Posts Tagged ‘disaster relief’

How to Pack When going to a War Zone?

Posted on: March 6th, 2011 | No Comments

Packing depends a lot on your expected length of travel, gender and personal preferences but it’s helpful to think in the layer system (discussed in a previous post) and climate throughout the trip (not just at the destination).  It’s often cold in deserts and sunny in cold places, there could be a pool at your overnight stay while in transit and then there’s that unplanned requirement to sleep in the airport (here’s a worthwhile link to consider).  All these should be considered on one trip. 

Almost universally, things that stimulate the mind are carried by those traveling to Libya: books, MP3 players stuffed with music, laptops loaded with cheaply acquired movies and TV series.  But ballistic body armor is not: freelance stringers can’t afford it and aid workers are usually not that close to the fighting.  Besides vests and helmets are heavy, take up lots of luggage space and makes you stick out like a sore thumb.

So in most ways, packing to go to a war is no different than going to any place that is severely underdeveloped with a (possible) lack of electricity, clean drinking water, the presence of bugs and other annoyances that make travel more interesting. Even if conditions are fine today, what if the power suddenly goes out for three straight days?  A candle, matches and a flashlight that doesn’t need batteries would be great.  What if I need to wash my clothes in my hotel sink? I’d need a long cord to dry them.  What if my camera strap breaks, pack rips or jack tears at the elbow?  A bit of duct tape is essential.  This is what the Essential Journey’s Kit was made for and is included on my bag on the way to Libya.

World’s Most Dangerous Road?

Posted on: February 22nd, 2011 | No Comments

In between my recent travels, I flicked through the satellite television channels dealing with travel and adventure.  Filled with tall claims and well spun yarns, they provide fleeting entertainment.  One show gives the impression of dealing with the “world’s most dangerous road” judging by ice-filled roads.  Certainly, in this category there is a fairly long list of contenders.   For sure, the James Dalton Highway in Alaska 414-mile gravel road that connects Prudhoe Bay oilfields needs vigilance and preparation (including a 4-wheel drive, the right kit and extras of everything).  But is it the most dangerous?   

Bolivia’s North Yungas Road, connecting the capital La Paz to Coroico in the Amazon region, is itself known as the “Death Road.”  Fifteen years ago, the Inter-American Development Bank declared it the world’s most dangerous road because it killed 200-300 people a year along its almost 70 km length.  Today, new construction has meant that few travel along this route except for a few intrepid travelers looking for a challenge and the right to say they traveled it.  

The road leading from Baghdad International Airport toward the Green Zone (now the “International Zone”) was surely the most dangerous road in the world at one point.  This is where we lost Marla Ruzicka (see earlier post) and many others.  Although strict checkpoints, constant patrols and blast walls that line the entire length make the roughly 15 minute trip safer these days, it remains a potentially hairy ride.    

East of Kabul

From personal experience, the most dangerous roads lie in Afghanistan and Pakistan where altitude, long-distances, terrible conditions and ever present violence meet.  These days, roads like the one that link Kabul with Peshawar are surly the world’s most dangerous.  That road passes through the tribal areas of Pakistan where NATO fuel supplies were recently blown up, the Kyber Pass (notorious during the British Raj as a site of ambush and intrigue), through Jalalabad in sight of Tora Bora and the now dangerous Sarobi, up a spectacular gorge and into Kabul.  In that same valley, I was stopped several years ago by a rock avalanche that took the better half of a day to clear.   

Or take the road leading north from Islamabad on route N75 to the hill station town of Murree and then north again to Muzaffarabad.  It’s fine up to that point.  This area of Kashmir has been mostly off limits to foreigners except for a period following the 2005 earthquake that devastated the region.  About a year after the disaster, I traveled up the Neelam Valley Road along the “line of control” that demarcates the long, blood-soaked division between India.  As part of the Lesser Himalayas, it is at once beautiful in a way only matched by the likes of the Rockies and the Alps.  It is also hair-raising, crossing over crumbling dirt roads over 8,000 + foot passes with very few guardrails. And, in the time I was there, aftershocks and rock avalanches.  Along long stretches, the road is well within the crosshairs of Indian gun positions on the other side of the valley.  While calm during my visit, our driver plainly said at one point “My brother was killed along here.”

Great Testimonials for Neverest’s Essential Journey’s Kit

Posted on: February 1st, 2011 | No Comments

Many of you know that we’ve been making an effort to connect with our customers and the response has been helpful and encouraging.  We thought we’d share some of this feedback about our Essential Journey’s Kit:

“This is a great product…Neverest offers way more items in one kit than any other company.” – Steve, Manchester

“My daughter is going to Patagonia for the semester and the kit will give me, and her, some piece of mind” – Gerard, Atlanta

“This [kit] really came in handy on my last trip.  Thanks” – Tammy, Sherman Oaks

“Cool name, cool brand, cool product ideas.  I’d like to see more products” – Brent, Portland

On this last point, we’re taking specific recommendations into account as we finalize our next two kits.  These will be available soon so please stay tuned.

Back in Haiti

Posted on: December 13th, 2010 | No Comments

It was touch-and-go getting here but it’s nice to be back.  The weather is warm and the streets are vibrant.  But there is tension in the air and the traffic is nearly unbearable.  Rain is keeping the potential riots at bay for now.  But nearly one year on, people remain frustrated over slow change and new problems such as cholera.  Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, most Haitians do not have the resources to prevent the disease and so the numbers of sick people is growing daily. To address the epidemic, a series of cholera treatment facilities have been set up by the ministry of health and international aid workers. These can be as simple as tents that provide oral rehydration therapy but the help they provide is life-saving. Incredible as it may seem, the international consolidated funding appeal for cholera is only 25% funded. But prevention, particularly having a clean source of water, is key.

