Sole Daily

A(n almost) daily update of where I am and what I’m up to.

10 November 2010: Flew to Barcelona where it was MUCH warmer and sunnier than Germany. Took the cableway up to Montjuic, a castle and overlook of the city.

09 November 2010: Caught the 6:30am train back to Berlin, visited the Eastside Gallery (a part of the Berlin wall decorated with graffiti art), and toured Sachsenhauser Concentration Camp.

08 November 2010: I was supposed to head back to Berlin, but I didn’t want to leave. Plus, Stella didn’t have class until 4pm so we had plenty of time to hang out!

07 November 2010: Sadly, it was time to leave Flensburg and we headed back to Neubrandenburg.

06 November 2010: Such a cool day. We took a car-train to the island of Sylt. It’s a train that you drive your car on to get over to the island. Sylt is America’s equivalent of Martha’s Vineyard. After a couple of hours driving around there (and finding out that we can’t access the nude beach for a glimpse without paying and walking alot) we took the ferry across to Denmark. Once there, I ate a Danish hot dog (so good!) and then we explored a really old town called Ribe. Then, as if the day weren’t busy enough, her friends came over for a late night of drinks and laughs.

05 November 2010: Stella gave me a tour of the village where she grew up (population 68). These giant old homes were amazing and the landscape was gorgeous. Then, we went into Flensburg and she showed me around.

04 November 2010: After Stella got back from school, we boarded a train to Flensburg, a town in northern Germany on the border of Denmark. And wow, what a surprise. I stayed in this beautiful village where her mom lives in a fantastic old home.

03 November 2010: Went on a free walking tour with Brewer’s and got an overview of German history. After that I rushed to catch my train to Neubrandenburg to stay with my friend Stella who I met in Kenya back in April.

02 November 2010: Up early for my flight to Berlin! Sat next to a guy who had spent the last seven months biking from Berlin to Bangkok- so cool.

01 November 2010: Lauren left at six this morning and I headed to Laura’s apartment for my last night in Bangkok. I went to her netball match then we went to dinner at Cabbages and Condoms- great restaurant with proceeds going to an NGO.

31 October 2010: We went to MBK for a bit of shopping for Europe (warm clothes and shoes were necessary!). We saw a Red Shirts protest along the way. Medusa and Michael Jackson hit the town for Halloween 2010 on Khao San Rd. We danced in the streets and then ate grasshoppers.

30 October 2010: A much anticipated day, Lauren, my friend Laura, and I went for a morning at the spa! A one hour massage plus a one hour facial was a taste of heaven. After that we shopped for Halloween costumes and I found a few odds and ends to put together my Michael Jackson costume.

29 October 2010: Met up with other travel bloggers and visited the Immigration Detention Center where I met with a Pakistani refugee for an hour. Then, we went to the Bangkok Refugee Center and had delicious Sri Lankan food.

28 October 2010: Flew to Bangkok.

27 October 2010: Back to Kuala Lumpur for the night.

26 October 2010: Broke down and went to the doctor for my infected leg and then visited a beautiful tea plantation. The rain held off until we finished our tour. Lauren & I enjoyed a cup of tea on a terrace overlooking hills of tea bushes.

25 October 2010: Took a bus to Cameron Highlands.

23 October 2010: Walked around Georgetown and visited the Snake Temple.

22 October 2010: Bus to Penang. Had our first meal in Georgetown, a place known throughout Southeast Asia for it’s varied and delectable cuisine.

21 October 2010: Early ferry back to Bali. Spending the afternoon around Sanur and then flying to Malaysia.

20 October 2010: It rained a bit this morning, then I headed to Mushroom Bay to snorkel. All I found was more seaweed (they harvest it around the island) so it wasn’t much to see. Headed back to the pool for another great day.

19 October 2010: Spent the morning reading, before heading to a really nice place with an infinity pool. Beautiful views of the entire bay and of the volcano back on Bali. Spectacular.

18 October 2010: Took a ferry over to the small island of Nusa Lembongen. The beach was not as nice as we had imagined (narrow and a bit dirty) but we soon found a nice, simple place to stay and kicked our feet up.

17 October 2010: Ran a 5k in Sanur (was supposed to run in Nusa Dua but that’s a long story) then relaxed around Sanur for the day.

16 October 2010: A long day traveling to Sanur, then Nusa Dua, then back to Sanur. Pulled over by 3 police officers and had to pay up for not having an Int’l Drivers License :( Luckily, it was our last time driving.

15 October 2010: Went snorkeling at the Japanese shipwreck in Aas (again, not as exciting as I imagined) and also snorkeled in the bay of Salang. It was a nice snorkel spot, but we came back to Lipah and I got back in there for one last snorkel excursion there.

14 October 2010: No longer throwing up, but feeling really drained, I stayed in bed the entire day.

13 October 2010: Went snorkeling again this morning and relaxed on the beach in Lipah. Caught a terrible stomach virus and found out that my upchuck reflexes are in excellent, working condition.

12 October 2010:  Drove to Amed today. Stopped in Tulamben to snorkel the USS Liberty shipwreck. It was a disappointment. Went on to Amed and found an amazing place to stay in Lipah with views of our bay and access to a spectacular snorkel spot.

11 October 2010: Our last day in Pemuteran, I snorkeled and lazed on the beach.

10 October 2010: Went for a run this morning (so hot!) then had a nice breakfast at my guesthouse before hitting up the black sand beach. Spent a nice afternoon there.

09 October 2010: Left at 6:30am to get an early start and avoid traffic. Didn’t quite work out as planned. We couldn’t find the right road to get out of Ubud, even with our expensive map in hand. The traffic around Denpasar was crazy with all these motorbikes zipping in and out and all around you. Lauren was driving on the left side for the first time and doing a spectacular job. The first two hours we were both on pins and needles but once we made it into the mountains it was lovely. Got to Pemuteran met up with a fellow travel blogger and his friend and went to the most amazing snorkel spot in Bali off of Mejangan Island. The variety of coral and fish combined with a dramatic drop-off in the water was stunning.

08 October 2010: Thanks to the advice from another travel blogger (who happens to be writing a guide for Bali) we took a walk through gorgeous rice fields in Ubud. It was beautiful. After that, we may have done just a bit of shopping… the jewelry was hard to resist! Then, we booked a rental car for 9 days at only $9.50/day. So exciting!

07 October 2010: Caught bemos (local buses) to get to Ubud. They overcharged us which was annoying. Loved Ubud though! We stayed at a homestay that feels like you’re staying on the grands of a small temple. It’s so neat!

06 October 2010: After a few hours of sleep (my sleep cycle is now off from transport) I got up and went to the post office. Surface mail to the US from Malaysia is ridiculously cheap. I mailed my wood carvings home- it will be so nice not to lug them any longer! Went to the airport in the afternoon and caught an evening flight to Bali. Had a shady experience once in Bali after purchasing tickets for an 18 hour bus ride and decided to scrap our plans. Got back half of our money and went to a guesthouse at midnight.

05 October 2010: Took an early morning train then a bus to get to the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. We got in around 9:30pm, then took a local bus to Chinatown. KL was crazy busy! I managed to buy another pair of sunglasses (finally!) after breaking mine way back in Laos.

04 October 2010: Took a pickup truck, a ferry, a bus, a tuk-tuk, and a minibus from Koh Tao to Hat Yai. Had to stay the night as there was no overnight transport to Malaysia. Oh, and too many rat sightings in Hat Yai.

