Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I took the last of four typhoid vaccine pills today. Yummy. Guess that makes me as protected from the creepie-crawlies as I can get.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tanzanian Elections Are Largely Peaceful - Whew!

Looks like Jakaya Kikwete (above, on the right) and the CCM party have won the Tanzanian elections. You might remember my post from October 31 that described some violence in early elections on Zanzibar, where we'll be heading in the first days of February. This story from the BBC says there was some additional trouble this week on Zanzibar, where the majority favors the opposition CUF party.

Fortunately for our trip (as well as for the people of Tanzania), it seems that this is one African nation that is starting to do a fairly good job of holding elections; the international observers involved in the election said things went pretty smoothly.

It will be interesting on our upcoming visit to see if we notice a difference between the Tanzanian mainland and Zanzibar. Politically, it appears that these two locations couldn't be more different. President Kikwete needs to figure out a way to bring his people together. It looks like he's won himself five years in office to see what he can do.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Crash Course in Fitness Begins

After dealing with a back injury and pneumonia over the past 10 weeks, I've got less than five weeks to return to a semblance of fitness. Today was a good start in my crash course -- I spent about two and half hours bouncing around the forested paths of James River Park this afternoon. It was a great day for hiking, but let me tell you: I am seriously wiped out. If I'm this exhausted after a couple hours of hiking at sea level, how am I going to be able to do longer hikes three miles up on Kilimanjaro?

Looks like I've got my work cut out for me. I wonder how the other Yanks are doing...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Dreaded Blog Entry About Gear

I want to preface this entry by saying I know nobody cares about what gear I bring on this trip. I have listened to some podcasts and read some blog entries that go on ad nauseam about gear, and it just ends up being a bunch of data I can't use. That said, however, it doesn't seem like a discussion of our trip would be complete if I didn't at least write down a list of the stuff we're planning on bringing along with us for our adventures.

I'm writing about this today because I had a low-level gear-inspired panic attack last night after I went to bed.

Here's the list that Africa Travel Resource provided to us; most of this is for the Kilimanjaro part of the journey only. Feel free to move on to the next blog entry right now if you hate reading this stuff as much as I do!
  • Soft kit bag for porters to carry my main mountain gear
  • Small (30-40 liter) backpack
  • Rain cover for small backpack
  • Wide brimmed hat
  • Balaclava or woolly hat
  • Scarf or bandana
  • Sunglasses or goggles
  • Poncho (optional)
  • Hooded waterproof jacket
  • Four seasons duvet jacket
  • Warm upper body layers - 3
  • Upper body under layers - 3
  • Waterproof outer gloves
  • Thin undergloves
  • Gel-activated hand warmers - 2 (for summit push!)
  • Waterproof trousers / pants
  • Fleece trousers / pants
  • Lightweight trousers / pants - 2
  • Short trousers / pants - 2
  • Thermal under trousers / pants - 2
  • Underwear - 3
  • Gaiters (optional)
  • Thick socks - 3 pair
  • Thin socks - 6 pair
  • Hiking boots
  • Spare laces
  • Trainers
  • Walking poles
  • Sleeping bag
  • Inflatable sleeping mat
  • Foam sleeping mat : thin
  • Foam sleeping mat : 75mm / 3"
  • Water bottles, 1 litre - 3
  • Water purification pump (optional)
  • Water purification tablets - iodine
  • Cordial or water flavouring
  • Favourite snacks
  • High-energy bars
  • Head torch
  • Spare torch batteries - 4 sets
  • Spare torch bulb - 2
  • Pocket knife
  • Plastic bags & bin liners
  • Pencil & paper for the trip log
  • Camera plus film and batteries
  • Reading material
  • Games & cards
  • Towel
  • Toiletries
  • Lip balm
  • Ear plugs
  • Soft toilet paper - 2 rolls
  • Wet wipes
  • Spare contact lenses or glasses
  • Paperwork
  • Antacids
  • Antihistamines
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Blister treatment
  • Dressings
  • Imodium or other anti-diarrhoeal tablets
  • Insect repellent containing DEET (not needed on mountain)
  • Knee supports etc.
  • Lemsip or other cold cure sachets
  • Malaria tablets
  • Oral rehydration salts / sachets
  • Painkillers
  • Sanitary Towels or similar
  • Sticking plasters : band aids
  • Sun block for skin & lips : factor 15+
  • Talcum Powder
  • Mosquito net (not needed on mountain)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Let It Snow! (I Need to Test My Gear)

