Hotel Room, Hot Meal Preparation 101, for the Wanderer.

I have spent a lot of time in hotel rooms over the past 3 years.  From 2010 to 2011 I spent so much time in a hotel (almost one year) that I knew about 30 hotel staff by name.  It’s not that I particularly enjoy staying in hotels, but rather my company requires it!  Many people think it’s great fun to stay in a hotel, and it is for a short period, but after about 2 months the fun wears-off.  The 4 walls suddenly begin to close-in on you.  Even worse than the lack of space in the typical hotel room, is the inability to cook for yourself.  Unfortunately, my hotel here in Equatorial Guinea does not have a kitchenette, so conventional cooking is not possible.  But there are always alternatives to the “conventional’ way of doing things and cooking is no different.  There are about a dozen restaurants within walking distance of my hotel but after a while they become “boring” and “expensive.”  The high price of prepared food here in Malabo forced me to look for other options.  As a result, I have become fairly skilled at preparing tasty, hot meals in my hotel room, for a fraction of the cost of local restaurants.  Not to mention the meals taste pretty darn good too!  Remember, you want to be a good hotel guest and not set  the curtains in your room on fire (so cooking with an open flame camp-stove is not recommended) and you don’t want to bother other guests with the smell of fried fish emanating from your suite.

What’s the solution?

Thermos cooking!

Tips for Hotel Room Hot Meal Preparation;  Thermos Cooking.

– If your hotel room does not provide an electronic “tea-kettle” I recommend you invest in one.  They are cheap, around $20.00.  Make sure the kettle brings water to a boil and has at least a 4 cup capacity.  All hotels nowadays have electricity, don’t they?

-Bring a small “Thermos” type insulated Bottle / Flask with you on your travels.  I have been using a
“Hydra-Flask” and really love it.

-Find a local supermarket / fruit and veggie stand and buy some of your favorite canned goods and fresh veggies / fruits.

-Now comes the really easy step, combine the canned food with your fresh veggies in the “Thermos” and simply add boiling water.  Put the top on the Thermos and let stand for about 30 minuets.  Since the canned meats are already cooked, you are simply trying to soften the veggies and heat the meat in the Thermos!

-Now comes the even easier step, consumption.  Place the contents of the Thermos into a serving bowl  and enjoy.

Above, an example of what I have been using to prepare hot meals in my hotel room, a Hydra-Flask insulated bottle, an assortment of shelf-stable foods, my “Sea-to-Summit” camp bowl with top and fork / spoon combo-tool.  Add food to the flask, add boiling water, place top on flask, let stand for 30 mins and then eat!


Great Shoes for the Wanderer, Teva Mens Riva Leather Event

I know footwear pretty well.  I spent over 24 years as an Infantry Marine hiking with heavy loads on my back in just about every “clime and place.”  Good quality footwear for the Traveler, Adventurer or Wanderer is a must!  After I find, and wear a great pair of footwear till it’s about worn to pieces,  I usually say, “I should have bought two pairs, because now that model is discontinued…”  Before “Teva” discontinues the “Mens Riva Leather Event” model shoes, I will try to buy another pair.  The Riva Leather Event shoes are really, really comfortable and very well made!  I think at $140.00 (REI price) they are some of the most expensive footwear I have ever purchased (excluding “Gore Tex” Boots), but I am completely satisfied with them!  I recently looked at the “Teva” website and they apparently only have them in “bouillon” or (brown) now, but the pair I bought at REI are green and black (see picture below).

Above, the “Teva Mens Riva Leather Event” shoes, great for the Wanderer!


Personal Hygiene Tips, for the “Wanderer.”

