Array ( [total] => 91 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5665] => Array ( [iID] => 5665 [tTitle] => This is the longest bus ride in the world [tSlug] => this-is-the-longest-bus-ride-in-the-world [iTime] => 1500674400 [iUpdate] => 1501940874 [tDescription] => The longest regularly scheduled bus ride in he world runs between Lima and Rio de Janeiro, covering more than 6000km by road. This is like getting on a bus in Amsterdam and getting off in... China. Or driving from San Francisco to Miami via New York. Or from San Francisco to Panama City. Or from Johannesburg to Khartoum. Ormeño runs the service once a week, in each direction, and requests a staggering 280USD. The price not detrimental to its popularity, the bus was already nearly fully booked, five days before departure. The fact that budget airlines still have a long way to go on the South American continent has a lot deal to do with that. Prelude After an excellent two weeks in Peru with Natalia, my original plan was to fly to Panama, cross the Darien Gap, visit Venezuela and Guyana, and then make it back to Brazil. The Darien Gap is where Colombia and Panama meet. Once one country, the US managed to split it apart in order to be able to take firmer control of the Panama Canal. This, notwithstanding the fact that what now is the border area between the two countries is a difficult no-man’s land to cross. On the Panama side, it’s mountainous, on the Colombian side, it’s thick tropical forest with lots of swamps. And, for the last few decades, the FARC had their hideout in this part of Colombia. The FARC has moved on, but now, as an eco system, even the UN strongly advises against closing gap between the two sections of the PanAmerican highway, which, almost, connects Alaska with Ushuaia, the southern tip of the South American continent. I wanted to cross the Darien Gap by land. Or rather, I wanted to hop from port to port, by speed boat, from the northern Panama coast, to Turbo, a seedy little town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Most travellers go south to north and most then takes a plane after arriving just across the border, in Puerto Obaldia. My plan was to not take a plane at all and, probably, start in the port of Carti, making my way down. But, talking with a representative of the port at Carti, I was told that no one really travels a meaningfully distance, south from Carti. Wikivoyage possibly covers it best:
At the time of writing, a guy called Dagoberto was arranging trips to Mulatupo o Sasardi or El Porvenir or Miramar (where there are airports) for negotiable prices. Typically he asks for $50 to Miramar. He is a thirtysomething black guy who rides his mountain bike around town, and will seek you out shortly after you arrive in Puerto Obaldia. He was not around in April 2010.
It seems going north to south is quite a bit more cumbersome, the journey only getting easier from Puerto Obaldia onwards. Then, as I originally had wanted to visit Venezuela and Guyana, I would have needed a decent amount of time for these two countries. Annoyingly, the border between these two is closed, due to a territorial conflict, meaning to travel between the two countries requires making a hop through the north of Brazil. And then I would still have to get back home. Brazil is big, and distances are yuge. While, within Brazil, budget airlines do exist to a certain extent, getting affordable fares is often a pain, particularly in the short term. Now, while my workload was starting to get a bit stacked for the period up to early September, roughly the period I had planned to be away, I decided to cut my trip short and was looking at ways to still cross the Darien Gap but to skip Venezuela and Guyana, for now. Colombia, Peru and Brazil meet at a point on a tributary of the Amazon river. From here, it’s possible to slowly move downstream towards Belém, or, to fly wherever suits you. Air travel within Colombia is cheap, so I was considering flying to Leticia, on the Colombian side of where the three countries meet, and then flying from Tabatinga, on the Brazilian side, to Sao Paulo or Rio. Azul covers this route and, when booked in advance enough, Tabatinga to Rio can be had for as little as 120 USD. Now, picking just the right date, I would be stuck with 300 USD or as much as more than double that. While I also still quite possibly would have no choice but to fly from Panama to Puerto Obaldia, as opposed to taking speedboats down the coast, for lack of these being available. I decided I needed to look for an alternative. Budget airlines don’t really cover cross-country connections well, in South America, though Sky Airline, based in Santiago, is an exception. For a while, they were connecting Sao Paulo with the Chilean capital for as little as 100 USD, though Sky cancelled that line two years ago. Now, still, Lima to Santiago can be had for under 120 USD, Santiago to Montevideo for as little as 50 USD. But, Sky no longer connects to a city conveniently located for Sao Paulo or Rio. Alternatives, on this short notice, between Lima and Brazil, fares were quoted at between 500 and 1000 USD, all more than the round trip Natalia had gotten from Sao Paulo to Lima. I decided to take...
The longest bus ride in the world
Ormeño has been running the Lima to Sao Paulo connection for a while and, over time, being able to get away with it, has slowly increased the price to an unreasonable level. Recently, apparently after realising the resounding success they have on their hands, they made the longest ride even longer, now continuing from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, an extra six hours of travel. Surprisingly, the longest bus ride in the world only includes one border crossing, between Puerto Maldonado in Peru and Rio Branco in Brazil. I made this crossing a few years ago, but then flew home from Rio Branco, saving myself many hours of near-agony. But, in case some say that you haven’t really lived if you haven’t experienced the longest bus ride in the world, I figured the right thing to do, now, was to go all the way and be done with it. A few more years ago, I completed an eight day bus journey between Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and Kampala, the capital of Uganda. But, here, each day I was on another bus, while each night I slept in a real bed, though some of the hostels and guest houses along the road where, ehm, less attractive than others. Now, on the scheduled 100 hours+ ride of over 6000km, the only breaks I was going to get were the food stops, as the rather steep fee doesn’t even include on-board snacks. This, while another long ride I took a few years ago, between Santiago, in Chile, and Sao Paulo, saw me being offered both champagne, or rather, bubbly wine, and whiskey. Until I was almost turned back at the Brazilian border by zealous pen-pushers. The longest bus ride in the world crosses the Andes, visits Nasca, Cusco, the Amazon and the Pantanal, crosses the South American continent from west to east, from Pacific to Atlantic on a highway aptly called the Interoceanica, starts in the home of ceviche and the land of the best food on the continent, and ends in the home of Samba, Rio de Janeiro, and the western hemisphere’s home of, ugh, rice and beans. On my way D1, 12:57 I have left my hotel in Lima. Earlier, I bought a bunch of provisions, but not enough to sustain me for five days. The Peruvian stops along the way will most likely primarily sell reasonable enough chifa, Peruvian Chinese, dishes. On the Brazilian side, on the other hand, we are more likely only to stop at large roadside restaurants. Though they tend to serve a wide array of Brazilian food, typically in addition to burgers, chicken and chips, they are also consistently overpriced and consistently below average quality. I will have to suck it up; street vendors never show up at these places. D1, 13:07 I've arrived at the nearest rapid bus stop from where I'll get to my bus terminal. A few years ago, Lima introduced a rapid bus transport system which improved the public transport situation a lot. More recently, they also started on a metro network that eventually will connect most of the city, including the international airport. When Natalia left, earlier in the week, we wanted to take the fast bus towards, but not to, the airport. Her luggage was one stroller, which, it turned out, was not allowed on the bus, one of the minders even pointing us to the appropriate sign. Strangely, in the few days that followed, I no longer was able to find the same sign at any of the bus stations. My luggage is a backpack, but not smaller than Natalia's stroller. Yet, I had no problem boarding the fast bus. D1, 13:26 I've arrived at my bus terminal. All Peruvian long distance busses are privately owned and, though in some cities in Peru, all busses arrive at a joint terminal, in Lima, all companies have their own terminal, most close to the center. I had arrived just over two hours early. To discover that my bus was already going to leave 4.5 hours late. This made me wonder whether it was actually arriving from somewhere else, which would mean this might actually not be the longest bus ride in the world. What have I done?! D1, 14:01 I've walked into a Starbucks. Peru's Europeanized elite don't live in the city center. They unanimously believe it's a dangerous place. The elite, expats and tourists, all stay along Lima's coast, in suburbs with gorgeous views over the Pacific, with fancy and expensive cafes and restaurants on every corner, clean streets, malls, business centers and Starbucks. There ate at least 30 Starbucks franchises in Lima alone. The Ormeño bus terminal is halfway between the city and the coast, roughly on the dividing line between the two, and within striking distance of several fancy malls. The sockets in the Starbucks are for flat pinned plugs, while virtually all sockets in Peru accommodate both flat and round pin plugs. I use up valuable battery power. D1, 16:49 Back at the bus terminal, I confirm the expected departure time hasn't slipped further. The few functioning sockets that work have all been taken by fellow travelers waiting to leave. I notice a partially hidden sign claiming the travel time to Sao Paulo is four days and twelve hours, which would make it four days and 18 hours to Rio. Yet, staff earlier gave me an expected travel time of five days and six hours. D1, 17:35 I walk into a nearby chifa restaurant and have my favourite chifa dish, pollo saltado. Peruvian cuisine is easily the best on the continent, with ceviche being the king of Peruvian cuisine. A raw fish dish with the fish having marinated in a lemon sauce for a while. Yet, ceviche is not unique to Peru, all countries on the Pacific seaboard from Mexico to Chile serve their own version. But, not all serve it's derivative, leche de tigre, tiger's milk, the sour juice the ceviche is served in. As I walked around the area close to the bus terminal, I stumbled upon a pyramid. Lima has several pre-Inca pyramids within the city limits, open as museums, but this one wasn't on my maps. Earlier, Natalia and I had tried visiting another one, in another part of town, but were barred from entering, as workers were busy fixing electrical issues, leaving the site in the dark. Confused by the loitering secret service, we discovered PPK, the president, lived just behind the pyramid, across the small street from where the electricity point was being fixed. D1, 19:03 Back at the bus terminal, the expected departure time hasn't changed. A darkened bus revving up. Could it be? The terminal is significantly busier, staff are communally and, one in particular, noisily, snacking on salchipappas, chopped up sausages with chips covered in sauce. I arrange my things such that I have my backpack, hand luggage, which includes some clothes, including a sweater, and a plastic bag with foods. D1, 19:23 The bus for Mendoza and Buenos Aires is announced. Strangely, though this connection goes through Santiago, in Chile, that nation's capital is not mentioned as a destination. Buenos Aires is a cool 4500km away. The queue fills up and appears like it will fill the bus. D1, 19:37 I check-in my bag. One type of passenger I was expecting were those doing the journey with too much luggage for a plane. Traders, basically. Except, it turns out, all luggage over 20k is charged extra. For Brazil, it's 2usd per kilo. I suppose Ormeño wants to profit a bit extra from any trader on the route. Related, their international destinations are quoted in dollars while, if you want to pay in local currency, they give quite a bad rate. Accepting my bag, I notice the clerk jotting down my name on an, as yet, empty list. Am I the only one getting on my bus? Or perhaps the only one going to Rio? D1, 19:52 While waiting in the terminal, what seems to be a driver for the bus to Argentina, drags in one of the money changers hanging out on the street in front of the terminal, spending several minutes haggling over a good rate for the 500 dollars he wants to change to local currency. D1, 20:01 Another bus rolls onto the premises. The baggage clerk starts loading luggage, including mine. Soon. I notice two German girls that are colourfully dressed; socks, sandals, Thai fisherman pants, sweater. They're heading to Ecuador. D1, 20:32 My bus is called. I get on the bus and it's empty. No passengers from elsewhere. That means that, indeed, this is...
