Posts Tagged ‘essential journeys’

Back in Cairo: Top Things Said and Overheard

Posted on: April 3rd, 2011 | No Comments

Back in Cairo and enjoying coming out of the desert.  British officers and civil servants would traditionally flock to Shepheard Hotel on the Nile.  Like many other places on this trip, this was once a romantic place which has supplied folk legend.  Unfortunately, it was burned down in the last revolution in 1952 but it still has its charms.  Returning on an exhausting drive from Tobruk (a straight-line distance of 460 miles), I sat down for a bite and made notes of things I’d heard over the last few weeks:       

  1. While walking near several Western embassies: “Can I walk through there?” pointing toward a small opening next to two tanks, a squad of soldiers and a pile of sandbags, “Of course, you have two legs!”
  2. While in a café: “[Hosni] Mubarak was like Ali Baba!”
  3. While talking to a confused tourist: “I thought my tour was going to the Red Sea but it turns out we’re going to the Dead Sea.”  
  4. While walking across a bridge over the Nile: “Excuse me but you walk like an Egyptian” (I doubt he understood the humor in this)
  5. While in an insanely fast taxi on the way back from Libya: “Don’t worry so much…if there’s an accident now, you’ll die a martyr’s death.”
  6. Everywhere in Cairo: “the revolution is not finished, that was just the start.”

I heard a lot of interesting things in Libya as well but they tended to focus on a few familiar themes: happiness (“Now we are free!”), exacerbation (“F— Gaddafi”) and gratitude (“Thank you USA, France, UK and NATO”).

Traveling to Eastern Libya

Posted on: March 16th, 2011 | No Comments

It’s a long drive from Cairo but the road to the border is in good condition with only a few check points (beefed up after the recent troubles with tanks and squads of soldiers instead of policemen).  The border crossing itself is nothing but a series of buildings that feel like a train depot that has been overrun by refugees from sub-Saharan Africans who have fled the fighting but lack the means to continue on home quickly.  Thousands of people pack the reception halls or sleep outside under boxes and blankets.  The conditions are not good for sure but at least the people are safe and eventually are processed onward.     

The look and feel changes immediately on crossing into what is officially called the “Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Republic (Jamahiriya).”  There are no ornery customs officials but instead rebels who do nothing but shake our hands and thank us for coming.  Men (there are no women around) dress in beaten mismatch of civilian and military clothing.  They look like they’ve been fighting for months, if not years, but it’s only been a couple of weeks.  There are not many cars, virtually no billboards and few shops are open.  Gasoline is a remarkable $0.15 a liter but don’t get excited, most other things are in scarce supply.  All storefronts had to be painted the same color as the Libyan flag (of the current government); a solid green.  When I asked what would happen if you painted your store a different color, I was told “your store won’t open.”    

The city of Tobruk is about an hour’s drive from the border.  This was a name I’ve known since childhood.  It was in this area that the Allied and Axis dueled back and forth using all manner at their disposal. Later General Erwin Rommel laid siege to the town and built an underground command post (over which is now a parking lot) until he was later repulsed by a combined force that included Australians, British, French, Czechs and Polish troops.  Allied military cemeteries still dot the area.  This was a place highly romanticized in media by the “Deserts Rats” and the “English Patient.” After WWII, the town was rebuilt and its charm, if there ever was any, has been lost.   

A "People's Republic"? Maybe

Crossing Tahir Square

Posted on: March 12th, 2011 | No Comments

Just weeks before, Tahir Square in central Cairo was the focus of the revolution that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.  Sure, some of the pavement stones are missing (ripped up for use in the rioting, exposing desert sand underneath), a few of the surrounding buildings were scorched and the tourists vacated the place (it was only dicey for a few days and is now perfectly fine).  But it’s still a thrilling place, ringed by travel agencies, fast food restaurants and the Indiana Jones-worthy Egyptian Museum.  And while Egypt is hardly off the beaten path (12 million tourists come here a year), it definitely retains a lot of the reasons people come here in the first place. 

source: wikipedia.org

The issue is with navigating the place on foot.  Cairo’s streets are notoriously chaotic and, to put it diplomatically, free flowing.  The recent revolution hasn’t changed that one bit.  Witnessing this firsthand is the best way to get to experience this but a little foreknowledge is helpful.  There are at least two ways to cross the streets that make up Tahir Square:    

Crossing Method 1 – The local way

How to: Assume a steely demeanor with a focus on the far curb, use only peripheral vision, boldly walk into traffic, pause only if a speeding car would unavoidably run you over, continue walking.  Drivers will somehow and miraculously steer their cars around you.    

