Monthly Archives: February 2009

Daily Travel Photo – Coober Pedy, South Australia

Posted by on February 21, 2009

Moonscape, The Breakaways, Coober Peady, South Australia

Moonscape, The Breakaways, Coober Pedy, South Australia

This very alien looking surface isn’t Mars, it is the Breakaways in South Australia. An extremely flat, rock strewn stretch of land which is very similar in composition and color to the photos returned by Martian landers. Note the moon in the upper left, which I thought made for an interesting contrast: moon and the moonscape.

Daily Travel Photo – Coober Pedy, South Australia

Posted by on February 21, 2009

Moonscape, The Breakaways, Coober Peady, South Australia

Moonscape, The Breakaways, Coober Pedy, South Australia

This very alien looking surface isn’t Mars, it is the Breakaways in South Australia. An extremely flat, rock strewn stretch of land which is very similar in composition and color to the photos returned by Martian landers. Note the moon in the upper left, which I thought made for an interesting contrast: moon and the moonscape.

Alexandria

Posted by on February 21, 2009

I’ve arrived in Alexandria.

My first reaction is that I like it a lot more than Cairo. It isn’t as busy, dirty or crowded. Also, I have yet to have anyone “welcome” me to Egypt and try to sell me crap. I’m staying about 2 blocks from the Mediterranean Sea, in a hotel which would be a dump in any other circumstances. However, I’m so used to such accommodations at this point, I don’t even bat an eye at it. This is also the first time I’ve laid my eyes on the Mediterranean Sea.

For an historical city, Alexandria doesn’t have much in the way of buildings left. One of the books I read earlier on my trip was the story of the body of Alexander the Great. After he died in Persia, his body was stolen by Ptolemy and taken to Egypt where it was eventually entombed in Alexandria. There are mentions of it over the years and at least as late as when Julius Caesar came here chasing Pompey, the tomb still remained as Caesar paid a visit. At some point, the glass coffin which contained his body was lost.

I’m near the harbor which was the location of the Lighthouse of Alexandria; one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. It was destroyed by earthquake in the 14th Century. The stones of the lighthouse were used in the construction of a fort, now located on the site. There are also stone located in the water just off the harbor.

While an Egyptian city, it really has nothing to do with the ancient Egypt of the Pharaohs. For most of its life it was either a Greek or Roman city. This is the city which Alexander the Great founded, where Julius Caesar lived for several years, where Marc Anthony and Cleopatra took their own lives, where Pompey was killed, where Octavian conquered it in the name of Rome, and where the great library stood and eventually burned. It also was/is the center of Coptic Christianity.

The city eventually sort of died off after the Arab conquest of Egypt, but was resurrected in the 19th Century.

It is colder here than in Cairo, but it should be an interesting few days. In addition to the few Roman ruins in the city, I will also be making a short trip to a nearby World Heritage site (Abu Mena) and I might go SCUBA diving if the weather permits.

Questions & Answers #3

Posted by on February 19, 2009

The photo I use on every networking site

The photo I use on every networking site

@cyberdyne Have you considered changing your twitter icon as you travel to represent where you are ?

I made a conscious decision to keep my avatar the same. In fact, I use the exact same photo on every network I belong. People recognize images before they read names. The Easter Island photo I think is representative of what I’m doing and was taken early in my trip. For better or worse, I’m now the Easter Island guy. If I change it, people may not recognize me. I know that happens when people I follow change their avatar. I do however, change my location in Twitter every time I change cities. It is a great way to find other people on Twitter near where you are. I suppose I might change it in the future, but I don’t recommend constantly changing your image.

@urpisdream Any advice for people trying to figure out how they can start up their own ‘everywhere trip’?

Don’t put too much effort into planning. Reading and researching about where you want to go is fun, but trying not to set an extremely rigid schedule. The biggest trick is unwinding all the stuff in your life which will prevent you from going. Cars, jobs, mortgages, etc are all reasons people have for not traveling. The actual act of traveling is pretty simple. Conquering all the reasons for not going is the real accomplishment.

@kalpeshk What was your main motivation for the trip and the most significant realization from your travel so far?

The motivation was that I enjoyed traveling and I didn’t want to wait until I was facing death to go do the things I wanted to do. At this point in my life I could do it and enjoy it.

As for the realizations…well, there are a lot and it would be hard to summarize it in a few sentences. Without any explanation behind it here are a few: culture matters, everyone is proud of where they are from, most people are good, and nothing is as simple as it appears.

For a more detailed explanation, you will have to buy the book :)

@rjhintz Where, if anywhere, do you take prophylactic medication for malaria? Have you had to pay bribes at borders?

I have been carrying around a bottle of Doxycycline since I started my trip. I took it in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands but haven’t bothered taking it otherwise. It think it would be more important to use in Africa than the places I’ve been.