During a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to Houston, Texas, I found myself waiting in the TSA security screening line for about 45 mins with 100+ other travelers.  An attractive, 30-something year old gal was in front of me with her carry-on suitcase.  On-top of her suitcase was a large see thru, plastic zippered pouch, filled with about 30+ different “make-up” / “cosmetic” items.  My initial thought was, “wow, I’m glad I don’t need all that stuff…” (maybe I do and my friends are just too kind…)
Then I began to think, what items do I take when I travel and what are the absolutely necessary hygiene items one needs while traveling (or at least what I need).

After much consideration, I’ve decided to give my list of “necessary hygiene items” for the “Wanderer.”

– Baby Wipes and Rubbing Alcohol;  

Baby Wipes with Rubbing Alcohol added are a great way to freshen-up after a long trip and are a wonderful alternative to the conventional “shower.”  I buy unscented baby wipes in the 100 count packs for about $3.00 on-line.  I use them to give myself a “cowboy” bath (sometimes called a whore-bath, but not appropriate for this blog).  I add about a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to the baby-wipes before I clean my armpits, crotch, buttocks and feet.  The added alcohol helps prevent, athletes-foot, monkey-butt, jock-itch and just plain-old-smelly-pits!  Caution, if you already have the early stages of monkey-butt or jock-itch then the rubbing alcohol might cause a brief but intense, “my junk” is on-fire sensation but this sensation will only last about 10-15 seconds (consider yourself warned)!

– Toothbrush with SteriPod;

A clean mouth is a happy mouth.  Oral hygiene should be an important part of every “Wanderer’s” daily routine.  I have traveled for years with those little plastic toothbrush caps to keep my toothbrush “clean,” but eventually my toothbrush always got that nasty crud on it.  Then I found “SteriPod,”  the clip-on toothbrush sanitizer.  It’s basically a toothbrush cover with safe anti-microbial properties.  I have found that the average “SteriPod” lasts about 3 months before it start to lose its antimicrobial properties.  I also recommend the small, travel size, toothpaste tubes.  They tend not to explode as easily as the large tubes and if one should have a blow-out, you have other tubes as back-ups.  Don’t forget dental-floss too.

– Anti-Biotic Ointment;

In the tropics, a small cut can easily become a major medical issue if not properly treated.  A small tube of anti-biotic cream, like “Neosporin” or “Bacitracin” can help prevent infection.  I apply a small amount of cream to any cuts before they become problematic, remember “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

– Body Wash;

I travel with a few small plastic bottles of body-wash.  I find that body-wash alone works fine to clean my entire body and hair, no need for separate shampoo, body-soap and conditioner, one bottle does it all!

– Travel Towel;

I like the micro-fiber travel towels, they are compact, lightweight and very absorbent!  Google, “travel towel, micro fiber” and you will see way too many options.

– Sunscreen;

I am of “English-Origin” and am pretty fair-skinned.  “Sunscreen” is a must for me!  I like the small travel size tubes of sunscreen you can find in the “travel section” of your local Walmart.  They cost about $1.49 each and are small enough to fit in your pocket.

– Lip Balm;

I take a few tubes of SPF 15 or higher lip balm on all my travels.  Chapped, cracked lips are no fun!

– Baking Soda;

I take a small box of “Arm and Hammer” on all my travels.  I use it to help settle an upset stomach.

– Nail Clippers;

Your fingernails and toenails will continue to grow no matter what time zone you are in, don’t forget the nail clippers!

– Electric Razor / Disposible Razor:

I know that for most men, shaving is optional when wondering the globe.  Probably so, but ….I like to shave my face on a daily basis.  I take a Panasonic Wet-Dry Shaver and a few disposable razors on my travels.

– Vaseline:

I take a small tube of “vaseline” on all my travels.  In the event of an outbreak of monkey-butt or a rash in the crotch region, vaseline is great to have!

– Laundry Detergent;

An essential part of personal-hygiene is keeping your cloths clean.  I recommend a small plastic bottle of power-laundry detergent.  The advantage of powder is that if the container explodes during travel, you are not left with a sticky mess in your suitcase or backpack.

