5,000 K’s on the road brought me to Darwin after 17 days on the road. As republished on The Good Men Project.
5,000 K’s on the road brought me to Darwin after 17 days on the road. As republished on The Good Men Project.
Read further for my adventures in the Australian Outback at The Good Men Project.
The Goodmen Project are re-publishing my adventures. Check out their amazing website, changing the men think, behave and having that conversation no one else is having with or about men.
This one’s about my time being almost carried away by mosquitoes while camping in Kakadu National Park. Enjoy
“Can you come down and deal with this, please?” the Jungle Gypsy called from downstairs. She sounded in a panic so I rushed, practically teleported, to her locale in the kitchen.
“What’s up?” I huffed, my breath catching up with me from behind.
She looked at me a little off-key before a screeching brought her back to the moment.
“What’s that screeching?” I asked, my eyes scanning the layout for the source. “Is that a squirrel?”
“There’s a mouse caught in the glue trap behind the washing machine,” JG directed my sight. “I’m late for work and I hate to have to leave you to deal with this on your own but it’s suffering.” She buried her head into my chest as the screeching continued, my eyes locking onto the source glued to a glue trap behind the washing machine.
Next to it, lying motionless, was a gecko that had free-fallen from the ceiling, landing right into the glue. Beside them was another trap with two geckos that appeared to have followed the same fate as their other buddy.
Glue traps are a horrible invention. Yet another cruel device to remove a being from the living and relocate it to the welcoming arms of death in an agonising and painful way. Like being sawed in half – slowly.
When I was a kid, I admit, I was guilty of violent acts against the smallest of nature’s visible-to-the-human-eye creatures. I’ve killed ants, spiders, pulled tails off skinks, flies, pulled apart millipedes and the never-ending onslaught of our own population controller, mozzies.
But that was before I realised that it was the wrong way to be and I stopped killing everything. Well, mozzies and flies have yet to reach an agreement with me and negotiations are still being held with ticks. The outcome being that it seems that peace in the Middle East might be achieved before peace between mosquitoes and humans ever will.
I hate killing anything. And what initially stopped me and put me on the co-existing track was the simple fact of, ‘What right do I have to take the life of another being?’ And, yes, mosquitoes are another being, but I feel like they can be made the exception. I mean, if you’re up against something that can and will inject you with the equivalent of a ruthless street gangbanger in the form of malaria, West Nile River and Zika parasites, it’s a do or die moment. Although , I’d like to think, they don’t do it intentionally (or perhaps aren’t even aware that they have picked up a hitch hiker and then injected it into your bloodstream), the price they pay to try and control the human population is a hefty one.
I had no idea that glue traps had been set by JG’s housemate who had already left that morning. I remember as a kid, my mother would set identical traps and dispose of the mice by drowning and throwing them into the neighbourhood council bin.
Jungle Gypsy hugged me, apologising profusely for putting me in this position.
“Don’t worry,” I gritted my teeth. “I’ll take care of it.”
Just wasn’t sure how.
I had a Vipassana course coming up. The last thing I needed to add to my anger issues and other fun topics was the murder of another being (be it for mercy – it’s still taking a life) and staining my karma.
The mouse was screeching in a panic as I lifted the trap. We had just watched the animated film, Epic (about fairies and pixies. Recommended) and in it, it shows the fairies point of view of humans and how their movements seem slow and lethargic because of size. With that in my head, I moved my hand slowly, hoping to emulate the mouse’s perception of time (although, I doubt that, at that sticky point in its life, it was thinking of time).
I had to put it out of its misery somehow. I figured I could remove it from the glue with a stick. We slowly stepped outside where I picked up a stick and proceeded to try and unstick the mouse. It screeched louder so I stopped.
And sat with it on the step.
It seemed to be calming down a bit. Watching it getting stucker with every movement, like watching someone drown in see-through quicksand, I noticed that, through its struggle, it had torn off its left cheek-fur from under the eye to the jaw. There was no blood but the skin would be raw. And the torn part was still stuck to the glue.
I can’t leave it out for another animal to eat it. It would get stuck to the glue. And if it didn’t, and managed to nibble away at the unstuck bits, it might eat a bit of the glue and die of poisoning. What if that animal had young that depended on it? I’d be responsible for wiping out an entire gene pool.
