Murchison Falls game drive

Murchison Falls game drive

It is possible to stay at a resort inside Murchison Falls National Park, but it is cheaper (and, I am told, a bit more fun) to stay at one of the many lovely lodges outside of the park, so that’s what I did. The trade-off, though, is that you have to carefully plan your trip and wake up really early. There are no bridges across the Nile at this point, so to get into the park proper you have to take a ferry. The ferry operates from 7am to 7pm, and it only holds eight cars at a time. And because it is dry season, the animals are going to spend most of their day in the shade and out of sight, so if you want to see one, you really have to be on the 7am ferry. Which means you have to wake up early, have breakfast, and make sure you are there in time to be one of those first eight cars to go across.

Since I am a maniac, I woke up at around 4 and grouched at everyone in my party to get in gear so that we could leave on time. As it turns out, ours was the second car to get to the landing point, and I felt my grumpiness vindicated. Continue reading “Murchison Falls game drive”

Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls, just east of where the Nile takes a rest at Lake Albert, bills itself as the “Most Powerful Waterfall in the World.” I have learned not question these kinds of claims, as nothing positive can come out of that sort of conversation. After all, in my hometown the Empire State Building claims to be the world’s most famous building, which can be disputed by a number of other buildings around the world, but who cares, right?

After leaving Jinja I decided I needed to go someplace new, so I am now up at Murchison Falls National Park. I took a riverboat to the falls with the intention of hiking to the top, but then someone told me that you can just drive up, so I stayed in the boat, turned around, and then drove to the summit. Much easier. Here’s what I saw.

Continue reading “Murchison Falls”

Another Nile sunrise

Another Nile sunrise

I spent the weekend at a place called the Hairy Lemon, which is a small island in the Nile about an hour north of Jinja, which has somehow become my go-to weekend destination. The island attracts kayakers, mostly, but I don’t do that, so mostly I sat around drinking, avoiding monkeys, and overhearing people talking about kayaks.

But in the morning, while all of those fit young types were sleeping it off, I had the island entirely to myself, and I spent it trying to capture the sunset. Here are the best of my pictures. Continue reading “Another Nile sunrise”

My favorite shitholes

My favorite shitholes

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” -The Great Gatsby

Many years ago, I and a few other expats were hanging out in someone’s apartment in Erdenet, Mongolia, playing a game of “Why it sucks” with an inflatable globe our hostess had lying around. The gist of the game was that we’d toss the globe up and catch it, and wherever the catcher’s finger landed (I think we went with the right-hand index finger) we all had to say why that place sucks. It was usually pretty easy—I remember landing on Somalia, for examplebut sometimes we had to be creative, especially when our fingers landed on some of our favorite places. It wasn’t fair to say, “Hey, I like it there!” We had to provide a convincing reason for why that particular place was, basically, a shithole.

It wasn’t lost on us that Erdenet, the city we were in, could be described by some people as a shithole. Small, poor, and isolated, it basically is a shithole, at least by most measures. If Erdenet was a shithole, though, it was our shithole, and we loved it.

A Soviet-built cement smudge on an otherwise barren stretch of hills, Erdenet exists entirely because of its copper mine, one of the largest in the world, and the mine’s slag heap looms over the southern side of the city. It’s prettier than it sounds, though. Continue reading “My favorite shitholes”

Chapter 17: Isabelle

Chapter 17: Isabelle


He lied.

He lied. He lied.

I know when I’m being lied to. When Father said he’d stay this time. When Lady Falmouth said we were safe. When Mr. Percy said he’d stripped the flesh off my father’s bones. They all lied.

Father had cut it too close but he was still a step ahead of Tantibus. Mr. Percy couldn’t have captured him and tortured him and still been at the house to greet us in the morning. Father had escaped.

Unless the crows could travel through time, but if they could then this would have all ended long ago.

Continue reading “Chapter 17: Isabelle”

To the ends of the world

To the ends of the world

I was waiting for a coffee in the cafeteria and the TV was tuned to a news channel of the sort that I only ever only watch under duress or while waiting for an exceptionally slow barista to remember what exactly goes into a black americano. My thoughts drifted all around as they so often do—should I order pizza for dinner? is this room getting darker or is it just me? if I had three wishes, should I wish to be able to get away with murder, or should I wish to never think about murder to begin with?—when a long infomercial for Mauritius came on and I was transfixed.

I have never been to Mauritius, or even considered going there, and until a few minutes after that commercial ended I don’t think I even knew where Mauritius was (somewhere in the Indian Ocean, sure, but close to what?). However, I stayed on and watched even though my coffee had finally come and I did, officially at least, have things I needed to do. The commercial was all soft-focus and wide-angle and featured beautiful people doing all sorts of things that I would never do under even the best of circumstances, like attending a folk dance (because remember, folk dancing is stupid—or so I learned at 13 and it has, unfortunately, prejudiced my views for life), or hanging out in a bar late at night with potential sex partners (okay, the commercial didn’t exactly say that would happen, but it was implied; however, I don’t like staying up late and I don’t like crowds, so bars aren’t really for me).

But Mauritius looked beautiful, and I rushed back to my desk and starting researching trips there. Because, apparently, all I want to do is travel.

I know I complained about booking a trip to Jinja just a few days after returning from Amsterdam, but it turns out that the only pause I need between trips is a few days. I’ve already booked a trip to Murchison Falls next month, and rented a beach house on Cape Cod for the summer, and found a place to stay in Amsterdam on my way there (having seen it in winter, I now want to see it in summer). I have tentative plans to go to Ethiopia in April, London in October, and I feel like I’ve put off going to Zanzibar for long enough.

Can I afford all this? Strictly speaking, yes. Is it a responsible way to use my money? Probably not. That couple from Up spent their whole lives saving up for one trip and never took it, and yet here I am complaining that I’ve been cooped in my home (which is, by the way, in some exotic locale that I have no business living in) for almost two entire weeks now.

But I can’t help myself. I like my home life, and my job, and I have plenty of hobbies. It’s not like I have a lot of time to fill. I barely sleep, and my stack of books to read is almost overwhelming (though I have made some progress this week, in keeping with my non-new-year’s resolution). I came dangerously close to getting a puppy last week—while I was trying and failing to have an honest conversation with myself about whether or not I could be a responsible dog owner, I noticed that all the plants I bought at the Flower Expo last month are dead now, even the succulents and the bamboo, which really isn’t supposed to happen (so no puppy for me).

And I have long-term goals, too, that I need to save up for. And yet, here I am, figuring out yet another trip. It doesn’t have to be Mauritius. I would love to take a road trip across Europe, from Lisbon maybe to somewhere obscure in the east. I’ve never been to Japan. I am convinced that it is my destiny to start a Puerto Rican restaurant in Australia (or perhaps New Zealand; my friends here from both countries make a strong case, and if it’s possible to get a decent mofongo in either place my friends haven’t found it yet), but I’ve never been to either place so I figure I should go and decide for myself. And of course there are the wonders of Africa that I am well-positioned to explore. It’s just…I have to see it all.

Do I? Is it something wrong with me? And why the urge to go to such remote places? Why not Vegas? I wonder if all the doomsday predictions on the news have convinced me on some reptilian level that I need to go far, far away and ride out the storm.

Or maybe that coffee just took way too long.