Above, my toothbrush with the “Steripod.”  A must have for the “Wanderer.”  It keeps your toothbrush “crud-free” for about 3 months!


The Jungle Consumes……….

“Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle” – African Proverb
Whether you call it the “Forest” or the “Jungle,” here in Equatorial Guinea, it’s the same thick, lush green wall of almost impenetrable vegetation. 
Below, a view of the town of Moka, Bioko Sur, Equatorial Guinea, from the mountains above.

Below, a series of pictures of a Spanish era colonial home near Moka, slowly being consumed by the jungle.


Packing for a Trip and Securing Your Valuable Stuff While Traveling:

Above, 2 available options for securing your money, passport and credit cards while traveling, I highly recommend one of these wallets.  Make a pickpockets job as difficult as possible!

Quick Tips;
1.    Travel with only what you can afford to lose.
Nowadays everyone needs at least some money, a passport and the clothes on their backs for international travel, just about everything else is nice to have items.  Carefully decide what you take on a trip, if you cannot afford to lose something, like that beautiful gold necklace your Grandma gave you….leave it at home!
2.    Carry on your person or in your carry on bag, those things that are absolutely necessary.
There are certain items everyone needs to travel, like a passport, credit cards, cash, essential phone numbers, medications…etc.… It’s a good idea to keep these essential items in a carry-on bag or on your person when traveling.  Luggage gets lost more often than you think, so don’t roll the dice and take a chance that your checked-bags will arrive at your destination! 
3.    Locks are to keep “honest” people out, if something is not with you at all times or under your supervision you do not control it!
No one is safe from a determined thief!  If someone wants something bad enough they will find a way to defeat a lock and steal it!  That means if you don’t have an item on your person at all times or under your close supervision, you don’t really have control of that item!  I’m not trying to scare you but rather, “remind” you that if something is really important to your travel plans like your “passport,” then carry it with you at all times in a secure wallet around your neck or in a waist belt!  You need to be the judge, if you have a modern electronic room safe in a 4 star Hotel; your valuables are probably safe.  On the other hand if you are in a Hostel sharing a room with 5 new “friends” you might want to have your passport, credit cards, and cash on your person, even when you sleep.
4.    Travel as light as possible
Travel should be fun and as carefree as possible.  If you have all sorts of expensive electronic devices and other valuables you are worried about getting stolen, you cannot have a stress-free trip.  Travel with only what you really need, in other words travel light!
More Travel Advice:
A seasoned traveler told me years ago,
“If you can’t afford to lose something then leave it at home, don’t travel with it.”
The point being, carefully look at everything you plan to take on your trip and decide,
“Do I really need this?”
Quite often, we take things on trips that we think we are going to use and they never leave our suitcases.  Make an honest assessment of all the items you plan to take and take only what you will use.  Then ask yourself, “can I substitute a less valuable item for something more expensive?”  A wristwatch is a great example; can you afford to lose the expensive one?  Or will a $20.00 dollar watch serve your purpose?  Jewelry is another example; can you take costume jewelry instead of more expensive pieces?  The answer is probably yes you can.  Like my friend said, “If you can’t afford to lose something, then leave it at home, don’t travel with it.”
Now that you have determined you can survive a 2 week trip to Rio de Janeiro without the $2500.00 Rolex, and that the $25.00 Casio Watch will meet your needs, let’s talk about how you travel with what you really need to take on your trip.
Make a List:
I recommend that everyone make a list of everything they plan to take on their trip, to include the clothes on your back and the things in your pockets.  When you have a visual list of everything you plan to take, it’s much easier to take less than you thought you might need!  Then take the list and prioritize it from the most important items to the least important ones.  If you find that you don’t have room for everything you planned to take, you can leave less-essential items at home!
An example list might include;
1)   Travel Clothing (it’s never a good idea to show up to the Airport Counter naked)
a.    Jeans
b.    T-Shirt
c.    Socks / Underwear
d.    Leather Belt
e.    Hoodie
f.     Ball Cap
g.    Rain jacket
h.    Cell phone
i.      Casual Shoes
2)   Passport with Visa (worn around neck in secure wallet or in Waist Money Belt)
3)   Wallet
a.    2 Credit Cards
b.    $1000.00 in Cash
c.    Emergency Phone Numbers
d.    Travel Itinerary
4)   Carry-On Bag
a.    Lap-Top Computer
b.    Medications
c.    Nutrition Bars / Snack
d.    Water Bottle
e.    Power Cords with Adaptors
f.     Extra Socks / T-Shirt / Underwear
g.    Handy-Wipes
h.    Water Purification Device
i.      Extra Cell Phone Battery
j.      Pocket Camera
k.    Small Combination Lock
l.      Sun Screen
m.  Insect Repellant
5)   Suitcase
a.    2 Pairs of Travel Pants
b.    3 T-Shirts
c.    3 Pairs of Socks
d.    3 Pairs of Underwear
e.    Umbrella
f.     Sweater
g.    Sandals
h.    Swimsuit
i.      Hiking shoes
j.      2 Dress Shirts
k.    Extra Belt
l.      Dress Slacks
m.  Travel Towel
n.    Toilet Articles
o.    Step Down Power Converter
Now, take the list and send it to yourself in an email and also print a copy and carry it with you.  That way if your bags get stolen or miss a connecting flight, you know exactly what you have lost.  Also, make sure your bags are clearly marked with your name and contact information.  Another good idea is to mark your bags so that they are unique to you, that way nobody will take them at the baggage claim by mistake.  A bright bumper sticker or piece of ribbon secured on your bag them might be enough! 
Securing Valuables;
I recommend you invest in a good quality waist money belt or an around the neck wallet.  That way you can carry the most important things like your passport, credit cards and cash securely!  I wear one all the time.  I prefer the waist money belt because it can easily fit under the waistband of my trousers or shorts and it makes a pickpocket’s job virtually impossible.  Since you want the “secure” wallet to be a secret, I recommend you carry spending cash in your pocket so you need not access the money belt in public.  If you do need to access something from your money belt, go to the restroom and do it privately!  That way the potential thief doesn’t know what you are carrying.  Hiding valuables in your shoes or socks or for women, in your bra, can be uncomfortable and you will look weird always touching these areas to see if your valuables are still in place.  With the waist money belt, you can confirm the belt is still in place by simply placing your hands on your hips!
Remember it only takes a thief seconds to take your unattended items at a café, on a train or in a hotel lobby.  There are thieves that actively patrol these areas looking for easy targets.  Don’t be the easy target.  As mentioned before, keep your bags under your supervision and keep important documents on your person!