When to use it: If you are a native Cairiene or long term resident, or have had several drinks.   

Crossing Method 2 – The prudent way

How to: Find other pedestrians who are about to cross (school kids and the elderly are better because they will not walk as fast), get close to them but “downstream” of traffic, look both ways and keep a close look out, cross at the same pace as the other pedestrians (ok we’re talking about using them as “human shields”).  Drivers will slow and sometimes even stop allowing the group of pedestrians to cross. 

When to use it: If you are new to Cairo. There is also a metro subway train beneath the square which can used to get from one side of the square to the other but how much fun is that?

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.

Great Travel Quote

Posted on: February 10th, 2011 | No Comments

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

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.

Traveling to Utah’s Awesome Mountains

Posted on: January 24th, 2011 | No Comments

Following a productive trip to the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, it was time to hit the slopes.  Big Cottonwood valley, less than an hour from SLC, is generally less crowded than nearby Park City.  Large pines, curvy roads and craggy mountainsides make traveling up the valley absolutely beautiful and worth the trip even if you’re not skiing.     

Topping out at over 10,000 feet, the area gets an average of over 500 inches of snow fall each season.  The skiing itself is great with many named runs and fresh snow that dumped on our trip the first time out.  But snowshoeing and cross-country which offered a nice change of pace after a day of downhill. 

Although Utah changed its drinking laws a few years ago, the bars near the mountain closed insanely early at 9pm (“so that people can ski”…the slopes do close at 4pm after all).  So, if you want to party and ski, everybody says you’re better off going to Colorado.

Eartheducation: Neverest supplies expedition to learn about sustainable development

Posted on: January 13th, 2011 | No Comments

Earthducation is a series of eight expeditions to climate hotspots over the course of four years.   The goal is to integrate the principles, values and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning.   Understanding connections between education and the natural environment on local scales will enable and empower change in education on a global scale by providing new approaches to education.

Right now, the Eartheducation team is in Tenkodogo, Burkina Faso (see map), where they are interviewing elders, students and others to learn and connect.  Through this expedition, they hope to create a world narrative of the dynamic intersections between education and sustainability.  The current expedition is led by Aaron Doering and Charles Miller, professors of Learning Technologies at the University of Minnesota. 

Neverest has outfitted them with gear including the Essential Journey’s Kit and On-the-go items.  We hope you find them helpful.  Best of luck and travel safe!

What is “Adventure” Travel?

Posted on: January 6th, 2011 | No Comments

“The word adventure has gotten over used.  For me, adventure is when everything goes wrong.  That’s when the adventure starts” – Yvon Chouinard in 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless (great movie, btw).    

This quote nicely sums up our attitude at Neverest.  It’s the idea that travel is about the journey, not the destination.  It’s the notion that things always will go wrong but that’s where the real challenge as well as the fun and learning begin.  It’s about being prepared, mentally as well as physically (this why we call our great product the Essential Journey’s Kit, not just another “adventure kit”).

Top things seen and experienced in Haiti

Posted on: December 16th, 2010 | No Comments
  1. Old friends along with Prestige beer
  2. Buildings marked green (structurally ok), yellow (fixable) and red (unsafe and should be destroyed)
  3. Men dismantling enormous destroyed buildings with hammers and wheelbarrows
  4. Active deforestation (it’s green with the rain but some places have visibly less trees than before)
  5. Air France’s lost luggage bin that had some bags with month’s worth of dust on them
  6. Lots of election posters (the president’s candidate have been burned in the recent demonstrations)
  7. A middle-aged man wearing a black t-shirt that says “Slacker” across the front
  8. Kids playing soccer as pigs walk by
  9. Rice, bean and chicken dish bought on the street (fingers crossed that I don’t get sick)
  10. Lots of aid workers and volunteers still arriving despite the challenges