Thursday, 26 April 2018 – Day 14: Johannesburg, South Africa (26.2041° S, 28.0473° E)
Sawubona from South Africa…we repositioned this morning from Zimbabwe about an hour south to Johannesburg. We are heading further and further deep into Africa! (How will we get out?)
Old Business: Firstwe have to close the books on our last Leg, a difficult Par 5. The scores…
5th Buckeyed Terriers
4th Leo & The Crab
3rd Team Tuna
2nd NOLA Secondline
1st SLO Folks for their 4th straight leg win…they ate the most, did the most and laughed the most!
Overall now, the leaders after four legs about a third (Par 14 or 24 completed)…the overall top 3 teams are:
3. NOLA Secondline = 55
2. Team Tuna = 53
1. SLO Folks = a perfect low 14
Three Things I learned from the Zimbabwe-Zambia Leg: Africa is full of smiles and people wanting to sincerly know you and help you if need be—when you leave it is people encounters you remember most; critters and nature remain the key attraction despite mandmade diversions running amok; and I want to come again.
Teams had a ball…and finally, I have a few photos to share:
Teams figuring out border detials: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana & Namibia
Half of SLO Folks about to do something to do with big elastics…
Small World story: SLO Folks run into friends from home, while away! What are the chances?
Leaving the Batonka Guest Lodhe in Vic Falls…thank you all!
Welcome to Soweto
We turn the page here in South Africa with a short 1:00PM till 9:00PM leg; we call them layover challenges.
8-Hour Layover Challenge: J’burg Edition lay•over \ ‘lā-, ō-vәr \ noun (1873) – STOPOVER n (1885): a period spent by a passenger at an intermediate point in waiting for a transportation connection; a brief halt in a journey caused by scheduling in the course of a journey; a short stop in a long journey, especially one between airplane flights; free time between flights spent in an airport hub—and to be avoided like the plague.
Alas…despite best laid plans…we had to call an audible in J’burg. Seems the day before departing Victoria Falls I was unceremoniously notified that our airline took it upon itself to unilaterally change our flight departure time from a morning one to an afternoon flight. We finally arrived at JNB after 3:00PM! We simply did not have time to do all the things we wanted to accomplish in South Africa due to our upending flight schedule change. So, we went out to eat and drank and swap travel war stories two weeks into the event.
On a side note: we certainly have dug ourselves a geographic hole here coming all the way to South Africa, very far from everything and everywhere else. Where is next for us? Time will tell as we have a morning to catch to… reposition to someplace else!?
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 – Day 13: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (17.9318° S, 25.8256° E)
That feature photo is what Victoria Falls looked like in November when I was last here during the dry season…that’s the before photo.
The problem with the after photo is there is too much of a good thing. It is like a white out (wet out) with so much water crashing down creating micro-climates…squalls really, that prevent you from really seeing the majesty of the falls. You get absolutely soaked…saturated even. But alas, we are here, enjoying ourselves tremendously. Heard a team was going bungee jumping and maybe zip lining too? Hopefully, video later…
Leo & the Crab tanned & rested enjoying breakfast at Batonka.
Something lurking between me and my pub! Yield the right-of-way…
Baobab Tree sunset
What inflation looks like…a real note. Bitcoin anyone?
All the teams returned on time at our 9:00PM check-in with stories to tell. Drinks kept them flowing until the wee hours of the balmy night…
So conflicted? Which way to go to begin the last 10-days? Thoughts?
Monday, 23 April 2018 – Day 11: Chobe National Park, Botswana (18.6667° S, 24.5000° E)
I was here in November scouting out the four country area…checking for things to do, services, infrastructure and ease of travel.
One of the world’s poorest countries in the 1970s, Botswana transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies by harnessing around $3 billion a year in diamond sales, to become one of the world’s biggest producers, and gained middle-income status….landlocked country of just two million…is now becoming a adventerurs haven with enlighenthened environmental policies.
Sunday, 22 April 2018 – Day 10: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (17.9318° S, 25.8256° E)
Mauya from Zimbabwe…and Mosi-oa-Tunya “the smoke that thunders”…also known as Victoria Falls. We have repositioned our game board heading south-west across Africa to Zimbabwe.
We are staying in the Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) & Livingstone (Zambia) metro area…where about 180,000+ live in this tourism-dominated area. We will be here for four nights, staying for the most part, at the Batonka Guest Lodge a wonderfully welcoming boutique hotel here on the Zimbabwe side of the Zambezi River. Did I mention great staff!
