IndyJunior © Bryan Boyer

Monday, February 19, 2007

That's all folks!

It sure has been one amazing year and it flew by so fast. As you might know from reading J's blog, we are heading out west to Calgary. I'm looking forward to spending more time with family and to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle available there but sad to leave all the friends and memories we've made here.

But, if there's one thing I learned on this trip, it's that change is good...

This may sound stupid but I wanted to do a "Thanks" blog...

Our trip was fun, exciting, and eye opening but it wasn't just us that made it so good. There were so many other reasons it was so successful.

Firstly, the support from everyone, especially family when we told them about this. We never got a "are you crazy" reaction but exactly the opposite. It was great and never made us (ok me) think twice about what we were doing.

Secondly, thanks for all the goodluck charms. J & I had them on us all the time. It was a great reminder of the good friends back home.

Thirdly, thanks for all the prayers and thinking of us. A lot of things happened on this trip which lead me to believe how we may have had a "guardian angel" looking over us. Now I'm not religious in any way but everything definitely worked out, and everything had a purpose. I attribute it to everyone who was thinking about us. Let's call it "good" energy. Thanks! :)

Fourth, thanks for reading our blogs! I've never been that good with writing but I had fun putting these blogs together and hope you've had fun reading it as well!

And lastly, thanks to J who always knew where we were heading next, where we were going to search for a place to stay, how to ask for anything and everything we needed and to constantly push me to do things I wouldn't normally do!

That's it, that's all folks!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

65,190 Kilometers...

My trusty GPS says that's how far we travelled. It is truly a small world today.

I thought everyone would be interested in a blog on things we would have done different, what worked well, what I didn't use, what I used a lot....

Firstly, my backpack was 50L in size. I never thought it possible but yes, I got by just fine and actually had more than I needed. Just make sure it is comfortable. It shouldn't feel like it's pulling your shoulders back, or put any weight on your shoulders. Everything goes to your waist.

What did I have that I didn't need?

- a Hacky Sac. I think I used it once. I thought it would be a cool way to meet people and such but in the end, it just sat in my bag. I guess I had a vision of people at hostels hanging out and playing hacky sac but nope. That just doesn't happen. Although in our tour group there was someone with a hacky sac.

- Jump Rope. What was I thinking? Exercise?!?! Yeah right. I was all keen but never really got around to it. I guess after walking all day who the heck wants to jump around even more?

- Knoppix operating system. I carried 2 CD's around and for what? It sounded like a good idea, but in reality there were no internet cafe's that would let you run something separate and still have internet access. Just don't check your bank accounts or use credit cards online.

- Extra soaps, batteries and other consumable items. You can get all this stuff on the road. Unless you are super picky about something then carry extra otherwise, buy it as you need. Saves weight.

- Multi tool. Where would I have needed a phillips, flathead and saw? I already had a swiss army. Again it just sat in my bag.

What didn't I have that I should have brought?

- Our Spork! Sometimes, instant noodles and the odd can of tuna need something so you can pick at. It was titanium too so nice and light. There were times where we could have used it.

- Our brimmed hats. I personally didn't think I would need it but sure enough, the desert and on safari you can definitely use it. Bring one you like because if you buy one, you'll toss it later (plus the ones you buy over there look very touristy).

- More mosquito repellant. I didn't realize it but you can't find DEET everywhere and if you want to you can try others but I personally don't like Malaria so I would have brought a bit more of the high percentage stuff.

Things that worked out great!

- Hidden pockets. Everyone has a money belt and I think people know it too so before we left, we took a few old pants, cut the back pockets out (preferably with a button) and sewed them into the inside of the pants we brought. Make sure the pocket is big enough for your passport and you are set. I felt extra secure when everything was in there. By the way, to all the other travellers I saw doing this, a money belt should be hidden, not held in your hand or hanging outside your clothes!

- Snap buttons on the pockets. Unless you bought pants with zippers or such, they're an open target to pickpockets. We tried to make it harder by sewing some snap buttons onto any open pocket. We didn't get picked at all so I think it's definitely a good idea.

- Swiss army knife. Those Swiss knew what they were doing!

- Fishing line. We used 40 lb test line. Great to hang clothes with. Very lightweight.

- Floss. It really does work great to sew up holes in bags and other thick materials where thread just won't do.

