Well once again it is Spring and I have that all too familiar pull to explore and see what’s on the other side of the mountain. To find new places where the grass is greener, trees are taller, mountains higher, rivers wider, food more tasty, people more generous with their smiles, and cultures more interesting. In short – I have that lifelong yearly itch to lace up my old worn boots, pack my bags, and do on a little walk about.
This year’s version will take me across two continents and the island paradises just north of Australia. Packing as a minimalist this year was a little challenging considering on the one hand; I will be trekking in the Nepalese Himalaya up to 17,575 feet elevation,
the ungoverned tribal area of Northeast Pakistan’s confluence of the Himalaya, Karakorum, and Hindu Kush Mountains to trek up to Shimshal Pass 15,534 elevation,
upKenya’s imaginatively named Mount Kenya (Africa’s second highest peak at 17,057 feet) Morocco’s highest peak Mount Toubkal (13,671 feet) in the Atlas Mountains and finally across the spine of Papua New Guinea’s Mountain range crossing the island from south to north.
and all of these little jaunts will involve cold mornings and evenings at altitude and even colder nights in a sleeping bag. Trekking boots, heavy socks, Gaiters, base layer, trekking pants, technical shirts, light weight parka, heavy goose down parka, rain gear, light gloves, heavy ski gloves, baclava, hat, glacier glasses, trekking polls, and sleeping bag all have to be carried in and across all 9 months.
On the other hand I will be exploring Saudi Arabia’s desert offerings of The Edge of the World, Hidden Valley, Maghaer Shauib, Bajdah Desert, Al Nafud Desert in June and Tunisia and Morocco’s scorching hot Sahara Desert in July traversing sun baked sand dunes on foot, camel, ATV, and Dune Buggy will require much lighter weight clothing but still long sleeves, long pants, hat and scarf for protection from the sun and wind blown sand.
And if I had a third hand, on this hand, soaking up the sun in the tropical paradises of the Philippines Boracay, Coron, and Siquijor, the Seychelles, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand. And since there are no clothing optional beaches I will still have to bring along a pair of swim trunks, tee shirt, sandals and Panama Hat.
And of course on the forth hand, dressing for experiencing the Cherry Blossoms of Spring, palaces and temples in Japan and South Korea, the nightlife of Katmandu, New Delhi, Kolkata, Islamabad, Riyadh, Bangkok, Nairobi, Tunis, Casablanca Dakar, Accra, Addis Abba, Khartoum and Mania requires a pair of Merrell Walking Shoes for day time touring and a nicer dress loafer for evening activities, more appropriate shirt and pants for nice restaurants and night clubs .
So you see my dilemma. How do you dress for extreme cold, extreme heat, beach, city tours, nightlife, visiting holy places and just generally trying to stay comfortable with only one carry on? Clearly three pairs of pants, 3 shirts, swim trunks/shorts, trekking boots and sandals just wouldn’t cut it.
So this trip – between trekking/mountaineering gear, desert appropriate attire, city site seeing clothes, evening appropriate attire and of course 9 months of medicines for a broken down old diabetic with high cloistral and an enlarged prostrate I ended up with my large duffel of outdoor gear and medicines weighing in at 63 pounds, my carry on weighing in at 30 pounds, and my backpack/computer bag of electronics (laptop, two phones, two power banks, go pro, WIFI Hotspot, personal speaker, one bag of adaptors, charging cords and accessories as well as a month’s worth of medicines in case my checked bag gets lost weighing in at 20 pounds.
113 pounds of gear to drag in and out of airports, ferry ports, train stations, taxis, tuk tuks,and ric-shaws, in and out of hotels, guest houses, tea houses, Berber Tents …. Well you get the picture – a recipe for disaster daily. Fortunately I devised a system of move and drop that will allow me to leave most of my gear in central locations and come back for it as I make my next big move.
I will leave all but one bag weighing about 20 pounds in a hotel in Cebu City for the month I am touring around the Philippines. I will leave everything except my trekking essentials in hotel storage in Katmandu while I drag my old bones up to Lake Goyka and back. I will leave all but a small bag in hotel storage in New Delhi while I explore the source of the Ganges, the birthplace of the Hindu and Buddhist religions, the former British Hill Stations of northeast India and old Calcutta. I will leave all but my trekking gear in hotel storage in Islamabad while I trek to Shimshal Pass and back. Leave most of my gear in Riyadh as I travel around Saudi Arabia. And leave anything not needed for Mount Kenya in hotel storage in Nairobi and then again anything I won’t need crossing north Africa and west Africa in Nairobi to be picked up on my way back east through Asia. Hopefully this system will save a bunch of money on overweight baggage fees as well as wear and tear on my old body lugging it all around.
I’m excited to see my daughter and grandsons in Japan, old friends in the Philippines, Nepal, Pakistan, Kenya, and Tunisia and to make new friends in every place I visit. I have found that travel not only educates the traveler but broadens the mind, opens the eyes to new ways of seeing things and opens the heart and allows a person to appreciate other cultures and ways of life.
Lol, when I was young and stupid, I was convinced that America could do no wrong. That if the rest of the world would just conform to our way of life and governance the world would be a better place. But through my travels I have learned that America is far from perfect and we have done our share as a nation and people to create hardship and suffering for others around the world. I still see America as Reagan’s Shinning City on a Hill but also see for all the good we have done over the last century we have also created chaos and strife pursuing our national interests.
Overall I believe we have been a force for good but must accept our failures and over reaches. And I have come to realize that our way is not the right way for all cultures and all peoples. Christianity need not be forced upon people who have worshiped their deities and have their own moral compass based upon practices far older than the birth of Christ.
As an elderly Buddhist Lama and head of an ancient Monastery on the Tibet Plateau told me over a decade ago “a man’s religion does not matter. Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Islam, Hindu, Seik, Buddhist or Zoroastrian – only one concept matters. One word – Kindness! Kindness to your fellow man, kindness to animals, kindness to insects and even kindness to plants. Live a life of kindness and what you call yourself or what deity you believe in is irrelevant.
And I have learned democracy is not the perfect fit for every culture or every society. I have seen many failed democratic experiments in Africa and Asia where either the politicians are too corrupt or the people lack the education and information infrastructure to provide free, enlightened, and fair elections. Perhaps over time as countries develop a national education system and a large middle class functional democracies can grow but not in the interim in many of these nations kings, dictators, Generals and faux democracies will continue.
Well enough of my preaching and pontificating! As I sit comfortably in business class on
this long eleven hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo obviously I only have a couple of uninteresting photos from airports and the plane to share. So since I have been lazy and have not written blogs on my travels from July through October of last year I thought I would share some of my favorite photos from Africa last year.
Last year I saw the good, the bad and the ugly of Africa as well as the beautiful, exotic, and strange. I loved Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Cape Town, Nelspruit, Krueger National Park, Maputo, and South Sudan. Johannesburg, Lesotho, Congo, and Malawi not so much.
The highlights of Madagascar included seeing the famous Avenue of the Balboa Trees, the Tsingy National Park, trekking over the mountains to visit a remote village and being honored with an evening of drinking moonshine rum with the 80+ chief and learning about their interesting religion of worshiping their ancestors’ spirits and not a deity and culture, and way of self-sustained life.
The low lights included the shit hole capital city, tourism infrastructure, rough travel conditions.
Highlights included beautiful beaches with unspoiled pristine waters, magnificent waterfalls up in the mountains, incredible seafood, interesting nature, a bizarre but very interesting Hindu pilgrimage.
Lowlights included a mediocre tea plantation tour and tea tasting and the worst haircut in 70 years lol.
I loved everything about this city except for my lazy 350 pound tour guide that mostly wanted to eat not only everything he could think to order but also everything on my plate that I did not finish lol. And of course getting my IPhone stolen and losing all of my photos of Robbins Island (Nelson Mandela’s prison home for decades) and my first visit to Table Mountain my cable car.
Loved a very nice lunch and wine tasting at a Costantia Vineyard, returning to Table Mountain and hiking to the summit instead of taking the cable car for fat lazy tourists, whale watching in Hermanus, visiting the Cape of Good Hope and hiking to the old Cape Hope Light house, visiting Cape Agulhas where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
I enjoyed seeing my dear friend Sharita Patel again and meeting her fantastic husband Pranay and two beautiful daughters, attending a Conch Cleansing and Gong Bath with Sharita, sharing a bottle of wine and an afternoon matinee showing of Humphry Bogart’s Classic Casablanca with Sharita, a day safari with Sharita and Pranay to Krueger National Park, and an incredible day exploring Blyde River Canyon with guide Andrew.
This new country was a very pleasant surprise. I had not expected much here but had several of my very favorite experiences here visiting with several remote tribes and seeing how they live day in and day out pretty much apart from the modern world. They still live in small mud, dung and stick huts with dirt floors sleeping on the hard ground and cooking from a small fire pit using scavenged wood,
They have very little in the way of modern possessions but seem totally happy with their simple lives dealing with feast or famine as the weather dictates.
I’m looking forward to many more highlights and bracing myself for hopefully fewer lowlights. Regardless you are invited along for the ride. Stay tuned for next report from Japan/South Korea along the Cherry Blossom Express with Fen and Parker my dinosaur wanta be grandsons …