Hello, and welcome to the next step in my post-military globe-trotting. Many of you followed my first blog (tonyrides.com) as I traveled the United States on my Motorcycle, riding over 18,000 miles and reaching 49 states and three countries.

In this next installment, my friend Jerod and I will be going abroad for an open-ended jaunt. We will start in the Middle-East at the end of February and see where the roads and the winds take us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Recent developments

The following is a list of things that Jerod and I would have liked to have done if we had gone to Cuba...

  • Smoke cigars
  • Take pictures with Che Guevera and Fidel Castro statues
  • Eat Cuban sandwiches
  • Drink more rum than we thought humanly possible
  • Listen to great music
The following is a list of things about the US that we miss (strictly material items)
  • Salad dressing
  • Brushing your teeth with tap water
  • Flushing toilet paper
  • Fountain soda
  • Free refills
  • The dollar menu
  • Having more than four shirts to choose from
  • My Harley Davidson
  • High-speed internet
  • 110 volts AC
  • Country music
  • Hamburgers cooked to order
  • House (The TV show)
  • Paved roads
  • Carhartts
Things we don't miss about being in the US
  • Cell phones
  • Schedules
  • Working
  • Haircuts
  • Shaves
Anyway, those are some things that have been in our minds the past few weeks as our trip draws to an end.  I guess after over a year off from working one must face reality eventually.  As for me, there are obviously mixed emotions.  I'm excited to get home and see my family and friends, to ride my motorcycle, and to start my life up again.  We have seen some amazing places, done some amazing things, and met some amazing people.  I'll be happy for a change of clothes, predictable showers, and no more waiting waiting in lines at border crossings.  Also, I plan on taking advantage of fast computers and fast internet to start planning my next adventure, a North-South transit of the entire Pan-American highway by motorcycle.  Lastly, if anybody knows of any companies hiring in the Greater-Boston area please let me know.  For my five loyal readers, I plan on keeping the blog going until I actually start a real job.  Stay tuned..... 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Machu Picchu!

Our time in Peru has been limited to Puno, Cuzco, and a trek to Machu Picchu but we have certainly made the most of it.  After arriving on the bus from Copacabana to Puno, we took a boat ride on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca to the Isla Flotantes (floating islands) for the afternoon.  An indigineous group known as the Uros actually creates these islands using a combination of local reeds and mud, and the people live on the islands.  They orginally started this to escape persecution from the Incas hundreds of years ago and today continue their traditional lifestyle, but also make a boatload of money off of the tourism they bring to the islands.  An amazing place really, and one requiring constant upkeep--the islands have to be continually replaced with the reeds to keep from sinking. 

After this unique visit we took an overnight bus to Cuzco, a tourist town with all the amenities and the main jumping off point for Machu Picchu.  We booked with a tour agency which included a 50 km mountain bike ride descending 1000s of meters through the Andes (Tony prided himself on only pedaling approximately 10 times in the two hours it took to get down) and also did some class 3+ whitewater rafting on the Rio Urubamba, in what´s known as the Sacred Valley--of utmost religious importance to the Incas.  The rafting was quite a bit of fun as we had an enthusiastic guide and the river was running high after some rain the previous week (probably the same rain that meant we didn´t get a chance for the climb of Mt. Illimani, a silver lining to that dissapointment).  After that, we had a three day trek to Machu Picchu, involving long hiking in steep terrain, covering old Incan road, some dirt road, and various locals´ paths.  We had an enjoyable group on the tour including Australians, Germans, Dutch, Nepalese, and of course our fearless Peruvian guide, Juan.  Highlights of the trek included river stops for visits to natural hot springs, a rather wild evening at a discoteca in Santa Teresa (truly the middle of nowhere), crossing the river on a hand cable, and of course actually hiking the hundreds and hundreds of Incan steps leading to Machu Picchu itself, including an additional climb up Huayana Picchu, a mountain next to the site allowing for additional great views of the entire area.  We were blessed with a bluebird day, and it´s quite an impressive place.  If I had to come up with any lowlights, the bugs are pretty rough--we´re both covered with bites from sandflies and the cicadas are really big (about 3 times bigger than the ones back home) and really loud (like can´t even have a conversation with the person next to you loud)  We took a combination train and bus ride back to Cuzco, arriving exhausted at about midnight yesterday.  Today has just been a lazy one, recovering from trip and getting some of the travel essentials taken care of.  Peru has been great but we are moving on mañana en la mañana, as they say.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Movin´ on up

So, after about a month it is our last day in Bolivia.  Since our climbing trip we have been pretty busy.  Well, sort of.  We took several days off after our trip to organize some logistics and do some shopping.  Then we headed off to the edge of the Amazon to a small town called Rurrenabaque, or Rurre for short.  Rurre is the jumping-off point for tours of the pampas (grasslands) and the rainforest.  We only had time for one trip, so we opted for the pampas tour, as it was rumored to be rife with wildlife, and that seemed more interesting that some trees and bugs in the rainforest. 

The tour starts with a three-hour jeep ride to a bend in a river where you load up these long river boats.  About 100 yards from our launching point we were spotting aligators and capybaras (the world´s largest rodent).  By spotting I mean we saw more than I can remember.  You soon lose count and interest.  We also saw many birds, monkeys, and snakes as well.  One of the highlights was swimming with the pink dolphins.  I never saw a dolphin, just blurs and ripples moving throught murkey water.  One of the most fun and terrifying swims of my life.  Terrifying because we had seen alligators several hundred yards downstream.  Our guide assured us that the circles we had made with our boat scared them all away, and that if we stayed in the deep water we would be safe.  Well, we all survived, but I am not sure it was ever safe.  Then, to top it off, we went pirhana fishing about 100 yards downstream from where we were swimming.  We did get to eat some of the pirhanas we caught as well.  

After the pampas tour we went back to La Paz and were reunited with our buddy David who had just returned from some trekking and rafting in Peru.  We had enought time to do some laundry, have a few decent meals, and pack up for our last trip in Bolivia, Lake Titicaca.  Try saying that five times without gigling like a schoolgirl.  We took a bus to the town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca and took a ferry to Isla del Sol (Island of the sun).  Both of those places sound very warm and exotic, but the thruth is that they are both at about 4,000 meters elevation and are always a bit brisk, if not downright cold.  The island includes several mediocre Incan ruins, and Copacabana features a church.  Pretty exciting stuff really. 

Anyway, this afternoon we are off to Puno, Peru to see the famous floating islands, and then an overnight bus to Cuzco, or Cusco.  From there we have a three-day trek to Macchu Picchu.  Thanks for stopping in.  Reports of Macchu Picchu coming next week.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weather and all

So, we are done with our climbing trip.  The second half turned out to be a bit of a bust.  We spent two days at base camp getting rained, snowed, and sleeted on before giving up and returning to La Paz.  The weather forecast was bad for another several days, and we would run out of time on our paid trip before we had a good window.  As a consolation we got to go back to the glacier on Mt. Huayna Potosi and do some ice climbing.  It ended up being really fun.  I am sore today, but definitely want to explore it more this winter up North.  Any of our faithful readers know anything about the ice climbing scene in New England?  Drop me a line.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Where Eagles Dare

So, I know many of you have seen some of our pictures on Facebook, and have probably read the last blog describing our big mountaineering trip.  You may be wondering how the first week went.

So far so good.  Right now we are actually in La Paz on our rest day in between the first two mountains and the last one.  Unfortunately our rest day fell on a Sunday making it slightly difficult to get much done, but we have still been able to do some laundry, sort out our gear, and have a few solid meals.

As a recap for last week, here is what happened......
On day one we were picked up in a 4x4 and loaded all of our gear on top.  We met our whole team, including our guides Eduardo and Pedro, our fellow "client", Cesar from Venezuela, and Proxi, our esteemed mountain cook.  The six of us were driven out into the Condoriri Real where we set up base camp.  And what a camp, complete with a cabin-sized cooking/dining tents and permanent outhouses.  The next morning we set out at 2AM for a summit attempt at Pequeno Alpamayo, at 17,618 feet (5,350m).  After an hour of hiking we finally reached the glacier and donned our helmets, crampons, and harnesses, and roped up. After about 3.5 hours on the glacier we reached a smaller summit just below Pequeno, but faced with a deep descent into the col and a steep ascent on the other side, and our general exhaustion we decided to claim this sub-summit at our first 5,000+ meter peak.

Fast forward a few days.  We have broken camp and driven around the mountain range and are now at base  camp for Huayna Potosi, (19,974 feet (6,088m)).  We spend a comfortable night in an alpine style lodge before heading up to high camp the next day.  Our gear is carried up by porters wearing assorted sandals, while we struggle up carrying our day packs; unbelievable.  We spend the afternoon getting info from descending climbers and getting our gear ready for a 3AM start.  It is necessary to start so early to ensure a summit and descent before the afternoon clouds roll in, and before the glacier gets to unstable as it warms throughout the day.  Well, at 2AM it sounded like the shelter was going to blow away, so we decided to wait a day and hoped for better conditions.  We spent a restless day napping, triple-checking our gear and swapping stories.  2AM the next day brought calm, yet freezing conditions and we kitted up for the climb.  How cold was it?  Cold enough for the sweat to freeze in my beard (pictures pending).  Luckily the high camp is only several meters from the glacier, allowing us to save energy by omitting a long walk on uneven terrain in heavy plastic boots.  For those who have never climbed a glacier above 17,000 feet, the best way I can describe it is having a 6-hour asthma attack.  Any movement beyond the smallest shuffle step is followed by an overwhelming lack of air and racing heart-beat.  Trudging along the glacier is barely tolerable, while big motions like leaping over a crevasse or climbing over a wall of ice leave you gasping for air.  Finally, after six long hours, we reached the summit and were rewarded some of the most amazing panoramic views imaginable.  However, with the mid-day clouds racing in, and the heating glacier, our time on the summit was limited to some photographs, some much-needed water, and a chocolate bar for a little energy boost to get us down the mountain.  The descent can be excruciating, with yours toes slamming the front of your boots with each step.  I don't think there is a boot available that overcomes this problem.  We alleviated this pain a little bit by sliding down several hundred meters on our butts, while our guide (asking us again how old we were) ran behind us with our safety tether, lest we get to close to a crevasse.