-Duct Tape. Engineers love it, so should you! You don't need the whole roll. Just put some (5-10 ft) around a pen. You will have a pen right?

- Cypro. It WORKS (if it's bacterial)! Used up both my courses! :D

- Security for our ATM cards. Set a limit for your daily and weekly withdraw max. just in case. It worked too well sometimes when we found we needed a bit more. But hey, that's the price you pay for security! Our bank was also nice enough to waive our international fees. At $5 per transaction, it doesn't hurt to ask your bank!

- Gortex ACR Shoes. We spent more for them but I loved the waterproofness. My shoes were also antibacterial and paired with some wool socks (yes, wool, in +35 degree weather but also antibacterial) they were really comfortable for the entire trip. No blisters, fungus or toe jam!

Things I would have done differently:

- Gotten that new passport before leaving (and get the most pages you can, Canada does NOT sew pages into passports anymore)!!! After all that, can you believe I still have 2 empty pages! Those people in Africa sure find all the empty space first before using a new page!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It's cold, damned cold!

Lucky for us though the weather held out for a day to give us a chance to grab our winter gear. But going from +30 to -25 with wind chill (ahhh how I don't miss that term), nothing we wear will make us feel warm.

Apparently we brought the seasonal weather back with us. How lucky.

Well, we are now settling back in, and preparing for our next journey which is to head west. Yes, we're moving to Alberta, part of the Canadian prairies, home to Rodeo, cows and cowboys (I vaguely remember a bad joke about Steers and Queers), but most important, on the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. I can't wait to be around that again.

There's only going to be a couple more posts for me so let me take the time to say Thanks to everyone who followed us on our journey. I hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences and who knows, perhaps it's convinced you to do something like this later (it's well worth it!).

Monday, February 12, 2007

On our way home...via Zurich

Since there are no direct flights back to Toronto, our journey back to the Great White North took us through Zurich, Switzerland.

We booked through Swiss Air but the flight from Zurich is codeshared with Air Canada. As Canadians, we all know about the mediocre service we get from our national airline, however, I wasn't sure what to expect from Swiss from Nairobi to Zurich.

A few people mentioned to us how terrible the service was. Employees yelling at travellers to stay out of the isle, not being able to use the washrooms, extra baggage charges costing more than the ticket! After hearing all this, J & I expected the worst.

Well, thankfully, our experience was very pleasant. The planes were or seemed to be brand new, and the employees very cheerful and friendly. The food and wine were good and I managed to watch like 3 movies on our personal seatback TV's. Gotta love these new systems (not like AC with their projector style to the bulkhead screen).

The minute we stepped into Zurich airport it was almost a surreal experience.

Brand names, bright lights, no smoking signs...everything I had always just taken for granted came back in an "in my face" rush. All of a sudden we're not the percieved wealthy tourists anymore but just another joe schmoe.

J also summed it up nicely by saying "it's ok to get sick now". I had thought about that all throughout our trip. What would happen if we got sick? Do we trust the system where we are? Is everything clean? It's pretty much a given here that the answer is yes. But elsewhere, I'm not sure if I want a needle poked into me or drugs prescribed.

I guess this is the culture shock we are supposed to have when we arrive. You see everything in a new light and hopefully I won't take this for granted again.

Now let me get back to my half-caf, low fat, sugar and gluten free latte... ;)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Our House & Truck Mates

This is what we stayed in for our entire tour. Except for the trip into Rwanda, it was basically stopping at "campsites" which were pretty nice overall. All the places had rooms you could upgrade to (background of the picture), bars to drink at and sometimes, if you were really lucky, a swimming pool to lounge at. It sure didn't feel like you were in Africa here. J&I stayed in the tent the whole time. It was fun, comfortable, and kinda reminded us of the camping we missed out on back home. It's no Algonquin Park though that's for sure.

Below is a picture of some of the people we met on the tour. We're standing in a no-stand zone near some really hot hot springs (J's got a pic of us breaking the rules) somewhere in Kenya. Great bunch of people to hang out with. Let's see...guess the majority were Aussie here but some had dual citizenship so where would you put those....ahhh it doesn't matter, J & I are in the picture! :D

That's an Internet Cafe???

One of the things that amazes me on this trip was how there is internet access everywhere. You've all seen us update our blogs pretty religiously everywhere we've gone. Even the most remote places seemed to have a computer hooked up.

Simply amazing.