Our yard at the Batonka…drinks at 6 on the veranda…
Old Business: we have gone over all the peer reviewed ADD Leg (Par 2) scores…
6th Buckeye Terriers
5th Team Tuna
4th Leo & the Crab
3rd NOLA Seconline
2nd Sonoma County Strong
1st SLO Folks who completed 22 scavenges in our short Addis Ababa visit.
Overall leaders after three legs about a third (par 9 or 24 completed) …the overall top 3 teams are
3. Leo & the Crab = 29
2. Sonoma County Strong = 18
1. SLO FOlks = a perfect three for three with 9
Three Things I Learned from the Ethiopian Leg: People want to go back and see the country side more, including: the rock-etched underground churches of Lalibela, muraled monasteries, castles of Gondar, and the so-called “cruelest place on Earth”—the Danakil Depression; It is probably politically incorrect of me to report, but you either love it or hate it…some call it one of the world’s worst cuisines, along with, in my humble opinion, the foods of Nepali, Russian, England and Israeli cuisines…but Ethiopian food surely ranks in my book. (Haters don’t hate!)
let’s keep it rolling on…
Zimbabwe will be a busy difficult long Par 5… 3 1/2 full days of scavenges, sometimes in rather remote areas…more about Bonus scavenges here than urban 25 point scavenges….it is about safari…seeing nature…maybe visiting 4 countries too! And there is something for everyone here too: Thrill-seekers, adrenaline-pumping activities galore, hub for white-water rafting, bungee-jumping, zip-lining, safari, helicopter rides, bridge swing, Devil’s Pool, at the very edge
– they have a hotel here for 4 nights, but most will take a day pack & explore overnight on safari for a night, or two!
VFA leg check-in will be 9:00PM on Wednesday, April 25…
Among the 5 Bonuses, 3 Team Challenges, 40 other scavenges
-visit the world’s only four nation-state Quadripoint
-Botswana’s Chobe National Park
-Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park
-Victoria Falls sunrise
-go river rafting on the Zambezi River—watch out for tigerfish!
It is gin and tonic time…and I love African sunsets…more tomorrow from some other country…we are in Africa!
Saturday, 21 April 2018 – Day 9: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (8.9806° N, 38.7578° E)
Good evening…hard to believe that a week ago we were in San Francisco. Seems so long ago…when you enter that zone, that being in-the-moment place, you lose track of time absorbed in the here and now. It is a good, satisfying and fulfilling place to be. And here we are…in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is in good hands.
Ethiopian (formerly known as Abyssinia) is relatively unknown to most Westerns. Maybe you’ve heard of the Queen of Sheba, Emperor Haile Selassie, coffee, or Rastafarianism? That is usually the extent of it. And Ethiopia is home to all the above. But most likely, you know of landlocked Ethiopia, the 2nd most populace nation in Africa with 105+ million citizens (63% of which are under 24!), from the 1985 MTV generation “Live Aid” broadcast and Bob Geldof’s “give us your fuckin’ money…please!” efforts to offer relief to the horrific mid-80’s Ethiopian famine…it changed a few consciousnesses. It was “a biblical famine in the 20th century” and “the closest thing to hell on Earth” at the time…not anymore. According to World Bank number crunchers, with an 8.5% GDP growth rate, Ethiopia is the world’s fastest growing economy now. Yet, it remains mostly an agricultural country with only 20% urbanization. So, lot’s of economic change is coming to their future as the cranes and new construction we have witnessed here attest. But despite the economic growth, know for certain that Ethiopia is poor…very poor, with an average per capita income of less than $2,100. That’s less than a Starbuck’s venti a day folks. (Remember what Gandhi said: “The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”) Is it all relative?
People also don’t know that Ethiopia is the world’s second-oldest Christian nation, after Armenia. And that aside from a brief military occupation by the Italians during World War II, Ethiopia is the sole African nation (out of 54) that has never been colonized. That speaks volumes to the independent spirit of the people here. Today, 43% of all its inhabitants are Ethiopian-Orthodox Christians, with a significant 34% being Sunni Muslims, along with a couple hundred thousand from the so-called lost tribe of Beta Israel. But it is the twin tribal groups, the Oromo and Amhara people, one residing in the north, and the other in the south, that make up about two-thirds of all Ethiopians today. (And yet the traditional warrior tribe of the Tigray dominate the country’s military and power structures.)