03 October 2010: My last day in Koh Tao I spent on the beach and did some snorkeling as well.

02 October 2010: I had been wanting to snorkel at Mango Bay. We took a nice ‘stroll’ there. Our map was slightly wrong and the trail actually went up and over a mountain. While it had nice views, it was so steep that we were sore and exhausted by the time we got to the Bay. The resorts there were closed for renovation so there were no boat or motorbike taxis. We had to hike back up and down the mountain to get home. It was tough and we were dripping in sweat. Since Lauren missed last night’s show, I just had to go again so I could show her what a good time it was.

01 October 2010: Another day. Another lazy day on the beach. Ahem, but I did run this morning! Tonight I went to the drag show. I’d been dying to go all day and Lauren decided to sleep so I braved it alone. It turned out fine and I had a fabulous time! Some of those girls were too pretty for their own good.

30 September 2010: Spent nearly the entire day with my Dan Brown book in hand by the beach. I forgot how amazing it is to just relax and read a good book. Tonight’s movie was Dear John, which was too sad for me.

29 September 2010: Took the ferry to Koh Tao after getting only two hours of sleep. It’s super-touristy but really beautiful and I can’t wait to relax! All of the restaurants play free movies so tonight we saw Twilight. To my surprise, there were quite a few single men that showed up to see it- odd.

28 September 2010: Up early to go get my computer fixed. After four hours and lots of walking around, I found someone to look at it. Turns out, nothing is wrong with my computer, it was the power connection at the orphanage (phew!). Took a train to Chumphon to meet back up with my SE Asia travel buddy which was late but turns out the midnight ferry to Koh Tao was broken so I stressed over nothing.

27 September 2010: Such a long day. Up at 5am. Took the kids to school then got a ride with Dada to Kanchanaburi. Took the bus from there to Bangkok and was an hour and a half late to meet up with my friend! To make things worse, my cell phone wasn’t working so I left her waiting. I went to see her play a game of netball (my first) and had Mexican food for dinner- my favorite!

26 September 2010: My last day at Baan Dada and it went by so quickly. Such sweet kids.

25 September 2010: On my own for the day with 55 kids while the director and the other volunteers are in Bangkok with some kids for a battle of the bands competition. So exhausted!! Went into Huay Malai with two of the girls and visited one of their families. Oh and the power went out at 3pm so I had to battle the rats and lizards at my house in the dark. Ick.

24 September 2010: Purchased a couple of Thai-English dictionaries for my English students. Spent the morning in Sangklaburi with Dada running errands and the afternoon playing with the kids!

23 September 2010: Up early for market day! We sold women’s dresses and some odds and ends to raise money for the home.

22 September 2010: Teachtsing private English lessons to two new children at the orphanage. Such a sad story and yet they are such sweet kids.

21 September 2010: Plenty to do around the children’s home from teaching English to administrative tasks.

20 September 2010: Caught a sawngthaew at 8am to Huay Malai to go to my newest volunteer project: Baan Dada Chidren’s Home.

19 September 2010: I took a bus to Sangklaburi and it was too late to catch a sawngthaew to my volunteer project so I stayed put for the night- in a super nasty guesthouse.

18 September 2010: Got into Bangkok at 7am. Desperate for a shower, I decided to stay the night in Bangkok rather than head on. Lauren and I went to the humongous Chatuchak Market. Lauren left for southern Thailand.

17 September 2010: Went to Sukhothai today to wander around the old capital. We rented bikes and saw lots of Buddhas! Went back to Phitsanulok to catch overnight train to Bangkok.

16 September 2010: Took an afternoon bus to Phitsanulok.

15 September 2010: Up at 5am for early morning meditation, breakfast, Buddhism and meditation discussion, then more meditation. A very educational experience. Dinner with ex-pat blogging friends.

14 September 2010: Went to the post office to find out I could not ship my Buddhas without permission. Must lug them with me until Malaysia. Left in the afternoon for an overnight mediation retreat through the Buddhist University. Took a vow of silence beginning at 6pm and started learning about meditation.

13 September 2010: Visited Doi Suthep, the holiest shrine in northern Thailand and was blessed by a Buddhist monk. Went to the night bazaar in the evening.

12 September 2010: Went for a run in Chiang Mai and to the Sunday market in the evening.

11 September 2010: Slept and relaxed during the day in Chiang Mai, then met up with some ex-pats and travel bloggers (ie Twitter friends) at the Saturday market for dinner. Had a great time!

10 September 2010: Picked up passport in the afternoon, then took a tuk-tuk to the bus station, a taxi to the border, a tuk-tuk to the main road once in Thailand, a bus to another city, then an overnight bus to Chiang Mai.

09 September 2010: Vientiane is not that exciting. However I did apply for my Thai visa and will take off tomorrow as soon as I have it in hand.

08 September 2010: Hung around Phonsavan to take night bus (to possibly sleep through windy roads). Watched the documentary Bombie at the MAG office about Secret War in Laos and the clean-up.

07 September 2010: Tour of Plain of Jars. Amazing! A somewhat mysterious archeological site, only cleared from UXO in the 90’s.

06 September 2010: Bus to Phonsavan. It was actually a van with only 4 passengers. Seemed like luxury. Unfortunately, we had a crazy driver and were so nauseous from the windy roads.

05 September 2010: 15km bike ride to Tad Sae waterfall to go for a swim. While it was fun and refreshing to swim, biking uphill with a bike stuck in the highest gear is not my idea of a good time. Tired and sore!

04 September 2010: Took tuk-tuk to Ban Xang Khong, a village known for it’s silk, elephant dung paper, and handicrafts. Found a Buddha wood carving shop and did some damage to the budget. The Buddha head I wanted in Luang Prabang was $680. I got a similar one, out of the same exotic looking striated ebony wood for $20. Of course then I had to buy a Buddha relief carved in rosewood too which was slightly more expensive ;)

03 September 2010: Tried to find Phosy Market but ended up a carnival and some other market.

02 September 2010: Decided we must leave and move on. After taking the boat to Nong Khiaw, it didn’t have the same charm as the previous riverside village, so we went ahead to Luang Prabang and so glad we did. Took a stroll through the Night Market.

01 September 2010: Participated in the Alms Ceremony in the morning, giving sticky rice to the monks. Spent a lazy day in the village. We can’t seem to tear ourselves away- we’ve made such good friends here.

31 August 2010: Attended a wedding reception for a guy in the village. Started drinking shots of lao-lao (rice whiskey at 10am). There was no point in refusing- they don’t seem to take No for an answer.

30 August 2010: Trekked to Tham Khang today, a cave where locals hid out when the U.S. were bombing the hell out of this beautiful village in the 60s and 70s. Was a beautiful walk through the rice fields and the mountains.

29 August 2010: Took 5:30am bus to Laos. So unbelievably packed- man squishing me and woman hugging my leg. Bus nearly tipped at one point and the border wanted to see my ‘Life Insurance paperwork’. Crazy day. Arrived in Muang Khua in the afternoon and by some miracle found a guy to take us to Muang Ngoi Neua, a town only accessible by boat.

28 August 2010: Took the bus to Dien Bien Phu. Bumpy adventure but not too bad.

27 August 2010: Had plans to trek today but the rain returned. :( So instead, we did major damage buying local handmade goods.