Seeing no other choice, I took a cardboard box, laid it with plastic and filled it with warm water. If I was going to drown it, at least it should go bathed in warmth. I held the trap above the water, begging forgiveness from the little guy.
“I’m so sorry,” a sadness and the sense that I was doing something wrong began to blanket me. Turning to The Universe I asked, “What else can I do?” There was no internet at home so my research resource was limited. As I began to lower the trap towards the water, The Universe appeared by my side in the form of my subconscious.
“Hold on there, Nelly,” it said. “You’re not even gonna try?”
“Name’s not Nelly,” I began as it ignored me.
“What kind of a human are you? You’re supposed to be compassionate and loving. We can’t kill this creature. What right do you have?”
“But what else am I going to do?” I argued. “Of course, I don’t want to kill this animal but it’s in misery, because of cruel human engineering. Look at it.”
It didn’t and continued to berate me with, “So because it’s a mouse it doesn’t deserve a chance?” It paused for effect. “If it were a puppy would you be so quick to conclude that a mercy killing was the only option? If it were a human baby, you would do everything in your power to save it. Everything but kill it.”
Hmm, guy makes a valid point. Why was my go-to option instantly death by murder? My only go-to option should have been (and this is now set to Default in Settings) Save rather than Delete.
“If cruel human engineering created this,” Subconscious nailed it home, “then perhaps soft human engineering can resolve it.”
“But there’s no internet,” I explained.
“You have another resource,” Subi said matter-of-factly. It waited.
As did I. A moment after it became awkward I asked, “Are you waiting for a reply or was that rhetorical?”
It sighed. “Your brain, mate. Your other resource is your brain.” It shook its head in almost disgust. “Look, lemme introduce you to a couple of very good friends. This is Logic and that’s Common Sense. They’re gonna assist you.” Subi’s shoulders slumped, a sort of all-hope-is-lost halo about it.
Well, there was no arguing the point. The water in the box was still warm and my brain came up with a few search results. I clicked on the first one (under the ads).
‘Try to mix it with soap, get it off the trap for a start.’
Mixing in dishwasher liquid, I dipped the mouse in making sure its head was kept above the water. With a stick, I managed to gently remove it from the glue.
I carefully handled the mouse hoping it wouldn’t bite me, talking to it soothingly, asking it to co-operate with me. It appeared at first that the glue was removed but, after drying the creature in a kitchen towel, it became sticky again. Its tiny claws stuck together. And its whiskers, vital for its survival, where glued together to its neck.
There was no way this rodent would survive (from the Latin: Rodere, meaning ‘to gnaw’. They are mammals of the Rodentia order. What makes a Rodentia? I hear you sing. A single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. In fact, according to research on Wikipedia, about 40% of all mammal species are rodents. They are the most diversified mammalian order and live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments), if I released it like this. And if something came along to eat it – raptor or reptile – they’d die from glue poisoning.
“Well now what?” I asked aloud.
“Think, man,” Subi egged me on. “How do you get glue off your fingers?”
“Hmm,” I hmmed. “Usually I let it dry and then peel it off. But I don’t have hairy finger tips.” I examined my fingers to double check. All the while I kept an eye on the three dogs that came with the house and realised that I could call the local vet for assistance.
“You’ll have to cut the fur off where the glue is,” she recommended over the phone.
“What about its feet?”
“I don’t know. I can’t help you there.” There was a pause. “You might just have to take it out of its misery.”
Seems to be the go-to solution around here. Again, were it a larger mammal, a puppy, a human, that solution wouldn’t never cross anyone’s mind. Sighing, I grabbed some scissors but as I held the mouse and tried to get an angle to cut the fur and not the flesh, I concluded that it would be too risky and sticky.
“This is no time for a drink,” Subi spat. “Besides, you quit.”
“Not for drinking,” I said, raiding the house bar. “To see if it’ll get the glue off. Like how acetone removes nail polish.”
The house was out of vodka but there was plenty of gin. Pouring a capful into a small bowl I then dipped a cotton bud and dabbed at the mouse’s fur.
The fur came off.
And then a thought struck me like the discovery of black gold.
If there was something we had, it was a ton of oil. Olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil. Why not oil?
Why not, indeed.