Anyway, aback at high camp there was no rest to be found, as we still had to get down to base camp and take the long drive back to La Paz for two nights and one day of rest.  Tomorrow we will be back on the road, heading to Mt. Illimani at 21,201 feet (6,438m).  We should spend the next 4 or 5 days there before putting all of this behind us and moving on with the trip.  So far it has been a great, though painful and difficult, experience, but despite ourselves, Jerod and I found ourselves researching future trips to Mt. Denali in Alaska.  What are we thinking?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Picking up the slack

We want a blog, we want a blog, we want a blog.......

OK, OK, OK......

For the 27 people who are "following" the blog, and the zero people that were interested enough in the last one to comment on it, here goes nothing.

Last you heard from us we were in Santiago, Chile.  From Santiago we headed North, needing to be in La Paz a week later.  Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we had to cut Valparaiso out of our itinerary.  Instead, we hopped a bus to San Pedro de Atacama in the North of Chile, very close to the Bolivian border.  Here we got our first taste of some good high altitude, going on a jeep tour of the deserts and salt flats, culminating at about 4,500 meters.  We really liked the town of San Pedro, but had to cut our visit short in order to get to La Paz.  So, two more bus rides, and we were in La Paz, after passing through Arica, Chile.  At the border, Jerod and I held up the entire bus, as we are of one of the few nationalities that require a visa for Bolivia.  $135 US and a half our later we were back on the bus and heading for La Paz.

Some of you are probably in the dark as to why we were in a hurry to get to La Paz.  Well, we signed up for a two-week mountain climbing expedition and wanted to get to town early to start our acclimatization process, and to give us plenty of time to retrieve some climbing gear that we had sent to us from the States.  So, La Paz is the highest capitol city in the world at about 3,600 meters.  Luckily we were greeted with plenty of coca tea and coca leaves to chew on to combat altitude sickness.  Now the important part.  Never ship anything to South America....EVER.  What a nightmare.  After struggling all week with Bolivian customs, DHL, and a few other entities we finally received our equipment on Friday night around 8:00PM.  Talk about the 11th hour.  Saturday we had our gear check with our climbing guides, and today we did some walking and hiking around La Paz with the other member of our expedition and one of our guides, in order to further acclimate.

So what are we climbing?  We start of easy with Pequeno Alpamayo, coming in at a measly 17,618 feet.  Next, we move up to a slightly larger mountain, Huayna Potosi, weighing in at 19,974 feet, and entering the critical "high altitude mountaineering" realm as a 6,000+ meter peak.  After practicing and acclimatizing on those little mountains we will move on to the second highest mountain in Bolivia, Mt. Illimani, at a staggering 21,201 feet.  We are both a little nervous, but excited as hell also.  They are all pretty easy mountains from a technical standpoint, so the elevation is the biggest difficulty.

Also worth noting, I ate a giant serving of ultra spicy Chicken Vindaloo a few nights ago, earning me a free t-shirt.  I also bought a guitar and accessories.  Bolivia, apparently, is known for guitars, and they are dirt cheap.  For less than $90 I bought a guitar, a case, an electric tuner, extra strings, and picks.  It may not survive the trip home, but at least I can keep my callouses going from my few weeks of practice in Argentina, and worse case scenario I get to keep the tuner, case, etc....

In other news, our trip is getting scary close to the end.  After our trek we will only have about a month left before we plan on being back stateside.  Yikes!  Some potential highlights of the next few months include Macchu Picchu in Peru and Chichen Itza in Mexico, both considered to be among the seven wonders of the modern world.

Anyway, we leave tomorrow for our first two mountains.  We will be back in a week or so, for a few nights, and then back out in the field to finish off the big boy.  Until then......

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Land of Fire and Ice

Good morning all, and our apologies that we have not caught up on the blog in a while.  Tony and I have been on a rather tight schedule since leaving Buenos Aires for the Patagonia region of Argentina and are just now getting a chance for some catch up. 

Our time in Patagonia was an amazing experience-it's a region I have desired to visit for several years now, after reading an article in one of those outdoor magazines a while back.  Bus schedules are sporadic this time of year (we are in the dead of the Austral winter, and the low season for tourism), not too mention extremely lengthy, so we booked with a local tour company for regional flights out of Buenos Aires-about 8 days covering two or the more famous areas, Los Glaciares National Park and Tierra Del Fuego (Land of Fire, with the city of Ushuaia being popularly known as the "End of the Earth".  In Los Glaciares, we had a chance to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, which unlike most of the world's glaciers is actually expanding, at a rate of about 2 meters a day.  This also means that in the late afternoon when the sun has been shining all day, there's a decent chance of seeing skyscraper sized chunks of ice "calve" off the glacier and crash into Lake Argentina.  We were fortunate enough to see this happen several times, and it was quite the sight...and sound-something vaguely like lightning as the ice breaks free and then thunder as it makes contact with the water.  The next day, we did a day hike in the Northern Section of the Park with great views of both Cerro Torre and Mt Fitzroy (Chalten)-very fortunate as the entire range is often obscured by clouds.  We'll follow up with some pictures, as these words can only do so much to justify the sights.  Quite the interesting wildlife as well, including guanacos, rheas, foxes, and the endangered Andean Condor.

After Los Glaciares we spent a couple days around the Ushuaia on the island of Tierra Del Fuego, truly the end of the line.  The next stop south is Antarctica.  The highlight of our time around Ushuaia was a day of downhill skiing at the island's main ski resort-conditions were a bit icy (not unlike Eastern US skiing) but a unique and enjoyable experience at the world's "southernmost ski resort" (we've had some laughs about every business in Ushuaia being the "southernmost Irish Pub" and "the end of the world bakery" etc etc etc).

We caught a flight back to Buenos Aires and have had a couple epic bus rides-an overnight ride to Mendoza, staying for a night in Argentina's wine country (of course a quick afternoon tasting was in order to sample the region's famous Malbec reds), followed by another bus through absolutely epic scenery in the Andes, crossing the border with Chile.  One quick note-Argentinian long distance buses may be the best in the world-with 1st class style seats that recline almost horizontally, full meals, and even bingo (in Spanish of course) with the prize being a bottle of wine.  Since our descent into Santiago, we've spent the last 24 hours or so taking it easy and catching our breath.  We plan to be northbound through Chile in the near future.

Friday, July 30, 2010

One Year, and Going Strong; a Year in Numbers (and some words)

Hello, and welcome to my one year anniversary blog.  "But you have only been traveling for five months" you may be telling yourself.  The truth is, on 31 July 2009 I shaved and put on my Coast Guard uniform for the last time.  What have I been doing with myself, you ask?

Here is a snapshot
  • Countries visited - 17
  • Continents visited - 4
  • States visited - 49
  • Bus mile traveled - 2,377*
  • Air miles traveled - 16,730*
  • Train miles traveled - 2,750*
  • Motorcycle miles traveled - 18,500
  • Miles hiked - 320
  • US national parks visited - 10
  • Photos taken - 4,000 (estimated)
  • Times shaved - 0
  • Days worked - 0
* Distances measured "as the crow flies".  Actual distances traveled are considerably higher.

An interesting note, if you add up those distances traveled it is almost equal to two full trips around the Earth at the equator (24,900 miles is the circumference at the equator).  

Before photo (taken on 31 July 2009)     After photo (taken circa 25 July 2010)

If you want to read more about the first three months of my time off please refer to my other blog; tonyrides.blogspot.com

For photos, please check out my two facebook galleries (you will need a facebook account to view these, but they are public and we do not need to be "facebook friends"); 
Gallery 1
Gallery 2
Motorcycle trip gallery

If you wish to send me a private correspondence outside of the blog comments, feel free to e-mail me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Celebrity Look-alikes

So, this week we have learned that I look like French rugby star Sebastien "caveman" Chabal, and Jerod looks like Bary Gibbs of the Bee Gees.  That's all for now..........

Monday, July 19, 2010

Winter wonderland

Greetings from the South of America.  I never thought I would be so happy for winter, but after heat waves all through Europe the cold and rain of the Buenos Aires winter is a welcome diversion.  Plus, it gives us a chance to use some of the gear we have been lugging around for over four and a half months.

Initial impressions?  Awesome.  Great steaks, great prices, great people.  We are staying at a very friendly little hostel with loads of good people coming and going.  The owner and manager is a sommelier as well and has a great selection of Argentinian wines available.  Today we had our first spanish class.  For those of you out of the loop, we are taking a two-week beginner spanish class.  We will be in school for 40 hours in the next two weeks.  We have a small class (just 4 of us) and the teachers are really nice.  Today's class made our heads hurt a little since it's been about six years since we've had any formal schooling.  

