Photo Of The Day: Camel Safari In Jaisalmer

Today’s multi-image Photo of the Day features scenes from an overnight camel safari in the desert surrounding Jaisalmer, India. Instagram user LankaEdited used a photo collage smartphone app to share different snapshots from her adventure, then added the “Rise” filter to the finished collage for a vintage effect. Apps like PhotoGrid or InstaPicFrame make it easy to achieve this type of multi-image storytelling, which is becoming ubiquitous on platforms like Instagram.Do you have any great travel photos? You now have two options to enter your snapshots into the running for Gadling’s Photo of the Day. Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool, or mention @GadlingTravel and use hashtag #gadling in the caption or comments for your post on Instagram. Don’t forget to give us a follow too!

[Photo Credit: Instagram user LankaEdited]

Video Of The Day: Drawing 100 Camels In Mali

Before I watched this video, I only remembered that Bamako was the capital of Mali from playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” as a child. After watching, I know that the people are friendly, the music is lively, and at least 100 people know how to draw a camel. American Phil Paoletta has been on a mission to travel in West Africa and draw camels, in no particular order. For this project, he raised over $1,000 for Malian refugees in Niger displaced from the north of Mali, and taught 100 people in Bamako how to draw camels in 24 hours. Why camels? They are “seductive and elegant animals,” according to Phil, and learning to draw one can only make your life better. Enjoy a few minutes of Malian friendliness, music and a whole lot of humps.

Learn something new about a culture (or dromedary) from a video? Leave us a link in the comments or on our Facebook page for a future Video of the Day, or add photos to the Gadling Flickr pool.

10 unique modes of transportation around the world

chicken busCars, trains, buses, and planes aren’t the only way to get around a country. From the Bamboo Train in Cambodia to the Rail Cart in the the Philippines to the Couch Bike in Canada, here are ten unique modes of transportation from around the world.

Chicken Bus
Guatemala, Central America

While variations of the chicken bus can be found in many different countries (this reminds me a lot of taking the tro-tro in Ghana, Africa), this vehicle is used not only to transport people but also livestock, hence the name. These U.S. school buses are very eye-catching as they are colorfully painted and decorated. When taking one expect cramped conditions, as chicken buses tend to be packed to capacity, and hectic driving at Nascar speeds.Sled Dogs
Alaska, USA

Sled dogs are highly trained dogs that are used to pull a dog sled, which is a vehicle without wheels that glides over snow and ice. If you need a mental image, think Santa being pulled by reindeer, only you’re not flying and there are dogs instead of deer. Endurance and speed are the two main qualities that sled dogs must possess, and this transportation type has become a popular winter sport in other countries around the world such as Japan and Germany.

human powered rickshawHuman Powered Rickshaws
Kyoto, Japan

While urbanization across Asia has mostly done away with this traditional form of transportation, you can still find them used in certain areas where cars are not accessible in Kyoto, Japan, as well as in some parts of India. According to Kelvin Lim of BootsnAll, many rickshaw “drivers” wear a special foot-glove that helps them travel through various types of terrain without slipping.

Elephant
India and Asia

In India and many places in South East Asia, an elephant is not only an animal but also a mode of transport. When I was Vietnam I actually went on an elephant ride with a local school owner named Roy who explained to me that “in many Asian countries we use animals to help with labor”. While once used to carry the wealthy around, today exploring a country on the back of an elephant is a big tourist attraction.

habal habal Habal Habal
Philippines, Asia

The Habal Habal is a unique motorcycle that can seat many people. The simpler versions seat 4-5 people, with a seat that extends over the back wheel, while the more complex type of Habal Habal can seat up to thirteen people and their luggage with the addition of wooden planks acting as benches.

Rail Cart
Philippines, Southeast Asia

The rail cart is most commonly found in the Philippines and is literally a cart that is pulled along rail tracks by a person, people, or a horse. The special wheels on the cart allow for quick transport but, unfortunately, are not always fast enough to get out of the way of the real trains that also use the tracks.

reed boatsReed Boat
Lake Titicana, Peru

Lake Titicana stretches across the countries of Peru and Bolivia and is home to many floating villages around Southern Peru. These villages are inhabited by the Uro people, who use natural resources, like reed, to construct homes and boats. The boats are light but resiliant and, built in the shape of a dragon, are said to have been used by the anicent Incas to ward off evil spirits.