I decided to use vegetable oil purely for its affordability and poured some into another small bowl. Carefully, I bathed the mouse in the lubricant and to my astonishment, the glue came off, sliding off the fur.
I watched as its whiskers, crucial to sense changes in temperature and to help feel the surface they’re walking on (mice don’t venture far from their burrows to find food. About eight metres is their boundary line. Their complex burrows usually built close to the food source) came unstuck. It’s toes and claws followed suit. Its mouth resumed moving freely and the only physical injury it appeared to have was where it had torn its cheek-fur under the left eye.
I wiped down the mouse but the oil wasn’t coming off. I figured it’ll dry off and decided to make a little hospital box for it. I placed the lid of a large plastic bottle with water and left a banana so it could eat (mice eat 15-20 times a day), recuperate and, eventually, be released in a new location in a field somewhere within a few days.
As the days passed I checked on the mouse every morning before heading off to surf and when I came back. I didn’t want to interact with it too much for fear it would grow attached. My 10-day Vipassana course was nearing and I figured that the morning I’d leave for the course would be the morning I’d release the mouse, allowing good karma to carry me through the meditations.
But it’s fur was still in oily clumps, exposing parts of its thin skin. I figured it might be a health hazard if the mouse’s fur couldn’t protect it from pointy things or the cold. I mean, sure, their life expectancy in the wild is six months but you wanna make those six months count, no (in captivity, they can live for two years, depending what experiments they’re subjected to)?
Two eves before the proclaimed check-out date, I headed out to a friend’s art exhibition. I relayed the rescue effort and consulted with him my dilemma of ridding the oil.
“Try warm water and soap,” he suggested. “The best would be dishwasher liquid as it’s a degreaser.”
The next day I followed up on his suggestion. After the mouse dried it was back to its furry ball. It had eaten most of the banana and a carrot I had added to spice up its menu.
It was climbing fearlessly on my hand and then up my arm when I cleaned out it’s box. Just chillin’ on my shoulder. I was tempted to keep it but what if it had family? What if it was a mother or part of a bigger colony that was now worried sick?
What if, in fact, it was a baby rat that was still growing?
The morning before I headed out to Vipassana I came up to check on the little fella and to let it know it was being discharged from the temporary hospital. But the box was empty.
“Never even got to say ‘goodbye’,” I complained sadly to Subi.
“Dude, you just rescued and recuperated a mouse after your go-to solution was to kill it,” it consoled me. “I’m sure it knew it was time. It probably just didn’t want to be relocated. Wants to stick around in the hood, make sure you’re doing alright.”
“I’ll take that,” I grinned. “Hope you made it out there, little buddy,” I called out.
I mean a raptor or reptile could have taken it the minute it high-tailed it (or long-tailed it. Mice tails grow as long as their bodies) out of the hospital box. But even if they did, I was at peace knowing that they wouldn’t be poisoned by any glue.
Such is the circle of life.
It used to be that we would co-live with our fellow natural species. If they got into the food, we’d just have to make better containers. The easy way out is to trap and kill but what right do we have? Even if it is ‘just a mouse’ it’s still a living being. We’ve become so disconnected with nature that we’ve created weapons of mass destruction against them and scaring ourselves from things like cockroaches and mice.
Such is inhumane nature.
It seems the only solution we have is to kill – and with cruel devices like a glue trap – rather than use patience and compassion to find a way to co-exist. I learned a valuable lesson through that mouse: Don’t ever give up on something no matter how small or big or impossible it may seem.
If you just take a moment to think a bit, use Logic and Common Sense (which, when put together, make for a better combination than a burger with fries and a beer) things tend to work out and another life gets to live.
Such is human nature.
What you’re about to read isn’t anything new or ground-breaking. Videos have been made, songs have been sung and articles (like this one) published about consumption. And with the festive season upon us, what better time to share with you my observation of the most dangerous population-controlling drug our species has ever developed?
Please, keep in mind, I’m not stating fact-checked things. I’m merely giving you my point of view, my perspective. My conclusions are from those very actions. Things that, to me, make logical sense.
And I’m as every bit guilty of partaking in this killing spree as much as you guys out there. But it’s time that together we really stop and think about what it is that we really need?
Webster’s online dictionary defines consumerism as, The theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable.