What does the future hold for us? This weekend we may head over to Uruguay for a day or two.  After our schooling is done we are heading down to Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego for a little while.  Eventually we will travel North through Chile, do some mountain climbing in Bolivia, and explore the ancient wonders of Macchu Picchu in Peru.  From there the plan ends and we will make a new one.  Stay posted for more developments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good bye Europe

Hello, and welcome to my last blog entry from Europe.  Tomorrow Jerod and I will be flying from Warsaw (where we are currently) to Buenos Aires.  26 hours of travel will get us to Argentina some time on the 16th. 

So, you haven't heard from me since Germany.  I have had quite a busy two weeks since then.  I spent three nights in Prague, enjoying the sights and the nightlife.  From there I spent three nights camping at a music festival about an hour from Prague.  I'd tell you more about it, but there may be children reading this.  Next I was in Budapest, enjoying the sights and the beautiful sunrises (no, I was not getting up early).  I also did the same caving trip as Jerod.  Unfortunately, I got stuck in one place and had to take an easier way around it.  I felt like a cartoon image with my feet dangling in thin air, and my arms flailing above my head trying to wriggle through.  No such luck.

Finally, I took an overnight train to Krakopw, where Jerod was waiting for me, following his recent adventures.  We had a very somber visit in Krakow, including the notorious Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau and Oskar Schindler's Factory, which has been recently converted into a fabulous museum covering the German occupation of Poland.  Birkenau is absolutely staggering in both scale and historical impact.  I won't attempt to describe it, but would encourage everyone to go see it for themselves.  One of most poignant things for me was walking into a room full of confiscated suitcases, and the first one I saw was labeled Goldstein.  On a more positive note, there are six Goldsteins present on "Schindler's List". 

Anyway, enough of being a downer.  Next Monday Jerod and I start two weeks of Spanish training in Buenos Aires, and will hopefully spend our weekends skiing and exploring in Patagonia.  Thanks for tuning in.  Until next time...... 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Homeland Highpoint

My last week or so of travel has been one of the highlights of the trip thus far.  After picking up my backpack in Sofia, Bulgaria, I spent about a day and a half riding the rails until finally reaching Zdiar, Slovakia.  This traditional Slovak village is at the base of the High Tatras, the western edge of the Carpathian Mountains- the range forms a natural border between Northern Slovakia and Southern Poland.  I spent a couple lazy days at a rural hostel there meeting some interesting travelers, watching Germany get beat in the world cup, and trying one of Slovakia's most well known beers, Zlaty Bazant (Golden Pheasant). 

The extra time committed to traveling off the beaten path was very much worth it.  The scenery in the High Tatras is absolutely striking--the only place I can think of for comparable views would be Glacier National Park in Montana.  After acquiring a good map of the area and enough food for a couple days, I found an interesting trail that would transverse the Slovakian side of the range, summit Poland's highpoint, Mt. Rysy (pronounced REE-shee), and descend Rysy's north face into Poland and eventually the tourist town of Zakopane.  A mountain chata (basically a chalet for those familiar with Alps trekking) was perfectly situated on the Slovak side of the mountain near the border and summit.  The hostel staff in Slovakia offerred to make the reservation for me.  Unfortunately, they could not get through the entire day prior to my departure.  I decided to press on anyway, and when I arrived at the chata, after several hours of ascending, crossing stunning lakes and alpine snowfields (in July), the reason they were unscuccesful in contacting the chata was abundantly clear.  The building had half the roof ripped off and was clearly under renovation.  Fortunately, they were still selling drinks, so I bought a coffee (only one euro on top of a mountain, I was impressed), took a look at the map and decided to press on.  It turned out being about a 10 hour hike to get to a bus on the other side, but fortunately Tony and I's time on the Lycian Way in Turkey made this trek feel like just another day at the office (4,000 feet of elevation gain, 23 kilometers).  Although I will say the descent into Poland on the Rysy trail was quite challenging--the Park Staff has attached chains to the rock with stanchions to assist you during the descent--lots of exposure.  One last note--I had the great fortune of seeing two fairly rare animals during the descent on the Polish side--a Red Deer (something of a cross between a Mule Deer and an Elk) buck with antlers in full velvet, and the Tatra Chamois, the Tatra's version of the Mountain Goat.  Both greatly enhanced an already very rewarding trek.

After two nights in Zakopane, Poland, I caught a bus to Krakow where the plan is to meet up with Tony at a hostel just south of the Old Town.  If all goes to plan we'll be catching up on the last month tomorrow over breakfast.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The best laid plans...

Hey all, Jerod here.  I apologize for my negligence in blogging duties as of late.  After a whirlwind trip back to the US of A (great to see everyone) and all the associated culture shock that came with it (whoa...lots of people speaking fluent English, getting free refills at restaurants, and public restrooms that are free and clean--all items previously taken for granted),  I bought a flight to Prague via Dublin, flying out of New York City.  As it turns out, however, the airlines had different plans for me.  The flight was delayed due to runway maintenance in New York, and by the time I arrived in Dublin I had already missed my connection.  It was going to take nearly 36 hours for the next flight to Prague, so I spoke with the airline and changed the ticket for Budapest.  The airline gave me some drink vouchers for the trouble...the silver lining was clearing Irish customs and having a Guinness (for free) in Dublin.

I've spent nearly a week in Budapest and I think it's a great city.  World class architecture, beautiful views, lots of interesting history--this country (Hungary) and Budapest in particular have been through quite a lot in the last century--literally the front lines of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  I've had a chance to visit everything from ex-Gestapo prisons to former Soviet relics, along with the famous Thermal Baths (think of a YMCA but much more formal, and powered by naturally occuring hot springs all through the city).  Yesterday I went on a caving trip organized out of the hostel I'm staying at.  I can certainly say it is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic.  As the biggest guy in the group, it's not the most reassuring feeling when the guide says "Ok everyone, if Jerod can make it through this next part, you know you can too."  It was a great experience but not something I'm going to need to repeat anytime soon.  More so than the sights, I've managed to make some great friends in a short time here--Csaba, Felix, Marcus, Zsuzsi, Melanie, and Scyvia--thanks for all the memories...and Egészségedre!

I left a few items in Sofia, Bulgaria before flying back home, so now I'm in for a couple marathon train rides (about 20 hours each way) to pick my stuff up.  Fortunately I've booked a sleeping car and have a few good books, so I should be able to keep sane for the long haul(s).  A lot of the initial itinerary has changed over the last week, but that's the beauty of having flexible travel plans.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Everlasting Baseball Game

So after a week in Germany with Aimee I have come to the conclusion that the country is like one giant baseball stadium.  You walk around and eat pretzels, hotdogs, and sausages, and drink lots of beer.  Quite a nice way to spend a week. 

In a whirlwind visit we spent two days in Munich, two days in Garmisch, a day in Stuttgart, and a day in Frankfurt.  Berlin will have to wait for a return visit.  In Munich we spent some time ogling vintage motorcycles and bubble cars at the impressive BMW museum and got a panoramic view of the city from the Olympic Tower.  In Garmisch we scaled the snowy alps and shared in the national revelry as Germany routed England in the second round of the World Cup. 

Stuttgart brought a visit with an old friend of Aimee who had been an exchange student in Marshfield.  Annabelle showed us the parks and beer gardens of Stuttgart, and regaled us with the story of the stingy angel memorialised in the main square of the city.  It may or may not be a true story, but we like it all the same. 

Yesterday Aimee and I parted ways in Frankfurt.  Aimee caught a flight back to Boston, and I boarded a train for Prague.  I may only get one full day in Prague, depending on ticket availability for a 4-day music festival outside of the city. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another one

So, is anybody still reading this? 

I hope so, but otherwise I guess I will keep writing for posterity´s sake.  Posterity always reads my blogs, but can be a little stingy with the comments.

I ended up spending two extra nights in Ljubljana.  I like that city a lot.  It is pronounced Le (as in french "the") Blee Onna.  There is a cool little part called Matelkova that used to be a Yugoslavian military and prison compound.  It has since been taken over by the youth counter-culture, whatever that means, and is now kind of a lawless nightlife spot, filled with graffiti, skateboard ramps, and a wide variety of punks, skins, hippies, rockabilly folks, and metalheads.  The beers are cheap and they blatantly flaunt the smoking ban.  It´s probably the only spot in the city where my beard doesn´t attract awkward stares.  I like it. 

Now I am in Vienna, Austria, home to some of the world´s most famous composers, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, and my man Ludwig Van B..  Not sure what I am going to do here, but I think I will start with a cup of coffee in one of Vienna´s famous cafes.    

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Where are you?

That seems to be the question I keep getting, and I think it is proof that I have been negligent in my blogging duties.  I've been quite busy since I last wrote, and have covered a lot of ground.

Upon leaving Romania, I took the overnight train to Belgrade, Serbia.  For the first half of the train ride I shared a cabin with a Romanian autoparts smuggler (so I assume).  I watched bemused as he carefully scattered his assorted fan belts, light bulbs, and other parts around the cabin in attempt to make himself less conspicuous.  I thought maybe the customs agent's disbelief at my beardless passport photo might distract him from the smuggling, but he quickly stamped my passport and had the man gather his autoparts and follow him.  Based on his remaining on the train I guess he had to pay some sort of extra duties on the parts.  When the train emptied out I joined two Portguese travelers and a young Serb, all of whom spoke excellent English.  It was then that I learned that our train was following the tracks of the original Orient Express.  The Orient Express, as far back as 1882, has carried rich adventurers from Paris to Istanbul.