Camel Back
Jordan, Middle East

While there are many places where camel rides are popular, one way to try out this transport option for yourself is by trekking through the beautiful rose colored deserts of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Cairo, Dubai, Mongolia, Morocco, and many deserts in India are also known for being camel riding hotspots.

couch bikeCouch Bike
Canada

When I found this highly unusual mode of transportation, I was kind of expecting it to be from America. The Couch Bike, which is literally a couch that you pedal like a bike, pokes fun at sedentary culture while providing an eco-friendly alternative to driving. Just make sure you know the traffic laws of the city you’ll be riding in, as the vehicle may not be legal to drive in all areas.

Monte Toboggan Ride
Madeira, Portugal

This unique transport mode is only for the adventureous. Once a popular mode of transport in the 1800’s-early 1900’s, it is a big tourist attraction today in Madeira. Passengers sit in a wicker or wooden tobaggan and ride down the mountain from Monte to Funchal. While an exhilerating experience, you don’t have to worry too much about crashing as there are two locals “steering” the vehicle from the outside. It’s kind of like being a kid again and having your parents pull you around in a sled, only your parents probably weren’t yanking you down a steep mountain with winding turns.

Eating in the Horn of Africa: camel, goat and. . .spaghetti?

Horn of Africa, Somaliland
When my wife and I went to the Horn of Africa last year for our Ethiopia road trip, we were eagerly looking forward to a culinary journey. We weren’t disappointed. Ethiopian food is one of our favorites and of course they make it better there than anywhere else!

While it came as no surprise that the food and coffee were wonderful, the cuisine in the Horn of Africa turned out to be more varied and nuanced that we expected. The two countries I’ve been to in the region, Ethiopia and Somaliland, have been connected to the global trade routes for millennia. Their national cuisines have absorbed influences from India, the Arab world, and most recently Italy.

Ethiopians love meat, especially beef and chicken. One popular dish is kitfo–raw, freshly slaughtered beef served up with various fiery sauces. I have to admit I was worried about eating this but I came through OK. Chicken is considered a luxury meat and is more expensive than beef. One Ethiopian friend was surprised to hear that in the West chicken is generally cheaper than beef.

Ethiopian booze is pretty good too. Tej is a delicious honey wine and tella is a barley beer. They also make several brands of lager and one of stout.

I’ve also spent time in the Somali region of Ethiopia and Somaliland. Living in arid lowlands rather than green and mountainous highlands, the Somalis have a very different cuisine than the Ethiopians. A surprising staple of Somali cooking is pasta. Actually on second thought it isn’t so surprising. The former Somalia was an Italian colony for a few decades. Italian food is popular in Eritrea and Ethiopia as well and makes for a refreshing change from local cuisine. Some Somalis are still pastoral nomads, moving through the arid countryside with their herds of camels and goats much like their ancestors did centuries ago. Pasta is a perfect food for nomads–compact, lightweight, nutritious, and easy to prepare.

The only downside to eating pasta in the Somali region is that Somalis, like most Africans, eat with their hand. I made quite a fool of myself trying to eat spaghetti with my hand!

%Gallery-136247%Goat is a popular meat in the Somali region and is served in a variety of ways. I love a good goat and have eaten it in a dozen countries. It’s tricky to cook, though, and can easily be overdone and end up stringy and flavorless. Good goat, however, is one of the best meats around. For some expert opinion, check out Laurel Miller’s fun post on the cultural aspects of eating goat.

While goat is the main meat for Somalis, what they really like is camel. These ships of the desert are expensive, so camel meat is usually reserved for special occasions like weddings. Wealthy, urban professionals eat it fairly regularly, though. At the Hadhwanaag Restaurant and Hotel in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland, expert chefs slow-cook goat and camel in clay ovens that look much like tandoori ovens. The meat comes out deliciously tender and fragrant. Lunch at the Hadhwanaag was easily one of my top five meals in Africa.

Oh, and don’t forget Somali tea! A mixture of black tea, spices, and camel’s milk, it’s almost identical to Indian chai. The perfect pick-me-up after a long day seeing Somaliland’s painted caves or looking for your next edible ride at the camel market.