It doesn't snow very often here in the South, so I was nearly giddy when I woke up this morning to see the white stuff coming down. And come down it did -- nearly five inches of it, and all wet and sloppy to boot.

And speaking of boots, wintry weather like this is perfect for checking out gear -- like my footwear and waterproof jacket. One of my biggest concerns for this trip is my new(ish) pair of boots. My old pair, while still decent, have had quite a few miles put on them (Nepal, Russia, New Zealand!), and they weigh a bleedin' ton.

So I took the plunge and bought a new pair of Tecnica boots earlier this year before Mrs. Lt. Dan and I went to Peru. They held up pretty well tromping around Machu Picchu, but I can't help but wonder how they will fare in the extremes of Tanzania. Nothing sucks more than a bad pair of footwear and no REI store within 15,000 miles.

Anyway. Today's snow gave me an opportunity to try out the Tecnicas in snow for the first time. Their Gore-Tex shell shed the moisture pretty well, and I think they'll hold up OK in Africa. On the other hand, I can't say the same for my jacket (which also is supposed to be Gore-Tex'd): it soaked clear through in a number of places. This isn't a surprise; the jacket succumbed to the rainforest of the Milford Track in New Zealand three years ago, but it was a good reminder that I've still got some work to do to get my gear up to snuff.

I'm not looking forward to accumulating all the necessary gear for this trip. We'll be spending time in the buggy heat of the Serengeti, the cold of Kilimanjaro and the tropics of Zanzibar. Seems to me like we need to pack for every conceivable climate -- and that sounds like a lot of crap to hump halfway around the planet.

And Earthquakes Too

Having a regular feed for Tanzania and Zanzibar news stories brings up all kinds of stuff. Today, we learned of an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 in western Tanzania:

Although the Kilimanjaro area is quite a distance away from the western border of Tanzania, the quake was strong enough to be felt in Arusha, a town near the mountain.

East Africa's Great Rift Valley runs along a geological fault line, but has largely escaped major quakes in recent years. Glad we don't need to be spending any time in high-rise buildings while we're there.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Podcasting is Gonna Happen

Finally following up on the podcasting idea. I'm hooked.

Along with Christmas cards, Russian orphan calendar sales, holiday shopping and getting fit for the trip, I've now added "learn how to podcast" and (more importantly) "learn how to create a non-sucky podcast" to my list of things to do this month.

I've been able to find only one set of podcast-like audio files for Kilimanjaro, from a group called "Cops on Top" that climbs mountains in honor of police officers killed in the line of duty. Technically, what they recorded last January isn't really a podcast -- they called in every day to an answering machine from their satellite phone -- but the dozen or so short vignettes were intriguing to hear. (Especially the day they were on the summit -- they sounded more than a little short of breath!) It was good to hear that the weather they experienced was good; we will be hiking up the mountain at about the same time of year as they did.

I also just discovered the Everest Podcast, which details the journey of "city slicker" Erick Tseng from San Francisco to Mt. Everest's Base Camp 3. I suspect the Flying Yanks' podcast in Africa will share a lot of similarities to Erick's. It seems to me that Erick should be considered a pioneer of adventure travel podcasting -- I highly recommend giving the Everest Podcast a listen.

In other news, I'm getting healthier... the daily gobs of phlegm are getting smaller. I'm pretty sure that I ended up with a touch of pneumonia; I finally dug into my supply of Ciproflaxin so I can get myself cleaned up. It's a good thing that I'm finally feeling better: There's only six weeks and a day left before the big iron bird takes me to Africa!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I Can't Fight This Feeling

This makes seven straight mornings when I've woken up to feel like someone other than Lt. Dan. Today, I woke up sounding like Johnny Cash.

