Prospective Itinerary and Travel Manifesto --

Date sent: 25 Jan 96 01:28:46 EST
From: Jim Klima <>
To: Jonathan Singer

Subject: 1996 "It Will Be So Awful, It Will Be Wonderful" Tour -- Continued --

In the realm of the unknown, Africa is the absolute. -- Victor Hugo

The adventure begins when it becomes uncomfortable. Why leave home if what you want to find is the same as you have at home? recently seen in the Travel-L listserv (discussion group) on Internet

The Spousal Unit and I hereby announce a journey, an expedition of ambitious scale that will placate our restless daydreams of foreign places, strange and unknown. It will be a year of indulging personal curiosity, cultivating patience and tolerance, and outwitting petty thieves and uncooperative bureaucrats to explore ancient and exotic cultures, to gamble our health against the nastiest of bugs, and to file income tax extensions from obscure American consulates.

Yes, once again we shall be sallying forth in search of adventure on a shoe string, testing our survival skills under the guise of budget backpacking. Using local facilities and transport should ensure that the experience will be up close and personal. It will also stretch our funds as far as possible although we do not expect to break our worldwide record for cheap accommodations (11 cents per bed). And I shall document every glorious day of this adventure using a solar-powered laptop computer. Let us hope it does not fall apart before we discover the true meaning of my favorite English word: grotty.

Disclaimer: This endeavor has been jointly conceived and developed by the Spousal Unit and myself. However, all personal opinions, legitimate or ridiculous, and any value judgment, insightful or misguided, are those of the author only. The Unit is committed to most of this itinerary but it is worth noting that any, some, or all aspects of the route and timetable described below are subject to change depending on many, many circumstances, not the least of which is matrimonial harmony. It should be mentioned that it was she, not I, who coined the working title for this trip.

2/1/96: Beset by the sleepless nights and distracted days associated with the sacrifice of everything familiar and comfortable for complete uncertainty and inevitable discomfort, the Unit and I depart the USA for the United Kingdom, exhilarated and terrified by the one way tickets in our secret money belts. Spend two weeks in the British Museum or any place warm which presumably will not include our $20/night beds in London youth hostels.

2/13/96: Commence a five month overland truck trip to Nairobi in east Africa with twenty, foolhardy, adventurous companions, most likely young Europeans. The vehicle is a specially-built truck that looks more like a bus except that you can ride inside or on the roof. Accommodations are camping, approximately half in campgrounds (or what passes for a campground in Africa) and half in the wild (which, in Africa, will probably be a pretty apt description).

The distance covered each day varies between 50 and 500 kilometers depending on climatic, road, and political conditions. The total route covers approximately 20,000 kilometers, a bit under 10,000 miles. A couple days per week are reserved for side trips or layovers when an unexpected hospitality, a local festival, the discovery of an idyllic, white sandy beach, the breakdown of the stupid truck or an impending passenger mutiny warrants it. Of course the truck always stops for that most aggravating of travel bum nemeses, spontaneous diarrhea, which, with a group of twenty, should be a never-ending problem.

The nature of the trip is very participative. The company provides an all-terrain truck, kitchen and camping gear, and a crew of two driver/leaders. If the truck gets stuck in the sand or mud, everyone must pitch in to dig it out. Setting up tents, shooing away critters, collecting firewood, and fending off the natives are group responsibilities. Meals are prepared from truck staples and whatever the day's designated cooking crew can find in the local market. The Unit and I expect to import the maximum allowable quantity of duty-free Skippy's Extra Crunchy through English customs for consumption during the trip.

Regarding hazards, I can only re-iterate what our tour operator says: Our trips are designed to be Adventure Journeys, taking people off the beaten track. Many areas we visit do not have the infrastructure required by the package tourist. Adventure travel does involve a certain amount of risk. We will be crossing areas of the world that do not adhere to western safety standards and may have inherent political or economic instability. As all travelers know, situations can occur while traveling that may involve personal risk, we therefore urge you not to book an overland trip unless you are prepared to accept these risks. Long experience has shown us that these trips are unsuitable for the vast majority of people outside the 18 to 45 age bracket.

week 1: Dash through Belgium, France, and Spain, picking up African visas and colds from sleeping outdoors in the winter.