But we are in the capital city of Addis Ababa, known in Amharic as “the new flower”. There are over 5 million people (way over) that live here in the mountainous surrounded city at an altitude of, like I mentioned yesterday, about 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). It is a growing, big, dusty and overcrowded busy city–Africa’s 4th largest by some counts. Sights and sounds include: the constant pounding of Chinese construction, car horns (although to be fair, much less then in India), the scream of ambulances, Mullahs call to prayer, barking dogs, random yelling in the street, and the occasional rooster. It is intriguing to be here. Addis is a Brave New World cosmopolitan mix of South and West (South as in emerging or developing world versus that old cliche of East as in Asia)…a mixing of churches, monuments and museums, and hectic crazy busy markets…all chaotically tucked alongside stylish new cafes, brand-selling boutiques, and international hotels and restaurants. There is a large diplomatic crowd stationed here as Addis, which also serves as hub for international aid and diplomatic concerns “helping” Africa. The Chinese are also here…noticeably so.
And during our day we ran into teams seemingly everywhere we went:
Buckeye Terriers & Sonoma County Strong at Mt. Entoto
Teams Leo & The Crab and Team Tuna checking out Lucy.
(Lucy is an early australopithecine specimen and is dated to about 3.2 million years ago…also of Lucy in the Sky’s fame.)
We sent those willing to help out to Hand in Hand Ethiopia‘s K-12 school here in Addis.
Where hopefully meals were shared and friendships were created:
Students here range in age from 4 to 20…
Sonoma County Strong getting & giving love
African street scene…mangoes of course!
Observation: The Chinese aren’t coming…they are here! They built the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad, they built Addis Ababa’s light rail transit system, they built the new home of African Union, they built… Time to wake up America, the Chinese are doing things differently in the world—using our own Marshall Plan idea. For good or bad–only time will tell, but I have an opinion on the matter–the Chinese are moving in and taking over buying buildings, investing and extracting. Not just offering security and military aid ala USA. While we send Africa 6,000+ troops/advisors in 50 African countries, the Chinese are spending $60 bn of new investment in major capital projects in 54 African countries…on top of the $14 bn already spent. Why? Well, by 2050, 25% of the world’s nine billion population will be Africans and most of them will be under 30…huge market potential aside from the obvious extraction of vital resources and creating future diplomatic allies. But…African countries should be careful not to forfeit their sovereignty when they accept loans from China, the continent’s biggest trading partner now….China’s approach to Africa resembles the American-business model of predatory loan practices….and the Chinese footprint will only expand with over 1 million Chinese immigrant entrepreneurs relocating to Africa.
So…we leave Ethiopia tomorrow (Sunday) to someplace new, albeit too soon. But that is what this event is—global grazing. Opening a new surprise gift and enjoying a great appetizer round everyday for 23-days straight!
We also reluctantly say good bye to Team Sonoma County Strong (Pam + Denise)…they have to return to California and their familiar duties…and take a night flight tonight to Istanbul then back to San Francisco—and yes they have a series of Layover Scavenges in the great city of Istanbul to complete…they are leaving the hotel in about an hour.
Friday, 20 April 2018 – Day 8: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (8.9806° N, 38.7578° E)
Selamat, Tena yistilign and welkem from Ethiopia…We have made the successful transition from Asia to Africa and picked up two-and-a-half hours in our jet-stream wake.
Coast of Africa & Somalia
Not so funny a story…the day I booked our DEL-ADD airline tickets the government of Ethiopia declared a “state of emergency” after the sitting prime minster resigned under a siege of political uncertainty. They have a new PM and all is good. So, know that we are all safe and in a safe place today two months later. But yes, they are having a little political turmoil here, democratic growing pains really in the form of protests and disruptive strikes, in some restive regional states most notably in the underrepresented Oromo and Amharas ethnic areas, but here in the capital Addis Ababa, all is calm. They are working on it…
We are here in Ethiopia for two nights and staying at the Radisson Blu Addis Ababa. We are at an elevation of about 7,816 feet…a little higher than Denver.
Old Business: we have gone over all the peer reviewed DEL Leg (Par 4) scores…(Scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses)
6th Buckeye Terriers
5th NOLA Secondline
4th Team Tuna
3rd Leo & The Crab
2nd Sonoma County Strong who did really well in the heat and craziness that is India
1st SLO Folks – did it again with two BIG Bonus do’s…27 scavenges and accumulating almost 1400 points.
So, now the overall leaders after two legs (par 7 of 24 completed)…the overall top 3 teams are
3. Leo & The Crab
2. Sonoma County Strong
1. SLO Folks
Three-Things I Learned from the Indian Leg: India gives more than it takes; people love great hotels; and SLO Folks are building a BIG cushion for what is to come….
