Monday, July 24, 2023

The Optimal Overland Route Around Africa


I asked AI… 

How can one plan the most optimal overland journey across all African countries, considering factors like quality of experience, time efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, while ensuring the inclusion of the top must-visit attractions in each country?

AI answered…

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you with this ambitious adventure:

  • Research and Create an Itinerary: Begin by researching all the African countries and their top attractions. Compile a list of the top must-visit sights in each country, considering historical landmarks, natural wonders, cultural experiences, and wildlife encounters. Use travel guides, online resources, and recommendations from experienced travelers.

  • Plot Your Route: Once you have the list of attractions, start plotting your route on a map. Consider the geographic proximity of the countries and the most efficient way to travel between them. Plan your itinerary in a way that minimizes backtracking and maximizes the flow of your journey.

  • Set a Budget: Determine your budget for the entire trip, including transportation, accommodation, food, entry fees to attractions, and other expenses. Be realistic about the costs associated with such an extensive journey and allocate your resources wisely.

  • Choose the Right Vehicle: Since you'll be traveling overland, select a reliable and sturdy vehicle that is well-suited for long-distance travel. Ensure the vehicle is well-maintained and equipped for off-road conditions, as some areas in Africa might have challenging terrains.

  • Consider Time Constraints: Be mindful of the time you have available for the journey. Traveling to every country in Africa and visiting multiple attractions in each will take a considerable amount of time. Prioritize the top attractions and allocate time accordingly.

  • Plan Accommodations: Research and book accommodations in advance, especially in popular tourist destinations. Consider a mix of hotels, guesthouses, camping, and other budget-friendly options to balance the budget.

  • Be Aware of Visa Requirements: Check the visa requirements for each African country you plan to visit. Some countries offer visas on arrival, while others require pre-arranged visas. Ensure your passport has sufficient validity for the entire trip.

  • Plan for Safety: Africa is a vast and diverse continent, and safety considerations are crucial. Stay updated on travel advisories, political situations, and health risks in the countries you plan to visit. Register with your country's embassy in each country for added security.

  • Pack Smartly: Pack appropriate clothing for various weather conditions, as well as essential items for long drives. Don't forget to bring necessary documents, travel insurance, and any required vaccinations.

  • Be Flexible: Despite careful planning, unexpected situations may arise during such a journey. Stay flexible and open to adjusting your itinerary as needed.

Remember that attempting to visit every country in Africa and exploring the top attractions in each one is an ambitious and extensive undertaking. Depending on your time frame, resources, and preferences, you might need to adjust the scope of the journey to make it more feasible and enjoyable. Enjoy the process of planning and embark on this incredible adventure with a spirit of curiosity and respect for the diverse cultures and landscapes of Africa.

Creating a comprehensive route to cover every country in Africa and visit the top sights in each one is an extremely complex task that would require a vast amount of time and detailed planning. However, I can suggest a high-level route that covers the major regions of Africa and includes some of the continent's iconic attractions. Keep in mind that this route is quite ambitious and may take several months or even years to complete, depending on the pace of your journey. Feel free to research each destination in more detail to plan your trip thoroughly.

    • Northern Africa:

      • Start in Morocco: Explore Marrakech, Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert, Chefchaouen.

      • Algeria: Tassili n'Ajjer National Park, Algiers, Roman Ruins of Tipaza.

      • Tunisia: Carthage, El Djem Amphitheatre, Sahara Desert oases.

      • Libya: Tripoli, Leptis Magna, Sahara Desert.

      • Egypt: Cairo, Giza Pyramids, Luxor (Valley of the Kings), Aswan (Abu Simbel), Alexandria.

    • Western Africa:

      • Mauritania: Banc d'Arguin National Park, Chinguetti Desert Town.

      • Senegal: Dakar, Goree Island, Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary.

      • Mali: Timbuktu, Dogon Country, Djenne's Great Mosque.

      • Burkina Faso: Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Ruins of Loropeni.

      • Ghana: Accra, Cape Coast Castle, Kakum National Park.

    • Central Africa:

      • Niger: Agadez, W National Park, Bilma Oasis.

      • Chad: N'Djamena, Zakouma National Park, Ennedi Plateau.

      • Libya: Tripoli, Leptis Magna, Sahara Desert.

      • Nigeria: Lagos, Abuja, Yankari National Park.

      • Cameroon: Yaoundé, Douala, Waza National Park.