The Horn of Africa has an unfair reputation for warfare and famine. This is because it only gets on the news when something bad happens there. It makes a great adventure travel destination, though, and the determined traveler will find fascinating sights, friendly people, and great food. With any luck I’ll be back there in 2012!

Ethiopia’s Somali region: a potential adventure travel destination?

adventure travel, Adventure Travel, Ethiopia, camels, Somali Region
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been exploring Ethiopia’s Somali region. While my quest for Ahmed Guray’s castle was a failure, I did see potential for adventure travel in the region.
Adventure travelers generally are looking for three things: historical sights, interesting cultures, and natural wonders. The Somali region is a bit short of historical sights, although there are a few of interest, but it’s strong on culture and nature.

First, the historical sights. The main one is Alibilal Cave in the Erer District, about 10 km (6 miles) from Erer town. This cave is covered with prehistoric paintings of cows, giraffes, gazelle, and other figures. Last year I was amazed by the prehistoric cave art of Laas Geel in Somaliland, and I’m really curious to see this cave. I’ve seen some video footage and it looks impressive. Other historical sights include the mosque I wrote about yesterday, and some colonial buildings scattered about the region.

The Somali Region is much stronger on cultural attractions. There aren’t many places left in the world where you can see camel herders living much as they did centuries ago. You can drink fresh camel milk in traditional domed huts made of mats. Try shay Somali, Somali tea that’s mixed with sugar and camel’s milk and tastes a lot like Indian chai. The culture here preserves itself by oral traditions. Sitting with a clan elder and listening to his stories can be a one-of-a-kind experience. The Somali region is the easiest place to experience Somali culture, being cheaper than Somaliland and far safer than Somalia.Most Somalis don’t speak English, of course, but I know of at least one Somali tour guide in Harar, Muhammed “Dake” (guleidhr @yahoo.com). He even spent some of his youth herding camels in this region! Harar makes the best base for seeing the Somali region. It’s much cooler and more interesting than the dusty lowland regional capital of Jijiga, and only adds an hour to your trip.

Because the Somalis are unused to tourism, adventure travelers will be free from a lot of the usual hassles like touts and pushy vendors. Expect plenty of attention though, and a large dose of curiosity. This isn’t a bad thing. You’ll get into lots of interesting conversations that will teach you about the local culture. Virtually all foreigners they see are working in NGOs, so expect a lot of questions about your development project.

Ethiopia’s Somali Region offers plenty of natural attractions for adventure travel. There are five regional parks with various types of wildlife. The Somali officials I spoke to recommended Dado Park, which has lion, giraffes, and elephants. I also got to see three families of baboons on the highway between Harar and Jijiga. Another attraction are the Somali Region’s many hot springs. Like hot springs everywhere, they’re reputed to have healing qualities and people come from all around to “take the waters”. The easiest to get to from Harar or Jijiga is in the Erer district near Erer town, not far from the Alilbilal painted cave. The town is 113 km (68 miles) from Harar and the cave and hot springs together would make a good day trip from Harar. The Erer-Gota hot springs are located on the grounds of one of Haile Selassie’s palaces (now gone to ruin) and it’s still popular with people looking for cures of various diseases. Hot springs are popular with herders too, who wrap their lunch up in cloth and stick it in the water to cook it! Reminds me of wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil and sticking it in the coals of a campfire.

Let me stress that while I’ve been through the Somali Region twice now, I haven’t seen many of these attractions myself, only heard about them from Somalis. Hopefully next year I’ll have a chance to explore this region more thoroughly. In the meantime, if you go to the Somali Region, please drop me a line and tell me your experiences. One person already has. A member of the Ethiopia-U.S. Mapping Mission wrote to tell me that he spent a year there in 1967-68 mapping the region. He had lots of fun hunting and exploring, even though he often didn’t bathe for up to two weeks at a time! Veterans of the mission have a website called the Ethiopia-United States Mapping Mission with lots of information and photos. Be sure to check out the “Stories and Memories” section.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Harar, Ethiopia: two months in Africa’s City of Saints

Coming up next: Not sure yet. Wherever my travels in the Harar region take me!