Monday, September 29, 2008


Well Team...

so, I’ve made it across the border into Tanzania! My last country on

the tour (unless you count Zanzibar, which does give you a stamp and

sorta is its own country but thank god they don't charge for Visa's

because Tanzania charges 100 USD! (of course we charge them much more,

so I guess it's only fair)).

Turns out American's are traveling to Kenya! So says Rebecca who runs

the Miliani Backpackers in Nairobi. She says there have been many

more American's than ever before since about April. I asked if it was

about Obama... and it is. His father is from Kenya, and so many

American's are now aware of a bad ass country called Kenya and are

coming. This is good since Kenya tourism is SLOOOOWWWWW thanks to the

problems in January and February. Rebecca also told me about how she

and her family survived the riots and people blocking roads, throwing

rocks and burning tires. Them racing through the line of people with

horn "hooting" and skidding into their apartment garage as the guard

slammed it shut on the oncoming crowd. Straight out of a movie,

except that it was real. Fortunately Kenya is totally calm, friendly

as ever but hurting for the travelers to come back. I'm so glad I was

able to come as my safari was fantastic with only about 1/4 the safari

vans as normal. So get your ass to Kenya so you can enjoy the low

crowds and also help out! :)

So for those who don't know what exactly a Safari is I'll tell you (as

I didn't really know exactly before this trip either). You travel in

a Safari Van (or Land Rover) I was in a van, it holds up to 8 people,

but there were only 3 (and then 4) of us. So we had lots of room.

You drive to the national park with your guide/driver (ours was

Barry...well, until the Van broke down and we were sent with another

crew). The roof pops up so you stand up in the van and look out 360

degrees at the scenery and the animals.

And I mean ANIMALS. Rhinos (the endangered black and white ones),

Leopards in trees and Lions in the grass (Mothers, Babies of many

sizes, including 2 week old ones that squeak like birds, can't see and

even went UNDER the safari Van. The mother came over and picked it up

in her mouth and carried it off). Giraffes by the dozens, Elephants

by the dozens. Zebras, Hyenas, Gazelles, Hartebeests, Warthogs

(Pumba!), a cheetah, a cerval cat, Buffalos by the hundreds. Hippos,

crocodiles, bones and carcasses (oh yes) And yes Wildebeests...

THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of Wildebeests. One heard was over a mile

long, with maybe 10,000 animals. The ground didn't rumble like I

expected (but they weren't running). It was 4 days of viewing,

scenery stretching to the horizon without a power line, cell tower,

paved road or house. Just miles and miles and miles of rolling hills

of grass and escarpments in the background.

We were 1 day at Lake Nakuru, a beautiful lake, (with monkeys!) and 3

at Masai Mara (the Kenyan extension of the great Serengeti Plain).

Sunsets, sunrises and stars galore. I even saw SCORPIO for the first

time that I'm aware.

I was with a very cool couple from Israel Ifat and Shaked who were on

their honeymoon. And Mark, an adventuresome pilot for Luftstansa from

Germany. The camp we staid at had Masai warriors with spears and

clubs and knives that guarded it against animal attacks at night and

wore their traditional clothes (and all had cell phones!).

A grand time.

and the new sport is Safari Surfing. You stand in the van as it

drives and don’t' hold onto the edge and try to stay on your feet.

Its' fun and a good challenge.

Tomorrow I actually go on ANOTHER safari, this one to the amazing

Ngorongoro crater. I had to navigate through the safari touts all

day. It was a lot of work, but the place seems good that I chose.

I’m' 3 weeks done. 2 weeks to go. Its going well. I'm definitely

slipping into the mid trip blues though. It always seems to happen at

some point. Where it isn't quite as fun. When little things become a

bit frustrating rather than amusing. When you stop and think about

how much money is being spent and if you will stay on budget. When

you get a bit lonely and tired of having the same "where are you

from?" conversations. That's slipping in now. I know it will pass in

a day or two and it's fine. It's here. It's hard to go go go go for

5 weeks straight! :) I'm hoping the 3 people on this safari tomorrow

are cool and that I can relax and still enjoy the adventure. After

all, Kilimanjaro is coming on friday... 6 days of hiking...

so hope you are all well and living it up. I'm still in search of

Karaoke and in fact going out. It's Africa and we are always asleep

by like 10pm or so. What the heck? :)

Gotta go, get ready to see more animals. But seriously, come to

Africa. You will be BLOWN AWAY WITH HOW AWESOME IT IS. Awesome.

just awesome.

