Archive for the 'Far Far Away' Category
The Highway From Asmara To Massawa Drops Over 8000 ( 2500m) Feet In Just 100 Kilometers. We left early morning temperatures not far above freezing arriving to close to 90 ( 32C) on the coast.
At the entrance to the city is the Palace of Emperor Haile Selassie. Though he was murdered by the Communist Derge in 1975, his palace continued to be used by officials until it was bombed by the Ethiopian Air Force in 1991, when Eritrea began its’ War of Independence. To this day, it is still in ruins, like much of Massawa , in contrast to well preserved Asmara.
The visa to enter Eritrea is only good for Asmara itself. To travel anywhere else in the county , an interior Travel Permit is required. This took about 2 hours to acquire the day before. One must arrange transport as well. The driver’s name and the car’s license number are listed on the permit . TotalAdventure passport number deleted for security purposes.
One must carry the receipt as well, to prove that the 51 Nafka ( $3 ) fee was paid.
Along the highway there may be toll collectors.Baboons demand bananas in order to allow cars to pass without harassment.
Massawa architecture is more Ottoman than Italian.
Statuary Of The Lion King.
Barbed wire – possible live bombs inside of another palace.
The port on the Red Sea – almost all ships from China.
On Haile Sellasie’s Porch.
L – 1011 TO Nowhere.
Wartime damage un repaired after 30 years. But people live here.
Its’ been a long wait for the bus – about 45 years.
Bottled water plant , shuttered in the 60s.
Mothers and Children.
General of the Troop.
Returning to Asmara – high above the clouds.
The New Generation Of Eritrea !
From Adigrat, Ethiopia , it is only 77 miles ( 120. km) to Asmara, Ethiopia. However, the border has been closed since it formed at independence in 1991, other than a brief period in 2019. Instead of 77 miles, I flew nearly 800 miles on 2 flights, from Mekele to Addis Ababa and then from Addis to Asmara, including a lengthy walk from.the domestic terminal to the international terminal.
There are 4 major languages in Eritrea – Tigrina, Arabic,I talian and English, and 9 local languages.
Arrival In Asmara was relatively smooth. Getting the visa is not easy – I actually had an agency in Washington DC handle it, whereas I normally get them on my own. Asmara Airport has flights to Addis Ababa,Dubai,Khartoum, and Mecca.
Asmara is perhaps the best preserved Art Deco city in the world. It is a 1930s Mussolini era time capsule.
Ave Maria Roman Catholic Cathedral.
Eastern Rite Catholic Church.
Snail mail is still used as internet is extremely slow. TotalAdventure could not even access What’sApp.
Dining At Hotel Italia. I was the only customer, but had a great pasta and soup meal with beer for about $ 5 – 75 Nafka.
15 Nafka = 1 USD.
Perhaps The Best Coffee In The World. East African Beans, Italian Style.
Ancient Jewelry For Sale.
Getting Ready For Saturday Night.
The city has a. lively nightlife. This picture was taken on a Saturday morning.
Perhaps The Most Art Deco Building In The World After The Chrysler Building In New. York. Fiat Dealership That Closed In The 1960s Due To War
Imported Angolan Grain.
At the flour mill.
TotalAdventure saw most of Asmara in a day. It is a fascinating place with few foreign visitors, the majority of them Italian.
The Simian Mountains In Northern Amhara State Were Formed By Extreme Volcanoes About 40 Million Years Ago. They Tower West Of The Rift Valley, Which Runs Almost The Whole Length Of Africa.
The Highest Mountain Is 15000 Feet ( 4550 m) . Snow is known to fall in the wet season. TotalAdventure experienced below freezing temperatures in the early mornings.
A Gelada Monkey Family Forages For Dinner. Snacks from tourists are strictly forbidden.
A Guard With An AK-47 Is Mandatory , To Guard Against Hyenas In Simian Mountains National Park. Hyena jaws are so strong they can snap a femur like a small chicken bone.
GeladaMonkeys sleep on the cliffs at night, in order to be inaccessible to hyenas.
A Father is unfazed by his human cousins. They are 5 times as strong !
Sunset From 11,000 Feet ( 3384 m) at the Simian Mountain Lodge.
A Fireplace Keeps The Dining Room Warm. Outside it was 26 F ( -4 C)
Our drive out of the mountain range. Drivers must be careful, with 3000 ft. cliffs on every curve.
Priests Enact The Carrying of Boxes Which Carried The Ark Of The Covenant From Jerusalem To Axum, Ethiopia.
