2011: The Travelogue

The high (low) lights of the past year’s travels.

Namibia:

Waking up with temporary amnesia in the Namib desert,

Having afternoon tea with camels and some nice German ladies in Swakopmund,

Begging the bartender for Savannahs in the best (and closed) Swakopmund bar at 8:30 with puppy eyes, coaxing – English, German, Damara clicks-and our extreme youth,

Drinking aforementioned Savannah lights on the pier extending into the Atlantic, listening to the crescendo of the waves dancing to the light of the Southern sky (and getting nothing but mixed metaphors in my head),

Saying no to fueling the car when half empty, driving for 300-odd kilometers in the middle of the Namib-Naukluft park and finally finding a petrol station after we were running on petrol fumes,

Trying not to show panic about the petrol situation whilst constructing Doomsday scenarios in the head,

Gawping with awe at the Milky Way from the rather posh tented camp in the Sesriem canyon,

Stuffing the face with springbok, kudu, impala and other assorted antelope,

Painting the desert red in Sossusvlei,

Anti-climactically, finding Windhoek amazingly boring.

Western Cape:

Understanding what gale force winds really mean at the Table Mountain,

Listening to the best string trio (and accordion) at the Waterfront and watching an impromptu dance by a 70 year old woman,

Crossing the highways from V&A to the Westin – ignoring the usual warnings of not to walk,

Watching the spectacle of Penguin against the world at Boulder Bay,

Screaming through a 30′ boat ride through roller coaster seas for a Cape fur seal encounter at Hout Bay,

Getting completely drunk on a wine “tasting” tour of the Groot Constantia estate,

Discovering the prettiest cottages in the world in Franschoek and Stellenbosch,

Figuring out that CT is a great retirement option,

Falling in love with the Cape route,

And finally, discovering the meaning of life at the Cape of Good Hope (“Don’t sweat the small stuff”)

Rest of South Africa:

Swaying to U2 in the Soccer City stadium in Jozi,

Using the power of the tele zoom to get close enough to The Edge to touch him,

Driving through Johannesburg CBD at 7:30 PM in a convoy, hoping that noone would smash the car windows…

… hearing that happened to a friend later anyway,

Living in Sandton for so long that the hotel staff welcomed me home when I showed up after 4 months,

Getting utterly lost on the way to Hartbeespoort dam and driving through Alexandra, where they’d kill you as soon as look at you…

… and driving alone through a 6 km stretch of road with the concise warning: “Area prone to car-jackings”,

Partying: in Sandton, Rosebank, Parktown… just partying,

Running through the rain at 1 AM, regardless of warnings not to walk at night and arriving at the hotel filled with awe at our daring,

Getting a massage in the middle of the bush at night,

Finding myself in the middle of a discussion on whether to fuel the car or to break-down and leave ourselves to the tender mercies of the supposed terrorists lurking in every corner,

Meeting and greeting two leopards – mother and son, in the Sabie-Sabie,

Coming face-to-face with a pride of four lions that also would rather kill you than look at you,

Encountering a family of warthog taking the highway in the Kruger and anthropomorphizing them (“Darling, let’s take the highway, nay?”),

Discovering masculine skills like “cooking a braai”,

Finding the South African accent in my English,

Falling irrevocably in love with the country.

Lesotho:

Taking one hour to travel 200 m from South Africa into Lesotho,

Entering the country with just an entry stamp!

Searching for the donkeys that were mentioned in the Lonely Planet as Lesotho’s chief mode of transportation,

Adjusting to the low light conditions in a shabeen,

Making WWII jokes in a group of Germans and Israelis (woe is me),

Checking out the mad skills of a medicine woman (and also her trusty blue steed/storage area).

Europe:

Walking with my mouth fully open in Keukenhof,

Partying till 4 AM on Saturday morning with a bunch of Germans in Berlin…

And partying till 3 AM on Sunday morning with the same bunch of Germans whilst forming an elite club called “League of Shorties”,

Visiting the Ice Bar in Amsterdam with the Shorty and friends, cackling at the joke, “I don’t have the key. I am level 3.”,

Defiantly ordering a cappuccino in Milano at 2 PM and pretending not to see the Italians dying in the aisles,

Exploiting the executive lounge of the Ambassador Hotel, having breakfast in bed and lunch at St. Germain in Paris,

Building up my house with Pooja in Brussels,

Running through Frankfurt airport Terminal C to the First Class terminal with luggage (3 km including passport control) in 15 minutes behind two directors,

Gawping at Hamleys London again and wishing I was 5 years old,

Discovering the finer points of London (shopping).

US:

Spending most of Easter Sunday stuck at church in Philadelphia, praying for the service to end,

Finding Gino’s Philly cheese steak superior to Pat’s,

Appreciating the Rockefeller Center for more than its architecture,

Stumbling on NYC’s best cupcakes at Magnolia’s (yum),

Getting a handle on Warhol at the MoMA,

Signing up for membership at the New York Met and spending 10 minutes next to the half bust of Nefertiti,

Watching Jon Stewart on Monday and Steven Colbert on Tuesday,

Coming away much affected by Colbert’s personality and introspection,

Wearing jeans in the Waldorf-Astoria lobby  and learning about the dress-code later,

Feeling overawed by the New York skyline,

Listening to the story on Osama Bin Laden on the flight home.

The Philippines:

Never figuring out how exactly to cross the street in Manila,

Partying with French folk!

Ingesting most of the ocean during a sailing trip in Boracay and nearly capsizing,

Getting unbelievably sunburnt due to an obstinacy to put sunscreen,

Listening to reggae at 1 AM by the seaside

Reading a book at 2 AM by the seaside,

Discussing life and other dilemmas with a friend at 3 AM by the seaside,

Paying taxes to come to the country, go through the airport, leave the country, sneezing etc,

Paying 600 pesos to get from one side of the airport to the other…

… and missing the connecting flight anyway.

Australia: 

Spending a rather topsy-turvy Christmas in Melbourne,

Meeting the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road,

Checking out the marine life at the Great Barrier Reef,

Equating Cairns to Kerala in my head, down to small waterfalls,

Impressed by Sydney’s unique mix of New York city skyline and Australian panache,

Discovering, once again, the meaning of life during the best New Year’s Eve celebration on a cruise through the Parade of Lights (“Always display a child-like wonder”)

Ringing in 2012 in the best possible way with a million other Australians.

 

Happy New Year, people!

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