Rock on


Sunday, September 28, 2008


Hey Team!

This is going to be a quick update, the details to follow, just wanted to let you know I was alive and well after journeying through Rwanda and Nairobi, then a 4 day Safari at Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara in Kenya. Kenya is great, Rwanda is great. I Saw a bunch of Lions at 10 feet! Including little 2 week old baby cubs! awesome!

I'll give a better update tomorrow (I hope), when I will enter Tanzania and go to Arusha which looks up at Kilimanjaro.

But before I go, a few words on Rwanda.

1. the roads are great

2. The people are super super nice

3. They speak French, not English, so the language barrier popped up for the first time this trip and I remembered how much harder it is to get around when you have to communicate with signs and smiles.

4. The genocide memorial is sad, touching, disturbing and heartbreaking. However, unlike the Tual Song Prison and Killing Fields in Cambodia, it isn't as horrible. The reason is that it is a memorial built to heal and teach. The mass grave outside of 250,000 (!!!!!) people is covered in a granite slab. In Cambodia you are walking on bones and teeth. The horrors are no less terrible or real, but the experience wasn't as devastating as Cambodia. However, there are churches in Rwanda with clothes and bones and even one where the bodies are all preserved in Lime 14 years later, including hundred of children. So had I made it there I'm sure I would be so fucking disturbed and angry right now I couldn't contain myself. The things that people can do to each other is just staggering...

5. It's a beautiful country of hills, mountains, hills, and more mountains. Kigali is a safe city you can walk around at night (unlike Nairobi).

That's what I got for now, I'll tell you about the Safari in the next update.

Keep traveling and visit Africa, it is amazing.

Rock on


Monday, September 22, 2008


So A few things new and some that I hadn't mentioned yet.

This morning I was woken by a helicopter taking off. I went out and
walked around and a bunch of soldiers wanted to take pictures with me.
They didn't speak very good English and I'm not sure who they thought
I was.

Learned some more about what's going on here. How the missions work.
Mostly rescue or aid missions, though unlike Rwanda in 1994, they have
a Chapter 7 Charter which means they can fire when necessary. In
Rwanda it was Chapter 6 which meant only if you were being shot at
could you shoot back.

Around noon the clouds were forming high over the volcano, promising
rain (that never came) and thunder was booming. I was then informed
that that wasn't thunder but ROCKET ATTACKS from about 10 miles away.
They pointed out the difference. Not quite as low and more continuous
sounding. Crazy.

I then talked with a guy who is from Kenya and as a test of manhood in
the Masai Tribe they actually go hunt Lions. And he told of how he
and others went after a lion and he was the second one to strike it
with his spear which meant that he was not the new ruler of the tribe.
You had to be first. This still happens once every few years.

And that brings up the car crash...
Car crash you say. Craig, were you in a car crash in Africa?
No, I was not, so don't fear.
However some of you reading this were.

After our fantastic Gorilla trek and the great time with the singing
children, we loaded up in the cars to go. 3 of our crew and the guide
in training got in a Toyota Rav 4 and headed off. I was in a land
cruiser a minute or so behind and when we came around the first corner
there was debris all over the ground. And a moment later saw the Rav
4 Upside down and sideways blocking the 1 lane dirt road. We jumped
out and ran to check on everyone. 3 people were sitting on the
roadside, and Nigel (another trekker) and I came around the car and
there was red liquid all over the ground. "oh shit". We looked
inside and the car was empty. It was some sort of car fluid (thank
god). There was momentary chaos as people were helped. Fortunately
the injuries seemed not to serious. Cut fingers. Bruises. Bumps.
Dizziness. A scraped cheek. Scary, but lucky. As it turns out the
brakes failed just as they started down the hill. The driver didn't
know what to do. They pulled the E-brake and then turned the car into
the cliff wall to stop it (smart, since the other side was a 300 foot
drop). The car caught and flipped, rolling over 3 1/2 times before
coming to a rest on its roof. The folks inside all thought "well,
this is it. I die now, here in Uganda". When the car stopped, it sank
down crushing in the hood. One of them yelled "get out now" and they
all were out in moments.