26 August 2010: Still raining but finally stopped in the afternoon. Set off on an adventure to a nearby Hmong village with our new friend Cehe. She was the coolest tour guide ever!

25 August 2010: Arrived in Sapa to rain still. It never lifted so we had a pretty relaxing day. Got a phenomenal hotel room- top floor, huge balcony, and phenomenal views of the valley.

24 August 2010: Busy day! Went for a run around the lake in Hanoi, then to see Ho Chi Minh’s body on display. Uber creepy. Then hit up the post office, the train station ticket office, and the black market money exchange. Taking overnight train to Sapa- excited!

23 August 2010: Went kayaking in Halong Bay and headed back to Hanoi in the afternoon.

22 August 2010: Got back on the junk boat and went for a night swim in Halong Bay before sleeping on the top deck under the stars.

21 August 2010: Took the overnight train to Hanoi and set off on a Halong Bay Tour. We visit over-touristed Disney World-esque caves and then spent the night on Cat Ba Island.

20 August 2010: It flooded in Hue. I had to walk barefoot to the bus ticket office. We made an attempt to see the Citadel but got rained on. Very uneventful.

19 August 2010: Picked up my dress and I LOVE it (so of course I had to buy two more). I also finally settled on a painting which I’m really excited about. We caught the bus to Hue this afternoon.

18 August 2010: Love Hoi An! The Old Town is so pretty. Am having a custom dress made- can’t wait!

17 August 2010: Spent the afternoon in the overcrowded beach town of Nha Trang and headed on that night to Hoi An.

16 August 2010: I rented a motorbike. In Vietnam. Oh dear, say your prayers. I luckily survived and it was really fun! Unfortuanately, our cute little bike rental boy told us to visit the Valley of Love and oh what fun that was! Just look for pictures coming soon. We then drove out to Tayem Lam Lake and realized that this is where the cable car takes you so we skipped that and headed out to see a really cool pagoda!

15 August 2010: Due to some poor planning and the closure of the cable car today, we have decided to hang around Dalat tomorrow to actually see some sites!

14 August 2010: We are now in Dalat, a small town in the mountains that is really nice.

13 August 2010: We took a bus last night to Mui Ne, a beach town on the Vietnam coast. We didn’t get to sleep until 4am, so we had a late start today and then I had to spend an hour on the phone with Air Asia. But… we have our plane tickets for Bali now!

12 August 2010: We were enticed to take an organized day trip to the Mekong Delta for $8. You get what you pay for. It was the most touristy tour ever! Our ‘horse drawn carriage’ was essentially a donkey cart. We visited a small coconut candy factory which was nice, but my favorite part was taking off on a bike ride through Ben Tre with my friend Lauren and another girl on our tour.

11 August 2010: Good morning Vietnam! We are in Ho Chi Minh and I am deathly afraid of getting hit by the motorbikes here (I can’t imagine why). Traffic is crrrazy. We went to the War Remnants Museum, and I have mixed feelings on that one. It’s nice, but it’s also new and they could have done a much better job with it.

10 August 2010: Our big plans for the day were to lounge at the beach. Unfortunately, it rained all day, however we hung out at a restaurant on the water for the better half of it. In the evening we caught our first sleeper bus to go to Ho Chi Minh.

09 August 2010: We arrived in Sihanoukville around 12:30pm after taking an overnight bus from Battambang via Phnom Penh. It’s a beach town on the southern coast of Cambodia. We got our Vietnam visa squared away.

08 August 2010: Busy day! We went to Phnom Sampeau and Phnom Banan, two temple complexes on mountains that require you to climb hundreds and hundreds of steps to get to them! Of course, 1 of them you could take a moto up to, but we thought we’d be ambitious and climb. Umm yeah, it was so humid and tough. We were proud. In the evening we did a cooking class at Nari’s Kitchen and it was soo good! As a farewell to Battambang, we went back to visit our friend at the food stalls and have 1 last coconut shake.

07 August 2010: Took a bus to Battambang where we were picked up by our Siem Reap driver’s friend. He took us to a cheap guesthouse, then we went to the bamboo train, which is basically a wooden bamboo platform that gets disassembled when another train needs to pass. It was so fun! Then, we went to Wat Ek Phnom, an 11th century temple. For dinner, we hit up the food stalls where we made a new friend that makes the best coconut shakes in Cambodia!

06 August 2010: Our driver picked us up at 5am to be at Angkor Wat for sunrise. Unfortunately, it was overcast so it wasn’t great. However, Angkor Wat was amazing! We also visited other wats, including Bayon, Baphoun, Ta Prohm, some smallers ones,  and the Elephant Terraces. In the afternoon we had our driver take us to a Hammock Bar overlooking a rice field where we ate lunch and lazed in hammocks.

05 August 2010: Got through the border today, avoiding two major scams and had the most hilarious escort possible. Cambodian government requires you to take tourist transport to Siem Reap so we had to be escorted from the border to ensure that we took it. We explored the magnificent market, made a few purchases (but all practical ones!), and hired our driver for Angkor Wat tomorrow.

04 August 2010: Due to jetlag and extreme tiredness, we slept through the alarm and didn’t wake up until 11:45, checked out late, got to the train station 15 minutes before our train left, and took a scenic 5 hour ride to the border town. We had our first pad thai dinner of the trip!

03 August 2010: Arrived in Bangkok, found my hostel easily enough, then went out to explore. What ensued was a 2 hour walk to Khao San Rd., street food that left my mouth on fire at which point I ran into the 7-11 for a drink (breathing like a crazy woman in birth to cool my mouth off), getting caught in the pouring down rain, boarding the wrong bus where I felt asleep for 40 minutes but due to traffic the bus never moved so I was able to switch buses, and then waiting for my friend to arrive! At 2am we decided we would head straight on to Cambodia tomorrow.

02 August 2010: 14 hour flight to Malaysia, then a 2 hour flight to Bangkok. Long day.

01 August 2010: My last day in Cape Town and what a way to spend it. I went to the oldest black township in the Cape called Langa. There, I had lunch with Nomonde, the owner of Msanzi Restaurant- the food was phenomenal, we chatted about apartheid, she took me on a tour of Langa, and it felt like we had known each other for years. I was really touched when she gave me a skirt as a gift. This place should definitely be on your Cape Town itinerary.

31 July 2010: I wanted to hike Lion’s Head today but it was in the clouds. With the questionable weather and lack of a view I decided to go to the Old Biscuit Mill again for lunch. I froze in shorts while all my laundry was at the cleaners. I waited until the last minute so I would have clean clothes for Thailand.

30 July 2010: Today was another train ride, this time to wine country in Stellenbosch. I had the most fabulous lunch there (cheesecake included) and then had a private tour a winery there.

29 July 2010: Took the train to Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay, and St. James, some cute little towns on the coast.

27 July 2010: Ate at Mama Africa on Long St.- the food was delicious and the live music was great. I love Cape Town more and more everyday!

25 July 2010: Went to Simon’s Town, Cape Point, and Cape of Good Hope. It was such a gorgeous day, and the sights were magnificent!

24 July 2010: I went for my first run in five weeks today along the waterfront. The weather is gorgeous, and it was a great day to hit up the local foods market at The Old Biscuit Mill and wander around the city.

23 July 2010: Took the cable car up to Table Mountain for gorgeous views of the city.

22 July 2010: Went to Robben Island today where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held. Our tour guide was one of these former political prisoners. An insightful day.

