31 March 2013

Mount Kenya - Day 2, Burguret Route

Approaching Highland Castle

I’m half awake and lying in my tent at the Giant Bamboo Camp, which is our first campsite of the Burguret Route on Mount Kenya. I’ve had the urge to pee for at least a few hours now, but haven’t been able to muster up the energy or overcome my fear to leave the tent.

Fear?... What fear?

29 March 2013

Local Guides: Indonesia - Krakatau

Me and our guide, Gimon
Gimon and me on Anak Krakatau, Dec 2012.
"Local Guides" will be a recurring theme here at Global Goebel Travels, where I recommend local guides from the various locations that I visit around the world.
In December, I visited Anak Krakatau, or "Child of Krakatau", as a weekend getaway from Jakarta.  After contacting a few different companies, I eventually settled on a company called Ndeso Adventure.  After settling all the details, they hooked me up with a guide named Gimon.  Oddly enough, after working in Indonesia for seven years, he's the first person I've ever met named Gimon.

27 March 2013

Mount Kenya - Day 1, Burguret Route

These Trees Can Talk

It’s February 18, the day after my 36th birthday. Where have all my years gone? I’m starting another trek today, on another trip, to yet another country. Is this really only my 51st country? Wait… this is my 51st country. Although I haven’t made it to every country in the world as some bloggers my age have, nor have I even joined the travelers’ century club, 51 countries is no small achievement. By the time I finish this 25-day trip, I will have increased my total to 54 countries. At that point, I will have been to more countries than I have been to Pearl Jam concerts! (Anyone who knows me personally can attest to the fact that is a shocking statistic).

My 51st country is Kenya, and I’m here to climb Mount Kenya, the second tallest mountain in Africa, as a warm-up for my climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. It should be noted, though, that my group was only climbing to the top of Lenana Point, the third highest peak on Mount Kenya and the highest one that you can reach without any technical climbing skills or equipment. At 4985m (16355 ft), however, making it to the summit of Lenana Point is no small feat.

22 March 2013

One Day In Bahrain

Do you think this grass will clean my teeth?

As the "Arab Spring" spread through the Middle East, Bahraini citizens began their own uprising in February of 2011 with hope of gaining more political freedom and more respect for human rights from the monarchy. These protests and riots are still breaking out on a regular basis in this small island country in the Persian Gulf. More than 80 people have died in Bahrain during two years of political unrest. However, during my recent trip to Bahrain, everything was quiet.

As you may have guessed, Bahrain was not in the original plans for my Kilimanjaro-climbing trip. When booking my flights to/from Nairobi using frequent flyer miles, I ended up with a three-day stopover in Dubai. At the time, I was thrilled since I had never been to Dubai and was curious about seeing Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, as well as some of the other architectural gems of the gulf city-state. Little did I know that two months after confirming my Nairobi flights, I would end up on a flight for work that included a 19-hour Dubai layover that was more than enough time for me to get a taste of the overdone Middle Eastern excess of the city. Immediately, I began to brainstorm other alternatives for my Dubai stopover.

12 March 2013

Conquering Kilimanjaro

We made it!

I’m at the top of Africa.  This is the highest point on the earth between the Himalayas and the Andes.  This is Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro.  The sun is rising over the horizon, which looks endless from this elevation on the highest freestanding mountain in the world.  Taking my camera out of my bag requires extra concentration from my oxygen-deprived brain and extra effort from my fingers that have been numbed by the bitterly cold wind.  I’m nearly overcome by emotion as Aloyce, my guide, hugs me and says “Congratulations!”  I made it!

* * * * * * *

Aminieli, one of our porters, shakes my tent at 10:35pm.  I’d barely slept in the last four hours after dinner; my mind was filled with anxious thoughts about making it to Kili’s summit.  After all, yesterday when we arrived at the Barafu base camp, we watched as several dazed-looking people, barely able to walk on their own, were being led down with arms over the shoulders of their guides and assistants.  One relatively fit-looking guy in his 20s or 30s was even being led down with an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth.

01 March 2013

Travel Tip: Currency Exchange in Burma

Kyat Attack
© Ryan Goebel
The currency in Burma is known as the Kyat, which when pronounced sounds more like "chat".

Pretty much every guidebook, travel blog, or message board post will tell you not to exchange money at any official currency exchange location (airports, banks, hotels, etc.).  Rather, they'll tell you to exchange your money on the black market, which involves approaching some shady characters on street corners, in public parks, or in traditional markets.

Let me tell you, Burma is a country that is changing at a very rapid pace, and this "common" travel advice is now outdated and irrelevant.

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