Dateline: Highway en route to Austria...technology!

Good morning all...or good evening, whatever.

Road officials are on their way to Austria...other teams on their way to Vienna and Slovakia today, and we heard Liechenstein too! (Good luck with that bridge too far...) One team is on a side heritage roots tour looking for long lost relatives. Good luck all...

Thank you again to all the folks at the Hilton Budapest Castle Hotel ...we wish every property was so warm and wonderful. You should be proud of your service. Thank you all.

Just a few photos to share from the autobahn.

Danube River at night


The NEW standard for gelato (in the world?) Gelarto Rosa...a MUST!


Sublimely delicious...I had two!

Leslie & Michele plotting and planning...


Heckarewee (Dan & Leslie) currying favors from Pamela...(she's tough!)

See you in Austria...



 

Travelers Found and Running Amok Through Central Europe

Dateline: Budapest, HUNGARY - Monday April 28 – Day 18

Time…what a mental construct.

Where to begin? We are ALL here in Budapest. I just sat and listened to stories of woe while sharing a few Pilsner Urquell’s and G ‘n T’s with the lost tribe of The Global Scavenger Hunt who just arrived from Dubai--24 hours late. They are all in good spirits and humor. Good travelers know random stuff happens and you complain, moan or groan and the uncontrollable random inevitability of it, or roll with the punches. They were all true champs.

So, greetings from the Hilton Budapest Castle Hotel situated in the center of the Royal Castle District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site—who’s entire staff I must say have just been exceptional while offering each and every team an amazing experience…although maybe a tad too much information—I am talking to you guys at the Concierge Desk ;)! Thank you all.

That said, we have to close the books on the Par 2 Dubai leg of the competition that ended Saturday night. Obviously as mentioned days ago, a few team members were suffering lingering effects of India, some were able to rally, some not, and the results I think reflected that fact. Dubai was a flurry of 28-hour activity; elevator surfing took place, snow skiing was involved, ice skating occurred, desert driving happened, a lot of mall hopping transpired, the interrogating of “guest” workers was widespread, and evading UAE’s morality police (at least in spirit) came to pass. Teams were busy visiting the travel and tourism Mecca we affectionately refer to as Dubailand

In fifth place, hanging on for dear life in the waves of Lawyers without Borders wake, were Matzah Burrito (Angel & Jordan) with 775 points;

In fourth place, were the team vying for 2014 rookie of the year honors, were Heckarewee (Leslie & Dan) who amassed 880 hard-earned points;

In third place, were the tried and true sophomore team Retired Traveling Chicks (Kim & Maria) compiling 1,040 points;

Earning just 30 points more, at 1,070 points for the Dubai leg, in second place, and somewhat of an upset, were Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey);

And the winners of the leg, amassing an amazing 1,390 points were Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) with their first ever leg victory!

Congrats all, and the 2014 travel world championship leader board looks like this…

Okay, that leg behind us, road officials had to make a call this morning and begin the leg on time with 80% of teams present and ready, or wait until 100% where at the starting gate. It was decided after examining the leader board and the competition results to date to begin on time and offer a set of progressive handicap Bonus points for the three teams bumped and left behind in Dubai. That said, teams were given their European (Par 6) scavenger hunt lists at 8:30am Monday morning.

There mission is to simply get from Budapest to Krakow, Poland—about 350 kilometers directly north—by Friday at 11am. Easy, right?  Wrong! There are only about 200 possible scavenges in between in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia…and even Liechtenstein too! Mercifully, I left Romania and Slovenia off this year’s task list…

So, that is all…get from Point A to Point B, via Points C, D, E, F, G…and don’t forget the big May Day holiday either. Frankly, we have no idea where everyone will be over the next 5 days until we see them at our 11AM Krakow rally leg check in. But we do know that everyone should have fun figuring out their strategies, designing their routes and executing their plans. It will be an interesting few days. Good luck to all…

Here are a few photos from today…


The Actual View From Where I Am Writing This Post...Suite!

|
Chain Bridge

Street Scenes...

Paprika...I love paprika.

The scene outside last night!

The Mighty Hungarian Eagle

One Tired Kid...

Kim & Maria (Retired Traveling Chicks) on the move too...?


Our Tribe on Arrival In Budapest -6...

BTW: If I haven't mentioned, the road officials travel experience is somewhat different than our traveling competitors...their experiences are so much more fun and exciting than our daily grinds. This is work for us...and don't forget it!

Hello to Anna from your fair city...last time you were here!

And FYI if you don't hear from us for a few days as our teams attempt to conquer Erope, we are off tomorrow on an exciting adventure of our own to visit one of my son's school former mates, and our friends Thomas, Silvia, Clementine, Muki & Josephine who moved home to Austria a few years ago. Should be a fun sleepover!

More later...


Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

The Trials & Tribulations of a BIG International Event

Good Morning All -

First off, everyone is well and accounted for, but we hit a snag today. 

All the teams arrived at the Dubai International Airport this morning in plenty of time to take our confirmed spaces
on the flight to Istanbul. Sadly, Turkish Airline had other ideas. 

Three teams were unceramoniously bumped from the flight at the gate: defending champs The Ogopogos, Heckarewee and
the Geotrekers. And so for the first time in ten events we have an airline problem. 

WE have communicated with the three teams in Dubai and they are fine and booked on the same flight tomorrow (which
pisses me off because there were two Emirates Air flights they could have been put them on that would have gotten them to 
Budpaest much quciker...Note to self: NEVER AGAIN TURKISH AIR!)...they are being put up in a hotel and meals 
taken care of--I hear the bar bill is already three digits!

That said, we arrive over an hour late here in Istanbul with visa-on-arrivals in hand...only to find the longest immigration
line in the history of mankind. We huddled the teams...our  5-Hour Istanbul Layover Challenege was now down to maybe 
four good hours. But, being bitten once by NEVER AGAIN TURKISH AIRLINES, we decided to err on the side caution and 
we called off the layover challenge and are now cooling our heals here at the airport. Our flight to Budapest is a few hours
away. So it is Turkish coffee, seasame bagels and Turkish delight for all...but no new rugs, bowls and great food. 

(A quick aside: Go Kings and Clippers as we have always known suck....but you all knew that!)

Okay, so off to Budapest to begin the Euro homestretch Par 6...

Look for another post later.

 

Day 16 on the traveling circus that is The Global Scavenger Hunt

Ahlan wa sahlan…Welcome!

The sun is setting on our final day in Dubai…

“You know what the business community thinks of you? We think that 100 years ago you were sitting around in your tents in the desert, chopping off each other’s heads and that in another 100 years time, you’ll be back there.” (Matt Damon in Syriana)

And what a jarring juxtaposition from India it has been. On one had in India we had: surprising, authentic, cultural, enlightening, traditional, colorful, astonishing, unexpected, extraordinary, quaint, overwhelming, vibrant, chaotic, vivid, intriguing, enriching, sublime beauty…and interesting. On the other hand, you have Dubai.

Now I completely get and love the balls of autocratic ruler Sheikh Mo’s Dubai vision thing: if you build it—they will come. The motto being a developers wet dream: bigger, taller, more and the more modern the better. It is a land of untold megaprojects, a city of superlatives, of massive ego megaprojects where vanity bling abounds. It is a place designed to flatter Westerners with international luxury brands and pleases us tourists superficially (the annual month long Dubai Shopping Festival and “seven star” hotels say it all) since it rose from the unforgiving desert in less than three decades to, well, what it is today—“the fastest-growing city in the world"! (Their quotation marks.) That said, my deceased mother always told me that if you don’t have something good to say, say nothing. So I will…

So, here is Dubai in pictures…because sometimes a picture is worth a 1,000 words—sometimes not.


Hmmmm....

Camels have been replaced...

There is a method to the madness...

Food always transcends...

Will it work?

The tallest ziggurat in the world...

Some Not so Random Thoughts of the Day:

-Hard to decide where to eat here today in Dubai? Johnnie Rockets at the Dubai Mall, the Cheesecake Factory at the Mall of the Emirates, Applebee’s at Wafi Mall, TGI Friday’s at Dubai Marina Mall or CoCo’s at Diera City Mall. Or maybe you prefer Tim Horton’s, Coldstone or Pizza Hut? It is just like all the choices I have when visiting Orange County…or Las Vegas...only more of course.

-Okay, I am just wondering, but why do people pay to go up to the top of tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

-Just remember, that when you are traveling in a Muslim country, one must truly know the difference between haram and haraam...one meaning forbidden or sinful and the other meaning a holy place. I am just saying...

-I finally figured out where all the modern day oasis in dry Muslim nations are: at the Hyatt's, InterContinental’s, Radissons, Hiltons, Four Seasons and Shangri-La's...
 
-There is a bar here in Dubai aptly called Dar Al Harb (aka the realm of the infidels).

-I have noticed over the years of coming to Dubai (and all the nouveau riche Gulf States for that matter) a new type of language rising due to the massive influx of cheap foreign laborers (87% of Dubai’s population)…not Spanglish as it would be in States, but Arabenglish...

-Muslim fashion statements: it is 100 out…why do the men get to wear white and women black?

-My sense is that here in the Gulf States that freedom of expression is notably stronger than freedom after expression.

-I heard today from a reliable source that Lebanon's Bekka Valley is the new Napa, correction, make that the new Mendoza of wine regions of the world...

-Aren’t hotels odd buildings; no locks on the front door—they are always open!

