It is warm. For the first time since my departure from Baltimore, many hours and 15,994 km of flying prior, I notice the air temperature. It is distinctly un-planelike. And humid. I have arrived in the terminal of Lilongwe’s airport and am staring out the window at the lush green fields reaching to the edge of the parking lot. Taxis and shuttles board their passengers for the half hour trip into the capital city. Rather than heading to the city, I wait for my backpack, naively hoping that the South African Airways staff will somehow discover it in the empty plane and bring it to me. When they finally tell me the bag is still in Johannesburg, I find a taxi and set out for my hotel.
Having acquired some kind of cold in Marrakech, I’ve started to cough. I hoped that good food and the warm air would snuff it out before it (and I) became a nuisance. No such luck. I awake today to begin a two-day mountain trek with a full-blown hacking cough.
After the insanity of Marrakech, our first stop is the village of Imlil. Because, when in a hot, desert country, what better a thing to do than climb a mountain without any of the appropriate equipment?
As I write this from an internet cafe in Auckland, I am awaiting lunch, awaiting my bus to the airport, awaiting my flight home (fingers crossed for a cancellation). New Rule: Buses loaded with Japanese tourists, faces pressed to the glass, all holding cameras (some holding two), can appear at any time, in any location.
It began this morning in Taupo with a 5 am wakeup call for the bus ride to Tongariro National Park. The bars were still bumping and thumping with New Year’s festivities, but I suited up with cold weather gear, attempting to be prepared for the Tongariro Crossing, billed as New Zealand’s most spectacular one-day walk.
Two hours from Christchurch, through low, grass-covered hills, we swing around a bend. The road stretches out across a massive plain of grass and flowers and sparse trees, sliced in two by the grey road — a straight shot that stretches out until it disappears at the base of the Southern Alps.