Traveler Again

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This blog entry about the events of Monday, April 19, 2004 was originally posted on April 20, 2004.

DAY 184:  Some people travel to escape their boring routine lives at home.  Some people, particularly a fair amount of the backpacker set, travel great distances only to travel pub to pub, club to club, and have “generic” experiences they could probably have anywhere — to each his/her own taste I guess.  I, like some other backpackers, travel to leave my comfort zone and experience new cultures.

I’ll admit that I was starting to get a little homesick since Namibia, but being in the American suburban bubble of the ZEHRP house got me over it.  I had “recharged” back in the “normal” life the way a person who works in an office “recharges” on vacation.  After my “reverse vacation” I was ready to face the world again.

And so, on the 20th of April 2004, the six month anniversary since The Global Trip 2004 started, the seventh month began…

THE ALARM BEEPED AT 4 A.M. and I gathered all my belongings into my two bags, leaving nothing but a thank you gift on the desk for Shelle:  a bottle of Amarula and a personalized spare copy of the Hyenas… book that I’m in.  Shelle was way too out of it to see me off, so we just said our goodbyes in her room as she was half-asleep.  George and the energetic puppy Lelo brought me to the bus terminal by 4:30.

“Thanks for everything,” I said, shaking George’s hand.  He left and I was a lone traveler again.


I WAS BACK IN THE CONFUSION of public transportation; the bus the ticket window guy directed me to was the wrong one, but I managed to find the right one before they ran out of seats.  The bus left promptly at 5 a.m. under the still dark sky and out of Lusaka.  The ride eastbound was a long one.  No video screenings playing bad Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal movies like I had in Peru.  No A/C.  Just a lot of heat and even more B.O.  I took a couple of naps, did some writing and read some more of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.  There were no food stops on the way, but I got by on a bunch of bananas I bought from a street vendor during a quick pee stop and some boiled peanuts from the nice old African lady sitting next to me.

The “seven hour” bus ride was the usual bumpy ride on dirt roads and paved roads filled with potholes.  People came on and off in the little villages (picture above) on the way.  I put “seven hour” in quotes because it was more like eight and a half.  By 1:30 we reached the Zambian border town of Chipata, 12 km. from the border with Malawi.


PHILLIP, THE SEASONED TRAVELER I HAD MET on the bus going from Windhoek to Zambia, told me a story of the time he was in a shared taxi in Togo.  He was sitting in the back of the car, in the middle, sandwiched between local guys who, from what he gathered, were all conspiring to jump him and rob him with a knife at a secluded location the driver was secretly taking them to.  Luckily for him, he managed to figure this all out before it was too late and fought back when they finally did attack, keeping his money belt — and his life — intact.

This story echoed through my mind as I was in the shared taxi going from the Chipata bus stop to the border post.  I was in the back, in the middle, in a car with dark, tinted windows.  For some reason, the driver liked to play his bass-boosted stereo really loud, drowning out any noise from in the inside.

When we had enough passengers the car took off, thankfully with all the windows open so that passers-by could look inside.  But suddenly the two power windows on the left closed.  The driver turned up the volume.

Fuck.  Is this a trap?  Where are we going? 

Calm down, calm down.  Maybe those guys by the window are just cold from the breeze.  Maybe the driver just likes loud music.  At least the window to the right is open.  Yeah, that’s it.  Oh wait, it’s closing!  What?!  Shit.  Is that guy closing it because he’s really making a cell phone call and can’t hear with the wind in his ear?  Or is this really a trap?

Oh good, a police checkpoint.  Cool, cops are around.  Oh wait, those guys can be corrupt too!  Fuck. 

Why is that guy in front giving me an evil eye?  What did the guy with the cell phone just say to the driver in some African dialect?  Why is the finger of the guy on my left on the power window button?  Why must the driver turn up the volume even more?  Sure he has a trusting baby face like Magic Johnson, but so what?  Fuck, fuck, fuck!

I was on guard.  My eyes scanned the others to see if they were communicating with eye signals.  Or were they going to jump me after a specific song played?  Mugging alert went to orange.  But then I thought to myself, what will being on guard do?  I’m outnumbered four to one and who knows if there was a gun in the glove compartment?  When the cell phone guy’s conversation ended, I reached over and opened the window again and prayed for the best.

THUD, the truck slammed shut after I got my bag out when we arrived at the border post without a scratch.

“Have a safe journey,” the driver wished me.  Ha, you’re telling me!

EXIT FORMALITIES FOR ZAMBIA WERE EASY, but it was another 12 km. to the Malawian entrance post, which meant it was time for another shared taxi.  I wasn’t as paranoid this time; the windows stuck open (no crank handles) and the radio was soft.  The only hitch was when the border guard searched my bag, only to find no problems.

We continued to the Malawian border town Mchinji where the shared taxi dropped us off at a shared minivan that would take us the 120 km. to the capital city, Lilongwe.  It was a cramped 80-minute ride, particularly because both my bags were inside with me and the fact that the conductor tried to squeeze in the same number of people inside as the number of bowls of Special K it takes to equal just one bowl of Total.

People came off and on at local villages and I kept on shifting the weight of my bag on my lap, wary of loose hands that might be reaching into my pockets.  The crowd was well-behaved though and the only problem came from me — when the federal police had to search my bag at a checkpoint.

“Are you a volunteer?” he asked me in his camouflage uniform, while everyone else was watching the mzungu holding them up from getting where they wanted to go.

“Yes,” I answered assertively.  “I did some volunteer work in Lusaka.”

“Peace Corps?”

“Actually, it’s called ZEHRP.  They do HIV research with Emory College in the States.”

“Do you have an identification card?”

“No, but I have a passport.”

He found the Malawian entry stamp I received just an hour before and let me go.  The others entered the mini-van again like clowns into a VW Beetle and soon we were off again.


IT WAS GETTING DARK FAST by the time we arrived in Lilongwe city limits.  Despite Malawi’s reputation of being “the friendliest country in Africa,” my Lonely Planet book warned that this is not necessarily the case in the urban areas.  They warned that a taxi driver might take me for a ride to a secluded area and rob me at gunpoint.

Of course I found myself alone in the mini-van with the driver and conductor in a somewhat shady looking area after everyone else had disembarked in an area without taxis.  The driver offered to drive me to a taxi area and I supposed I had no choice.  The conductor called to his friend who had a taxi — I met him and he seemed okay — and I had him drive his car to the dark lot we were parked in. 

I struck a conversation with Orvitz the cabbie as he took me to Kiboko Camp, the backpackers I told him to bring me to on the outskirts of the Old Town.  I tried to keep the conversation up to distract him from any shady plans he may or may not have had.  Despite Lonely Planet’s warning, he turned out to be a friendly guy after all.

It was really dark by the time we arrived at the camp entrance gate.  A security guard wouldn’t let him drive in, so Orvitz just dropped me off there.  I paid him the 500 Malawi kwacha and sent him on his way.  The guard who escorted me to reception implied that I got totally ripped off. 

Oh well, if getting ripped off a couple of bucks was the worst thing to happen that day, so be it.


THERE WAS A BLACKOUT when I arrived at the reception house but Jennifer the Malawian girl at the desk checked me in anyway.  After paying for my stay, I was back in the familiar scene of dorm beds, padlocks and walls covered in flyers trying to attract the tourist dollar.  I met a Frenchman named Eric who was the only other guy in my dorm, in Lilongwe on business instead of holiday.  He stayed at Kiboko Camp two days a week instead of the lonely bed his company provided for him at the office, so that he could have a little social interaction over the local beer, Kuche Kuche.  I joined him in a couple of Kuche Kuches and some Cokes under candlelight until the power came back on. 

I pretty much hadn’t eaten anything substantial all day and so for dinner I was back to my familiar cans of tuna (this one in curry sauce) right out of the can.  I didn’t have any utensils, so I ate it with the back of my can opener in true budget style.

Yup, I was a backpacking traveler once again.






Next entry: Catch Up, Chill Out

Previous entry: Orphans




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Comments for “Traveler Again”

  • ATTENTION:  From what I’m told by a girl I met in the internet cafe, there is a very slim chance I’ll have internet access as I travel up north through Malawi.  I might be in the NIZ (No Internet Zone) until I get to Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, which I might not get to for another two weeks.

    The thought of having to keep up and catch up with The Blog until then is daunting and a little scary—it was like pulling teeth getting these past three entries up in Lilongwe—but I will try and stick to it!

    If you’re bored, go ahead and explore the other sections of TheGlobalTrip.com , or my design portfolio site, eeyartee.com ....

    If you’re really bored and need some travel inspiration, go and rent “Baraka” from your local video store if you haven’t seen it.  You’ll thank me later.


    DTELLA / WHEAT / MATTO / JACKALZ and whoever else said they might meet me in Spain for the Running of The Bulls:  The San Fermin festival starts July 6th I believe.  I aim to be there the 5th—godwilling though; I could be mugged again and be set back a week somewhere! 

    Go ahead and e-mail each other—your addresses are linked via your name in a comment—and see if your itineraries jive with each other…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  02:34 PM


  • hey, happy 6 month global trip anniversary!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  02:46 PM


  • Congrats on the 6 month mark .. have fun & saty safe man ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  03:05 PM


  • Erik, it’s almost scarier to read your encounters of NOT getting mugged! be safe, have fun! it’s hard to believe you are at the 6 month mark! good stuff i tell ya! N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  04:07 PM


  • candle light with a frenchmen…awww how cute…

    you’re def a tunadad…haha.. FISH

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  05:02 PM


  • yes, two weeks of blog would be hard to write.  But I do love the blog - now I really want to go to Africa!  I just surfed in sometime you were in Ecuador and now I’m a big, greedy blog hog.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  08:25 PM


  • You mean I may have to be a productive member of society while you’re gone? Oh well. I’ll try and will bide my time till you’re back.
    I’m glad nothing happened on the way to the hostel - it pays to be aware of things.
    Cheers!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  09:06 PM


  • Happy 6 month anniversary!!!! and i am surprised you are not sick of tuna yet. but ramen is always good.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/21  at  06:28 PM


  • six months already??? it just seemed like last week when you got laid off! be safe.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/22  at  12:19 AM


  • Shelle: I just want you to know that I really admire what you are doing with your life. Your selfless attitude and adventurous sprit are an inspiration. Thank you!