      • Central African Republic: Dzanga-Sangha National Park, Bangui.

    • Eastern Africa:

      • Sudan: Khartoum, Meroe Pyramids, Nubian Desert.

      • South Sudan: Juba, Boma National Park.

      • Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Lalibela, Simien Mountains.

      • Eritrea: Asmara, Massawa, Dahlak Archipelago.

      • Djibouti: Djibouti City, Lake Assal, Day Forest National Park.

    • Southern Africa (Continued):

      • Uganda: Kampala, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Murchison Falls.

      • Rwanda: Kigali, Volcanoes National Park, Lake Kivu.

      • Kenya: Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Mount Kenya.

      • Tanzania: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar.

      • Mozambique: Maputo, Bazaruto Archipelago, Gorongosa National Park.

    • Southern Africa (Continued):

      • Malawi: Lilongwe, Lake Malawi, Liwonde National Park.

      • Zambia: Lusaka, Victoria Falls, South Luangwa National Park.

      • Zimbabwe: Harare, Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Hwange National Park.

      • Botswana: Gaborone, Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park.

      • Namibia: Windhoek, Namib Desert, Etosha National Park.

    • Southern Africa (Continued):

      • Angola: Luanda, Kissama National Park, Tundavala Gap.

      • South Africa: Cape Town, Kruger National Park, Table Mountain.

      • Lesotho: Maseru, Sani Pass, Maletsunyane Falls.

      • Swaziland (Eswatini): Mbabane, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.

      • Madagascar: Antananarivo, Avenue of the Baobabs, Isalo National Park.

    • Island Nations:

      • Comoros: Moroni, Mohéli Marine Park.

      • Seychelles: Victoria, Anse Lazio, Vallée de Mai.

      • Mauritius: Port Louis, Black River Gorges National Park.

      • Cape Verde: Praia, Fogo Island, Sal Island.

Keep in mind that this route is just a general outline, and you may need to adapt it based on visa requirements, safety considerations, and seasonal weather patterns. It's essential to research each destination thoroughly and plan for contingencies while ensuring you comply with all local regulations and cultural norms during your journey. Happy Travels!

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Free Swimming Pools in Austin for the Summer

Photo credit:

Summers in Texas can be notoriously hot. I've found that there is no better way to cool off than to hit up one of the free swimming pools around town. After a game of basketball, ultimate, pickleball or a hike, I like to drop by my neighborhood pool, rinse in the shower, then take a plunge. Sometimes I swim a few laps in the lap lane, but often I just wade in the shallow to cool my body temperature. Check out this list of free swimming pools. My favorite pools are Ramsey in my neighborhood, Canyon Vista in the northwest and I'll go for the free night swim 
at Barton Springs Pool from 9pm to 10pm. Check the schedule because some pools are closed on certain days for maintenance.  

North Austin:

  • Balcones | 12017 Amherst Dr. | Closed on Mondays | Schedule 
  • Brentwood | 6710 Arroyo Seco | Closed on Tuesdays |  Schedule
  • Canyon Vista | 8455 Spicewood Springs | Closed on Thursdays |  Schedule
  • Kennemer | 1031 Peyton Gin Rd. | Closed on Mondays |  Schedule
  • Murchison | 3700 North Hills Dr.| Closed on Mondays | Schedule

West Austin:

  • Ramsey | 4200 Burnet Rd.Closed on Thursdays | Schedule
  • Reed | 2600 Pecos St. | Closed on Tuesdays | Schedule
  • West Austin | 1317 W. 10th St. | Closed on Mondays | Schedule
  • West Enfield | 2000 Enfield Rd. | Closed on Wednesdays | Schedule
  • Shipe & Shipe Wading Pools | 4400 Avenue G. Closed on Wednesdays | Schedule

East Austin:

  • Civitan – 513 Vargas Rd. – Closed on Mondays | Schedule
  • Dottie Jordan – 2803 Loyola Ln. – Closed on Wednesdays | Schedule
  • Givens – 3811 E. 12th St.  – Closed on Tuesdays |  Schedule
    (From July 15-July 29 – Givens Pool will be closed on Mondays)
  • Govalle | 5200 Bolm Road | Closed on Tuesdays | Schedule
  • Martin | 1626 Nash Hernandez Sr. Dr.| Closed on Wednesdays | Schedule
  • Metz | 2407 Canterbury St. | Closed on Thursdays |  Schedule
  • Montopolis | 1200 Montopolis Dr. |  Closed on Tuesdays | Schedule
  • Parque Zarazoga | 741 Pedernales St. | Closed on Thursdays | Schedule
  • Patterson | 1400 Wilshire Blvd. | Closed on Wednesdays | Schedule
  • Rosewood | 1182 Pleasant Valley | Closed on Mondays | Schedule

