Sunday, February 19, 2012

After Addis

In three weeks my commitment to the kindergarten will be complete, just in time for March Madness. However, I have the opportunity to stay here and work for another couple weeks. I think that I will. Although I do feel like I am helping the students, my reasons for staying are mostly egocentric. I have made a lot of progress but am nowhere near my destination. I have no idea if I will approach that place on this trip, but the longer I stay in Africa the closer I will get.

After those additional two weeks it seems sensible to travel somewhere else in Africa. I bought a one-way ticket here and have no certain commitments until the 2012 WSOP at the end of May, so all itineraries are on the table. Here are the current contenders in the order I first started considering them:


Going to Egypt and checking out the Pyramids was the first travel impulse I got once I knew I’d be going to Africa. However, recent violence and instability has all but eliminated Egypt from consideration.

+ Crowds would be sparser than ever

+ There are no manmade objects on Earth I want to see more than the Pyramids

+ Logical, efficient stopover on the journey home

- Unstable and dangerous


+ Home in time for the premier five-TV ManCave event of the year: March Madness

+ I miss my dog and friends – though not as much as I expected to

+ Injuries to both my legs could use immediate medical attention

+ The sooner I get back to the land of high-speed internets, the sooner I can get started on pertinent life-projects

- Wasting the opportunity to see more of Africa and deepen the experience


Climbing Kilimanjaro would be the sensible exclamation point to the East African experience. I have climbed mountains all my life and this would be the biggest.

+ My only real shot at one of the Seven Summits

+ The glaciers on Kilimanjaro are melting and will soon be gone. This could be my last chance to climb it before that happens.

+ My cardio is superb right now

- The injuries to my legs could render the climb impossible

- Expensive

- Tourist-central

- I don’t actually want to do this and wouldn’t expect to have a great time

Tanzania – Safari

The standard 29 year-old tourist itinerary for East Africa begins with a climb of Kilimanjaro and follows it up with a safari in Tanzania. Though I do really want to see some badass animals, I’m not sure I want to pay a bunch of money to do it in a controlled environment with a bunch of firenjes I’ve never met.

+ Animals!!

- Tourist-central

- Expensive


I’ve been outside Addis Ababa for less than 48 hours since arriving here five and a half weeks ago, and that was just a weekend trip to a nearby town. Visiting Ethiopia without venturing outside of Addis would be like visiting Colorado without venturing outside of Denver. Ethiopia’s wonders include a valley that allegedly rivals the Grand Canyon, 15,000 foot mountains, legendary rock-hewn churches, ancient tribes, etc. There’s a lot I’d like to see in Ethiopia, but hope to snap a few off on upcoming weekends.

+ Proximate

+ Cheap

+ Encompassing Ethiopia, rounding out the experience

- Not as spectacular as other possibilities


Bussing east through Ethiopia, crossing into Somaliland, hitting the beach, and flying out of Djibouti is an intriguing way to wrap things up out here. Somaliland is not Somalia, but you do have to hire an armed guard to escort you throughout the country.

+ It’s in Somalia!

+ Unique

+ The beach

+ Highly recommended by Lonely Planet and others who have visited

- It’s in Somalia!

- Time-consuming

The Middle East

Jordan, Lebanon, Israel

+ This might be the closest I get to the most fascinating region in the world

- This is the sort of trip I should take with someone who knows the area

West Africa

Stopping somewhere like Ghana, Senegal, or Cameroon on the flight home would make some sense.

+ I might never get another chance to see West Africa

- Would be going alone

- No real connection to the rest of my experience other than being in the same continent


A logical layover on a long flight home

+ A quick way to experience another totally unique culture

+ I’ve always wanted to see Singapore but may not be in the vicinity again anytime soon

- Only makes sense as a brief layover

- Expensive

Seychelles or Mauritius

Islands in the East Indian Ocean

+ The ultimate solo beach vacation

- Expensive

- Time spent there would likely be relatively unproductive


It’s likely that I will head to Uganda at some point, either for a shorter visit or possibly a longer volunteer-based stay. Everyone I’ve talked to is very high on Uganda, particularly the town of Jinja on Lake Victoria.

+ Easily accessible via plane from Addis Ababa

+ Mature infrastructure

+ Animals!

+ Scenery

+ Lots of entertaining recreation


This idea came out of nowhere when a travelling German couple we met at a restaurant told us it was the best place they had been to in eighteen months on the road. We would probably steer clear of South Sudan, likely staying north of Khartoum.

