Epilogue-Round the World

Epilogue-Round the World

Vastly different from any other place we’ve been for the last 14 months, it’s great to be back for summer in New England. It’s green, lush, warm, and smells great this time of year. We left home close enough to the time of the season we left so it seemed like we came back to pick up where we left off, one year later.

We celebrated 30 years of marriage during the trip, and now we celebrate surviving over a year in constant close proximity of each other. Odds are pretty good we’ll make it to 31.

Egypt, Jordan and Israel. May to June

Egypt, Jordan and Israel. May, June 2013.

With the faith that we would do our best to “not be in the wrong place at the wrong time”, we were wildly successful, and in fact, dodged some pretty crazy stuff. Among them were the Egyptian coup, violent protests in Turkey, acid-throwing Islamists in Stonetown, Tanzania, an airplane crash in Vietnam, and an eye infection in Indonesia.

Turkey. June to July

Turkey. June, July.

Nothing significant befell on us, we never lost our luggage, we never had to sleep out on the street, never had a flight canceled, no snake bites, and we never got assaulted or robbed. Not to say we didn’t get our share of nickel and dime tourist-shuffling because we certainly did. That’s just part of traveling.

Tanzania and South Africa. July and August

Tanzania and South Africa. July, August.

Although Cindy didn’t develop many new blog posts, she was a tremendous help in contributing good ideas and editing my writing. To cut expenses, she worked hard cooking almost every meal in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii! Mostly, she gets gold stars for going out of her comfort-zone so often and putting up with my need for constant activity.

China and Vietnam. September and October

China and Vietnam. September, October.

When we think about some of the special moments or places that we visited, there are some things that come right to the top of our heads. One of the standout events was when we visited our friend Thomas’ parents in Chengdu, China. They did everything to make us feel welcomed as very special guests. We got to ‘hang’ with the locals and to experience and taste the ‘local’ Chengdu. Some of our best meals were ordered for us by our gracious and generous hosts.

Indonesia. October and November

Indonesia. October, November.

Our itinerary was jam-packed with amazing sights from the pyramids of Giza to Iguazu Falls. There were almost too many awesome and beautiful sights to see along the way. Alas, you can’t see them all. Some were planned from the beginning, some were planned along the way, and many that were never planned just became a great part of the adventure. Global eye candy aside, there’s no substitute for the human experiences. The people we met along the way and the stories around them are what made this trip unique; from people who became friends to those we only spent a few moments chatting, watching a great scene together, or maybe just a story or a laugh. Sometimes it was making a connection with a local–someone who is normally separated from us by great distances or cultural chasms–sometimes it was a connection we made which led to dinner and interesting company and conversation.

Australia. December and January

Australia. December, January 2014.

The type of accommodations we chose did a lot to shape our experiences, especially hostels and bed and breakfasts, or airb&b’s (airbnb.com). These were places where we met other travelers and got to spend time with hosts who gave us the scoop on the area and on what there was to see and do. Special thanks to our house ‘moms’ Lina and Maria, of Medellin and Buenos Aires respectively, for making our stays so comfortable and pleasant.

New Zealand. January and February

New Zealand. January, February.

Cindy and I agreed we could have packed more lightly by leaving some clothes behind. But the oddity we took that no one else had was our masks and snorkels. They gave us many hours of underwater viewing enjoyment at many times interspersed through our travels.

Hawaii. February and March

Hawaii. February, March.

Thanks for reading and thanks to those who took the time to comment or send an email. The blog was more effort than I’d imagined but it was fun to document what we saw and experienced, and of course, it was also a great way to keep in touch and let everyone know where we were and what we were up to.

Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil. March, April, May, and June

Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil. March, April, May, June.

Total days on the road: 424

Number of times crossed the equator: 9

Countries visited: 16. Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Tanzania, South Africa, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil.

Continents: 5

Shortest stay: Brazil–4 hours.
Longest stay: Colombia–9 weeks.

Number of weeks renting cars: 12
Number of weeks driving on the left side of the road: 9

Total cost not including airfare: $65,000
Includes some costly stuff: Campervan rental, iPad, iPhone, 3 cameras, 1 week Galápagos Islands cruise, 3-night cruise in Turkey, 1 night cruises in Halong Bay, Vietnam and Whitsundays, Australia, 3 day Tanzanian safari, helicopter ride in Hawaii. Not included was the cost for care of our dog, Sox.

Airfare: $16,000

budget: $166/day + $15,000 airfare
actual cost: $153/day + $16,000 airfare

Best answer to “Do you speak English?”: “Why, I am English!”

Best meals:
–Meals hosted by Thomas’ parents in Chengdu, China.
–Fresh whole fish, salad, rice, juice drink. $5 for two. Manado, Sulawesi, Indonesia.
–Runners up: Chicken, soup, rice, juice drink. $1.75 Quito, Ecuador.
Bife de Chorizo (tenderloin) barbecue in Buenos Aires ($10).

Worst food: Yak! Yak stew, yak sandwiches, grilled yak. Home-stay in north Sichuan province, China.

Means of conveyance:
Walk/hike; Canoe; Raft; Plane; Helicopter; Motorcycle; Motor-scooter; Horseback; Horse-drawn carriage; Parachute; Paraglide; Kayak; Sailboat; Row boat; Yacht; 4×4 monster truck; Car; Collectivo; Bus; Train; Water taxi; Ferry; Cable car; Pedicycle; Trolley.