TotalAdventure, a Catholic, went to Ethiopia to explore the origins of Christianity. Dismayed by the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas throughput the world, to the point where religion is barely mentioned ,we decided to go where Christmas is not commercial at all, but a joyous occasion celebrating the arrival of Christ on Earth. Like much of the Christian Orthodox world, Christmas is on January 7th and Epiphany 12 days later on January 19th. Because this year,2020 is a Leap Year Timkat was on January 20th. In the West Epiphany is celebrated as the arrival of the 3 Kings, one from Ethiopia. In Ethiopia Timkat celebrates the Baptism of Jesus Christ. In Gondar’s Emperor Fasilides Baths. After many hours of prayer and singing, male participants will dive in , re enacting the Baptism.
Christianity arrived in Ethiopia by the 4th Century. Traditions and mystical celebrations changed little by the time Ethiopia was effectively cut off from Europe and the Holy Land by the 12th Century. The ceremonies we see here, especially in the video above, are the closest to Original Christianity.
As darkness falls on Timkat Eve, the momentum builds, with prayer, chanting and singing.
Another palace of Gondar.
The Three Kings.
TotalAdventure returned to the Fasilides compound by 5 AM. The Faithful were fervently at prayer.
Monks Sing Around The Baths as they have all night.
Sahle-Work Zewde, the President of Ethiopia, Came From Addis Ababa To Take Part In The Ceremonies.
Blaine Zuver, Director of TotalAdventure, Is Interviewed For the Ethiopia Herald. Story Here.
Part of The President’s Security Unit. Many soldiers were on patrol as well.
At last , after sunrise, the clarions blow and joyful adherents of The Lord re enact The Baptism.
Timkat 2012 ! (2020) The Ethiopian Calendar is 8 Years Behind The Western Calendar.
A Very Unfortunate Incident Occurred At Timkat. Bamboo bleachers are constructed each year so the crowds can get a view above the walls surrounding the Holy Pool. They are built to accommodate perhaps 200 or 300 people.
Just before sunrise the overloaded structure collapsed. Ten people were killed. More than 200 went to the hospital, some paralyzed for life. The ceremony was disrupted for about an hour, then went on.
As Timkat approaches, the entire country gets into celebration mode. We leave Lalibela on. Saturday – 2 days before. Roadside markets are busting, as people stock up on food for the large family feasts after a 24 hour fast.
A music man in the Highlands playing his masinko. Watch him play on the video above.
Coffee beans growing on the side of the road. Ethiopian Coffee is amongst the best in the world !
A boy brings coffee to market. Rural children work for their families, but not for others as far as we could tell. It’s a necessity that armchair moralists of the West may not understand.
All food is very fresh.
Two sisters off to market.
Restaurant Mountain Vista.
A colorful Injera lunch.Various meats and vegetables, mostly cold.
United States help is much appreciated. With 109 million people in a mostly desert country , extra supplies are needed.
A cold Saturday morning, everyone on the way to buy and sell.
Spices are abundant.
Spices Are Abundant.
Inside a market bar. TotalAdventure was obliged to try some of the local firewater – made from fermented fruit that still had seeds floating in it. Powerful ! Though it was only 9 AM, music was blasting.
Bamboo for sale.
In The Twelfth Century King Lalibela Decreed A Holy City Known As New Jerusalem – To Be Built From Solid Rock. Above Is Beti Gyorgis – St.George ,One Of Eleven Churches Carved From The Earth.
The Light of Jesus Shines Upon A Monk.
Days Spent In Prayer Unchanged From The Fourth Century.
Very Little Restoration Has Taken Place. Due To The Arid Climate And Solid Rock Construction, Lalibela Remains Much Intact.
Envy Of The Crusaders Who Sought Ethiopia, But Couldn’t Find It.
There Are 2 Masses Per Day, At Dawn And At Noon,Each For Two Hours. No Eating Or Drinking Is Permitted Beforehand ,Not Even Water.
While Ethiopia is being “Discovered ” there are few crowds.
Rock Church From Above.
An Approach To Church.
Exterior of Compound.
Light Of Jesus.
Outside Lalibela- A Church Built In A Cave.
St.George From Below.
Holy Waters – A Bit Stagnant.
No Assembly – Just Carving !
Lalibela Houses. Only Recently Did The Town Receive Electricity.
The two day 500 KM journey from Addis Ababa to Lalibela is rugged and fascinating. Ethiopia is a land harkening to Biblical times, with a few modern twists like cars and smartphones.
The two day
On the first night , TotalAdventure stayed in Kombolcha and posted for the first time to the Magazine. After that , the voyage became too bsuy, exploring and traveling until well past sundown, meals with locals, and slow internet made daily contributions difficult. The next morning, before leaving the city, we passed through a market on the main street.
People walk for miles from the countryside to sell. their wares in the market.
Ethiopian markets have many spices In the US this would be sold in tiny packets for many times the price.
Salt , perhaps from Danakil .
Outside town, Gelada monkeys also shopped for food, asking passerby in cars. While many think the climate must be hot, as Ethiopia in in Africa, we were almost always between 7500 and 11000 feet – 2300m -3400m. In January daytime temperatures were generally in the low 70s F( 21C) to about 40 F at night ( 4C ).
Ethiopia is 33% Islamic and 62%. ( mostly Orthodox) Christian. In general there are no conflicts over religion.
Wheat is pulverized into fine powder by the hooves of oxen.
The powder is used to bake inerja – the ubiquitous bread that accompanies almost every meal in Ethiopia.
What appears to be a towel is the inerja. You use it to scoop up the meat and eat everything.
Evening in Kombolcha.
- Posted in:
Last January TotalAdventure flew across the Pacific from Portland,Oregon to Tokyo. TotalAdventure had only 8 days in Japan, so we decided to split it between Tokyo, one of the most urban places on Earth, and Hokkaido, one of the widest ,snowiest islands on Earth.
We Only Had Four Days, So We Stuck To The Sapporo Region. At Two Million People,Sapporo Is One Of Japan’s Smallest Cities.
Shinto Temples Abound Everywhere.
Year Round Outdoor Cafe. Coffee Is Overtaking Tea In Japan.
A Woodcut of Otaru Port In The 1600s.
Winter Festival In Sapporo. TotalAdventure Watched The Sculpting.
Global Warming Is Not Yet Affecting Hokkaido. When It Does, More Snow Will Fall.
- Posted in:
A glimpse of Douala
I arrived at Douala airport (one of the two biggest cities in Cameroon) late in the evening August 10th, 2019. I was warned before arriving that I would very quickly and easily make friends. This was lucky for me because the very first person I met on the airplane was crucial to my making it safely to my destination. In Cameroon, people tend to be very kind and inviting. Perfect strangers helped me fill out paperwork, navigate the airport and safely find my driver.
Once I was in the car, the ride to the volunteer house was about an hour and a half. The city of Douala was such a culture shock- it was almost indescribable. Unfortunately, it was after midnight, so I could not see much, but what I did see was SO different. The city was nothing like my experience of a US city. The infrastructure from roads to buildings were seemingly dilapidated and old. Many markets and shops were simple tents or just products (like bed frames) laying on the side of the street.
Yet, much of the city was still very much awake at 1AM. There were clubs and bars full of people and loud music. The most mouthwatering smell of grilling chicken permeated the air everywhere we went.
Older cars and bikes were driving all over the road in a strictly Cameroonian way of driving. The traffic was another major culture shock. Laws that would be enforced in the US seemed more like suggestions here. Red lights don’t necessarily mean stop- they mean look before you go. Many roads were not divided into lanes, and the ones that were were completely ignored. Cars weaves around each other sometimes squeezing four side by side. Bikes, pedestrians, and cars shared the road equally.
Perhaps the scariest part is when we were stopped at two roadblocks- one leaving Douala and one entering Limbe- by police. They just wanted to check our identification, but they were holding very threatening machine guns and were not very friendly. The stretch between the cities was very natural and forested, but too dark to see anything.
I woke up to the sounds of an animal orchestra outside of the research house. Combined with the sounds of all the primate species at Limbe wildlife center were the screeches of all the neighborhood chickens, cats, dogs, pigs, horses, and other unidentified animals.
Limbe wildlife center is a major attraction of Limbe and the reason why I am here. The LWC is a wildlife education and conservation center. The animals kept here were orphaned as a result of bushmeat hunting or the pet trade. This is a huge issue in Cameroon and throughout Africa. Animals are often killed for meat, and the infants are kept as pets or trophies in horrible living conditions. They are rescued and brought the LWC for rehabilitation and to live with members of their own species. I am lucky enough to be spending 3 weeks volunteering at this sanctuary.