The longest regularly scheduled bus ride in the world
The bus has two levels. The lower level has three seats per row, with the upper level having four. I wasn't offered the chance to pick a seat below, implying all were already taken. Upstairs, I find the seats are a bit narrow, but they recline a long way. Sadly, both reading lights on my side of the isle are broken. There are no power sockets. The bus slowly fills up. D1, 20:55 The bus is less than half full, and we're leaving. For now, I have both seats on my side of the isle to myself. And three crying children behind me. There are three non-Peruvians on board: myself, a Brazilian guy, an American woman. D1, 21:04 The first film starts to play. But, for the first ten minutes, only on the screen at the front of the bus, not on the screens further back, while I'm near the end of the bus. We slowly roll through Lima. D1, 21:35 We pass the ruins of Pachacamac, on the outskirts of town. D1: 23:55 We ride into Pisco. The bus is so warm, I needed to take off my sweater, and it's still too hot. D2, 0:15 I go in for a nap nap. D2, 3:05 We pass the road-side Nazca viewpoint. D2, 3:35 We have left the coast road, going inland. D2, 7:14 We have been going up the windy roads into the Andes, making slow progress. A few passengers get off in the town of Puquio. D2, 9:24 A film starts. All screens now work, but there still is no audio. The heating has been lowered, I can no longer only where at t-shirt. Alpacas, vicuñas and lamas have started to appear on the roadside, grazing. D2, 11:06 We break for the first time, in Cuycuhua, for an hour. Just after walking into the restaurant, a big fire erupted in the kitchen. Noticing the multiple gas canisters, realising the chance of a ground-rocking explosion, I ran out, quickly followed by everyone else not willing to risk their lives. The fire was extinguished shortly after, with water and foam, but then, only chicken soup was available. Mine came with a boiled egg in the soup. Unpeeled. In the kitchen, one man had skin burns, which, from a distance, appeared horrible, wrapped in plastic foil for protection. One of the bystanders asked 'did they use chicken or tomato?' 'Tomato', someone responded. Then i saw what looked like the horrible skin burns were actually slices of tomato under the plastic wrap. I asked him if he was alright, and he was elated to tell us how he had killed the fire. D2, 12:07 We are again on our way. D2, 12:16 A film starts. Only the first screen works. No audio. D2, 14:57 We take on several passengers in the town of Abancay. D2, 15:31 Another film starts. The road out of Abancay is steep and narrow and clogged up by lots of trucks carrying oil and gas. D2, 16:47 I finish a book. Meanwhile, the scenery between Abancay and Cusco, deep canyons, is stunning. D2, 17:12 I spot snow peaked mountains for the first time D2, 18:11 Another film starts. The sun has set, the bus is moving at a slow pace, no longer being able to easily overtake the many cargo hauls traveling into the Andes. D2, 19:28 I finish another book. Night has fallen. As much as the heating was set too high the night before, it's not working at all now, meaning that, as high as we are in the Andes, it quickly is starting to get unpleasantly cold. D2, 20:02 The girl behind me, who got on in Abancay, has been on the phone much of the time, but only now for the first time was speaking in a language that's not Spanish. It sounds vaguely familiar, which would be odd, until I realised I think I hear a faint resemblance to the gutteral sounds of Mongolian. A native language or a speech impediment? D2, 20:51 We pull in to the bus station of Cusco. The last two hours, movement had been excruciatingly slow. We get half an hour at the bus station, which is uncommon, perhaps due to the company still wanting to gain time after their late departure from Lima. Outside the terminal, I wolf down two sandwiches and take two more with me, now knowing that the three stops per day that I was promised are possibly a fairy tale. Getting back on the bus, the seat next to me has been taken. Many passengers left, but more got in, including one more foreigner, a French guy, and a few more Brazilians. The bus is now completely booked. Cramped quarters. D2, 23:15 Finished another book. Nap time. D3, 1:51 I woke up, the heating back on, while the windows radiate an intense cold. D3, 8:54 We stop in Puerto Maldonado, but not at a terminal, just at a gas station. Some people get off. The bus takes it's time and many think were breaking. They start to get off, but are told to get back on. The bus continues. The landscape has completely changed, having arrived in the Amazonian basin. D3, 8:58 A mere 100 meters down, we stop again, at another gas station. Reluctantly, some start to get off, until almost everyone has left the bus. There is no food, but there is one toilet and one tap. I asked the driver how long we;re staying here. 'It's just for a toilet break'. I ask him when were going to stop for food. 'At the border', which is still about four hours away. I remembered the extra sandwiches I bought last night. D3, 9:36 Another film starts playing. Shortly after, one of the drivers hands out emigration forms, for Peruvians only. D3, 11:54 The last film restarts. There is virtually no traffic between Puerto Maldonado and the border. The scenery is strongly reminiscent of many parts of rural sub Saharan Africa. D3, 12:59 We arrive at Peruvian customs. Everyone had to take out their luggage and each piece is individually inspected. Pro tip: this is where you can swap dirty and clean clothes, shoes for sandles. D3, 13:33 Luggage checked, I've moved to the queue for Peruvian passport control. D3, 14:37 I grab a Burger, banana chips and beer; who knows when will be the next time we eat, though, after I ask, I'm told it's in Rio Branco, perhaps six hours driving away. D3, 15:06 We cross the Acre river. We're on Brazilian soil. D3: 16:13 The same customs rigamarole on the Brazilian side; luggage is unloaded and we queue up again. Inspection appears thorough, on both sides, but, on both sides, I left my plastic bag with foods on the bus, which didn't disturb anyone, even though I got apples and bananas on me, technically, supposedly, not allowed to cross the border. On the Brazilian side, quite chatty and quite friendly inspectors did prevent some foods from entering the country. Perhaps it's all about the immigration equivalent of self identification. D3, 15:42 I shifted to the immigration queue. While in line, keeping an eye on the Peruvians entering Brazil, I notice that many of the Peruvians are entering Brazil for the first time, "visiting friends". All seem under 25. Possible, but a tad more likely that they will end up working.  Another bus arrived from the Brazilian side, also Ormeño, immigration officials telling the driver to queue up his passengers but to wait until our bus is fully processed. One of the men checking luggage was wearing glasses with only one leg, the spectacles sitting akimbo on top of his nose. Every so often, he tried adjusting them, with little success. How did it get this far? Did the glasses only just break? Can't he get a replacement? Can't he afford one? D3, 15:57 I'm cleared and have officially entered Brazil. To rally the troops, all I need is connectivity on a dying phone battery. Oddly, plenty of restaurants, shops and money changers on the Peruvian side, none of that on the Brazilian side, even though a little nearby settlement straddles the border area, shared with Bolivia. D3, 17:10 We depart. D3, 17:14 Another film starts. D3, 20:45 Another film starts. D3, 22:29 We stopped at a gas station in a small town, which might be Senador Guiomard. It's Saturday night, it's a small town, and it's a gas station that is open; it's the center of local nightlife. All outdoor tables are fully occupied, many empty beers on the ground. Several large cars, with their doors open, are blaring Brazilian 'modern classics' from their speakers, entertaining the crowd. With the passengers, there's a kind of elated sense of pleasure, Everyone happy they've made it into Brazil. One of the Peruvians first-timers asks one of the Brazilians on the bus whether the prices on the water-damaged hamburger menu are in dollars or real. And that's all there is, many different types of burgers, and beer. Served by, perhaps, the most successful business in town, the host couple, and their parents; he's wearing slick clothes and has his hair styled with care, she is dressed as if ready for heading out to the club, though she is the one flipping the burgers. Outside, one of the biggest beetles I've ever seen was, on it's back, waving his legs at everyone, and sniffed at by one of the resident dogs. D4, 0:14 Nap time D4, 0:32 We pull into the terminal at Rio Branco. The Brazilians that got on in Cusco get off. D4, 5:20 Were on a boat, ferrying across what I think is the Rio Madeira. D4, 9:25 We stop for breakfast a bit outside Porto Velho. Breakfast is limited to fried snacks and egg sandwiches. My phone, running on fumes, finally has a place to charge. The scenery has turned to savannah. Just before we leave, I discover the freely available showers. Too late. Many of the Peruvians got a sim card. D4, 10:49 A new film starts. Boarding after our break, one of the drivers needed to point out that the on board toilet is only for peeing. The scenery consists of large farmlands, mostly for cattle. The cows are skinny. D4, 13:25 The same film restarts. D4, 13:37 The newly started film is stopped and a new film is started. D4, 13:46 I finish a book. The scenery is greener, more hilly, with fewer and smaller farms. D4, 15:19 Another film starts. D4, 16:32 We make a mock approach to a gas station. The bus pulls in, holds position for ten seconds, pulls out again. D4, 18:21 We break, dinner is served buffet style. The husband of the couple running the place is going around the tables to say that they have free WiFi. It didn't work. D4, 19:20 On our way again and, immediately, a new film starts. As I got on, one of the Peruvian boys asked me when we would get to Sao Paulo. I wavered. 'Monday or Tuesday?' "I think, Tuesday", I say. 'Morning?', "I hope!" D4, 22:57 I finished a book. Were in the middle of nowhere. No cellphone coverage, no villages or even individual houses. The sky is clear, the amount of visible stars is stunning. D4, 23:27 Nap time. D5, 7:55 We break for gas and a toilet stop just outside Cuiaba. The road has already become much busier, though the majority of traffic is still heavy goods. The stop only has one toilet and no restaurant. Why stop here? And, indeed, before everyone is able to use the bathroom, the drivers usher us back on the bus. Breakfast, we're told, is twenty minutes onwards. D5, 9:00 We stop for breakfast. On the other side of Cuiaba. Hot tip: bring a towel; this stop, too, has decent showers. D5, 10:20 We depart, a new film starts. Only about 24 hours until sao Paulo. Then another six to Rio. D5, 10:40 We hit, what I think is the first, toll road in Brazil. The road is still not great, but they have started to work on doubling the number of lanes, here. D5, 12:05 The federal highway police stops the bus. Everyone has to get out with their luggage. Everyone is lined up and, of course, the grimmest of the officers first asks me where I am coming from and what I was doing in Peru. The police then check the bus, and, afterwards all the hand luggage. D5, 12:37 A new film starts. This is the first film where the audio actually works properly. It's, like most, dubbed It's amazing to me how all passengers are able to do completely nothing for the duration of the journey; they sit and stare, sit and stare. If there's a film on, they stare at the screen, if there's no film they stare. The only exceptions are the kids, who do whatever they like, and their parents, who try to control them. D5, 14:29 A new film starts. D5, 14:50 We stop at a gas station. One of the drivers tells us there is a problem with the engine. We leave after an hour. How well did they fix the engine? D5, 17:04 We stop again at a roadside restaurant. Food is not yet available, but the bus again needs to be fixed. D5, 18:20 The bus is 'fixed' and we are on our way. The drivers claim they believe we'll be in Sao Paulo around mid day, the next day, though my own estimate is end of the afternoon. Just after boarding, a new film starts. I talked to the drivers, and discovered I'm the only one going all the way to Rio. D5, 19:57 Another film starts. D5, 23:44 On Campo Grande's ring road, the bus stopped and shut off the engine. The drivers investigate the engine. D6, 0:14 We picked someone up at a federal police station. D6, 0:27 I finish a book. D6, 0:30 Nap time. D6, 8:38 We stop for breakfast. Somewhere the passenger picked up at the federal police post has disappeared. D6, 9:41 Just as we leave the trucker stop, a new film starts. D6, 11:23 A new film starts. D6, 13:46 Another film starts. Perhaps the film is a stunner, as much of the passengers are laughing often and loudly. Or, it's the realisation the bus has almost reached its destination. D6, 15:54 We pull into the terminal in Sao Paulo. Several of the girls have put on makeup. Everyone shake hands to wave an almost emotional goodbye. I'm the only one left. D6, 16:37 The bus leaves. D6, 18:03 I finish the last of the food and drink I brought from Lima. The aircon is set to way too high. I'm freezing. D6, 19:11 We stop for food. The place is a 'Graal', a popular Brazilian chain of trucker stops. Competent, but after Peru and western Brazil, painfully expensive. D6, 23:13 I finish a book. D6, 23:15 We arrive at the Rio bus terminal. I get out, touch the ground. I have finished...
