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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.

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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 | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

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