21 July 2010: My super cool host took me around Cape Town today and I was left flabbergasted. The waterfront is so nice! This it the biggest and most modern city I’ve seen in months! The locals already seem really friendly.

20 July 2010: 14 ½ hour drive from Windhoek to Cape Town with some cool people I found on a travel forum. Made it to Cape Town at 2am and couchsurfed with one of the girls. The drive through southern Namibia was really scenic.

19 July 2010: A day to kill in Windhoek. Visited the famous Lutheran church in town, saw some Himba people on the street, and that’s about it.

18 July 2010: Got back in the afternoon from Sesriem and Sossusvlei. Stopped in the ‘town’ of Solitaire to try Moose’s famous apple streudel. Mmm mmm good.

17 July 2010: Went to Sossuvlei today to see Dead Vlei and to climb up Dune 45. I loved it. It was so beautiful! We went to Sesriem Canyon in the afternoon and then took a sunset walk near our lodge at Desert Camp.

16 July 2010: Headed out from Windhoek to drive out into the desert to Sesriem.

15 July 2010: We did a morning game drive and then drove back to Windhoek.

14 July 2010: A long day at Etosha National Park seeing lions, zebras, giraffes, springbok, etc. and also the Etosha Pan

13 July 2010: Out of a 6 day tour of Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei. I have a cool roommate and fun people on more tour from the States!

12 July 2010: Headed back to Windhoek and took a short stroll through town. Pretty uneventful but I really like the hostel I’m staying at.

11 July 2010: Happy Birthday to me! I went skydiving this morning over the desert and coast of Swakopmund, Namibia, and it was both thrilling and beautiful! A perfect way to celebrate while on the road. I intended to have a nice dinner and watch the World Cup Final but wasn’t feeling so well. No worries though, nothing could ruin the day.

10 July 2010: I froze last night. My feet were like blocks of ice. Camping has been put on hold until further notice. I got to the hitching spot in Ghanzi at 8am. My stomach was in knots because I couldn’t find a ride and more locals kept showing up to hitch. Luckily, I met a man also hitching to Windhoek and he had me hitch to ‘The Junction’ about 40km away where we could find truckers coming up from South Africa. We got a ride with a lorrie at 9:45am. Waited another hour at the junction and I got a ride with a really nice trucker. 500km later I was in Windhoek. Caught the last shared taxi to Swakopmund where my hostel was full but the taxi refused to leave me and instead carted me around to 4 other places at 11:00pm at night with other people still in the car until I was safe and sound. Completely exhausted but…. Tomorrow’s my birthday!!

09 July 2010: Went to the bus station at 6am to take a 6:30am bus to Ghanzi that didn’t exist. Sat wrapped up in my sleeping bag to take the 8:30am bus. Got to Ghanzi too late to hitchhike so had to camp at this hotel where the owner was a total biotch! Met a local farmer at the grocery store and we went for a soda, then met a really nice couple camping from South Africa who gave me dinner. Oh how I love generous people and real food.

08 July 2010: Last night was the coldest night yet, but luckily a girl on my mokoro trip gave me her sleeping mat, which helped a lot. I went into town today and bought sweatpants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a warm hat so I would sleep better.

07 July 2010: I froze last night. It was so cold. Our guides woke us at 6am. We headed out on the delta to see the sunrise then went for a bush walk on another island. Saw warthogs, zebras, impalas, & elephants. We came right upon an angry elephant, one of the guides flipped out and started running (not what you should do) so we were running through the brush. It was crazy! Thank god we all made it out alive. Sad that the trip came to an end but it was beautiful.

06 July 2010: Left for a 2 day mokoro trip in the Okavango Delta. Stunning scenery, quiet, and a beautiful sunset! There were elephants when we arrived at our campsite shaking a palm tree for the fruits. For entertainment we had our polers sing for us and then teach us a few local games by the campfire.

05 July 2010: My taxi didn’t show at 5:20am so the reception rang another. Good news: he was even cheaper. I got to the bus rink at 5:45am and got the last seat on the bus to Nata and we left immediately. Phew! Sat at a gas station for an hour and a half waiting for a bus coming from Francistown to take me to Maun. Staying at Old Bridge Backpackers and excited for my upcoming trips!

04 July 2010: We camped last night at Ngina Campsite and I froze my ass off! It was so cold. I waited until daylight broke to run and jump in the hot showers to thaw out my toes, however the hot water was gone from the night before L We got a bit of a late start as the truck wouldn’t start. The journalists dropped me off in town and I spent the evening at the swanky Chobe Safari Lodge (of course I camped).

03 July 2010:  After a nice breakfast cooked over the fire we packed up camp and headed out of the bush. Upon reaching the main road we discovered that we had lost our front license plate and had to get a new one made. Luckily, it’s a tour company in town who makes the license plates, and the offered us a good price on a small river cruise. It was fabulous! We went out further on the river than the bigger boats and got closer to the animals. Hippos, elephants, monkeys, brightly-colored birds, impalas… wonderful.

02 July 2010: It was cloudy and cold today, so I decided to forego High Tea at the Royal Livingstone and caught a ride with some journalists to Botswana. We crossed the border with the ferry and then decided to go bush camping. We went off-road in the Land Rover, found a good spot to camp, and within 5 minutes we found a family of elephants. It was really cool. Cooked dinner on the fire, including a cow tongue appetizer, steaks, and stuffed gem squash. This is high falutin’ camping if you ask me! However, I decided I’m not a fan of cow tongue.

01 July 2010: Headed out to Victoria Falls and what a sight! They really are so massive!

30 June 2010: Went to Game to buy a tent and replace my lost water bottle. Caught a ride with a Japanese businessman to Livingstone, avoiding an 8 hour bus ride!

29 June 2010: Took bus to Lusaka today. What should have been 11 hours ended up being 14 hours. We made way too many stops and then some people were people off the bus by immigration in Zambia for not having proper paperwork. That took forever. Not to mention my seat buddy was a man determined to marry me and live in the bush together. Oh dear.

28 June 2010: 9 hour bus ride from Nkhata Bay to Lilongwe. Sad to say goodbye to the last of my travel friends from Malawi! Took my 30 1b. package to the post office to discover that the U.S. does not accept sea mail. I almost had a heart attack when I had to fork over some serious cash to send it air mail!

27 June 2010: A busy day in touristy Nkhata Bay. Rather than the typical lake activities, I used this day to get caught up on errands. I had a dress made by a local tailor, bought the carved wooden tables I had been drooling over, and watched the Germany-England World Cup match. On our way home we came across the drunkest man I’ve ever seen lying in the road. Unresponsive, the guys moved him to the side so he didn’t get hit. He was gone the next morning.

26 June 2010: Waited for a local ferry to take us to Nkhata Bay Supposed to leave at 8:30am. Of course since it’s Africa time it didn’t show up until 4pm. When it came around the corner everyone gasped at the sight of this ‘ferry’ crammed full of boxes of fish and people. It was an interesting 5 hour ride. One man would not stop yelling ‘Ganja time!’ while a man smoked weed, the engine died a couple of times, but we survived!

25 June 2010: Walked into the market early in search of food and a place to drink tea. We passed maybe 3 or 4 restaurants but all were closed and there were only two women in the market. Slim pickings! But what can you expect on an island of 3000 people? Snorkeled and attempted to take the waveski out, although it was much harder than the one at Likoma Island.

