The place of Adventure, Travel to East Africa: Djibouti,
India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Kenya, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus and Disneyland.
Now adding Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan and Disneyland. Mexico and
Disaster, Earthquake and Emergency Preparedness and Services for San Francisco.
We also like Disneyland.
Here is an Adventure Travalogue, in the form of exerpts from a letter to a friend, a Firefighter with the London Fire Brigade. The adventure? Six weeks in India and East Africa.
...A funny thing happened on the way to your station, which, of course, I will share with you now. The gang of us en route to this adventure (Me, my Mom, Sister, and her two kids) had 9 hours to kill waiting for the plane to New Delhi. Sister hired a car and driver who met us at the airport. This driver was a very nice - but quite proper - local girl, who asked each of us what we wanted to see...
"Buckingham Palace, right... Picidally Circus, OK... Trafalgar Square, no problem.... Hard Rock Cafe....WHAT DO YOU MEAN, A FIRE STATION? WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO GO THERE, IT'S JUST NOT DONE!"
Well, she protested mighitly, and told me that there were no such things as Fire Brigade T shirts, and besides, I would never be allowed inside, all because - in all her 20 years of driving - NOBODY had ever asked for such a thing.
When we arrived, and I asked her to stop in front of the empty bay, she was sweating bullets, certain that the Police were coming for me and the car crusher truck was coming for her.
When I returned from our visit, she actually said "See, I told you..." and I showed her what you had given me! I chuckled all the way to New Delhi.......
What a great way to start a trip!
Oh yes, we did see all those things in the tourist books, although quickly. We only had nine hours!
Yes, it was a fun world trip, one I hope to repeat again some day. I was out for 6 weeks. I used my fire interest and affiliations to find other things to pursue off the beaten path. I had a bunch of shirts in my size to trade. I came back with most of them, for most of the countries I visited barely had equipment, let alone luxuries like shirts. In many countries, the firefighters wear their "Fire Brigade" strip held on by safety pins so one set can be used for years.
In New Delhi, I did get some stickers, and for those I had to have an audience with the Chief of the Brigade himself!
In Agra (Home of Taj Mahal) I was told that the fire station was outside the city limits, but that they were "Very Efficient. If I were to call them now and say a building was on fire they would be here right away, very fast. Twenty, thirty minutes at the most."
In The Maldives, I had a rifle pointed at me when I asked a soldier where the fire apparatus was. I took the hint and beat a hasty retreat.
In the Seychelles, they have a lot of apparatus in their one station, most of it old equipment retired from Japan's fire service. I have a photo of me in front of an engine proudly displaying the markings of the Yokahama Fire Brigade. Their only phone there is a pay phone. If they need to call for any kind of assistance, the dispatcher must donate a 5 rupee coin. They were very nice, and invited me to their volleyball game. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for after I sailed. But I was tempted! Seychelles is a nice place.
No sign of firefighting facilities in Zanzibar or Madagasgar, so I had to play regular tourist... Sort of.
In Mombasa, Kenya the only thing I could take away was photos, the prize of which you have. There, the Chief of the Brigade answered an incoming call because he was "closest to the phone". There were several direct connect alarms - the president's palace and 4 banks where he keeps his money. That's it. I got the distinct impression that they were there to protect the president, his palace, his money, the port and the airport. The city can burn, but if the ports, the president's money, or the president's britches get burned there will be hell to pay. 600,000 people in this city, with one fire station, and substations at the airport and the sea port.
I did an overnight safari in Kenya. In the reserve, the hotel has a moat and a drawbridge, and the rooms are built on stilts - to keep out wild animals, cobras and mamba snakes. During the safari, we are told to keep in the bus or in the hotel.
If you are seen wandering about, the rangers shoot first and ask questions later. (The fortnight before I arrived, rangers and poachers got into a gun battle out there. A ranger or two were killed, as were two of the three poachers. The third was arrested. Any guesses that the third poacher thought the first two were the lucky ones?)