    Erik: Congratualtions on passing the 6 month mark! I’m glad your stay in “Suburban America” refeshed you.

    All: I’m in my final phase of preparing for my 6 week trip to Asia (I leave Monday night)... This is only my second time backpacking. Any comments or suggestions are welcome!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/22  at  06:59 AM


  • TD0T - drink lots for me!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/22  at  04:00 PM


  • Tdot: Where are you going in Asia?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/22  at  04:45 PM


  • Kuche Kuche? I’m thinking of Charo now. BTW I’ve still got that damn Hakuna Matata song in my head from the other day. Eek.

    Congrats on 6 months. NOELLE has it right, I’ve got to go and be productive now that you’re NIZ. That sucks, and I finished reading Hyenas weeks ago. Also, Stevie Wonder was one of the best stories in that thing! Nice going!

    Guess I’ll have to get cracking on The DiVinici Code. Be safe and keep up the BLOG!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/22  at  09:27 PM


  • I sent the game today.  Some of my things and a couple of Shelle’s were broken but the board survived just fine. smile  Your brother should get it in a few days.  Oh, and the deal was for 2 postcards.  Remember?  You said you were going to send me one anyway.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/23  at  03:26 AM


  • DEANN - Thanks….I’ll look for it in the mail…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/23  at  03:31 PM


  • Damn Erik, I was getting agitated and anxious just reading your entry. Glad you made it to Kiboko Camp in one piece. Despite what happened to Phillip, i was surprised you even got into a cab! I guess there isn’t much choice. Don’t know if Love Penny filled you in on my latest encounter with the denizens of Jersey Shitty, but at least i had room to move (there were 8 this time, not the 1 and 2 halfs like last). Be safe!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/24  at  05:08 AM


  • ERIK - Amarula is the shit!!!  Send some back…..please….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/24  at  07:07 AM


  • SIM: I’m going to Bali, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand, Japan, and Taiwan.  I leave tomorrow

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/25  at  03:45 AM


  • TD0T - Enjoy your travels!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/25  at  04:31 AM


  • I’m so jealous right now ... Have fun be safe ..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/25  at  03:35 PM


  • i’m all caught up!  AND THANK YOU FOR THE HAWAII INFO!

    ERIK:  did you know that the pic of your mug on the dune is on my girl’s desktop?  she is in love with you.

    but i won’t blow up her spot

    ::makes kissy noises::

    Posted by hanalei  on  04/26  at  08:58 PM


  • Erik,

    Greetings from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

    You appear to be 1 wk into NIZ at this point.  My gf pointed me to the ‘Would You’ video a few days ago, and I have spent the time since then catching up.

    Congrats on the 6 mth anniversary.  It’s been a rollercoaster ride of success and fear, following your experience.  At times, I feel as though I am right there, breathing the air, and watching the goings-on. I am hooked…and eagerly await your return to the ether.

    Take care,
    James

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/27  at  04:25 PM


  • NIZ blues?  Have some fun with the chicken:

    http://www.subservientchicken.com/

    Tell it to do something, like dance.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/27  at  06:46 PM


  • DEANN - received the package…thanks for all your help!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/27  at  07:22 PM


  • OH!  markyt!  the chicken does the running man!

    Posted by hanalei  on  04/27  at  07:30 PM


  • HI ALL! - I know plenty of you have been generous to the TGT2 Pledge Drive…so how about so more generosity?

    I’ll be running the Revlon 5K Run this Saturday in NYC, which benefits Women’s Cancer….

    If you interested in donating, please do so via:

    https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/ny/secure/MyWebPage.cfm?pID=143824

    Thanks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/27  at  07:33 PM


  • what happened?  where is the blogmaster?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/27  at  07:42 PM


  • dude ...  the chicken is moonwalking hahahaha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/27  at  10:14 PM


  • The chicken can’t roll over b/c of his damn tail! It’s scary…

    Where are my stories? I’m going crazy here…

    Here’s something else: http://www.angryalien.com/
    The Exorcist in 30 seconds (and re-enacted by bunnies)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/28  at  08:45 AM


  • JAMES:  Welcome aboard!  Pass the word along!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/28  at  04:00 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Catch Up, Chill Out

Previous entry:
Orphans




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
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