24 June 2010: Took a local fisherman’s boat over to Chizumulu Island. Landscape and buildings really nice at Wakwenda Retreat.

23 June 2010: Rolled over in order to get out of bed this morning since I couldn’t really sit up. Took the usual 2 hours to eat breakfast and drink tea with friends. A little reading, a swim, and then took what was supposed to be a short hike to a new snorkel spot where we could swim out to a tiny island. It took us 2 hours pretty much to get to the place and by then we were thirsty so we went to the bar instead. We saw a boy in town that we had met the other day who told me that he had turned the motorcycle guy into the police (when you live on a small island of only 6000 people with little coming and going, everyone knows everyone). We tried our hands at making beans for dinner and surprisingly they weren’t too shabby. We had it along with rice, bread make on a stick over a fire (tasty!) and roasted peanuts. Oh this is the life.

22 June 2010: Today was a combination of swimming, snorkeling, and taking my little paddle surfboard around the bay. Because of the sun, my malaria meds are making me feel ill so I decided to stop taking them for the next week. In the afternoon we took a 40 minute walk to the market to buy food for the next couple of days. On the way back, I was unfortunately hit by a motorcycle who came straight at me and never slowed down. I’m very fortunate that I only suffered some badly bruised ribs and a few scrapes. The guys fell off the bike but the wheels were still spinning so it took him a minute to turn it off.

21 June 2010: Went for an early ‘run’ (more like a hike up the ridge then ran back down). There were great views of Chizumulu Island on one side and Mozambique on the other. After a nice cup of tea it was time for a dip in the water. I snorkeled and then paddled out on this surfboard like thing that you sit on, Then I took a nice 20 minute float. The day continued alternating between swimming and lazing on the beach. The six of us that met on the ferry cooked dinner together (eggs & rice) and then a musician played his homemade instrument in the bar.

20 June 2010: Paradise found. Relaxing morning, then a walk to the market, a nice big lunch for less than $1.50 and a swim at sunset. Here at Mango Drift it’s tropical beach with an African bush backdrop. Stunning and surreal.

19 June 2010: Didn’t arrive to Likoma Island until 10pm (36 hours after we boarded). Never been so happy in my life to get off transport before. Even if I did have to fight my way off and wade through waist deep water. The electricity was already off on the island for the night, so I didn’t get to see much of it.

18 June 2010:  Sad to be leaving Monkey Bay and my fellow volunteers! Boarded Ilala Ferry at 9:15am to go to Likoma Island. Such a miserable experience! Rough waters, seasickness, an occasional rat sighting…

17 June 2010: Highlight of the evening: buying Obama bubble gum.

14-16 June 2010: Lots of math tutoring. I’ve only tutored boys since being at the Back to School Foundation.  15 June: Watched Juno!!! (what a great movie)

13 June 2010: Spent nearly 4 hours at the salon getting my hair plaited. The last two hours I was sitting on the floor with 3 women braiding. I’m pretty sure my head will be sore for days, but I’m looking forward to low maintenance hair for a while!

12 June 2010: Drove 235 kilometers in the back of a truck today. Visited the town of Dedza- went to a pottery shop and two wooden handicraft shops. Bought some great souvenirs from Diamond and Enoch. Stood on the Malawi-Mozambique border.

11 June 2010: Today we went to Mangochi. I went to the bank and used the internet. Then we went to a lodge along the lake to watch the opening ceremony and first game of the World Cup. We went for a swim in the lake, as the bay was really beautiful. Played pool afterwards, won 1 game & lost 1 game. Not too shabby.

10 June 2010: This morning I tutored a boy in math for a couple of hours. In the afternoon, I gardened for about 10 minutes and got millions of tiny bugs all over me. I continued to kill them throughout the afternoon while I helped two boys with math. We had a lively discussion about the Obama and Bin Laden cakes that are sold at the local bakery.

09 June 2010: This morning I tutored a boy for nearly 4 hours in math. Then we went to Mufasa’s backpacking hostel to have lunch at the lunch and go for a swim. The afternoon was spent making posters.

08 June 2010: The 3 month mark of my trip! Did gardening in the morning, making new beds and then replanting zucchini. In the afternoon I was excited to have my first math student! Sadly, he needed geometry help. Boo. Proofs are not my thing.

07 June 2010: Spent the morning planting Chinese and Mustard cabbage and then learned how to make soil: manure, sand, and compost. I stuck my hands in cow poo for the first time. Eww. Luckily I got over myself pretty quickly and carried on. After lunch, I did tutoring in the afternoon in English.

06 June 2010: Took AXA bus from Lilongwe to Monkey Bay (5 hours). Volunteering at Back To School Foundation with 4 other volunteers doing gardening and tutoring. Volunteers stay at a house alongside an air strip, just a 5 minute walk from the foundation.

05 June 2010: Had planned to leave today for a volunteer project in Monkey Bay, but I wanted to give another go at searching for contact lens solution so I could stop wearing glasses! I was able to buy some from an optician’s office. Then I spent the rest of the day attempting to unlock my wireless modem so I can have internet once I leave Lilongwe. Internet is sparse and expensive in Malawi.

04 June 2010: Spent the night in Addis Ababa last night and then left at 9:45am for Lilongwe. Landing at quite possible the smallest airport I’ve ever seen, and long story short, got a ride from a hotel owner who gave me half price on a room (otherwise I was staying elsewhere). Was exhausted and didn’t do too much today.

03 June 2010: I was supposed to leave Kigali on an Ethiopian flight at 3am. Arrived at the airport at midnight, flight was cancelled, and there were no agents on duty. As there is no 24 hour number for them, I had to wait at the airport until 8am, call their office, then take a taxi back into town to get a new ticket for a 4pm flight of which now I had to stay overnight in Addis Ababa. What a nightmare!

02 June 2010: Have spent the day on very slow internet scheduling some posts to go up on my volcano trek. Leaving at midnight for the airport to head to Malawi! (via Sudan, Ethiopia, and Congo- luckily I only change planes in Ethiopia).

01 June 2010: Took a 3 hour bus back to Kigali and lugged all my stuff up and down these awful hills until I finally found a room at the fourth hotel. What is up? Luckily, it’s a hotel that’s too expensive but the manager was out front and convinced me to come inside and they cut me a deal. Woohoo! Free (but slow) internet and a nice hotel- such a relief.

31 May 2010: An uneventful day around Gisenyi in search of internet but still thoroughly enjoyed staying with Kennedy’s family. Sad to be leaving tomorrow!

30 May 2010:  Three hour trek to get back down the mountain. It’s steep and I slid a lot, but luckily only fell once. Got back to my guide’s house and was completely exhausted!

29 May 2010: Huge day! Left for Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo to hike Nyiragongo Volcano. The toughest hike I’ve done in my life but incredible views. The altitude was a killer and it was straight up. Sadly, the clouds at the top never cleared out so I didn’t see much of the lava lake at all. Spent the night at the top freezing!

28 May 2010: Lazed by Lake Kivu and took a walk around town in Gisenyi with a guide from Hakuna Matata.

27 May 2010: Today I tracked Group 13, the second largest group of gorillas in Rwanda with 23. It was amazing. At one point we were right in the middle of the group. The silverback was a giant and there were some cute babies in the family as well. Can’t wait to post pictures of it! Then went to Gisenyi in the afternoon to stay with my guide from Hakuna Matata Tours.