South Austin:

  • Big Stacy |  700 E. Live Oak St. | Closed on Mondays | Schedule
  • Dick Nichols | 8011 Beckett Rd.| Closed on Mondays | Schedule
  • Dittmar | 1009 W. Dittmar Dr. | Closed on Tuesdays | Schedule
  • Dove Springs | 5701 Ainez Dr. | Closed on Thursdays | Schedule
  • Gillis | 2504 S. Durwood Ave. | Closed on Wednesdays | Schedule
  • Little Stacy Wading | 1400 East Side Dr.Closed on Wednesdays | Schedule


Barton Springs and Deep Eddy Pools are municipal pools and typically charge an entrance fee. However, at certain times of the day they offer free swim times. Check the schedule for hours of operation and free swim times.

  • Barton Springs | 2131 William Barton Dr. | Schedule
  • Deep Eddy | 401 Deep Eddy Ave.| Schedule


    Monday, July 10, 2023

    Outdoor Gear and Travel Essential Deals To Watch on Amazon Prime Day

    Looking for some deals on outdoor gear and travel essentials during Amazon's Prime Day. These are some of the items that I'm hoping will be on sale.

    Paddleboards and Paddling Gear - I've really enjoyed paddling my SUP this summer, so I'm always browsing for a deal on my dream SUP the Red Pad Co Compact. I have a dry bag to carry my accessories, but can one ever have too many dry bags. :)


    Fishing Gear - I really don't need a new rod and reel, but it is fun to browse. I really would like to pick up some fishing accessories like a portable scale to weight my fish and good hook remover.

    Travel Technology - My old power bank works well for many of my electronics, but it takes a long time to change my new iPhone. These new Anker power banks are supposed to have quick charging capability. I could also use a case to carry all my electronics for traveling.

    Backpacking Gear - I've had my eye on one of these little air pumps to inflate my sleeping pad. It they go on sale, I'll be very tempted. I've trusted my Sawyer Squeeze water filter for all my backpacking trips. I'd love to have an extra one dedicated for my paddling trips. 


    Everyday Essentials - I'll also consider scooping up some deals on everyday essentials like mineral sunscreen and medicine.  

    Wednesday, June 21, 2023

    15 Things To Do in the Hot Summer in Austin, Texas

    Hoping to beat the scorching summer heat in Austin, Texas, but apprehensive about stepping outside? Here are some cool ideas! 😎

    The city and surrounding area offers an abundance of outdoorsy activities that will help you stay cool while having a blast. From refreshing swimming spots, to adventurous water sports, breathtaking natural wonders and a few indoor gems, Austin has something for everyone seeking an escape from the sizzling temperatures. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply looking to get out and about for a little fun, this list of hot weather activities in Austin will ensure that you create some memorable summer experiences. It's always a good idea to try to do these activities in the early morning or early evening when the temperatures are cooler and the sun is less intense. So grab your water bottle, dab on some sunscreen, and get ready to make the most of the Austin summer!