+ A totally unique, authentic, tourist-free experience

+ Cheap

- Sudan ranks 153/167 on the Democracy Index; check out the countries surrounding it

- Minimal research so far

- Extremely hot

- Minimal civilization/infrastructure if something goes wrong


I had basically ruled Kenya out of the equation because the country is so corrupt and dangerous for foreigners, but an intriguing opportunity to spend some time in Nairobi and then go on a safari with a friend has emerged, and this is now the leading contender for the conclusion of the trip.

+ Animals!

+ Connects conveniently with Uganda

- Dangerous and corrupt


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this may help- go with me to run the Big 5 (after I run Great Wall of course) and then we'll swing by the Seychelles or Mauritius- a treat to ourselves after we help build a school in Madagascar. I look great in a bathing suit! -special friend

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Taylor said...

I like the Uganda / Kenya options. Did you ever think about South Africa? Going to Singapore seems highly random; going home to work on life plans you are still processing seems a bit pre-emptive.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

Carolina was just in Mombasa and Nairobi and she says they are both fine. Wait for someone to accompany you to Israel and Jordan for sure. Don't go to Syria. I wouldn't gamble on Egypt either...good luck out there.


10:07 PM  
Blogger Bag said...

I vote America - but only for selfish reasons. The only negative on that option is that I have to give B back to you :(

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend is an American jew that has lived and worked the past 2 years in Egypt. I was frightened for him last year when they basically shut down the Internet and airports. When he finally got back online he had nothing but great things to say aboutthe people and the situation as a whole. He basically hung out with locals 1 block fon the square and hung out drinking in the pubs. He got o. The last mandatory evacuation flight back tithe USA. He wasn't even sure he was going to leave but decided it was beat to leave. As soon as he got the go ahead to go back, he went ( I thought he was crazy) anyway he's been back in Egypt for at Least the last 6 months and has had no problems nor a bad thing to say about the place. Personally I would be Leary but since my friend loves the place and has had no issues in 2 yes I would at least consider going if I were you. The pyramids are a must see in this lifetime

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol +/- " it's in somalia!"

3:25 PM  
Blogger kwickchick said...

I don’t think you could go wrong with any option. I will forever be envious if you get Killi. (N Maroon belongs to us this year! I’m already envisioning the summit.) If you make it over to Kenya can you bring Ishanga a big bag of peanuts for me?

7:48 AM  
Blogger Michal Greenberg said...

YAY KENYA!!! Hope you choose this option. Obv I'm biased but if you go to east Africa & don't see the wildlife then you're missing a huge opportunity.

If you're worried about safaris being expensive, I suggest going local. Where I lived in Kenya there is a town-owned & therefore cheaper preserve right next door. Also less touristy because it's not internationally known (although most of Kenya has less tourists right now). Also going locals is the huge bonus because your admissions fees actually go to the local people rather than into a corrupt government.

If you go to Nairobi, def check out Kitengela Glass. It was my favorite non-animal-related visit in Kenya. Nairobi Nat'l Park is awesome if you're there too.

I also recommend Masai Mara (the Kenyan-side of the Serengheti), Chyulu Hills, and Tsavo Nat'l Park. If you do Tsavo you should watch "The Ghost & the Darkness" before you go - Michael Douglas & Val Kilmer battling man-eating lions is a lot scarier when you're sleeping in the place where this true story took place.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm in Sierra Leone right now, so if for some reason you want to go to the west coast, let me know. I'd recommend the safari, because, well, animals.


2:23 PM  
Blogger ben said...

All enviable options tom.

There is currently no state dept warning for egypt - id do it if i were you (not that it would be my pick amongst the options, but safety wouldnt keep me away).

Uganda - ive heard nothing but amazing things, and as an add on, ive been itching to go to Rawanda for a while, there was an epic story about the national bike team in the new yorker in late summer/early fall, AND gorillas. touristy, expensive, mf gorillas. seriously, its like 500+ bucks for a full day of walking with anywhere from 15 mins to a few hours with gorillas. endangered gorillas. these are to my non-manmade list as the pyramids are to your manmade structure list.

7:22 PM  
Blogger 81Trucolors said...

Love that you are down for more traveling. I know you and I will do some of this in the future. If you are worried about going somewhere alone the lonely planet thorntree forums are a decent place to meet up with some other random travelers.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Glad the Lonely Planet that Leo and I gave you got some blog airtime

3:54 PM  

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