Monday, October 20, 2014

KICKING A TIME LORD RIGHT IN THE KANICKIES

TRAITS NEEDED FOR A LONG TERM BUDGET TRAVELER

Logan disclaimer:  I do not lay claim to all of these traits on a continuous and ongoing basis but feel they are needed.  Unless you have money.

Ben is here to compensate for all our shortcomings.

Further disclaimer:  This article is written to hopefully help motivate and stimulate people into seeing more of the world than they might otherwise.  It is not to state "Oh, look how cool Logan is.  He sits around some grotty apartment he's rented in a foreign country and plays video games or passes out drunk a lot."  Although that is exceedingly cool...eh...for someone out there, that is not the purpose of this article.

Some day we can just plug in the virtual reality and check the hell out.  That will be a GREAT DAY for humanity.


First, a definition of 'traveler' vs 'tourist'.  When most people go out, they do so for under three months and usually cover a range of areas.  Generally, if you move more often than say a week, you're probably a 'tourist'.  If you go live in a place for months, then on to the next place to live for months, traveler.  It is possible to flip flop back and forth.  For example, when I am in Western Europe, I tend to be a tourist, quickly flitting to the next place due to the unbelievable cost.

Generally, tourists go to see sites.  That's all you have time for.  You may meet some people but won't get any more than a passing first impression as you are quickly off to the next place.  God help you if you have a Lonely Planet checklist.

"Gosh sweetie, which should we check off of our list next?"  "Oh, I don't know - which gives the best bragging rights?"


Desire

You have to really have a huge desire to travel, as mentioned further down in 'why don't people travel'.  There is a huge expenditure of time and money in travel.

In addition to learning where you will go, what you will see, how you will get there, there is also language and customs.  Learning a few basic words ("hello", "thank you") can make interaction flow.  Learning a few basic customs will keep you from looking like a dickhead.

"Let's just pat Thai people on the head to see what happens!  Or show Arabic people the bottoms of our feet!  Hell, maybe give out knives as gifts to the Japanese!"


Caution

A bit of streetwise knowledge and not doing the normal stupid shit people do like leaving their cell phones on the bar then crying like a child when they disappear.   They then lay claim to being 'robbed' or 'pickpocketed'; it makes them look less stupid.  They think.

Happens a lot less than reported.  For insurance reasons.  Not to keep from looking like an idiot.

Gear security and personal safety are always the travelers priority.  If you're not willing to take the time to chain up and secure your gear before leaving your lodging - or wear the amazingly stinky security pouch under your clothing then you run the risk of being one of the tourists (who knows how many) who has to go to the embassy due to having lost passports, money and so on.  The amount of help they can give is usually minimal - a temporary passport and a 'you'll get charged later' plane ticket home.

Yes, I have been to places where I've literally barricaded the door with furniture before I felt comfortable sleeping.  Central America, before you ask.   (Editor:  This is a general bbarricadingthe door picture Logan found.  He used a lot less furniture due to extreme laziness overcoming his survival instinct.)

Learn to minimize your risks.  Don't become a victim due to negligence or stupidity.  I've been one due to both and it sucks.  (Editor:  Since Logan gets robbed generally once a year, he still isn't very good at minimizing his negligence nor stupidity.  And he's about due for another good robbing.)


Respect

It is baffling how many times I've come across travelers who are openly badmouthing the country they find themselves in.  They pass judgement upon it as though they were white explorers in the lands of the savage during the nineteenth century.

"Do you have a flag?"

From all of the whining about how they want things done as they are 'back home', you wonder why they ever left.

A well known phenomenon is during Ramadan in Islamic countries.  Although it is only followers of that faith who are prohibited from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours, it is considered extremely rude to do so in front of them during this time.  You kind of have to 'hide yourself away' whether in your room or if you are able to afford a find resort within their dining room.  Being discrete during this time shows respect.

If you are paying top dollar to stay in a five star luxury resort, you can have things as you want them.  The less you pay, the closer you are to what the locals have.  Most don't want to live below a certain standard.  In India, it is possible to live on a dollar a day - but nobody wants that kind of lifestyle.  Especially those that already have it.

"We have a very special room next to this family dying of some sort of voodoo.  Or Ebola.  We're not really sure - but it's cheap!"


Heartiness

You need a certain amount of physical and mental toughness to travel.


If you have mental problems (various fears or wanting everything 'just so'), have special dietary restrictions (such as being glucose intolerant), insects freak you out, or comfort is a high priority, budget travel is not for you.  Your travel will cost significantly more.

See also, Western Europe!

Sometimes, sleeping in a hard (or broken) chair may be your best option.

You may be stuck waiting in fairly horrible places for hours.  Bus stations and train stations are known hunting grounds for scumbags, robbers, pickpockets, beggars and the police who like to roust Logan to find out if he is or isn't some homeless bum.

Hint:  He is.

You have to be able to hump all of your stuff up several (I've seen as many as five) flights of stairs.  Porters?  Elevators?  Help?  Sorry - you must be thinking of expensive hotels.

How often has Logan had one in his hotel?  ...Never.

Sanitation in many countries is horrendous.  Just yesterday on the streets of the main tourist town in Tunisia I saw a mother encouraging (teaching) her young son to piss on the wall street side.  This is not unusual.

If you travel long enough, you will experience feelings of alienation.  You are always a 'stranger in a strange land'.

Even the best prepared traveler will sometimes have all their carefully laid plans fall to utter ruin.  How do you react?

If you 'rage quit' the little things in life, you'll probably rage quit travel.

Remember, all of the horrible things that happen to you is 'traveling'.  Everything else is just 'sightseeing'.
Not a backpacker, but he is awesome.

What keeps people from traveling?

Lack of desire.  I've never found anyone who is utterly devoted to doing this that hasn't.  Most people have tons of reasons they say they can't but everyone who wants to is doing it.  I've encountered fairly poor people who are traveling with (and homeschooling) their young children.  Quite an education.  I found that inspirational.

Many people spend more time posting how bored they are than I do researching some countries!  Why?  Because 'meh'.


What is the payoff?

Logan note:  This is not meant as "Look what Logan's done" but rather my hope is one of motivation.  If a fat, crippled, lazy alcoholic can do it, so too can you.

You get to have experiences that the short term tourist and package tourist crowd never know.  Meet people, get in deep enough to the culture to get accepted as a native son (or daughter) by the locals.

Just here to see the architecture then get back into our huge tour bus.

Getting to know places both normal and extraordinary on an intimate level.

You get to make a connection to the planet and the people living on it few will ever know.

If you travel for somewhere between two and five months totally alone, you will have doors open in your mind you did not know were there.  I've discussed this with other solo travelers and they have agreed.  People who travel with companions - temporary or permanent - do not have this experience.  I don't know why.  Though these people can intellectually understand the whole 'doors opening in your mind' thing, unless you've had this experience it is like describing how to ride a bike to someone who hasn't.

Feels like...

Travel fills you with a sense of wonder and awe.  It still does me after three and a half years.  If it doesn't, you probably need to settle down somewhere or find a kindly Timelord.

"Right in the kanickies!"



LANGUAGES IN TUNISIA

Believe it or not, many people here (Tunisia, northern Africa) speak German.  I'm not sure why German is such a global language but it is nice to have a bit.

