Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 19) Dec-29-2013

Sometime during the night there were loud-mouthed Africans yelling about something.  It was between 1 and 2 in the morning.  I kept silent for a while but was getting pretty sick of it so I finally screamed, "SHUT UP".  Shockingly the level of the discussion did quiet a bit.  It sounded like some people were either just getting to bed, or just arriving at camp and they were getting situated/setting up.  I got out of bed around 5--we were set to eat breakfast at 6:30.  I later learned the entire story behind the commotion--appearantly a girl had started screaming frantically and people thought she had been attacked by an animal, possibly a lion.  It was later discovered that she just had a bad dream.  I'm sure the Doxy had something to do with that?

Hot air balloons in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Just finished lunch at the Serengeti entrance/gate and are back on the road into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  It's 2:45pm.  A few quick notes I took while on today's safari:

We learned that the park speed limit is 20kmph.  Our guide went to school for 'birds' and knows over 1,000 types.  Taking a
one hour ride on a hot air balloon costs $500, thought it does include a free glass of champagne.  We saw mongooses and learned that they are often picked up by vultures.  A Vulture will swoop down and pick up a mongoose, fly to a high elevation and then drop the mongoose to kill it.  When the mongooses see vultures they all huddle together and hold onto each other.  Adorable, right?  We saw elephants on the side of the road, again, and the smallest one was 6 months old  It looked so goofy next to its much larger parents.  Also along the road were a dozen ostriches.

Ostriches in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We stopped at the visitor's center and we looked around at their exibits.  The restrooms were amazingly clean.  However, Debby and Vincent were taking much longer than the rest of us and we were growing impatient--we wanted to get back on the road before it became too hot and the animals started to take cover.

One of the cars in our group spotted a leopard so we went looking in the area.  We did find it, eventually, but it was far off and I was not impressed.  We saw three lions--two in a tree and one eating a buffalo.  Whenever there is a large cat spotting 'all' the cars swarm to the scene.  Can you imagine if these lions and leopards thought like we did?  "These animals are very parculiar--they glide along on 4 perfectly round feet, make loud thumping noises that increase in intensity and pitch as the move faser, and they travel alone.  However as soon as one of these species spots me or a family member more quickly encircle me and watch me sleep.  Once they come to a stop they turn silent.  Then they grow from the top of their large heads and smaller creates peek out.  These creatures are closer to my size.  After I go hide somewhere and don't come out for a while these creatures tuck back into the larger creature and then the larger creature shrinks its head.  Then all the large creatures start making noise and leave me alone.

Lions in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Around half past noon, while we were traveling along a grassy meadow we almost flipped our Toyota Land Cruiser.  We spun out of control going 40-60kph, fishtailed, and felt the 4x4's center of gravity shift very quickly from the center of the car over to the right set of wheels.  Luckily our driver regained control before the car completely flipped.  We were all a bit shaken up.  The driver went outside and took inventory of the vehicle.  Our car was undamaged but there was broken glass on the ground, which was probably from a car that had recently fallen.  Our driver had said that had we been in a Range Rover we would have flipped for sure.

The drive through the grassy meddow was trecherous--almost completely without life, dusty, and infested with flies.  We had to keep our roof and windows closed as to not be completely devoured by the little black devils.  We finally arrived at the Serengeti check-in point where we used the restrooms and ate our lunch as we waited for our 3 drivers to fill out the paperwork.  This took 1.5-2 hours and I was getting increasingly bored.  Over these last few days in the Serengeti I have been thinking alot about traveling the world.  Such issues like, when, how will I get my meds, will I be uninsured once I return home, how quickly can I sell my car, will I get all my visas...etc.  Planning will probably take a bit of time as I want to do my research on all the areas I plan to visit so I will enjoy my experience more.

After lunch a couple joined our group (the 5 or so of us still sitting on the benches).  We talked a bit and I found out they live in Chicago--he is an econ professor as University of Illinios and she's a 4th year PhD student.  Her thesis is on the effect of our aging population on healthcare.  She said that over the next couple decades 50% of our nurses will retire.  NOTE TO SELF:  Any way to invest in companies contracting out nursing care?  He worked for an econ Professor in Ann Arbor, Michigan before his current role--he told me "Go Blue".  They were the 3rd and 4th American I've met so far over the last 3+ weeks.  The other 2 where a couple of recent college grads from the east coast that I ran into during my stay in South Luangwa National Park.  It's possible I have met more Americans and just cannot recall them now, but at most I have met no more than 10.

