Thursday, April 19, 2007

Top 5.

I've spent an inordinate amount of time over the last few days attempting to come up with a list of my Top 5 future travel destinations, eschewing all personal responsibilities, as well as most social interaction in effort to finalize the list. Before I offer the list, let me offer a few rules:

1) It can't be a place I'm likely to visit in the near future. These are distant goals, so too soon an accomplishment would seem somehow unsatisfying. Thus, Cambodia, which would ordinarily have made the list, is ineligible, as I will likely be going within the next year.

2) In general, these have to be places of long-standing interest. To go would thus be the fulfillment of a long term dream.

3) They can't all be places in Africa (I can't be that one dimensional).

My list, in reverse order (for mock suspense):

5) Uganda: Gorillas? Meh. Thankfully the country has a lot of other attractions, like soggy wetlands preserves and rain drenched jungles, all stretched out over a ridge of volcanoes from which the Nile drips.

4) Suriname: The smallest country in South America, Suriname has a lot of the elements that make a travel destination ideal for me. The culture is a mix of Dutch, Indonesian, and African influences, kind of like a Caribbean Cape Town (complete with a group called the Boeroes, descendants of the Dutch farmers, like tropical cousins of the Afrikaners I so love). Roughly 80% of the country is uncultivated, and composed of thick rainforest and tropical grassland inhabited by armadillos and anteaters. As an added bonus, the jungles of Suriname were described as the playground of human-ape lovers in Voltaire's Candide.

3) Mali: From the comforts of Southern Africa, dusty, landlocked Mali often seems like the farthest away corner on the continent. I've always been interested in earthen architecture, and in Mali, mud brick building is an art, with some of the most beautiful, unusual buildings in the world.

2) Nepal: Was the thwarted goal of my study-abroad semester (I got nervous about internet news stories about Maoist extremists, and in the end never applied). Hiking and trekking in the Himalayas holds relatively little interest for me (though I'm sure the mountains are beautiful to look at), and if anything, the history of hippie pilgrimage is somewhat off putting. Mainly, I'm curious to visit Kathmandu (a mix of modern capital and ancient mountain kingdom, and supposedly the most polluted city in the world), and I really want to look for rhinos and bears in the tall grasses of Chitwan.

1) Ethiopia: Without a doubt, number one on my list. Among it's many credentials, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, home to hyena feeding villages, and the focus of much Afro-centric mytholigization. It runs the full scale of African landscapes: cities of faded modernist monumentalism, medieval desert cities, and lush subtropical grasslands. I have now had four failed attempts at visiting Ethiopia, further cementing its out-of-reach status.

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