Stuff for the Wanderer, Water Purification 101

Everyone knows that water is life!  It doesn’t matter how tough you are, no man can survive long without water!  All smart “Wanderers” should have a plan to ensure they have access to safe drinking water during their travels.  I do not recommend simply relying on bottled water at your destination, it’s always prudent to have the means to purify your own water for drinking.  
I relied on what I thought was “safe bottled water” while hiking the “Inca Trail” in Peru in 2003 and ended up getting quite ill!  I bought what was supposed to be “bottled water” while hiking.  It was “bottled water,” but what I didn’t know was that the vendor on the trail was the one who “bottled” the water straight from the local stream.  The water was complete with parasites at no extra charge!             I learned the hard way about the importance of safe drinking water!  Please learn from my mistake and  take your own water purification equipment when you travel.
The same methods that your local municipal water-works uses to make water safe to drink at home are available to the smart traveler at a reasonable cost.  I take 3 methods of water purification when I travel, a micro-filtration system, an ultra-violet pen and chemical treatment tablets.  I don’t use all three methods together, but certainly could if I felt the need in situations where the water source was extremely contaminated.  Normally I use the micro-filter system first and then the ultra-violet pen to ensure my water is safe.  The filter removes over 99.99% of viruses, bacteria and other nasty critters and the ultra-violet pen kills anything that may have gotten through the filter!  If you are really worried about your water supply, you could then chemically treat it in a third step!  
The picture below is what I use; 
On the right, a “LifeSaver 3000” micro-filtration system.  It operates very well in even the most extreme conditions because it is a positive pressure system.  Meaning you hand pump it to force the water through the filtration membrane, thus speeding the process.  No more waiting 30 mins for gravity to carry the water through the filtration process!  
In the middle, the ultra-violet system I use, a “Steri-Pen Adventurer.”  It is very handy because it came with a solar charging case, therefore I always have the means to keep the batteries charged and ready to purify water.  
Finally, on the left,  I have “Portable Aqua” tablets to chemically treat water if necessary.  
It’s always smart to have a back-up plan to your back-up plan when it comes to purifying your drinking water…..   