Maasai villagers greet us in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Currently we are driving into a Maasai village.  We each paid $20USD to have a tour of their village.  I am excited.

Maasai men jumping in the Serengeti, Tanzania
It's 4:30 and we just got back on the raod from our Maasai village adventure.  It was the highlight of the day, for sure.  We were welcomed by the the chief's son--he was 20 years old.  He introduced himself and asked for all of our names and where we came from.  All the men in the village then conducted a welcome dance for us which involved chanting and hopping--so tribal!  The women were in the background singing something but were never introduced to us.

We were then welcomed into their village, which was a small ~60m diameter circle, enclosed all around except for 4 gateways.  Their village fence was comprised of acacia branches, which are extremely thorny, and act as protection against certain animals.  The village had a large 'social' central section which had a large leafless tree growing in the direct center.  Some of the men sat on and around the tree.  As we walked into the village the men and women continued their welcoming dance/song and invited 2 or 3 of us to join them in their jumping.  Men jump as a way of flirting with the Maasai women.  They are a polygimyst culture--everyone in the same village is part of the same family so they must take wives in nearby villages.  However the wives of a given man are always from the same village.  The women live with their children in small houses.  We split into groups of 2 and were each shown the houses.  They were very small, maybe 100 square feet, tops.  They are sort of dome-shaped and have no door.  They take 1 week to construct as the entire village helps out.  The Maasai are a nomadic people and have multiple permanent locations.  This particular village along with another village act as their permanent locations.  They travel between village 2-4 times a year.

Maasai children in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Everyone had such poor teeth it was uncomfortable to look at.  Even worse than typical African teeth, which is pretty damn bad.  The men had gowns--either red, blue, or some combination of the two--and walked with spears and wooden canes used for herding their cattle.  They were wearing black rubber thongs made from recycled car tires and sported numerous necklaces and bracelets.  The women were dressed similarly, though not in such elegant robes.  Many of the women had children slung over their shoulders.  The men never spoke to the women.  It was obvious that even 'us tourist' men were treated with higher honor than the women in our group.

A Maasai woman in the Serengeti, Tanzania
I was hoping to try the typical Maasai meal of bovine blood and milk but they had told Godfrey (who asked on my behalf) that their cattle were too far at pasture now.  I was a bit bummed.  They tried selling us their 'trinkets' after they showed us their, rather meager, dwellings but I didn't bite.  However I did, along the side of the road while en route to our campsite tonight, buy a Maasai blade.  We had stopped to watch a bunch of the Maasai play football (soccer) in an open field.  They had built simple goals out of 3 tree trunks tied together with some sort of twine--no net, of course.  There must have been 50 people on the field.  While we were stopped a dozen Maasai men came over to our vehicle and tried to sell us stuff.  This was common, for men and women, to sell their goods.  I wasn't interested but inquired on the price of one of their swords.  They had started at $70.  I was mostly just negotiating for fun and practice and got them down to $30, $25, and $20 within a few minutes.  I said $15 and they said no.  I said thanks and started to close the window.  When the window was halfway closed the man said, "ok, ok, $15"  I handed him a $20 and he gave me a $5 along with the handmade Maasai blade with a handmade cowhide sheath.  They saw a wad of cash I had taken out of my pocket and tried to sell me on more 'products'.  I told them that I needed this money to eat for the next week and they smiled and understood.

Giraffes in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Our drive to our campsite along the ridge of the Ngorongoro Crater was a long but beautiful one.  We stopped a few times--we even got out of our car and walked up closer to a cluster of Giraffes in a field alongside a dozen zebras.  We also stopped to witness the wildebeast migration.  It was just stunning--spanning as far back as the eye could see.  Watching them dash across the road was a sight in itself.  We saw other delightfully beautiful things along our journey as we finally made it into camp around 6:15.  Although we had stopped several times during the day we had been in transit for well over 11 hours.  Quite tiring given the condition of the roads we were traveling on.