Or How slavery was re-branded as employment.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s when things simply lasted. There was no timeframe of ‘longer’. They just kept working. Up until the year 2000, my family had a working TV since 1986 (sold in working condition). My uncle got rid of his still working 40-year-old set well into the noughties.
In 2009 I bought my very first car – it was a ’96. Had it for three years. Ran like a finely-tuned locomotive on nuclear energy. It was instrumental in the 5,400 kilometer Outback crossing through Australia’s Red Centre without a hitch (really, I had no space in the car).
These days, nothing lasts for more than two years, forcing you to consume more, thus creating and throwing out more plastic that ends up in our waterways and eventually the oceans, killing whatever endangered organism mistakes it for food.
The tragic comedy of it is that we have allowed ourselves to drown in this fast-rising poisonous sea by constantly accepting that we NEED THINGS. Like accepting that the processed foods we eat (that we all know is as healthy as licking a uranium lollypop) is the food to eat. That same food is wrapped in plastic to protect the plastic that’s wrapped the practically plastic food.
And it’s all because we’ve been buying into the NEED IT and WANT IT without ever questioning the WHY? FOR WHAT? It’s a vicious cycle that marketing companies force-feed us.
And now with Christmas coming up, the mother of all consumer holidays, the amount of unnecessary things we receive and give just to throw out after a day – and almost all are made with or of plastic – is almost equal to the amount of stars in our galaxy.
We live in a world where days in the calendar year have been set aside for consumption and for celebrating consumption most notably Boxing Day and Black Friday. People camp out for days just to be the first to grab the next best thing that they don’t need. Sometimes a stampede ensues and people get hurt. It’s like with war – another means of consumption.
When you consume too much you get bloated, heavy and gassy. You feel as though a root canal would be better than the heartburn and indigestion your now trying to steamroll through.
It’s a common feeling to have during the holidays. Well, this is exactly how our home, Earth, feels. Our planet is sick. Its human-caused cancer is fast-spreading and far-reaching. Even more so due to our learned belief that tomorrow we need everything to be better, faster and stronger than it was yesterday (god-forbid we momentarily detach ourselves from the tiny screen we’ve allowed to control our existence).
We’ve become the deep-sea trawling net, which in seconds entraps and destroys everything that is in our way, leaving behind nothing but a barren sea floor, stripped of the beautiful and ecologically balancing life that took millions of years to evolve.
The NEED and the WANT are the drug we’ve been peddled and continue to accept in high doses. And if we don’t take drastic action like boycotting companies who use plastic, boycotting markets that sell GM foods, and boycotting huge corporate companies like Nestle® and Coca Cola® who environmentally exploit everything that is sacred on this very planet, then we’re all fucked.
I mean, come on, what is more ridiculous than bottled water?
Instead, we systematically destroy everything that we actually NEED and WANT for survival – trees, eco-designed habitats, organic foods and clean waterways – in order to consume things we really can do without.
This Christmas, while you sit around feasting and gorging and ripping open gift wrappings and throwing away all the plastic-made packaging, pause for a moment. Give thought to the fact that it will end up in the ocean.
While you cuddle by the fire and decorate a plastic (or live) tree with more plastic, hold space for the people of Syria and what they’re going through.
Imagine if that was you and your family.
Give a thought for the people of Dafur, of South Sudan, Chad, CAR, Mali, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestinians, Chagos, Indigenous peoples everywhere. Give a thought to all those classed as a minority, who are in a dark place yet find a way to smile with nothing more than the shirt on their back.
Imagine if this year’s Christmas trend was boycotting. Imagine if Christmas was about giving without consuming. Instead, we donate what we TRULY don’t need to those that TRULY need it (clothes, toys, you know the jazz). Imagine if we all gathered together and went out and cleaned up our neighbourhood (which would make a tighter, coming-together community we all aspire to live in), cleaned up what’s left of the forest being destroyed to allow us to live in comfort, cleaned up the ocean where we surf and swim and feed from.
Fuck, just imagine!
Instead of populating the Earth with more people, have one kid and adopt another one or three. There are so many orphaned children out there who could really use a family – a good family, to spend the festive season and their young lives with.
Better than working in sweat shops stitching the designer clothes that magazine told you you must have – at all costs – cause your personality isn’t enough to get by with, you have to hide behind brand names that mean nothing.
