844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

Flashback - Gorillas In My Midst (Uganda & DR Congo)

April 6th, 2010 - So I've been sitting in Thamel, Kathmandu attempting to steer my fate. My whimsical nature and complete lack of foresight inevitably leads to geographic stagnation. I've been wandering these streets for about three weeks. That is absurd. Absolutely absurd. What the hell have I been doing? Besides updating my blog and sorting through a poop ton of photos? Not a whole lot. Catching up on my pirated DVDs and surfing the net in hopes of ascertaining a clue.

What to do? Where to go? If you asked me a couple of days ago where I was headed I would have said Mongolia but prohibitive transportation costs have given me pause. It is still high on my hit list but I think the land of yurts can wait a bit longer. It's not going anywhere. Instead I fly in the opposite direction. First to Dubai and then onto, you guessed it, Azerbaijan. How many times in your life have you been sitting somewhere bored out of your skull thinking I'd rather be in Azerbaijan. Too many to count I am sure. Why Azerbaijan? Why not? Although thinking ahead is not my strong point I am tentatively considering putting Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan on my itinerary. That could change in the blink of an eye.

I had originally decided to zip through Dubai on my way to Azerbaijan but figured I should have at least have a gander at the world's tallest building (the Burj Khalifa, whose observation deck on the 127th floor just reopened) and take a peek around the city. Big cities are not really my thing especially ones that include ostentatious displays of wealth like the Burj Arab (possibly the world's most obnoxious hotel), the Rose Tower (the world's tallest hotel), the Dubai Mall (world's largest), and the Burj Khalifa (the aforementioned world's tallest man-made structure). But then again this is all an experience in and of itself so what the hell. And there are no taxes so I may just purchase a camera lens or two. Depends on how naughty I feel.

I will be entering a brave new world, the world of Dianetics. No wait, that's next week. Actually my brave new world will be the world of Couchsurfing.com. Couch surfing is the ideal way to meet people and save some coin at the same time. People sign up on their website to either host a wayward traveler or to locate a couch (does not literally mean you will be on a couch, just that someone has some space to spare for a few nights) to squat on for a spell. I had read about this a couple of years ago but for some reason it did not occur to me to give it a shot until now. The idea is to bring like-minded people together to share experiences. It is definitely a bonus for those who know no one in a particular city and would like to get the inside track. And those that benefit from the hospitality of a stranger are likely to reciprocate in the future. I like the idea and would be willing to offer my couch sometime assuming of course I actually own one. Or if I own any furniture at all. Or a house. Maybe a car. Having a job might be an idea. Ooooh, let's not pick at that scab.

My Dubai 'couch' is owned by a gentleman named Mustafa who is kind enough to offer me refuge for three nights. The website sight does provide some measure of 'verification' and references from people that have stayed with a particular host previously so I am pretty sure Mustafa is not a homicidal maniac. Numerous correspondences between us have underscored this assumption. But just in case I've purchased Kung Fu for Dummies.

Although Dubai is one of the more 'liberal' emirates you still have to use caution. Decency laws can be a bit strict. Just ask the couple from the UK that received a one month prison sentence for kissing in a restaurant. Fortunately for me I seem to be repelling members of the opposite sex with raw efficiency of late so I should be set.

Before I leave Nepal I am going to inject myself with a healthy dose of adrenaline in the form of a bungy jump and canyon swing courtesy of the Last Resort. It is a little pricey but I'm worth it. Think of it as my reward for completing the Three Passes Trek. Technically, I've been rewarding myself for over a year but let's not go there.


I've decided to go retro a bit. In October of 2006 I visited the Pearl of Africa (Uganda to the lay person) for a few weeks. I had three reasons for doing so: 1) mountain gorillas; 2) mountain gorillas; and 3) mountain gorillas. I managed to fit in a few other activities while I was there but King Kong was my goal. Due to my schedule (back then I actually worked for a living) I was compelled to engage in an activity I loathe: planning. A flurry of e-mails and wire transfers were required to ensure a rewarding gorilla experience.

When I arrived in Kampala (the capital) I hired a car with a driver (I'm that important) and headed to western Uganda. I was not keeping a journal at the time but I seem to remember frequent vehicle breakdowns along the way. When it came time to enter the impenetrable forest (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to be precise) I never had the chance to penetrate. The gorillas were hopping along the hillside (as in cleared forest a la slash and burn). They are fond of invading banana groves much to the chagrin of local farmers. So a 2-4 hour treacherous jaunt through an unforgiving jungle turned into an hour and a half stroll through the Ugandan countryside. This was just as well because two people in my group of seven looked like they were on the verge of collapse after a half hour. As a whole the experience was decent but rather disappointing. 

Luckily, there was a gentleman peddling gorilla viewing tours at my guesthouse (The Traveller's RestDiane Fossey's old hang out). The only catch was that his gorillas were across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). This title is accurate if you replace 'democratic' with 'anarchic'. However, it was clear that I would have my own private gorilla viewing. Prudence be damned.