Today, despite my utter uselessness at languages (as Conner S knows), I've had to speak English, German, Classical Arabic, French, Italian and Italian - regularly.  Sometimes several of those in the same conversation.

Sometimes, it is weird stuff that happens.  My sandals were a bit ripe.  I could use them to mug people.  I went to a pharmacy and was trying to explain I wanted a spray for my shoes.

Sign language just wasn't working.  Then I remembered the origin of the word 'sabotage' and said "Sabot!"  Immediately, he understood.

Who says history isn't useful?

(Note to parents, I have not sworn in this so you can show it to your kids and say "See?  History IS useful.  Maybe not the lies they teach you in school but actual history.  Well.  I guess maybe you don't have to pay attention to what your history teacher says.  She always was a lying bit-")

So there you have it!



TUNISIA THUS FAR

I'm in their main 'tourist town'.

Unless you've come to get into the ocean, there is absolutely no reason to be here.

While they might claim to 'many restaurants', they are all serving the same shit.  The food isn't very good.

In short, I've not really seen anything in Tunisia to bring me back.

Aside from the beggars, scam artists and the thrice cursed taxi drivers, the people seem friendly enough.

But I'm going to probably be here for a month.  Working on saving money for 'the big push south'.  This will give me time (hopefully) to save a bit of money for the airline ticket to South Africa and enough time to carefully study it.  I don't want another 'Western Europe' situation where my money is getting bled out of me and I keep hearing Jason Mews yelling "Flee, fatass, flee!"

So I'll make sure that it's cheap enough for Logan there.

The other day I was talking to a tourist who had been to South Africa and he said the blacks there (they don't call themselves anything hyphenated) really really don't  like whites.  "It's not a big deal in the other countries but in some of the clubs I was told I should leave before I got killed.  I tried to explain I wasn't South African but Swiss, but that didn't matter to them."

I found that interesting.

Might cause me to lead off with "I'm from America, the land led by Obama!"

Though I'm not sure if that would help.



TIE INS FROM OTHER BOOKS

Remember, if you are not 'white' and getting ready to go through USA customs, it is best to pre-lube for the cavity search.

This is going to hurt.   A lot.

Be careful not to use too much or it will leak out of your pants.

Should anyone see anything leaking out of your pants, rather than just assuming you have peed your pants from having so many automatic weapons pointed at you, they will assume it is a bomb and stomp it out.

- from "Logan's Guide to USA Airport Security for Non-Whites"



TUNISIAN FOOD

The food in Tunisia can be viewed one of two ways.

Crap or diet.

I'm choosing to look at it as 'diet' food.

From what I can tell, all of the restaurants serve pretty much the exact same food.

Your choices are (and where they are said to have originated):

Pizza (Italy)
Sandwiches (England)
Hamburgers (USA)
Half a chicken and fries (who knows)
Couscous (Maghrebian)

And that's about it.

The only food served from this region is couscous and that's from the region encompassing NW Africa.

Hence, there seems to be no 'uniquely Tunisian' food.

It is baffling.

Here to say I am deeply missing Mexican, Indian and Thai food.



VIDEOS - SEE A BIT OF WHAT LOGAN SEES

Ship Penis
Pompeii 1, 2

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TUNISIA

SARANDE PARTING SHOTS (Logan note:  this should have been in the Albanian section but I'm digging through my notebook and discovering parts I missed.  That's what happens when I don't have an editor.)

Like many beach/ocean side towns I've been to, Sarande is a bit grotty and a bit expensive.  I suppose it's because "hey, we've got the ocean!"

If you're not the kind of person who spends a lot of time in or on the water, it's a two or three day town at best.  So why did I remain here for so long?

First, one secret to nearly all seaside towns is the further you go from the water, the more the price drops and quantities of food and drink increase.  Lodging prices drop slightly as well.

Second and more significantly, the Albanians were really nice people.  I didn't meet one who was unfriendly.  Running into that sort of kindness is amazing.

The hotel I stayed at has day laborers hanging out in front.  For those not familiar with the concept, these are very poor men who hope someone will drive up and select them (or a certain number of men) to do a project.  They then get paid a nominal amount of money for the work.  None of them spoke more than five words of English.  Despite that, one of them wanted to buy me a coffee.  I retailiated by buying him a rakia.  Despite having communicated with all of these men with nothing more than smiles and nods for a couple weeks all of them wanted to shake my hand and tell me 'goodbye' when I had my pack on and was headed out.

The lady who sold me the bus ticket even agreed to convert my LEK for EUR and gave me a decent rate.

Like Bulgaria and Macedonia, I feel that if you are traveling with other people and not staying for long, people will miss out on what makes these countries so special.



ENTRY TO GREECE (Logan note:  this should have been in the Greece blog but I was out of my mind with sleep deprivation when I typed that up so missed it.  Sorry.  If a book editor ever takes an interest and wants to make this into a book they can move it so it looks coherent.  Which I'm often not.)

At the Greek border, I was moved up to the front of the line.  I was standing in the middle and the bus driver decided "This guy should be up front".

It probably worked out better for them they did that.

The male Greek border guard spoke very little English.

Guard:  (Bit garbled, sounded like "I like you")
Logan:  "Did you say "I like you?...(pause)  I like you too."

Both that border guard and the one sitting on the other side of the hut started laughing their asses off.

After that, it is amazing how much faster both lines went.



BORDER CROSSING TIPS

Always greet them in English and stick to that language. Even if I spoke the local language fluently, I would just use English when crossing the border.  This causes a lot less questioning, bag searching and so on.  Obviously, if you are actually from that country or they are fluent in English, this won't have the desired effect.

If you can get a border guard to smile or laugh YOU WIN.



FIVE TRICKS TO DEALING WITH FOREIGN MONEY (this is an article that could be dressed up and appear in MyFiveBest however I suspect the owner's computer suffered a meltdown.)

1.  Learn if there is tipping and how much.  People from the USA are the only ones who tip insane amounts.  Most countries either have no tipping or just round up to the next higher amount.  5.11 becomes 5.25 or 5.5.   Some rare cases, maybe 6 but not often.  In countries other than the USA, wait staff are paid a regular wage rather than being expected to live off their tips by evil employers.  If you over tip in foreign countries, you just drive up the prices for everyone.

2.   Keep a day wallet.  If your daily pocket money is say $50 (in whatever local currency you need), that is the only money in there.  This helps keep you from going over budget.  Also, in the unlikely event you get mugged, this is all the money you seem to have on you.

3.  Your credit cards and reserve of money go in a secure pouch worn under your clothing next to your skin.  This makes it fiendishly hard to pickpocket.  In warm climates the pouch will quickly smell worse than your feet so having a secondary one to use while the original is being washed is a good idea.  Some people complain this is uncomfortable but it is less uncomfortable than losing your wad of money, credit cards and passport.  There may be times you need to sleep with this on.

4.  Learn the conversion rate then change it to something more simple.  If the conversion rate is $1 is 1.71, make it 1.5.  You can probably do that in your head.  If not, carry a very basic calculator or use your phone.  If you make the conversion rate 1 = 2, the money will go faster than anticipated rather than a bit slower.  Use whatever works for you but keep it simple.

It's amazing how much of our happiness can be traced to the movement of these little pieces of cloth or paper.  Which seem on the whole not to be either happy or unhappy about it.  Bastards.

5.  Get your money converted before you reach the border if possible.  Coins are completely useless as soon as you reach the border.  In some countries, this is a horrible thing because a coin can equal a couple of dollars and if you have a bunch of coins you either have some expensive collectibles or are out thirty bucks.  Some currencies are tied to the dollar or euro.  Generally, these are worth nothing when leaving the country of origin.  Also, some currencies are illegal to remove from the country.  In general, it is best to convert your money to dollars (if headed home to the USA) or Euros if you want money that has actual value.   At some banks, they won't convert money unless you have an account there or can produce an ATM receipt for their ATM.   Keep your receipts and use ATM's that have actual working banks attached to them when possible.



WEIRD LOGAN SHIT

Has anyone else noticed the 'hit' in 'shit'?  I'm sure there is a funny joke in there somewhere.

Drip coffee (read as 'standard American') doesn't do it for me any more.  Can't stand the taste of the stuff.  Tastes...  Hollow.  These days all I can drink is either the 'muddy bottom' coffees (Greek, Turkish, etc), espresso style or Nescafe.  Amazing how your tastes change when you travel.



BACK TO THE NARRATIVE - ITALY TO TUNSIA

So I'm in Italy and needing to get to the docks.  That sounds simple - but was it?

Hell no.  I think I may have actually had a heart attack en-route.

In Italy, the land of misinformation, I am told the metro didn't start until six AM.  Get there and oh look - it seems to have been going for awhile now.  Super.  I'd wanted to get an early start to make sure I didn't miss the ship and get stuck in the 'money vampire on my neck sucking sucking sucking!' country.

The subway takes a bit under an hour to reach the Spawn Pit of All Evil, also known as the main train station.  This is where the most horrible Italians who are as persistant as flies hang out.  The taxi drivers.  After fending several off (they follow you around you know) I managed to heroically battle my way to the train.

Typical Italian cabdriver...

There didn't seem to be a stop for the port town listed.

Immediately I went to my default of 'harass the locals for information' until I found the correct train.  Was it labeled?  You bet your ass it wasn't.  Turns out it was going much further and that town was the one labeled.  Not really helping the tourist there.  After getting agreement by people not on the train and those on the train that this was the correct train, I settled in for the hour ride.  That would put me there at eight in the morning, a scant four hours before the ferry is scheduled to leave.

Some people are a mystery to me.  They are the ones who think leaving no time between when they show up and their transport leaves is OK.  They want to mess around, sleep in, play with their phones and cry like entitled babies when they get there five minutes late and discover their transport left on time.

Not this guy.

Logan is delighted to sit around bus stations, airports, ferry terminals and any other place needed to ensure not only he is on time but one of the first to get said transport.

Sometimes things fill up and there is no more space.  And 'shit happens'.

Could have been my ferry.  It wasn't but if it were, I would have the decency to pretend to be surprised.

So, I get off the train in the port town.  Yeah.  No names of these towns because a) though it sounds exotic, I know you don't care and b) I can't find them right now.   I ask someone where the port is.

By now, I'm speaking pretty basic Italian.  It's not really that hard.  You can't just put on an Italian accent and say things like "Momma mia, pizzeria!"  That's pretty insulting.  Funny, but insulting.  Assuming you've got a little bit of Latin and pay attention, it's a refreshingly easy language to pick up bits of without studying.

Port is "porto".  Not really that difficult.  Not rocket science, that would be 'scienza missilistica'.

With all my junk I now had a choice.  Hike the reported 1.5 KM (that's about a mile for those still back in the stone age with measurements) or get robbed by one of the taxi drivers for ten euro or more.

I decided to walk.  That way, I could pick up some water and breakfast as well.

Wrong choice!
Something like this generally goes on in my head when I am wrong but there is usually someone around who wants to act it out externally as well.  Very kind of them.

Found a store and was doing the absolutely hilarious knocking over boxes with my over sized backpack on as the shop keeper hustled to sell me a couple liters of water and one of orange Fanta so I'd leave his store.  Well, hilarious to everyone aside from the shopkeeper and I.

Bought some chocolate filled croissants as well.  Those can pass for a breakfast food here.

Then I waddled over to the docks.  By the time I got there, one of my legs was beginning to feel like it was going to give out and I was covered in sweat.

At the ticket office, I was told "No, this is the small boat dock.  You want the OTHER dock."

The phrase "Are you fucking kidding me?" does not translate so I just gave one of those 'death head grins'.

Except I didn't need a mask.  And am a lot fatter.

The poor girl started apologizing and I did my best to dial down my intensity.  Not her fault I don't know what is going on.  Or that this town needs more than one port.

So I had to hike at least two kilometers.  More.  (Editor note:  I checked and it is close to 4 KM total distance.  This does not include me wandering around looking for more locals to ask where 'el porto' is.  Yes, I am aware that 'el' is probably more correct in Spanish but in the condition I was in, it didn't matter.)  The worst thing is that while I was walking, this song kept playing over and over in my head...  (Editor note:  That is a freakishly weird video.)

Arrived to what I hoped would be the correct port and was stopped at the gate.  Turns out I couldn't go the last ten meters until the 'shuttle bus' came and collected me.  They don't like people walking around in the port.

I was a tad bit upset.
Well, not quite this upset on the outside.  Nobody can out over-act Shatner.

Another guy who was waiting for the shuttle asked where I'd walked from and he looked freaked out when I told him from the train station.  Had to wring my bandanna out twice to get most of the water out of it.

My legs were twitching a bit and I had to keep one of my knees a bit straight so it wouldn't collapse under me.

Not doing well physically.  I'd bought a cane back in Macedonia but lost it on one of the buses within a couple days.

When I finally was permitted to ride the vaunted shuttle bus for a very brief trip and deposited in front of the windows, both of them said "Check in".

This about stopped my fucking heart.


There was no time left to go get a ticket elsewhere.  After waiting an hour for the shuttle bus and doing my own personal 'Trail of Tears' (ed note:  The Native Americans had it much worse but Logan was overly emotional at this point) there was only an hour left until the ferry departed.

Fortunately, they were able to sell me a ticket for 75 euros.

All that remained was to pass through customs and on to the ship.

The guards of the great frontier...  Were not there.

Nobody knew where they were.  They were suppose to be there, guarding the border and weren't.  Even the port guards had no clue where they were.

The boat (named Zeus) was there and loading up.  It was obvious it was going to leave on time and...no boarder guards.

By the time they showed up, it was really tempting to do a Fat Bastard.

Because I did have a turtle head poking out and it was making me all emotional.

But that doesn't translate into Italian well and the border guards didn't seem to speak any English.  So I just hoped for speed.

Which I didn't get.

They took so long with my passport concern it would be rejected and me being told I'd have to remain in the land of money rape became a very agonizing concern.

Turns out they were just fascinated with why it was three times the normal size and how many stamps were in it.  I think.

My passport was stamped an I was allowed at last to limp/stagger onto the ferry.  After a quick trip to a bathroom that had no right to be that disgusting before the trip had even begun, I was given a new choice.

The promised land.  Don't get me wrong - I'm sure Italy is great.  If you're rich.

To lay claim to either a section of the couch or an electric outlet and chair.  There was no way to get both so I chose that latter.

Yes, this means I got to sleep in a pretty uncomfortable chair for the evening.  Joy and happiness were mine.

Fortunately, I was so tired from the previous exertions that sleep came easily.  Unfortunately, those same exertions had made me stink like the homeless person I am.

Since there was no wifi to be had on the ship - and I wouldn't have paid for it anyway since ferries haven't figured out that giving customers free wifi just enhances their image because they are back in the stone age - I just watched several shows I'd saved up for times like these.



OTHER ROOMS ON THE FERRY

Like many other ferries, this one had what I think of as a 'stupid tax' room - a casino.  You usually see a couple grim looking people in there giving their money to the machines.  The people never seem to be having any fun nor do I ever see anyone actually win anything.



OTHER PASSENGERS

As one would expect, there were a lot of Tunisians aboard.  They were very kind to me.  One offered me half of his breakfast (an orange or something that looked like one), another offered me water, etc.

In digging through my bag to make damned sure I spent all of the euro coins I had, I discovered three large coins of no real value from other countries.  After a great deal of discussion, I managed to give them to a father to give to his kids.  The kids must have played with them for a good ten minutes before they disappeared.  I felt validated.

Talking to Tunisians is a bit difficult for me.  Although some speak English well, most speak Tunisian, French and Classical Arabic.  And my French isn't very good - yet.  (Editor note:  It will never get very good.)



TUNIS RUN AROUND

Yeah.

It was ugly.

It all started with a cab driver as most ugly stories do.

For ten dinar (about $7) he assured me a hotel room with wifi for under 30 dinar.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a "lie".  But I figured what the hell.  I can risk seven dollars.  After Greece and Italy, it was a gentle buttfuck.  He even went so far to say if he couldn't find me a hotel then the ride was free.  Cab drivers will say about anything to get you into their taxi.

We then proceeded to go to five grotty hotels which were completely booked up of anything less than the 50+ dinar ($30?) rooms.

Screw that.

Eventually, he just kind of pointed at one and gave me a 'there you go'.  Not only did he still want his money but he wanted a tip for stopping at so many.  He got 5 dinars, bargained down from ten.  He did work his ass off, true, but the whole 'result' thing was kind of lacking.

Now they did have two different rooms in this shithole he directed me to.

In one, there was no water at all in the bathroom.  At all.

The second one had some electrical problems.  Like when you turned on the lights or ceiling fan BIG FUCKING SPARKS SHOT OUT.

Wish I was making this shit up.  I just looked at the guy who had shown me these two rooms.  He only shrugged.  He could give a shit.

Well, fuck Tunis!

Fortunately, I'd done a bit of research and discovered a town called Hammamet.  Wasn't sure how far it was from Tunis but it was about a fourth the size (half million people) and much cheaper on the internet.

Screw it, lets go there.

Because I  just didn't feel like I've done enough hiking with all my gear lately, I did another kilometer or two.  I get weird muscle spasms in my legs from time to time from this kind of abuse.  It is super awesome.

Asking around (en fran├žais) I discovered there was a louonge (shared taxi) headed to Hammamet.

The taxi driver earlier had assured me it was 10 dinars for these.  Also a lie, it was half that.  I paid for two spots, one for me and the other for my bag.

"Allons-y?"  I asked the cab driver.  ("Lets go?") and off we went.  Yes, that totally came from watching Doctor Who and yes it does work though it is a bit old fashioned of way to say it.  But I couldn't remember any others in French.

At last the patented Logan Luck (TM) reasserted itself.  Sitting on the same seat on the other side of my computer bag was a very nice man who was half British and half Tunisian.  He not only directed me to a hotel but escorted me there.

And that is where I am typing from right now.

I spent last night in what was the largest room I've ever been in.  Sadly, I didn't get any pictures.  Unfortunately, it was located overlooking their restaurant where - you guessed it - they played music incessantly until after 10PM or so.   Not only that, but the pollution off the street (no emissions testing here) can choke a donkey.

Like this one.  And yes, this donkey is actually one from the streets of Hammamet.

So now I've moved to a smaller room.  It's not perfect but should suit me for a month or so.  Honestly, I've not seen a lot here that makes me want to stay in Tunisia for an extended period of time.  However, I do still need to get my airline ticket for JNB at some point...

I met the manager who took me to a place to get my clothing cleaned.  That was great until the lady asked my religion and when it wasn't Islam got a bit huffy.  I always claim to Buddhist when on the road - better.



PRICES (Hammemet)

Small beer, 2.5 d
Large beer, 5 d
Laundry, 5.5 d
Water, .6 d
Fanta, liter 1 d
Room, normally 35 d but will be negotiating tomorrow if I like it.  My objective is to get it down to 20 d (a bit over $10 per night) so that I can afford to stay here for awhile.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ITALY

ARRIVAL TO ITALY

Italy seems best suited for people who like to travel with large groups of people they may eventually come to be lifelong friends with or despise forever.

Disembarking the ferry, there were two taxis and two buses.  The taxis immediately filled up and left.  The tour buses were for group tours.  Nothing for me.

I walked my ass out of the docks.

To those of you who have never been to a shipping dock before, that sentence may not strike you with the appropriate force.  Carry your twenty kilos plus for a couple football fields (American or soccer, doesn't matter) through thronging traffic and contradictory directions to get a better feel for it.

Eventually, I was sent to a travel agency called "Morfimare" outside of the docks.  The old man whose job was apparently to make sure nobody lugged the building off - and no more - told me that nobody was there who could help me but 'an agent' would be back at some indeterminate time.

Hopefully, not this agent.

After twenty minutes a guy showed up and confirmed that it is the Salerno docks I needed for the 'big push' into Tunisia.  The agent directed me to a 'one euro' (ed note actually 1.5 Euro) bus to take me to the train station.

A cabbie offered to take me for just ten euro because he wanted money.  I told him 'no, gratis'.   He went away which is more than I can say for most cabbies in Italy who have much in common with the leech in that they won't let go.

Unless you apply fire to the cabbies.  Which is awesome.


On some, but not all of the buses (check!) you need to buy a ticket then get it stamped in the bus via a machine.  Who the hell buys a ticket from the bus driver then is accused of not paying due to not stamping?

Why Logan, of course.



ATTEMPTED DEEP DICKING BY THE ITALIAN BUS COMPANY

Sitting there with all of my luggage.  It's obvious I am 'just passing through'.

A couple guys from the bus company get on and want to see my ticket.

They tell me (in rapid Italian) that since it is not stamped, I should bend over and prepare to be fucked with a huge fine.  The bus was stopped and one guy popped out, probably to find a cop to have me arrested.

Logan:  "Oh, this needs to be stamped?"
Evil guy:  "Yes."
Logan:  "Is there actually a machine on board to do that?"
Evil guy:  (points at machine)
Logan:  (examines machine).  CLUNK!  (Holding up the ticket)  "Perfecto, yes?"

The bus representative just rolled his eyes in exasperation.  It was now a 'my word against his' thing and I already had other plans (contact American embassy, make them or myself look foolish, decry the bus company for preying on innocent well meaning tourists who obviously did buy a ticket and were not going to be trying to reuse it) but since I was not being physically detained I grabbed my shit and headed for the exit.

The bus driver said (and had the look of) "Good one!" on his face.

Rather than saying "Yes, I really fooled those guys and got away with something." I just kept up the "I'm a stupid tourist" and said "Huh?"  I even managed to cock my head with a perplexed look.

Since I was near the bus station, I then 'disappeared into the city'.  I didn't want these guys coming after me.



HOW TO DISAPPEAR

Instinctively, people believe a simple matter of distance is what determines if you 'get away'.  You have to overcome this.  Also, don't flee 'up'.  It use to work when we lived in the trees but now if you go up you are often just fucked.

It's about choices and corners.  The more corners you can turn to cut off the persons vision of you and the more choices they have to make ('did he go left or right?') will determine whether you have gotten away or are still being pursued.  Most people won't put that much effort into pursuing you for some minor infraction.  If you jay-walk, it is a desperate lonely cop that will chase you down for a kilometer.

Walk, don't run for the nearest corner.  Round it.  Then you can begin figuring out 'left or right' and play that game on your own.  Sometimes, just rounding that initial corner may be the difference between any pursuit or the pursuer thinking 'fuck it, he's gone'.



BUS BUS FUCKING BUS!

Long story short, I'd bought a ticket for the wrong bus.  It didn't come to where five different people told me it would, so I had to go back to the ticket office to get a ticket for a different bus which did come to...the same place the other didn't.

Ain't that a bitch?

It was maybe six hours of waiting.  The street people thought "Why the hell is this American guy homeless?"  Yes, they really did.

Now, in any other country I've been in, you can wait in the train station.

Not Italy.

Their train station is infested with such scum (taxi drivers, pickpockets, drug users, serial rapists and possibly even American bankers) that they have to flush all of the shit into the street every night.

So the train station closes.
And the ferry station closes.
And the metro line stops.
And the whole city shuts down.

Aside from the worst elements in society.

I had to find a place to stay and quick.

Fortunately, I'd written down a hostel.  It is one of the highest rated in the area.  For two nights, it's about 40 euros.


Getting to the hostel involved getting packed tight into a subway with a bunch of drunken high school or college age students, then dropped off in an area described as 'bad' by my local contacts.  This was really the only option because the extremely handy 'connected with the train station' hotel was a shocking 100-130 euros.

So I'm at the hostel which is yet another high density feed lot set up.  No idea how many beds they have but they get a lot of groups of thirty or more people.  The hostel has the charm of a bedpan and is about as clean.

Downing a couple of three euro beers, I chatted with some Italian school teachers who were on vacation.  The fact they are staying here I take a proof that school teachers are wildly underpaid here as well.

They mentioned Pompeii was closeby (an hour or two) away and cheap.  Less than 8 euros to get there and only 11 euros to get in.

Obviously, I had to go.  Despite feeling 'shattered'.

This hostel (the cheapest beds) has no privacy.  The bathrooms are pretty much unisex (since they are unlabeled) and the showers are so small that you have no choice but to get a naked Logan in the bathroom preparing to go shower.  I just thought about the movie "Starship Troopers", shrugged and got a shower.






POMPEII

Tourists bring their baggage of banality and stupidity with them where ever they go.

Since I'm just as interested in people as a bunch of old ruins, I paid attention to the other hordes of tourists.

Heard a lot of stupid shit being said.

Usually people were just bitching about how hot, tired, sore, uncomfortable they were.

The winning comment was given by some lady who asked "What kinds of stuff did they make in the old days?  Like, volcanoes?"

Can't make this stuff up.

Aside from the tour guides, I didn't hear anyone talking about Pompeii or anything historical.  Usually it was more along the lines of where to buy cheap phone cards.

Sad.

Important safety tips:  Strollers, flip flops, heels are all bad choices here.  I recommend sneakers at a minimum.  Better would be extremely comfortable hard soled shoes.  Believe me, nobody looks good after a couple hours baking in the ruins.  If you are extremely fair skinned, a sun parasol for the women and a bit of 'hardening the fuck up' for the men is recommended.



BLACK PEOPLE

I was chatting with some during my long ass wait.  It's weird, they seem mixed right in to the population here rather than incarcerated.   It's different from the ole USA!

Afraid so, Mr. President.



NOTE TO SELF

Do not go around grabbing the locals and demanding to know "Who runs barter town?!?" due to massive sleep deprivation.

They don't know anyway...



OFFICE HOURS

It is often frustrating when tourist things (such as 'tourist information kiosks' etc) keep 'normal business hours in places with high densities of tourists 24 hours a day.  Makes you wonder 'what the hell?'



BEGGARS

Always resist the temptation to hand women who display their (or a borrowed) baby to you begging for money to just give them a condom.  While it is true they are dressed better than I am and demonstrably have had sex more recently, it would not be a 'classy' thing to do.



THOUGHTS ON TRAVEL IN EUROPE

After going through all of the shit I've gone through here (with more to come), I'm now thinking for most people the best way might be to get an 'all inclusive package tour'.  The kind you go with a guide who does all of the hard travel work, like figuring out where the hell your bus has wandered off to.  Yes, you'll pay a premium for it but avoidance of the stress of travel and wasting hours and hours waiting for transport might be a good thing for people on a strict time table.

For me, I think I'm done with Western Europe unless I suddenly come in to a very large amount of money and need to spend it quickly.  When money looms over me the whole trip the shadow it casts just dims all the wonders too much.



ALTERNATIVE VACATIONS THOUGHTS

Most people like to try to do the 6 countries in 10 days type of vacations.  Though the number of countries and amount of time vary, generally people are rushing around and spending most of their time on the road.

Some people do this for 'bragging rights'.  As someone who has visited a fair number of countries, I can tell you 'most people don't care'.  You may get questioned once or twice on it but generally, the amount you are able to brag on it aren't worth the money spent.  If you try to keep inserting it into conversation, you just look desperate.

Other people just seem to be trying to grab as much as possible in their 'once in a lifetime experience'!  The problem there may be thinking of it as a 'once in a lifetime experience' rather than something you will be doing again in the future.  If you want it bad enough.

Instead of trying to collect as many check marks as possible, alternatively you could delve more deeply into one country.  Just tour around one country - relax into it if possible.  Dally in the spots that take your fancy.  Get to know the people - I find them much more interesting than the ruins.



TIPS FOR WESTERN EUROPE

Bring a lot of small change.  Collect that heavy crap.  You may need it for automated machines - like the metro - which do not give change because they are evil.

Italy isn't as tourist friendly as I thought a major tourist hub like this would be.  Missing signs, not made really easy, etc.



PRICES

500ml Nestea, 2 euro

Note that in some 'West European' countries, food is a little cheaper if you get it as 'take away'.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

ESCAPE FROM GREECE

SHAMBLING ON

I am a wandering zombie.  Not sure when last I slept nor ate a good meal.  On the latter, I'm OK.  I can stand to miss a meal now and then.

The train from the airport was pleasantly modern.  Announcements came in both voice and digital in Greek and English.  It was a smooth hour and a half or so ride.  After getting off that train, I staggered into the train station and said "Uh, I want to go to...uh..."

She already knew where I wanted to go and for another ten euro sold me a bus ticket.  The bus then dropped me off in front of the train station where I preceded to demand the teller sell me ferry tickets.  He eventually won as there was no water around and indeed train tracks outside.  A bitter defeat.  If I stood at the bus stop out front, eventually bus 18 would come and take me to the new port.

But he didn't know when the bus was.  Different people claimed it was actually a different bus.  That came in an hour.  Or three hours.  Or didn't stop there.

Seven euros later, the taxi dropped me off at the ferry ticket counters.

The old ticket, it is useless and non-refundable.