We all know that Christmas has long lost its message of Family and Togetherness and Being One. We all know it’s about consumption. Like the cookie left out for Santa, we know it’s unhealthy but gosh darn it, one more bite won’t hurt anybody, will it?
But what really makes my reindeer pout is the fact that we allow ourselves to believe that we deserve just one day of the year to drop our defences and open up our hearts to our fellow humans and other species. We’ve dressed it up to appear so special and unique when, really, being compassionate and kind-hearted and helpful is, essentially, just being human.
But it’s all-out war the other 364 days when we’re battling each other for that monetary bonus. For that promotion. A closer parking space. For the, Call-now-for-that-once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-be-seen-or-heard-of-again chance to have that 5% discount and finally own that overpriced, always-breaks-the-day-after-warranty-is-void piece of child-enslaved-produced-planet-destroying-plastic-crap that’s gonna make a dusty dust-collector right up there next to the other things collecting dust.
And for what?
Stop and ask yourself, for what?
What would happen if you ‘indulged’ in this ‘Christmas Spirit’ every day of the year for every year that you’re alive? What would happen if you rose in love instead of falling in to it? If you were a hopeful romantic instead of a hopeless one?
We’ve succumbed to accept that our lives MUST be in competition with each other. From Earth Day One of birth we compete: through academia, sports, work, religion. Even family rivalry.
Imagine if, instead of competing, we all worked together so that we all get to rise up. We all get to be hopeful. We all get to evolve ourselves – our TRUE selves and share the natural wealth to which we’re all entitled. To see the world for what it really is: Beautiful in spirit, beautiful in nature and beautiful in its species.
That’s where the true riches lie.
It’s ironic that the very virus killing Earth – Human Beings – is the very anti-biotic that can save it. By either reducing it or teaching it a different, more co-operative way to survive. It’s a Catch 22 until we can reprogram ourselves to just Being Human. Restore to factory settings, if you will.
Together, we the people have absolute power and that terrifies those in control cause they know it. They know that, individually, we can’t do much because we’re constantly consuming. But together? Look what happened at Standing Rock.
When we do get together to fight against something evil, it’s posted in whatever social medium as such a surprise that people actually came together to fight against a common enemy. Standing Rock stands because of that. Because of our willingness to come together. Because nothing should be regarded as more sacred than this planet, our home, Earth. Because all that was done to fight was give compassion, love and forgiveness
That’s the ‘Christmas Spirit’.
That’s what Being Human is all about.
Although this one happened a few months ago, it took me some time to come to terms with it. Here’s a short account of my climb up Nelion Peak on Mt Kenya with the awesome folks at African Ascents as published in Africa Geographic:
The third year of hitchin’ through Africa was turmoilous in a good way. I rose in love with an amazing soulmate. I kinda conquered my anablephobia (an extreme unwarranted fear and physical aversion to looking up) and found out a few more things about myself.
I spent a long time in Kenya and a really short time in Sudan where I almost broke down due to the heat and other personal variables.
I patched up Ol’ Red, jammed from beaches to treehouses to boats. I hung out with artists across all mediums. I’ve visited more hospitals and taken more anti-biotics and pharmaceuticals this past year than I have my entire life. I quit drinking but discovered ecstasy. I got addicted to rolex in Uganda, coffee in Ethiopia, tea in Sudan and falafel in Egypt.
I got a free ride on a train from Khartoum to Shendi in Sudan. I was arrested (Zanzibar) with handcuffs and risked arrest with the Gypsy Queen and had to protect some wannabe hustlers from her ferocity when they tried to pull one over us.
I publicly played a song I wrote for the first time, the soon-to-be Grammy nominated song of the year, The Ballad of Jim-Bob and the Bear. Speaking of Grammy’s, I jammed with a Grammy-nominated artist, singers, poets, rappers, the most talented musicians I’ve ever come across.
I gained an awesome camera with some helpful tips by the talents of the Gypsy Queen and created art in two countries I never thought I’d ever be capable of with said Gypsy Queen (who’ll have a special guest post published here in the coming days. Stay tuned).
And finally (yet sadly), after two amazing years, I’ve left Africa – for now.
And I’ve realised that, after three years of full-time travelling, even though people say I’m living the dream, I’m fuckin’ exhausted. It’s not easy to be continuously on the move carrying 30 kilos of everything you have in extreme heat, rain or cold.
