Scumbags in Transit

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted December 31, 2011

DAY 1: “Trinidad?” asked the KLM agent reading my passport at JFK’s Terminal 4. She had a coffee complexion and her name tag read “Donna Marie M.”

“Yeah,” I replied. I’d heard this interest before; she was either Trinidadian or…

“Are you related to the boxer?”

“No,” I said, smirking. “I wish I was.”

“So you could get some of that money, huh?” She continued with the mildly flirtatious small talk as she checked me in for my three flights: JFK to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Kigali (Rwanda), which would refuel and continue to my final destination of Entebbe, the main airport about an hour out of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

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The King and I

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted December 31, 2011

NOTE: It should be known that I (like some of my friends) know most, if not all, of the lines from 1988’s Coming to America (starring Eddie Murphy) by heart.

DAY 2 (NEW YEAR’S): “Move! Move!” yelled the Ugandan man to me. He was motioning me to shift to the side of the road — and he wasn’t the only one.

Huh? What’s going on? I wondered. I was in the middle of the road that led up to Lubiri Palace, royal headquarters of the Kingom of Buganda (Uganda’s “largest and most recognized” tribe with a population of 9 million and counting), trying to get a symmetrical shot from the center.


I moved to the side and saw what the commotion was: police cars and military vehicles were escorting a white SUV — one with a hand waving out the window.

Oh crap, he’s here already, I realized as I had arrived to the palace grounds fashionably late. The royal motorcade. (Cue Coming to America motorcade theme now.) His Majesty King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, 36th King of Buganda, had arrived at the palace for the New Year’s party, fashionably late as well — at 3:45 pm in the afternoon. (The 12-hour celebration had started at 3 pm.) He was coming from his private home outside the city, where he opted to reside.

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Wild On The Nile

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 03, 2012

DAY(S 3-)4: “Are you ready to go rafting?” asked Alex, the Italian guy sitting next to me in the hostel lobby at 6:45 am. We had both signed up for a rafting trip with adventure outfitter Adrift, based out of the town of Jinja on the Nile River, about 54 miles from Kampala. Near him were Paul and JD, two Americans I met the day before (Day 3, when I didn’t do much but stay at the hostel to knock out a freelance project and write about my encounter with an African king; I did see two vervet monkeys though). They were from Minnesota, but on vacation from their volunteer work in southern Tanzania.

“Well I’m still jet lagged from the flight from New York,” I told them. “I went to bed at three last night.”

“So it’ll be pure adrenaline then,” Paul said. (He reminded me a little of Sebastian [Morocco].)

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A Gentleman’s Game

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 08, 2012

DAY 5: “Do you want to play golf?” Alex asked me in his northern Italian accent, looking a little bit like actor Bradley Cooper from certain angles. After rafting the previous night, we had asked the guides where best place to see the lake is — Lake Victoria that is, the source of the Nile River — back near the town center of Jinja (rhymes with “ninja”). One suggested either the bar at the fancy hotel, the official Source Of The Nile site where explorer John Hanning Speke “discovered” it in 1862, or — because those choices might be boring with not much to do there — at the Jinja Club, the local golf course right on the lake shore.

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From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 08, 2012

DAY 6: “What trip are you booking?” I asked the eastern Asian face at the tours office of the hostel in Kampala. She had been calculating Ugandan schilling exchange rates in the cost of an upcoming trip.

“Murchinson,” she replied succinctly.

“I’ll see you there then,” I said. I had previously booked the same 3-day safari tour before my rafting excursion near Jinja (rhymes with ninja).

She extended her hand. “Maggie.”


By the end of the first day of the tour I’d discover she was not exactly a succinct person at all — in fact, quite the opposite. Oh, that and the fact that she’d go missing in the African jungle.

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Alice in Gandaland

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 12, 2012

DAY 7: “I’m jealous of your first safari,” Maggie admitted to Alice. Alice, the lawyer from London, had been to Africa before (Khartoum, Sudan of all places) but not once on a safari and didn’t really know what to expect.

“Yeah, it usually takes like two hours to see anything,” I told her. (Most of the safaris that you see on television shows edit out the hours of inactivity.)

In less than fifteen minutes after breakfast that morning, we were on a game drive through the African savannah, spotting our first animal — a warthog.

“Pumba!” cried Maggie. She loved how warthogs mostly walked with their tails standing straight up.