As for bribes, I haven’t had to pay any border bribes. If you look at the list of places I’ve been, a lot of the countries are Islands. Oddly enough, I’ve only had to make a few land crossings: Brunei to Malaysia, Singapore to Malaysia, Cambodia to Vietnam, Laos to Thailand, UAE to Oman. I also entered South Korea and Macau by boat. I think border bribes would be a bigger deal in Sub-Saharan Africa or Central Asia, which I haven’t visited yet.

@d_rjoseph alright, what kind of camera, memory card(s), and batteries do you use?

I have a Nikon D200 with 2 rechargeable batteries. I have a 4gb compact flash card as my main memory card and a cheap 2gb compact flash card in my camera bag in case I need more space. I always keep a fully charged battery in my camera bag.

@susandeane Where on your travels have you encountered the friendliest folk? Which of all those countries is the friendliest?

Some people are more outgoing than other. Many Arabs I’ve met will give you the shirt off their back in the name of hospitality, but might not go out of their way to say “hello” on the street.

Off the top of my head I’d say Samoans or Fijians. They are really, really nice people who will go out of their way to say “Bula!” or “Talofa!”. Just don’t mess with them on the rugby field!

@JustNomadic How do you research your next location – guides, web, people, tourist boards etc?

I never use guidebooks. They are expensive, heavy and usually out of date. I might page through one if a free one is at a hostel, otherwise I primarily use the internet and talking to locals. You can also find a ton of free information in most hotels. There is an entire industry anywhere you go built upon providing you services to go see things. The larger the city and more popular the attraction you are visiting, the less you need a guidebook.

Daily Travel Photo – Majuro, Marshall Islands

Posted by on February 19, 2009

Bikini Atoll Town Hall, Majuro, Marshall Islands

Bikini Atoll Town Hall, Majuro, Marshall Islands

This photo will require some explaining…

The one part of the Marshall Islands which most people have heard of is the Bikini Atoll. Not only is it the namesake of the bikini swimsuit, it was also a location where the United States did above ground nuclear tests after World War II. It was the location of the first explosion of a hydrogen bomb.

Prior to blowing up nuclear weapons on the island, of course, they had to remove the residents of Bikini. After several moves, they ended up in what is now the capital of the Marshal Islands, Majuro. Under 200 people were moved off the atoll by the time testing began in 1948.

Those 200 people have become over 5,000 via marriage and children in the 63 years since, the majority of which have never seen Bikini. That is why the Bikini Town Hall is several hundred miles away from Bikini Atoll.

The American government has cleared the top 16 inches of soil off the island, created housing and other structures, yet only a small group have returned. The 5,000 descendants of the people moved off of Bikini still get money, health care, and housing from the US government and constitute a powerful constituency in the Marshal Islands.

The levels of radiation on the island are now at a safe level. The only restriction is that you can’t eat food grown on the island. The years of human absence from the island have created one of the best coral reefs in the world and Bikini is now an attraction for SCUBA divers.

First Thoughts on Egypt

Posted by on February 19, 2009

I haven’t really written anything since I’ve arrived in Egypt. Usually when I arrive in a new place it takes a while to adjust to things. That adjustment period can be as short as an hour or as long as a few days. Egypt has taken a lot longer than normal.

While it is ostensibly an Arab country like Gulf countries where I’ve spent the last month, it feels like a totally different culture. For starters, there is no oil money in Egypt. This alone makes it a much poorer country than the small states of the Gulf. Second, there are no guest workers. One could confuse most of the many of the Gulf nations as being ruled by Indian Rajahs if they didn’t know any better, but Egypt is full of just Egyptians.

The first thing most visitors to Cairo will describe to you is the traffic. I’ve seen crazy traffic before, but Cairo might be the worst. The difference between Cairo and someplace like Saigon is that everyone in Cairo drives a car, not a motorbike. This makes things exceptionally crowded. Also, there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of parking rules. I’ve not only seen a lot of double parking, but triple and quadruple parking as well. Anywhere there is not a car is a potential parking spot.

The cars here are much older than I’ve seen anywhere else. The average taxi seems to be a Fiat made in the 1970’s and the taxi meter are all non-functioning and about 40-50 years old.

Since I arrived, I’ve been to the Egyptian Museum, the Cairo Citadel and Mohammed Ali Mosque (not the boxer), and the pyramids. I’ll probably be writing more on the pyramids later on, but what I saw at the Egyptian Museum is pretty indicative what I’ve seen all over Cairo.

The Egyptian Museum is both the best and worst museum I’ve been to on my trip. It is the best in terms of the items and artifacts on display. This is the permanent home of the King Tut exhibit, and has every manner of item you’d expect for a museum on Egypt. However, it sort of seems like a warehouse. The building is falling apart and doesn’t seem to have been painted or repaired in decades. The display of items is poorly done and there doesn’t appear to be any money reinvested back into the museum. You can’t help but wonder where it all goes.

There are police everywhere. Everyone seems to smoke. I haven’t seen a building in Cairo built within the last 30 years.

It is a very different place from what I’ve experience so far on my trip. Very different.

I don’t forsee uploading photos soon. The bandwidth where I’m staying is pretty poor. My current plan is to leave Cairo tomorrow for Alexandria, and I’ll see how things go there.