Keeping this blog alive through Latin America took minimal effort beyond just writing up the posts. We might pay a few extra pesos for a hotel with wifi where we could upload photos overnight or need to spend a few hours here or there sitting in an internet cafe to make sure things were running smoothly, but all and all it was easy to find decent internet connections and the electricity was pretty regular. Africa however was a whole new ballgame.
Starting in South Africa we were shocked to find some of the worst connection speeds we’d experienced on this trip. Ecuador, Bolivia, and even Guatemala, all had better connections than what we generally found in South Africa. In Latin America we used flickr as a backup for all our photos, but in South Africa at more about 10 minutes per photo to upload and with thousands of safari and animal pictures, this just wasn’t possible. We were forced to sort through our photos before uploading, spending more time on the computer and with fewer photos backed up online. At one point we uploaded only three pictures from all of Namibia.
We struggled to keep the blog going as our site is rather “heavy” to load on a weak connection and as you may remember we posted lots of articles without pictures. After a full week passed with no blog posts we began to keep a ‘time-lag’ on the blog of about three weeks, so that we’d always be ahead of the game and have plenty of time to get them online.
These efforts proved to be good ideas but still, we found difficulties. It wasn’t until Nairobi that we found a connection that could match what we were accustomed to having in Latin America. We managed to get all our Tanzania and Malawi pictures uploaded and get ahead on the blog again. The whole country of Kenya has pretty strong internet, thanks to a cable that comes from the Arabian Peninsula.
Ethiopia, I expect, will take the cake as the worst internet of this entire trip. We called it the black hole of internet. We’ve yet to visit the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, but fully expect that nothing will be as difficult as Ethiopia in terms of internet access and stable electricity. On several occasions we waited as long as 15 minutes, watching as our email box loaded, ultimately giving up without seeing it. This was in the capital, Addis Ababa, which also serves as the diplomatic center of the entire continent. We did find better internet outside the capital, but it was still relatively awful.
With Sudan, and then Egypt, we were again benefiting from a fairly stable internet connection and in Israel we suddenly felt as though we were at home with fully western connections.
Here are some tips we’ve come up with to overcome the hurdles of writing in a developing country:
1) Work offline. We write all our posts offline, edit, format and prepare them for upload before actually getting online. We try to upload and schedule an entire week’s posts at once so that the blog is covered in case we lose electricity or can’t find internet. This saves us time and frustration at the internet cafe, in many places you are charged per minute.
2) Plan B. Although we prefer to connect with our laptop, we save our posts on a data key as backup in case the laptop can’t connect.
3) Stock Photos. We uploaded pictures to our server to use as “stock” photos for thumbnails and even posts to tide us over when the connection speeds aren’t great.
Looking for more tips? Here’s a great article from Matador.com on blogging in the developing world.