Monday, March 31, 2014

Zambia journal #1


I feel as though I am watching another one of the hundreds of adventure films that I have and continue to enjoy. I am only semi-lucid as I take my seat on a bus packed to the gills with Zambians and sticking out like sore thumbs, Nick and I. It’s closing in on 6am and the bus we’re on is headed from Lusaka to Livingstone.
Well worth a little lost sleep and a slightly uncomfortable bus ride.
As soon as I shut my eyes the film begins to play, the chaos of so many people in such a small space is the opening soundtrack and the camera begins to pan out from me using my duffel as a pillow on my lap; as the angle gets wider the Ipod I’m plugged into begins to play Gregory Alan Isakov’s Stable Song. Slowly the bus groans to life and begins to plow its way through the hustle and bustle of taxi drivers, waiting passengers, drunks, merchants and all of their friends, a startling three minutes ahead of schedule. Only six hours (hopefully) to our destination, new adventures and who knows what else.

This was certainly one of the best out of body experiences that I’ve ever had, entertaining and perfectly cliché. Certainly what I felt and saw was made possible by the fact that I’d not slept for more than seven hours in the past 72. Game on.


The Green is the path I took over the course of my trip.
After an evening of drinking and revelry with retirement to a real bed, it is no exaggeration to say that I feel reborn, comfortably waking up a 730 after a solid eight hours of sleep. I enjoy a hot shower (a luxury for the style I was traveling in while in Africa) and sit around the quiet but active hostel to journal, ponder and juice up my Ipod in anticipation of another long travel day ahead. The goal for the day is to catch a free bus in a couple of hours from the hostel to Victoria Falls, wander around, take some pictures and see what there is to see, then return to Livingstone proper, grab our packs  and hitch north, hopefully to Lusaka (the capitol city). Over the next couple days it is my intent to hitch and catch busses from the Southern border up to the Northern border with Tanzania, where Nick’s site with the Peace Corps is. To prepare I have put on my adventure pants and can do attitude, as well as stretching my neck as I anticipate a lot of smiling and nodding over the course of the trip (my go to action when locals talk at me in one of the dozens of dialects that I cannot even begin to understand). 

A two year reunion as Victoria Falls.

That is the spray coming back up, not a cloud on the left side.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rules of the Road in Jordan

Get psyched, because I'm back with all sorts of travel tips and stories from my most recent adventures comin' your way. If you were unaware I've spent the past month in Jordan, Zambia, Amsterdam and England for varying amounts of time and with drastically different levels of adventure.

I figured that I'd share one of the first things that struck me in Jordan (not literally thankfully) that made me appreciate the western world. That being comprehensive and adhered to rules of the road that makes for a safer driving environment. That being said I think I have compiled a decent overview for the most followed driving rules in Jordan.

The maze of Madaba.
#1 If you're visiting and renting a car, it's not really a terrible idea to try and get one that's a little banged up. Don't fall for the rental guy's spiel of 'Oh this one's nearly new, only two scratches and it has just been cleaned!' They know that there are only two scratches; you want a vehicle that's all banged up, where another scratch or dent is simply added character that the rental agency might just appreciate. This custom body work will also help you blend in once you've left the airport and hit the streets. 

#2 Honks are like hand shakes... and fist shakes, turn signals, waving you through, telling you to stop, telling you to move, as well as a criticism or compliment on your driving. Well, basically, get used to lots of loud honking because whether you're on foot or driving you will attract a great many of them. Feel free to use the horn liberally yourself regardless of if you're happy, frustrated or trying to deliver a message, any way you slice it you can't go wrong.

#3 If you want to drive the wrong way down a one way street, you guessed it, just lay on the horn a whole bunch and wave vaguely. That is unless you're pulling out of a parking space and trying to go the right direction, in which case only honk as needed.

#4 Don't use turn signals; unless that is, you want to look like a tourist or are using them properly. That is to say as hazards, turning the opposite way of indication or if you're driving normally. 

#5 Do drive aggressively. There's no room for sissies on the roads in Jordan. I would guess, based on my observations that locals prefer to be cut off or swerved in front of anything else might be out of the ordinary and confusing. They'll show their appreciation of your ninja like maneuvers with a serenade of honks. However, sometimes it is nice to mix it up like some of the locals and let someone merge in relative safety.

#6 Driving during daylight hours is recommended so as to make potholes, speed bumps (of which there are a great many), other drivers, pedestrians and goats/camels more easily recognized and avoided. If you do choose to drive at night understand that headlights are optional and it's fairly likely you will encounter other drivers choosing not to use theirs, even in the middle of the night. The reason for this is unclear...

#7 Don't get distracted by those silly lines on the road. At best they're vague guidelines of where to go. Most local drivers seem to prefer to straddle them, the reason for is also a little murky. Feel free, to pass these guys at your discretion around blind turns over double yellow lines on mountain roads as you can expect the same to be done to you.

A map of Jordan in Biblical times, how much could it have changed?
#8 If you're concerned about being able to read road signs because your Arabic is a bit rusty, DO NOT WORRY! They're largely non-existent, and when they are around they're often obscured by stickers of the king or the remnants of said stickers. So hope for a good guide or a helpful police officer to point you in the direction.

#9 As a follow up to #8, the police are super friendly folks and you should not hesitate to approach them. They'll at least try to help depending on their level of English comprehension without any hesitation and with lots of smiles and enthusiasm.