One of my first stops in Limbe was the local market “old market”. The most efficient way to get there is by motorbike. This was a totally new experience to me- clinging to the back of a bike in weaving traffic. The market was much like stores in Douala where tents or small wooden shelters cover the fruits and vegetables spread on burlap sacks on the ground. There were probably 20 or so shops at the market with a wide variety of African produce. Many merchants will help you find what you’re looking for, and you’re almost guaranteed to go home with a free sample of some new or unique produce.
Just a few blocks from the market is mars bar- a European themed restaurant and bar on Down Beach. Down beach is a black sand beach that stretches along the coast of Limbe. It is not very good for swimming because of the amount of litter, but it is popular for the fishing culture and economy of Limbe. The beautiful Mountain View and the sunset over the ocean also make it well worth the visit.
Finally, another worthwhile attraction is the Limbe botanical garden. The garden is home to many beautiful (and some edible) plants. There is also a “naturalistic” amphitheater, a nearly 200-year-old cemetery, and plenty of beautiful views. While you are there, be sure to check out Hot Spot, a restaurant within the garden that has delicious burgers, and sometimes even cheeseburgers- which are extremely rare in Limbe.
Overall, the breathtaking nature, incredibly sweet and welcoming people, and the laid-back lifestyle of Limbe made it one of my all-time favorite destinations.
TotalAdventure does not currently . have adventures in Cameroon, but we invite Cameroon companies to apply. For another exotic area in Africa, check out our trip to Ethiopia. https://totaladventure.travel/trips/203383
- Posted in:
Kyrgyzstan was the final and most adventurous country on TotalAdventure’s Central Asia Expedition. Through membership in the Adventure Travel Trade Association we were introduced to Visit Kyrgyzstan. Visit Kyrgyzstan took us to amazing places impossible to get to on one’s own. Please view the video above to experience our amazing voyage.
We drove from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Karakol. We visited a Uighur inspired mosque, as Xinjiang is only about 150 km distant.
Also, a Siberian style wooden Orthodox Church. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, most Russians have left independent Kyrgyzstan.
Our first overnight stop was in a yurt village on the shores of Lake Issy Kul, a Mile HIgh ( 1607 m) and 182 km in length, ( 114 mi) .
Issy Kuul is an alpine lake in the Tien Shan Mountains, which lead into the Himalayas. Those mountains are 40 miles away.
We also explored an abandoned heavy water nuclear processing plant built in Soviet times.
The next day we went to watch Eagle Hunters. Traditional in the highlands of Central Asia, including Mongolia, young eagles are adopted and trained to hunt in a way to bring the prey to their masters, and they are given large amounts of meat in return. The prey is often rabbit or fox. Rabbit is valuable for its’ delicious, nutritious meat and fur good for making gloves. Fox skin also is prized..
The Eagles stay with their families until they are about 15 and are then returned to the wild. Eagle and master bond closely, much like people and dogs. An Eagle lives to 65 to almost 100 years of age.
The Real Adventure Begins. Four Days Journey In The Tien Shan Mountains To Lake Song Kul.
Visit Kyrgyzstan designed a trip to meet the needs of TotalAdventure. We tend to move quickly, with little time for rest. However, it would make a great trip for adventurous travelers in reasonably good physical shape. Our first day was from outside a town to small rugged yurt camp. The second and third nights were at camps with more comfortable yurts and even hot water showers heated by gas. Visit Kyrgyzstan is the exclusive provider for TotalAdventure in Kyrgyzstan.
Meals are hearty and tasty.
Hot meat dumpling soup . High in the mountains the weather is cold even in summer. Daytime temperatures were in the 50s ( 12 -14 C ) and close to freezing at night. 0 c Warm clothing is essential, but extreme winter gear is not required in summer.
Comfortable Yurts with woodburning stoves.
Kumis – Fermented horse milk with a small amount of alcohol.
Lake Song Kul. Elevation about 10,000 feet, ( 3076 m) Mountains still snow covered on July 1. Snow falls from October to May, year round in higher elevations.
Lake from a high vantage. Our highest point was around 12,500 feet, going over a ridge. Some areas were so steep the horses had to be walked.
My Horse enjoying a well deserved lunch.
Our Leader, Ernist. Also featured – the Go Pro that shoots the videos.
Our last . day was spent in the capital city of Bishkek. before returning to the USA via Istanbul.
Kyrgyzstan is a country that has overcome tremendous challenges posed by the Superpowers that surround it and adaptation to a market economy. Sustainable adventure travel and ecotourism as a big part of the economy. TotalAdventure and Visit Kyrgyzstan look forward to working together to bring travelers to this amazingly beautiful part of the world.