26 May 2010: Took a motorbike early this morning with all of my stuff since I couldn’t find a taxi. I hung on for dear life and reiterated multiple times to the guy that my pack he was holding could NOT fall off (it had my computer and camera gear). The helmet was too big so I had my head up in the air so I could see and my big pack was hanging sideways. What a sight! Went to Musanze today with JK Safaris. Had a really eye-opening conversation with my driver, hearing about his experiences with the genocide. It’s so shocking and difficult to wrap your head around. Tomorrow: Gorilla tracking!

25 May 2010: Spent the morning at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Painful to see but a well-done exhibit. Some of the photos and video footage were too graphic for me to watch. Then an adventure to the Happy End Bar at night with my new friend Andy. I scaled down a wall and burnt my hand on a cigarette butt, but the tasty chicken made it well worth it!

23 May 2010: International Peace Half-Marathon= Worst race ever. High altitude, hilly, hot, and… NO water! I didn’t finish. I just couldn’t make it 21 km without any water. Bummed, but now in search of another race.

21 May 2010: I took a day trip to Kibuye, a town on the shores of Lake Kivu. While there’s not much to do there the scenery is incredible. I stopped at one of the many genocide memorials I came across, as Kibuye experienced perhaps the most horrific killings in 1994. It was quite in your face, as there were skulls lined up in a glass casing, but it just makes you realize how real and devastating the genocide was.

20 May 2010: Not too much to tell. I did about 2 hours of laundry today and scrubbed the banana peel mildew and red clay off my backpacks. I’m never getting this far behind on laundry again! Then I spent the afternoon trying to plan some things for future travels. I hate how much time logistics takes up!

19 May 2010: Got into Kigali 24 hours later. All of the border crossings were pretty quick. I found a place to stay but it’s expensive here and tourism is driving up prices! I paid my entry fee for the half-marathon this Sunday and then went on a search to replace my lost ipod headphones.

18 May 2010: Boarded my bus for Rwanda, going via Uganda. Looong bus ride. Made a stop at 2am to kick someone off for stealing someone’s shoes, then I had to stop at 3am at a random bar in the middle of nowhere to use the bathroom. Travel: always something interesting.

17 May 2010: Day of errands. Had to exchange money for my next visa fees, bought my bus ticket to Rwanda, and hit up a local market for some excellent second-hand clothes shopping. My partner in crime Stella wasn’t there with me, but I still managed to find some great things. The weird thing is I came across about 3 shirts that I own or once owned. For dinner, I went with someone from my hostel for goat nyoma choma (actually fairly tasty).

16 May 2010: Got into Nairobi at 6am, checking into a hostel, then headed out to Pundamilia to check in with my microlending project. The boys have made a lot of of progress, and I’m really impressed! After having lunch with them, I took another long ride to get back into Nairobi. Tiring day!

15 May 2010: Our last day in Diani and it rained! What a bummer but we did get like an hour of sunshine in on the beach. Took the overnight bus back to Nairobi and it took us 3 hours to get out of Mombasa due to the line at the ferry.

14 May 2010: Two of my travel buddies left for Zanzibar this morning, and a travel agent stole some money from them. Anna and I went to the office in ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ style and got the money back!

13 May 2010: Woke up to a giant monkey in our treehouse. We wanted to go to the sacred forest Kaya Kinondo today but the taxi was too expensive. So we took a matatu to a non-tourist village and picked up a tuk-tuk for half the price to take us. What a bumpy, adventurous ride that was! The forest wasn’t exactly that exciting but the ride to get there was!

12 May 2010: We met volunteers from Nairobi who invited us on a boat trip. The snorkeling wasn’t that great, as it’s a bad month to go, but it was still fun!

11 May 2010: After taking a bumpy, overnight bus to Mombasa with 3 friends, we arrived in our treehouse accommodations on Diani Beach. Life is blissful at the moment (except for the monkeys eating all of our food while we were at the beach!)

9 May 2010: I purchased the TV for my first Sole Purpose microlending project. Then I went to visit Fridah in her village of Greystone for a fun, overnight stay.

07 May 2010: It’s World Orphans Day, and I went to the Nairobi slums today to visit another children’s home: The Children’s Garden Home. What an amazing organization! They have 190 kids living at the center (and all of the kids refer to the directors as mom & dad). It feels like 1 big family. The kids are involved in extracurriculars, and the home has the best primary guitar player in Kenya as well as a music group that won an award at Kenya’s Music festival. I can’t wait to write a review of the home on my website, and hopefully bring awareness for future volunteers.

06 May 2010: I went to Thika today to get pricing on a tv for my first microloan. Looking forward to getting the project rolling!

05 May 2010: The day wasn’t all that exciting but I took a boy in the village to go get his school supplies. I worked on a bit of Sole Purpose business and hope to have some things completed on it in a few days.

03 May 2010: I’ve booked my bus ride for Mombasa and leave in a week. After taking care of errands in Nairobi, I along with 3 other volunteers went to a large local market. It was so busy but I bought a couple of inexpensive shirts and sundresses (Kenya has the best second hand clothing market ever) so that I can leave some tshirts behind at the orphanage. Crazy matatu driver from Nairobi missed our turnoff and nearly ran into a watermelon stand.

02 May 2010: Crazy day! We walked over an hour to catch our first matatu (minibus)  and ended up taking 6 matatus today! We went to visit a WWB staff member’s family in southern Kenya. It ended up being loads of fun (except the live chicken that kept brushing up against my face on matatu 5.  Staying the night in Nairobi.

01 May 2010: Happy Birthday Mom! Today I went to Fridah’s engagement party & it was great. It was the first time her family met the fiance, and it was the official announcement. There were awkward times (like when I was asked to give a speech & everyone else had been speaking Kikuyu so I had no idea what I was supposed to talk about) but it was a wonderful time spent with some really amazing and welcoming people.

29 April 2010: If you think the DMV is slow, try visiting the District Children’s Affairs Officer. We had to drop off a monthly report on the orphanage. No you can’t mail it in, and yes you have to wait in line behind issues of child abuse and neglect just to place it in someone’s hand. In the afternoon, we took inventory on our children’s clothing and handed out a couple of items.

28 April 2010: Volunteering at the Makuyu Clinic this morning, I helped distribute drugs to TB patients and observe in the exam room. I’m thinking a return visit is in order on Friday, for the psychiatric patients’ monthly clinic day. This afternoon I went with Fridah to visit Agnes at her home in Igikiro. Another former staff member at WWB, it was a really enjoyable visit!

27 April 2010: Yesterday I did 3-1/2 hours of laundry assistance, bending over a bucket to rinse the items and then hang them. I woke up with a very sore back today! I helped in the kitchen today by doing dishes and then 3 hours of sorting beans. The afternoon I spent next door with my friends in the village. It was actually very good conversation. The boys were shocked to hear that there were no mud huts in the US and that having a toilet inside your home is standard, not the exception.

25 April 2010: It was a mentally exhausting & emotionally draining day. We made a quick trip to the site of the 1998 US Embassy bombing then, visited the Cerebral Palsy Society of Kenya clinic as well as a a couple of families with CP children. One family had 2 CP children. Listening to the financial struggles and the assistance they need to care for their children was eye-opening. Handicapped people are still generally viewed as being evil here in Kenya. Many fathers leave their wives when a CP child is born at the encouragement of their family. Before heading back to the village we also visited one of Nairobi’s slums, visiting a grandmother who cares for her grandchildren and listening to the daily struggles she faces.