Less than seven weeks to go. I'm gonna need a crash course in fitness.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Official Itinerary

Well, our payments have been made and we're as locked in as we'll ever be, so I guess it's time to share our official itinerary with you.

Sat 14-Jan-06:
Fly from USA to Amsterdam.

Sun 15-Jan-06:
I'll meet up with the Yanks in Amsterdam, and then we'll fly to Kilimanjaro, arriving around 8 p.m. Tanzanian time. We'll stay at the Moivaro Lodge in Arusha this night (and on a couple other nights during this adventure, as well).

Mon 16-Jan-06:
Our safari begins: we will drive from Arusha to Makayuni, across the Maasai Steppe; then to Manyara, to the Rift Escarpment and across beautiful high altitude farmland; finally, we will reach the Ngorongoro Crater, where we will have game-drives and a picnic lunch inside the crater itself.

At the end of the day, we will drive out of the crater to Ilmisigiyo village, where we will camp for the night.

Tue 17-Jan-06:
The previous day's safari was pretty much all on wheels; today will be all hiking. We will be met by a Maasai guide at Ilmisigiyo village and then hike from the campsite to the summit of Mt. Makarot (3130m, 10,269ft). Lonely Planet's Trekking in East Africa says that on a clear day from the summit of Makarot, you can see the Ngorongoro Crater to the east and the Serengeti Plains to the west. (Awesome!)

After a picnic lunch on Makarot's summit, we will descend through small Maasai villages and out onto the Serengeti Plains to Olduvai. It sounds like there is a good chance we will encounter buffalo, giraffe and monkeys in this area -- we have been warned to pay close attention to our guide.

At the end of the day, we will stay at Olduvai Tented Camp.

Wed 18-Jan-06:
After a healthy bit of hiking the previous day, we'll be back in the vehicle again today for a full day in the Serengeti Plains. The options for today's safari drive are numerous, but we'll more than likely hit the following areas and sights: Naabi Hill, Simba Kopjes, Seronera, Lake Magadi, Rongai and the Maasai Kopjes. This ought to be quite a day for game viewing.

Our accommodation on this day is the Ronjo Flycamp.

Thu 19-Jan-06 :
Today is another day of safari, much of which will probably be in the vehicle. This day has no specific agenda; our guides will determine the best places for us to go based on where the wildlife is residing, such as the kopjes (small stony hills) where there's a good chance to see beasts such as lions.

At the end of the day, we will once again stay at Ronjo Flycamp.

Fri 20-Jan-06:
We begin slowly heading back east on this day, taking side trips on the way through areas such as the remote Gol Kopjes and the shifting sand dunes of the area. Again, the day's activities will be dictated by game movements.

We will return to Olduvai Tented Camp at the end of this day.

Sat 21-Jan-06:
By the end of the day today, we will be back in Arusha. How we get there and how long we take to get there is pretty much up to us. With the Ngorongoro Crater between Olduvai and Arusha, we have the opportunity to either drive around the crater rim or go back down into the crater for more time in that amazing caldera of wildlife.

We will need to be back in Arusha before 16.00 hours, though, because we are due for a briefing and equipment check for Kilimanjaro at that time.

Accommodations will once again be at the Moivaro Lodge in Arusha on this night. (Better make it a good night of sleep -- it's the last chance before we hit the mountain!)

Sun 22-Jan-06:
Today we begin our attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (5896m, 19,344ft). There are several routes up the mountain, and we're taking the Lemosho Route, one of the least-traveled trails. Located on the west side of the mountain, Lemosho provides an excellent chance for acclimatization and allows for some travel away from hordes of other foreign tourists. (One of the routes is so popular with tourists that it's called the "Coca-Cola" route. Yecch.)