-Bellman in the 21st century are funny dudes (especially in the age of roller bags), think about it: you take your luggage from your house to airport, onto the plane, off the plane, thru the airport, into the cab, and pull up at the hotel...let’s say you traveled 6,000 kilometers or more--now the bellman finally sees you when you arrive at the hotel and wants to help you cover the last 10-meters of your journey for a $5 tip of course! Gee whiz.

-I realized today that I have been felt up more by airport security than the happy hooker…

-You know you travel a lot when you can smell jet fuel on your clothes when you open your bags…

-Make no mistake, there will be no Arab Spring here (for good or bad), but one can sense Dubai's bipolar personality…a brewing social/cultural-divide between  a free trade zone which caters heavily to Western tastes and lifestyles and Sharia law; between the international marketing allure of tourist permissiveness and the sensibilities of conservative Islam. Whether Dubai circa 2014 is a utopia or dystopia…time will tell?

-Finally, note to self: When in Dubai, remember that PDA’s or kissing on the beach with a hottie (or your wife, hopefully one and the same says the editor) could land you in jail.

Nuff said

Okay, event news…all the teams have checked in and are safe and sound (okay, still a few with nagging effects from India) after a full and busy day here in Dubailand.

We have an interesting day set for tomorrow as we reposition ourselves for a final hard five-day Par 6 European leg. But, before they get to Europe, we have a fun little 6-Hour Layover Challenge (Par 1) set for Istanbul, Turkey. After that, we are off to Budapest, Hungary to begin the next leg.

More tomorrow when we get to Budapest!

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!



 

Closing the books on India....with one week to go!

Friday April 25 –  Belated edition

(Okay, I found a beer somewhere in this hostile liqour environment, slept a solid seven and recovered from my frustrated angst and miraculously recreated last nights disappeared blog.)

Good evening from Dubai. It has been an interesting day.

We began with breakfast with a giant Buddha head in Delhi and end tonight with a creek side dinner here in United Arab Emirates (UAE). In between, stuff happened…as it is prone to do traveling around the world over 23-days.

We have a few travel casualties, a few bruised egos, a few road-weary travelers and a few breathless adventurers.

Wild Tigers were seen...

In India, just organizing simple things takes time and usually more than a few people—when sometimes one would suffice if they just followed through. There are rules and regulations (no matter that no one seems to pay attention to any on the roads) and no place more so than at airports. What do they say about foolish consistency?

Alternative modes of mass transpo...takes 2 hours--not 7!

Anyway, we made it out and landed 3 ½ short hours later in Dubailand. A few folks are sadly suffering, more than a little under the weather succumbing to various heat and food and India-related maladies. It happens to everyone at some time when traveling. Their only solace right now is that this too shall pass…but none too soon to those afflicted.

That said, the travel world championship continues, and following the peer reviews, we have our difficult Par 7 Indian leg results to reveal.

Deals made...

The India leg was a true test of our competitors Travel IQ…that intersection where experience, instincts, acquired travel knowledge and intell garnered from the debriefing of other fellow travelers meets real world application. Situational awareness is critical and adapting to new environments key. Some teams did really well, some not so good.  Frankly, some made some rookie mistakes and India clearly separated those that could from those that wish they could.

Forts conquered...

I was amazed what some teams attempted and equally amazed what some teams achieved. I was surprised and also relieved that everyone made it back after four days of getting India all over them. It was not easy. So congrats to all the teams, and especially congrats to the five top placing teams.

In fifth place, working oh so hard and having the bruises to prove it are Team Heckarewee (Leslie & Dan) who earned 1,445 points. Feel better guys.

In fourth place, and completing the most Indian scavenges (but not the most bonus scavenges) were our defending champs The Ogopogos (Gerry & Phil) who accumulated 2,115 points. Get better Gerry!

In third place, impressing the heck out of me time and time again with their tireless tenacity were Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) who amassed 2,125 points. Great job guys and thank you for helping out with all the media interviews yesterday.

In second place, the tried and true savvy veterans working smartly on their second Global Scavenger Hunt campaign, the Retired Traveling Chicks (Kim & Maria) earning 2,200 points.

And a stunning surprise, earning the most Bonus Scavenge points ever (2,500 super special Road Official Wedding Points) on top of your 80 earned points...and winning the Indian leg going away were the back of the pack team The Wanderers (April & Travis), who’s getting married in India venture truly surprised everyone.  Congrats April & Travis…


I kid

It is truly fitting that the winners of the event’s most difficult leg ever in over a decade of competition that has taking event competitors to over 60 nations of the world, are our three time former champs Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey). Amazing work guys earning 2,575 challenging points…you have truly mastered getting around India.

The Current 2014 Event Standings (AI—After India):

And now Dubai…an easy, plush, soft Par 2. From 5PM Friday until 9PM Saturday night…28 hours what could happen?

More about Dubai later….and I have a lot to say too!


Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!