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Monkey in the Middle

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 12, 2012

DAY 8: In 1960, British researcher Jane Goodall came to Africa to study wild chimpanzees, and over the past fifty years she’s became a household name associated with the species of ape (ape = tailless monkey) — but I think most of that popularity is contributed by the overall appeal of chimps. I mean, what’s a Tarzan movie or 70’s trucker TV series without them? (R.I.P. “Cheetah”)

Jane Goodall did her most of her work in northwestern Tanzania, near Lake Tanganyika and the border with Burundi, but her influence is seen everywhere chimpanzees are found, as is the case at the Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda. The Jane Goodall Institute, in cooperation with Uganda’s National Forestry Authority and the Budongo Ecotourism Development Programme*, have established a chimpanzee tracking center, where official trained chimp trackers bring chimp-loving tourists on treks to see the famed monkeys out in the wild. (*Disney’s Animal Kingdom sponsored all the information panels at the center, plus a woman was wearing a Disney Conservation Fund t-shirt, so perhaps Mickey Mouse has a hand in it as well.)

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Jungle to Jungle

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 12, 2012

DAY 9 (PART 1): “We are lucky he is a small man,” said the Ugandan man sitting next to me on the Jaguar bus coach to Kigali, Rwanda. While the Jaguar bus company was branded as an “executive coach” with a ripped off logo of the luxury car manufacturer, it wasn’t more than a crowded Greyhound bus in the States. In fact, to pack more people in, they had squeezed another line of chairs in the aisle, making it rows of two seats on the left, and three on the right, with not much aisle space to walk down — although that was filled with baggage at times too. I was sitting in the aisle seat of the three-seater, with the guy next to me concerned about the size of person who’d get the window, but it seemed we’d be okay for the long run.

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Forget “Africa”

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around"
Posted January 22, 2012

DAYS 17-18: “Are you talking about Akabanga?” asked the man waiting in the queue for Business Class check-in at Kigali International Airport, next to where I was waiting for Economy. He noticed I was talking about a certain Rwandan hot sauce to Gearoid, a fellow former guest of the Hotel des Mille Collines that I had shared the complimentary airport taxi with. I was describing the size of the hot sauce’s small eye dropper bottle with my fingers.

“Yeah,” I answered the man in Business Class, smiling at our apparent shared appreciation of Akabanga. “You know it?”

“I have twelve [bottles],” he announced proudly.

I told him I had over two dozen myself, packed in my checked luggage bound for New York via Amsterdam.

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When he’s not making a living as an interactive/motion designer or playing with fast food, Erik R. Trinidad is a travel writer, blogger, video host and producer focusing on adventure and culinary content. His work has been featured on National Geographic Intelligent Travel, Adventure.com, Discovery.com, Saveur, Condé Nast Traveler, and Hyenas Laughed at Me and Now I Know Why, which also includes the work of Tim Cahill, Doug Lansky, Jennifer Leo and Rolf Potts. He has also referenced his travel experiences in his solo book, Fancy Fast Food: Ironic Recipes with No Bun Intended.

For over ten years, Erik has traveled to the seven continents of the world — from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo — with a curiosity for exotic foods and a thirst for adventure (and writing material).  In his travels, he has been mugged at knifepoint in Cape Town, extorted by corrupt Russian police on the Trans-Siberian Railway, stranded in tornadic storms in the American midwest, and air-lifted off the Everest Trail by a helicopter that was thankfully paid for by his travel insurance.  But it hasn’t been all fun; he has also donned a tuxedo amidst the penguins of Antarctica, paraded with Carnival-winning samba school Beija Flor in Rio, run for his life at Pamplona’s “Running of the Bulls,” cage-dived with great white sharks, gotten shot point-blank in the stomach in Colombia (while wearing a bulletproof jacket), and above all, encountered many people around the world, including some Peruvian musicians in Cuzco who learned and played “Y.M.C.A.” at his request. He loves the irony that, after everywhere he’s been, he has never been to Mexico.

Erik writes stories and news articles when he’s at his base camp in New York City, and continues his blog when he is on the road — provided he’s not occupied tracking down lost luggage.

Additional news/article clippings at ErikTrinidad.com.

See Erik talk about travel in an American Express ad:

Read about Erik in this feature article from Filipinas magazine by National Geographic Traveler Associate Editor Amy Alipio.

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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