Buenos Aires II to home

Buenos Aires II to home

We returned from Iguazu for the second week in Buenos Aires wanting to take in as much as possible. It was hard to imagine this would be the last week of a 14-month long trip.

Seen for the first time: tattooed mannequin

Seen for the first time: tattooed mannequin

It’s the middle of winter. We planned on following good weather as we traveled east across the globe but crossing the equator can be a game changer and the term ‘good weather’ is a relative one. After all, South African and (north) Argentinean winters are not like the ones at home. Long sleeve shirts or light fleeces were warm enough for the harshest conditions. Buenos Aires’ winter feels more like a fall or spring New England day. The locals are wearing winter coats, scarves, and occasionally I’ll see a pair of gloves. The dogs are sporting their winter coats, too.

Clowning around Buenos Aires

Clowning around Buenos Aires

There are many museums here and we visited quite a few. One of the best known is The Museo Nacional de Belles Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) which houses one of the best collections of fine art from the late 15th to the early 20th century.

Without bread, without work, Corrrrr, 1894

Sin pan y sin trabajo (Without bread and without work), Ernest de Carcova, 1894

The museum did not lack spirit of humor as there was a special exhibit from Argentinean artist/cartoonist, Miguel Rep, which made light of the very museum.

Miguel Rep's interpretation

Miguel Rep’s updated “Without bread and without work”

The food here is great. They call barbecue, “asado”, and it is taken as seriously as futbol. We went to a restaurant recommended by hosts Maria and Enrique, called El Placio de la papa frita, or, in English and far less appetizing-sounding, The Palace of Fried Potatoes. The tenderloin was awesome, of course, but the reason for the restaurant’s name is the way the fried potatoes are prepared. Each piece of potato was crispy and puffed up with air. Cindy and I wondered how they produced this neat little trade secret. Were there little elves in the back injecting each piece with air? We also tried the fried calamari which were the most tender and smooth tasting, not even a bit chewy.

Agua Corrientes. A  palatial public waterworks built ini 1894.

Agua Corrientes. A palatial public waterworks built in 1894.

Regarding futbol, or “soccer” in the parlance back home (I’m not quite sure why we call American football as such since it’s not really played with the foot very much), the World Cup started play while we were there. One evening we were meditating when there were cheers from the streets, horns blowing, car horns blasting, and a general loud hubbub outside. We thought the game had ended, but in fact, it was only a goal made by Argentina. Vamos Argentina!

San Martin square; giant  tv for public futbol viewing;  English Tower in the background

San Martin square; giant tv for public futbol viewing with Tower of the English in the background

We learned to look down when walking the streets in most cities. Buenos Aires was no exception. The sidewalks were not all smooth but at least there were no gaping deep shafts to fall into as there are in some cities. Yet, all was not roses in Buenos Aires, especially in Palermo, the area in which we were staying. The streets were littered with dog excrement. Except where shop owners and doormen had cleaned up, it was inexplicable why people did not pick up after their dogs. After all, didn’t they risk stepping in some themselves?

Recoleta cemetery is like a small walled-in city where the streets are made up of tombs and mausoleums. Many of the city’s aristocrats, rich and famous are buried here. One of the stars is Eva Peron.

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

There are more twists and turns in Spanish than in dancing the Tango. In Buenos Aires there’s an accent exhibited by the double ll’s and the “y’s” pronounced with a “sh” sound. So, after learning to sound those letters as a “g” in Medellin, Colombia, then as a “y” in Ecuador, I had to make another leap in my mind by double-translating from “g” or “y” to “sh” in Buenos Aires. Of course, in Porto Iguazu I got thrown off again since, surprisingly, their pronunciation was like in Medellin. Go figure!

Tango in San Telmo

Tango on the streets of San Telmo

Our friends Gerardo and Antonela took us to a milonga (a tango dance hall) for a taste of the real local Buenos Aires. They are not tango dancers and had never been to this place either, so it just added to the whole adventure. The milonga, called The Catedral, was in a monstrous-sized hall, perhaps a former theater, and was decked out in funky furniture and decor; they used the old, “wooden cable dispenser on its side” trick for one of the tables. There was a tango lesson going on while we ate, and interestingly, we recognized a couple of the teachers as they were the same dancers we’d seen in San Telmo our first week in Buenos Aires. The skilled dancers were exciting to watch as they maintained their gracefulness despite steps that didn’t look simple to execute.

Fuerza Bruta was a unique theatrical experience. Audience members stand on a floor of a large hall while the theater staff push them around to make room for performers to wildly swing, run, drum, jump, stomp, swim, slide, and splash, over, around and among the audience. A flood of the senses!

At Fuerza Bruta

At Fuerza Bruta

The last night in Buenos Aires –and the last night of our voyage– was spent at our airb&b digs where our hosts became further embedded hosts for a night of music produced by ‘Songs from a Room’, an organization with venues in 80 cities that –by invitation-only– host audiences and musicians who play original music in hosts’ homes. The empty wine bottles stacked up over the evening for this byob event. This chance occurrence provided us a very unique and enjoyable evening.

'Sounds from a room' music party

‘Sounds from a room’ music party

The next day we headed back home. We flew through Santiago, Chile and Toronto, Canada. I wondered what they were like.

Coming into Santiago, Chile

Coming into Santiago, Chile

Cindy and I looked at the backpacks we’d been living out of for 14 months. Then we looked at the boxes upon boxes of stuff at home, and then back at each other and wondered together, ‘What are were going to do with all this stuff?’.

bill and cindy