Zebra running with a Wildebeest in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Dinner was at 7:00pm--the same soup and bread we've had the last two nights, cinnimon-spiced rice, and some type of curry beef.  The beef was tough, as it typically is in Africa, but the food was otherwise quite tasty.  For dessert we had orange and pineapple slices.

It's just after 9:00 now and I'm getting ready for bed.  We have another early morning--6:00 breakfast before our game drive down in the Ngorongoro Crater.  I'm sure with the 36 vehicles going down tomorrow and reletively small size (20km) of the crater we are sure to bump into some animals.

I'm in my tent now--I'll pass on brushing my teeth, washing up, and/or showering tonight.  I've grown accustomed to showering every 2 or 3 days and brushing my teeth only in the mornings.  I've worn my North Face pants for all except 3 or so days on my trip.  I really like them, but they sure do need to be cleaned--I have cleaned them 2 or 3 times, but only using cold(ish) water, ringing them tightly, and then letting them air dry.

Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Arusha, Tanzania: (Day 16) Dec-26-2013

Happy Boxing Day.  It's 7:45 am and we are en route to Arusha.  We have been on the road for just under 2 hours and should arrive by 1, making for a 'short' day of traveling-only 7 hours.  I woke up sharply at 5:00 when Debby knocked on my door.  She asked if she could use the shower as hers and Vincent had no water pressure.  I said sure.  I packed up my  'completely unpacked' overnight bag and got dressed for the day.  It was a little chilly here in Lushoto and expect it to be similar in Arusha...though much colder within the Ngorongoro Crater due to its high altitude.  Breakfast at 5:30 and on the road by 6:00.

Today we are arriving at camp just outside Arusha around 1:00 and making lunch for ourselves.  Afterwards we are taking a tour of a local Maasai Village, which also has a snake park.  I'm not sure what to expect, but am excited nonetheless.

I have been thinking a lot about my round the world (RTW) trip over the last several weeks--actually for the last 1-2 years really.  Over the past 2 hours I have been driving myself crazy with thoughts/ideas so I figured I would try to capture some of them in hopes of clearing my mind.

I plan to travel the world for ~12 months.  I would like to go to South America where I can hike Machu Picchu and Patagonia.  Depending on budget I may consider Easter Island.  It goes without saying that every other mainland country will be visited.  Maybe I start my trip going through the national parks here in the US and drive down through Mexico and take busses and trains through South America.  This way I can start my ticket in South America.  Another destination would be Southern India--I've seen a lot of the North and would like to see more, but I may revisit the Northern portion...cost/day is so low here and could probably be budgeted <$50/day for two people for hotel and food....but $25 is also very possible.  Eastern Europe is also a destination I would like to visit.  The unique cultures, ease of traveling within, and central access makes it high on my list.  Western Europe bores me, so I'll visit there when I am older and just want to take a short 2-3 week trip.  Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed Ireland, and London wasn't horrible, but I just feel the US offers more 'diversity' within it's own 50 states than does Western Europe...or least it's not too far off.  I am not a fan of going to "see stuff" so the appeal of the ruins in Greece just does not excite me too much.  Plus I have already been inside the Pantheon and the Parthenon (if you count the perfect recreation in Nashville, TN).  However, I am very excited to Visit Amsterdam next week.  Everyone I have met from the Netherlands seems to possess certain distinguishing characteristics that I really appreciate.  They are light spirited, quirky, educated, sarcastic, goofy, and just plain old fun.  I have a very strong personality so I can pick up fairly easily on if someone wants nothing to do with me.  The dutch people I have met while traveling are not as eager to 'prevent rocking the boat' as many other cultures and this is important to me.  They tend to speak their minds, a quality that is useless in the others as their minds are mostly empty.

