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Aug. 16th, 2011 @ 09:32 pm Africa...
Well, I am going to do it. I have been thinking about it for years but this year it's going to happen. I am going to Africa when I leave Antarctica. Just for a short trip, not to stay or anything! :)

I leave McMurdo on 10/7 and on 10/17 I board a plane in NY that will fly me to Kenya where I will begin a 2 month tour through SE Africa! On Dec 13 I fly out of Johannesburg and have a layover in Istanbul. For no additional cost I was able to extend this layover for 10 days so after overlanding through Africa I will spend 10 days exploring Istanbul and a bit of Turkey.

I am doing something for this trip that I have never done before and it's making me a bit nervous: I am taking a 54 day "package" tour. I have always traveled independently, preferring the joys and stresses that come from doing it on your own. And, oh yes, the cost savings.

The tour is an overland trip which will basically consist of 24 people loaded up in a specially converted truck and slowly driving through 8 countries in Africa stopping off in many places along the way, including 7+ game parks. Each night we will camp and prepare a communal dinner dish. This lack of luxury keeps the costs down (which, even doing it on the cheap is not cheap compared to my previous trips) and adds a bit to the adventure. I hope.

Throwing together a group this large, randomly, and then tossing them on a bus for hours each day is a bit of a gamble. This could be the greatest travel experience I have ever had or the worst. I don't know. This was and is my major concern with this trip. It's not like it is only for a few days and then I can my own way. It's 54 days, together. While there will be a somewhat varied age bracket the trip mainly caters to Brits, Aussies and Kiwis.

Logistically I think this is the best thing for me. The thought of planning this trip on my own is rather daunting especially given where I am right now. There would be just so much involved. And while it's true that planning is often really fun for me it is very time consuming. There is also the issue of traveling alone in africa, not from a safety standpoint, but of actually getting to and from the game parks. I don't want to drive overseas so it really limits me and since I am traveling alone it's hard to absorb costs etc.

Part of me does feel like I am cheating a bit by doing this. But I think my previous experiences have earned me a bit of backpacker cred (South and Central America on my own, Egpyt on my own and China on my own!! :) ) so I hope they don't take away my membership card.

So I am doing a package tour. I hope it is good. I think it will. The one thing I have realized as I have traveled more is that my best experiences involve other people. I never knew how lonely I was until I started traveling with others!

This is the company and tour I am taking:
http://www.absoluteafrica.com/summary.lasso?trip_code=WW55

And let's not forget Turkey, though I know I will! I have wanted to visit Turkey since 2005 when I was camping in SD and had a dream that I was in Istanbul.

Well... I can't say my life is boring! :)
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south pole
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From:woodstockmajere
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)
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I have so much respect for everything that you are doing :) Have a great time in Africa!
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From:schone_landmine
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:59 am (UTC)
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Awesome! Some day, I hope to be reading, Travels With Mananath! Africa & Turkey = thumbs up! Safe & fun travels to you & post pics!
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From:wildecate
Date:August 16th, 2011 11:31 am (UTC)
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I hope that you have an absolutely brilliant time. Have you decided what will happen after Africa?
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
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no idea. probably back to McMurdo in jan.
From:magdalene1
Date:August 16th, 2011 11:58 am (UTC)
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So exciting! You're not losing cred by doing the package tour. You'd spend so much time waiting for transport to work out, arranging transport, and having transport fall through if you went on your own.
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From:boyzici
Date:August 16th, 2011 12:09 pm (UTC)
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Transport in Africa is surprisingly good
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From:boyzici
Date:August 16th, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC)
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Good luck with your trip! Ive spent a bit of time in Africa - Ive probably notched up about a year spent in a village in central Tanzania plus have been to 8 or so countries in the east, south and south-west of Africa.

Its such an amazing continent (well... the bits I have been to are)

My advice is try your best to meet Africans who arent directly involved with the tourist trade.
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From:labrax
Date:August 16th, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC)
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Good luck but the real deal would be on your own, Africa designed for tourism just isn't the same.

From Morocco down to Angola, I've been in all the seaside African countries, 3 months in Togo, 3 months in Sierra Leone, 2 in Ghana, 1 in Senegal, etc. etc, always away from the beaten path. Last time I was there I've been in Guinea Conakry, in 2009. I sure miss Africa.
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
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If I had that amount of time for it then I would be going on my own. But this will probably be my only trip to africa so i want to see the most I can of what interests me and that is the wildlife!
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From:fitfool
Date:August 18th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
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sounds awesome. So how DID you handle the logistics of getting around? I haven't done any of this style of traveling and have always been impressed by those who strike out on their own like that.
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From:sandpaper_tiger
Date:August 16th, 2011 12:28 pm (UTC)
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I just keep being amazed by your one little decision years ago to walk away from Borders. At the time it seemed like such a big scary deal--but look at how you've outlasted them! It's incredible and inspiring. I can't wait for pics and updates from Africa!
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
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haha thanks. But in a way I am still just as lost as I was when I left Borders. Eventually I will have to give up Antarctica and will be right back where i started. Just older. :)
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From:didotwite
Date:August 16th, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
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Chances are you'll be stopping through the Mara at the camp I took my parents to. :D That's a good company. Look at the platform tents of luxury while you're there and be jealous from your dome tent :).

Overlanding isn't normal package tourism. Stop being defensive!

Your choice of addons is important, though. Chances are the overland guide will be selling them a little hard, and you don't want to be feeling bad about missing out on what the group's doing all the time.

The top two:

1. Balloon safari: expensive ($4-500) but AMAZING. Do eeet. Once in a lifetime.

2. Unclear - are gorillas included? Another $500. I hate monkeys as a rule but that was another lifetime amazing thing. I was a convert.

Also a must-do: Sheldrick animal orphanage (MUCH cheaper, actually it's a 2-350 shilling entry fee, so that plus transit should be about the charge) where you can still see our Kibo being a bratty elephant (packed with tourons but even they can't ruin the amazing of bb elephants).

I would skip biking in Hells Gate, the Masai village (personal pref, hate "living zoo" experiences with human beings), tea, the guided hike at green crater (unless it's cheap and you really want exercise...it's not the best hiking there).

IF you have time before the trip starts out you might want to spend 2 hours at the national museum in Nairobi. The actual oldest human fossils in the world are there. In this unassuming small room. And then they line up replicas as a timeline of evolution that is well worth seeing for some perspective on your upcoming trip through the cradle of mankind.

Watch your shit until you are out of Nairobi. You are a prime target if you're arriving with a backpack and a look of uncertainty. Maybe have a car arranged and stay at a guesthouse not quite in downtown. I have some friends who run good places, or take the overlanders' advice about your arrangements there.

Further in East Africa...I have lots to say. Lemme know when you book and I can make recs.
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From:sophiawestern
Date:August 16th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Ahem, casts of the oldest living fossils. The real ones are in a bank vault in a different building. :).

But I definitely echo didotwite on the scheldrick elephant orphanage. They are awesome.
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From:sophiawestern
Date:August 16th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Well, the primates at least are.
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
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i like balloons but I think I might be skipping the ballons as they get pretty expensive. I think i will be OK missing them. The gorillas are extra, 380GBP, but I am going to see them. I feel i would regret skipping them because of the expense.

Interesting about the orphange, i was going to skip it. The tour operator charges 88USD for it which seems expensive for a day.

i will definitely have a car arranged -- I will be arriving at 1am, no way i am dealing with negotiating with a taxi or trying to find my way into town, alone, at that hour. Nairobi makes me a bit nervous from what I have heard. It hasn't been lost on me that my african adventures begin and end in 2 of the most dangerous cities in Africa (N and Jburg).

It's already booked. the only things I am super sold on are the rafting trips and the lion walk! :)
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From:normalcyispasse
Date:August 16th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
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Excellent! I actually have a friend who's a driver for one of those tour companies, and she thinks it's pretty great. (I confess I'm a bit jealous.)

And what after Africa?
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:57 pm (UTC)
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probably back to McMurdo. Don't have anything else lined up and the money is good and the lifestyle is kinda addictive. we shall see. I have a love hate with this place.
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From:aerialmelodies
Date:August 16th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
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A friend did a 3 month African tour and said the package deal was such a steal compared to having to go it alone (and he's usually an avid backpacker). So I'd say you're better off plus you'll see so much more. Hopefully make new friends, too! Safe travels! :D
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC)
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yeah, my thoughts exactly. If I wasn't traveling alone or if I had more time would consider buying a vehicle but not for only 2 months.
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From:boyzici
Date:August 16th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
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Looking at your route, I've done something similar in 1999. I did Arusha down to Windhoek but along the same route but I continued on at Chobe.

I did it with a couple of friends in a land rover rather than an overlander.

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From:celeritas_3e8
Date:August 16th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
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Lucky you! It sounds like a fantastic trip. I've always wanted to go to South Africa. Post pictures!!!
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From:deltachild
Date:August 16th, 2011 04:18 pm (UTC)
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That trip looks amazing. I don't think you're cheating either, being in a group with a comapny that knows its way around seems to be a far safer way of doing thosec countries, rather than going alone.
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From:ajnews
Date:August 16th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
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Awesome, I hope you post lots of pics, I've always wanted to go there. And only you would call two months a 'short trip'. lol
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC)
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Oh I will, if not here than on FB. well.. it IS kinda short. :)
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From:whyelaborate
Date:August 16th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
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Yay, I'm excited for you!
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 11:00 pm (UTC)
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thanks my dear!
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From:kishenehn
Date:August 16th, 2011 05:26 pm (UTC)
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The parts of Africa I've been to, at least, are surprisingly doable on your own, and I still think that's the way to go ... but that said, your backpacker membership card is still totally secure. :)
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From:mananath
Date:August 16th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
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Yeah I have heard it's possible to get by on your own but transport gets a bit more difficult when you want to go to the national parks etc. Plus I am pretty burnt out after this winter, I just want someone to do the work for me! :)
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From:kishenehn
Date:August 17th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
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As long as you blog about it once in a while! :-p
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From:i_and_i
Date:August 17th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
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That sounds amazing! 54 days for $1000?? That is actually a really good deal!!
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From:mananath
Date:August 17th, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
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it's significantly more than that. the base rate is 980 british pounds PLUS 1000USD. And then extra excursions and such. More like 4500 or so.
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From:fitfool
Date:August 18th, 2011 02:41 am (UTC)
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Sounds like it would be an awesome time. I think signing up with a company does make the logistics a lot easier. Since you have lots of experience backpacking and living in close quarters with changing faces, I think your personality is well-suited for such a trip. You seem so open and friendly that I think your fellow travelers will be drawn to you and inclined to like you. Sure doing a bus tour is different from your usual mode but it doesn't mean it has to be any less enjoyable. I think this tour would be a good way to hit up a lot of places and then if you have the time/money later, you can come back and revisit with a better sense of where to go.
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From:Silke Hartung
Date:August 23rd, 2011 01:11 am (UTC)
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That's dirt cheap, I reckon! The game parks alone are insanely expensive, from what I hear.

Do you have all your vaccinations already, will they be covered by your trips to Asia, as in: same potential illnesses?

Any time in Auckland this year? Let's go for a coffee if you do!
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From:mananath
Date:August 23rd, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
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most of the illnesses are the same but I need to get some new jabs, probably.

no time in auckland. I will be on a plane to the states within 18 hrs of leaving here.
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From:cashmirjungle1
Date:October 16th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
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My Great Aunt spent 26 years in Africa working as a nurse in and around Nairobi. She loved it there. I was supposed to go for 6 months right out of HS but couldn't afford it :( So I hope you are having a great trip and can't wait until you post some pics.

My Uncle used to be stationed in Turkey for a few months every year and always had fantastic things to say about it. Food wise, I hope you're trying everything! And if you're ever home again and have a craving, there's a great authentic place on Post Ave in Westbury (who'd have thought?) that I think you'd really like!