24 April 2010: Long day. I sorted beans this morning, and then went to Thika today to skype with my family. It was good but it was so hot in the internet place. On my ride back it was a typical Kenyan matatu ride: we paid off the police as we were leaving Thika for having too many passengers, and we had to go around a matutu accident as we entered onto the main road. I listened to John recap the day’s events over dinner, as he had just returned from his teacher’s wedding.

22 April 2010: I went on field work today with Eric where we visited the homes of sponsor children. It was a 5 hour walk. We went to Ciumbu and Mihango to visit a total of 4 families. On our way back we walked down into a valley, crossed a river, and then had to walk out of the valley. The sun was intense so I felt so dirty and tired by the time we got home!

21 April 2010: It was a really refreshing day for me. This morning I spent time helping Mama Even with laundry (with 35 kids here it’s a daily chore) and then chopped cabbage and kale. After lunch, it was shower time  and then a visit to Fridah and Agnes! These two ladies were the former employees at the orphanage and I have a lot of respect & admiration for them. They had half the staff & resources and twice as many hardships during the foundation phase of WWB. We spent hours catching up and made plans for more visits over the next few weeks. I am now considering a slight change in itinerary after Fridah proposed another option for me… decisions, decisions.

17 April 2010: Since I’ve been at the orphanage, I’ve gone on field work visiting children that I had met before and helped in the kitchen. With nearly 50 children, volunteers, and staff, that meant washing lots of dishes! I also sorted rice and beans. It’s the rainy season here in Kenya, and I have now discovered that they have cockroaches and tarantulas. Gross. This morning I went on my first run on dirt roads in Kenya, and it was so muddy!

14 April 2010: Went to Thika today so I could email my parents and let them know I’m alive. I’m off to buy laundry detergent so I can head back to the orphanage and have clean clothes again!

13 April 2010: Flew to Nairobi today, took a taxi to downtown, and then had to catch a matatu to Pundamilia. We sat for an hour and a half waiting for the matatu to leave then it was a 2 hour ride to the village. The orphanage is really, really different so I’m trying to adjust. More updates to come.

12 April 2010: It was my last morning in Amman. I got packed and was off to Qatar. I had an overnight layover and planned on staying in the airport but I was eligible for a free hotel stay. I expected something very modest but instead it was a 5 star hotel will all transport and dinner included. A great way to relax before heading to Kenya!

11 April 2010: We went out for mansef and freekah, two traditional dishes for dinner this evening and it was wonderful.

10 April 2010: I still have to brace myself before I can sit down. So sore! Nicole took me to a souvenir shop here, and I caved and bought a few things to send home. Then we went for knafeh which is a syrupy sweet Arabic treat, and it was really good! Got in some movie watching today as well, which was nice.

9 April 2010: It was my 2nd marathon of the trip, the Dead Sea Marathon. There were maybe 100 people that did the full. So small! Most did the 10k. It was rough and my quads are killing me from the downhills! I’m disappointed because after 20 miles I had to walk some until the end. I had food poisoning earlier in the week and my stomach was just not feeling too great. But I crossed the finish line and I”m glad I did it. On a random side note, I saw a Biggly Wiggly grocery store here. (Yes, Biggly, not Piggly).

8 April 2010: Visited some sites in Amman today- the Citadel and the Roman Theatre. Broke down and bought a souvenir Jordanian scarf. I think my driver was bored so he took me to tour a radio station and then to see some sites (including an ex-Iraqi government official’s $15 million piece of land).

7 April 2010: Took the bus into Amman and met up with my newest friend Nicole who I met in Aqaba. She graciously opened up her place to me and took me to get my race packet for the Dead Sea Marathon on Friday!

6 April 2010: Madaba is known for its mosaics. Today I went to Church of the Apostles, the Madaba Museum, the Archaeological Site, and St. George’s Church to see all of these really cool mosaics. We even stopped in at a mosaics workshop to see a girl piecing together a mosaic floor rug. Having done a stint in the tile business, I was particularly intrigued!

5 April 2010: Did a wet trek through Wadi Mujib which was really neat but tougher than expected. Fun times climbing up rocks and sliding down mini waterfalls. Then it was off for a float in the Dead Sea and a mud bath.

4 April 2010: Got really lucky and caught a ride with an archaeology research asst. to Madaba. Going to stay with St. Louis family for the evening. The 3 hour car ride proved very educational!

3 April 2010: Hiked to Rumanna Campground with an excellent guide and a family from St. Louis, who are living in Madaba to teach for a year. The hike was fun but it got really hot! Watched the sunset over Wadi Dana. Gorgeous! Drank too much sugary tea today (it’s rude to decline) so I went to bed not feeling so hot…

2 April 2010: Because it’s Friday, transportation was difficult! But a bus and 2 taxis later, I made it to Dana- such a neat village! Went on a short hike where the wildflowers were in full bloom. The hotel served a traditional Jordanian dinner but with LOTS of food. It was awesome. Did I mention my room is not numbered? It’s called the ‘Crazy Camel’ room. And the shower is like a cave.

1 April 2010: Lazy day. Tried to get some stuff done on my blog (I’m kinda behind) and sat by the pool for a little while. Finally found a taxi to take me early to the bus station as I’m off to Dana Nature Reserve tomorrow. It’s sad that a mere 12km is costing me more than any other transit I’ve taken in Jordan so far (and I’ve gone from top to bottom), but not much I can do.

31 March 2010: Went in search of the shipwreck. It’s in pretty rough waters and there’s so many glass bottom boats swarming it that I actually made an intelligent decision and decided to stay away and not get run over! Just snorkeled near the shore for a bit and then slept by the pool. Some amazing Hollanders gave me access to their room so I could wash clothes… the tent doesn’t exactly proved 5 star services. Yet.

30 March 2010: Shared a taxi to Aqaba and settled down for a few days of R&R on the Red Sea. I snorkeled at Gorgonians I today and hope to make it to a shipwreck tomorrow. Got accosted by a dive instructor, which consequently made me scratch my foot on some coral. Was so mad! But had to let it go quickly. Met someone running another race in the Dead Sea series who’s from Atlanta- yay!

29 March 2010: 9 hours of Petra, and I still didn’t see everything! I climbed more stairs and rocks than I ever thought possible in a day. Started with the climb to the Sacrificial High Place and ended the day with a climb to an overlook of the Treasury. Wonderful place to visit!

28 March 2010: After waking up with bed bug bites at 5:15am, I got the hell out of that place. I took a taxi to Wahedat bus station and was there at 6:15- found out my minibus wouldn’t come until 8:00. Watched an argument break out for like 10 minutes and when that got old, I prepared for Wadi Musa. Made it to my hotel and went straight to Petra for a great guided tour and 7 1/2 hours of wandering. Back to Petra all day tomorrow!

27 March 2010: Flew out of Cairo this morning and got into Amman at 11:00. Found the Express Bus with no problems which takes you to about 6km outside the city. Needed to take a taxi then and couldn’t shake this manwhore so I ended up sharing a taxi to the city center. So not worth the free taxi ride but I won’t complain. Got to my hotel, where I will complain. Reception worker is asleep on couch, doesn’t speak English & doesn’t have my reservation. Well, he didn’t understand the word reservation until I pull out my computer and show him the website. He wakes up another man who comes out half asleep and they converse about what room I should have. Am shown to my room and ask about payment. He doesn’t understand, so I still haven’t paid. My room smells like smoke and the carpet is somewhat sticky. Found a different place to stay for marathon weekend and decided to leave tomorrow! Off to Wadi Musa & Petra.

