Thursday, October 30, 2014



In the southern part of Africa, detailed research shows you have two different types of travel.  You can spend ten years of the average person's wage for a two week vacation in which everything presumably goes smoothly with campaign while wondering why the locals despise you or travel like the locals do.

Traveling around in a few of the countries there is no treat.  The Chinese came in and built a huge railway system.  While it's true they did foolish things like finish ahead of time to impress their supervisors instead of making sure it worked right and try to use locomotives which were woefully under-powered for the terrain, they did end up making a railroad.  Which regularly needs maintenance because they have things like mudslides there.  But build it they did.  Yes, they had to give them more money to try to keep it running but that rail line is one of the major arteries of the country now.

Why do I bring this up?  Because there aren't many working ways to get around.  The roads suck and are possibly haunted by people to whom robbing you of a few hundred dollars is like anyone getting a year's pay as a windfall.

It had been looking like South Africa was the only country fairly tame to travel through and that I wouldn't need to start worrying about what kind of shots to get - or having doctors falsify records to make it look like I did indeed get the shots.  Which costs an extra $20.

Was it worth it springing for a $600 plane ticket to get there?

I was having doubts but there is a person named Guy who has graciously invited me into his home.  For the price I was looking to spend, I can rent a room - and he'll even throw in food.  Surely, I can save up some money there?

Aside from attempting to turn my hosts into alcoholics, I mean.

So now I'm going looking for airline tickets.


Probably time to flee back to SE Asia.  Though that may change a bit of research (

JNB -> BKK $580
JNB -> PNH $650
JNB -> REP $1000 (holy shit)

Bit of a brilliant (??) flash - what about heading straight to Indonesia?  I've not been there before.  If I go there I'm going to need to use my forging skills to make 'proof of onward transit'.


I've got a writer friend named Jim Galford.  He writes actual books you can buy on Amazon.  Go buy them.  Part of the reason it is great to be friends with him on Facebook is his work life is horrible.  It is so 'epically' bad I've been trying to convince him to begin writing screen plays and make a web series (later to become an acclaimed TV series in the style of 'The Office') about his normal days there.  Disclaimer:  I have no idea about his personal life and I'm sure it's very rewarding.  But the horrible stuff that happens to him has the fascination of a slow motion car wreck.

He hasn't yet, but he's weakening.

Any time I have a bad day, I think 'Well, at least I'm probably having a better time than Jim at work'.  Today I felt a little bit like Jim probably does at work.

Here's what happened.

Last night, three different websites wouldn't accept payment from either of my credit cards for airline tickets.  Perhaps they get so many illegitimate credit cards that actual working ones confuse them.

Two options remained.  Go get my Emirates Airways ticket from a travel agent or from the Emirates office in the capital (Tunis).   Research showed me their office was right in the airport.

I'd figured it would be cheaper to go straight to the company itself but I wanted to check out the travel agent first, since it would cost me about 25d ($14) round trip from where I am to the airport.

The travel agent charged an extra 80d for the ticket.  I should have taken it but apparently the rising stubbornness crossed with the falling stupidity for a perfect storm of 'lets just go to the capital'.  Besides, it would give me a day trip.

To a city that smells a lot like Ankh-Morpork.

To get to the capital, you have to get a shared taxi (called a louage) to the city.  This is about 5d.  From where the louage route ends you take a surprisingly cheap taxi for about 6d the rest of the way to the airport.

Once I got there, I discovered the small Emirates ticket office was closed - and looked like it hadn't been open for quite some time.

This is a bit baffling.  In the Arabian areas, Emirates is the premier airline!  How can it be closed?

The information desk sent me elsewhere to a large impressive Emirates office, hidden behind some airport banks.  Naturally, this office was closed with a couple people who had been patiently waiting for about twenty minutes hoping it would open.

Taped to the door was a sign stating the address one must go a few kilometers from the airport if you wanted to buy tickets.

Grilling the information guy he eventually admitted the Emirates workers were probably at their stations checking in baggage and working on boarding the flight.  I went over and told them about the waiting guys and inquired how to buy a ticket.

Turns out there is another office.  It doesn't have the Emirates name but it is a place where I can buy a ticket.

Joy.  Went there.  It's an extra 100d ($55) over the internet price to buy one from them.  Turns out that getting people involved they decide to turn on the ole 'rape you out of some more money' machine.  This is why people will all be replaced with surly robots eventually.

Bite my shiny, metal ass!

By this time, I'm saying 'fuck it, lets get this done'.  Turns out escaping Tunisia might be more difficult than I'd figured.

Well, let's put it on the credit card machine shall we?  Oh.  It's broken.  Allow me to attempt to look surprised.

Having planned in advance for incompetence and ineptitude, I'd brought enough cash.  True it sucked most of my reserve/emergency cash up but now I'm just wanting the hell out.

A thought which will continue to warm my heart is that when I am in South Africa, I'm going to need to buy another fucking ticket.  Isn't that swell?

Today, I learned a valuable lesson.  Any time you get humans involved - even if they work for the company you are flying with - you will get fucked out of a significant extra amount of money.  It's probably best to just suck it up and buy it from a travel agent if the websites don't like your plastic.

Now, I have a print out they claim to be a ticket.  We'll see if it actually works on the day of travel.


Every country I've ever been to is littered (word choice appropriate) with currency exchange offices.  Aside from Tunisia.  They have a couple banks in Hammamet but no currency exchange offices.

The banks will give you dinars but you can't trade in this currency for anything else.

Due to my emergency cash being blasted away buying a ticket out of this... place and their inability to process a simple credit card, replenishing some emergency funds seemed a good idea.

The Tunisian dinar is a 'closed currency' which means it is illegal to take them out of the country.  Also, having any on you when you leave is illegal.  In addition to seizing them, a hefty fine is probably assessed.

But the only place you can get your dinar changed into currency which will be more than a curio is the airport.  As you leave.

Due to the... 'special competency' I've encountered, this makes me very nervous.  I don't want to be stuck with a couple hundred dollars worth of paper.  Naturally, I walked around and talked to banks, the tourist information office and other people trying to get dollars.

Though the people who worked at the banks couldn't tell me why they would not exchange dinars for dollars, some light was shed by Monsieur Lassard - the manager of the hotel.  There is a black market for foreign currencies here.  You must show your plane ticket out at the airport banks to convert currency.

Since having the banks tell me things like "they've run out of dollars" or "the machine for counting bills is broken and they're not permitted to do it by hand" or "fuck you, that's why" is a very real possibility, I'm concerned.

Reading it is more fun than making toast in the bathtub.  Not more fun than Bill Murray though.


Some countries, like Tunisia, have 'no alcohol sold on election day'.

This is to keep the stupid people from getting alcohol.  All of the smart people stocked up ahead of time.

Can't wait till elections are I can buy some alcohol!

I've come to consider myself the caganer of travel.

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