Eastern Europe has a different feel and the foreignness of it intrigues me.  I would like to then venture into Russia and travel around for a while.  Russian culture is so beautiful and I have immense respect for their people (nudge, nudge, Ayn Rand).  A country that values science and art to the fullest.  A country where a young male child can practice gymnastics and ballet while not getting picked on has some true merit.  The contributions to the Maths and Sciences brought by the Russians goes largely unparalleled.  Do you think America would ever be proud of their strong chess competition leagues?  Not a chance.  I wont go into the specifics of the types of achievements but just turn on your iPod and listen to you favorite classical music--I'm willing to bet there is quite a bit of Russian influence within your playlist.  I sometimes wonder about WW2 and the cold war.  Why don't we share our victory with Russia, because without the eastern front there could have been a completely different outcome.  Also I really find it comical about our reaction that caused the disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  But seeing as JFK has been recorded as the Country's worst President, perhaps it was just his doing?  If you haven't already seen Stanley Kubrik's "Doctor Strangelove" do yourselves a favor and watch it.  It does a great job portraying how ridiculous things were during the Cold War.  It was such a great time in history that--for the large part--was a time of peace and scientific innovations marching along at an unprecedented rate.  My heart almost goes out to Russia a little bit.  I mean Russia has NEVER used a single nuclear bomb as a defensive nor offensive instrument.  We used two bombs.  Which country to you think was/is more affair of the other using nuclear warfare?

I would like to take the Trans Siberian/Mongolian Railway through Mongolia to Beijing.  I know that it is a 4 day journey and runs around $500 per traveler.  There are 4 people per train cabin and we remain on the train for the entire 4 days--sometimes given 5-60 minutes to get out at stops and breath some fresh air.  Also, there are no showers.  4 days without showers...ha, that's child's play.  I've done close to that in the heat of an African summer while traveling in a non-air-conditioned bus--I think I can handle the train.  I know that I will need to get my visas for all thee countries--Mongolia and China potentially being much more difficult.  Similarly to Vietnam these countries require the visa to have a stated entry and exit date.  If something happened and I arrived in China a day early, they wouldn't let me in.  Same goes about leaving--one cannot even leave before the stated date.  These rules may have become more relaxed, but either way it is a hard restriction on individuals such as myself who wish to backpack through with no set itinerary.

I would like to see some large cities in China as well as the rural areas.  I have reasons for both but I will try to stay focused on my passage (yeah, I meant the double entendre.

From China the logical path would be downwards to Indochina.  I would like to hit up Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand again (however I would be perfectly fine with skipping over Bangkok).  I've been there a couple times for too many days and there really isn't anything else I would want to see.

From here I would go to a few Thai islands, likely work in a hostel or bungalow cleaning and doing yard work, maintenance for free food and stay.  This sort of arrangement is very common.  I figured a beach may be a good place to unwind for a couple weeks.  I could catch up on emails, follow up on my job prospects, take some preliminary and 1st round interviews via phone, etc.  Maybe freelance some of my consulting, or VBA/model building back in the states for a week to raise some money.

From Thailand I would finish off with the obvious (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Fuji, etc.)  Maybe onwards to Australia/New Zealand, but I don't have a huge motivation to visit...not yet.

My planning has been pretty basic thus far.  I have been working out the logistics mostly.  I would sell my car prior to leaving and that would probably be one of the last things I had to sell.  I would sell/donate my bed before and just use a blow up mattress until I left.  I would sell all my other large furniture.  I would probably sell my TVs, speakers, and everything else that can easily be repurchased.  It should be fairly easy to determine which items I will keep and put into storage and which items I will sell.  I will assume, just for this exercise, that everything I have now I will have also have/get once I return.  Thus if the item has a positive NPV I will keep it and if it has a negative NPV I will sell/donate it.  I know the fixed costs will be moving truck and storage rental for 12 months.  As the number of items I have increases these costs go up, but only slightly.  When I return I am not sure where I will take a job.  Moving these items, which are currently in storage, to my new location will vary greatly depending on distance and number/size of storage.  Thus, this is simply an unknown risk I will build into my model.  I will assume I will move within 1500 miles, and I will add upside risk if I take a job overseas and downside risk if I move locally.  I will take the current value of an item, let's say a TV for example, and see how much I can sell it for.  I have enough forecasting experience to be able to project (with a fair amount certainty) how much a NEW TV will cost 1-2 years later.  However, if I would likely buy a used TV as that is the current condition of my TV now.  Thus, selling the TV is the rational thing to do.  Hard to attain items would be given a premium, as would discontinued items.  Then there are things like decorations, which I've accumulated over the years.  These have memories attached to them and I quite like them.  Also, these types of items are small, easy to store at a friend's/family's house.  I'm not sure what I will do with my elliptical though?  Shit!  Plates, dishes, pots, pans, silverware?  Not quite sure?  Would be nice to start over with few pieces.  I would like to save the inside greenhouse I made, but it is sort of bulky.  I will sell it if I can capture at least $300 for it, but I think it's worth closer to $400.