The longest bus ride in the world
D6, 23:41 Having walked over to the local bus station, waiting for a bus to my suburb, it leaves for the last stretch. D7, 0:20 Home. Beer. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 824 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1524 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 4 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -10.9417 [fLongitude] => -69.5771 [tLocation] => Border crossing [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20170722 ) [5605] => Array ( [iID] => 5605 [tTitle] => This is not the longest bus ride in the world [tSlug] => this-is-not-the-longest-bus-ride-in-the-world [iTime] => 1443564000 [iUpdate] => 1443564000 [tDescription] => Often touted as the longest bus ride in the world, Ormeno's Lima to Sao Paulo clocks a fine 5600km. Surprisingly, the same company's Lima to Buenos Aires only comes in at about 4400km. But, Ormeno also operates Caracas to Lima, coming in at around 4400km. Pluma's direct connection between Santiago and Sao Paulo is 'only' 3300km. The latter is the journey I'm taking. After being deported from Brazil four weeks prior, short term one way plane tickets turned out to be unreasonably expensive. But, while the direct connections leave only 1-2 times a week, I ended up choosing a broken journey via Buenos Aires, which will see me travel for about 3700km, with a 12 hour layover in the Paris of the Americas, bringing the total duration of this journey to close to three full days. In BA, I arrived in the morning, leaving at night, I had enough time to stop by a few museums. Except that it was Monday and they were all closed. So, I worked, and marveled over the high prices of, well, everything (was it that bad last year?) in the Argentine capital. Finally getting on my second bus, with only a handful of other passengers, suggesting this particular long distance connection, all the way to Rio, won't survive for much longer, we were offered a piece of hard candy to suck on and, moments later, whiskey on the rocks, immediately making this the most fancy bus ride I've ever been on. This was followed up with a very liberal refill, somewhat of a challenge on not overly smooth roads, and, later, where am I?, champagne. At the border, similar to my previous attempt at getting into Brazil, Kafka would have been proud. It took them an hour claiming that i needed to pay fines for previously overstaying, even if I had proof of payment on me (which they seemed baffled by). Huffing, puffing, checking my details in multiple computer systems later, I could sense there was a leaning to letting me in the country. Finally, my passport was handed over to a clerk to be stamped, only to be told that, now, the story was that I only could come back into the country many months after having previously left. Nonsense. What this shows is that no one working immigration in Brazil actually knows the law and, worse, their computers are not configured in accordance with the law. I told, now a crowd, in Portuguese, that I was, in fact, allowed back in the country. Not only does the law, of which I carried a copy, confirmed this, it was what I had been told in São Paulo and what was confirmed by the executive director of the federal police (a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend), a letter of which I had a copy of. More huffing and puffing, until what seemed to be the senior officer on duty came over to me and, annoyed, made it clear that the law was different from what I claimed and that the letter I carried from the executive director was no legal document. Callimg Natalia, who was going to call in reinforcements, I had to ask several times when I then would be allowed into the country. December 23, I was told. But, the story wasn't over. Although I had been given back my passport, staff was still clearly not finished with my case. After a few minutes, one of them picked up my passport again, stamped it, gave me three months, and that was that. What made them change their minds? It's possible that our ambassador friend had quickly stepped in, but I think time was too short for that. I did mention near the end that my girlfriend is Brazilian, which seemed to ameliorate the crowd, but that was already after they seemed to want to try to figure out how to get me in. I suspect that my showing them the letter from the executive director annoyed the highest ranking officer, possibly through creating a sense of going over his head. His first reaction was to deny me entry, but his second might have been the realization that I, or rather, the letter, was probably right and that, not letting me in, might come to haunt him at a later date. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1389 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1453 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462181654 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -25.5895 [fLongitude] => -54.5611 [tLocation] => Puerto Tancredo Neves [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20150930 ) [5582] => Array ( [iID] => 5582 [tTitle] => the places I have been [tSlug] => the-places-i-have-been [iTime] => 1436911200 [iUpdate] => 1516124997 [tDescription] => Keep track of which World Heritiage Sites you have visited and compare your travels with your friends. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1746 [iClicks] => 597 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1319 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462225198 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -33.4391 [fLongitude] => -70.6622 [tLocation] => Travellers Place Hostel [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5582 ) [5478] => Array ( [iID] => 5478 [tTitle] => [tSlug] => dopplr-org [iTime] => 1382824800 [iUpdate] => 1516124840 [tDescription] => is the spiritual successor to, which Nokia bought in 2009 and then forgot about. is shutting down on November 1, 2013 and you can import your travel destinations while that service lasts. currently allows for Atom-feed exports of your data, which is exactly why I build, as I was using for my location history on my website's homepage, picking up relevant photos from Flickr related to my most recent destinations. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3544 [iClicks] => 582 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1140 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462100053 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 0.29893 [fLongitude] => 32.6227 [tLocation] => GOAL apartments [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5478 ) [5462] => Array ( [iID] => 5462 [tTitle] => A thrilla to get in and out of Manila [tSlug] => a-thrilla-to-get-in-and-out-of-manila [iTime] => 1370124000 [iUpdate] => 1370124000 [tDescription] => Apparently, there is no easy way to get out of Manila's main international airport. Asking several staff, the only suggested option was taking a cab, something I typically try to avoid, specifically when leaving airports. I probably was messed over, though there was no real way I could have avoided it. I took an official cab and paid the metered price. At 14 euros for just over 8km, it was an annoyingly expensive ride. But it could have been worse. Though the ride apparently should have cost 5 or 6 euros, another less lucky fellow was charged 30. Manila appears a quite pleasant city, not too different from Bangkok, if perhaps more laid back. Certainly affordable, people are friendly, while a vast majority speaks English. Not nearly as humid as Singapore, while public spaces are policed in quite similar fashion as compared to the city state. But, thankfully, the Philippines are not a police state. Here and there, impressive but fading architecture hides between city blocks bustling with energy, 7/11 supermarkets, and a host of national and international fast food chains. Buying a drink from a hole in the wall, I was welcomed with a "What's yours"? The worst reachable airport in the world Depending on your terminal and arrival time, Manila's main airport can already be quite the hassle, though it appears that taxis don't have a tendency to rip you off when going there. Though this mostly might simply be due to most drivers being fairly honest, while the dishonest ones congregate at the airport, as they servicing the airport can be like structurally hitting the jackpot. But the worst is left for Clark international airport. In true budget airline style, this one is claimed to be Manila's second international airport, even though its nearly 100 kilometers away from town. AirAsia and a few other budget airlines fly from here, but none offer an even somewhat easy connection between the airport and the city. There is one bus company which links up Manila with Clark directly. But, when I showed up at their sales counter, 4.5 hours before my flight's scheduled departure time and an hour before the bus was supposed to leave, I was told I should instead use another bus company which served the nearby town, reputedly, hourly. The clerk feared that their bus would not have enough time to clear Manila traffic and get to the airport in time for me to reach my flight. Off I trundled, in search for another bus terminal. Already finding the first terminal was a bit of trouble. The bus company doesn't specify on their website where it is, only mentioning the suburb. So, I asked the ladies at my hostel, who had a knack for not letting me finish my sentences. "So, I'm going to Clark airport tomorrow. And I understand that Philtranco runs a shuttle between Manila and Clark." "Yes?" "They claim their bus leaves from MegaMall and Pasau, and..." "MegaMall is very far. Take Pasau." "Yes, well, I know where MegaMall is, but I don't know where in Pasay..." "Pasau is right here, very easy." "Yes, well, I will still have to know where in Pasay I will have to take the bus..." "Pasau is right here, is very easy. You just go." "Just go... Where? "To Pasay. You need to take bus from Pasay, yes? "Do *you* know where I might be able to find the bus terminal in Pasay?" "You just go and ask. Everyone will know. Then you take jeepney." A jeepney being someone of a shared taxi, almost identical to the Thai songthaew. Finding the right terminal and starting at the south side of town, it took an hour just to get to the north side of Manila, which I could have reached in 10 minutes by metro, instead of the 2 hours it had taken now. At the Dau bus terminal, Day being the town fairly close to Clark, but still perhaps 10 kilometers from the airport, time was starting to run out, there were no taxis in evidence. Absurd, but confirmed by several of the workers at the bus station. I could take a jeepney, waiting for it to fill up, or rent the whole jeepney, which seats a dozen or so, myself. Or I could take a motorbike taxi to the 'Main gate'. I opted for the latter. The 'Main gate' turned out to be the town's short distance bus station, perhaps still some 6 or 7 kilometers from the airport. Here, I still had to take a jeepney, renting the whole thing with three fellow passengers just to get us going. I eventually arrived just under an hour before my scheduled departure, covering the 95 kilometers from hostel to airport in just under 4 hours and 15 minutes. Then, adding insult to injury, i was charged a 9 euro 'Teminal tax' upon departure. Clark was, until 1991, the largest American air base outside of the US, the States having played a somewhat unsavory role in Philippine politics before then. The airport was refurbished and reopened as the capital's second international airport two years later. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1713 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1249 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462101646 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 30 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 14.5652 [fLongitude] => 120.999 [tLocation] => Pink Manila [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20130602 ) [5438] => Array ( [iID] => 5438 [tTitle] => Let me be the tourist of your travel memories [tSlug] => let-me-be-the-tourist-of-your-travel-memories [iTime] => 1359846000 [iUpdate] => 1359846000 [tDescription] => I've started a campaign on Indiegogo where you can tell me what location you have a fond personal memory of, and I will visit it. That one corner shop with fantastic noodles? I'll check if it's still there. That superb coffee in that one backstreet? I'll try the coffee to confirm it's still as good. That place where you had that fantastic night out? I'll be there. In April/May/June, I'm (currently) set to travel from Kampala to Mumbai to Chennai to Guanghzou to Beijing to Shanghai to Hong Kong to Singapore to Chennai to Mumbai and back to Kampala. The reason for this trip is my attending a wedding close to Shanghai on April 29. Funding this campaign means telling me where to go on the route I'm already travelling, or providing the cost for veering off course to visit that place that has or once had a special meaning to you. The trip will be documented in writing, with photos and, whenever possible, by checkins and reviews. Note that, though I might visit typical tourist attractions because of my own interests, in principle this campaign's intention is to visit spots that have a personal meaning to you. If you choose to support this campaign, depending on the height of your support, the spot you want me to visit has to either be on my route, or the cost of visiting (bus? train? plane?) has to be reasonably covered by the height of your donation. When traveling, or going on holiday, it's hard not to visit the typical tourist sites, be they the pyramids of Gizeh, the Great Wall of China, or the St. Peter in Rome. However, more and more, visiting these sites, fantastic as they are, is becoming less and less unique. Not only are more and more people able to travel more and more, everyone is also documenting and sharing their experiences more comprehensively than ever before. The result is that memorable, unique, experiences less often happen at the typical tourist hotspots, but in places that, by themselves, appear to have little to offer. That little cafe tucked away on that backstreet, that strange little shop two blocks over or that unexpected bit of architecture off the beaten track. With this campaign I want to make those little experiences, those events that made your journey stand out, into my tourist attractions, documenting my experiences along the way. Visit, and support, this campaign at Indiegogo. Virtual bottle post In 2008, I conceptualized a virtual bottle post network. Participants would leave a note and throw it inside a web-based applet. Then, some other, physically nearby, instance of the applet would pick up the message and offer it to its visitors, who could read the message and then put it back in the applet, or not. An very close approximation of this concept has been actualised with the app airendipity. The only real difference is that it's a mobile-phone based app, not a web-based applet that runs inside websites. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3651 [iClicks] => 335 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1211 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461782301 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 24.459 [fLongitude] => 54.3221 [tLocation] => Etihad towers [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20130203 ) [5418] => Array ( [iID] => 5418 [tTitle] => What's the competition at the World Summit Award [tSlug] => whats-the-competition-at-the-world-summit-award [iTime] => 1349647200 [iUpdate] => 1508852189 [tDescription] => Deriveapp, with Eduardo Cachucho as the artistic lead and myself as the technical lead, is Uganda's submission to the World Summit Award in the m-Tourism & Culture category. WSA claims it's "the world’s leading initiative to select and promote the Best in e-Content and innovative applications", which I find a bit rich, but, hey. In our category, we're up against 51 competitors from as many countries, with only a handful from Africa. It's not too much of a surprise that m-Tourism, with the 'm' specifically referring to mobile technology solutions, is somewhat underrepresented. The award's list of categories mentions the evaulation criteria per category, which are awfully broad, but does put an emphasis on being able to provide a fresh perspective with, specifically interesting for our app, "providing new perspectives on the space around us, using maps and navigation-based contents". Deriveapp 2.0 is about ready to move to 'beta', which means it's pretty much ready for the big time. With users already having tried out derives from Mexico to Serbia, we're off to a promising start. Here's a shortlist of what I think are our biggest competitors. Innovative The WSA award has an emphasis on being able to somehow provide a fresh insight related to tourism or culture. In my opinion, besides deriveapp, only two of the submissions truly meet the WSA criteria. +, an iOS app which lets you memorize locations with a picture and then, later, easily allows you to pull up directions to the locations you saved. +, an environment to create your own mobile apps with tourist information for destinations of your choice. Works together with placegrabber, an app to document your own destinations on the go. The current online environment for building your own guidebooks, in beta, feels a bit rough around the edges, but the potential is interesting. Basically, this allows you to be your own Lonely Planet. In English. Historical, video-based, travel guides Interesting and insightful, but hardly original, as several of the submissions focus on the same theme, are apps that perform the function of a kind of historical tour guide. + Vistory, the "interactive historical video app", which allows you to compare historical videos with their location as they are now. Focussed on Amsteram. Seemingly in English. + Berlin Wall, an iOS app with a video-based history on the Berlin wall. In German. + My Warsaw, a Samsung sponsored app on historical Warsaw, which gives you a gamified and video-based tour of the city. In English and Polish. Copy cats Functional, if perhaps interesting, well executed and effective, copycats, were also submitted. + Xomo event guide, a mobile app listing nearby events with an added social experience. Basically, eventful or upcoming. In English. + TaxiPal, a mobile app for ordering taxis, particularly when you're in a place you are not familiar with. Similar, if more generic, to Uber. In English. + Jets - Flight & Seat Advisor, an iOS app to show you seating arrangements on planes. Essentially SeatGuru on a mobile device. In English. + Harpoen, an iOS app to leave localised messages which can be accessed by other users. Quite similar to Wallit, if prettier. In English. + Lingibli, mobile apps for learning a language. How many of those exist? + Kunst på stedet, mapping public art in Denmark. Effectively a mobile version of my project Beeldenstad, dating from 2002, as well as Beeldenstad's spiritual successor, the Hungarian Szoborlap. In Danish. Nice, but...Simplevox, an iOS app for constructing natural voice announcements in multiple languages relevant to the travel industry. Extremely useful, to some, but hardly innovative, as every PA system for every public transport solution in the developed world uses a system like this. Except, this one is free. + Touchotel, the concept of having tablets in hotel rooms to allow customers to easily order room or other services. In English, presumably, though the company is Senegalese and the idea doesn't seem to have left the concept stage. And isn't very innovative, as at least The Plaza Hotel in New York has been offering their guests iPads since at least early 2011. Audio guides A rather obvious use of mobile devices is to provide their users with audio guides of their surroundings. This can be extended to providing QR-codes at the locations for which audio guides exist. Using QR codes in this context is identical to how I used them in j-walk, which I did with Ismail Farouk back in 2009.  + JiTT, a mobile app, offline audio tour, for a few European cities. In English and Spanish. + GUIDE@HAND, location based audio guides for a few cities in Hungary and one in Slovakia. In English. + Escúchame!, audio guides on touristic cites in Panama, using QR codes. In Spanish. + QR-code based audio guides, for mobile devices on sights in Jerusalem. Travel guides A surprisingly, to me, large number of WSA submissions in the m-Tourism & Culture category were straightforward travel guides. + A virtual museum on the oldest wooden wheel in the world, which is some 5000 years old. Available in several languages. + Minube, an iOS app for tourist attractions in Spain, in Spanish. + 100NTO, a Windows-phone app with tourist attractions in Bulgaria, in Bulgarian. + Conaculta - Mexico Es Cultura, a guide on cultural activities in Mexico. In English. + ExperienciaColombia, an online guide on Colombia, in Spanish. + Historious Athens, a guide for Android with historical information on landmarks in Athens. In English. + Mosquito, a mobile app with tourist information, presumably in Montenegrin. + Smart Tourism El Salvador, a Blackberry app for tourists to El Selvador. In Spanish. + Tourism in Qatar, an iOS tourguide for Qatar. In Arabic. + Tripwolf, a Lonely Planet wannabe, mobile app, in multiple languages. + Vilnius Tourism, a mobile app for sights in Vilnius, in English. + Seoul, on, well. In English The truly commercial and other non-contenders Several of the submissions, simply by their backing or lifespan, should not have been submitted to the WSA awards, even if they're great. This included a 17 year old guide for Beirut, the official London city guide, "India's leader in premium quality digital maps" and a mobile solution for car-based navigation in eastern Europe. Also, a few of the submissions were, if perhaps functional, hardly interesting. Apps for finding travel connections, translating local calendas or dictionaries. Or submissions only available in a local, to me unreadable, language. And there were a few submissions that didn't seem to have a product, were basically just an idea, or forced a download of an Android app without any explanation. Do we stand a chance? There are plenty of the submissions that can pride themselves on an excellent execution, but only a few that are interesting. And, I think, only three that are actually working products and truly innovative or insightful. These being deriveapp, and  I'm hardly the person to comment on which one is the best of the three. What do you think? [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3990 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 734 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462198897 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 1 [fLatitude] => 51.9926 [fLongitude] => 4.35874 [tLocation] => Bot-Boender residence [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20121008 ) [5411] => Array ( [iID] => 5411 [tTitle] => Mostly horrid [tSlug] => mostly-horrid [iTime] => 1346364000 [iUpdate] => 1346364000 [tDescription] => Depending on the route, Lusaka to Kampala is between 2500 and 3500 kilometers, overland. If you're not going through Dar, which is the longest route, only the first 1000 or so can be done with the fairly comfortable TAZARA, where you have to get off in Mbeya, a village, really, of 300000 in the southwest of Tanzania. From there, it's a string of overcrowded busses on dirt roads, heading almost due north. With it being Ill advised to travel at night, crappy roads, crappy drivers and crappy vehicles, the trip takes 7 days of travel, from end to end and takes you through a series of mellow enough, if rather uninteresting, towns. Particularly the leg from Sumbawanga, which sounds like a Hollywood invention, to the backwater that is Mpenda, was rather unpleasant and possibly my least agreeable bus ride, yet. The track is all dirt road, while the driver thinks he is Michael Schumacher in a bus that should have been retired 20 years ago. Literally, bits and pieces were falling of the bus as it moved, my seat came loose, during the ride, as did my neighbour's, and one of the luggage racks came undone at two of its suspension points, the thing ominously and more and more bouncing up and down due to Michael's antics, the trip was like being shaken around by a Powerplate gone berserk. Several times I was propelled off my site so hard that my head hit the up and down bobbing luggage rack. Sarcastically, the back of the cabin read "all these are the blessings of Allah". What a bastard. As I managed to get the last seat on the bus from Sumbawanga to Mpanda, I figured booking immediately for my next day's trip was paramount. But I was already too late, even standing seats no longer being available. Somehow, some 10 minutes later, I could get a standing seat, which wasn't really something I was looking forward to on this 12 hour journey. But, lucky, I somehow ended up on the conductor's seat, with an armed guard next to me. "You know, for robbers." The bus was packed tighter than a can of sardines. What to presume? Kigoma is really the only place between Lusaka and Kampala worth stopping, if only just. Sure, there are some national parks along the way, and Masaka, in Uganda, is probably bigger, but it's Kigoma that, as a town, actually isn't totally disagreeable. And, on the outskirts of town, there is actually something to see that is not nature. Back in 1871, it was in Ujiji, a few kilometers south-east of Kigoma, where Stanley uttered those now famous words, after the world presumed Livingstone had to have been dead for years. The government more recently built a proper tourist trap close to the original site, a memorial and a, seemingly empty, museum, where entrance, per person, is significantly more expensive than a double room, for two, with private facilities, in Kigoma. Foreigners pay ten times the price Tanzanians pay. "But maybe you can pay student price", a steal at only five times the regular Tanzanian rate (but ten times the Tanzanian student rate). I laughed it off and strolled to the nearby beach, where smugglers are transporting goods between Tanzania and the DRC across the water. South of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, on the northern edge of the lake, there is a memorial to the exact same event, Stanley meeting Livingstone for the first time. The two men did visit this location, but a few weeks after having met for the first time. So, travel in africa is cheap, if you are willing to suffer. The whole nearly 3000 km cost me about 80 USD, under 120 USD if you include accommodation. And this was for a full week on the road. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5538 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1185 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462077654 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 13 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -4.88002 [fLongitude] => 29.6312 [tLocation] => Sun City [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120831 ) [5406] => Array ( [iID] => 5406 [tTitle] => Back in Zambia [tSlug] => back-in-zambia [iTime] => 1345154400 [iUpdate] => 1345154400 [tDescription] => The road from Lusaka's airport to town has seen a spate of new buildings pop up or improved, most notably Manda Hill shopping mall, which has been upgraded from a dingy 70s style shopping dungeon to a hypermodern, South African style, two floor mall, with all the obligatory South African chains, as well as a few local favorites. And a two story car park, and now two food courts. When Niamh and Iived in Lusaka in 2009/10, Lucy and Hussain did/not/did/not/did stay together, first to get married in early 2012. Then, due to a sad family incident on Hussain's side, back in India, their wedding was postponed to August 2012. Niamh and I were to be best man and bridesmaid, though not in that order. I was originally going to merge a business trip to Dar with my visit to Lusaka, which would make the cost for Niamh to fly in from Kampala more palatable. Then, when we checked for flights connecting in August, the going rate for an economy round trip ended up being 850 USD. With a round trip from Kampala to Joburg being a mere 550 USD and over 1000km further along (1500km by road!), this was too absurd to be acceptable. I was likely to go alone. Though, since Niamh and I left Lusaka, several long distance airlines have expanded their network to also fly to Lusaka, regional airlines to Lusaka are still a minority. Ethiopian and Kenya fly, but at fairly extortionist rates. Zambia airways went bankrupt years ago, shortly followed by their phoenix Zambian airways, this year followed by *their* phoenix Zambezi airways. Recently, Precision Air, a regional airline trying to be something of a pricefighter, started flying to Lusaka from Dar, with a stopover in Lubumbashi, DRC. It brings, to my knowledge, the count of regional airlines flying to Lusaka to four, SAA being the fourth. Still, there are a few lower cost airlines operating in east Africa, though they're not yet heading to Lusaka, technically not in east Africa, mostly, focusing on the east African market proper. I predict Rwandair will be the competent airline that will bring prices down in the region over the next few years, though a strong competitor will be fly540, recently bought by an EasyJet subsidiary. I expect to travel back to Kampala overland, a staccato journey, almost due north, of over 2500 kilometers. Niamh and I once took the train from Kapiri Mposhi, two hours north of Lusaka, to Dar. built by the Chinese as the result of a communist promise and with the aim to easily export copper from Zambia, through Dar, to China, the ride takes about two days and is not too inconvenient, even though, as a couple, you have to either rent a whole cabin, or accept traveling in same sex compartments. Gross mismanagement has meant the railway line has tethered on the brink of bankruptcy for years. The Chinese were, two years ago, ready to pump in over 105 million Dollars, on the condition that indigenous management would be replaced by Chinese expats. Nothing ever came off it. The railway line is making losses, simply because too many bigshots siphon off too much money. Currently, three shipments of goods trains are stuck along the TAZARA railway line for running out of diesel and personnel hasn't been paid for two months. More long distance airlines flying in to Zambia, and Zimbabwe still being a bit of a mess, has seen the tourism sector in Zambia grow. Most notably, the two backpackers on the edge of downtown are now five, with the one I'm staying in, Kalulu, being a near facsimile of the former favorite, Lusaka Backpackers. Complete with rowdy young tourists, local middle class party goers, overly loud drum and bass, an outside bar with somewhat overpriced food and drinks and a reasonable pool. But, escaping after a night only, I'm heading off to Kitwe, in the Copperbelt, where I need to be taught a dance before I can attend the wedding. The Copperbelt is the economic heart of the country. Mining is the word, international business is the game. However, as the mining industry is very much facing outwards, the companies foreign, the high ranking managers expat, perhaps that is why Ndola is littered with huge billboards that are all empty, advertising the possibility to advertise, making it appear that there is no real local market. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2652 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1181 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461975111 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -15.4111 [fLongitude] => 28.2929 [tLocation] => Kalulu backpackers [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120817 ) [5404] => Array ( [iID] => 5404 [tTitle] => No corkscrew [tSlug] => no-corkscrew [iTime] => 1343599200 [iUpdate] => 1343599200 [tDescription] => Driving around in an ancient Volkswagen van, 8 of us, plus driver, spent the weekend in the far south west of the country, in, on and around lake Bonyonyi. The Volkswagen came courtesy of Kombitours, which organises tours around Uganda in Volkswagen kombis. Their biggest draw being the seating, two benches opposite each other with a table in the middle. The weekend was excellent, though it seems that expat life has driven most of us to become alcoholics, at least part time. Kabale hasn't changed much since last time, though Edirisa was a good find. On the island, Byoona Amagara is still decent, though the food wasn't always that great and served way, way too slow. One of our group is a reporter, currently hot on the trail of what's happening in the eastern DRC. Another is a photographer who decided, last minute, to head out to the frontline on the way back from Bonyonyi. Current status: unknown. And, no, this time we didn't try to embarrass ourselves by landing in the mzungu corkscrew. We simply didn't even try. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2956 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1065 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462207346 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 19 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -1.3007 [fLongitude] => 29.9391 [tLocation] => Byoona Amagara [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120730 ) [5400] => Array ( [iID] => 5400 [tTitle] => Psychogeography apps [tSlug] => psychogeography-apps [iTime] => 1341698400 [iUpdate] => 1341698400 [tDescription] => So I did a write up on dérives a few days ago, a dérive being an assisted random wandering around an urban area. The term and concept date from the 1950s, when ideas about psychogeography, the study of how a person's environment effects his experience, were starting to take shape in Europe. I now looked at the possibilities of expanding or rebuilding the interesting, but technically limited, deriveapp and did more of a background search. Turns out, psychogeography has an active following, not in the least because a few prominent writers, such as Will Self, have a particular interest in the field. The blog The Pop-Up City (run by Dutchees), which looks at what will shape the city of the future, had a nice writeup on psychogeography in January this year, listing several massively interesting recent psychogeographical projects. The blog posts mentions the very interesting iOS app Serendipitor, which is close in functionality as what I envisioned in my previous post. Serendipitor, a creation of Mark Shepard, claims inspiration from the analog Drift Deck, as well as the Fluxus movement *and* Yoko Ono (though I would argue Ono never left Fluxus). The Serendipitor assists you in a dérive, similar to the dériveapp, but shows an actual map, and still, for the map, relies on an internet connection. The tasks of the two apps are similar, though Serendipitor sticks to plain text, while the tasks are a bit more akin to those that showed up in the analog Drift Deck. Before you agree to a randomly generated route, you can specify you want a longer or shorter journey. Then at the end of your journey, the app can send an email with your dérive to the Serendipitor website, where your dérive is stored for posterity, complete with tasks, route and photos. Sadly, almost annoyingly, the app only *almost* gets it exactly right: the meander is stored as an image, while neither the geographic locations of your photos, nor where you fulfilled your tasks, are stored, or at least, not displayed. Just a little bit of extra information would have made the app perfectly hackable, automatically creating the lovely maps Eduardo Cachucho put together based on the deriveapp. It's quite possible Serendipitor mails the photos with the geotags intact, meaning that hacking the app's output might be somewhat possible. Interestingly, not many people seem to be using the app, with on average 2 or so trips being posted to the site per month. Drift, by Justin Langlois, helps you to 'get lost in familiar places'. The app feels a bit buggy, but works. Like Serendipitor, photos have to be taken from within the app, meaning you can't edit or adjust the photos you take. Drift also immediately uploads the photos you take, though it isn't immediately clear where the uploaded photos go. Only after registering within the app and getting an email confirmation do you get mailed a link to a webpage, which really only contains a short blurb. In the app's settings, you can specify your pics to be made public, but it took me contacting the author to learn where the resulting photos are shared. Still, individual or trip pages are not generated, meaning that your photos soon disappear into an unclear void. One draw of deriveapp over both Serendipitor and Drift is that it's very easy to change the cards/tasks. Particularly because some of the tasks used are very western-centric, being able to change them is useful for using the apps in out of the way locales. Serendipitor requires you at some point to find a fire hydrant. I don't think I've ever seen one, here in Kampala. It also at some point requires you to ask someone to draw a map of his childhood. A request totally out of place, here. Wanderlust stories takes a different approach, using scripted stories, transplanted to your locale through known foursquare locations, to give you a unique experience. It's a web app and, obviously, becomes less interesting the more you use it, as the content doesn't change, while it works better with a higher density of foursquare locations. On the up, the authors allow for user submissions of stories, though this doesn't appear to happen much, if at all. The movie Inception came with an app which uses soundscapes related to your current surroundings and their state to, perhaps, induce lucid dreaming. Interesting for its use of sound levels and weather to determine what soundscape to play, but by no means a tool for a dérive. The creators of the app, RjDj, followed this up with the app Dimensions, which effectively gamifies the Inception App, making it something of an immersive soundscaping experience, using location and ambient sounds as part of the gameplay. More promising than it seems to be able to deliver, another app by the same guys, simply RjDj mixes ambient tracks with ambient sound around you, resulting in an ever changing soundtrack to, well, your life. And it's perhaps this least pretentious app which is the most successful of the three. With some similarities to Dimensions, Shadow Cities is a location based multiplayer role playing game. Quite well executed and intriguing, I've played the game for a bit, but I'm not sure whether the fascination I have for the game is genuine or based on the game cleverly feeding the user a limited drip of information as the game progresses, constantly resulting in small surprises to retain interest. Update: I forget to mention what perhaps is the mother of all dérive implementations: geocaching, which has a nice enough, if expensive, app. Geocaching is a GPS assisted treasure hunt. Originally done with a standalone GPS receiver and pen and paper, the hunt moved to smartphones a few years ago and has a strong following. Though the resulting journey of one geocache is very much in line with a typical dérive, it's impossible to partake without someone first having created a cache close to where you are. In built up areas in 'the west', this is less of a problem, but in other places, you might have to travel dozens, if not sometimes hundreds, of kilometers, to find a nearby cache. And, once you've done one cache, you can't have another one be magically auto-generated. Geocaches, by design, rely on their exact location. Update (October 2015): I stumbled upon another related app: Zufall. Not exactly psychogeography material, but related in the same way that a photomarathon is, is InstaCC, which gives you, after selecting a group of tasks, a subject a day, for you to find a matching photo. My biggest gripe with InstaCC is that, though well done, you're required to pay for each individual list of assignments. Three years ago, Ryan Raffa converted his own meanderings through New York City into sound, using latitude, longitude, speed and elevation as parameters for creating piano pieces. Care for an example. Raffa used to track his dérives, for example with this trip. is an excellent resource for tracking trips, mapping both route and photos taken. On the downside, the website looks like it hasn't been updated since 2002 and, though there is an app for iOS, there isn't one for Android. The iOS app works well in that it keeps track of your route, allows you to set waypoints and allows you to add photos. Here, too, though, the photos are made within the app and can't be picked up from your camera roll. Though gpsed apparently allows for adding photos to the track later, from services like Flickr or Picasa. Karl Heinz Jeron created an audio guide of Brussels, where he seems to have used the Gutenberg project as an intermediary to introduce a randomized aspect to the walk. A somewhat dated post over at lists a few other apps with links to psychogeography. A few more interesting, and less obvious, ones are... + WalkBrighton. If only I knew when I was there in March. + Glow. This records and shows users' moods, overlaid on a map. Cute, but because it only uses the app as a data source, or so it seems, and not, for example, moods based on Tweets, the data is very limited. + A data logger from Pachube. Next up: comparing the three dérive apps I'm now aware of, deriveapp, Drift and Serendipitor, and musings on what a dérive app should be able to do. The image accompanying this post is a composite of images from WalkBrighton, Glow, InstaCC and Serendipitor. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 8084 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1140 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462215950 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 3 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 0.29893 [fLongitude] => 32.6227 [tLocation] => GOAL apartments [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120708 ) [5397] => Array ( [iID] => 5397 [tTitle] => Derive, a meandering around [tSlug] => derive-a-meandering-around [iTime] => 1341439200 [iUpdate] => 1341439200 [tDescription] => A while back, a good friend of mine (who's also very lax in updating his website, even though he's doing all sorts of interesting stuff) introduced me to a digitized version of the Drift Deck, a seemingly somewhat tongue in cheek method for meandering around a city. The Drift Deck is based on the concept of dérive, French for 'drift', which was defined in the late 1950s by a French Marxist as "[An exercise where] one or more persons [...] drop their usual [...] activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there". In other words, a dérive is a meandering around town. The concept of dérive has its origins with the Situationist International, a group of self-styled revolutionaries, founded in 1957, reaching its peak of influence in the general strike of May 1968 in France. With their ideas rooted in Marxism and the 20th century European artistic avant-gardes, they advocated experiences of life, alternative to those typical within a capitalist system, for the fulfillment of human desires. For this purpose they suggested and experimented with the "construction of situations" or more specifically, the creation of an environment favorable to the fulfillment of such desires. Using methods drawn from the arts, they developed a series of experimental fields of study, including unitary urbanism and psychogeography. The objective of unitary urbanism is for the (urban) surroundings to be blended in such a way that one cannot identify where function ends and play begins. The resulting society, while it caters to fundamental needs, does so in an atmosphere of continual exploration, leisure, and stimulating ambience. Psychogeography is the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that modernist Neoism has some roots in the psychogeography of the 1950s. In the late 1950s, the concepts behind psychogeography produced the idea of the dérive. In a way, more recent alternate and augmented reality games, games that superimpose an alternate world on physical reality, typically, but not always, using modern technology to achieve this, also have their roots in psychogeography. One very good example, using more directed tasks but in many ways similar to the use of the Drift Deck, is SF0, an alternate reality game based in San Franciso. In fact, the recent resurgence of psychogeography has resulted in an annual festival in New York (though I'm not convinced this year will see a continuation of the event). The analogue Drift Deck, a stack of cards with simple instructions to aid the user in his random move around town was put together by Julian Bleecker, and was the inspiration for the digital version which I saw last year. Now, this digital version has somewhat evolved into a collaborative digital project to make dérive 'packs' for multiple cities. Based on a post on, it could be concluded that the person behind this is Eduardo Cachucho (who at least updates his website regularly). I travel regularly (and never enough), and find that, over time, what I draw my satisfaction from when traveling has changed. More and more, it's the smaller attractions, let's say the 'hidden gems' or the little chance encounters, the small surprises, which are much more interesting than the major sights, those which every tourist makes a point of visiting. Nor surprisingly, visiting a new place and only doing the latter results in an experience that's no longer unique. This is no longer the time of the Grand Tour, everyone and their brother has visited the Pyramids. So, to make a visit unique, or to look at an oft-visited location afresh, a dérive is an excellent concept. Indeed, there are parallels between a dérive and urban exploration, often of urban ruins. That, however, needs preparation and in itself requires direction, whereas a dérive is a random, perhaps assisted, but not actively, meander. Back in 2004, I created a dynamic and customizable cell phone based city tour of Delft, using the typical tourist venues of Delft as locations. In 2009, I expanded on this with j-walk, which uses QR-codes sprinkled around town, at highlighted venues, to allow for customized walking tours, both on the web and through a mobile device. J-walk stores the user's meanderings, the result being available for download after finishing the walk. I first created j-walk together with Ismail Farouk for Johannesburg, after which I also built a version for Chiang Mai before converting my original city tour of Delft into a j-walk tour. Dérive, in a way, is turning j-walk on its head. Instead of allowing for a flexible platform that will allow the user to visit a number of fixed locations around town, there's instead a clearly defined platform that opens up the city, to the user, focusing on the interactions, instead of the locations. I also realized that my appreciation of photomarathons is also because, for participants, they effectively constitute a psychogeographical walk around town. No surprise then, that I've been toying with the idea of building a mobile app that presents the dérive cards to the user, while recording the user's meandering, plotting any photos taken on a map, together with the tasks drawn from the deck of cards. A few available apps that facilitate some of this come to mind. Recording a journey could be done by something like RunKeeper, while an iOS device (and I suspect an Android device as well) geotags photos by default. An app that's limited, but records your meanderings, storing your location and any photos you take, is HipGeo. Annoyingly, their default standalone mapping features need some design magic. On the up, they've got an API through which it seems to be possible to do the trick of nicely mixing up the dérive with a recorded track and photos. Update: I've since found a few other apps that are very similar: MobilyTrip looks and feels very nice, but doesn't appear to have an API. The same goes for TripColor, though this app appears a bit less slick, as compared to MobilyTrip. Tripline doesn't come with a mobile app, but can tie together several mobile services to create a browsable online map. Strangely, it still caters for the long defunct Gowalla and doesn't allow for Flickr imports (but does for Instagram). Travellerspoint is similar. Trippy is another solution that's similar, primarily focussing on the online experience, but also offering a mobile app. Also, Google Earth now allows for recording multimedia tours. As a tourist, you might not be in a region where your smartphone has internet access without excessive roaming fees. The app, therefore, should ideally not have to rely on an online connection The dérive 'app' available over at the aptly named is a nice step forward form what I saw last year, but is lacking in several ways: + It's not really an app, but a website optimized for mobile use. Internet connection required. + There's no integrated tracking of the route traversed. + Photos are not stored as part of the app. Still, there are two dérives, nicely mapped, on the deriveapp website, and I talked with the author on how he managed this. He used maps+, not too dissimilar from RunKeeper in its functionality, and put the whole thing together using a custom Google Map. A bit cumbersome, but workable. Except that he somehow needed to record which cards he drew from the digital deck, at what time, which requires quite the effor, particularly if you're not familiar with the location where you're doing the dérive. An online log of cards drawn at what time could solve that problem, I suppose via a spreadsheet and an import into Google Maps. Or at least some matching magic with the app tracking your location. The dérive author is cool in releasing the code for hosting the 'app' under a cc-a license. A quick glance does reveal some room for improvement: + All the cards appear to be pictures, text and all. This makes making changes to the cards quite cumbersome. Also, this means a much higher demand on bandwidth. + There isn't any logic behind the cards being presented. Nice for the randomness in the spirit of the concept of dérive, but annoying when you draw a card like 'take a ride on the metro' several times in close succession. Assuming there is a metro in your location in the first place. + There's no logging of cards drawn. And a bit more nitpicky: + The code comes with Google Analytics code included, presumably of the website. + Not all the code included is released under a cc-a license, though that's not obvious from the package itself. + Not only is there no separation of logic and design, there's also no templating, with some CSS being hardcoded in the HTML, some in the headers of pages, some in actual CSS files. So, I'm putting some thought in how to take this to the next level. Probably first as a web-based 'app', similar to the current one, but with some added functionality, and assisted by a tool such as HipGeo. Then, if it turns out that doing a dérive is actually fun, perhaps as an actual app. Watch this space. The photo accompanying this article is a collage of a HipGeo screenshot, an image from the deriveapp website and a photo of the artists/revolutionists attending the Situationist International, taken from Wikipedia. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3575 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1140 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462181601 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 0.29893 [fLongitude] => 32.6227 [tLocation] => GOAL apartments [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120705 ) [5392] => Array ( [iID] => 5392 [tTitle] => The inbetween days [tSlug] => the-inbetween-days [iTime] => 1339365600 [iUpdate] => 1339365600 [tDescription] => Starting to relax somewhat on the touristy front, picking up on the work front, my two more days in Yerevan included picking up some of the sights I had missed out on my earlier stop. This included the genocide museum, which seriously lacks in providing context, as well as a tour of the Ararat brandy company. A visit to the surrealist Paradjanov museum was a nice surprise. The museum and ruins of Erebuni, the original site and name of Yerevan, we're nice enough, and showed strong connections with ancient Persia, not a surprise as Erebuni was settled in the middle of the 8th century BC, in a time of Medes and Assyrians, making it about as old as Rome (where the official founding date puts it at a few years older than Rome.) Onwards to Tbilisi Not wanting to get mentally fried from a double journey, first to Tbilisi, then to Batumi, on the Black Sea coast, I decided to stop over for one night in the Georgian capital. Sadly, it being a Monday, most sights were duly closed. I did enjoy some experimental dance at the very cute Royal District Theatre. My second day in Tbilisi, I stopped by the National Gallery, which showcased several really excellent photography exhibitions. The somewhat generically called Museum of Arts, also called Fine Arts Museum, has a treasury, which I didn't visit, but also a few photo exhibitions. These were nice enough, but a bit too pretentious. In the evening, I took in more culture, attending the play Do we look like refugees?! performed by Georgians, but originally directed by a Brit and based on stories he encountered on a one week visit to a Chechnyan refugee camp. I was told the play would be in English and Georgian, but very little was in English. But I was also told translations were going to be projected on the theatre's back wall. Yes, well, only for the English parts. Trains are of varying quality in the Caucasus. I've taken three trains, all second class. The first, from Baku to Sheki, was what I expected; Soviet style, decent enough shape, clean, four to a cabin (though mine only occupied by me). The train from Yerevan to Tbilisi was a bit of a surprise. Third class Soviet trains have no compartments and sleep six per section, roughly the size of a second class cabin. This second class train was a third class wagon that slept only four to a section. Like a regular second class sleeper, but without a door to close your cabin. And with the third bed on each side of each section, at the top, unused. The train from Tbilisi to Batumi was fancy. Air conditioned, but still four to a cabin, and a flat screen tv in every cabin. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2467 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1174 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462202600 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 22 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 41.6983 [fLongitude] => 44.7989 [tLocation] => National Gallery [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120611 ) [5387] => Array ( [iID] => 5387 [tTitle] => To Yerevan [tSlug] => to-yerevan [iTime] => 1338501600 [iUpdate] => 1338501600 [tDescription] => Trains from Tbilisi to Yerevan only run roughly every second day, and take more than twice as long as a bus does, mostly because the train trip is an overnight journey. I would have preferred the train, but it didn't work out for going to Yerevan. Busses leave from several locations in town, the most convenient one being from in front of the main train station. Leaving at 11, all travelers were foreign, none from the Caucasus. Two were even an Iranian couple, who, another group of Iranian tourists which I met earlier told me, apparently don't need a visa to travel to Georgia. Georgia, then, is one of the very few countries where Americans and Iranians can meet without having to extensively apply for a visa. When I crossed the stream demarcating the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia, one thing I noticed was the cacophony of birds which welcomed me after going through immigration. It's hard to believe the birds weren't on the Azeri side, but it did seem so. Armenia, the first country adopting Christianity as a state religion at the start of the fourth century, beating Georgia and Ethiopia by 2 decades and Rome by 8, shares the gorgeous plains and mountain ranges with its neighbors and here, too, birds are everywhere. As, obviously, are churches. Dotting the landscape, both the circular domes and cross shaped floor plans are said to have originated in Armenia, eventually being brought to Europe by plundering crusaders. It's also obvious from the shapes of these early churches that both mosques and churches once shared the exact same designs, probably most typically exemplified in isranbul's Hagia Sophia, which was a church before the Ottomen conquered Comstantinople. Also, I noticed later, some of the Armenian churches even, somewhat suprisingly, contain vaulted ceilings so typical of many mosques (like this one in Iran). Driving from Tbilisi to Yerevan is quite the spectacular ride. Besides the marshrutka driver thinking he's a genuine Michael Schumacher, meaning you're constantly and literally only inches away from death by crashing into the ravine right next to the road, it's the scenery that's as close to breathtaking as it gets. First, shortly after passing through the efficient border post, where visas for Armenia now turn out only to cost a mere 6 euros, the rocky gorge you drive through is littered with defunct Soviet heavy industry, slowly but surely falling apart. Then, leaving the gorge and entering the rolling hills towards Yerevan, it's first mount Aragat and then Ararat, jutting up from the plains, both of which are truly a site to behold. Ararat, intertwined with the Armenian identity, is actually completely outside of the country, even though the mountain starts only a few kilometers south-west of Yerevan. Furthermore, the closed border between Armenia and Turkey means that the very symbol of Armenia is off limits to Armenians. Six years ago, I was on the other side of the mountain, in Dogubeyazit, a mere 60 kilometers away from Yerevan, as the crow flies. But to get to Dogubeyazit from Yerevan, you either have to travel up through Georgia, into Turkey, and then down to Dogubeyazit, or east into Iran, around Nakchivan province, a part of Azerbaijan which is also off limits to Armenians, then back into Turkey. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2776 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1163 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462103362 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 41.7213 [fLongitude] => 44.7991 [tLocation] => Train station [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120601 ) [5382] => Array ( [iID] => 5382 [tTitle] => Of Norway and Azerbaijan [tSlug] => of-norway-and-azerbaijan [iTime] => 1338156000 [iUpdate] => 1338156000 [tDescription] => Azerbaijan is a pretty country and there's lots to see. But it's also not the easiest country to get around in, unless you've got your own transport. Sheki, in the far north west, sometimes written Shaki, is worth visiting, but not too easy to get to. Busses take a reported 7 hours, my train took 11, but as that was an overnight, nearly empty, sleeper, for a mere 9 euros, the trip was very pleasent. Still, Sheki train station is a baffling 17km from the town of Sheki, meaning you have to pony up an additional 3 euros for, and deal with the hassle of, a shared taxi to drive you to your hotel. Sheki is in the foothills of the Caucasus. Surrounded by green pillows of mountains, with the snow-capped Caucasus as a backdrop and looking out over green plains, Sheki is most certainly picturesque. Also, the old town is in the process of getting a complete makover, in the wake of Baku's refurbishment, meaning that in one or two years, Sheki will be one hot and gorgeous tourist destination. Besides the nice surroundings, perhaps the biggest draw is the Caucasian Albanian church in Kish, a few kilometers north of Sheki. 'Albanian' in this context, has no connection with the country Albania on the Adriatic sea. The former's name is derived from the name surrounding kingdoms used to denote the area in the Caucasus, whereas the name of the latter most likely derives from the name of a settlement on the Adriatic coast in modern day Albania. An etymological coincidence. Legend has it that, already in the first century AD, a disciple of a disciple of Christ founded a church in Kish. Recent findings make this unlikely, but what has been shown is that the church was built on an ancient cultic site and has been a center of worship for millenia. These findings were a result of a cooperation between Norway and Azerbaijan, where one of the researches was the late, great, Thor Heyerdahl. At some point in his illustrous career, he compared rock paintings from Gobustan, close to Baku, depicting boats made from reeds, with similar boats from his own Norway and started wondering. Then, Odin was, in most contexts, the supreme god of the Norse pantheon, the Aesir. People from Azerbaijan call themselves Azeri. Aesir, Azeri. OMG! Heyerdahl claimed that the Odin myth stated that Odin led his people from east of the Black sea to Scandinavia. I can't find corroboration of this, except an obscure reference in a book on Google booksearch, but even if this is indeed true, it sounds more like Vikings adopted a foreign pantheon than that people actually migrated and founded Norway. Interesting, certainly, but without somewhat stronger evidence, this makes Heyerdahl almost look like von Daeniken. Then again, Vikings coming down to the Caucasus for raids and maids is pretty much an accepted fact, as is shown in this image. Either way, Sheki is worth a visit. The place to stay at is the gorgeous Karvansarai. At least until they open the completely refurbished and even bigger karvansarai just to the west of the curren tone. Dinner is to be had at Celebi Xan (which means, weirdly, that Jackie Selebi has a Turkic name). Their sheep-tail-fat kebab is pretty darn good. But bewar that it is... pure, and only, fat. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4125 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1157 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462026379 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 13 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 41.2495 [fLongitude] => 47.1932 [tLocation] => Caucasian Albanian church [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120528 ) [5373] => Array ( [iID] => 5373 [tTitle] => Visiting Murchison Falls [tSlug] => visiting-murchison-falls [iTime] => 1336860000 [iUpdate] => 1336860000 [tDescription] => This weekend was my last in Uganda for the next few weeks, so Niamh and I wanted to spend it outside of Kampala. For both of us, it's been a while since we visited a wildlife park, so we decided to head to Murchison Falls national park, north of Kampala, on the shores of lake Albert. Marlies joined us on the drive up north. The park, also known as Kabarega (or Kabalega) Falls national park, so named during Idi Amin's reign and after a local king, has now mostly recovered from raids by poachers and soldiers, during the Last King of Scotland's time as Uganda's dictator and is part of the 5300 square kilometers Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Murchison Falls National Park, itself over 3500 square kilometers, is the largest national park in Uganda. The Nile squeezes through an opening of seven meters before dropping 43 meters to create the thunderous falls after which the park has been named. It ain't no Victoria Falls, but it ain't half bad either The park itself is home to four of the big five, after rhinos became extinct in 1983. They can now be seen at a rhino sanctuary some 70km south of the park. The northern half of the park, where most of the wildlife can be found, is pretty, with its savannah and softly rolling hills. Sadly, we missed out on lions and leopards, driving around for four hours, but seeing elephants, several deer, hippos, giraffes and buffaloes. The cost of visiting the park aint too low, with particularly the daily park entry fee of 35 USD being a bit steep, with many of the activities requiring additional payments. Reasonable enough budget accommodation with excellent food at reasonable prices were had at Red Chilli. Surprisingly, it was the pork sausages with mash and gravy that was by far the best dish being served. But all the food was pretty good. An achievement, considering pretty much all ingredients have to come from far away. And, at Red Chilli, there's occasional free wildlife viewing, with semi-wild warthogs occasionally stopping by for a snack. I tried patting one, but was rudely snorted away when it became clear I wanted to right the pig. On the way to the park, we stumbled upon a real find, Kabalega Diner. 165km from Kampala on the Kampala-Gulu highway, this halfway house serves rather excellent foods in a pleasant setting with good service at affordable prices. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2916 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1145 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462211306 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 2.261 [fLongitude] => 31.641 [tLocation] => Murchison Falls [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120513 ) [5359] => Array ( [iID] => 5359 [tTitle] => A wedding in Brighton [tSlug] => a-wedding-in-brighton [iTime] => 1331506800 [iUpdate] => 1331506800 [tDescription] => Shouldacouldawoulda, a train from Holland to London now can cost as little as 50 euros. Super deal. My early morning flight to Stansted, still perhaps some two hours north of The City, is both more expensive and less convenient. On the up, spending lots of time on finding an affordable place to stay, I did end up finding a twin room for Pascal and myself for a mere 12 pounds per person per night. A steal, In a town where dorm beds are sold for over 40 euros per night during the weekend. And laughably affordable compared to the 100 euro plus several of the other guests at Felicia and Todd's wedding were paying. It was still quite fresh in Brighton, just before the start of spring, requiring me to carry along pretty much all my winter clothes, in addition to all my luggage for Uganda in a mere 20kg of luggage, allowed by Easyjet. But the newlyweds were lucky, in that their wedding day was the only one out of the five of my stay which saw clear blue skies and pleasant temperatures. Perhaps in true American style, the groom got to decide what to do on his bachelor's party, which meant a horribly expensive deep sea fishing trip in international waters and a visit to a strip club where "you can order a bottle of vodka and we will give you two pitchers of mixers for free". There, I asked how much the vodka would be, which turned out to be somewhat pricey, at 150 pounds. I stuck to affordable beers, sold for under four pounds, only a bit more expensive than in a regular pub. Entry, at 15 pounds, was circumvented by using the VIP entry vouchers strewn around in large numbers around the rather upmarket apartment the groom's parents were renting. Interestingly, though it's an obvious social faux pas to, when in a long term relationship, flirt, or, say, snog, let alone have sex, with someone who is not your partner. Yet, if a girl is simply paid to stick her boobs in your face, it apparently is ok. Meanwhile, it was quite fantastic to remeet some of the Chiang Mai crowd. The wedding itself was probably one of the most photographed ones in human history and the number of photographers per attendee, just 42, must have been the highest ever. 3G and iPhones being ubiquitous, the first wedding pics were posted before the couple was even married and, literally, comments and congratulations started pouring in straight away. Now, more so than after returning from Montenegro, I really need a holiday to recover from this holiday. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4068 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 993 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462216117 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 36 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 50.8153 [fLongitude] => -0.1372 [tLocation] => Brighton pier [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120312 ) [5351] => Array ( [iID] => 5351 [tTitle] => Out of Africa, in to Africa [tSlug] => out-of-africa-in-to-africa [iTime] => 1328914800 [iUpdate] => 1328914800 [tDescription] => It's cliche, but every ending *is* a new beginning, and vice versa. Leaving tonight, for the last time, for Lungi, seeing me having to wait for an uncool five hours, in the middle of the night, to wait for my flight to Casablanca to take off, I'll be moving through half a dozen countries, before settling, with Niamh, in Uganda, just over a month from today. The last two months, after my return from Tanzania and South Africa, haven't been half bad. Sure, we've had city power perhaps 20% of the time and didn't have water, at all, for a few days, and little water on many others, GOAL, Niamh's organization, finally decided to pony up the cash and get internet at the residence. This meant that, whenever there was power, and we are on a generator in the evenings when city power fails, almost always there has been fairly reliable internet. This, a bit of a godsend, as it allowed me to not have to walk the earth in search for overpriced and very unreliable internet cafes, every day. The last 19 months or so have been interesting times, good people, a cute kitty, and starting off a weekly pubquiz at O'Casey, last Thursday in its 45th installment. And, on the verge of my departure, a nice project for GOAL, too. I'm sad for leaving the kitty, Tash, behind, though. And here's to hoping a return to Asia will happen... at least at some point. For now, it's a one month tour of Europe, which will include a wedding in Brighton and braving the frozen wastelands of... Serbia, as well as visiting a new country on my list, Montenegro. Then, it's Uganda for a year, with, almost upon arrival, trips to Tanzania and Zambia. And, shortly after, a return to Istanbul and an onwards trip to Azarbaijan with, hopefully, side visits to Georgia and Armenia. Ah, the bane of aging. If only I still had the same sense of wonder for discovering new places as I once had. And if only discovering new places was as exhilarating as it once was. With the globe being so much more interconnected, and with everyone and their baby brother now having a Facebook timeline where photos, books, games and whatnot get shared, it's just too easy to virtually never leave home and always stay in touch, even in the remotest of places. The vast majority of the planet has become a completely standardized affair, the wonder and differences being found in every smaller aspects of local life. Meanwhile, I have to cough up good money to get out of here. The cheapest connection between Freetown and Amsterdam is setting me back 840 USD. For a one way flight. Considering a round trip Amsterdam Johannesburg easily goes for less then 700 USD, it's a total rip off. And I still have to get to the airport. The cheap option is to take a government ferry, at two euros. But that means either leaving at 2pm, from a fairly easily reachable location, or at 6pm, from the other side of town, a drive there easily taking two hours. As my flight only leaves at 620am in the morning, it would mean having to spend the night close to the airport. There, hotels typically go for over 100 USD per night, as the mining companies bleeding Sierra Leone dry scoop up all the overpriced and low quality beds, though a new place I found that's not great, but manageable, 'only' charges 35. The alternative, which I in the end decided to go for, is taking a water taxi, at a rip off 40 usd, at 12am. Which means I'll be stuck at the airport, in the middle of the night, for some five hours, before my flight leaves. And, though the airport provided free high speed internet a year ago or so, that has disappeared in the mean time. Indeed, there's no good alternative here. It's tempting to want to return to Sierra Leone in, say, 15 years time, to see how the place has developed, but it's also easy to suspect that change will be little. The main road out of town through our area has now been under construction for some 15 months. This is a stretch of road not more than five kilometers long. The road leaving Freetown, going down the peninsula, has been under construction for over five years, nothing ever really changing. The president recently announced a new international airport will be built on this side of the bay. Sounds nice, until you realize it will be on the other side of the peninsula, where you have to somehow get to the other side of the mountain range that forms the back of Freetown. Meanwhile, see above, trips to the airport are a pain and flying is horribly expensive. The UN coughed up a loan to allow the high speed internet cable to beach in Freetown, giving land-based international communication access to Sierra Leone for the first time in history, on the condition that the Sierra Leone government would set up an independent telco regulator. The cable beached last October, an independent overseer is yet to be formed. And, hence, access to the cable hasn't yet been rolled out. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2074 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1018 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462221307 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 8.47522 [fLongitude] => -13.27 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120211 ) [5283] => Array ( [iID] => 5283 [tTitle] => Traveling with an iPad, redux [tSlug] => traveling-with-an-ipad-redux [iTime] => 1313359200 [iUpdate] => 1313359200 [tDescription] => It's a year since I bought my iPad, and a week since I bought my iPad 2, time for an update on my post on what to take when traveling with one. This is directed both at those using an iPad as a tourist and as an alternative for a work computer while on the road. + Strongly consider buying PDF versions of the Lonely Planet chapters you could use. Sadly, at regular prices, the individual chapters are way too expensive, making it easily more interesting to buy a whole guide, at about a 50% discount.  Having tried some alternative solutions, apps that also offer travel info, nothing beats the Lonely Planet, still. The more obscure your destination and the shorter your stay, the more you'll benefit from getting the guide of guides, if only for the practical info. + Use the free Read It Later app to save Wikitravel guides of your destination to your iPad. PocketTrav used to be an excellent app to do this, but the app has stopped working, at least for me and my friends. + Consider saving the Wikipedia entries of your destination to your iPad. This gives you your history section. + Get the MapsWithMe app. This allows you to pre-download openmaps of the countries you are visiting. The maps are not as easy on the eye as Google maps, but their always being available, with your GPS location marked, makes them extremely useful.  As long as you have internet access, Google maps is the way to go, but if you're traveling abroad, this is often a problem. + Get the Tripadvisor app. Granted, you need a connection for it, but when there is one, typically at your hotel or, depending on your destination, perhaps a cafe you visit, you'll be able to check out which restaurant to visit, or which sight to see, based on other people's reviews. Contribute while you're at it. + Consider using the Wikihood app. It's nice, but doesn't add too much, as it only shows you what's near you, when you are online, while the info is culled from Wikipedia. As plenty of venues do not have coordinates associated with them, many of your nearby locations will go unnoticed by the app. Not giving you travel info, but useful, are HipMunk, AirNinja and SkyScanner, for finding cheap fares and budget airlines. Also get your favorite weather app, mine is AccuWeather, and a good clock, I use the aptly named Alarm Clock. Also, on my recent one month, eight country trip, I took just my iPad, not my computer, crossing my fingers I would be able to do all that was needed. This almost worked, but not completely. KyPass, MySQL ODBC and Gusto go a very long way, but when the shit hits the fan, I need the convenience of a properly multitasking high resolution desktop with easy to use keyboard.  I gave up on the Bluetooth keyboard I purchased for my trip to Afghanistan. Just pairing it was so cumbersome I'm better of having thrown it out of the window. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2456 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 734 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462234804 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 51.9926 [fLongitude] => 4.35874 [tLocation] => Bot-Boender residence [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110815 ) [5267] => Array ( [iID] => 5267 [tTitle] => Oslo, I am disappoint [tSlug] => oslo-i-am-disappoint [iTime] => 1312668000 [iUpdate] => 1312668000 [tDescription] => Sadly, Oslo is currently the world's most expensive city. At the same time, Oslo is also the fastest growing European city, though this is due to immigration, currently a quarter of the population being immigrants, with some predictions saying that in 20 years time, it will be half. The largest immigrant populations are Pakistani, Somali, Swede and Pole. Walking around the inner city, roughly the town's shopping district, it actually feels like 75% of the population are immigrants. It's a pity that the city isn't very attractive, rather drab and also rather messy and dirty. A jumble of buildings, though some, thankfully, are nice enough. Service related to the flight from Katowice to Oslo can improve on its levels of comfort. Katowice airport is an hour from town, but worse was boarding being called ("please go to the gate now") half an hour before they actually started the boarding procedure. Because the gate was down a ramp, meaning you couldn't see the gate from the departure hall, all passengers ended up being stuck in a small space, unable to move, waiting for the gate to open. At the gate an old fashioned eastern European, very staunch, lady, was policing bag size, picking out passengers and having them check both weight and size of their carry on. Luckily, I slipped through. Though my bag wasn't too heavy, 10kg is allowed, the shape of the backpack, like most, doesn't fit the prescribed size. Going through the security check in Katowice, both toothpaste and deodorant were confiscated, even though I got through security with them when flying from Eindhoven. Sure, rules are rules, and I understand that 125ml of toothpaste can be terribly dangerous. Later, exchanging money in town, the chain of currency exchange offices called Forex, filled with what seemed Somalians and Ethiopians, charge a fixed and criminal six euros for changing money. And I had to hand over my ID for registration. This behavior, and the rather strict border control when entering the country, reeks of the trappings of totalitarianism. WTF is up with this shit? On the upside, Oslo truly is a cashless society. All payments can be done by card. All payments. Norway is outside of the EU (but inside Schengen), so alcohol could be had cheap atKatowice airport, full bottles of Zubrowka going for a mere 6 euros. As in Oslo a pint of beer can cost double that, stocking up before going is the thing to do. And the savings are more than needed. A mediocre hot dog and half a liter of water, at a Seven Eleven, set me back nearly six euros. A whopper junior is only marginally less than that. Toothpaste (a small tube, in case airport security want to get it from me again), deodorant (small), water and a roll, at a regular supermarket, set me back nearly twelve euros. It seems that the cost of shopping in Sierra Leone has met it's match. Norway only beats it on choice. Boarding the plane, my passport wasn't checked once. This means that flying on someone else's ticket is possible. Additionally, the only thing that really matters, if at all, is that the name of the boarding card matches the name in your passport. However, with web checkins, this is easily adjusted on the original with very little computer skills. Just as long as the barcode is intact, the scan of the boarding card will work fine, whether the name on the card matches the name it was booked for or not. In Oslo, plenty of the city's museums used to be free, up till only a few months ago. No mean feat, as those that weren't free charged 8 to 15 euros a piece. Free, it seems, doesn't exist anymore. The museum that hosts Munch's Scream now costs about 7 euros, though you get to see three more museums at that price, though all used to be free. Thankfully, it's more than worth it, though two of the four can be skipped. Other formerly free museums now charge about the same price. The Kon-Tiki museum, highlighting Thor Heyerdahl's journey from Peru to Easter Island, never was free, but upped it's price to just under ten euros. The Munch museum, which also has a version of the scream, now charges 13 euros. I'm staying in one of the very few budget options in town, which still comes in at some 30 euros per night for a bed in an eight bedded dorm. The place, Anker hostel, is so busy with backpackers and whatnot arriving and leaving, it feels more like a factory. Though the place is clean and staff are friendly, the hostel also feels remarkably run down. Cashing in 250 euros per room per night, I'm a bit surprised. Not sure if it is the rains, or simply the prohibitive cost of going out on the town, the reception area of the hostel is busy with guests hanging out from the early morning till the evening. And with everyone tapping away on their iPhone or laptop because of the free but mediocre wifi, it's also eerily quiet. Sadly, though August is the festival season in Oslo, as opposed to eastern Europe, where in august most venues shut down, the rains aren't inviting. Building a house with Habitat in 2000 in Beius, Romania, we fraternized with some of the locals. One of them moved to Norway and she has been asking me for close to ten years when I'd finally visit, me saying it will happen at some point. It's happening now, but, as luck would have it, she's on holiday in Romania. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3069 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1110 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462102394 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 41 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 59.9167 [fLongitude] => 10.7577 [tLocation] => Anker hostel [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110807 ) [5266] => Array ( [iID] => 5266 [tTitle] => Gotta catch them all [tSlug] => gotta-catch-them-all [iTime] => 1312322400 [iUpdate] => 1312322400 [tDescription] => Ever since entering the European Union some two weeks ago, the weather has been more appropriate for a gloomy September than befitting a central European summer. Arriving in Katowice, the sun peeked out briefly, only to disappear again behind clouds and rain. I really would appreciate a bit more warmth and sunshine, if only for it helping my chances of shooting nice pictures. Close to Aushwitz, Katowice hasn't got as much to offer as, say, nearby Krakow, the city and area having gained economic ascendency through its industrial prowess. The town, more functional than historical, feels a bit like Antwerp or Rotterdam. Though pretty buildings can be found all over town, it's functional constructions from the 1970s which dominate the city. Interestingly, for a brief period during the 1950s, from shortly before to shortly after comrade number one's demise, Katowice was passed of as Stalin's city, Stalinogrod. The region, Silesia, is named after a local river and mountain, Åšlęża, of which the etymology has been traced back to the pre-indoeuropean Vandals, coming down from the Baltics in prehistoric times. Still, though it's not agreed whether Silesians should constitute their own nation, Silesian nationalism, or perhaps pride, is obvious, with the Silesian blue and white flag hanging all over Katowice. The Silesian language, on the other hand, is most often considered a Polish dialect, not a unique language. I'm staying in a very pleasant hostel which is clean, quiet and efficient. Katowice not being one of Poland's backpacker hotspots, the scope is limited, meaning that budget options were few, and I resigned to having to sleep in a dorm. Nevertheless, the attributes of the hostel make up for it. Arriving at four in the afternoon, I went out to take in a bit of the town, including what is said to be the largest monument in Poland, commemorating three Silesian uprisings, a good 80 years ago. I returned after chilling and some good food and drinks around ten in the evening, only to find a bunch of youngsters hanging out in the dorm, on their bunk beds, reading their tattered paperbacks. I took my bottle of Zubrowka, acquired at the Polish equivalent of Aldi, and headed down to the, very nice, common room to nerd and read.