On our first day, we will be driven from Moivaro Lodge to the Lemosho trailhead, which ought to take two or three hours. After we're dropped off, we'll hike for about four or five hours on a gentle ascent through shrub forest to the Glades Flycamp (2750m, 9000ft), where we'll spend the first night. We may encounter elephants, buffalo and other wildlife on this first day; an armed ranger will accompany us to the camp.

Mon 23-Jan-06
Day Two on Kilimanjaro will take us from the Glades Flycamp to Shira Camp One (3840m, 12,600ft). This climb of 4-5 hours will eventually take us out of the forest and onto a much less sparsely vegetated landscape.

Tue 24-Jan-06:
Day Three on Kilimanjaro takes us 10 kilometers on a gradual ascent from Shira Camp One to Barranco Camp (3950m, 13,000ft). This hike of 5-7 hours will take us through forests of giant lobelia plants/trees. Should be a good day for acclimatization since we don't really go up much higher than the previous day.

Wed 25-Jan-06:
On Kilimanjaro Day Four, we'll cross directly south of the summit. This is another day that we've specially requested for acclimatization; we'll essentially stay at the same elevation while getting ever nearer the summit-embarkation point. After four or five hours of hiking, we'll set up camp at Karanga Valley (4000m, 13,100ft).

Thu 26-Jan-06:
The next two days will undoubtedly be two of the most physically challenging days of our lives. Starting today, we begin to make the push toward the summit. From Karanga Valley, we'll hike 3-4 hours up a steep ascent to Barafu Hut, the highest campsite of our trip (4600m, 15,100ft).

Fri 27-Jan-06:
It's Summit Day! And it's a long day at that: we'll be walking 11-15 hours today.

We'll begin our attempt to reach Kilimanjaro's summit very early in the morning today (around midnight, I believe). After 5-7 hours of ascent in the darkness, we will reach Stella Point (5700m, 18,700ft), which is the rim of Kili's crater. Another 1-2 hours of walking around the crater rim will take us to Uhuru Peak -- the summit of Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa. With any luck, we'll get there in time for the sunrise.

The celebration will probably be short-lived, though, because we'll still need to toss ourselves back down the mountain to the tune of another 5-7 hours on this day. By the time we crash at Mweka Camp (3100m, 10,100ft), we'll be tired little puppies.

Sat 28-Jan-06:
Last day on Kilimanjaro. It's all downhill, so it should be easy, right? Hah! I doubt it; if our travel documents are right, this will be a "painful descent" of 5-6 hours down to the Mweka trailhead. Today will be the day we'll see how well my boots (and my toes) are holding up. Lambswool, anyone?

A car will be at the trailhead to pick us up and take us back to the undoubtedly welcome showers and beds of Moivaro Lodge.

Sun 29-Jan-06 - Tue 31-Jan-06:
Will we have energy to move at all on this day? Perhaps we will be enticed by the prospects of spending the next few days on the beach in Zanzibar... you'd like to think so!

Today, we hop on a plane in Arusha and fly to the island of Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast. We'll stay at the Matemwe Beach Lodge on the east coast of the island for the next three days, doing pretty much whatever seems like a good idea at the time. Snorkeling and SCUBA diving are possibilities, but I'm thinking a nice nap will be first on this particular Yank's to do list.

Wed 01-Feb-06
After a few luxurious days on the beach, we'll take a car in to Stonetown, the main city of Zanzibar. We'll explore the town and probably grab a bunch of souvenirs. This night, we'll stay at the intriguing Emerson & Green bed & breakfast.

Thu 02-Feb-06:
And just like that, our journey toward home begins today. From Stonetown, we will catch a flight back to Dar es Salaam on the mainland; later that evening, we'll get on yet another plane that will take us to Amsterdam.

Fri 03-Feb-06 - Sat 04-Feb-06:
We arrive in Amsterdam in the morning of February 3. We've decided to tack on a full day in Amsterdam so we can get accustomed to Western life again, so we'll spend two nights at the quaint-looking 't Hotel, a canal house near the center of town.