Belgrade welcomed me with a heat wave, and the gap-toothed smile of war-damaged buildings.  A friendly cab driver pointed at the ruins with a smile and simply said "NATO".  My two new friends from Portugal and I walked the tourist routes of Belgrade before spending the rest of the day cooling off in the man-made lake on the river Sava, a tributary of the storied Danube.  After a weekend in Belgrade I got back on the train and made my way to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.  While in Zagreb I was busy visiting with an old classmate from the Coast Guard Academy, as well as meeting some previously-unknown family who are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb.  Ivana and Nik, and Jen and Sam, thank you for all of your hospitality.

Since Zagreb I have spent the last two days in Ljubljiana, the capital of Slovenia.  I was planning on leaving tomorrow, but may stick around at least long enough to watch the Slovenia vs USA worldcup match tomorrow.  Things are going well, and I have been taking a bit of a holiday from my holiday.  The only thing I have spent money to see so far has been the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade.

So now my plans are not that exciting.  My original idea was to go to Verona, Italy tomorrow, followed by Innsbruck, Austria before meeting Aimee in Munich.  However, if I stay tomorrow for the soccer game I may just have time to go to Vienna before arrivng in Munich.  Either way, I am not too concerned.  I have had to make harder decisions in my life.  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Eastern Promises

Hello from Sofia (София) Bulgaria.  Today is my first day of solo travel.  Jerod left this morning for a week back in the states, and will be returning to Bulgaria in about ten days.  We are going to enjoy central and eastern Europe on our own terms before rendezvousing in Krakow, Poland on the 10th of July.  For those of you who don't know it yet, we also booked a flight from Warsaw to Buenos Aires on 15 July.  We will be spending a few weeks in Argentina taking a 40 hour Spanish class before heading back North over land.  

So what have we been doing since Turkey you ask?  I will tell you....lots of running around.  We had some time to kill before needing to be in Bulgaria for Jerod's flight so we decided to shoot up to Romania for a very brief stay.  After an overnight from Istanbul to Sofia we spent the day walking around Sofia in a daze, waiting for our next overnight bus to Bucharest.  We arrived in Bucharest in the AM and booked a train to Brasov.  Finally we arrived in Brasov and made our way to a hostel.  Brasov is very pretty town and is also the jumping-off point to go to Bran castle, home of the legend of Vlad the Impaler and Dracula.  We also arrived on the day of the annual electronic music festival/drinking event held in the ancient citadel of Brasov.  It was quite a scene, and we would have stayed longer but exhaustion was creeping in.

After exploring Dracula's Castle we grabbed a train back to Bucharest and got a hostel for the night, setting ourselves up for a train-ride back to Sofia the next day.  So now we are back in Sofia.  Well, I am back in Sofia.  Jerod is probably on his way to Amsterdam, where he catches his connecting flight to Detroit.  We also were able to meet up with our new friend Theodora who was introduced to us, digitally, by a mutual friend.  After two botched attempts at meeting (botched by Jerod and Me, and excacerbated by no telephone) we finally were able to meet in person.  We now have a much greater appreciation for the Cyrillic alphabet and the revolutionary Bulgarian poets Botev and Levski.  Note any similarities??

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Full Circle

Greetings from Istanbul.  It has been about 40 days since we were here last and it feels good to be back.  We are staying in the same hostel in Sultanhamet and it was fun being greeted as returning friends.  They even noticed that I had lost weight on the Lycian Way and that my beard was longer.  They also wanted to know if I had heard any news about my bike, which I have not.  Hopefully it is still safe in the parents' basement.

Since the Lycian way we spent a few nights in Kemer, a coastal Russian tourist town.  We spent our days soaking up the sun and swimming in the Mediteranean and watching the annual Turkish wrestling championship.  From Kemer we travelled back to Fethiye, where we had started our hike from.  What took 29 days of trekking was undone in 7 hours of combined hitchhiking and bus trips.  It was really fun to pass through some of the sections of our trek again, though, and we even caught a few glimpses of the trail markers where the path crossed the major roads.  Back in Fethiye we checked into the same Hostel and ate at the same small local sandwich shop we had frequented a month prior.  Both were happy for the repeat business.  We spent our free day on a boat trip, which inclded several swim stops and a barbecue lunch.  Nice to swim off a boat given Turkey's rocky coast and beaches.

We took an overnight bus back to Istanbul and will spend another day here before taking the bus up to Romania and Bulgaria.  Our next big visit will be Bran, Romania, home of the Vlad the Impaler, the origin of the Dracula legend.  Lookng forward to leaving Tukey behind after about 48 days here.  It will most likely be our longest stay in any country, but we definitely picked a good one to make our cornerstone/ 

Until next time, keep reading......

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mission Accomplished (Act II Scene II)

After 29 days, approximately 300 miles, 3 walking sticks (for Me), and countless amounts of med tape (for Tony's feet), we've managed to finish the Lycian Way in total along Turkey's Mediterranean coast.  The one stat I'd like to give but honestly don't know is the amount of elevation change we covered throughout the month--But I will say that hiking East towards Antalya as the guidebook recommends is the best bet, since the last third of the trail is the most challenging in terms of elevation gains, length of hiking days, and relative scarcity of water.  On our final night, we actually used up the very last of the iodine tablets for water sterilization and boiled several extra liters of water on the campfire to stay on the safe side.  The scenery along the trail continued to astound, with the summit of Tahtalı Dağ (Mt. Olympos) arguably the highlight of the trip.  The Turkish Ministry of Tourism claims that Mt. Olympos is the 'highest mountain nearest to sea level'-an admittedly rather ambiguous claim-that said, it was a very challenging climb with absolutely stunning views in all directions, and with approximately 7,800 feet of elevation gain over the two day ascent we were quite satisfied to have made the summit.  All in all, this will undoubtedly be a part of our travels we look back on with a sense of accomplishment.

Along the trip, we had a chance to meet several other groups of through-hikers (intending to go the length of the trail as well).  The various nationalities included British, Australians, Dutch, Danish, Israeli, Austrian, and even one other American.  For their part, the Turks think anybody who wants to walk 300 miles for 'fun' is pretty much crazy--and there were certaiınly some times we had a tendency to agree with them.  That said, the Turkish hospitality all along the trail was absolutely amazing-especially in the more remote alpine sections.

We also understand that Mr. Frank's Social Studies Class at the Wattsburg Area Middle School has been following the blog and we would like to stay we appreciate the support and hope we have kept things entertaining and perhaps even educating.  Our time on the Lycian Way was certainly a stroll through history, as it was not uncommon to camp in an area that Alexander the Great had spent a winter, or walk past a statue of Marcus Aurelius still standing.

We're in a bit of shellshock here in Antalya--with a population just short of a million, it is quite the sight after 29 days seeing (many) more goats than people.  That said, we managed to find a hammam (Turkish Bath) this morning to ease those aches and pains and a day or two of gluttony is probably in order after the last month.  Thanks for following.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dogs and Hospitality (Act II Scene I)

We rejoin our intrepid trekkers in Finike, Turkey......

Wow.  We just finished two of the hardest days of the Lycian Way (Lykia Yolu in Turkish, and pronounced lick-e-ya).  The guide book called for 3-4 days worth of food, but Jerod and I decided we could do it in two.  It was two long days, with about 22 hours of hiking and 1,600 meters of climbing.  We probably could have done it a little quicker but Turkish hospitality cannot be denied when it is offered.  About half an hour into day one of the the two-day section we were dragged into a house for breakfast.  We politely declined but were harangued until we acquiesced.  In comparison with other mid-East households where men rule domestic life, Turkish women seem to wear the pants at home.  We were sat down and fed huge mounds of Gozleme (a Turkish quesadilla), fresh vegatables, goat cheese, and honey.  This is followed with tea and group photos.  The next day we had lunch with some shephards, one of which was actually featured in the originally version of our guidebook.  She proudly showed us her copy of the book, as well as photos that other trekkers had sent to her after previous visits.

We have also had some fun dog interactions.  We decided to one section of the trail as a day hike and get a ride back to our campground in the afternoon.  It was cheaper than lodging in the next town and let us hike a day with no packs.  As we set out in the morning four stray dogs joined us for the walk across the long beach.  They ran circles around us and tackled each other on the sand as we went along.  As the trail left the beach, however, we lost two of our entourage, leaving only Nilla and Brownie to tag along.  At the base of a steep climb we took a break and discussed the possibilities of the dogs making it up the climb.  Turns out that they seemed to have an easier time than us.  As we cruised through a little village a female stray named Spot appeared and began an on-again/off-again relationship with Nilla.  Now there was five of us and we set out again.  We found it tough to carry enough water for five mammals on a hot day when there are no buckets to dip in the wells, but we shared what we had and kept on.  We narrowly averted disaster when Nilla was almost taken out by one of the aforementioned Kangal sheep dogs.  After Jerod and I got a few direct hits with some rocks it went after an easier target in mild-mannered Nilla.  Running at them with 15-pound rocks held above your head seems to scare them off, though, and Nilla survived with only one little puncture wound.  Spot, however, seemed enamoured by the physical prowess of the larger, more aggressive sheep dogs and hesitated a moment before rejoining the group.  We all made it safely to Demre and called for our ride back to camp.  Our host at the campsite knew Brownie from town and offered her a ride home too.  Spot and Nilla wouldn't get in the car and made a de facto move from Andriake to Demre.  We saw spot on the road the next day, but she seemed to have ditched Nilla.

So the hiking has been good enough, and my ankle is holding up.  I'm not enamoured with hiking, but it is a great way to really immerse yourself in a region and get a first-hand look at local life.  We are two-thirds through the hike and just passed our two and a half month milestone of traveling.  Spirits are high and blisters are healing.  The next blog and last installment of the blof will come from Antaliya at the end of the trail.  Until then..........