The new ticket leaves at six.  If I don't fall asleep and miss the boat, I can check in at four.  Either Greece is a lot more interesting than I was led to believe or I was hallucinating earlier.  (Ed note, hallucinating.)

Must keep awake until I get on the ferry then I can chain up my gear (love my pacsafe) then probably be totally unable to sleep.  Awesome.

When I got to the dock I was told my boat would be on the 'D' port.  There is no 'D' port.  Only A, B or C.  After a lot of wandering around areas where I wasn't suppose to be and having people assure me it would be either at A or C, I made my own judgement and figured it would be at B.

My ship was leaving from B port.  Can you say 'clusterfuck'?

It is important to know how to walk around the loading area of the docks.  Otherwise, you stand a decent chance of getting maimed or killed because everyone is in a hurry to get their cargo (read as big fucking trucks) on or off boats.

The trick is to always position yourself where nobody will be able to run into you - look for obstructions and be sure to be well away from things people are working on.  I watched other tourists piss off the dock workers over and over again by wandering around thinking they had 'right of way'.

No, the big fucking truck with the driver who is jacked out of his mind to keep functioning without sleep does.

So I ended up 'waiting for my ship to come in' as 'I'm sitting at the dock of the bay...'

The fact that kind of corny shit was going through my brain tells you just how sleep deprived I was.

Eventually, the ship docked, was off loaded then we and the trucks were loaded on.  Once everyone was on, the announcement came asking for "all passengers to go ashore...the ship is ready to depart."

Not sure what the hell was going on but after all the hell I went through to get on, they're going to have to drag me off.

The ship left the dock.

Pretty luxurious - close to the 'Rail and Sail' but not quite there.  Certainly many steps up from the voyage across the Black Sea USSR style.

They have a bar and a cafeteria.  I got seven Euro worth of filler food (spaghetti and moussaka).  You can go without food or without sleep but not both.

While I was still out of my mind with sleep deprivation and hadn't washed in several days, I had a nice conversation with a guy named Dawa.  He called the current generation 'ninjas'.  No Income, No Jobs, Assets.  I thought that was awesome.



AIRPLANE SEATS ON THE FERRY

Generally, these will jack your ticket price 10-20 euros.

Don't buy them.  They aren't that great.  If you lay down across several, you might get woken up and told you just get one.

Also, there are several better pieces of furniture to sleep on elsewhere.

Didn't explore it or try it out but I'm wondering if people brought an air mattress if they could just sleep in the halls for the cabins?  You'd probably get told you can't but sneaky sneaky catchie monkey!

Speaking of exploration of the ship - I saw kids (teens) immediately bury their faces in a book (or phone) rather than taking ten minutes to even see the ship.  Those are some jaded little fucks, I'll tell you what.  I went exploring, met some of the crew and so on.  And that was me at say 30% battery.

Next blog, arrival at Italy.



FOOD AND WATER

The food quality isn't that high so honestly, if you are any good at packing actual good food - not just sandwiches - you won't be tempted by the food which has been priced with a mind to the lack of competition.

Bring at least two liters of water per person per day of the cruise or pay high amounts for more.

Some ships have a 'ship party' the first night out of port.  Others don't.  Bring a bottle of alcohol (not wine or beer) so you don't feel like an asshole drinking everyone else's without making a contribution.  If there is no party, drink the whole thing yourself and pass out.



OPEN TICKETS

A small aside into the mysterious world of 'open tickets'.  From what I've learned a ticket is never initially issued as 'open'.  They can get changed to 'open' after there is some sort of fuck up.  Like you discovered you need a new date to hit your boat or something.  Or the return date (if you are coming back) is unknown.  Consult the person selling you the tickets when you need to consider an open ticket.



PHILOSOPHY

Using the pickup line "I want to make you look like a painter's radio" is unlikely to impress anyone.
If it does impress them, you've got a keeper!



VIDEOS

Welcome to Athens
Happy Train, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Rough Morning
Death by Fox News

Thursday, October 9, 2014

THE ITALIAN JOB

THE ITALIAN JOB


Here, I was looking at what it would cost to take a ferry to various ports in Italy.

To get a train from Venice down to Naples is under a third what it would cost to fly.  Train cost seems to start at about 50 Euros.  Takes 4-5 hours.  Note, this deal completely dis-the fuck-appeared later (after buying the ferry ticket) and now it's about $140.  Super.

In talking to a guy I am sharing the wildly overpriced room with in Athens, it seems he just spent 200 euros to buy a ticket to fly from here to Rome.  Screw that!



WHEN SUDDENLY

When I purchased the ticket for the ferry, the man kindly wrote down the place I would need to get a bus to reach the ferry.

The bus leaves every half hour.  It takes three hours to get there.  Super, I thought.  If I leave at seven, I will get there by ten, sit around for two hours and off I go.  What could be simpler?

Although I had set my small bag watch forward I'd completely forgotten to change my computer.  Fantastic.

I'd gone to the place that sold the boat ticket to see if they could hook me up with another ticket to actually get me to Tunisia and...they closed early because "fuck it".

OK.  So now, I'm running an hour behind.  I'd thought it was seven when I tried to get the cab, it was eight.  Found that out when the lady called the cab.

Feeling a bit panicked now, but I've still an hour of cushion.

...And it turns out the guy who sold me the ticket didn't know what he was talking about.  The bus leave irregularly.  The next bus doesn't leave until 9:30PM.  Hence, I get to be at the port after the boat has been gone for half an hour.

This is really bad.  I'm now waving goodbye to over a hundred dollars just pissed into the wind.

Are taxis and option?  For three hundred euro they are.  Even after a lot of haggling down to two hundred I can't see blowing that to save a hundred dollars.  And spend fifty a night to be in a huge dorm room.  Spending five fucking dollars on a glass of water.

Screw it.

At this point, Logan is still suffering sleep deprivation.  Not firing on what few cylinders he has.  The previous night didn't really sleep so much as 'pass the fuck out' and wake up early.

So I begin negotiating to go to the airport.  Fuck it, I'm out of here.


I'm pissed, running of fumes and have no idea what the hell I'm doing.

Started going to each of the people working at various travel agencies and airlines.  "Hi, got any cheap last minute tickets?  No, I really don't give a shit where I go.  Somewhere cheap would be great."  Needless to say, this confused the hell out of them.  Who travels like this?

This guy.

Nobody knew nothing.  Creativity and independent thought not qualities the people were hired for.

Finally, in desperation, I went to the Russian airlines and asked the woman working the desk.  Yeah.  I'd have considered going to fucking Russia just to get out of here.  But you need a visa to go there so that wasn't happening.

We didn't ever exchange names but she talked me down for awhile and started helping me to clarify my options.  Not all is lost she said.

Turns out this gem of a human being had been a travel agent for eight years.  She was confused and irritated by the amazing bullshit I had been fed and spent two or three hours talking to me to explain and clarify things.

After she'd looked up several things she eventually said "Look - you can easily get a plane to Istanbul for 230 euros (I have a reservation) but there is a train that leaves from the station here at the airport in the morning that will take you to another train that will take you to the port.  At the port you can buy a ticket to go to Bari Italy.  It's a heavy ferry route.  From Bari, you can just ask them how to get to Tunis and they'll lay it out for you.

We'd tried to get it on the internet but competency in the internet hasn't really caught up yet and the sources are confused and often contrary.  Best to be face to face and buy ferry tickets.

Like what I'd tried earlier.