26 March 2010: Long day. Was at the airport by 7:30am b/c my mom was flying out at 10am. I didn’t leave the airport until 3pm. Got into Cairo after dark, and decided to give the public bus a whirl.  For $0.40 vs. a $10 cab ride I got on a shuttle bus that took me to a ‘bus station’ and ended up running after buses (as encouraged by a local) to get on the right one. Once in town, I had a handdrawn map (by me) that was all of 3 lines and 2 street names. Way to go Laura. But some nice locals got me to my hotel. Went out for water and food and when I got to the fruit market I realized I was in the same neighborhood that I stayed in 2 years  ago. Familiarity is always refreshing.

25 March 2010: We left Sorrento just before 7am on a crowded train to Naples. Transferred trains and got into Rome in time for our reservation at the Vatican. After walking through the museum & Sistine Chapel, we had to wait awhile because St. Peter’s was closed. It never did open back up but…. we got to hear the Pope speak and it was such an experience!

24 March 2010: My mom stayed behind and took a rest day, while I headed out to explore the Amalfi Coast, stopping in Positano and Amalfi. It was overcast but the rain held off. The coastal road is shockingly narrow and made for an adventurous ride. Positano was lovely, as shops were just opening up for spring. We went to dinner in Sorrento (as we’re actually staying in Sant’ Agnello) and had amazing gelato! Italy is not good on the diet….

23 March 2010: My mom and I took the train to Pompeii today. We stayed nearly 5 hours and were exhausted and sore by the time it was over, but so fascinating. My cold has gotten much worse so it’s off to the pharmacy in the morning. We’re staying on the Amalfi Coast in a former monastery with great views. Should be a beautiful day tomorrow!

22 March 2010: Today was a super-tourist day. We saw the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona, some Caravaggio paintings, and this awesome church decorated in skulls & bones (more to come on that one). The line for the Vatican was hours long so we booked our tickets for the 25th. Met up with a fellow hosteler I had met back in Venice for a drink… interesting walk to get there as I ended up on some dark alley by a ginormous building that was a morgue. Creepy! But also really cool to see all of these random ruins all over the city at night.

21 March 2010: I. Survived. The first 20 miles of the marathon went much better than I expected. But at mile 20, I just couldn’t keep up my pace and my legs were starting to hurt. And then of course there’s this thing called cobblestone in Rome that’s a killer on the ankles & knees. I finished in under 5 hours at about the same time as I did in Chicago, and considering I didn’t train as well, I’m really happy with that. After hobbling back to the B&B like an old woman, we rested, and then went for a night visit to the Trevi Fountain and for some good food.

20 March 2010: Got up too early, after little sleep from my stalker bed neighbor snoring. Picked up my mom at the airport and went to the Colosseum, Palatine, and the Roman Forum.  While at the Colosseum a parade came by in support of a presidential nominee and then ended in a huge rally. Pretty neat. My mom was in severe pain because she forgot her pain meds at home, so we had an interesting trip to an Italian public hospital. Can’t wait to blog about that one. The marathon is tomorrow. Wish me luck!

19 March 2010: Made it to Perugia last night. Hiked a freaking mountain with all my gear to get there! The guide book said, “Don’t walk, take the bus.” Thank you LP, next time I will listen. This morning I got up early to walk around. It’s a small town so there’s not a whole lot to see but the views were amazing. I went into the cathedral around 8am and as I was standing there taking it all in, a choir began to sing from a side room. Took the train to Rome, checked into my hostel, and picked up my race packet for the Marathon.

18 March 2010: Had a much better run this morning. Ran up to the lookout from a church above Piazzale Michelangelo. Then, climbed the 414 steps up the Camponile for amazing views of the Duomo! A great way to conclude my stay in Florence. This afternoon I’m off to Perugia.

17 March 2010: Went for a morning run along the Arno River. It was terrible. Rome Marathon is in 4 days- this is not good. Went to the Uffizi Gallery around noon and waited in line for an hour to get in! I thought this was off-season… Friends I met in Venice came to Florence today so we set out for an Irish Pub in the evening (Happy St. Patty’s Day!) When we couldn’t find it we decided to buy wine instead and head back to the hostel, only to come across it when we were almost back. Oh well.

16 March 2010: I got up early to take a morning bus to Siena. For starters, I couldn’t find where to buy my ticket. But I made it right as the bus was leaving. Phew. Saw the Piazza and Duomo in Siena, then debated between Chianti or San Gimignano. I chose the latter and it was beautiful! It’s a town with  medieval towers sprinkled throughout and Tuscan countryside. I loved it and wish I had gotten their earlier to bike it. I also had the best gelato yet in San G.  But talk about an even tougher time buying a ticket back to Florence. I was sent to 5 different places before I could buy one, and then I never did find a schedule.

15 March 2010: First stop: the beautiful & magnificent Duomo, an architectural masterpiece. It was lovely. Then I walked around and saw and was debated between the Ufizzi and Boboli Gardens. I finally decided on the Ufizzi but forgot that it’s closed on Mondays! So I wandered to other churches and piazzas. In the evening, I headed up to Piazzale Michelangelo and waited for the sun to set. It was so cold and windy but gorgeous! I got some great photos with my tripod. Then it was cheap focaccia for dinner, random conversation with the pizza guy, and lots of free wine.

14 March 2010: Sadly left Riomaggiore today. Made a quick stop in Pisa for the leaning tower, then headed to Lucca. Went on a 5 mile run on top of the wall surrounding the city and it was beautiful. In Florence for the next few days.

13 March 2010: Spent the day hiking Cinque Terre. Got lost on a really strenuous trail and ended up with amazing views! Climbed over 2000 stairs. In love with the place!

12 March 2010: Took a 5 hour train ride to Cinque Terre. It’s 5 small fishing villages on the coast that are beautiful! Staying in Riomaggiore in a 3 bedroom/2 bath apartment by myself for the night. It’s sunny here, and I can’t wait to hike tomorrow!

11 March 2010: Although the forecast called for nasty weather again, the sun was out when I woke up! So, on a suggestion from the hostel I took a ride over to the island of Burano, known for its brightly colored houses and lace making. It was quiet and gorgeous! Tomorrow I’m off to Cinque Terre (the train employees are striking in the afternoon so hopefully I’ll make it before then). First taste of gelato: Kit Kat and Coconut. Yum!

10 March 2010: It is freezing in Venice! It’s snowing & windy. I spent the morning walking around with new friends from the hostel and photographing the city. Then headed over to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum to see her former collection of modern art. The snow got worse so we ducked into a restaurant to have lunch.

09 March 2010: I left yesterday morning for Venice. From Frankfurt to Venice we flew over the Alps & they were stunning. I made it to Venice and took a bus to the main bus station. From there, I decided to walk to find my hostel, and with some luck and a map in hand, I made it. Did I mention it’s freezing here and really windy? Was not prepared for that but will just have to layer all of my warm clothes for the time being. Headed out with fellow hostelers for a ride down the Grand Canal and a tour through San Marco.

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