The lions would like to make you a meal. Ostriches consider you a threat and will kick you with enough force to do you in. Cobras spit blinding venom - then bite. Bye! Green mambas aren't so bad. If you get antivenin within 30 minutes, you MIGHT make it - but might wish you haden't. Black mambas aren't so nice. You get bit, you have 3 minutes to make your reservation in the sky. I stayed in the vehicle.
We were assured that no poisonus snakes could get into the hotel, but were told that some non poisonous ones liked the warmth of beds, so if we were to wake up and find a snake in our bed, not to worry, just go back to sleep and don't disturb him.
As far as fire safety there, we were on our own. Probably the nearest engine company was in Voi, about 40 miles away. Lots of occupant hose cabinets were provided, but no smoke detectors. There were a couple of fire exits, but they were heavy screen doors, with a 'smash the glass to get the key' near each. The stairs led right down to the Savannah below - and all those hungry nocturnal animals.
It was really beautiful there. Sunset at the salt lick was fascinating with some animals going to sleep, and others just waking up. A Gazelle was found by a lion that night, and those that were awake saw raw nature at work. I was sleeping under the mosquito netting at the time.
We set sail from Mombasa. When I return I'm bringing picture postcards and pens - personalized ones. They go nuts for them there. The firefighters went crazy for postcards of the ship. I bought a carved wood elephant for 2 ball point pens.
Heading North, we skirt the coast of Somalia 16 miles offshore. Their longest range missles only go 15 miles. I'm still here, so I guess the navagator did his job well. Nobody wants to stop there.
In Djibouti, (Look that one up - I had to!) There is one fire station with two engines - both foam throwers, and a trailer - another foam gun. Mission: Protect the oil in the port, the port itself, and the president's palace. That was a really interesting port of call. The most primitive country I visited. It was great. I even negotiated down the price of my souveniers - in French! Interestingly, this weekend a letter was returned to a friend of mine as undeliverable - one year later - from Djibouti.
In southern Egypt, no sign of fire equipment - but plenty of people with guns! Jeeps with 50 cal machine guns were not uncommon, and soldiers were everywhere. OK, so I got to visit King Tut. He's still there, I saw him with my own eyes.
In Jordan, Petra city was an astounding sight, with some amazing experiences. Some imposible things happened there. Outside the dead city, they are building like crazy - hotels for tourists who want to visit the ruins.
In Cairo, I did fleetingly see some stations, but we were never allowed to venture on our own. Yes, I saw the pyramids - and even went into one! The Sphinx is smaller than I thought, but the pyramids were bigger. Took a camel ride. The rides to and from Cairo were under military escort. Apparently some malcontents take potshots at tourists - which they did a week or two later, killing a bunch of visitors.
Compared to Cairo, Port Said is a party town - well, as wild a city as you can get in a Moslem country. Free wandering day and night.
The next stop was Israel, but the Palestenians were blowing up busses, and the Israelis were beating the crap out of the Palestenians, and neither wanted a bunch of tourists with cameras running around. The Captain thought his big white ship might be too tempting a target for some nut, so we went to a much more peaceful place... Cyprus!
In Cyprus, they make civilized war. During the winter,I guess they fight. During the tourist season away go the guns, and out come the visa card machines. It's the first place that took credit cards since Kenya. Nice place. Bring money - it's expensive.
Then it was time to catch a 4:30 AM flight out, a lay over in London for a few hours, then back home to catch up on 6 weeks of undone work, develop a bunch of photos, and give a presenttion to the local Ham radio club as to where the hell have I been!
Here's a fun story: I had the boys during the winter break week in February. On Tuesday, I was conducting the presentation during the monthly OES meeting. I turned it into a surprise drill and replayed the 1906 earthquake for modern times. I had everybody running everywhere! Opening sealed envelopes and putting the pieces togeather. At the end, following the debriefing, I announced to all (the boys were there) that in the morning, "WE'RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND!" The boys were thrilled! We had 4 days there, and a lot of fun. It was great! I'm broke now, but who cares? It was a great surprise, and an adventure trip. You get to do that soon. Enjoy!