OK SORRY, I KNOW THAT WAS ALOT, BUT I REALY NEEDED TO GET THIS OUT:  Things I will bring with me on my trip.  I will bring 2 pants, 2 shorts, 3 t-shirts and 3 long sleeved shirts.  I'll probably bring thermal underwear/long-t and a light fleece.  I will pick up stuff as I need it.  I've been doing this type of thing a lot so I'm fairly certain I know what I'll need.  I will probably bring my current macbook air.  I'll be able to manage, sort, tag, and post-process my RAWs during the long travel rides I will likely have.  I will have movies, music, and ebooks for entertainment as well.  Depending on the feedback from this blog I may continue keep one.  I was actually thinking of making it a bit more dynamic and building in some features that would allow me to generate a small amount of income to help fund the trip.  Some ideas include, "A small monthly fee to subscribe to the blog...if you don't pay you can't read it", "Provide the blog for free but upload completed and pre-selected photos and charge a nominal fee to view the photos", "Or I could just ask for a donation of $0.25 every time someone read anything in my blog".  In efforts to get more people involved in the blog and to make it more of a back-and-forth experience (as opposed to my just lecturing and you just reading) I could have polls or auctions.  For example I could say, "Next week I'm considering going to A.) place a, B.) place b, .....N.) place n.  I could have people pay $1 to be able to vote where I should go.  Or I could have an auction and the single person that bids the most on a given destination will 'win' and I will go there.  The 'winner' could tell me what they want to see in particular

Here are some examples of how I see it playing out:  Maybe my Grandfather, Papa Gibby, has always wanted to see the TGIF in Moscow--and say he always wanted to know the year it was built and by whom.  He could bid $25 and if he bids the highest I would go to Moscow and use my researching skills to find out the details.  I can take detailed photos/videos and any other relevant information.  I would then incorporate that portion into the blog.  It is sort of a mashup of "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?", those 'choose your ending' type books, eBay, Charity, and give you a great chance to Live vicariously via me.  You would be directly impacting the direction of my journey.  The butterfly effect would be enormous.  I am just brainstorming, I would love to hear input.  I like this idea, but I've also been told to just start a blog with many pictures and flood it with adds...but I don't want to do that.

So now that I just ranted on some schemes to raise funds en route I have to touch upon how I will manage to afford the trip before going on it.  I have more than enough money saved in 401k, Traditional/Roth IRAs, and a couple taxable brokerage accounts.  I even have a 519 College Savings Plan for my children who don't even exist yet.  Saving is a drug to even though I can 'afford' to take many years off and travel there is a huge associated cost.  The opportunity cost is the largest.  I would have to sacrifice 1-1.5 years of salary, bonuses, and benefits.  I would have to build a robust dynamic  model to track my budget once I started my trip, but a loose starting point that I think is fair would be $25,000 for myself and $45,000 (if I travel with a partner) for 12 months.  Pretty damn cheap for a year, huh?  I will have to put aside $5,000 for my college loans that I will owe, though I may be able to put them on hold if I say I am 'out of work'....more on this at a later time.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Just got off the bus to take a bush toilet break and to snap a few photos of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.  Tabby says were less than 100km away.

I just listened to Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and it has inspired me so much.  I can't even put into words, but listening to the song while being in Africa has really left its mark on me.