Above, the “Portable-Aqua” chemical water treatment tablets, the “Steri-Pen Adventurer” ultra-violet water purifier, and the “LifeSaver 3000” micro-filtration system.  I have used them with great success in Latin America and Africa!


Great Stuff for the Wanderer, EXOFFICIO Underwear!

If you have followed my blog since it began about 2 years ago, you know that I like to post recommendations of equipment / gear / clothing etc… basically things that I think are great for someone with a mobile lifestyle or for someone living off-grid or in an RV for example.  It’s been a while since I last recommended something, I have been meaning to do it for a few months but the internet connection at my hotel here in Malabo has been really “hit or miss” and mostly “miss” lately, so posting any pictures has been really slow.  This weekend the hotel changed the password which appears to have freed the network from all the band-width thieves in the Plaza across the street.  For the time being, I have a pretty good connection, so I’ll try to post a few recommendations.

I have traveled a lot during my life, I have been to some “really nice places,” and I have been to some really “less than nice places.”

My accommodations have ranged from the luxurious,

The “Sofitel Grand Hotel” in Amsterdam, on the high end of luxury….

To the less than luxurious like,

A snow-cave in Norway, a two-man tent on the peat moss bogs of the Hebrides, Islands of Scotland, or a GP tent in the jungles of Sok Son, Cambodia.

One thing that all these places have in common is that the frequent traveler eventually needs to have his or her laundry washed.  No matter how rough and tough you are, no one likes to smell you from 30 paces.  When you can smell yourself, it’s definitely time to wash you drawers!

Speaking of drawers, that’s exactly the piece of clothing I am going to recommend, that’s right, underwear.
I know many men will say, go commando, I don’t wear any underwear….. blah, blah, blah… that’s your call, but I recommend that all smart travelers wear underwear.
Why?  You never know when you will be in a situation where you will want to change your outer clothing, like going from a pair of long pants in the jungle to a pair of shorts on a nearby beach.  If you have on underwear, you can change clothes without offending the local population (or in some people’s case “frighten the locals”) or without getting arrested by the local police for indecent exposure.

Ok, what’s my recommendation, it’s EX OFFICIO boxer briefs.  They have been the best underwear ever invented for the mobile lifestyle.  They are comfortable, rugged, quick drying and don’t look like they fell out of grandpa’s closet!

Above, a pair of my drawers, the EXOFFICIO boxer briefs.  Perhaps the greatest pair of underwear ever invented for the frequent traveler.  I can wash them in my hotel room sink and air dry them in about 8 hours.  If you notice, I have a “bungie-cord” type clothesline.  It has also been a great piece of travel gear!  It’s a “Rick Steves” travel clothesline.  You can hang it anywhere!

EXOFFICIO Boxer Briefs………………. about $30.00 a pair
Rick Steves clothesline…………………….about $15.00
Clean Drawers………………………………..PRICELESS!


A Walk in the Jungle……..

Today, a few friends and I spent the afternoon in the town of Batiokopo,  located south of Malabo about 1/2 to Luba on the main road.  A friend of mine, Fernando, lives there and he offered to show us around and teach us about the edible plants found in the Equatoguinean jungle.  Fernando has lived in the small village his entire life and there is probably no one better qualified to give us a guided tour.  Only a short walk from his home is a small plot of land where he has established a very impressive garden, full of dozens of edible fruit trees and other plants used in teas or other medicinal remedies.  On an island of volcanic soil, just about anything can grow!  Papaya, mango, pineapple, 4 types of bananas, lemon grass, edible roots, date palm nuts, white and black sugarcane, grapefruit, cocoa, coffee and jungle apples are just some of the many plants he showed us.  Unfortunately, he showed us so much I can’t remember everything.  He is truly a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the “Flora and Fauna” of Equatorial Guinea.  It’s easy to see how one could survive a pretty long time on just the food that grows naturally in the jungle!    

Above, a jungle path in the Equatoguinean forest.

Below, a puppy followed us into the jungle for about the first 100 yards, before remembering that he is not safe in the land of snakes.  He quickly ran back to the safety of his hut!

Above, Escargot for sale along the Luba Road.

Below, a papaya tree full of tasty fruit.

Above, a pineapple in the Equatoguinean jungle.

Below, a stand of bamboo.

Above, a small cove north of Luba provides a safe harbor for small fishing boats.

Below, Fernando, cut some fresh black sugarcane.  He explained that it has medicinal properties.

Above, the 4 corner Bananas, one of 4 types we saw on our walk!


CAF 2012 African Women Championship “Futbol” Game

I have only attend a live “futbol” game in a “proper stadium,” once in my life, that being in 2001 in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!  That was pretty crazy!  It was a very memorable experience for a “Gringo” who didn’t really understand the rules of “futbol,” let alone comprehend the passion associated with the game of “Futbol” in my host nation, Brazil!
Then in the Summer of 2002, when Brazil won the World Cup Finals, I watched the game on TV and then celebrated in the streets of Rio de Janeiro with hundreds of thousands of fans… that was even more crazy than the Maracana Stadium experience.  Then there was last night……………….!
The game I attended last night in the Malabo Stadium was incredible and will be a lasting memory for sure….!  It was the final game of the 2012 CAF African Women Championships, which saw Equatorial Guinea play South Africa for the gold medal. The Malabo Stadium was packed to capacity and “LOUD.” I estimated about 25,000 fans….?  All sporting the national team color, RED and all LOUD!  We had the pleasure of sitting at midfield in the upper bleachers under the awning.  It was a blessing because it rained hard for about 1/2 an hour!  The only problem with the seats was that a pair of highly motivated teenage girls sat behind us with those inflatable noise-maker sticks that you slap together to make noise.  At about the 20 min mark I think I lost my hearing.  It was loud, so loud that even a local gentleman in front of us turned around and asked the girls to stop making so much noise….haha!
The Equatoguinean Women were dominant from start to finish and won the match 4-0 agains a strong South African Squad!  After the game we walked the 3 miles back to our hotel with about 20,000 of our closest “friends.”  The crowd was remarkably well behaved, there were beer cans scattered along the road but surprisingly few visibly drunk fans.  For the most part there was just fun celebrations, no cars on fire no mobs attacking other fans…. just lots of noise and happy people!

Above, the Malabo Futbol Stadium in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Below, the opening ceremony of the 2012 CAF Women Championships.

Above and Below, the happy fans!

Above, the President of Equatorial Guinea and the First Lady, center stage, prepare to award medals to the players of the CAF 2012 Futbol Championships!


Remnants of Days Gone By…..

Left over from the days of Spanish Colonization, this Land Rover is slowly being reclaimed by the Equatoguinean Jungle.  The Rover Company dates back to 1948, it is said that Maurice Wilks, chief designer of the company at that time actually built the first Rover on a Jeep chassis and axels.