Sun 05-Feb-06:
The four midwestern Flying Yanks head home together this day, and I take off separately not long after.

That's it!

All Set!

We received confirmation today from ATR that all our payments have been made. We're on our way to Africa, goshdarnit anyways!

Our confirmation paperwork provides a bunch of good reading for preparation for the trip, including who to call when things go awry. (Good thing we're bringing a sat phone with us.) Anyway, the guys at ATR aren't afraid to have a little fun in their writing. For example, when describing overzealous guides who are working for a good tip, ATR says:

"Please ask your driver/guide not to approach animals too closely, especially when they are relaxing or mating (the animals, not the driver/guides)."

And this little ditty sounds like good advice for how to deal with Kong when he's eating:

"You should never make it necessary for an animal to change its course and certainly never cause it enough distress to make it growl, roar, trumpet or shit itself."

Monday, November 21, 2005

We Don't Need Another Stinking Setback

So maybe I've found the way to stop worrying about my back: now I've managed to catch a cold, probably because I hung out with my brother-in-law's kids over the weekend. I should have anticipated this; getting sick around Thanksgiving time is an annual ritual for me. This time, though, it couldn't wait until after Turkey Day. Looks like we're going to cancel our trip to see the relatives in Texas.

"Arrggh," he says, not intentionally trying to sound like a pirate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Time to Pay the Piper

At long last, the day I've been dreading/anticipating has come: Africa Travel Resource wants the rest of our payment today. For those of you keeping track of these things, our final payment is $14,289.50, or $2,857.90 each. I gritted my teeth a few minutes ago and sent ATR my credit card info. For me at least, the piper has been paid.

So what have I paid out so far?

$3,722.20 - total paid to Africa Travel Resource
1,169.61 - airfare from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro
666.00 - airfare from Richmond to Amsterdam
(666.00) - free ticket for my Richmond-Amsterdam leg
230.00 - immunizations
201.00 - travel insurance from Access America

Yikes. Good thing I'm already mostly geared up for this adventure.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Dr. Personius to the Rescue

So, OK, six weeks on and my back is still a problem. That's enough. I finally took a friend's advice and went to visit a physical therapist, Dr. Personius. He spent two hours with me today and gave me a couple important things:
  1. Some physical therapy
  2. Some exercises to help strengthen my back
  3. Advice to quit my job, since the stress is apparently causing my back pain
The first two were much appreciated; the third just stresses me out even more!

But it's a good start. I'm starting to get out and walk again -- time is my enemy now, so I need to gain a relatively decent amount of fitness even if it's a little uncomfortable right now.

Ten weeks to go, and mere walking is a heroic achievement these days. Aye carumba. Dr. Personius, work your dark magic on me!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Violence in Zanzibar

Our visit to Zanzibar at the tail end of our trip is supposed to be a time for idyllic recovery from the tough climb up Kilimanjaro. That still might happen, but Zanzibar will need to pick up the pieces from a rough election period going on right now.
(BBC)The security forces on Tanzania's Zanzibar islands have broken up a crowd of opposition supporters claiming victory in Sunday's poll.

At least five people were arrested as teargas and water cannon were fired at people singing and dancing after Muslim prayers in the capital, Zanzibar town.

Official results could be released on Monday after overnight counting.

There were sporadic clashes on election day but the extreme violence of previous polls has so far been absent.

More than 30,000 members of the security forces have been deployed in the semi-autonomous islands. Some 500,000 people were expected to cast their ballots.

Election season is not over yet, either; there will be further polls on the Tanzanian mainland on December 14. Need to keep tabs on that.

Maybe this will be my opportunity to meet my teenager dream of being a war correspondent, a la Edward R. Murrow. But really, I'd rather spend my time on the island in idyll.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Visit to the Local Drug Dealer

We all know about the large mammals in Tanzania that have no qualms about inflicting bodily harm on humans, but it's probably the microscopic creatures that we should fear the most. Today, I did my best to combat the creepy-crawlies by getting immunized.

Nurse Sonja at Passport Health here in Richmond stuck me with a couple needles, wrote me up a couple prescriptions, and sat me down to discuss all the disease opportunities I'll have during my African trip.

Most travelers to Tanzania need to be protected against:
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Malaria
  • Yellow Fever
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Measles
  • Polio
  • Influenza

I was lucky enough to have been immunized for several of these things already, so Sonja just gave me shots for yellow fever and influenza. (But dang, my arms hurt enough anyway.) For typhoid, I received four capsules that I'll need to take over an eight-day period before the trip begins. (My typhoid immunization from my 2000 trip to Nepal had expired -- it lasts only two years if it's injected, or five if you take the capsules.)

I also received prescriptions for Doxycycline (for malaria), Diamox (altitude sickness) and Ciproflaxine (for my constant companion, traveler's diarhhea).

All these meds are familiar to me from my other travels, but it's always hard to put your mind around just how bad it would be to catch one of the diseases that I'm supposedly protected against. The only one that concerns me is altitude sickness; it's really the only condition on which I need to be mindful. There's no amount of Diamox in the world to help a person who is really suffering from the effects of high altitude. If I start feeling crappy on Kilimanjaro, the responsibility falls on me to determine whether I'm just feeling the typical, every-day-on-Kilimanjaro-kinda-sucks-like-this feeling, or if it's something more serious. Having that responsibility bothers me a little bit; it'd be a lot more reassuring to know that my daily shot of Diamox is taking care of any high-elevation ills.

All told, the office visit and immunizations cost me a pretty $230. The three prescriptions will nudge that amount quite a bit higher -- I know Cipro isn't cheap -- but hey, this is one of those things that you really can't skimp on.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

How Would You Pronounce Our Hotel Name?

't Hotel

That's not a typo above, it's the name of the hotel the Flying Yanks are staying in while in Amsterdam, after we leave Tanzania. How am I gonna pronounce this name to the taxi driver?

Anyway, we've got two nights in Amsterdam to get reacclimatized to the West, and 't Hotel actually has a room that will hold all five of us Yanks. The hotel is a canal house not far from (the) Dam Square and the Anne Frank House, which I've always wanted to see. Best of all, it boasts an "extensive breakfast buffet," which ought to keep Kong from getting too antsy.

It's a little weird planning for accommodations in Amsterdam while the focus is on Africa. Europe will be odd after three weeks in the bush.

Still Recovering... But Thinking Ahead

Two weeks since my back injury, and I'm still in pretty bad shape. I've spent most of the past fortnight in bed. (Fortunately, my job pretty much requires only a laptop and a phone.) Lots of rest and frequent massages from Mrs. Lt. Dan are slowly helping, I think. (No, this is not a ploy for more frequent massages, Mrs. Lt. D.)

With all this sedentary time on my hands, I recently had the idea to do a podcast on the Flying Yanks' upcoming trip to Tanzania. A daily audio log of the trip could be somewhat interesting. I'm going to look around the Web to see if anyone else has ever done something like that.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Unexpected Set-"back"

This hasn't been the best summer of fitness for me. After moving to Virginia from Oregon in early July, I pretty much stopped exercising because it was so damn hot in my new locale. Only recently have I started jogging again, mostly in the early mornings when the weather is still decent. The spectre of Kilimanjaro is driving me to get in shape; if our trip to the Himalayas five years ago is any indication, the hike to the top of Kili is probably going to be one of the most challenging things we've ever done.

With all that in mind, I'm not too happy right now. Two days ago, while bending over to pick up my backpack, I felt a sudden stabbing pain in my lower left back and crashed to the floor. It took me several minutes to move out of a prone position and try to walk. (Mind you, I hadn't even touched the backpack yet, so you can't accuse me of improper lifting techniques.) What's worse, Mrs. Lt. Dan and I spent the rest of the weekend up in Washington, D.C., wandering around a conference and taking part in the anti-war march. All that additional movement exacerbated the problem, and today, I'm dyin' here.