Health Promotion Poster in Port-au-Prince

Travel Delays: How to deal with it

Posted on: December 11th, 2010 | No Comments

Sometimes this happens.  The gauntlet of preparing for a trip, the dash to the airport and then an unexpected snow dump on the Midwest that shuts down everything.  So what to do when your plane is delayed?  Here’s five ideas for making the most of halted travel:

  1. Don’t wait in line: Rather than joining the long lines of people sorting out alternative travel arrangements, it’s faster to get on the phone.  This should get you talking to an airline representative within a minute or two.
  2. Stay active: Most airports are well suited for those waiting inordinate amounts of time.  Go to less crowded areas (a good excuse to stretch your legs) and seek out time wasters such as shopping, good restaurants, spa facilities including showers and massages, and even museums.
  3. Catch up: Get ahead and plan your next trip.  If you don’t have anything with you, airport bookstores are stocked with travel guides.     
  4. Consider going into town: While many airports are way outside of town, some allow quick and easy access to downtown (think Washington National and Amsterdam’s Schiphol).
  5. Be relaxed: Little or nothing can be done about weather, mechanical failure and “acts of God.”  Albert Einstein once quipped “I never worry about the future.  It comes soon enough.”   

Preparing for another trip to Haiti

Posted on: December 8th, 2010 | No Comments

Time for another visit to Port-au-Prince.  The cholera epidemic is getting worse and the elections have put everything on edge.  Yesterday, violence gripped the city.  Frustrated Haitians took to the streets, blocking off intersections and burning tires.   It is unclear how things might progress but air travel into the city is a no-go today.  Well before this, on 24 June, the following travel warning was issued:   

“The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Haiti. The January 12 earthquake caused significant damage to key infrastructure and access to basic services remains limited.  The country continues to experience shortages of food, drinking water, transportation and adequate shelter.  The earthquake significantly reduced the capacity of Port-au-Prince’s medical facilities and inadequate public sanitation poses serious health risks.  While the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services has improved in the months following the earthquake, it is still limited.  The level of violent crime in Port-au-Prince, including murder and kidnapping, remains high.”

In any case, that’s hardly enough reason not to go.  In Haiti, people work, kids go to school and aid workers are helping to reconstruct the devastated city.   For Neverest, field testing for Hydro-Life is ongoing and the midst of the cholera epidemic, it’s as important as ever.

Haiti: The last thing they need

Posted on: November 18th, 2010 | No Comments

Haiti, to understate the situation, has had a tough year.  Last January, a devastating earthquake took more than two hundred thousand lives and the affects continue to cause widespread suffering.  Tropical storms including Hurricane Tomas ripped down makeshift shelters.  And election-related violence has become a daily occurrence.  Now, a deadly cholera epidemic has taken hold of the heart of the country.  It’s the last thing the people of Haiti deserve.  Already hundreds have been killed and thousands have been hospitalized.  The suffering from the disease is terrible.  It’s caused by a small bacteria (shown here) that is relatively easy to prevent.  But too many people lack clean potable water and other basic supplies like soap.  Most unfortunately is that the situation will get worse before it gets better.

Remembering Marla Ruzicak

Posted on: September 16th, 2010 | No Comments

Travel brings you into touch with dynamic people and Marla Ruzicka is definitely one of them.  She was impassioned by justice and, given the nature of our recent wars, sought desperately to right the wrongs of collateral damage.  Marla went on to found the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) which continues to work on helping those who are voiceless.  She wasn’t without controversy…a young American woman trying to fix the faults of the Defense Department.  But her doggedness in helping others far less advantaged than her was distinctive and she won many fans in the media, civil society and even within the military.

Marla also had a seriously fun side.  I first met Marla in Kabul in early 2002.  My first impression was one of curiosity when she asked “where do you party around here?”  At that time in Afghanistan, there was only one answer “Anywhere.”  That night was at the Mustafa Hotel.  She went on to found “Klub Kabul” a kind of roving social set.  We both left in 2003; I took a job in Eastern Europe to unwind from a crazy year and half…but Marla went straight to Iraq to deal with the mess that was being created there.

In the end, she sadly paid her life for it when a roadside bomb killed her on the way to Baghdad International Airport.  She is honored with this marble plaque a BBC news crew embedded in the wall of the Gandamack Lodge.

Water, of all things, in Quetta’s Flood Displaced Person’s Camps

Posted on: September 1st, 2010 | No Comments

About 30 camps have quickly formed around the city.  Aid is being provided in some camps but not all.  In this camp of nearly 6,000 people, most but not all have tents to live in.  Food is given in rationed distributions.  There is a medical clinic but people complain because of the lack of medicine.  Boys drink directly from water trucked in and provided via taps.  In many others though people drink whatever they can.  In this arid city, people seem to face an ironic jeopardy with respect to water – driven away by flood waters they now spend a lot of time trying to gain access to water.

Traveling through Islamabad Airport

Posted on: August 20th, 2010 | No Comments

Most airports conduct their affairs in an orderly almost post-modern way.  Islamabad is a different story.  Furnace like heat is pushed around by long lines of ceiling fans.  Each departing flight is witnesses hundreds of people seeing off relatives.  To get to the gate, it is necessary to wade through a sea of salwar kameez where few people are ready to make space for anyone else.  The armed security guard seems to have never heard of an electronic ticket.  I’m headed South to Pakistan’s fourth largest city of Quetta.  Once the birthplace of the Taliban, now thousands of people have fled the raising Indus River who need urgent assistance.  If nothing else, this is what exciting travel is all about.