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Road Goes On Forever (Act I Scene II)

The Lycian Way continues for Tony and I (13 days in), staying tonight at a pension here in Kaş (pronounced lıke 'Kosh').  We have witnessed quite a few beautiful seaside Medıterranean towns, but in my humble opinion this one takes the cake (so far at least).  Quite a stunning scene involving sheer cliffs, several bay islands, and quaint whitewashed villas lining the hillsides during our somewhat harrowing descent into town today.  Not surprisingly, we have run into a few ex-pats here already, mostly British.

The trail itself has proven challenging and over quite varied terrain--everything from 'yaylas' (apline meadows) to class 3 rock scrambles (hands and feet required) to 2,500+ year old steep mule paths used for hauling supplies to the ancient people who lived ın these lands.  The author of the guidebook we're using for the trail describes an 'almost careless' relationship with history in this area, and that strikes me as apt.  Walking over ancient aqueducts or across Greco-Roman columns laying in the traıl (with distinct inscriptions still visible) come to mind.

The animals encountered have been of the mostly harmless kind-turtles, snakes, lots of goats and other domestic animals, etc.-with one notable exception-the Kangal dog--bred throughout Turkey as wolf-fighting sheepdogs, they are quite territorial and don't take kindly to strangers crossing their paths or getting near their sheep.  Maybe I forgot to mention they are also very large-close to a German Shepherd in sıze.   We have found that rock-throwing seems to work as the best deterrent.

And last but certainly not least--it's not lost on either of us from the other sıde of the world that today is Mother's Day, so on behalf of both Tony and I--happy Mother's Day Bea and Sue, we appreciate all the support over the years and love you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lycian Way (Act I Scene I)

Welcome to the first installment of Lycian Way blog entries.  We are roughly 50 miles into the trip and enjoying things so far.  Since we left Fethiye 8 days ago we have passed through farms, walked around cliffs descending to clear blue water, and passed through ancient ruins, including Pydnai, Letoon, and Xanthos.  Yesterday we spent several miles hiking through the remains of a Roıman aqueduct.  Later on, we rejoined the aqueduct only to find it flowing with water from the same spring that has fed it for thousands of years.  We have had a mixture of sleeping arrangements.  Some small bed and breakfasts, called pensions here, and some camping as well.  We have eaten all of our meals from the supplies we are carrying. 

Things have not been all easy, however.  Four days ago I had a minor ankle sprain, but luckily it was near the end of the day's hike, and also only one day from our scheduled rest-day.  However, just yesterday I managed to sprain the same ankle again.  Now I am holed up in Kalkan resting my ankle while Jerod is doing a two-day loop that starts and stops here.  I bought some wraps for my ankle and will attempt to rejoin him when he gets back tomorrow. 

The good news is that I am using my downtime to upload new photos to our public Facebook gallery (no membership needed).  Click here to view the pictures. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Eastbound and Down

Today was spent primarily with a visit to the supermarket where we picked up what Tony and I think will be enough food for several days on the trail.  Largely dry goods like rice, lentils, trail mix ingredients, etc.  We were able to find most of what we were looking for but as my Dad likes to say, "What we don't have we'll just have to do without."  Looking at the map, water should be widely available and is supposed to be safe to drink (primarily spring fed)--we are carrying a couple different ways to sanitize the water just in case and can each hold about 3.5 liters.  We also filled up fuel bottles for our backpacking stove at one of the local gas stations--fortunately our stove runs on several different types of gas.  It's also good news that we should only need about a liter of gas for about a week or more on the trail (supplemented with campfires as available), as regular unleaded here runs about ten dollars to the gallon.

For those familiar with the term "carbo-loading", we attempted our own version of it this evening with a trip to Burger King (yes, even ın Fethiye, Turkey).  We figured we had earned ourselves this breakdown for American fast food since we're about to venture into the wilderness for a while.

At this point we feel we're about as prepared as we're ever going to be, and are just looking forward to starting the trail bright and early tomorrow.  Thanks to everyone keeping up with the blog and we'll be sure to update as the Lycian Way allows.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Soaring Above Turkey

Greetings from sea level.  Jerod and I started our day wıth a jeep ride to the top of Babadag mountain in Ölü Deniz, Turkey.  Babadag, or Father Mountain, peaks at about 6,500 feet.  Unfortunately we had only bought one-way tickets up the mountain.  Our route down was to strap to the front of an expert para-glider and run off of a cliff.  Though less exhilerating than skydiving, the 25 minutes of soaring over the beautiful Mediteranean coast was a pretty good trade-off.  Here is what our view looked like:
   After being enticed by the aerial view, we spent a good chunk of the afternoon lounging on the white sands and swimming in the Med.  It's been a tough day.  Tomorrow we will wrap up preps before starting our 300-mile trek.  Blogs may get sporadic after tomorrow.  Thanks for your patience.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hijacked in Pamukkale

Greetings from Pamukkale, Turkey.  We are supposed to be in Fethiye today but got swept away at the bus station.  We were originally just supposed to change busses here, but they guy at the station offered us such a good deal on a room that we decided to stay the night and check out the sights.
As you can see from the picture (just a stock google photo), it is quite a spot.  In addition to the hot springs, there are also some pretty extensive Roman ruins, including one of the best-preserved amphitheaters in the world.  We are both pretty happy we made the call to stop.  We will continue on to Fethiye tomorrow. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fairy Chimneys and Flying Carpets

After several days in Istanbul, we booked tickets for an overnight bus to Goreme, Turkey, the heart of an area known as Cappadocia.  Cappadocia is something of a surreal landscape where for centuries the locals have lived inside caves and assorted rock formations that basically look like something out of a dream.  The popular term for the formations is "Fairy Chimneys" but if you're interested your best bet would be to google Cappadocia for an idea of the geography--I don't think the term does it justice.  Tony and I booked a two day tour and had a chance to visit all the most popular spots.  Personally I wasn't crazy about visiting the sites as part of a guided tour but I will say that the guide added something to the history of the area and we also had a chance to see handmade ceramics and carpet weaving, right down to the fibers of the silkworm being spun on the wheel.  A very interesting experience, and the intricacy that goes into a handmade carpet is astounding--for example, a silk carpet at about 2.5 x 4 feet, takes one hardworking Turkish woman (the men sell the carpets and the women make them here) about one year to complete.  Cost: $10,000.  Ouch.  But they were beautiful.

Yesterday we also signed up for "Turkish Nights", a popular evening program consisting of some authentic Turk cusine, as well as several other aspects of Turkish Culture--we watched Whirling Dervishes (a Mystical sect of Sufi Islam, founded in Turkey), traditional Central Asian dancing popular throughout the 'Stans (as well as Bulgaria, Hungary and Russia so I'm told), and some belly dancing to top the night off.  Crowd participation was highly encouraged, and since Tony and I found ourselves essentially ringside we were dragged onto the dance floor on numerous occasions...Throw in a tour bus of Chinese tourists and with booze included as part of the set price--it made for an interesting evening.  I can attest that both the red and white wine made locally aren't bad...haha.

We've thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Cappadocia but it's time to move on.  We've booked another overnight bus to Fethiye, down on the Meditteranean Coast where the weather's warmer and we'll get prepared for Lycian Way, a 500 kilometer trek on what's known as the Turquoise Coast.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Turkey Pot Pie

Attentıon:  The normal i button on the Turkısh Keyboard has no dot.  i.e. ı.  So I wıll not be usıng the real i.  Hope that ıs clear.

Anyway. It has been a breath of fresh aır to be ın Istanbul.  Even flyıng ın from Caıro and seeıng grass on the ground and not beıng hassled to get ınto EVERY taxı at the aırport was a huge relıef.  We are stayıng at a hostel ın the Sultanhamet regıon whıch ıs very nıce and located wıthın the former walled cıty of Constantınople.  We are only a few mınutes walk from the famous Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofıa.  We also spent some tıme walkıng around the great bazaar and the spıce bazaar.  I  may break down and buy a counterfeıt Belstaff motorcycle jacket.  Everythıng ıs screamıng no but my heart says yes.

Today we spent three hours at the Hammam, or Turkısh Bath.  The one we went to was buılt about 400 years ago.  It ıs essentıally a sauna but ıncludes an exfolıatıng scrub and a soapy massage and some good old steam.  Very refreshıng. 

Tomorrow we are off to Cappadocıa.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Photos Photos Photos!!!!

Check out my Facebook gallery.  It ıs open to the publıc so you shouldn`t even need a profıle.  Check the lınk:
Photo Gallery 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Deserts and Desserts

 Well hello again from Cairo.  I know you are getting bombarded with entries recently, so either sorry, or you're welcome, depending on your thoughts on that.

The day after the pyramids we took a tour of the white and black deserts near the Oasis named Baharia, about five hours West of Cairo by bus.  We were met at the bus stop and escorted to a Bedouin's house for lunch, where we also got to meet our two tour-mates, a very nice brother and sister from Quebec City, Canada.  I also got to practice my French with them.  After lunch we hopped in a Toyota Landcruiser and started out into the desert.  Our first few stops in the black desert were a little disappointing and we started to question coming on the tour at all.  However, so fun off-road driving into the white desert quickly proved us wrong.  Amazing chalk-white rock formations jutted out of the desert floor resembling everything from mushrooms to rabbits to giant male genitalia.  We spent the night out in the desert enjoying food cooked over the open fire by our driver, and sleeping under the stars.

