Tanzania Thoughts

The thriving streets of Moshe, full of noise and color and people. This morning I wandered the market streets. The sidewalks, where they existed, were crowded with little stalls. As I made my way to the food area there were piles of garlic, tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, and the largest avocados I have ever seen with pits almost the size of a tennis ball. The clothes are all exotic and colorful. There is very little sense of color coordination. Everything goes with everything else. It is so stimulating to the eye!

Off the main streets the roads are dirt. Most of the side streets have areas, like the sandal area where there is shop after shop of men sitting outside breaking down old tires into strips and making footwear from them. All over the main street are treadle sewing machines with tailors busily making clothes or bags. I hesitate to stop and look too closely as I am not buying and I don’t like to get their hopes up for a sale. The fabrics I have seen are beautiful with fantastic patterns.

Most of the people are friendly and love to greet you in English. Lots of them want to become your guide or take you to a store to see artwork and everyone wants to arrange a tour. I do mean everyone, from the fellow on the street to the waiter in the restaurant and the front desk clerk. But if you let them know everything is all arranged and you are polite and firm they soon get the message.

The temperature is similar to a summer day in Vancouver and is a great break from the heat I’ve had in Bangkok the last few weeks. I am sitting in the shade on a second floor balcony and there’s a nice breeze. I am looking down a side street and there are lots of two wheeled carts pushed by young men. The women walking by are all dressed in longer dresses or skirts or robes in every color under the rainbow. For instance i have just seen a woman in yellow tie dye with a large border print in burgundy red. I want to grab my camera and take pictures but I don’t want to be a gawking tourist. Nor do I want to be a sniper photographer either. Some women wear cloths over their face like a mask exposing only the eyes. But I haven’t seen very many dressed that way.

The head is definitely a carrying place. You see many women walking with trays of fruit or vegetables on their heads. They have a twisted ring or platform fitted on their headscarf and the tray or basin rests on that. When my taxi pulled in yesterday there was a woman standing there with a rather large tennis shoe on her head. Nothing else just a size ten tennis shoe. I’m not sure why but there was a tennis shoe cart near by. I can’t get the image out of my head. So wish I’d had the camera handy!

Just as I write this, trying to figure a departure entry, what do I spot but two women walking by each with a large tennie on their heads. I have come to the conclusion they are advertising for the shoe cart man who was with them. Maybe I can go chase them down for a photo! Off to the thriving streets.


Anxiously Awaiting Africa

I am seriously behind on this blog.

My original intentions to process photos and blog daily or at least multiple times per week, have fallen by the wayside. Spotty internet connections, technical difficulties, not to mention meeting people and getting busy with life have all contributed to the downfall. That’s not to say I haven’t written things, I have but they need refining and photos. Two things I currently have no time for.


you may ask. Because tonight I board a plane for my long and long awaited, trip to join The Giving Lens Tanzania in Arusha, Tanzania. The Giving Lens. Group one has been posting photos of their time with the Masai and lately of the animals they are seeing on safari. I can hardly wait!

So I will most likely be off line for the next fourteen days. Unless the bomas and tents come with free wifi…oh I so doubt it. See you later.

Perth Dear Perth My First Australian Love

Perth was my first solo days in Australia. Getting my feet wet so to speak, getting back to the solo travel experience. Once I learned to walk on the correct side of the sidewalk navigating Perth streets became much easier. I even got brave enough to jay walk. I revelled in walking the malls and finding my way around the streets, the cultural district, Northlands. I loved the trains, Freemantle, the ghost gums in Kings Park, eerie trees, a fitting tribute to soldiers gone. I spent days in the museum and the art galleries. I liked how quickly I could find my way around. I loved it all!

I did things I never do nor ever expected to do: tour a prison, go to a zoo. Both places caused me to assess how I felt morally and spiritually about being in these places. And the beaches! I can just imagine what a fabulous city this must be in the summer. I unfortunately was there on the coldest days of the year. And speaking of cold I was amazed that no one in Perth acknowledges the cold and no one has central heating! You might be lying in your bed with a fuzzy bathrobe wrapped around your shoulders under woolen blankets,but no need for heat. All well and good if you have another body in bed that generates heat but way too cold for this solo traveller!

Some of my favourites: the art experience at PI! Some wonderful modern art; the Western Australia Police Pipe (make that bagpipes) Band that was playing at the pedestrian mall; winter fest and the fake snow machine; didgeridoo players on the pedestrian mall; the public art project that gave alternate names to streets – Presence of Absence and Ambivalence of Destiny streets. I laughed at the complaints about the transit system in Perth. They have trains and trams. Lots of them. Vancouver transit would be a rude awakening for people of Perth.

