How many countries are there and what constitutes a visit?

Usually it’s a civil debate. Sometimes just a brief, frank and cordial diplomatic exchange. Although on a few occasions it has gotten downright, dare I say it, territorial, between a few lesser intellects or overly patriotic nationalists. Blood is lost, and sacred drinks are spilled.

How many countries are there anyway?

I remember three such debates in particular: One, a marathon session in a dank and dark pub in Dublin on a rainy afternoon over numerous pints of Guinness. Another took place on a sultry and easygoing evening at the FCC in Phnom Penh. The most memorable one though, occurred though around a remote fire circle somewhere in the fabled Lost World of Venezuela’s Gran Sabana between a handful of well-lubricated fellow travelers from no less than five continents. All the debates start out the same…and then escalate to terra incognito from there: “So mate, how many countries have you been to?

And so, it begins.

It sounds simple enough. And to some it is. Yet for me, this has always been a tough question to answer. One that I’ve grappled with and pondered obsessively since my graduate school days studying the lofty ideals of international relations at the London School of Economics. (Maybe that’s my problem? I am just a pointy headed intellectual!) Whatever…there’s no easy answer—at least one that makes everyone happy.

1911 British Empire Map of the World…a lot has changed.

Why? Because frankly, countries come and go. So the study of nation states demands a certain flexible multidisciplinary approach: tribalism, geography, history, culture and geopolitics all come into play. Remember, it wasn’t until 301CE that San Marino became the first official “country.” Believe it or not, nation-states have not always been—nor will they always be. Personally, I blame the mapmakers for all the subjectivity and disharmony on this issue. That, and the revenge of geography; outsiders drawing those arbitrary boundaries on pieces of old paper—What were they thinking? Either way, it is political geography run amok…the world map is not settled. Remember: East Germany, Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, East Pakistan, North Yemen, Sikkim, the USSR and Yugoslavia?

I still have stamps from Sikkim.

So, depending on your definition of “country” it could mean different things to different people: according to the United Nations, there are 195 official nation-states (including: Palestine and Vatican City); the International Olympic Committee says the number is 206 (including: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, British Virgin Islands & Hong Kong); while FIFA of World Cup fame has 211 associate-states (including: Taiwan, Gibraltar, Macau, Northern Ireland & Wales); and the International Organization for Standardization (IOS) lists 249 different country codes (including: Antarctica, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Guam & Western Sahara).

But there are more than just dry political constructs to consider, there are living people to consider too.

Think about this for a moment: It is estimated that there were some 600,000 self-governing communities (tribes) in 1500 BCE, and now, after 3500 years of social evolution and a few hundred thousand wars, the ebb and flow of scores of empires, countless rediscoveries, and more than a few national mergers and acquisitions later, we’re down to just 195 nation-states in the United Nations. We know that scores of unrepresented people’s homeland aspirations lay outside our strict nation-state definition; think Tibet, Kurdistan, Uyghurstan, Scotland and Catalonia to name but a few. In fact, just using unique cultures, as defined by languages as a yardstick, linguists and cultural anthropologists contend that there are around 600 distinct ethnic groups with unique “in-use” languages—over 230 separate languages are spoken by at least 2 million people each day—of the 7,102 living languages still in use. (Differing regional dialects reflect the split of most of those 7,100 languages.)

The many languages of Asia alone…

That said, now here’s where it gets hairy for us travelers: The Century Club claims that there are 327 official countries and territories to visit, while the Most Traveled People list 873 such possible unique destinations. Clearly, a broader working definition of “country” must come into play when one is “counting” their visits—as we are seemingly prone to do.

Here’s my take: Somewhere between the seven geographic continents and 600 distinct cultures lies the answer. Aside from sometimes contentious on-the-ground political realities, islands remain the biggest point of disagreement among travelers whenever the debate ensues. The exact number is impossible to count (While the Chinese keep building more!), in fact, of the millions of islands per se, just 11,000 islands have permanent residents. There are over two thousand islands just in the oceans of the world. Do they all count? No, let’s not get silly.

Out of the way and with no good restaurants! 