weeks 2 - 4: Cross the Straits of Gibraltar and zigzag down the west coast of Morocco visiting ancient, walled cites such as Fes and Marrakech. Explore mountains and desert in search of Arabic tribespeople while settling into life on the road. The original route went through Algeria to Timbuktu but since local dissidents are trying to bring down the Algerian government by disrupting the economic benefits of tourism, Algeria was dropped from the itinerary.

weeks 5 - 6: Continue south along the desert coastline on the western edge of the Sahara Desert in Mauritania. Visit our first towns with really unpronounceable names: Nouadhibbou and Nouakchott.

weeks 7 - 8: Head inland from the coast via sand and gravel roads into Mali, visiting the well-known cities of Bamako, Mopti, and Djenne. All hands lend their hands using shovels and metal sand mats to keep the truck moving. Having extensive experience moving sand from my military life, I expect to prove my worth to the group. Trek into the hinterlands to visit semi-nomadic tribes such as the Dogon, whose remote civilization has withstood the impact of the Western world since 500 BC.

weeks 9 - 10: Enter the equatorial region of Africa along the Atlantic seaboard via Ivory Coast, another of many former French colonies. Continue east through Ghana, Togo, and Benin, eventually arriving in Kano, Nigeria for a rest stop.

weeks 11 - 13: Continue east through the grasslands of Nigeria visiting game reserves, eventually transiting mountainous villages in northern Cameroon, finally dipping into the jungles of Central African Republic.

weeks 14 - 18: Plunge into the heart of Zaire's northern rain forest where, according to our travel literature, the tree hyenas scream incessantly and every riverbank puddle teams with multi-colored butterflies. The road becomes a mere track; the canopy of trees encloses (the truck) for days on end; bridges are no more than tree trunks; ferries are flat bottom boats with loose planks for deck. In short it's as remote as remote can be.

This is equatorial Africa and there is no reliable dry season. At any time the truck may encounter a tropical downpour that makes the tracks as slippery as a skating rink. Muddy roads are dotted with enormous pot holes - some deep enough to completely hide a large truck! (Extricating the truck from the muck will again be the responsibility of all passengers.)

Because the vegetation is so thick, finding a site for camping can be difficult. Sometimes it will be in the comparative luxury of a mission, or we'll ask the head man of a village if we can camp there. Other times it may be in an abandoned homestead, a roadside quarry, or even in the middle of the road!"

This trucking company really knows how to whet one's appetite. In order not to offend the squeamish, I have omitted descriptions of the insect life likely to be encountered. Suffice it to say that every single country on the route offers drug-resistant, malaria-carrying mosquitoes. And while I am on the subject of health, let me list the topics from the medical problems section of our travel literature: prickly heat, heat stroke, fungal infections, tropical ulcers, altitude sickness, motion sickness, giardia, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid, worms, tetanus, rabies, meningococcal meningitus, tuberculosis, STDs, sleeping sickness, yellow fever, and bilharzia. The Unit is responsible for medical diagnoses; my area of expertise is parasite identification. For example, how many of you can distinguish between fleas, lice, ticks, bedbugs, and jiggers?

Other excitements may include an overnight stay in a Pygmy village with genuine hunter-gatherers or a possible African Queen style river excursion where the ferry's galley staff prepares the evening meal by smoking fish or monkey over the boat's funnels. Eventually we will leave the jungle and pass through the grassy highlands in northeastern Zaire where "dairy cattle graze in front of manor houses, and sometimes strawberries and fresh cheese are for sale on the side of the road ... against a backdrop of lakes, waterfalls, and snow-capped volcanoes." This we will have to see to believe.

week 19: Cross Uganda (presuming the current genocidal habits of the machete-wielding natives in Burundi and Rwanda make those countries unfeasible) and trek into the habitat of the rare and endangered mountain gorillas.

week 20 (around July 1): Emerge onto the plains of east Africa to visit the Serengeti and observe the annual migration of many thousands of zebra and wildebeest and their numerous predators. Also descend into the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania with its famous high density wildlife, dip into the Rift Valley to check out the zillions of pink flamingos at Lake Manyara, and finally roll into Kenya by way of several Masai villages. Final blow-out meal at the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi to bid farewell to the surviving traveling companions, the sight of some we may no longer be able to stand, the departure of others may bring tears to our eyes.

(To be continued)

Copyright (c) 1995 Jet City JimBo

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