My driver brought me to the border where I was met by my Congolese tour guide and ushered through immigration. On the other side I sat in his Jambo Tours office (I've forgotten his name) while he gave me the 'don't get too close to the gorillas because you might transfer disease or get hurt' speech after which I was put into an SUV with his people whom I'd never met. Excellent.

If you think Uganda is poor then you should cross the border. What I saw of the DR Congo (admittedly very little) made Uganda look like Dubai. Abject poverty on an unimaginable scale with a road system to match. It took us almost two hours to drive around 12 miles. When we arrived at the ranger 'station' (bamboo hut with grass roof) I was greeted by about twenty people whose function I never did determine. There was some discussion about my video camera culminating in me coughing up another $25 US. As I was alone and without my AK-47 (as opposed to my new friends) I acquiesced without a word.

After a time we were off, 'we' as in two rangers carrying AKs and my guide (no one spoke English, only their tribal dialect and French). I was told that the weapons were in case we encountered elephants. Uh-huh. I am sure it had nothing to do with the other species of guerrilla. After two hours of hiking through the jungle we found our target, a group of gorillas presided over by a single silverback.

Two words: F***ing. Amazing. Just me, the guide, and a group of gentle giants. This group was habituated so they paid us little mind, except for the youngins that is. Baby gorillas are exceedingly curious and if not shooed away by my guide would have no doubt latched on to me. It would be nothing to pick one up as they almost seemed to beg for me to do so. Not sure how mommy and daddy would have reacted to that. Tearing off both of my arms was not completely out of the realm of possibility but then again this group was so incredibly calm I have a hard time believing they would become violent.

Even with groups not habituated to humans (are there any left?) the ruckus that some young males stir up is only for show and conducted in order to let you know who is in charge. As long as you avoid direct eye contact and aggressive behavior you will not be harmed. Try to run away and they might pursue and bite you in the ass….literally. To be honest this is something I would have like to have seen (the yelping and pounding of the chest, not the ass-biting) but this group was used to a human presence. 

So I just stood there gaping in awe. Look into their eyes and you see an equal, a sentience that is almost haunting. There is a person behind those eyes. At one point two young males wrestling on a pile of brush tumbled off the heap and almost took out my legs. I simultaneously grabbed my guide's arm and shrieked like a little girl. Later on I was almost close enough to the silverback to hump him. I refrained.

Looking back I realize that we lingered longer than the prescribed time and were closer than we should have been, not for our safety but for theirs. Mountain gorillas lack natural immunity to some human illness, the transfer of which could have negative consequences for a group. In a way being able to get that close is a tragedy in itself as not all human encroachment is peaceful in nature (see 60 MinutesCNN, and National Geographic. Keep in mind that these incidents occurred in the region I visited). In addition, civil unrest and instability makes it very difficult to protect these magnificent creatures in places like the DR Congo. Unfortunately, the gorillas do not recognize the sovereignty of nations. They go where they please. The ambivalence that plagued me after my encounter is still with me to this day because I know that the gorillas would be much better off never seeing another human being. The same reason for not wanting to habituate grizzly bears to humans applies to gorillas. The less contact the better.

Other stops along my Ugandan journey included Mga Hinga National ParkMurchison Falls National ParkJinja (for some rafting and kayaking), the Ssese Islands, and Kampala. At one point along the way, in a desperate state of bladder overflow, I attempted to piss in my Nalgene bottle while sitting on a bus. Technical difficulties prohibited success (try shoving your junk into a bottle while sitting. I dare you) and was forced to run off the bus and leave all of my belongings behind. No one touched my bag.

I waited for hours on the shore of Lake Victoria for a boat to the Ssese Islands that probably never did leave. Upon hiring my own boat and arriving after nightfall at one of the islands I had the pleasure of walking through a small village full of drunk fisherman with not so much as a flashlight on my way to a hotel. That wasn't intimidating at all. While in Murchison Falls National Park I came out of the shower to see a hippo trotting along through the encampment like he owned the place. This could be a problem as hippos are responsible for more human deaths than any other animal. That did not stop a few of us from approaching and snapping a pic or two. Mr. Hippo was eating grass right by my tent, the least he could do for putting me out was pose for a photograph. Idiot (me, not the hippo).

To be honest the pictures and, especially the video, are not terribly impressive. I was packing light and had only a small compact point-and-shoot along with a shitty video camera. The video is a tad dull but there are those that might find some of it mildly interesting.....or not

Get a ride...fucking anywhere!!!

I just feel the sweater and the AK-47 are a bit incongruous

KFC: Kampala Fried Chicken

Holy earthworm!!!

DR Congo Immigration

Jungle Pooper

That's my self-portrait face

Peek-a-boo you fat bastard!!!

There's regular sexy and then there's this...


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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim