Travel

54 Days, 6 Countries, 4 Continents, 18 Flights, and a lot more.

My travels have concluded. I made a good run, traveling a total of 54 days. I’ve kept some stats on the journey. But instead of just expecting you to read boring stats, I’ve tried to spice shit up a bit. (Shit is much better when it is spicy.)

So, the Earth’s Circumference is 24,859.82 miles (40,008 km). Maybe you forgot that, but most of us learned it when we were kids. Throughout my journey, I traveled approximately 42,097 miles  (67,748.6 km), which means, I could have traveled around the earth, if I wanted to. Truth is, I have a spaceship, and I do it every Sunday.

I took a lot of flights on my trip. What is “a lot?” For me, I’m calling that number 18. That’s 18 times that I got on a plane and thought during take-off, “hey, I hope the engines don’t die mid-flight.” And during landing, I was just pleased that the brakes worked, 18 times. Below are the flights I took, and a comment associated with each one, and sometimes a photo.

Total Flights (Getting on an Airplane and Landing)

  1. New York City (JFK) to Rome Fiumicino (FCO) … Had a layover, which is better than a hangover.
  2. Rome (FCO) to Cairo (CAI) … Walked out of the airport and thought, “where are the pyramids?!?!” and, “why am I sweating already?”

    Found.

  3. Cairo (FCO) to Paris, Charles de Gaulle (CDG) … Give me an expensive macaroon from that store with the name I can never Ladureeeeeeeeee-say, thanks.
  4. Paris (CDG) to New York City (JFK) … It’s still hot here, this is bullshit.
  5. Newark (EWR) to Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) … Newark at 6 a.m. (painful), but Minneapolis has a beautiful Delta terminal.
  6. Minneapolis/St. Paul to Portland International (PDX) … Portland, ah yes. Time for some skiing at Mt. Hood. Yes, I’m well aware that it’s July.

    Skiing with my bro at Mt. Hood.

  7. Portland International (PDX) to New York City (JFK) … My cab driver drove a race car, I mean, like he had a race car.
  8. La Guardia (LGA) to Miami International (MIA) … I had a chicken pita wrap for breakfast; it was actually quite disgusting.
  9. Miami International (MIA) to Bogota (BOG) … Last time I was here, everyone had a machine gun. This time, everyone expects that, as an American, I’m carrying one.
  10. Bogota (BOG) to Cartagena (CTG) … I had jeans on. This was a mistake. By the time I got to the hostel, it looked like someone pushed me in a pool.

    See the sweat on my shirt?

  11. Cartagena (CTG) to Bogota (BOG) … I had a Coke Zero. That’s it.
  12. Bogota (BOG) to Cali (CLO) … Only flying through, I bought an orange juice. I was feeling sick – probably from drinking half a liter of rum the night before and not washing my hands with soap for the past 36 hours. (No one had soap in Playa Blanca. Or did they?)
  13. Cali (CLO) to Quito (UIO) … Found my mom. It was easy; she’s white and has grey hair. Other people in Quito don’t share these qualities.
  14. Quito (UIO) to Guayaquil (GYE) … When the airplane landed, people clapped. Nobody claps for me when I land my spaceship.
  15. Guayaquil (GYE) to New York City (JFK) … Was only in NYC for 17 hours, or something absurd, before flying to Europe.
  16. New York City (JFK) to Amsterdam (AMS) … There were so many signs in this airport that I just stopped reading them. I cried in the bathroom. (That’s not true.)
  17. Berlin, Tegel Airport (TXL) to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) … I made my connection with 20 minutes to spare. People in the customs line were missing their flights. Someone who works for Merriam-Webster Dictionary would call this a “shit-show.”
  18. Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to New York City (JFK) … The plane didn’t go down. This pleased me.

Trains

(I also took some trains on this trip. Comments included.)

  1. Cairo Station to Aswan Station …I peed on my leg while on this train. It sucked.
  2. Aswan Station to Cairo Station … I was sick to my stomach on this train. It sucked even more.
  3. Amsterdam Centraal Station to Frankfurt Main Station … I had a seat and I read 200 pages of a book. I was making up for brain cells lost in Amsterdam.
  4. Frankfurt Main Station to Munich Main Station … I was running from Frankfurt because I was traumatized from being sexually harassed the night before.
  5. Schongau to Munich Main Station … It was so cold in my seat that I stopped, dropped, and rolled. I was trying to start a fire.
  6. Munich Main Station to Berlin Main Station … I only spent 20 minutes in Munich. Just enough time to pretend to speak German while ordering a sandwich. “Kann ich ein sandwich have-in-my-mouth-en? DANKE!”

Cars

(Yup, I rode in cars.)

I got to drive on the Autobahn. I took a little SmartCar all the way to 170 km/h. A few people passed us, but that’s only because I let them.

Zooooooooooooooming along on the autobahn.