I've had back problems for about 15 years now as a result of a minor car accident, so this isn't something I'm unaccustomed to. If things aren't any better after a week, then I'll start to wonder what I need to do. At this point, though, I'm shutting down the Kilimanjaro Fitness Program and hoping for the best.

Friday, September 02, 2005

This is What We Have to Look Forward To

Every time I do one of these trips, I end up wishing I had watched every stupid movie released in the previous three years. The Flying Yanks inevitably dredge up movie references during the course of our trekking. To get a taste of what might be on the docket, Kong suggested we all watch something called The Brown Bunny, which got this review from a website I just read:

There are not enough synonyms for 'bad' to describe the pretension and utter banality of the masturbatory The Brown Bunny, a film so exhaustively awful even its creator once disavowed it.

Ahh. So while our minds will expand during this trip due to all the new cultural stimuli, there will still be that valuable base of stupidity to keep us all very well-rounded.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I've Got a Ticket To Ride

Frequent-flyer miles rock. I just procured the last outstanding chunk of my travel plans -- my roundtrip flights between home and Amsterdam -- for free, thanks to my miles. That's $666.00 for this trip that doesn't need to be spent. Sweet.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lion Attacks Up 300% in Tanzania!

Now THIS is worth getting excited about:

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) -- Hungry lions pursuing wild pigs into human settlements are killing people three times as often as they did 15 years ago in Tanzania, according to a survey.

The development has taken a toll on lions as villagers and wildlife officials hunt down man-eating lions, according to the report released Wednesday by the science journal Nature.

The human-lion conflict is a product of poverty, growth in human and lion populations and decline in traditional prey for the big cats, according to research by the University of Minnesota's Lion Research Center and Tanzania's Wildlife Research Institute.

Some Tanzanians have set up homes near wildlife conservation areas and others farm in corridors used by wild animals to move between protected areas and water sources, Zakia Meghji, Tanzania's minister for tourism and natural resources, said Thursday.

"Lions that often attack humans are old animals that are unable to stay in the pride. They end up targeting humans who are a far more easier prey than wildlife," Meghji added.

Villagers, who cannot afford to buy fences, often sleep in their fields to guard their crops against nocturnal pests such as wild pigs. These farmers fall prey to lions who follow the pigs, according to the report.

Since 1990, lions have killed more than 563 people and injured at least 308, according to report, with fatal attacks increasing markedly over time.

In the past, lions have typically hunted wildebeest rather than wild pigs. But as Tanzania's population has grown, traditional prey numbers have declined.

Farmers should dig trenches around their fields to keep away the pigs, the researchers advised.

This would also help conserve the number of lions in Tanzania, an East African nation that is home to the largest population of the big cats in the world.

Meghji, said, though, that lions were increasing.

"There has been a definite increase in the population of lions because we have effectively controlled poaching by giving 25 percent of wildlife revenues to local communities that now see the benefit of protecting the animals," Meghji said.

Story Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Insurance Makes the Unlikely More Likely

I'm not a fan of insurance; it seems like a huge waste of money. Ever since I had my $200 Schwinn Le Tour bike stolen when I was 13 and got only 60 bucks from State Farm for it, I've held insurance companies in a special dark place in my heart.

However, I still drink the Kool-Aid. For a trip like this, which will probably end up costing around $6-7K, insurance sounds like the right thing to do. Anything can happen between now and January 14, not the least of which are the Tanzanian elections later this year.