Really, what was not to like about Perth? How’s about the cost of food? I understood expensive in Exmouth – the end of nowhere where everything must be flown in or trucked a very long way – Perth is a fifteen hour drive. So yes, I understand fish and chips for $29.00 and nice meals for $40 or gulp $44 in Exmouth. But I don’t get the costs in Perth. Dear Perth. Dear as in expensive!

Imagine on a holiday Monday one of the restaurants that was open calmly saying to me “we charge a 10 percent surcharge on a holiday”. Excuse me? You want me to pay you extra money when you have quite likely had an increase in business due to the fact that not everyone is open on a holiday? Needless to say this indignant Canadian walked herself right out of there and back to my favourite dining place Old Shanghai.

Old Shanghai is like a mini food court with a central eating area and about nine vendors who seem to be the same from Old Shanghai to Old Shanghai. There’s dim sum, chinese, Malaysian, east Indian, fried foods like steak or chicken, a bar with wine, beer and spirits, a fresh juice bar and a couple of others that escape me now. Reasonable prices and good food. Thank goodness. Lunch and dinner for $10-$15; great bowls of hot and sour soup, spicy noodles and wonderful fresh dim sum. Plus if you don’t finish all your meal you don’t feel as if you have just committed a crime against your pocketbook!

Perth. Like this evening. In the restaurant at the casino you have to walk up to the bar to order your own drink. AND you have to go and order your own food at a different station. I’m surprised you don’t have to pick it up at a window yourself. And all of this for a $29.00 burger! Someone has sure pulled the wool over the eyes of the Perth populace if you ask me.

Rumor has it that the east coast is cheaper. I certainly hope so. The best lunch I’ve had on my own was today standing on the beach at Bunbury eating rice crackers and a wonderful $5.00 fresh cheddar I bought at the cheese makers yesterday and a wonderful apple. Cheap too. Get me out of here or I will be reduced to McDonalds, the only affordable meal in town!

Airbnb and the Solo Traveller

Sometimes when I’m sitting in a noisy, crowded bar filled with groups of people I have an urge to stand up and say “You can talk to me. I’m interesting. I’m travelling and have some good stories to share. I speak with an exotic accent”. (At least you say I speak with an accent. I say I have a lack of one.)

And if I really wanted to, I am not above doing something like that. I have been known to approach strangers and ask if I can join them for dinner. It’s the prerogative of those of us who travel solo.

Not belonging to the back packer generation presents its challenges also. I have sat on an airport shuttle and eavesdropped on conversations where three young people were strangers and in the space of a 20 minute bus ride, one of them is going to sublet another’s room in a shared space and all three of them are meeting up the next day. The bond of transient youths.

Not quite so easy for the gray generation. Take hostels. The front desk person at The Barracks Hostel in Perth certainly seemed intent on impressing on me that on weekends the place was noisy.  She kept looking me over and I could almost hear her thinking that I might cramp someone’s style. It must be the haircut.

What does one do to save keep from spending all my cash on expensive Australian hotels? I turned to Airbnb. Not only did I get to save money, I met some great hosts and got to talk with people too. There’s a wide range of accommodations from shared rooms to whole houses, both short-term and long.

Like booking any travel yourself, there’s a lot of time spent reading descriptions and looking at photos, trying to find neighbourhoods in unfamiliar cities on a map, reading other traveller reviews. But all that research and ultimately gut feeling and luck has been a wonderful experience. Every one of these hosts I would be happy to call a friend. Who knew?

My very first selection was a room in a home in Perth. They had five rooms to let with all rooms sharing a lounge and bathroom. Luckily for me, except for the first night, I had the place to myself. One of the reasons I selected it was the great reviews about the host’s night time snacks and the proximity to transit and inexpensive eats. In these regards it was even better than expected. My great host went above and beyond. I came down with a cold and she supplied cold remedies and fresh picked limes to soothe me. And let’s just say the pick up from my hotel, the two tours around various areas of the city, and the drop off at the car rental agency were all much more than I expected. Add the homemade gluten-free muesli and the flour-less bedtime treats…I haven’t been this spoiled since I lived at home with my parents.

For my second foray I chose an apartment in a trendy area of Sydney, within walking distance of transit and quite central to places I wanted to go. Hit lucky again. My host picked me up at the airport, dropped me at this fabulous two storey penthouse and disappeared for most of my stay. When he was around there was a glass or two of wine and please help myself to anything in the fridge. A very large and spacious room to call my own, and use of the modern apartment. No home cooking but it more than made up for that with the feeling of opulence, ease and comfort.

The last place I chose was in Melbourne and I selected it because it was central to transit but mostly because I read about George the host’s friendly Labradoodle. I was intrigued by the thought of some dog love. Once again I had a large room with a comfy bed, a generous host and a couple of lovely evenings with some wine and hospitality. Not to mention lots of pets and cuddles with George.

I think I may have hit upon the perfect way to travel! Thank you Air BnB!

The Universe Conspires

The Universe has conspired to lead me in the direction of my heart.  I’ve been juggling travel decisions; hemming and hawing; researching and juggling; trying to figure out one trip over another.  Trying to clarify a vision for my future.  Reading all these positive affirmations for indulging in one’s dreams on Facebook and emails.  (I get personalized letters in my email every week day from The Universe  www.tut.com.)

  • Pretending is the fastest way to believing, Linda, and believing is the
    fastest way to receiving.
  • Whoohoooooo, Linda! Guess what?
    Everything, absolutely everything you’ve ever wanted, now lies within reach!
    Of course… you still have to reach.
  • Thoughts become things… choose the good ones! ®

© www.tut.com ®

You see what I mean.  So I have been bathing myself in messages from The Universe. I have talked about my hopes and dreams with friends and felt that when things were right I would know.  I now know .

At the end of January I entered a Facebook contest promoted by Down Under Answers in conjunction with Tourism Western Australia and Virgin Australia to win a selected bucket list adventure.  I had chosen Swimming With the Whale Sharks  somewhere off Exmouth.  Tuesday I came to work to an email from Down Under Answers (www.duatravel.com) – I won my bucket list trip.  To say I was stunned and shocked is an understatement.  The trip itself is for two from Los Angeles to Perth via Virgin Australia; airfare to Exmouth; two nights Terrace Hotel Perth; three nights Novotel Ningaloo, Exmouth and three nights aboard Shore Thing, Sail Ningaloo on a Whale Shark Wildlife Discovery Tour.   I have to do this between April 1 and July 31, 2013.    Ask me if I’m excited!

Whale Shark

Whale Shark

I think this is the sign and message I have waited for.  I think it is time to make a drastic change in my life and start my travels with this trip.  I don’t believe I will take that return flight.   I really think this is it.  I have a couple of months to get this organized and then I am just going to leave.  Take a 6 month unpaid leave of absence and see where I get to.

Whoo hoo Universe.  Thanks for the sign.  I finally get it!

Travel Decisions

Escaping from the frustration of flailing through WordPress, I have decided to move forward and worry about looking backward at another time!  I have so many trips I would like to catch up here and I’m torn over how to organize and present them.  In the meantime I have new travel plans looming and decisions to make.

The Giving Lens has some wonderful workshops coming up in 2013 and I am torn between Tanzania and Thailand.  Tanzania entails working with Art in Tanzania and includes time spent with the Masai documenting their elders and photographing a day in the life.  There is also a three and a half day safari.  There are two trips, back to back, to choose from – one in early July and the second one July to August.  I am very tempted by this.  I think the experience would be life altering.  There is the opportunity to learn a great deal about portrait photography from the team leaders which is something I would really like to polish up on.  The Thailand trip is in early November and entails working with an elephant rehabilitation centre and finishes in Chang Mai for the Lantern Festival.  I think the photo ops on this trip are great also.  It would be thrilling to spend time near elephants.  They are fascinating creatures.

Decisions, decisions.  I wasn’t planning on leaving my home in July and August since this is some of the best weather on the Coast.  This line of reasoning leads me to the Thailand trip as November is usually very rainy on the coast.  I could then defer Tanzania to 2014 as I am sure it they will offer it again.  However, since life has no guarantees, who knows if I will be healthy enough to travel to Tanzania a year and a half from now?  Perhaps it’s a case of carpe diem and since this opportunity has presented itself I should just grab it now.

It would be great if I could figure out a way to do both!  Logistically I would want to take the latter Tanzania trip and then just travel around for the three months before Thailand.  Hmmm.  Could I really do this?  I know that I really enjoyed my Jordan trip with The Giving Lens  in November.  It was a great experience travelling with a focus and doubly stimulating – travel and learning.  I also have this dream of travelling the world for a year which I am trying to balance against earning an income.  Decisions, decisions.

What should I choose?