Hello. It's 10pm in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I sit at a cafe called PataPata. In two hours it will officially be my birthday.

If you asked me a month ago where I wanted to spend my forty-ninth birthday, I would not have said Johannesburg. But shit happens and here I am.  The shit, by the way, is not bad, just shit. Don't cry for me, Soweto.

[edit: I'm happy I'm in Joburg for my birthday. It gets a bad rap (crime's bad) but if you know where to go/avoid, it's pretty safe. And it's got infinitely more soul than Capetown. Capetown's pretty. Jozi is deep.]


Welcome to my travel blog, which apparently, actually isn't a travel blog. Apparently it's more a travel WRITE than a travel BLOG. which, I think means that I don't have to provide any actionable information, such as which hotels to stay at, bridges to bungie jump off (get used to bad English), or neighborhoods in Johannesburg to avoid if you want to post a second blog entry...

The first rule in travel blogging, according to a post I read about travel blogging by a travel blogger, is to come up with a good name.

A good travel blog name:

  1. Doesn't become dated.

  2. Can be remembered after its first hearing, without needing explanation. Which means it should be relatively short, have no numbers (as numbers can be spelled out or written as digits), and have no odd punctuation (hyphens, dashes etc).

  3. Should be printable everywhere.

Hence, I have decided to call my travel blog "An Asshole's Guide to Turning Forty-Nine". So far, so good. 

A good travel blog will also have a lot of pictures. The picture above is of Kanyonyi, the Silverback of the Mubare group of Mountain Gorillas, who dwell in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the West of Uganda, just near the Rwandan border. I took the photo the second day of my African walkabout, in early December. I had arrived with a brand new camera, by far the most camera I've ever owned. Sony DSC-RX10, Mk4.

I shot for an hour as these amazing creatures descended from the trees and joined us on the forest floor. I then got back to camp and found that maybe 95% of the photos were out of focus. This one switch on the camera had been turned the wrong way, and I’d not been examining the photos I was taking closely enough through the viewfinder to know. It was a quick and brutal lesson. Gotta be present. Make sure you're in focus.

Now, you and I see different things in this picture.

You see a cute gorilla eating a stick in the jungle.

I see an ailing patriarch in great pain eating one of his last meals. Kanyonyi was very ill, wounded by a great fall and a challenge by a younger male. Kanyoni died the day after this photo was taken.

I also see an over-the-hill guy contemplating his fate, waiting to die after his virility has vanished. Hm. Wonder why.  Same picture, different focus.

Focus. There's that word again...

As per the “Asshole” part of the title, well, I am. And I’m not. Just ask me. Either way, I’m lowering your expectations, which means you’re more likely to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. A lot of that depends, too, on just how much I share with you. That’s a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, I’d like to provide an honest account of this trip, but on the other hand, I may wish to teach children at some point.  We’ll work it out.  Just don’t be surprised if I get a bit cryptic when I get to Thailand.