East Africa

Journeys of a Lifetime in January

Happy New Year! Welcome back to my new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Each month I pick a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).

Across Water

The Orinoco River Cruise: The dry season in January lends to the viewing of more land mammals along this river cruise through Venezuela. Boy oh boy...the description of this places includes words such as: expedition, canoe, venture, wetland and steamy jungle. I'm there.

The Mekong River: Laos is on a ticking clock toward Vietnam status, and it's up to you to seize the opportunity to view this country's incredible landscapes before the authenticity becomes manufactured. Nat Geo claims this is the most scenic stretch of the massive river through the Southeast Asia region.

By Road

Historic Spain: There's no bad time to see the architecture of historic, central Spain. January will wash out the summer tourist crowd and give you snow capped mountains in your photograph backgrounds. Give yourself one week to drive along this ribbon of highway, and remember to ask in Segovia about the suckling pig.

Crossing the Sahara: Get your visas ready and your car rented. You're about to drive across Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania to see some cultures and barren landscapes that present an awesome challenge to the "bring it on" type of traveler.

By Rail

Bangkok-Kanchanaburi-Nam Tok Line: This time riding the rail will bring you closer to the gritty, not further away. Taking this infamous route, known as the "death railway" from WWII, will remind you of the many POWs and lives lost from building the bridge at the River Kwai. It's not all gruesome and heavy-hearted; the landscape is Thai-rific.

The Palace on Wheels: India's glitzy region of palaces and architectural masterpieces will give you plenty of eye candy and good photographs on this luxurious train ride. It's not my favorite side of India, but many find the old British and Raj culture appealing. The Golden Triangle along with Udaipur and Jaisalmer makes for an awesome itinerary, though!

On Foot

The Shackleton Crossing: South Georgia is a speck in the Southern Ocean and looks like a challenge for weathered climber types like Jon Krakauer and Bear Grylls. I pretty much guarantee no one reading this post will attempt this climb, but I thought I'd give you some dream material for tonight's slumber.

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa's tallest peak and the only 8,000+ meter mountain that one could ambulate - climbing Kilimanjaro seems to be an achievement worth going for. Those who have claimed the summit unanimously advise climbers to take the longer route (Machame) for better odds of success and greater views.

In Search of Culture

Japanese Kabuki Theater: With make-up that would spook the Joker and costumes that could presumably stand on their own, the men of Kabuki theater become household names for their dramatic and powerful performances. Brace yourself; these shows look lengthy but worth it for a one-time experience.

Earth Architecture of Yemen: High rise earth architecture makes Yemen look pretty darn cool. Perched at the heel of Asia's wee bootie are homes made of sun-dried mud bricks and a culture sure to intrigue. Nat Geo recommends going with a reputable tour company and taking caution with photographing people. Should make for an interesting trip!

In Gourmet Heaven

Eat Your Way Around Sydney: After you recover from a surely intense NYE celebration on the beach, enjoy Sydney's January Festival and a slew of culinary jackpots around Oz's biggest city. If you're into Euro-Asian fusion food with top notch seafood, I'm guessing there are few places in the world better than Sydney.

Malaysian Melting Pot: And we thought we were a melting pot…maybe next January you'll be traveling up the peninsula of Malaysia to sample the converging tastes of many prominent food traditions: Chinese, Indian, Arabic, etc. Thanks to all the hawkers and street food artists, some call this country a snacker's paradise.

Into the Action

Following Che Through South America: Cross the Andes on two screeching wheels in the footsteps of Che Guevara, but make sure you remember to ride something a little more reliable than "La Poderosa." Buenos Aires to Machu Pichu will take you across some varying landscapes and surely on a journey fit with ceaseless inspiration.

Cross-Country Skiing in Lillehammer: Check out this "premier cross-country location" if you want to make like a Scandinavian and glide. Easily accessible from Oslo, renting all your gear is possible on location, and going in January ensures a helluva daylight surplus!

Up and Away

The Nasca Lines: It is only from the sky where you can truly appreciate the diversity of Peru's terrain, as one ecosystem bleeds into the next. Also from this vantage point you can be slapped silly by the wonder of these earth drawings that were created with pre-historic tools by the Nasca people.

Alpine Baloon Festival: Arrive in Switzerland in late January for a display that surely inspires painters, children's book illustrators and surrealists worldwide. A sky of balloons decorate the invisible Christmas tree in the Swiss Alp valley. Inquire about the nighttime flight of illuminated balloons while you're there!

In Their Footsteps

Road to Enlightenment: Follow Buddha's journey to enlightenment from his birthplace in Lumbini, Nepal to Patna, India, past the third-generation descendant tree where he attained nirvana. Ahh, the ease of traveling in the moderate chill of February around the Subcontinent.

Tramping After Mark Twain: A boat trip down the Neckar River could inspire you to write a Huck Finn sequel, just as Twain was inspired to write the original on this journey. Tramp across Germany and Switzerland, enjoying the chill and scenery of winter, on a journey that the famed American author used to "improve himself."

How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in February for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!

Where are you inspired to travel to next year? Leave a comment and be my new friend.

Animals All Up in your Computer Screen

Just because I like to show off nature...and if you'd like to read about East Africa, don't even think about hesitating!

The East African Safari Experience: Day 36-42

Crap the Whip...er, the Trunk

You've just flown thousands of miles across massive oceans and expanses of land. You've had too many airport transfers to bother remembering. Those weren't cheap tickets or easy transit days. But you came to relive those deeply rooted Lion King fantasies from your childhood and by golly you'll do anything to make those happen!One thing you will realize upon getting to Africa is that the wild animals aren't really as close to civilization as some North American wildlife can be. We may imagine lions wandering into people's flower gardens and elephants backing into generators, cutting of the city's power supply. But unless you hit up a National Park in a city like Nairobi or Nakuru, you have a long way to drive to get to those classic landscapes teeming with long-necked, 2 ton, man-eating herds.

Therefore, most travelers who want to see East Africa and live out their safari dreams either book a full service transport/guide/camping/catering service from Arusha or Nairobi or they overland on massive multi-functional vehicles. Regardless of your travel mode, quality is key and can dictate whether you enjoy yourself or not. Research the companies and their average age of passenger or style of travel and make sure it fits with you. Ask about the experience of their drivers or guides. When it comes to the driver or tracker on safari, he or she needs to have loads of experience in order to find what you are hoping to see. Those who have been around for a while are downright psychic when it comes to predicting animal appearances or future behavior. Also, inquire about the vehicles for the drives into and around the game parks. Land Rovers clearly trump Land Cruisers, and vehicles with frequent maintenance will make, not break, your experience. No one likes getting stranded in those steamy, remote landscapes.

And if you're looking for a straight forward recommendation, I actually really dug our tour company because they met every standard of quality I found important. Bottom line is to decide what you find important (comfort, experience, fellow passengers, travel style, etc.) and do the research. No one wants to spend wads of dough and realize they missed the mark on their travel dreams.