Tomorrow we are making one last attempt to retrieve our package from the US before heading to the airport for our flight to Istanbul.  We are both excited for a slight change of pace from the Middle-East, but are nervous about the rise in prices.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Saddle sore in Cairo

Tony and I had a marathon day yesterday encompassing several different major ancient Egyptian sites around the Giza area.  We had organized the trip the night before, a story in itself...so here goes: On Saturday we sat down for after-dinner tea and communal sheesha with two fellow hostellers (both Aussies) at a local shop not far from the hostel.  As four Westerners you certainly draw a fair amount of attention from seemingly every Egyptian on the street, attempting to sell you on just about anything under the sun, but usually some guided tour around the Cairo area.  One Egyptian next to us started chatting about how he understands how we get sick of getting touted at every possible moment, and his command of English was also substantially better than most.  Cliche as it sounds, his name was Aladdin.  As it turns out, he's an Arabic teacher back in the States (Marquette University in Wisconsin), is part owner of the sheesha bar we were sitting at, and is home for his daughter's wedding.  Aladdin was also a pretty damn good salesman, because by the end of a long conversation with lots of laughs and some free rounds of tea, we had committed to his friend as our taxi for our Sunday.  Just how things work here in Egypt. 

The day started at the relatively obscure pyramids of Dashur, which for my part was one of the hihglights of the trip.  A bit off the beaten path (hired taxi or tour is really the only way to get there), we were able to enjoy these two pyramids with less than 20 other people around, quite amazing compared to the thousands that descend upon the more well-known Giza complex daily about 15 miles away.  Also while deep inside the Dashur pyramids the lighting system decided to fail for several minutes--quite an eerie feeling and fortunately Tony's trusty lighter showed the way.  The ruins of Memphis and Saqqara were also impressive in their own right, but the Giza plateau earned it's reputation and stole the show.  I rode a camel and Tony a horse for some amazing views of the Pyramids and spent an hour or two sipping tea in the desert at a Bedouin camp.  We then made our way back into Giza and watched the sunset over a local rooftop. We also caught the beginning of the sound and light show conducted every night with the Sphinx himself as the MC.

Today has been a relatively relaxing day, with a second failed attempt at acquiring the package at the post office.  We're a bit saddle sore from our time at Giza (and as someone who has ridden horses a few times before, I can assure you a camel ride is substantially less pleasant) but looking forward to a short foray into the white and black deserts of the Western Oases tomorrow for an overnight trip.  We plan to be back in the Cario area Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Football in the Alley

Our overnight train ride was far superior to our overnight bus ride.  In fact, we arrived in Cairo with enough energy to actually head out and see some sites.  We decided to take it slow and go to the Egyptian Museum, only a ten minute walk from the hostel.  The museum is huge and loaded with artifacts.  Unfortunately, the information provided on the placards is less than adequate.  The Tutankamun exhibit was stunning, though, and the extra $20 to see the mummies was worth it.  The animal mummy exhibit was interesting too.  Who knew they  would mummify their favorite dogs and cats too.

Today we went to the post office to retrieve our laptop.  Whammy!  No laptop.  I'm disappointed, but can't say I'm surprised.  Things actually seemed pretty efficient in there, though, so it wasn't totally disheartening.  Alas, though, pictures will have to wait.  Afterwards we braved the excellent Cairo metro system to check out the Coptic (ancient Christian) section Cairo.  Eh, it was ok.  Then we went to Khan El Khalili, the giant warren of alleys that makes the market of Cairo.  We explored the vendors selling bunnies, watched a chicken get slaughtered, and tried not to buy too many t-shirts.  When one man started a conversation with us we asked him if he could point us in the direction of a felaffel stand.  He grabbed us by the arm and led us down a few alleyways to a little cart where we got foul and frenchfry sandwiches for less than a dollar.  Next, when he asked if we were thirsty he took us down another series of allies to a drink stand.  While watching some young kids playing Playstation2 on an old TV in the alley he asked if we wanted to play.  Without further ado they dug out more controllers and fired up another TV.  Ahmed and I played a hard-fought game and ended regulation time tied at one point each.  Shortly, a large crowd of youth was watching and rousing cheers of USA and Egypt erupted at each big play.  Unfortunately I was bested in overtime, succumbing to the superior skills of Ahmed and lost three to one.

In the next few days we will visit the Giza complex, encompassing the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and Saqqara, and we will also take an overnight tour to visit the white and black deserts and their oases.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

End of an Era

I wanted to dedicate a blog to thank all of our faithful readers and ad clickers.  As of today, when our "AdSense" account was terminated due to suspicious activity we had already made $60.  I don't think we will get to keep any of that unless my appeal is successful.  Thanks again, though, for all of your hard work.  I will let you know if our account is reinstated. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Crocodiles and Bananas

Hello back home, and around the world.  I hear the weather in New England is starting to feel like spring.  Congratulations.  I am writing from Luxor, Egypt.  Today we visited some of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the Funary Temple of Queen Hatshopset, and the Collossi of Memnon.  In the afternoon we spent a liesurely three hours cruising the Nile on a Felluca.  Napping on the leeward side of a Felluca is probably the best therapy in the world, besides riding a Harley.  It was almost enough for us to scrap our plans for the Great Pyramids and do a multi-day trip to Aswan by boat.  Alas, our prudence got the better of us and we booked a ticket on the overnight train tomorrow to Cairo.  Before we depart we will visit Karnak and Luxor temples.  In Cairo we are hoping to pick up our waiting netbook, and we will be able to upload some long-awaited photos.  I have only taken about 900 so far, so it should be a pretty quick process.  I think we are both looking forward to punching the tourist tickets in Cairo and leaving the Middle-East behind.  It has been great, but there is so much to see, and we had a limited time.  It has felt more like a tour than a leisurely globe-trotting backpacking trip.  Hopefully Turkey, and the rest of Europe will let us ease into things a little more, and have a little more relaxation and living in the moment.  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who wants a busride?

Well, another quickie from Dahab.  We've been here for some time now, and we are ready to move on.  Tomorrow we are taking a bus from Dahab to Luxor.  Apparently it takes 15 to 20 hours.  Should be exciting.  On a personal note, I had my first near-miss with "mummy tummy", the name given to GI maladies contracted in Egypt.  Luckily, I think my self-proclaimed iron stomach was able to fight it off before it became much of a show-stopper.  So that's it for now.  Our next entry should be from Luxor, after visitng Karnak and or the Valley of the Kings.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Summit of Sinai

We were greeted with an amazing sunrise at the top of Mt. Sinai this morning.  This site occupies a holy place for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as it is believed to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.  The hike started at about 1 am, and with a couple breaks for Bedouin tea along the way, we made the summit by about 4:30 am and had plenty of time to enjoy the view.  A waning but still bright moon helped light the way and allowed us to dodge the dozens of camels lining the path.  At the base of the climb sits St. Catherine's Monastery, we could walk the exterior grounds but unfortunately the interior is closed until Tuesday since it is Easter weekend.  But after a basically sleepless light, we were just as happy to return to Dahab around 10:30 am and take it easy.  It's been a long night so we'll probably get back to Dahab's main attraction, loafing on the Red Sea.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Free and Easy

That's the way of life here in Dahab, Egypt.  Maybe not free, exactly, but pretty darn cheap.  We got here Wednesday evening after a five hour busride from Jerusalem to Eilat, a border crossing, and a 165kph taxi ride to Dahab (about 100mph for those who need it).  Since then we have been doing some hanging out, some snorkeling, and some sunning.  Pretty tough life.  Tonight we are making an after-dark ascent of Mt. Sinai to watch the sun rise.  In the morning we will climb down and visit St. Catherine's monastery, home of the burning bush.  Not much happening, so not much to report.  Next stop will most likely be Luxor and Karnak and the Valley of the Kings (and Queens I suppose).

P.S.  Keep up the good work on clicking our advertisers.  We have made $36 since I first posted to click on them.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back up on the stick

Hello from the central bus station in Jerusalem.  After getting up super early to catch the 7AM bus, which was sold out anyway, we got tickets for the 10AM and are killing time at an internet cafe. 

We spent Thursday through Sunday night in Tzfat, Israel.  We stayed with an organization called Livnot U'lehibinot, which is the organization that ran my two-week trip to Israel back in 2008.  It was great to see some familiar faces, and to meet some new people as well.  Our timing worked out to span a Shabbat (Friday night to Saturday night), a hike near the Golan Heights, and a Passover Seder.  The passover seder was like none I had been to before, and lasted from around 8PM to 2AM.  It was intense, but a great experience.  Jerod was a trooper and took all of the Judaism I through at him with a grain of salt.  He definitely learned a lot about religion/culture from that experience.

After the first night of Passover we took the first bus from Tzfat to Jerusalem (9PM since they don't run during the holiday) so we could get an early start towards Eilat, where we will cross into the Sinai Penninsula.  As I mentioned before, the first bus was sold out, and the bus station is mobbed with people coming and going for the holiday week.

Today marks the end of our first month on the road.  We have spent a considerable amount of time in Israel and Jordan, but will still leave them with sights unseen and trails unhiked.  I guess it is a good excuse to return some time.  That being said, we are excited to be moving forward with the trip and getting a new country under our belts.  Egypt will be a bit of a whirlwind, since we have a set departure day on 15 April when we fly from Cairo to Istanbul. 

Things are great, though, and our spirits are high.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Rollers

Greetings again from Tzfat. Israel.  Thanks to closures in public transportation for Shabbat and Passover we are still here (that was the plan anyway).  We had a nice restful Shabbat, followed by a short hike (really more of a nature walk) today.  Tomorrow is the start of Passover (Pesach for those Hebrew speakers out there).  Not much to report on, things are going well, and have been really peacefull.  Jerod is getting a very in-depth education into Judaism, and we are looking forward our upcoming "reverse-exodus" to the Sinai.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Back to Israel...