This next year I’m gonna focus on surfing (two years since I was last on a wave), writing a few books, editing some videos (no, not porn), develop some ideas I’ve had, perhaps write an album (whether I record is a different story) and learn a completely new repertoire of songs to cover (suggestions are welcome).
So this list is the absolute TOTAL of three years of travelling from Oz to the Middle East without a flight (except for that one cause of the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi) – from May 13th, 2013, to May 13th, 2016.
Without the good-hearted folks that I’ve encountered on the way, none of this would’ve been possible. So thanks people.
See y’all in a year (or thereabouts. It’s just an outline).
Total distance covered: 47,000 km (29,205 miles) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – Eilat, Arava, Israel
Total number of countries: 21
Total number of islands: 27
Total number of hitches on cars: 155
Total number of hitches on public transport: 28
Total number of hitches on trucks: 45
Total number of hitches on motorbikes: 1
Total number of hitches on trains: 1
Total number of hitches with police: 3 – Malawi, Uganda, Sudan
Total number of hitches with military: 1 – Uganda
Total number of hitches: 233
Total number of flights: 1 – Nairobi, Kenya – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (only way The Universe was letting me get a visa)
Total number of boats: 17
Total number of boat rides: 45
Total number of travel partners: 4
Wettest country: Uganda
Driest country: Sudan
Hottest country: Sudan
Most Mountainous country: Ethiopia
Flattest country: Sudan
Hottest temperature experienced: 45° C, Omdurman, Sudan
Coldest temperature experienced: 1°, possible 0° C, Mt Kenya, Kenya
Highest Altitude reached: 5,188 meters above sea level, Nelion Peak, Mt Kenya
Lowest Altitude reached: 116 meters below sea level, Danakil Depression, Afar, Ethiopia
Total number of hospital visits: 8 (2 motorbike accidents, 2 spider bites and multiple ear infections)
Total number of spider bites: 2 – Recluse (aka, violin spider), Kilifi, Kenya
Total number of wasp stings: 2 – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda
Biggest spider encountered: Rain spiders, in the shower, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda
Most dangerous snake encounter: Boomslanger, WAG, Thuma Forest Reserve, Malawi
Total number of tropical diseases collected: 1 – H. Pylori (stomach bacteria). Still housing it from Madagascar
Total number of bats in the shower: 10 – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda
Total number of festivals attended: 5
Total number of conservation\NGO projects volunteered: 8
Total number of volunteer jobs for food and bed: 24
Total number of art installations with Osotua Creative Collective: 5
Total number of videos on Youtube: 14
Total number of kayaking white water: 1 – Savage Wilderness, Tana River, Kenya
Total number of SCUBA dives: 1, Red Sea, Dahab, Sinai, Egypt with Sinai Gate – 21 meters
Deepest free-dive: 15 meters
Total number of bungee jumps: 1 – Victoria Falls Bridge, Zambia (Shearwater Adventures)
Total number of ziplining: 1 – Victoria Falls Bridge, Zambia (Shearwater Adventures)
Total number of gorge swings: 1 – Victoria Falls Bridge, Zambia (Shearwater Adventures)
Total number of places surfed: 8
Total number of mountains conquered: 12
Total number of active volcanoes: 1 – Mt Erta Ale, Ethiopia (with ETT)
Total number of national parks: 54
Longest period in one country: 7 months, Kenya
Shortest period in one country: 10 days, Sri Lanka
Longest wait for a ride: 2 months, Darwin-Indonesia
Shortest wait for a ride: 3 seconds, Mulanji, Malawi
Longest hitch: 4 days with Harley and Em from Jinja, Uganda to Karen, Kenya
Longest distance hiked before getting a hitch: 10 K’s on the road to Lake Tanganika, Zambia
Most remote place to get a ride: Aberdares National Park, Kenya
Total number of Mohammeds met: 30
Total number of continents: 3
Total number of oceans crossed: 1 – Indian
Total number of seas crossed: 1 – Timor
Total number of canals crossed: 1 – Suez Canal, Egypt
Total number of deserts crossed: 5
Total number of gigs: 97
Total number of tattoos acquired: 1
Total number of articles published: 257
Total number of photos published: 6,165
Most camels in a single caravan: 49
Total number of attempted pickpocketers: 2 – Cape Town, South Africa and Mwanza, Tanzania
Best Coffee: Hailu’s mum’s, Ayat, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Best Tea: Mzee Baraka’s spiced chai, Kilifi, Kenya
Total weight of packs: 33 KG
Total number of packs stolen: 1 – Zambia Oktoberfest
Total number of nicknames collected: 18 –
Total number of hotels bartered with: 39
Total number of couchsurfers from couchsurfers.com: 31
Total number of near-death experiences: 12
Most amazing experience (cheese alert): Rising in love
Worst experience: Ear infection, Mbale, Uganda. Doctor did not go easy on me.