What I don't get and see too often, grandpa mode engaged, is why these 'kids' prefer to read in their bunk beds, while they could be out having a good time for a pittance, or at least relax in a chair. Half a liter of beer at a fancy Irish pub, here, goes for just two euros. Meanwhile, walking down one of Katowice's main drags lined with pubs, bars and restaurants, I couldn't help but noticing scores of youngsters hanging out on and around the permanent furniture in-between the pubs, smoking and drinking their own beers and vodkas. There is little to discover on a dorm room. It's happening on the street! The great death factory tourism factory It's a must to visit Auschwitz, near Krakow, but nearer to Katowice. Last time I was in the area, Krakow, was 16 years ago and I failed this obligatory stop. Not so now. It's been observed that with ubiquitous access to information and flash tourism, it's the prominent tourism attractions that thrive, while the also rans slowly slump back. That's probably why though access to Auschwitz is normally free, in summer between 10 and 3, you can only access Auschwitz I, the main camp, on a guided tour costing you 40 zloty, about ten euros. Access to Auschwitz II, Birkenau, is still free, but the one and only 'Arbeit macht frei' sign can only be found at the former. And extremely busy it indeed is. English tours are held the most often, sometimes as much as every 15 minutes, but even then, my group was so big it still had to be split in three groups of about 20. The tour was decent enough, if too long, but also lacking. The tour guide was very good at going through, presenting, the logistics of running the death camp, sure. No problem there.
At the entrance of the first building, containing information on and photos of the transports to the camps, the famous quote by George Santayana had been put up, "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it". Obviously, we have not learned; Cambodia, South Africa, Rwanda, Yugoslavia being recent proof. But learning about the logistics of a death camp won't help anyone to understand the underlying causes of these sad events and won't foster the realization of it having happened before, when it happens now or in the future, for there is always the justification which will make it alright, in the eyes of the perpetrators, thinking that 'now' is different from before. However, if we, in this case visitors of Auschwitz, can understand the reasons for Nazi Germany to so abuse man and understand the fallacies in their thinking, we have a better chance at recognizing these fallacies in our own or others' thinking when they happen, hopefully being able to recognize the build ups to genocide before it occurs. Sadly, learning how efficient the Germans were is not going to do that. Getting to Oswiecim, the Polish name for the town, from Katowice, is a bit of a hassle, compared to getting there from Krakow. Only three direct trains a day do the trip, while several bus services ply the route as well, but all starting in different locations in the city and running infrequently. Real estate Believing in society as something that could be constructed, the early 20th century saw a number of (social) engineering projects, typically related to then, newly developing industrial projects. Many of these housing estates, often to a large extent self sufficient, were also often built along similar concepts and similar designs. One example is the Agnetapark in Delft, related to the Gist en Spiritus fabriek (yeast and spirits factory), later Calve, of peanut butter fame, now DSM. Another one is an estate I visited a few years ago in Budapest, Wekerle telep.
I love Nikisz
Quite similar in design and layout to the latter, but this one built in red brick, is the housing estate in Nikiszowiec, now part of Katowice's municipality. Nikiszowiec consists of nine ring shaped blocks, three stories high, with each surrounding a large courtyard, landscaped into a semi private park. A nice neo-baroque church complements the settlement, built for the workers of the nearby mineshaft, Nickisch, which started operating in 1906. For me, slowing down a bit on my schedule of 8 countries in four weeks, taking this extra day in Katowice, I was able to see a few sights slightly off the beaten track. Not only Nikiszowiec, but I also wandered around the city's modernist quarter, which includes a skyscraper of 14 stories which once was the highest building in the country. I also visited what was once the largest building in Poland, the former Silesian parliament, from when Silesia was, briefly, independent, or rather, an autonomous province of the interwar Second Polish Republic. In other news, finally, after some two weeks, the sun has been shining the whole day. It actually makes this industrial city rather attractive. The summer dress code does help with that. Still, its weird that for the whole week, the highs are predicted to be higher in Oslo, than here in central Europe. The sun started shining a day earlier, while in Auschwitz, but by the time I got back to Katowice, and stumbled upon Le Tour de Pologne, sunshine had turned into rain again. No bucket full of meat I've been trying to find one of the city's milk bars. No, milk plus is not served, here, these are low priced, almost communal, kitchens serving good food. Or so I'm told. I found one, but found it closed. Three times. Instead, I ended up at the vegetarian restaurant Zloty Osiol, smack in the middle of town. The food is SO GOOD, I had no choice but to eat there. Three times. In fact, the only meat I had in Poland was inside two kroket, indeed, written just like in Holland, though of slightly different texture, just before going on my tour of Auschwitz. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2502 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1107 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461708591 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 31 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 50.2596 [fLongitude] => 19.0219 [tLocation] => Rynek [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110803 ) [5262] => Array ( [iID] => 5262 [tTitle] => No sleep till bedtime [tSlug] => no-sleep-till-bedtime [iTime] => 1311717600 [iUpdate] => 1311717600 [tDescription] => Returning from Romania, I was set to have a week of recovery in Hungary. Not so. But late nights and early mornings made me aware, conceptually, of a strong linguistic connection between Hungary and Holland. The Dutch word of the year 2008 was swaffelen, which refers to touching people or objects with your flaccid penis. The Hungarian term faszkorbács literally means dick-whip, and is typically used in relation to an oratory trashing of an individual. Expecting to recover from a good week out east, I ended up partying more like it was 1997 and only had an easy day on my last, when Benno left early to attend a function in Germany. The next morning, I had to get up at five to catch a bus to Brno. The bus, trundling through the Hungarian countryside, again showed me the beauty of the gently sloping fields and low green hills. How gorgeous. I can't wait to get back to Salone. Notice the sarcasm. But up to a point. The flat north is less enticing. While in Budapest, I also went through the painful process of losing an arm and a leg in the process of buying a ticket from Holland to Freetown. I huffed and puffed, and managed to get the cost down to 543 euro. That will be the cost from door to door, including three trains, a bus, a plane, another plane and ending with a speedboat. I would save a good 30 usd using the ferry in Freetown, but I arrive at 3am. Not the nicest time to trawl through an abandoned peninsula and city. This is a one way journey. Booking a one way journey with Kevin Mcphilips, the 'budget' option for Sierra Leone, for the same day, would cost 700 euros, flying from Heathrow. On top of that, I would have to get to Heathrow and still get from the airport in Freetown to Freetown itself. The cheapest alternative would leave from Amsterdam and would cost about 80 euros more. I'm flying from Charlerois, Brussels South. The train journey to get me there is a low, low, 14.50 euros. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2867 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1102 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462193392 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 23 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.5016 [fLongitude] => 19.0713 [tLocation] => The bachelors valhalla [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110727 ) [5260] => Array ( [iID] => 5260 [tTitle] => When in Romania [tSlug] => when-in-romania [iTime] => 1311112800 [iUpdate] => 1311112800 [tDescription] => Getting in or out of Chisinau presents you with limited choices. Though there are occasional long distance trains, going to and coming from as far away as Berlin and Moscow, but these only typically run about once a week. There is a daily night train between the Moldovan capital and Bucharest, but busses are significantly more common. So, skipping Bucharest to save time which would allow me to potentially participate in a pubquiz in Budapest on Thursday, I took a bus to Brasov, just under two hundred kilometers north of Bucharest. Brasov, its name deriving from the Turkic for "white water", once in the domain of the Hungarians, is firmly in the heart of Transylvania. The city isn't very big, only counting some 300.000 peeps as it's inhabitants, and the old town of the city is embedded between two scissoring steep cliff faces, which rise up hundreds of meters above the old city. The town itself is actually a tad boring, feeling like a remote Austrian or south German town. And it's also horribly touristy, the whole year through, thanks to the nearby ski slopes and the also nearby home of Vlad the Impaler, more colloquially known as Dracula. You can even visit the man's castle, though he had several. Apparently, a country has to take pride in one's serial killers. More interesting is the castle's history before Vlad associated himself with it, if only briefly. A castle was first built by the Teutonic knights in the early 13th century, this one was destroyed by the advancing Mongols in 1242. Consider how close the Mongols came to conquering the world. Not because they were defeated, but because the generals were called back to select a successor to the great khan Ogedei, the third son of Chinggis Khan. Talk about a case of being saved by the bell. The rebuilt Bran castle, put together by the Saxons and allowed for by the ruling Hungarian king was then first used in the defense against the Ottomans in 1378, after which a back and forth took place for a while, which included the short term ownership of Vlad III, in 1459, the individual on which Dracula was modeled. Now, the building is a museum with a host of materials from the Romanian queen Mary and, actually, not really worth visiting. Sure, the setting is nice, but Vlad the Impaler is only a minor side story, and the disneyfication in the village of Bran is second to none. No sweet transvestites were encountered. Onwards Even the Romanian train network now deploys time-differentiated pricing in the style of Ryanair. Want to travel tomorrow to Budapest? You'll pay up to twice as much as if you had booked a week in advance. Is that reasonable? A public service run by the government shouldn't try to take advantage of it's subjects in a market where competition is not possible. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2453 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1101 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462210729 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 6 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 45.515 [fLongitude] => 25.3672 [tLocation] => Bran castle [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110720 ) [5259] => Array ( [iID] => 5259 [tTitle] => Transnistria, the little country that isn't [tSlug] => transnistria-the-little-country-that-isnt [iTime] => 1310940000 [iUpdate] => 1310940000 [tDescription] => It's amazing that a Chisinau and Vladivostok, some 7500 kilometers apart, as the crow flies, were once part of the same country. Chisinau has a decidedly more European, if eastern feel to it than Vladivostok, but the nearby Tiraspol could just as easily be any larger city anywhere in Siberia. The government building is still called house of the Soviet, a few Lenin statues still stand and the hammer and sickle can be seen all over the place, including in the country's flag. When the Soviet Union broke up, the Moldovan region east of the Dniester, Nistra, river had quite a few Russians living there, mostly related to the Soviets' strong military presence. The Transnistrians fought to stay independent, afraid that the new country, with its strong ties to the region of Moldavia across the border in Romania, would seek to reunite with it's western neighbor. So far, Moldova is still Moldova, on the edge of the European union and supposedly the poorest country in Europe, though that's hard to tell from the many cafes and restaurants lining the city's streets. But, the breakaway province also believes it's a country, even though it's only recognized as such by two other entities, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and they are not even countries themselves. I found Tiraspol nice and friendly enough, if very small and quiet. It's easy to walk to the edge of town and, while walking, I bumped into several of the locals with whom i shared my bus into the country. And it seems the Transnistrian officials are no longer hassling tourists. Up to a few years ago, crossing into the wannabe country would be frought with difficulties and the need of paying multiple bribes. Now, a successful policy change made crossing a total breeze. To the extent where it's almost meaningless. On the Ukrainian side, the guards briefly looked at our passports, there is freedom of travel between the two republics. Later, leaving Moldovia, on the Romanian side, the Moldovans checked the passports and tapped every part of the bus with a screwdriver, but did not check the luggage, while the Romanians didn't check the bus, but did check the luggage in the hold, very briefly, but did not check the luggage which remained in the bus. A Moldovan family on the bus was extremely fidgety until after the Moldovan checkpoint. It reminded me of a crossing from Lithuania to Poland by bus a good number of years ago, where nearly everyone was smuggling stuff, taped to their person. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2413 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1099 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461977826 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 22 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.8367 [fLongitude] => 29.6109 [tLocation] => Monument to Suvorov [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110718 ) ) ) Keyword: travel ::