Good afternoon all, Jerod here--my first actual internet blog, on Tony's site or otherwise.  Yes, I am somewhat of technological caveman, so bear with me.  I just wanted to add a few additional notes on Tony's otherwise stellar documentation of the last day or two...

Last night we camped out at Zelon beach on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee--where it's believed that Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fish, among several lesser known feats.  We were pretty worn out from a long day of public transport and the notoriously stringent Israeli border crossing, but were treated to something of a miracle in itself--as we walked onto the clearly deserted beach, a couple of staff for the campground took us in, gave us tea and some food, and after getting the tent set up, we also shared a sip or two of Arak, a very popular middle east liquor similar to Sambuca back in the States.  Despite the language barrier we managed to share a few laughs.

Our first hitchhiking experiences of the trip were rather positive--it's a way of life in Israel, especially these nothern sections that aren't particularly well served by public transport.  Despite our large backpacks and rather shaggy looks we managed to get rides relatively easily.  It's also helpful if you can make friends with an Israeli who can assist with the language barrier, and today Tony and I were lucky enough to do just that.  We hitched somewhere around 60 km or so today to the town of Tsfat, where we plan to spend Passover and use as our general outpost for the next several days. 

One last note, just to demonstrate the issues of transliterations between Hebrew and English, take the town we're currently in for example--we've seen at least this many derivations of it during our travels--Zefat, Tzfat, Safed, Zefat, Tsfat, Zfat...I guess you can see why it was pretty helpful to make friends who can help you out.

Drop it like it's Tzfat

We are back in Israel.  Tzfat to be precise.  I am on the worst keyboard ever, so I will keep it short.  After two relaxing days in the Amman we took a car to the border and came back to Israel.  Even at the checkpoint it is a big distrinction between the Jewish and Arab sides. 

Due to minimal public transport we decided to have a go at hitchhiking.  We first took a cab to town, hitched a ride to the Sea of Galillee, and took a shared taxi to a campground.  We spent the night in a deserted camp on the shore of the Galillee.  Today we got a total of 3 rides to take us to Tzfat.  Then a long walk up the hill to the old city where we are staying. 

After dropping our packs off we grabbed an old Yemenite dish that is a cross between a pizza and a crepe.  I always call it Yemenite Pizza.  I'd been jonesing for one since I was here last.  Anyway, we have a few relaxing days ahead of us with Shabbat, and maybe we can squeeze in a trip to the Golan Heights before Passover. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bedouins and Ad Revinue

First things first, never buy a travel alarm clock from Sharp.  Three weeks into the trip and it quit on us.  Who needs an alarm clock anyway?

Anyway, just wanted to embellish a little on my last epic entry.  I LOVE JORDAN (Tony's opinion only.  Please consult Jerod for his opinion).  The people are amazing, the driving is like NASCAR, and if you avoid the tourist traps you can sleepand eat for very few Dinars (money).  Nawaf, our host in Um Sihon (near Petra) takes every couchsurfer that sends a request.  He made us several excellent dinners and would invite his Bedouin friends over to join us for evenings of Narghila (hookah), Arak (anisette liquor), and conversation.  In addition, we have picked up every hitchhiker that we have room for, and get to learn a lot about the Bedouin lifestyle in modern Jordan. 

On one particularly isolated hike in Petra we rounded a bend and heard flute music wafting out of a cave.  An older Bedouin man came out and invited us in for tea.  We sat on carpets on the floor of his cave and drank tea with him.  He had me read a text message to him that he had received in English from another visitor he had gotten in the past.  He told us he was not working currently because his donkey had just given birth and needed a month before it could be put to use again.  He sent us on our way with handshake and directions along the confusing trail.

Lastly,I just learned that Jerod and I are earning a tiny sum of money from the visits to the ads on our blog page, so I will put in a shameless plug and encourage you to click on them often!  Maybe through your efforts we can stay on the road a day longer!   

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nabateans Schmabateans

Greetings from Wadi Mousa, Jordan.  We've been busy bees since our last entry.  From Aqaba Jerod and I rented another car.  We were a little nervous since an international driver's license is required (why didn't we bother to get them before we left?), but even a chain like Hertz never asked to see one, so away we went. 

Our first stop was a Safeway grocery store.  I don't know why the worst grocery chain in the US is the only one in Jordan, but we stocked up on food and headed North into the desert.  Our first stop was Wadi Rum.  Wadi Rum is the former home of Lawrence of Arabia.  We skipped the expensive jeep tours and headed out into the desert on our own.  The first day we passed "Lawrence's Spring" on our way to a designated campsite.  We were treated to pretty breathtaking scenery reminiscent of the Southwest United States, with huge sandstone mountains and hills protruding from the desert floor, all carved and eroded from years of desert flash floods and blowing sand.  We made it into our campsite around sunset and were promptly invited into a Bedouin tent and offered us more tea than we could drink in a week.  We stayed for a bitand tried to make some conversation, but the language barrier was a bit strong.  We set up our camp and bunkered down for what proved to be a extremely windy night.  Despite being caught in the relative open in 25 mph winds the tent held strong and we got a lousy night's sleep.

The next day we woke early and continued to hike.  We stopped by Lawrence of Arabia's house (what was left of it) before attempting to find a more sheltered campsite.  We ended up camping in a cave (sort of) about 75 feet off the desert floor.  We built a lovely campfire and had some soup cooked on a bedouin stove that we borrowed after failing to find any fuel for ours.  We had a much nicer sleep, setting us up for a leisurely stroll out of the desert the next morning.

We stopped in Rum Village to return the borrowed stove, had some tea with our friend Ali, and got behind the wheel to drive to Um Sihon, home of our couchsurfing host Nawaf.  We met Nawaf at his family home in the village.  We had tea, met some of his 7 children and then he led us to his couchsurfing apartment on the edge of town.  There we met his other guests, from Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, and Denmark, as well as some of his local friends.  We sat around drinking arak and having a feast and sharing travel advice.

This morning we had some breakfast, dropped one of the couchsurfers at his work, and with our new friends Simon we set off for Petra.  Petra is absolutely spectacular, but get here to visit ASAP.  Entry was 38 Jordanian Dinars (almost 60 USD), and will be going up to 90 Dinars next year.  Apparently the quantity of tourism is taxing the water supply out in the desert.  While we found it to be crowded, there are plenty of places to get off the beaten path and do some real exploring.  Unlike parks in the US, there are very few off-limits places, and you can crawl around in ancient tombs (built by the Nabateans if you're wondering) and go almost wherever you want.  Definitely a place to see.  We will return tomorrow for another hike (we bought a two day pass) and then probably head North to Amman, with a possible stop in Karak.

Hopefully we will be getting more frequent internet access soon, so apologize for the delay in blogging.  Hope you enjoyed it. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Red Sea

Hello from Aqaba, Jordan, on the sunny Red Sea.  After our time by the Dead Sea in Israel we returned the rental car in Eilat (also on the Dead Sea).  We found a cheap campground across from the sea and spent a relaxing day lounging on the beach and swimming.  We spent last night lounging in a Bedouin tent by the sea smoking a hookah and drinking tea.  Today we had a guy we met at the campsite drive us to the border crossing into Jordan.  From there we walked across the border and hopped a cab for the cheapest hotel.  It's definitely exciting to finally be experiencing another country.  Now we are on the opposite shore of the Red Sea (gulf of Aqaba) almost looking across at our place in Eilat.  Should be a setup for a nice sunset.  Tomorrow we will try to rent a car again and head up to Wadi Rum and Petra.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Riding through the desert.....

Greetings from Masada in Israel.  We've been busy bees since you last heard from me.  From Bethlehem we had our same driver take us to Jericho, which is the lowest city on earth, at 200 meters below sea level, and also the oldest continuously populated city on earth.  The highlight of Jericho is its cable car that runs up the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days and nights.  I only lasted about an hour.  From Jericho we were headed to Ramallah, but Walid said it was too far/expensive for him to take us so he dropped us at a bus stop and we went back into Jerusalem and got another bus to Ramallah.  We spent the afternoon drinking terrible coffee and eating cheap falafels before meeting our couchsurfing hosts.  Travel Tip: don't let both traveling companions sleep on a bus at the same time only to wake up in a random Palestinian neighborhood.

After our adventures in Palestine we decided to head out to the dead sea and surround deserts.  With tours running almost $100 per person we thought it best to rent a car at $90 for three days.  We drove to spot on the Dead Sea called Qalia and did the obligatory floating and mud basking.  Jerod was able to confirm that it is indeed saltier than the Great Salt Lake.  From Qalia we drove down the coast to En Gedi (also on the Dead Sea).  We picked up an Italian couple hitch-hiking and drove them down the coast a bit.  Luckily we found a store open on Shabbat to buy some food for camping out and went to a beach on the Dead Sea with free camping.  Apparently it was also the night for every young adult in the area to show up and see who could play music the loudest and latest.  At 10 PM, with no sign of sleep on the horizon, we decided to get an early start on our day.  We broke our camp and loaded some day packs with some food, water, and our sleeping bags.  We snuck into the National Park and made a star-lit ascent of Mt Yishay (about 2000 ft).  At the top we camped out for the rest of the night, finally out of earshot of terrible arabic techno music.

