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18/40-3 Some Other Stuff in Mumbai

25 Nov

I have a feeling that these are standard spots to visits here in Mumbai. We went to a place where they do laundry by hand. That was pretty interesting to see. I asked our driver/guide what they do when it rains and I didn’t really understand his response. Was something about using heaters, but I couldn’t figure out where they would dry these clothes – there’s no way they could all fit inside. And using heaters would increase the cost immensely!

We also visited the Mumbai home of Mahatmah Ghandi. I really should pick up a book on this guy – if anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comments. He lived an amazing life and defeated an empire by adhering to some pretty counterintuitive principals (his advocating for non-violence).

And finally we went to a Jain religious temple where they had some interesting rules of admission and/or conduct. Man, the world is a wacky place.

18/40-2 Elephant Island or No-Elephant Non-Island?

25 Nov

In the midst of all our driving around we did some sight-seeing on our one full day in Mumbai. There is lots to see here and I recommend everyone visit at least twice.

The absolute first thing you have to do is visit Elephant Island. It’s an amazing place but I have to warn you, the name is a bit of a misnomer – Elephant Island is actually a peninsula… that’s been also overrun by monkeys. There are no elephants anywhere.

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You have to take a ferry to get there at a cost of TWO locomotive cards and you get to see lots of cool things out there in the bay. My favourite was this massive oil tanker. I know we have to get off the fossil fuels, but gd this thing is awesome! Look at the size of it! And I think she’s almost empty (she’s riding pretty high in the water).

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So on the island there are a bunch of caves that were carved out of the walls by some ancient people.

It’s pretty remarkable because the island is pretty remote (was about an hour boat ride) and the caves and the sculptures are pretty big. It would have taken a lot of human power to carve everything out.

18/40-1 Driving Conditions

24 Nov

I’ve been to some places with crazy driving before. Beirut. Athens. Bangkok. But where we are right now,  I think this city takes the cake.

And when it comes to awarding driving cake, the criteria I prefer to use is inventiveness. In Athens I saw drivers actually aim their cars at pedestrians crossing the streets. It’s also an old city with lot of hills and narrow streets – the only speed limit: the drivers’ imaginations. Basically it was just plane bonkers. In Beirut the traffic would take over any space it could. The shoulder of the highway going out of the city (fast lane side) turned into a lane of traffic for the morning commuters going into the city. This was back in ’98 and they might have changed things since then, but personally I think that’s a clever exploitation of the asymmetrical properties of traffic patterns at different times of the day (but also incredibly dangerous). Bangkok had millions of tuk-tuks operated by fearless drivers.

The cool thing about the drivers in the city we’re in right now, is that they use their horns in a sonaresque kind of way. At first it sounded all random but then after spending about four hours over the past a day and a half driving in (and walking around) the local vehicular traffic, some patterns began to emerge. Short quick beep for warning pedestrians. Double beeps for other drivers (blind spot warnings). Long honk for “you can go now, assface”.

I think this is really cool because instead of driving being in three dimensions (like back home), over here they employ the fourth dimension.

The fourth dimension is sound. Which these videos lack. But I feel they do convey how chaotic and close everything is over here. Also, see if you can guess the city!

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17/40-1 New Country Number Seven (or More Accurately Number Five)

23 Nov

I forgot to mention that while we didn’t actually get to do doughnuts in our boat around the four corners (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe) on our river safari, we did venture into Namibian costal waters for a few seconds (I asked our guide Max* and he obliged). I also forgot to mention that while we were on our land safari, I did this a lot.

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And speaking of international borders, the bridge at the Falls was half in Zambia and half in Zimbabwe. So I also did this.

So if you include Namibia and Ethiopia (which I don’t) today we landed in a new country (number seven for this trip).

Where are we? Well, here’s a clue. It’s hot. And this place has both Uber *and* Netflix. And we can’t drink the water. Under penalty of praying for death. And the food is really good. We had lunch a few hours ago.

The reveal will come… tomorrow!

*I should really give a shout-out to our guide Max. He really made our Safaris something special. He found the lions when all the others drove right by. He kept us out on the water longest – we were the last boat in for the night. And he was super-knowledgable about all the birds and walking animals in the park.

15/40-1 Day of Travel

23 Nov

I was really keen on visiting Ethiopia on this trip however things got messed up. Our original plan involved a 0200 flight from Lusaka to Addis Ababa for a 0700 arrival. Our connection to our next non-stopover destination was to leave at 2300 giving us sixteen hours to explore Addis.

So, what happened? Well, Sarah got an email three days ago from Aeroplan telling us our 0200 non-stop direct flight had been cancelled and replaced with a flight leaving twelve hours later and routed through Harare Zimbabwe (it was a direct fight but it was a non-non-stop one – it had one stop – but we didn’t have to get off the plane).

Our sixteen hours in Addis proper was now three hours at the airport. On the plus side, we did get to spend an extra night at our Lusaka resort home. That was nice.

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14/40-1 Day of Rest

23 Nov

Sarah and I rested at our resort home in Lusaka for one day. It was nice.

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13/40-1 The Train from Livingstone to Lusaka

23 Nov

The only thing I really wanted to do in Africa is ride on one of their trains. Sure the falls were nice

and the Safari was ok, I guess.

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But what really gets my motor running is a train ride adventure across an amazing continent where I defeat Steve by either a single point or on tickets.

Preferably on tickets

The train from Livingstone to Lusaka runs twice a week and it leaves at 8 PM. We caught the Monday train – tickets went on sale at 14:00 the day of travel and we were first in line. Posted journey time was 14 hours to Lusaka. We bought two first class tickets for about $13.50 CDN each (125 Kwacha). We asked for first class but our tickets said second class. We realized later that first class appears to be a second class cabin for two people instead of three. There was a couple from France on the same train – they got their second class tickets later than us at 1700 and they ended up in different three-person berths (one for boys and one for girls).

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Boarding was supposed to be at 1900 for a 2000 departure. We got there at 1840 and boarded at 2000 and we finally got moving at 2100. The platform looked like this. Everyone around us was very friendly.

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Our cabin was basic with a lower bunker and and upper bunk (the middle bunk was not engaged). It has a power outlet so we could charge our devices. The window opened for air flow (it got quite hot but cooled right down at night). There was a sink we didn’t use that was covered with a dropdown table. The door had a good lock. There was a restaurant car that sold food (I think). I got us a couple waters on my one visit before we left the station.

The toilets in our car were ok. There was water on the floor and the flushing mechanism was broken so we had to empty the toilet manually by pouring water in the bowl from a fifteen litre jug. But that was ok because each of us only had to use the WC once.

Going to the toilet on a train can be tricky especially if ones’ business requires sitting. So it’s generally a good practice to eat light and not drink lots in the hours before starting a rail journey with questionable washroom facilities. Earlier in the day we had lunch at a resort so fancy the cheapest room price was $800 CDN and I think I saw the President of Namibia walking down by the river. While I was excited for the train ride, I managed to forget the previously-mentioned best practice of eating light and making room. I had a huge burger and fries and didn’t go before we headed to the station.

This was not a problem because my constitution went into survival mode when we got to the platform. When we first arrived it was telling me, maybe… but then after a few minutes everything got locked down and I was good till we got to our resort home in Lusaka.

So the train ride. Was supposed to be fourteen hours. While we had beds, there were no pillows or sheets provided. We improvised by using our perfectly sized 25 litre backpacks as pillows and it was warm enough that we didn’t need sheets. Went to sleep around 0100 and woke up at about 0700 to find that we had completed roughly half of the 475 km journey in about ten hours. We were very behind schedule. While the evening had been cool, during the day it was well over thirty degrees in our cabin. It got even hotter when we napped (we closed the door and lost the cross breeze from the window).

Basically we spent almost a full day in a (private) twenty-five square foot room with minimal air circulation and during the morning the hot African sun was blasting us through the window. The only food we had was two packets of crackers, four tiny bananas (donated by Antoine – the French dude), and 105 grams of Lays’ potato chips. When I was lying down resting I sweated so much the vinyl from the bed fused with my shirt (which is now ruined). And the train was loud and at some points, very shaky.

But we did have decent 3G coverage most of the way so I was able to chat for a bit with Joc who was not traveling on a train for twenty-four straight hours. Also we would frequently stop for long enough to go buy some food and water from the locals selling stuff at the stations (which we didn’t do).

All told we got into Lusaka around 1915 – over twenty-four hours after we first got to the station in Livingstone. Anna kindly picked us up at the Hungry Lion restaurant right next to the train station and the three of us went out for Italian and beers. Sarah and I had been showerless for a while (about thirty-six hours), but we managed to change into some fresh clothes right before we got off the train. And it was a covered patio – so kind of outside and we sat far away from the other guests.

Then end.

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Our Lusaka Resort Home

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11/40-1 The Animals…

22 Nov

Day eleven. It’s time for some Safari action!

After three nights in Livingstone we departed for a new country – Botswana and the famous Chobe National Park where we were staying for two nights in a high-end boutique safari lodge. It was a 45-minute cab ride ($65 CDN) to the Kazungula Ferry. This ferry crossing is interesting because it’s (maybe?) the only place in the world where four countries meet at a single point (China, Kazakstan, Russia and Mongolia have a similar thing going on but I think China and Kazakstan don’t actually touch each other.)

They’re building a bridge where the ferry is now.

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I asked our boat driver if we could go to that point of four countries so I could make a funny joke for Steve, but he said we didn’t have enough time. 😦

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So when we got there we had lunch, checked in, and headed out on our first safari – the boat ride! I think this might have been my favourite. Check out these photos! We saw a giraffe, a hippo, a monorail lizard, a crocodile, and a water buffalo.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn for our first driving safari. On this one we saw two lions (they’re the tigers of Africa) and some elephants and some sort of dog-like creature. Also zebras and one other animal I can’t remember right now. Maybe a gazelle or a Chevy Impala.

Note: Sarah and I were capturing all these memories with our shitty iPhone cameras so you’ll have to forgive us for the general shittiness of the photos and/or videos.

Some elephants. I sneezed real loud and scared them all away.

The best part of a satire-jokery-style blog is you can say the embarrassing things you did and your readers will think you’re just making a funny joke!

In the afternoon we relaxed at the resort before heading off to the evening safari where we had a little adventure. One of the other safari cars from a different resort got stuck in the sand and as strict adherents to the Safari Guide Code (leave no safari guide behind) we stopped and helped them get unstuck.

The pulling didn’t work so a bunch of us just lifted the car out. We also saw a massive herd of water buffalo.

And the next day we left for the quick journey back to Lusaka. I mean the bus ride down was about eight hours, how long could it take to go the same distance on the train? Probably about the same amount of time. Yeah, that sounds about right.

10/40-2 Zambia Visas (Not the Credit Card Company) for Canadians

21 Nov

TW: travel info post

To visit Zambia Canadians need a visa. They had several options. Single entry. Double entry. Multi entry. Kaza Visa.

We opted for the multi-entry because we would be entering the country three times – on first arrival, after visiting Zimbabwe (day trip), and after two nights safari in Botswana.

The Kaza visa $50 USD – exists to promote easy passage between Zimbabwe and Zambia – it’s valid in both countries. It also permits a day trip to Botswana. We couldn’t use this one because our visit to Botswana is longer than the maximum allowed duration.

So we ended up paying $80 USD for the Zambian multi-entry visa. This was all fine and good until we went to cross the border into Zimbabwe and they wanted to charge us $75 USD each for a Zimbabwe visa. All the other countries had to pay only $35 USD per person. It was starting to get a little expensive to spend six hours in a different country to simply look at the falls. $10 for the cab, $150 for the visas, $70 for the park entry fee.

Anyway, Sarah was able to convince the immigration officer to give us a Kaza visa for $50 US each which should cause some headaches anytime we cross back into Zambia because I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to have two visas for the same country valid at the same time.

Does anyone know why Zimbabwe singles out Canadians? It was really odd to see that list posted there on the wall of the immigration booth with Canada alone in it’s own special category of visitors.

It was all worth it though. The falls were spectacular.

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10/40-1 I Have to Go

20 Nov

All right, settle down people. Settle. Settle, people. People settle.

Thank you.

I’ve been closely reading your comments and your feedbacks and your suggestions and your minds and it’s now all very clear to me that my posts on this trip are seriously lacking in the type of content YOU’ve come to expect (or daren’t I say, demand) from diehardthree.com.

Well, not wanting to disappoint an even greater number of people than I do normally external to my writing, today I am going to deliver. Right next to where we are staying is one of the best world attractions. It’s been in the top twenty or the top ten of some online listicles, but right now it’s in the top three water features of my heart.

That’s right! We are staying at the beautiful Victoria Falls Waterfront Hotel and the natural wonder right close by is the Zambezi River!

Ha ha ha! Jk, jk, it’s the falls, the Victoria Falls.

Sorry about that here’s a picture.

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The main problem with waterfalls is that everyone thinks theirs is the best. Take the Canadian one for example. We think it’s the best, but in reality, it isn’t. I know this because there’s a simple way to measure the quality of a waterfall.

For a waterfall to be considered great, it needs to have high scores in each of the three traditional waterfall metrics: water volume, falls height, and falls length. While volume and length are relatively easy to quantify, measuring height is actually quite challenging. Do you measure from the base of the falls proper? Or do you have to account for the angle to calculate an adjusted height? What about yaw?

Anyway, these minor discrepancies are not important. But what is important is that for a waterfall to be truly spectacular it has to have an element of danger.

I call it: the survivability factor.

So while Niagara Falls might seem impressive with it’s highest rate-of-flow in the world, all that extra water has the unintended consequence of softening the landing of anyone who happens to find themselves floating too close to the edge.

Now on the other hand, here is another picture of The Victoria Falls.

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As you can see from the verticality and the high-quality exposed rocks at the base there, it has a survivability factor of zero*. So when you combine this with length, height, and water flow, and then you consider the complete absence of casinos and wax museums within walking distance of the falls, good olde Victoria Falls comes out on top!

*The waterfall survivability factor is an inverted scale so a score of zero is the highest, like in golf.