Hotels/Hostels/Homes

(I had to sleep somewhere.)

  1. Some random hostel in Cairo … The driver took me to a hostel that I didn’t book. I thought that I was going to get murdered.
  2. Brother’s Hostel Cairo … My real hostel, I remember some 20-year-old American girl was hooking up with one of the guys working there. She talked a lot about her conquests. I pretended to listen.
  3. Nuba Nila Hotel, Aswan … They called it a 3-star hotel. I called that bullshit.
  4. Collin’s Lake Resort, Oregon … This place had nice wooden floors. I remember sleeping forever, as I was coming from Egypt.
  5. Cranky Croc Hostel, Bogota … One of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. Some very, very, blurry nights.

    Random photo: Simon Bolivar Square in Bogota.

  6. Makako Chill Out Hostel, Cartagena … Shit hostel. Met great people. Two random girls from Colombia sleeping on the couches. Fact: they were annoying.
  7. ANY Hostel, Playa Blanca … Crazy caretaker woman spoke like she was possessed with demons. Correction, she was possessed with demons.
  8. The Chill House Backpackers Hostel, Cartagena … It was hard to sleep because it felt like ants were crawling all over my body.
  9. La Casa Sol, Quito …They said they had WiFi, but it was broken. The room smelled like stinky feet.
  10. The Traveler’s Inn, Quito … Solid breakfast. My private room was smaller than a jail cell. I could basically pee in the toilet from the bed. I should have tried.
  11. Cabanas, Cotopaxi National Park … No heater. No shower. No toilet paper. But, yes to running water. This was a warm-up for the Jose Rivas Refuge.

    One of the views of Ruminahui, 15 minutes from the Cabanas.

  12. Jose Rivas Refuge, Cotopaxi National Park … No heater and higher altitude. No toilet paper. No shower. I mean, no running water. This was a warm-up for the top of Cotopaxi, which is billed as: “just views, yo!”

    One of those “just views, yo.”

  13. Mom’s House, Quito … Amenities and a mother to do your laundry. HOLY AMAZING.
  14. My apartment, New York … My sheets were dirty. I dumped all of my clothes off, packed, and left 17 hours later.
  15. Frankfurt Hostel, Frankfurt … The shower was conceived by a small-minded individual, and it was constructed by a shaky-handed one. Chinua Achebe wrote a book about this, I think it was called “Things Fall Apart.”
  16. Wombats Hostel, Munich … They decided to give everyone a wake-up call at 10 a.m. to announce checkout. You weren’t checking out that day? No problem, you got the wake-up call anyway.
  17. A house, Schongau … Amenities +1, including fantastic meals. Superb decorations, company, and music included. Also included: a hair dryer for when you have cold feet.
  18. The Heart of Gold Hostel, Berlin … Cool bar and solid internet. I was too tired to get drunk – maybe I was burnt out after 54 days of traveling.

The Cities

Here’s a list of the cities/places I visited, where visited means spending 24 hours or more there: Cairo, Aswan, Portland, Bogota, Cartagena, Playa Blanca, Quito, Latacunga, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Schongau, Munich, Berlin.

The Countries

Egypt, USA, Colombia, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Germany

The Trip Highlights

And now, for my favorite highlights? Cue the ESPN Sportscenter music…

10.  Let’s begin with the pyramids, which were spectacular. But let’s be honest, the only reason I liked them was because I built them.

Easy as 1-2-3.

9.  Going from Egypt in the summer to Oregon in the summer, and donning ski boots, well, that was an experience. I also got to see my cousins’ twin boys. Apparently, babies grow when you aren’t around (is that like the tree falling in the woods?).

They’re swimmin’!

8.  That one night of drinking in Bogota. I can say that we started by, well, just drinking at the hostel; there were six of us. I can say that when we returned to the hostel, the sun was up, and there were only three of us.

7.  That other night of drinking in Bogota. We started at the hostel. Then we went to the bars. Then? Some locals’ apartments. After getting kicked out, we got in a cab and the first question we asked was: “Where are the open bars?” It was 3 a.m.

6.  The one night in Playa Blanca was quite spectacular due to the group of people I spent it with. But hey, swimming in water that lights up to your movement wasn’t too shabby, either.

Half of the awesome group seen here.

5.  Leaving Playa Blanca, this was the “Bon Voyage” I received

I felt pretty cool. No, I am cool.

4.  Climbing Cotopaxi in Ecuador for the second time and being there for a clear day was breathtaking. When I reached the top, I was above the clouds, triumphant. It’s nice to feel triumphant. Also, seeing my mother was good – it had been two years.

Me at the refuge in 2010.

Me at the refuge in 2012.

3.  On a whim, I went to Germany and met up with the very same Germans I had met in Cartagena. They brought me a birthday cake and alcohol. I felt right at home, even though I was around 4,000 miles away.