We woke to the sun rising over the Dead Sea and headed out for the desert plateau.  We hiked around for several hours before choosing the trail labeled as the most difficult descent.  We made it safely into a lush river valley and cooled off swimming under a waterfall, ala shampoo commercial.  Now I am sitting in a Youth Hostel in Masada.  we are getting up a little before 5 AM to climb Masada and see the sun rise again. 

From here we are headed to Eilat on the Red Sea (Red, Dead, and Med).  We will make a stop in the Negev Desert on the way and Maybe get some camping in.  From Eilat we will cross into Aqaba, Jordan and begin our Quest for the Holy Grail in Petra. 

Until next time......

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The New Wailing Wall

Greetings faithful followers.  Shalom and Salaam.  Don't worry, I have not come down with Jerusalem Syndrome (a documented psychological complex where visitors to the holy land begin to think they are a prophet).  Since you last heard from me we have gotten a great mix (oxymoron?) of Christian and Jewish culture.  We followed some of the Via Doloroso (wayof the cross) which follows Jesus' path as he carried the cross.  It culminates at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which (rumor has it) is the holiest christian place on earth.  We also got a chance to vist Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem, and had a nice dinner al fresco in the mountain town of Ein Karem.  From there we went to the Western Wall once again to take a tour of the tunnels that go deep beneath the old city of Jerusalem.

This morning my boots were delivered from El Al.  I feel whole again.  As soon as we got the boots Jerod and I walked to the Damascus Gate of the old city where we hopped on the "Arab Bus" to Bethlehem.  A bus to Bethlehem is definitely misleading because there is no open road there because it is in the famed West Bank.  The road from Jerusalem ends abruptly at a massive cement wall stretching in both directions.  It is garnsihed with razor wire and guard towers.  We passed easily through the control point, and found some cabs waiting on the other side.  We picked a driver with strong English and for a reasonable sum he took us to Mount Herodian and Shepherds Hill/Field (where the angels appeared after JC's birth).  After getting a room at the inn in Bethlehem we walked to the Church of the Nativity amd the Milk Grotto (feel free to wikipedia them, because I am not an expert).

I'll spare you any stereotypical rhetoric on the "apartheid wall" and mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures.  I will try to post some post some pics soon, though and let you draw your own conclusions.

Jerod is getting sleepy so I am going to lay him in a manger.
Goodnight, and god bless..

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Holy City (doesn't require boots)

Hello from Jerusalem.  Jerod and I successfully navigated the bus system to arrive in Jerusalem before things started to close down before Shabbat.  My friend Kristiana met us at the bust station and we made the hike back to her place.  A nice restful afternoon led to a nice Shabbat dinner prepared by Kristiana's Israeli roommate Ouriel.  Afterwords we sat around talking and drinking wine until bed time.

Today, after a delicious breakfast (again prepared by Ouriel) we set out for the old city of Jerusalem.  We knew the Jewish quarter would be mostly abandoned, but the Arab, Armenian, and Christian quarters were all bustling with market activity.  We passed the Jaffa gate and Damascus Gate as well as few of the stations of the cross.  After wandering through the twisting labyrinth of streets we arrived at a security checkpoint to enter the plaza with the Kotel (Wailing Wall/Western Wall).  We decided not to spend too much time there today, but we will return after Shabbat and take some photos and try to arrange to tour the tunnels leading under the Kotel.  A long walk brought us back to Kristiana's a few minutes ago, and we will probably grab some dinner soon.  Tomorrow will probably take us to a few more spots in the old city, back to the wall, and maybe some of Ben Yehuda street and Zion Square. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Moving on up (without boots)

Sigh....still no boots. But, at least we are getting out of Tel Aviv today.  We were going to be visiting a friend of mine near Tel Aviv last night, but he had to work a double.  Instead, he came into the city on Wednesday night to have a few pints. 

Today we are catching a bus to Jerusalem where we will be staying with a friend of mine.  We just need to make sure we get there early enough, otherwise things start shutting down in observation of shabbat, which starts at sunset.  Sine today is the start of shabbat most Israelis are off from work, and last night was their equivalent of Friday.  Jerod and I hit a few bars to get a feel for the "scene" here.  It was definitely good for a few laughs. 

We are definitely both excited to be moving on.  Tel Aviv is an interesting city, but still a city, and somewhat lacking in the historical splendor of the rest of the country.  In the next week we will be reporting back having visited places like the Western Wall, Bethlehem, and Nazareth (no, not the 80's metal band), so I don't think Tel Aviv really compares. 

Everyone pray for my boots.   

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sleepless in Tel Aviv

It's the morning of 3 March and it seems that famous Goldstein jet lag has finally sunk in.  It's almost 7AM and I have been up since 3AM after going to sleep at 1AM.  Oh well.  Yesterday was nice relaxing day.  We started with some breakfast before heading over to the beach.  Beautiful weather, but not quite beach weather.  We walked the boardwalk into old seaport of Jaffa before heading back to the hostel.  We spent a while reorganizing our gear since El Al was gracious enough to get it pretty disheveled.  I then introduced Jerod to schwarma before heading back for a little siesta.  We chatted with our roommate for a bit.  He is Brazilian tattoo artist from Rio.  His grasp of English being slightly better than my Portoguese made for an interesting conversation, but was fun none-the-less.  I also had my first lost wallet scare, sending me running back to the store I had used it at last, only to return to the hostel empty-handed but to find Jerod waiting out front with my wallet which another guest had found on the floor and brought by the room.  The kindness of strangers prevails.  I then bought a caribiner and some cord to manufacture a lanyard.  I won't lose it again.

El Al has still not delivered my boots, and a quick stop at a hiking store proved that replacing them here will be far costlier than it would be almost anywhere else.  I plan on calling the claims number today to get an ETA or maybe expedite the process.  Also on the books for today is a stop at the Carmel Market and maybe a trip to Hayarkon Park and Gardens just outside the city limits.

Thanks for stopping in.  Until next time.............. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Greetings From Tel Aviv

Hello from the capitol of Israel.  After 16 hours, two planes, a train, and two buses we are safe and sound at our youth hostel.  The biggest snafu of the day came when El Al security confiscated my hiking boots for further inspection.  They were very vague, but hopefully they will be able to put them on a flight tomorrow and deliver them to the hostel.  It's almost half past eleven here right now, and we left the house at 5PM on Sunday.  It's definitely been a long day.  I think we will grab a beer or two and hit the rack.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Real Last Day

I decided to write one last entry before heading to the airport this evening.  My room at my sister's house is all cleared out, my bags are packed, and I watched all of the NCIS and Law and Order episodes that I had recorded on my sister's DVR.  It looks like there is nothing to do now but get on the plane.  I am super excited to be going, but now it has dawned on me that I am also more nervous than I thought I'd be.

I'm not nervous about the flying or the places we are going, but more so the unknown element and the lack of planning.  People might think that I am a daring and free-spirited and adventurous, and it is partly true, but looking back, the last 28 years of my life has been pretty much dictated by parents, college, and the Coast Guard.  Even the motorcycle trip I took was relatively well planned, and my route was predicated by the goal of hitting all of the states I could, and I had a finite time limit in which to accomplish it.

This trip, however, is absolutely boundless.  Other than two nights booked in a hostel in Tel Aviv for Monday and Tuesday, and a flight booked from Cairo to Istanbul on April 15th, there is pretty much no concrete plan for this trip.  We have planned out some of the big picture aspects of the trip, and have done a lot of research regarding the various countries we would like to visit, but the food, lodging, and transportation is completely up in the air (essentially the entire basis for Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).

So bottom line; I'm excited, I'm nervous, and I'm leaving tonight one way or the other.  Follow along here to see how it unfolds.  

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Last Day

Well, today is our last full day here in the States.  Jerod got into Boston on Thursday night via Amtrak, and we spent Friday going over our gear, picking up some last minute items, and test-fitting everything in our packs.  Not much to do now.  I still have some last-minute chores to tidy up my stuff that is at my sister's house and get it ready to be sent home to my parents' house for storage in their basement.

I guess it's safe to say that I'm pretty excited.  I've been thinking about, and planning for this trip for a long time now, and I'm pretty tired of waiting.  I'm also tired of talking about it, and explaining it, and justifying it, and defending it, and assuring people of my safe return.

But, when we get on the plane tomorrow at 1930 all of that will just fade into the proverbial rear-view mirror.  I'm not very inspired to write now, so stay tuned for the next entry; From Israel.  

Friday, February 12, 2010

The count-down begins

Greetings.  There are only 16 days left until Jerod and I get on a plane for Israel (via England).  We leave February 28th and get into Tel Aviv mid-day on the 1st of March.  I'm definitely excited, but have a few reservations as well; specifically, financial concerns.  I am not quite where I was hoping to be at this point, and am still waiting on some tax and insurance documents to come through.  Talk about waiting until the last minute, huh?  I still have a few tricks up my sleeve, though, and  won't let a little thing like money stand in my way.  The good news is that our flights to the Middle East and from Egypt to Turkey are already paid for, so there shouldn't be much in the way of transportation costs or the first three months or so.

For those of you interested in our itinerary, I can give you a rough snapshot:
March 1 - March 15: Israel
March 15 - late March: Jordan
Late March: Back to Israel for Passover
Early April - April 15: Egypt
April 15 - early June: Turkey  (including 30 days hiking the Lycian Way)

After Turkey we will be heading to Greece to try and meet up with some friends that will be over there around the same time.  Once we are done in Greece our plan rapidly deteriorates.  Some likely destinations are Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Krakow, and the Carpathian mountains.  Depending on time and budget we may look into a trip on the trans-siberian railroad, and are definitely interested in Nepal and India.