Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

So many village children happy to see us!

As we crossed back into Uganda after our gorilla adventure, we had an opportunity to take a boat across Lake Bunyonyi, the second deepest lake in Africa. On the way, we would make a stop at a small village to visit a community of Batwa pygmies. The pygmies are traditionally a forest-dwelling people, but in the past few decades they have been displaced by deforestation and by the creation of national parks. Unfortunately, they shared much of their habitat with the mountain gorillas, and although this wasn’t detrimental to either the gorillas or the pygmies, the government decreed that no people were to dwell in the gorilla’s protected lands, and the pygmies were relocated to small parcels of land throughout Uganda. This has had a very negative impact on them, since they’ve been forced to adopt a settled, agricultural lifestyle, after hundreds of years living as nomadic hunter-gatherers. The tour that we were taking was meant to raise awareness for their situation, as well as provide some monetary support to help with land purchases and other necessities.

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The Kigali Memorial Centre

After a few more days of driving through Uganda, we finally crossed the border into Rwanda on June 27th. Rwanda has been a country that we’ve been looking forward to visiting for a very long time now, primarily because we’d booked our permits to go trekking with the mountain gorillas months before we even left Ottawa last July. With each passing day, Rwanda and our gorilla encounter was getting nearer and nearer, and it was foremost in my mind — so much so that the country’s very dark and recent past was not in my thoughts as we crossed the border. It was surprisingly easy to forget that we were heading into a country where over a million people died in the 1994 genocide. On our way to the gorillas we made a stop in Kigali for a half day visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre, dedicated to this genocide in Rwanda and the memory of the victims, both past and present. I have to admit that I had a certain na√Øvety about the specifics of Rwanda’s genocide before visiting the centre, but I left three hours later profoundly affected, and deeply saddened.

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News from Uganda

Watching the BBC in the lobby of our hotel in Addis this morning, we heard some shocking news of bombs going off last night in Kampala, Uganda. One of them went off in an Ethiopian restaurant, where people were watching the final World Cup game. Suspicions are on a Somali rebel group, but nothing is confirmed yet. It’s devastating news and our sympathies go out to the people of Kampala, where we so recently visited. We just wanted to post quickly to let everyone know that we were not affected: moms and dads: try not to worry, we’re ok.

Pizza in Naples, Khmer curries in Cambodia, falafels in Egypt — tasting the local flavours is essential when traveling, in my mind. Although you can find pizza in Cambodia these days, it just seems so wrong. Sure, many a-time I have craved bread, coffee, beer, and occasionally even chocolate. It feels like I can’t go on without them. Yet I can go on without them; I do get on without them. And it’s really not so hard.

Life on the truck is different in that we are cooking for ourselves. Three meals a day. The passengers are divided up into ‘cook groups’ of three. These groups rotate through a 7-day cycle so that you only have to cook once every seven days. The groups operate autonomously. Andi gives us some money and then we are on our own to plan, shop and execute our three meals. This can be easier said than done.

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Fierce warriors

Life on the road is long and bumpy. The truck is not exactly the smoothest of rides. The further back you sit, the bumpier the ride. We usually have the sides rolled up, exposing us to wind and dust, tousling our hair generally wearing us out. Travel days vary from 5 hours to 9 hours. We usually wake up bright and early, pack up camp and board the truck. We stop for lunch on the side of the road and for occasional pee breaks and we keep on driving until we run out of daylight. By the time we set up camp again, as the sun sets, we’re usually pretty exhausted and sore.

Our remedy for all this travel wear and tear has been yoga club. I started my own routine when we were traveling SE Asia and I’ve been keeping it up since. Mark started doing it with me here in Africa and more people have kept joining in. After we get off the truck, before supper, we have a core group of around 7 people + a handful of casuals join in the 45 minute power yoga routine.

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With less than a month to go until we begin our African overland adventure, the big question on our minds (and on your too, faithful readers) has been this: how are we going to get to Africa? Well, we finally have the answer…but unfortunately it’s not the one we hoped for. We’d simply run out of time, and none of the options that we explored so vigorously resulted in any viable solutions. So we bit the bullet. The big, Malaysia Airlines 737 bullet. And after coming over 43,000 kilometers and 12 time zones without leaving the earth’s surface, we will be (reluctantly) flying to South Africa.

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Environ-mental choices

These guys aren't flying either

Is traveling without flying the greener choice? We don’t know. But we would like to find out. When all is said and done we will attempt to compare our travels, the way we’ve done them, to a hypothetical ‘if we flew’ scenario.

The green choice would be to stay put and never leave home. The next best choice would be to ride a bicycle and sail a boat. We hope the next next best choice would be to do what we have done (are doing).

There are a few measures to help us make this comparison, like a carbon footprint calculator. We’re not sure which we’ll use. There is no standard, it’s not black and white and there are so many factors involved you can go mental just thinking about it. For example, a 10 hour flight from A to B may equate to less carbon consumed per passenger mile compared to a 10 day cruise ship or cargo ship from A to B. However, this comparison is time independent and considers only distance travelled. How that passenger spends the next 9 days and 15 hours after he/she disembarks the plane should also be factored in for a just comparison.

We do know that we’ve made the right choice for us. It hasn’t always been the easy choice, nor the cheapest, but we wouldn’t change a thing. So far we’ve come half way around the world and have travelled over 40,000 scenic kilometres without flying, a feat we’re quite proud of. There’s still a long way to go. As our days and cash supply dwindle, these choices are becoming even more difficult. No matter what, we’ll make the best of it. We look forward to eventually answering some of these questions, for ourselves.

You may have noticed a brief lull in our posting. You could blame it on the fact that we are on Koh Tao, a tropical Thai paradise island with ample snorkel and relaxation opportunity. You could blame it on Mike and Sarah: we are having way too much fun and playing way too many hands of bridge (or not enough, no such thing as too much bridge). Or you could blame it on the fact that our computer power adapter has hit the fan. Ironically, it ceased charging our computer just days after purchasing a new battery. We have to pay exorbitant amounts of Baht to receive a new one here in Thailand. The new battery and power adapter monetarily equate to a new iPad. Oh how I wish we had one of those over my clunky old Powerbook. Our new power cord is supposed to arrive today. We are hoping they got it right and we’ll be back online with photos and fun in no time.

What to wear?

Stretchy heads are stylish

What to wear. A dilemma I face every morning. Back home I’m the type of person who tries on 5 different outfits before walking out the door with my shirt on inside out. You would think this would be an easy decision for me now that I’m traveling. I have an extremely limited selection from which to choose. Pants A or pants B? Shirt A or shirt B? Not so.

Although I’ve never considered myself stylish per se, I like to think that I have style. Fashion is a means for expressing said style. What you put out there for the world to see influences not only other peoples impression of you but more importantly your own self-confidence and outlook. Fashion contributes to feeling good about yourself and feeling good about yourself is important, even when living out of a backpack. Especially when living out of a backpack.

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Hello Thailand

It feels so good to be in Thailand. I can wear tank tops and shorts above knee-length, beer is cheap, and the food is delectable. We are on bit of a beeline trail up north to Laos. This morning we arrived in Bangkok after a 21 hour train ride from Georgetown, Malaysia. It was a breeze in contrast to any of our Indonesian travel terrors. As JT would say, as paid for by McDonlads: “Ba da ba ba daaaaaa! I’m lovin’ it.”

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