Although, speed is the big difference in most places, and in Africa it is much slower than everywhere else we've been. It is really hard to put any pictures up (they are up now) so we just end up doing text blogs.

The internet cafe's are pretty funny too. This one we went to was on a 2nd floor, had about 5 computers in it. This place cost 60 Kenyan shillings an hour (about $1).

Monday, February 05, 2007

What did this guy do?

We were flipping through a local newspaper somewhere in Kenya one day and came across this ad....

Poor guy....

Monday, January 29, 2007

We Petted a Cheetah!

Nairobi National Park was our last chance to see some big cats in the wild. Every Sunday they run a public bus through the park to view the animals so J & I headed out there and waited for the bus to show up.

After being told it would show up at 1:30 pm, and seeing 1:30 pm turn into 2:30 pm we started to think that we may not be going on this tour. It turns out the bus was having mechanical problems and wasn't going to show up. Apparently they have only one bus so that was that. No big cats, and our Africa trip ends on a low note.

Or does it?

After toying with the idea of renting a van with some other people who were waiting for the bus, we decided against it. For me, something was telling me we just weren't meant to see what we had hoped for so I reluctantly decided to save the money on the taxi and just go see the animal orphanage which was nearby.

Our timing couldn't have been better because the first animals we see were Cheetahs. AND it was close to feeding time and for me, I thought that would be cool enough. Seeing them eat big chunks of meat, I could always imagine that we were in the wild and it was a fresh Zebra kill or something....

I was also taking pictures through the fence to make it look like we were in the wild in case anyone asked later. :) This one was a pretty good shot. I could have said they came right up beside our truck and you wouldn't be able to tell.

The next thing I know, I hear J calling my name as she is heading INTO the cage! What the heck was she doing?!??! Apparently, the feeder asked if she wanted to go in and so in they went. She got to pet a couple of the Cheetahs and when she came back out, the guy pulled both of us in. Sure what the heck...they're busy eating right? I'm sure I won't taste as good as that chunk of meat...

How cool was that. We squatted down behind one, I started to pet the hind area and the Cheetah swipes at my hand with her tail! He he he....yeah, nice kitty, don't kill me was all I could think.

Not sure which one was more scary. The Tigers we petted or the Cheetahs. The Tigers were tied down at least....these ones, nothing...if I was fast enough, maybe the feeder would get caught first! ;) A VERY cool time there overall and yup, if the truck hadn't broken down, we would have missed this chance.

We also took a walk on their "Safari" walking tour. And once we got to the Lion area, this male Lion comes over to where we were standing and plops down with some of the Lionesses right in front of us. Great timing again as we had prime photo spots so I grabbed a couple.

I think he was feeling sorry for us! :D

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Equator

Ok, so I've never actually been to the Southern Hemisphere before. Never seen the water turning the other way, never seeing the sun on the north side. Heck, before I was 20 something I'd never left Canada. But enough about me...

We ended up passing the equator 3 times on our tour and the second time on the way back from Rwanda we stopped an had lunch on the side. It was kind of done up for tourists. A nice yellow line ran across the street to show the equator, a small display and a demonstration of how water drains.

After I had finished my cleaning duties, J & I took a walk out to the side of the road and did the usual tourist shots of us at the equator.

I even took my GPS and had a reading right on the line. According to that though, we were 0.00018 degrees north. So the equator was actually about 15 m south of there. But of course, I had 10 meter accuracy so who knows for sure right?

Very cool nonetheless.

Monday, January 22, 2007

On the way to the Masai Mara we thought...

The last big thing we were to do on this tour was the Masai Mara. The last game drive and J & I's hope of seeing some Lions, Cheetah and Leopards up close and personal.

Unfortunately, the Masai was supposedly "closed" (more on this later). Just our luck huh?

So, since we were in a group, it was up to the group to decide where we would go instead. We had 2 days to kill.

Democratically, we all decided to head to some lake northwest of Nairobi. Called something like Lake Borgoria...not exactly sure...

I'll just come out and say that the lake was the most STUPID thing I've seen on this trip so far. We wanted a game drive, and it turned out to be a fricking drive down a service road. The only thing going for it was the hotsprings shooting really hot water out.

Wtf man... W.T.F.!

I can't believe ATC (Africa Travel Co., our tour company) would suggest something so f'ing stupid! A big disappointment to me and probably the others who wanted to see some more animals.

Oh well....