Addis Ababa brief…smiles still!
Congrats to all… let’s move to the here and now, India was so yesterday!
New News: Ethiopia will be a simple Par 2…with more than 30+ scavenges…1 mandatory…and a few bonus scavenges…transportation will be tricky here. Scavenges include:
-Locating the world’s oldest human “Lucy”
-Navigating and negotiate Africa’s largest open-air market
-Locating something commemorating Bob Marley
-Catch an Ethiopian sunset high atop a nearby mountain
It’s the faces, always the faces, that move you
House of Abbot Libanos
Odd Observation…leaving Delhi I noticed a Garuda airline jet on the tarmac—Indonesia’s national carrier—and it struck me: How does Garuda airline’s Hindu and Buddhist symbol go over in the largest Muslim nation on the planet?
The original lost tribe…or the original apostles, pick’em.
Thursday, 19 April 2018 – Day 7: Delhi, India (28.7041° N, 77.1025° E)
“India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.” ― Shashi Tharoor
I was ordered to take the day off. To rest and regroup…not going to happen. Khan market, Sunder Nagar market, National Gallery of Modern Art, Masala House, etc, etc…
Just back from a wonderful afternoon out and about…Oh, oh that smell…temple incense, cow dung, piss, cut flowers, traffic exhaust, baking bread, BO, dust, curries…ah, India!
All the teams are safe and accounted for today…some are in the city, some in Agra and some in Jaipur…but we will all meet tonight at 9:00PM in the 1911 bar to share a beverage, a laugh or two and details about our next destination.
Sonoma County Strong making friends at the Taj.
Bukhara’s signature dish: Sikandri Raan (spiced leg of lamb)
The amazingly beautiful and simple Lotus Temple.
India without elephants is unthinkable…but then again, the ubiquitous Ambassadors are extinct! As in taxi cars…
Cliche snake charmers are hard to find…
Cricket players reign supreme.
A lazy ass at the pool….
Welcome back again from the sensory circus that is India. It is compelling…it is in perpetual collision with the past and present, the present and the future, East and West, incense and dung, Porsches and cows clog the roads…one doesn’t just visit Delhi and its 26+ million inhabitants (aka Dilliwales = the place where people with big hearts live), one submits to its all-encompassing hurricane-like embrace…the ambient noises I heard walking back to the hotel from CP today, included: hawkers, beggars, blaring car horns, shrieking cicadas, birds gawking, the sizzle of cook fires, crying babies, laughing youth, curious beckoning hollers from locals. The mere act of walking down the street is as thrilling as skydiving! And beyond the chaos of its largely unmarked, traffic- and cow-clogged streets; beyond the pushy touts and scam artists trying to turn a rupee, there is true beauty here, and one of the most gracious, genuinely warm people on the planet to welcome you. India has always been a functioning anarchy to me, a symphony of pandemonium that includes mysterious and fantastical scenes out of a Bollywood movie: holy cows confounding rush hour traffic, vividly colorful saris, and an endless stream of humanity in the world’s largest democracy (there are 1,281,935,911 people in India, and I think I saw them all toady) and…it is genuinely disarming and life affirming too!
East meets West: Hard to dispute when a driver agrees on a price and takes the cheapest (aka longest) way there…his priority is money not time; whereas the tourist cares about getting there quickly…be damn the cost. That old time vs. money equation we have mastered in the West…or have we?
Onward we go…until we meet again in another place and time.
Wednesday, 18 April 2018 – Day 6: Agra, India (27.1767° N, 78.0081° E)
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the places and moments that take our breath away.”
And India will do that to you…if you let it. India is a real test for our travelers, no, all travelers: daunting, breathtaking, frustrating, exhilarating haunting, sacred, dynamic, traditional, thrilling…I could go on and on…India!
And so we devour India. Ohh India, ohh India…We all know the first line…but not the last two?
Here is Rudyard Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West” (1889)
“Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat; But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!”
The turret gates of Mahal…
Gandhi’s gnat…a pilgrimage spot for many…
Shopping for colors…
Morning school bus…
Hindu’s largest temple: Akshardham Temple
Art fir the wall…
Question of the day? Have selfies become the leading killer of tourists? Well, globally, selfie deaths exceed/outnumber shark deaths by 5:1. India is responsible for the vast majority of selfie related deaths 42…be careful out there folks.