We arrived at our camp around 1:00.  I decided to upgrade and got a bedroom with two twin beds...but I will be sleeping in the room alone.  They had asked $45 dollars but I negotiated down to $20.  The room has its own shower so it was worth it to me.  It's funny because I am paying less than the accommodated people since they paid in advance and in full, I am negotiating when I can and staying in tents when I cannot.  Lunch was at 1:30pm.  Lunch meat and lettuce, salad, and shredded cheese for sandwiches.  We left at 2:20pm and went to a shoprite so we could get snacks for the Serengeti.  I'm so annoyed with how often we have to stop.  These families are the least outdoorsy people ever.  I overhear a few discussing how they will split up tasks while at the market.  For Jesus Sakes...we're being supplied water and 3 meals a day while we're gone...these people are starting to get out of my nerves.  I'm glad my trip is coming to an end.  I have one night here in our campsite just outside Arusha, Ndoro.  Then we have three nights in the Serengeti/Ngorongoro and one last night back here in Ndoro.  We then drive to Nairobi where I will be staying one more night and I fly out to Amsterdam the next evening--late.

Our Campsite in Ndoro, Tanzania
After shoprite we stopped at a shopping mall so a few people could look at some tanzanite.  It was overpriced, but everyone was like "Oh, wow, I have to get it".  I tried to explain to a few why it's not in the best interest of the shop owner to be honest with you and used another product as a comparison--they had carved wooden coasters and were asking $35 for them.  In the Mzuzu Market they would have sold it to me for $5.

It's 4:43 (almost two and a half hour after we left) and we still haven't gotten to where we are supposed to be--a Maasai Museum and a snake park.

6:30 now and we're back on our truck  The snake park and Maasai museum were shockingly really enjoyable.  First the snake park.  We saw a variety of crocs and snakes.  There  was a turtle what that was 100+ years old.  I even got to hold a baby crocodile.  I went ahead of the group while they were staring at dozens of snakes that all looked the same and enjoyed a 22oz of Castle Milk Stout.  It was a nice change of pace from the typical adjunct lager I have been drinking the preceding evenings.

Holding a Baby Croc at a Snake Park near Arusha, Tanzania
Next we went to the attached Maasai Museum, which I found very interesting.  I was asking questions and was really enjoying myself.  A few others asked some questions--they only had a few.  Many of my fellow travelers are brainless brainless sheep.  Debby, Vincent, and Cara where in back and couldn't hear anything the Maasai guide was saying.  I was the only person to tip the guide.  Afterwards, just outside where the museum let out, was a trinket shop.  I had wanted to buy a few items--I had bargained down one of the vendors.  I heard a few of the others telling me we had to leave "now".  I looked for the Germans, the only ones remaining, and we walked out of the shops.  She had said, "we've had such a boring day and when something finally gets interesting we have to go".  I told her I was happy to stay along with her and to "screw the others" but we just decided to head back towards to bus.  As I walked on the bus (probably within 2-3 minutes after the others) a few had commented about me being late--or something that hadn't needed to be said.  I said, I have been bored all day and I find nothing wrong with me staying a few minutes at something that was genuinely interesting.  This pretentious Aussie girl (I'll leave her name out for her sake) makes a snide remark about something irrelevant to the matter.  Something like, "you should have been listening, but you were too busy going ahead and getting your beer".  I wanted to call her a stupid twat, but I didn't.  I was actually getting a beer with Godfrey "OUR TOUR GUIDE" and the one giving us instructions.  He wasn't drinking but he had a Krest with me.  She was just trying to be the pretentious little girl she was.  If you've ever seen South Park think of the College-Know-it-all Hippie...that's her...just not a hippie.  After 1 or 2 years of school and she thinks she knew it all.  I'm sure I thought the same thing, and still do, but to be fair I have her easily beat in the IQ department by no less than 2 standard deviations.

I fear I might develop foot and mouth disease, that is, traveling with all these sheep.  I told that girl, "thanks for looking out for me babe, but as you may need someone to tell you what to do, where to go, and what to think I got myself covered".

The Maasai people are so interesting.  I have asked Godfrey about being able to try a typical Maasai meal and he said it can me arranged, but may cost me a bit.  They eat solely the meat from their chickens/goats (not cows), and the milk/blood from their cattle.  Beef and bloody milk...count me in!

It's just before 7, and we still probably have another 45 minutes until we arrive back to camp.  I just asked Godfrey and he told me, "I don't know, it depends on traffic".

I'll enjoy a meal and watching a movie tonight by myself tonight.