I have video of people pushing the car back on it's wheels. The thing
is totaled, but the people are okay, and that's what matters most.
Scary as hell.

Well, I think I’ve caught you all up on most everything. The
adventure continues tomorrow with a UN truck trip to Kigali, Rwanda
and a visit to the Genocide memorial. Then it's off to Kenya for some
wildlife and a very different part of Africa.

Thanks for reading
stay safe
and drive safe.
And watch out for lions.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


So I'm hanging out at the UN base in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, located in the city of Goma. I'm taking pictures of an active
volcano in the distance and this DRC Soldier marches up to me and asks
very seriously to see my photos. I show him and he looks through and
wants to make sure there are no pictures of him. He's got an AK-47
over his shoulder. I think: don't take the camera, it's got all my gorilla pics on it!

He doesn't. He walks away. And we continue to take pics of the
sunset over the cooled lava field that buried Goma 6 years ago like a
modern Pompeii.

an hour later, after being offered tea and cakes about 5 times in 2
hours, we hear machine gun fire from about a mile away. At that point
I decided NOT to climb the active volcano tomorrow and camp on it's
rim. :)

So you say... is this all BS Craig? I mean, really... the CONGO?
It is not BS my friends. I went to Rwanda, and was sitting in the
rain at a restaurant eating when these 3 Indian fellows asked where I
was going. I said Gisinyi (the resort town where Dan Mirvish made his
infamous phone call from a war zone in 1991 (I got pics of the place
Dan!!!)). I told them this and they said, we'll take you there. So I
sat down, we chat and off we go. Only one vegetable tossed at us on
the way (Rwandan's don't like the UN, go figure).

It's been fascinating. I'm staying at the base and making new friends
(and not leaving the compound, I can assure you. :)

Welcome to Africa!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Well Team!

sorry for the long delay, I have been in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where there is... well, trees, mountains, rain rain rain, awesome people, gorillas and a lot of darkness coming in at night. Electricity and the internet are not around, and that is perfect. :)

sooooooo much has happened since my last email, that I’m sure I won't be able to tell you it all in this email. but here goes:

some folks asked about a gorilla permit. Well, in order to see the mountain gorillas of Rwanda or Uganda you have to purchase a permit from the government. These go for a whopping $500 USD a piece. And there are only 32 a day in Uganda. And 40 a day in Rwanda. That's it. It buys you a guide, trackers and the chance to see the mountain gorilla at close range in their natural habitat. a lot of times tour operators buy them all up. the fact that I got one was pretty lucky and the foundation of one crazy ass journey.

but first...

Lake Bunyonyi.

Awesome. Island studded lake. I rented a canoe and managed to make Mzungu Circles for an hour before I was given a tip by a local who was rocketing past me. Then I got it down well. Devin, I now know what was happening that last day of the canoe trip!

I hung out with a bunch of kids in a little village at dusk.


this update is going to be short because my hands are hurting from this keyboard (what is it with the keyboards!). And I’ve been typing and responding to emails personally for an hour now.


2 Bodas? yep. On mountain roads. I mean MOUNTAIN roads. One lane wide with jungle cliffs on the side. And then, on both trips it started to rain. HARD. and yes... we crashed, ONCE. we were going about 10km/hour and WHOOSH, slid down in the mud. Only a little scraped up. The second ride was supposed to be a car, and the car wasn't there, so a boda boda it was. Down THE WORST ROAD ON EARTH. Okay, it wasn't really the worst, but it was a 4WD road for sure, muddy as hell, rocky, rutted and surrounded by beautiful mountainside. And cliffs galore. but Richard (the driver) was much safer than the first guy and better and we made it safely down the mountain. Though I did have to walk a little bit of it as well. :)

Everything in western Uganda is muddy. It's a rain forest. Its' beautiful.