    1. Barton Springs Pool: Take a refreshing dip in Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed pool with cool, clear water. It's a popular spot to beat the heat. The pool charges an admission between $2 to $9 during regular business hours, but early in the morning and late in the evening there is a free swim. There are a number of free neighborhood pools scattered around the city as well.
    2. Chase Water Holes: Don't go chasing waterfalls, go chase some waterholes. Outside of Austin, there are a number of popular swimming waterholes. You can develop a list and make a scavenger hunt for waterholes. Notable locations include: Krause Springs, Hamilton Pool Preserve, The Llano Slab, Pedernales Falls State Park, Jacob's Well and The Blue Hole in Wimberly.
    3. Kayaking or paddleboarding on Town lake (aka Lady Bird Lake): Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore Town Lake, which offers stunning views of the Austin skyline while keeping you cool on the water. Officially it is illegal to swim in Town Lake, but if you accidentally fall in, no one will know. For me, the best time to paddle is between 7:45 pm to 8:45 pm to catch the sunset over the water. My favorite place for renting boats for a day are The Texas Rowing Center and The Rowing Dock. Other fun locations to paddle near Austin include Lake Austin, Pace Bend, Canyon Lake, Lake Georgetown, The San Gabriel River and Inks Lake.
    4. Go underground. There are an abundance of caverns and caves in Austin and the surrounding area. Temperatures inside a cave are typically in the 60s or 70s. Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, Natural Bridge Caverns in San Antonio, Longhorn Cavern State Park near Burnet or Wonder World Park in San Marcos are all great options.
    5. Rent a boat and go water-skiing, wakeboarding or cruising. You can rent a ski boat and try you skill at walking on water or you can rent a pontoon boat with a shade cover and just chill as you cruise. Boat rentals are available from some of the established operators like Keep Austin Wet, Float On or check out a boat sharing service like Boatsetter.
    6. Indoor rock climbing: Escape the heat by trying indoor rock climbing at one of Austin's climbing gyms. It's a fun and active way to spend time while keeping cool. Check out Mesa Rim or The Austin Bouldering Project.
    7. Go tubing on the San Marcos, Comal or Guadalupe River: Drive to the San Marcos or New Braunsfels area and enjoy tubing down the crystal-clear waters. It's a fun and relaxing way to beat the heat while enjoying the scenic surroundings. Start your float before 9:30am to beat the huge crowds.
    8. Outdoor fitness classes: Many parks in Austin offer swimming lessons, fitness classes, even outdoor yoga during the summer months. Join a class and exercise in the fresh air while benefiting from professional instruction. These classes are led by professionals and limit heat and sun exposure.
    9. Go on a BBQ and Watermelon run. Make your way to via Lockhart to Luling. Eat some of the best BBQ in Central Texas at Blacks, Smitty's, Kreuz's in Lockhart and City Market in Luling, then wash it down with a Golden Melon from the Luling Farmers Market.
    10. Attend a live music show: Austin is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," and there are many opportunities to enjoy the vibrant local music scene after the sun sets. The biggest and possibly the best concert series is Blues on the Green. The concerts are not exclusively blues, they often offer rock, country, latino and funk music. The Long Center hosts The Drop In which tends to be more mellow sounds and more chill crowd. These concerts typically start after 7pm when the temperatures cool down a bit. Combine a concert with a dip in Barton Springs for the quintessential experience.
    11. Outdoor movie screenings: Look out for Movies in the Park screenings during the evenings after the sun sets in Austin parks or venues. Grab a blanket or a lawn chair, and enjoy a movie under the stars during the cooler evenings. During the middle of the day, treat yourself to an indoor movie at an Alamo Drafthouse Theatre.
    12. Visit indoor attractions: Spend time in air-conditioned spaces like the Blanton Museum of Art, Harry Ransom Center, The Thinkery (a children's museum), or the Austin Aquarium. The Blanton is free on the 2nd Tuesday each month. The Ransom Center is always free. The Thinkery is free Tuesday and Sunday 3pm to 5pm.
    13. Visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum or Texas State Capital Building: Immerse yourself in Texas history while enjoying the comfort of air conditioning. The museum showcases interactive exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the Lone Star State. The Capital Building offers free tours with a splash of history and politics.
    14. Cool off with cool desserts like ice cream or boba: Austin has numerous ice cream and boba shops offering unique flavors. Try places like Amy's Ice Creams or Lick Honest Ice Creams. Try boba shops like Chicha San Chen, Terrazo Tea, or the longstanding shop called CoCos Cafe.
    15. Finally, treat yourself! Reserve a day pass at the Hotel Van Zant pool or a number of other pools or spas. Check out this Austin Monthly Guide or find your own on ResortPass.

    Saturday, May 27, 2023

    Between Two Trails - Hiking and Packrafting from Lake Georgetown to Granger Lake


    It was all going so well, until it wasn’t. 🤣

    This is an adventure about hiking and packrafting along the San Gabriel River from Lake Georgetown to Granger Lake near of the town of Georgetown, Texas.

    Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. What's important is to always get back up.

    Spring flowers in bloom along the trail.

    Flowing water

    The sun on my back

    Ducks on the water

    A beautiful morning

    A new raft ready to launch

    And then this happened!

    Watch my hike around Lake Georgetown on the Goodwater Trail. Watch my hike around Granger Lake.

    Other good stuff. 

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