And, too end on a high,
Total number of acid trips: 4
Total number of ecstasy trips: 10 – 8 in Kenya, two in Uganda
Total number of bad trips: 1 – Kenya
Best Weed: Malawi Gold, Malawi
Strongest Weed: Shisha Mani, Ethiopia
Mellowest Weed: Bungo, Sudan
“Today is Shaman Neshim,” Hadeel, my local guide in Cairo, explained why there were so many people on the street after we walked out of the Filfila (chilly) restaurant.
“What’s that?” I asked, zigging left and pirouetting right before gracefully swan-diving over a crowd.
“It’s the national holiday of the beginning of spring,” she explained.
The holiday is celebrated nationwide. It’s basically one big street party spread over many streets. And in a city like Cairo, there are plenty to choose from.
The meaning of Shaman Neshim is ‘harvest season’, known as Shemu, meaning, ‘A day of creation’. The Ancient Egyptians used to offer salted fish (fesih), lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day.
To start our evening escapades, we hit the revolution-made-famous Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where back in 2011 protestors demanded (and got) the ousting of then president, Husseni Mubarak who had ruled the country (which has been under military rule since Gamal Nasser’s revolution in 1952) for almost 30 years.
“The downtown area of Cairo is considered bohemian, where activists, artists and intellectuals would meet at coffee shops like Denda Sou Cafia,” Hadeel guided us through the busy streets. “And it’s walking distance to the Al Hussein mosque.”
The mosque, built in 1154, is considered one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt as it holds the oldest complete manuscript of the Quran. Today’s structure stands on a 19th century reconstruction with some Gothic implements.
Pushing our way through the throng of people, vendors and stall holders, each trying to entice us with invitations of, “Come into my shop,”or the ever popular, “Looking is free.”
Although the noise was at level, ‘This is a bit much’, I was glad to have come out on one of the busiest nights of the year (when there isn’t a revolution happening) and felt how every movement flooded my paining body, walking at a turtle’s pace.
The world blurred around me. Kids stopping me for photos, motorbikes and cars beeping and horning people out of the way, whistles being blown from the very strong police presence.
“Bit noisy,” I managed to yell to Hadeel above the throng. She grinned and nodded.
We came upon the crowded Sharm Weiss square before we found a table in the famous El Fishaway restaurant, a hub-bub of the who’s who of Egypt’s literary giants, poets, musicians and actors.
Well, until the government came and jailed the lot of them.
We had lemon-mint juice which came with our sugar and some mint tea while being constantly approached by hawkers selling packets of tissue, henna art done on your hand engulfed in the shisha (waterpipe) smoke while traditional musicians looked for opportune guests to play for.
As I watched the loudness of the crowdness, I couldn’t help but grin. Not sure why. Probably the delusionary affects of running a fever. Finishing our drinks I was then shipped home via taxi to sweat out whatever was in me.
I was hoping to catch the pyramids the next day and I needed to be mentally prepared as my research had brought up a lot of ‘Beware!’ stories regarding scams targeted at foreigners.
A few months back, I headed up 4,985 meters on Mt Kenya’s Point Lenana, third highest peak in Africa. It was one of the toughest, physical and mental moments I have ever been through.
Thanks to Julian and Tom of African Ascents and to Stocky, Face and Turkish for the great company and Jacob the machine and Joffery the camp cook.
Click here to read about the experience.
A few months back, in preparation for my ascent of Africa’s second highest peak, Mt Kenya, I joined African Ascents for a fly-fishing expedition. Here’s a snippet as published on that wonderful platform, Africa Geographic magazine: