Sunday, December 23, 2012

Slooooooow it down!

Looking back on previous Big Trips, I tend to hit this point quite regularly.  It's time to slow it down.  No seriously, I actually want the calendar to stop moving so quickly.

I think it occurred to me yesterday like hitting a brick wall, that It's Coming.  This trip, theoretical for so many years, and actual for over 6 months now, is about to happen in 7 weeks.  Yesterday at the hair salon, I made my next appointment, strategically planned so that I get a cut again right before I go.  That means two more cuts till I leave.  Yikes.

And between than and now I have Christmas off, New Year's off, and then two long weekends on the road for Morrissey shows.  Before I know it, those will be over and I'll be two weeks from going to Africa.

Gulp.  Going to Africa!

In the progress department, the clothes I exchanged all fit, so I am completely outfitted for the trip now, tops and bottoms.  The new polarized sunglasses rock (I may never drive without them again!).  I just really need to spend more time taking photos.  A lot more time.  Soon!

Merry Christmas all!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Back to safari planning

It's not planning really, as there's nothing to plan as I've said (and lamented) before.  However, there seems lots of things to buy in order to go and some considerations that I haven't had to make before.

First there is all the gear.  Not taking a real suitcase, I had to get that duffle (which I am still afraid to even pretend to practice pack in!) and a day pack that I'm not afraid to get beat up and dirty.  I found a nice day pack on sale on Rick Steves' website so I picked that up.

The clothes conundrum is a challenge, as it's about 30 degrees here regularly now, so most bricks and mortar shops are not selling warm weather wear now.  Online shops are challenging in that while they may have the type of clothes I need, it's difficult figuring out sizing.  I've already sent one box back and reordered different sizes.  I'm all set with tops, I think. Bottoms are the problem.  I also bought a new pair of sunglasses (Polarized and stylin', of course) worthy of near-equator sun in mid-summer.

For camera gear, I've bought a portable recharger as my new camera only charges batteries in the camera while plugged in, rendering the camera useless while charging.  I should be able to charge batteries with this charger in the jeep while we're out if I have to.  I also found a Gorilla tripod, which will grip on to any surface (ie: the sill of a car window).  I also bought two 4 gig Smart Cards, so I will spread my photos out over several cards, hopefully avoiding the inevitable corrupt card and lost photos.  Not that that has ever happened to me, but still.

I took a photo class a couple weeks ago at Hunt Photo in Melrose, where I bought my camera.  I wanted to learn better control over the manual settings.  While I was happy with my shots in Germany, shooting Auto on the camera left me a bit dissatisfied in high light situations.  So now I know how to use these settings, I just desperately need to practice.  And the aforementioned 30 degrees every day isn't really conducive to a lot of outside practice.

And this past week was Big Cat Week on National Geographic Wild, so I taped about a dozen shows on lions, cheetahs and leopards, all of which I hope will prepare me for what I'm about to see.  I need to remind our guide "happy stories only" because some of the stuff I've seen on these shows has made me weep.  All cycle of life I know, but still, hard to watch.

Finally probably the most important task was making the last payment on the trip, which we did this week.  So now, it's truly all over but for the going (and my Yellow Fever inoculation).  Gulp!

I know once Christmas and New Year's passes, it'll be a flash until I leave for Africa.  I just can't believe I'm at this point in preparing: buying the last few essentials before I go. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Non-safari travel

Anyone who's read this blog knows that I usually have more than a few trips in my head even when I'm focusing on one in particular.  This winter, my sister and I are taking on an unusual bout of travel, three bouts actually, which may seem a little bit crazy.

Earlier this fall, she introduced me to the singer Morrissey, and, immediately smitten with him at the Boston show, I lured her to Portland to see him again and then decided we'd need at least one more show, so we planned to head to Atlantic City in early December to see him close his US tour out there.  Unfortunately, the rest of the tour dates were postponed due to an illness in his family.

A disappointing situation turned into a windfall of new shows, as it seems Morrissey rebooked the prior shows and added a whole slew in the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  We jumped at the chance to see more shows, and bought tickets to three more.

So in January, we do two road trips over long weekends to take in shows.  The first is to Brooklyn and Atlantic City, neither of which I've visited before.  While we won't have oodles of time to kill, we are going to try to fit in the Brooklyn Museum of Art (which has a gorgeous Monet that we saw in the Paris exhibition two years ago) and a stop at MOMA to see Munch's The Scream on loan there.

The next weekend we drive to Reading, PA and then Port Chester, NY for shows.  Neither of us has come up with anything we want to see between the two cities, but there's still time to research that (and god knows I need something to research!).  I've booked hotels in all four cities and we have a rough route sketched out for each weekend.

And in a final show of insanity, my sister texted me one day during work, and while I kept hearing and feeling the buzz of my iPhone as I sat in a meeting, I was unable to grab the text until much later.  It turns out that she had two tickets on hold with Ticketmaster for the Morrissey - Patti Smith double bill in Los Angeles in March.  The problem is, it's a mere 5 days after I get home from safari.  My body will be begging for mercy at that point.  Assuming that silence equaled consent, my sister bought the tickets.  I hemmed and hawed a bit, but when, a day before Thanksgiving, I got a fare alert for LA for $250 all in, I knew it was meant to be.  So crazy or not, we're whisking our way out to LA for literally 36 hours.  I will not have any vacation time left, so we'll see the show, maybe the Shuttle Enterprise and the Getty Museum, then turn around and come home.  YOWZA.  If I'm still alive and mobile after that trip, it'll be a miracle!  My poor body clock....

Safari planning....more crossed off the checklist

Since I have next to no actual planning to do for safari (I mentioned before that the tour operator planned it all and we just need to show up and travel, so no research, no looking for restaurants, etc....) so I have spent a lot of time in recent weeks looking for clothes and gear to travel appropriately.

First up was a duffel bag, as luggage doesn't do well in the dust and rough terrain (and handling) of the Serengeti.  We take a very small commuter plane from an airstrip back to civilization at the end of the trip, so the duffel has to be small enough to fit in the hold and without wheels that could get caught on something.  I got a 30" duffel from Eagle Creek.  I went higher end with this as I want to ensure I can secure my underwear well enough that it isn't meeting me in open air on the carousel when I arrive in Kilimanjaro.  But, my friends, 30" is small.  Really small, compared to what I'd usually use to travel to Europe.  I'm more than a bit shocked.  There will be plenty of practice packing going on between now and departure time.

To help with the packing, I bought packing cubes, which two of  the references for our tour operator recommended.  This will put some order into the less than vast duffel bag.  I hope.

Next was a pair of hiking shoes.  As I never hike and knew I'd need something more sturdy, more waterproof and more likely to withstand dust and dirt than sneakers would be, I went sort of low end on this and bought a pair of hiking shoes on sale on REI's website.  I figure we won't be walking that much that they need to be uber-comfortable, and they were so cheap that if worse comes to worse and I am short on space coming home, I can ditch them there and not feel bad about it.

Finally, I knew I'd need muted tone clothing that is summer appropriate and quick drying (both in case of sweat or overnight laundering) but now that it's full on winter here in the Boston area, it is near impossible to find summer-like clothing.  I found a post on Fodors forums that recommended Sierra Trading Post, and there I was able to get two pairs of capris, one pair of long pants, three tops and a sun hat specifically for safari-going, all on sale with an additional 30% off my first order.  I already have a pair of shorts and a pair of capris I'll take too, so that should do me well for 11 days on safari.  I hope!

All that's really left is figuring out what to do for a day bag, buying travel sized cosmetics, getting my yellow fever shot and finding binoculars.  Oh yes, and that one final payment to our tour operator.  We're just about 70 days out...wheeeee!