Teams are still out and about…we will see everyone tomorrow night at our India leg’s 9:00PM check-in. What I understand is that most teams headed south to Agra via trian and car…but a few went to Jaipur. It will be interesting.
A sad day in our household, the 2012 & 2014 Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings will not raise the cup this year.
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 – Day 5: Delhi, India (28.7041° N, 77.1025° E) Swaagat and Namaste…hello from New Delhi the capital of India.
It has been a long morning/afternoon repositioning ourselves from Taiwan to India, doing a lot of airport line dancing and gaining two-and-a-half hours as we did in the process. Later earlier. And yes, I said two-and-a-half—they do things differently here in India—as any one who has been here can attest.
The regal grande dame of Delhi – The Imperial. They do colonial well here…
Old Business: We have gone over all the peer reviewed TPE Leg (Par 3) scores…(Scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses) and here are the results:
6th – The Buckeye Terriers
5th – NOLA Second Line
4th – Team Tuna
3rd – Leo & The Crab
2nd – Sonoma County Strong
1st – SLO Folks (who kicked butt doing 2 BIG Bonus scavenges)
-congrats all on finishing the 1st leg…you now know how the game is played!
Three-Things I Learned from the Taiwan Leg: 1) People like surprise; 2) People are really nice to other people when strangers are trusted and asked with a smile; 3) SLO Folks are on a mission. Is the 3rd time their charm?
Teams are out and about on a 2.5-day scavenger hunt here in the Triangle area of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. It will be a mildly difficult Par 4…because after all it is India and things won’t be as efficient as urban Taipei was. Patience will be the key word here; that and water and sunblock-it is 100 out! …we are certainly not in Kansas anymore!
Teams have 5-Bonuses to choose from (Taj Mahal, Jaipur), a couple all-or-nothing Team Challenge, and more than 70 items on the India list, including…
-Taking a 4-hour Indian cooking class
-Practice morning yoga with a yogi master
-Crashing an Indian wedding
-Attending a Hindu cremation ceremony -Visit the busy & crazy Chandi Chowk market
Indian humanity abounds…
The ten-headed Ravana Vahana…
India is not just a place. India is an altered state…for those open to it; and not all are. India is a drug that pulls you back in, again and again. I, myself, am an India junkie; because, India is equally irresistible and repugnant simultaneously. Travelers can easily develop a love/hate relationship quickly. I am in love; and when I leave India, withdrawal symptoms eventually occur. India is everything, and more, all at once. It is sensory overload. It is a visual explosion. It is organized chaos. It is humanity in all its glory, frustration, despair and hope. Life and death, poverty and wealth, sacred and secular, peace and violence, traditional and modern, heaven and hell, are all always seemingly within every sight-line. It defies logic. India is bursts of sunlight and hundreds, nee, thousands of curious gazes. India is the home of chess, pi, the decimal system, yoga, cotton clothes, meditation, quadratic equations, non-violence, zero, the world’s largest film industry, it is the largest buyer of gold in the world…and there are as many Muslims in India as in Pakistan…and of course, India is the world’s largest democracy–and my personal favorite: home to over 40-varieties of mangoes! But make no mistake, India is so very much more than just the old cliche land of turbans, monsoons, mustaches, palaces, flying toilets, mountains, blinding-colored saris, bougainvillea, lumbering cows, and marigolds…India cannot be described–it can only be experienced.
India can inspire, horrify, enlighten and astonish you; it is utterly heartbreaking from moment to moment. India is all about serendipity as the best laid plans quickly go by the wayside as you inevitably are challenged with adventurous detours, unavoidable mishaps and life unfolding chaotically right before your eyes. You cannot fight India and expect to win. All you can do, as conquers and travelers before us have done for centuries since Alexander the Great, is ultimately just embrace India. I suspect this will be a life-changing experience for some of our travelers…it always is.
But most of all, India is personal, real personal; there are no canned experiences here because each and every one of us deals with India differently. Every traveler coming to India has their own personal Darjeeling Limited experience. Some will embrace it. Some will be repulsed by it. Some will fight it. Some will be overwhelmed by it. But each and every one of them will react to it…and differently. I have often heard it said that you either love India—or hate it. And that is indeed the full spectrum of emotions India evokes. But until you experience India personally, face-to-face, you don’t know India. And even when you have visited many times as I luckily have…you still don’t know India. That is why I keep coming back here, over a dozen times to date!
So, today and over the next few days, we will all be trying to get to know India a little better. Good luck…you’ll need it!
We will see the teams again on Thursday night at our 9:00PM leg check-in time…
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