And speaking of rain. The Rainy season (here) has begun. I was on a village walk in Buhoma (a tiny little town outside the National park). we were seeing tea plants, medicine men (who speak French), and these great kids at the school who did a fantastic dance and song for us. Then had us join in. Wile there the RAINS OF GOD came. I mean...hurricane Ike, you have met your match. Perhaps not with wind, but the rain fell so hard that you couldn't see anything beyond 25 feet. And with such a force as you wouldn't believe. If we'd stepped into it we would've been soaked to the bone in 3.2 seconds, MAX.

after the rains we couldn't get back to the lodge because of the swollen creek over the road. no one dared cross except this drunk pigmy guy who went back and forth like we were all a bunch of idiots. I have some cool video of it.

And yes... gorillas.

two words:

Absolutely Amazing.

I was in the Mubare group, which has 8 individuals, 1 a silver back. 1 baby. etc. You meet at the park office at 8am, and head out with about 8 people. a 30 minute drive later we began trekking through a village and into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Thick and muddy. Steep slopes and exciting. The guide was in touch with the trackers via walkie talkie. They found our group, so we took shortcuts over the hills. 2 hours of hiking and we neared where they were. (other groups had to hike for 4 hours in really thick vegetation and rain, so we "lucked out").

So we leave our bags and get rid of our walking sticks so as not to scare them.

And head on...

Naturally I got up front near the guide cause hell, I came to see the mountain gorillas.

and see them, we did.

Came past a tree and there was a HUGE silverback sitting and eating. I mean, he was 15 feet away. Then you see the others. One on a tree branch 12 feet away. Then a baby climbs up on the branch and they wrestled. A black-back (adult male about 13 years old), pounds his chest and tears through the trees. We move to a different location above them on the slope.

Then we're nearly surrounded. The gorillas playing, eating, and looking at US. Staring right at us. You could take all the pics and video you wanted, but no flash, no eating (yep I had to do it before I got there), and stay 5-7 meters away. Well, we can try, but gorillas don't really follow the rules. So this 5 year old decided to challenge us... and when I say us, I mean me. He stared at us, and then came forward and rolled down the hill a few feet. Everyone watched or took pics as he inched forward and then slapped his hand on my knee and left it there. Then he hurried off. Pretty fricking awesome.

But it's not over. We watched two others wrestle, and then the baby joined in. The mother nursed the baby and some of them fell out of a tree. Then the Silverback got up, grunted and they all moved out.

And naturally we followed them.

And then they got to a clearing under some trees. The baby on the mom's back. And then Mr. 5 year old decides he'll have another go at us. He charges forward and then comes up and hits my knee again. And turns back...looks me in the eye... and comes up and slaps my shoulder before running a bit away and pounding his chest.

Pretty fricking awesome.

And very unusual. Apparently they rarely do that. And it happened three times.

And writing this doesn't capture what it was like. It was amazing. This isn't a petting zoo. This isn't a domestic animal. This was like touching mother nature herself. It was such a surreal experience that it actually brought tears to my eyes.


My tip to you is: Wear Red. Apparently one lady one time had bright red hair and the gorilla came up and played with her hair. :)

Worth every penny.

Come to Uganda.

Gotta go, gotta sleep and rest. The 3 hour muddy boda boda ride on the edge of mount doom was exhausting (after the 3 1/2 hour hike through the forest).

It's been good. I leave Uganda tomorrow and love it. "Hello, How are You?" ask almost everyone you pass. And they want to know. And you can chat to anyone like they are your friends. It's safe and friendly and pretty much just RULES.

Get your ass to Uganda.

Talk to you in a couple days.


Monday, September 15, 2008


Hey Team!

Still alive and kicking here in the fabulous country of Uganda. I recommend for anyone to come here. The people are friendly in the vein of Laos and Thailand. It's easy to communicate. They love to talk to travelers. It pretty much rules.

Since I last wrote I've rafted the SOURCE OF THE NILE and ridden a bike around villages. I've sat on a bus that runs on Africa time (meaning it left 1 hour later than the 2 hours later that they said it would leave!). And now I’m at a "resort" on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi in southwest Uganda. I'm spending a whopping $20 a nite for a private room with a balcony and a view of the lake. It rules.