But I have 'hope' now.

My plan is just to live in the train and ferry stations until I can get to where I am going.  Italy is pretty crazy on their prices.  Should something cheap present itself I may take it.  If not, fuck it.  I feel like I've been bleeding money bad in Greece and I'd rather be in a less known area and not bleeding money.

I'm not sure when I will be able to publish my next blog but I wanted to put this up to let people know what is going on so far and the 'word' now is 'hard travel'.

No washing, little sleep.

Don't touch my stuff!

Going to be a rough one.

Monday, October 6, 2014

AFRICA - RESEARCH STEP BY STEP PART 3

CURRENT EVIL PLAN

People always ask me "Logan, who are your heroes?"  Well, OK.  They don't.  But if they did, one of them would be Doctor Evil.

It seems the town I'm in is rolling up the sidewalks.

The last two days have been rainy and shitty.  This comes as a bit of a surprise since pretty much every other day I've been here has been the kind of weather people who live in England only masturbate to.  Er - I mean go to the south of France for.  Good save, Logan.

Many of the stores seem to be closed on a Monday.  Sadly, this includes pharmacies.  Unfortunate because I need to pick up some medicine. Not sure if they will remain closed.  Maybe this is some sort of special 'we don't work today' Monday.  The kind the people in the USA get real excited about.  Hopefully, it doesn't set in for the long haul here.

The lady I am renting from delivered thick blankets and gave me the "I can't believe you are still here" look.

Even the internet has become more fickle as of late, making it difficult to do the research needed to wrap things up.

That and my general state of 'ennui' (sorry, the French have a word for it, in English we don't quite hit it) has convinced me it is time to GTFO.

However, my research is not yet done.  My plan is to remain here until it is.  I think part of me is just being stubborn.

Hence, I've got to make a plan - even if later that plan is completely discarded.  While it is true that often times my plans change without warning, it is simply too expensive in the part of the world I am (and am going) to just wander around.

Which brings us back to...



AFRICA - RESEARCH STEP BY STEP PART 3

Holy shit, I hope this is the last part of this.  While it may be dull reading compared to the normal blog, it was even more dull to do.  I apologize to everyone who has had to read it.  If you want to skip to the next section, I've put a picture of a sword wielding T-Rex riding a unicorn into battle as a marker.

At last we're on the final step of the huge research project.

First, a quick recap of the simplified visa costs.  Aside from South Africa, it appears the others have their hand firmly out.

South Africa:  No visa needed, 90 days.  Found this on wikitravel and it is disturbing: "In addition, make sure you have evidence of a return ticket available, or they will send you back. "  This will be a big problem as if I land there I would be traveling onward by train.  I will have to look in to manufacturing a fake e-mail confirmation of an airline ticket.  After reading on the boards, yes they are serious about an onward ticket.

Tanzania:  US$100 multiple-entry 3 month visa.  They also require a 'return ticket'.

Zambia:  Confusing process, probably US$80 for a multiple-entry visa, valid for 3 years.

Well, shit.  It appears that both South Africa and Tanzania (the two logical places to fly in)  as well as Zambia require return tickets.  Ain't that a bitch.  Sure, once I get 'feet on land' then I can pull a gingerbread man and just run off but getting flown in is the trick.  Hate flying.



The first thing I want to concentrate on is the cost of airfares going into and out of the countries.   Afterward, I want to reassure myself I can get around decently within the country.  Make sure the train website I'd seen before is a real thing and not just some weird hallucination that came into my brain.
Makes me wish we could push around pieces on a big map with sticks.

If you recall, from our last blog, we had boiled down Africa to these three countries.  They seem to be reasonably enough priced for me to visit, don't have completely outrageous visa requirements and there is a decent chance I won't get shot there.

Then again, if you think about it, three countries out of a continent full of countries isn't a great ratio.  And it means Logan is running out of world - fast.  I view this as a problem rather than an accomplishment.

It would be best if I were able to hit each country once, without backtracking.  When I'm done with the visa, I'm generally finished with the country for a bit and eager to get on to fresh countries rather than going immediately back.


I need to find out which airlines service the various airports.  This can be gotten through a combination of skyscanner and wikitravel.

For all of the airlines, I'm going to be checking out the prices to BKK (Bangkok).  It is one of the places I'm probably headed toward after my African adventure.  It is true that I may suddenly change tact and head back into Europe but by finding out the various airline prices to distant BKK I'm checking out a 'worst case scenario' for travel.  I'm also looking for prices in mid-November, about a month and a half away per the time of this writing.  Guessing I may be actually booking the ticket a month and a half out, not further.

Note on skyscanner:  I'm not sure what they did to it, but it seems to be working like shit now.  You can't call up individual flights to check them and so on.  It is becoming much less useful.



MAJOR AIRPORTS

Zambia:  Not going to bother with their airports simply because it is the middle country.  I will be flying out either one end or the other.

From Tunisia (TUN)

To Tanzania (DAR)  One way:    Return:
Qatar   $545   $886
Emirates   $600   $1000
Egypt Air      $400     $750
Turkish Airlines    $550     $783  note, booking out further jacks it to $1000.

Tanzania:  There are two, DAR (the Julius Nyerere International Airport located in Dar es Salaam and JRO the Kilimanjaro International Airport, located halfway between Arusha and Moshi. Given that the second airport seems to be kind of out in the middle of nowhere, I'm guessing DAR is the main hub.

If you look at the costs (and assume they'll be anything close to the same by the time I get there), it is about $130 more expensive to fly all the way to the south most point of Africa (CPT) than into DAR.  Therefore, I can start in the south and work my way to the north and east.

South Africa:
JNB (Johnannesburg)  One way:    Return:
Qatar    560
Emirates         $1000
Egypt Air         $500        $760
Turkish Airlines               $1200
Lufthansa

CPT (Capetown)  One way:    Return:
Qatar
Emirates         $1000
Egypt Air        $580       $1000
Turkish Airlines     $630
Lufthansa      $530     $1000
Turkish airlines from IST to JNB amazingly expensive.

Start in the furthest point south and work my way up north.  Exfiltrate from DAR (Julius Nyerere International Airport located in Dar es Salaam).



SO - WE'RE GOOD, RIGHT?

Kind of.  I know that I'm going to need to end up in Tunis (TUN) to head to Cape Town (CPT).  It seems as of right now that Lufthansa will be the cheapest option though when the time grows closer, I'll have to check it out again.

I don't want to get the ticket just yet because I don't know how long I will be spending enroute.  Sure, I'm guessing that I will not be spending a lot of time there but what if it is cheap due to being 'off season'?  And when I get to Tunisia?  How long do I want to spend there?  I've no clue.  While it is true that internet research has only shown me three cities which are cheap, perhaps when I actually get there I will discover it is much better than it looked.  Or much worse.  Both have happened.

It appears that the prices are rather consistent if I book a month out, maybe less.

For this, I've just taken a look at Priceline.com.  Yes, it was William Shatner who convinced me to.



EXFILTRATION

Want to make sure that flying out of DAR isn't going to be cost prohibitive.

Since I don't really know where I'm going to be headed, I'm going to pick three different airports that are possible targets.