2.  One set of brown eyes that I saw. One had a hint of green. I looked for a longggggggggg time.

1.  The people and the places. The world is big. People speak different languages, and eat different food, but they’re still people. They’re fun to talk to. They’re fun to meet. And the places can offer some similar sights, but always plenty different. I have no idea how I am going to see them all before I die.

That’s all I’ve got for you. Now that I won’t be traveling, and I’m going to have less time, I’m not sure what will become of the blog. But with any luck, the inspiration won’t die. The last 54 days have been the most productive for me in my writing over the last two years. Note: I said nothing about quality.

Thanks for reading.

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Travel

The Pyramids in Egypt (or, the Egyptian Pyramids)

I had an opportunity to go anywhere in the world for 7 days, and I picked Egypt, largely because of the luster and my wonder of the pyramids. Sometimes, when traveling, I’ve gone to a tourist destination and been largely unimpressed, and during those times I’ll think to myself: “damn, it’s just another church,” or “damn, it’s just another museum.” However, the Giza Pyramids warrant an authentic stamp of approval – these things are worth seeing, and they are made even better when one has historical context.

So, let’s start.

The night before, I organized a driver for the trip to the pyramids through my hostel. The morning of, the driver picks me up around 8:30 and we head off. Somewhere along the way, we stop at a papyrus paper museum. At first, I was confused, but then I remembered some of the blogs I read before getting to Egypt (“drivers will occasionally take you to their friend’s or family’s restaurant or gift shop because they are trying to help them earn a few bucks, and the drivers will earn commission on any sale”)…

The brief visit to the museum included a brief description of ancient egypt and papyrus paper by a local Egyptian. A few minutes in, he asks me to look around to see if there is anything I would like. He tries to sell me. I say no. I cite my philosophical reason: “I only try to buy things that I need, not things that I want.” He doesn’t understand. I tell the driver I’m ready to go see the pyramids. We get in the car.

The driver tries to take me to the camel stables. I tell him I’m going to walk the pyramids, not ride them. He says OK and points me to the entrance. I pay 50 or something Egyptian Pounds (8-10 USD) to enter. And then the unending harassment began.

I walk out of the metal detector and a guy grabs my ticket. He walks next to me and tells me that he is going to be taking me to see the Sphinx and the inside of the pyramids. I ask for my ticket back. He counters, “I work here. Come, we are going. I will take you.” I tell him I don’t want to do either of those things, and, “give me my ticket.” (Because I didn’t believe that he worked there.) He repeats his earlier line with some variation that sounds like a bull taking a shit. At this point, I just put my hand out in front of his body, with an open palm, awaiting my ticket to arrive in my hand; I say nothing, and start to walk at a slower pace so that he walks into my hand. He finally hands me the ticket, and I walk away. This was my first experience at the Giza Pyramids.

There’s the Sphinx! I walk toward it. On my way, I am hit with a barrage of people asking me if I want a camel ride. No, I don’t want to ride a camel right now. I get closer to the Sphinx and take a photo. Someone else asks me if I want to ride a camel. No, I don’t want to ride a camel. They ask again, this time, half price. No. “Maybe later,” he asks. I say nothing and continue walking. There is a man in front of an entrance, blocking it. He asks to see my ticket. I look at him and give him a face of disapproval. I physically hold my ticket and show it to his face. He tries to grab it out of my hands and I don’t let him. (I didn’t think he worked there.) He then states, in an authoritative way, “I work here!” He opens up his wallet and pulls out a photo ID of him, fully written in Arabic. It’s probably his fucking driver’s license, but I don’t know how to read Arabic. I let go of  my ticket. He then asks me if I want a camel ride. No, I don’t want a camel ride. Immediately, I put my hand out for my ticket. I’m pretty frustrated. He hands it back to me. I walk off to the largest pyramid.

As I walk around the pyramids, trudging through the sand, I realize something: I’m in a desert! And it’s hot. I notice these things especially because I do not have sunglasses with me; this is a mistake.

Speaking on the overall facilities: The Giza Pyramids area is horribly maintained. Paint is peeling. Fences are broken. Boundary ropes are non-existent, and of course, they clearly have no sort of method for preventing harassment of tourists by fake tour guides and people trying to sell camel rides.

But the pyramids are still spectacular. I walked up and around them, marveling at the size of the stones. Again, I was constantly being interrupted by someone trying to sell me a camel ride. At a point, I started counting the number of approaches. By the end, I had lost count, but it was somewhere over 30.

Last, I go inside to see the Sphinx (it’s actually pretty small — smaller than you’d think). While there, I talk to a nice guy from Japan. We take photos for each other and I call it a day. On my way out, someone asks me if I want a camel ride. I thought about saying yes, and having the guy take me to my hostel — 15+ miles away. I didn’t say yes. Instead, I said No. NO. NOO. NOOOO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

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