So... a few things you should know about Africa. Some rumors debugged. Some unknown points of interest:

1. Rafting the Nile is awesome. It's much class 5 white water with floats in between. So you can chat, enjoy the fact that you are on the mother f-ing NILE, and then hit some wild waterfalls and waves. We even did one with our eyes closed until the guide told us to open them at the last minute and Wammo! Huge wave in our face. Somehow our raft was the only of 5 not to flip, and my record of never being thrown from a whitewater raft continues (though honestly I wanted to be since the rapids are deep and you can swim them. I guess my survival instinct is to strong!)

2. Go raft the Nile NOW. Because as "progress" is coming. A damn is being built across it and will basically eliminate some of the best white water on earth. You have a year, maybe two. So get your ass to Uganda!

3. When you are on an open rafting truck after rafting driving on dirt roads through villages, every single child age 2 to 12 will run out and wave and say "hello! Mzungu! Hello!" They will wave or give a thumbs up. In fact if you ride your bike they will do the same thing. They will be happy as all get out."Mzungu!" So you might ask what that means..... well....

Mzungu means "White Person!" Welcome to Africa! No lies, I was one of 2 white folks I saw all day long today traveling... and that was alright by me. We stand out a little bit, but are wonderfully welcome. Racism doesn't exist in this part of Africa as far as I can tell.

4. Mzungu might also mean "money", because on the way back from town on my bike ride I had many of the same kids run out and say "Mzungu. Money. Give me money". Which was to bad. Makes me wonder if it was always about money. But I don't think so. Still, when the average Ugandan makes about 50 USD a month... it's understandable. Still... it's not wise to give them anything or it becomes worse (rumor has it Kenya is pretty fierce with the money asking).

5. It rained so hard after my bike ride that the returning rafters from that day got stuck in the mud. And they were 2 hours late making our bus back to Kampala late. But really, who cares when you have a deck overlooking the mother f-ing NILE in a rain storm! The restraunt at the camp was awesome and it was hard to leave. And at that point the phrase "This Is Africa" or TIA came to mind. Since then I've heard it half dozen times. You might remember it from "Blood Diamond" and it really is true. Bus is late : This is Africa. Road is muddy: This is Africa. Go all the way back to Kampala to do a tour with some new travel friends the next day and it's full so you find yourself back in Kampala and having to figure out your next couple days: This is Africa.

Love it.

6. Boda Bodas are crazy. Ride on the back of a motorbike with your backpack on as they careen through gridlock traffic and people changing lanes, buses and trucks honking horns. I can't believe we haven't crashed yet. Still.... you gotta do it. After all, TIA.

7. When I got to the bus station this morning I was surrounded by guys trying to get me on their buses. They were all smiles and fun. One guy tried to guess where I was from. "Germany?" "nope". Let me try again: USA" "Yeah!" Then another guy said

"I have one question: Will you be voting for Obama or McCain?"

"Obama all the way" I replied.

The place erupted with CHEERS, people patting me on the back, hugging me, it was hilarious!

8. Fear not Dad and Uncle David, at the resort tonight, the waiter was saying he likes bush for all bush has done for Africa and aid program and education to stop Aids. So they go both ways here as well. :)

9. AIDS rate in Uganda is only 6%. So no, everyone over here isn't sick with it. In fact they have billboards and education all over Uganda to keep the rate down. (the same apparently is not true for other countries here though).

10. I keep waking up at 6am or earlier. What they heck? Oh, and this morning I was woken by a MOTHER F-ING ROOSTER!!!! I HATE ROOSTERS!!!!! :)

Hope all of you are well. I have a Gorilla permit for Friday, which oddly enough will be my first animal/safari type activity. You know, that thing that most people come to Africa for (myself included too.:)

That's all I've got for now. The boda boda ride up here to the lake was on this twisty dirt road going WAY to fast with backpacks. I thought we were going to bite it on the curve, but somehow didn't.

anyway, hope you are all well. I've got a day of canoeing, hiking, biking and swimming tomorrow (no fear... one of the few lakes in Africa with no crocs or hippos or snakes or strange bacteria!)