IST (Istanbul, gateway to a big part of the world)
KTM (Kathmandu, in case I get the hankering to do the big Asia East trip)
BKK (Bangkok, in case I say "Gosh I am broke" and just want to flee back to SE Asia)
REP (Siem Reap, one of my 'homes')

Yes, planning for what I am going to do next is difficult just because I don't know what I want to do next.  Lets use priceline.com and see how we're doing.  All of these searches are made for a month out (from now) because who knows when I will actually need them?

DAR -> IST  $430
DAR -> KTM  $526 (very reasonable considering it's a very small out of the way airport)
DAR -> BKK  $622
DAR -> REP   $839 (fucking ouch)

OK.  It appears that DAR is 'on the tracks' so to speak.  Thank the great flying spaghetti monster, that part of the research is done.
Amen



GETTING AROUND THE PROBLEM OF 'PROOF OF ONWARD TRANSIT'

Despite what my travel mentor has told me about just having the details handy on how I am going to get out (though I will still initially try that, mostly to see if that works) I've found a $20 condom to try to help protect me:

Messina (South Africa) to Beit Bridge Hotel (Zimbabwe). Book via:

http://secure.greyhound.co.za/booking/greyhound/

This is about the shortest and least expensive (other than forging) I can find.



THE DOUBLE HOP

Since it appears the way has been researched After Tunisia, I'm now going to do research on Athens, how to get to Rome (or wherever the ferry takes me) then to Tunisia.  Once in Tunisia, I'm going to head to those towns mentioned and try not to think about doing research for the next couple months if I am lucky.

When looking for a place to stay, checking out hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com, I like to sort by price (I am still poor) then read the bad reviews.  They are usually more honest than the friends of the owner or star struck first time tourists who rated it.  If the reviews are about fairly petty shit, then that is perfect.  It means they had no serious bitches.  Remember, generally speaking if the rating is below generally 80%, it is probably a bug infested shithole with horrible staff who likes to blare their TV's on the other side of a cardboard thick wall while you're sleeping.

After price and reviews, distance from the city center.  If you are more than a kilometer outside of the center, you'll be either trying to figure out the public transport or doing a lot of walking.  Of course, the closer to the city center generally causes the price to go up and the quality to go down.  Apathy and hatred of cleaning quickly affects those who didn't know that when you own/work in a hostel, your job is to be constantly cleaning.

It is amazing how bad the hostels of Athens seem to be from the reviews I've read.  Over and over, they are harping on the same stuff.  If there were a clever operator (like my mentor, Adam) he could have cleaned up with one of the lower priced hostels.  Not the lowest price, mind you, but second or third up from the bottom.  Instead, those seem to be in the 'shitholes you don't want to stay' category from the reviews I've read.  Even the ones in the 80% review category seem to have major things wrong with them.  Like cleanliness.  Also, the cheaper hostels like to 'nickle and dime you' (sorry, a very American phrase) by charging you for every little thing.  Like seven minutes of hot water.

So I go on to the two sites and try to find something.  Realize that once I am there, I may never go to these places or go to them and stay just long enough to find a better, cheaper place.  Or, in the case of Athens and Rome, go long enough to say "My this town is staggeringly expensive.  Time for me to leave."

Write down the information of the hostel in your notebook.  You'd better be carrying a notebook in a pen.  When writing down the information, I try to make it as simple as possible to read.  Write neatly and use all capitals.  Remember, you will be showing this information to someone who doesn't speak your language in uncertain light soon.

For full disclosure, the hostel I settled on writing down is within sight of the Acropolis (as many are) and is called "City Circus Athens".  It is a staggering 19 Euros per night, about double the rate I normally like.  This is not going to be my first choice if I decide to stay longer than a day or two.  Sadly, the other hostels are about 4-5 euros less and full of horror stories.  Shit.



THE MARKER

My guess is you scrolled down to see if this was really here.



FOR MY FRIENDS WHO ARE IN TO WARGAMING

Because who wouldn't want this?



NIFTY NEW PAGES FOUND

worldtravelguide.net



TOO FAT FOR FOOD

Logan deemed too fat to eat at Albanian restaurant.

There are two restaurants I normally go to.  Since the food is all pretty much the same in this town (hence why I carry a bottle of Tabasco and am on my third) so I normally go to the cheap restaurants.

The restaurant in question has very smooth, slick floors and the cheapest plastic furniture I'd ever seen.  Sadly, this is not unusual for the restaurants here.

I expressed concern to the owners but they assured me that I should sit on the blue chairs.  They were marginally stronger.

When I find food that doesn't poison me, I stick with it.  After eating there pretty much every day for the last couple weeks the owners displayed the pieces of a broken chair to me and informed me I was done there.  It didn't break under me but must have cracked a bit and broke under a later guest.

Because bringing in some sort of sturdier chair for the fat guest who seems happy to spend money there would not fit in to local business practices.

And people decry the fact they live in 'poor countries'.  My thought is things like this may be 'why'.  I'm not saying 'because I am fat, they don't get to make money'.  I am saying 'they aren't thinking it through'.  If they either brought in a sturdy wooden chair or hell, even a piece of cardboard and apologetically said "Hey - you are too fat for our shitty furniture but we'll sit you here and serve you."  They would still have a customer buying one or two meals per day.  Instead, they just banned me from the establishment.  Not a clever business practice.

But it makes me sad.  Now, my fat ass must find a different restaurant at which to graze.



...AND THEN?

Possibly to include Papua New Guinea, which I didn't visit before and South Korea which may be more affordable than I thought.

In researching my Africa trip, one of the things I need to consider is 'where afterward'.  Makes a big difference in so far as I need to get plane ticket prices out of Africa.

I've been contemplating a return to Asia.  In addition to being really, really cheap, I miss it.  Well, India not so much but some of the other countries.

One surprise I've found is that Korea doesn't really seem to be hugely expensive.  I'd need a lot more research on parts of it but plane ticket there $150, hostel beds for $15...  Hell, that might be workable.

I'd love to live in Korea for awhile.  Korean food is so good.

But these are just thoughts.  Since last I checked Myramar (screw it - they should have stuck with Burma) has opened up.  If that is true, I can do an overland trip from Nepal (again) to Malaysia.  After that, I'd work on getting boats if possible.  To prevent drowning in the bus.

Nothing definite but something I've been thinking about.



MORE ALBANIAN STORIES

My normal restaurant was closed.  There is a place across the street from where I am staying that serves food.

Normally, I don't like to eat within sight of where I am staying.  Learned that trick in India.  If you do, then you get looks or words any time you leave your house and people act all hurt if you don't eat at their restaurant.

Regardless (and because it was raining) I decided to have a meal there.  I'd asked for a plate of fries and a disassembled gyros.  The guy gave me so much food, I took a picture of it (below).

After haggling over the price (I talked him up to $5 after he'd started at $4) I objected this was way too much food.  "It's enough for three people."  He assured me he could eat all of it.  Then he brought me watermelon because he was so pleased I tipped him.

You really get a lot of food for $5.

So I picking through the food and some 62 year old guy (he made sure to tell me - how long someone has lived is much more important than how much they have lived) came and mocked me telling me I was eating way too much food.  Eventually, he went away.

The photo below is how much food was left over after I felt stuffed - though I did finish my 250ml drink.  (For Americans stuck on the old system, that's a bit less than a can of Coke.)

I told him I couldn't eat as much as he thought I could.

Hence, it's not only Americans who waste food.  Though this may get served to other diners later.  Who knows.

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje Bitola Ohrid Struga | Albania: Berat Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples Pompeii Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet


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