So this is the insurance plan I just purchased for $201 today: the Access America Classic Comprehensive (TB05)!
Baggage Coverage $1,000.00
Baggage Delay Coverage $200.00
24-Hour Hotline Assistance
Missed Connection Coverage $500.00
Emergency Medical Transportation $500,000.00
Emergency Medical and Dental Benefit $25,000.00
Trip Cancellation Protection $5,000.00
Travel/Trip Delay Coverage $500.00
Trip Interruption Protection $7,500.00

That all sounds good to me, I guess. I won't spare you the details of the policy, but I've just discovered that I wouldn't be covered if there is domestic civil unrest in Tanzania and our trip is cancelled as a result -- unless that unrest was somehow initiated by, say, al-Qaida. If that happens, well, I might just take the financial hit and be OK with it.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Big Ol' Jet Airliner

Another big milestone has been reached on our Africa trip today -- we've purchased our plane tickets. Even though the trip is still over six months away, it turns out that seats were starting to fill up fast for the crucial leg of the journey from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro airport.

KLM is pretty much the only major carrier that flies from Europe to this part of Tanzania. There are undoubtedly other, cheaper ways to get there, but I'm guessing that the time required to uncover these special deals would not be worth the savings.

I bought tickets only for the Amsterdam-Tanzania roundtrip at this time. I'm hoping to use some frequent-flyer miles in the near future to get a free trip from the US to Amsterdam. Just getting between the Netherlands and Africa isn't cheap, though; my coach-class ticket cost me $1,169.61. (The other Yanks, on the other hand, paid over $2,000 for all their flights.)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Trip Report From Peru

Hi blog! (Hi, Lt. Dan! Where you been?)

Actually, I've been to Peru, thank you very much. As promised in my last entry way back in March, I now have a little trip report for you from my lil' adventure with Mrs. Lt. Dan in the land of the Inca. Head on over to my Peru pages on my website to see how things shook out.

We should be having some more reports on the Africa trip soon. Need to get some plane tickets!

Lt. D

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Eye of the Storm

Not much going on related to our Africa trip these days, but I felt like I should check in so anyone listening in didn't think I had bailed on the blog. Our trip is locked in -- I guess I should post the details of the itinerary here, shouldn't I? -- and we're planning on acquiring some plane tickets one of these days/weeks/months. More than anything now, it's just a waiting game for us.

...But to keep things interesting in the interim, I'm going to travel with Mrs. Lt. Dan to Peru in April for a belated honeymoon vacation. I guess you could say we're going to do the Machu Picchu trip that the Flying Yanks were once considering. I'll update the blog on the results of that trip, too.

For those of you reading this blog from the beginning, I should also report that my surgery went as well as can be, and I'm on the road to recovery. The tissue growth was a mucoepidermoid carcinoma, which was fortunately a benign chunk o' cancer. The resulting tests have shown that Dr. Dierks cut out the whole mess, and there's a good chance I'll never have to worry about that again.

Signing out for now,
Lt. Dan

Thursday, January 13, 2005

We're Locked In for January 14, 2006!

Well, we can finally say we've accomplished something tangible... our deposit for the trip has been sent to Africa Travel Resource. In the next couple days, we should get confirmation that we are in fact heading to Africa in less than a year! Good golly, this is cool.

Sure seems like a long ways away, though.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Big Decision Was Made Today

After much hemming and hawing, the Flying Yanks got down to business tonight in a conference call. I'm pleased to report that we've decided to go with Africa Travel Resource as our outfitter.


These guys appear to have it all. They'll cater to our needs when necessary, but they're giving us freedom to get into trouble if we want. I'm generally skeptical of arranged group travel, but ATR doesn't seem to want us to have anything that feels packaged in any way. Nick at ATR has given me a ton of time to understand what we want, to describe their services and make suggestions that fit our skills and interests. This is going to be the trip that *we* want, I'm sure of it.

It also helps to see the multitude of recommendations for ATR on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree discussion forum. Contributors to the Thorn Tree, for the most part, are knowledgeable, individualistic and ridiculously honest. I haven't seen anything on the TT that besmirches Africa Travel Resource; that gives me a lot of confidence.

We have a tentative itinerary from ATR already. We just need to iron out a few more details, and then we'll be all set. (Oh yeah, and we also need to hand over a bunch of cash, too. Details, details.) More on the exact itinerary later... but damn, we've got a whole year to wait for this thing to happen!