Keep rocking


PS: Brian, the bag weighed 37 pounds. :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Catch The Rains Down In Africa!

That's right Team, I'm in AFRICA!!!!!

I made it after 36 hours of flying, two overnights, 6 hours of whirlwind touring in London ("Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!"), where I saw much more than I thought I would. Another overnight, where I was so tired I crashed out immediately, then looked out the window to see literally BLACKNESS. There was a moon hanging over a black as far as you could see. I think this was the mighty Sahara... and it went on for ages.

The sun came up and below was desert and then green.

On to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I happened to be there for their NEW YEARS DAY and had some bitter bitter coffee and tasty bread... and popcorn! They had grass on the floor of the restraunt in the airport and were very friendly. And who knew, Ethiopia was GREEN as can be! And no, no one looked like they do in the adds with the starving kids. I'm sure they are there, but not at the airport.

Then 2 more hours flying to reach Entebbe Uganda on the shores of the massive Lake Victoria.

I sat next to Joseph and Lebega from Uganda. They had just spend a year in Iraq as guards for some US company building something there. They described dust storms, and hot and even cold. And basically kept saying over and over "it's shit, shit shit." We'll just leave it at that.

Well.... Africa.... Uganda.... Friendliest country in Africa.

And it is.

I was offered a ride from A Ugandan coming home to visit. So she and her friends drove me the 40km to Kampala, capital of Uganda. It was a wild ride on the English side of the road. And on the way they bought me a fried fish and chips. And I mean the WHOLE FISH. And you put on a plastic bag over you hand and ripped it apart to eat it. Welcome to Africa! :)

I'm staying at a place called Backpackers Hostel... it's out of city center a little. But you take a boda-boda to get around. That's basically a motorcycle with a guy driving. You hop on and he takes off like a bat out of hell and it's a rollercoaster ride with no safety harness. The traffic is pretty slow, but they fly over speed bumps, up on sidewalks, and on the wrong side of the road. But I didn't get to that until Friday because...

Thursday I checked into my Gorilla single room for 12 USD a night, and talked a little. And went to bed at 6pm.

And got up at 6am.


But now I'm on Africa time, and today I met a guy named Chris from Chicago. It was his last day and my first. We ate and jumped on the Boda-Boda and headed to see the Kupali Tombs. Very interesting Thatched huts of the traditional Buganda people, largest kingdom in Uganda. Our guide Tony was super nice and taught us a lot. Then we goto Uganda museum, and learned more history of the area. Had an ALL YOU CAN EAT buffet for $8. SOOO good. Prices are a little higher here in the capital. Looking forward to getting out to other cities.

Then the Gorilla Permit.... I went to the tourist authority and there was a cancellation! SO I could get one for next Friday. As long as I could come up with 500USD in CASH in less than 2 hours. I had some on me. ATM card wouldn’t' work, so I have to deal with that. But had to race down hill to fancy hotel, cash all my travelers checks (first time I’ve ever used them on one of my international trips!) Race back up hill as rain was coming in. All on a Boda-Boda. Get there and they even had to spot me 100 shillings. (1650 shilling to the dollar). But I got it... whew. Then my Boda Boda friend Alex took me on a wild ride back to hostel.

And here I am.

Uganda is awesome (other than money thing but that's not there fault, darn banks!). People super friendly. Speak English in this neat accent. Lots of smiles. Lots of goodness. So far Africa's bad rap is just that. I'm sure parts of Africa are in bad shape, but Uganda isn't one of them. Hell, you can even walk around the capital city and feel safe (in the daytime:)

Anyway, gotta go and call the bank. Hopefully can sort this out otherwise I head off tomorrow with no money and no way to get money. Fortunately the river rafting trip takes a credit card.

It took me about 24 hours on the ground to get my travel-legs back. And all the intimidation I felt before I left is all gone. This is humanity baby, it's good. Our guide at the tombs said if Africans would stop fighting and set constitutional limits on their presidencies then they could start solving the big problems like Aids and poaching and such.

Welcome to Africa.

So far it rocks.