

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As we neared Tana once again, the trees disappeared and the towns grew larger and more numerous. In between, we’d pass through the “Land of Toy Trucks,” followed by the “Kingdom of Small Musical Instruments.” That is, all the roadside stalls would feature the same merchandise for a long time, then suddenly switch to something…

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From Paradise to Perdition (and Back Again)

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Sometime after dinner our last night on the isle, the hotel staff informed us we would need to be ready in the reception area for our ride to the ferry at 3:30 a.m.! What!?*&%!!? “Oui, c’est necessaire, le bateau départ à 4:45.” OK, we don’t want to miss the boat, so we showed up as…

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Back to Tana

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Our boat ride from the Palmarium to our rendezvous with Michel was a completely different experience. The weather was mild, the sun peeped in and out of view, and we were rested and well-fed. The Rhinoceros got to prove its mettle in the mud, this time, making short work of a stretch of road that…

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Have I Got A Job For You!

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When Karel and I first talked about taking this trip, Karel asked me which part of the world I wanted to see next: China and the Far East, South America, or Africa? In recent decades, I’d heard, China has intentionally destroyed much of the old cityscapes and surrounding countryside that made it unique and interesting….

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Where’s the Forest?

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For our next adventure, we headed to a village in Uganda, Rubuguri, where we would volunteer with an organization called Big Beyond. Getting there from Madagascar, via Rwanda, took two days and involved two flights (the second of which we shared with the Uganda National Rugby Team, whose exuberant personalities took up even more space…

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