What about unique non-politically correct (at least today) places, breakaway and proto-states or unique territories and provinces? Examples include: Palestine, Taiwan, Kurdistan, Tibet, Abkhazia, Kashmir, Puerto Rico, Sahrawi, Somaliland and Scotland, among scores of others. Yes, they do count in my book as distinct and unique loosely-defined “countries”—sometimes within other “countries” by choice or not. I am from Ontario, Canada, and I can tell you that Quebec is uniquely different from the rest of Canada.

Finally, what about geographically disconnected (sometimes islands, sometimes exclaves), peripherally aligned to a “country”? Places like Alaska, Hawaii, Zanzibar, Kaliningrad, Northern Cyprus, Cabinda, Gaza, Musandam, Nakchivan, Temburong and Easter Island, to name but a few. Yes, they do count qualify as unique destinations to count as a visit.

So, 193 “countries” is clearly incomplete, 900 places to visit maybe a tad too high and I side closer to the 300 “countries” number, give or take; although islands remain my biggest point of disagreement with the “counters” I run into. To date, The Global Scavenger Hunt has visited 85 such countries.

The Global Scavenger Hunt 85…heading towards 100!

More importantly for us travelers than how many places there are to visit: What counts as an official visit to one of those countries?

Do you count layovers or fuel stops? What about driving or riding on a train through a country without getting out? Do you have to eat a meal there? Spend a night there? Have at least one interaction with a local?

My technical definition of an official “visit” is simple: You are there, two feet on the ground; there is no minimum time required for such a visit. That said, interacting with a local resident and either enjoying a meal or experiencing something is key. Personally, it is quality over quantity for me as I have aged and traveled more and more.

Proving it? Easy: passport stamp (a visa alone does not prove entry), transportation ticket stub, credit card or meal receipt, selfie of the traveler within the territory with some type of local sign or icon. Trust but verify I always say.
Just curious, anybody out there been to the world’s newest country?

Written by: William D. Chalmers

© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Travel Personalities Right for The Global Scavenger Hunt

On a daily basis we get the question: What type of person goes on The Global Scavenger Hunt?

Curiously, interviewers, writers, travel agents and corporate mucky-mucks all want to know what type of personality, archetype or psychological makeup best fits our traveler profile.

It will come as no surprise that our hundreds of travelers have come in many shapes and sizes, of all ages and from all around the world. Mostly we have selected the right travelers for the right adventure—and we know that our annual around the world travel adventure is not for everyone (nor do we want it to be frankly). We have erred on occasion; and more than once over the years, ill-suited travelers took our Blind Date with the World. Although never a total disaster, and no one has ever quit the event in progress; it obviously wasn’t a good fit for them—or us.

That said, we prefer to accent the 98% positive side of the story. So, as we prepare for yet another lap around the world, we thought we’d try to answer that burning question: Who indeed?

We will quickly dismiss from our analysis the “not them” people: apathetics, novice travelers, worry-wart fear-based travelers, personal crisis travelers, endless complainers, social media poseurs and the cruise-only types.

First off, one of my travel-related pet peeves: Please cease and desist with the endless faux debate arguing the difference between traveler and tourist. One is not better than the other; and we are all tourists: AKA “a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure.” A traveler is just a tourist “who travels more often or longer than the average” person, plain and simple. Nuff said.

Traveler traits are however another thing and they vary widely. Vacation personalities, travel styles, and interests differ among us all. There is no right way to travel. Travelers inevitably have different goals and expectations. But travel personalities can be categorized, if you’re curious enough and look closely. Here’s our down and dirty breakdown of the ten travel personalities and distinctive traits of people that are attracted to The Global Scavenger Hunt.

Enthusiasts: Are more laid-back low-stress type-B’s: positive, easygoing, adaptable, tolerant, flexible and open to new experiences. Usually cheerful, they are fun and enjoyment motivated; like to belong, go with the flow and are happy to be here. Typically, they are people focused travelers who like to share, play by the rules and are appreciative of their privilege to travel. Whether on an organized trip as a tourist or in a group setting—it’s all good to them.

Adventurers: Indiana Jones-types with good travel literacy. They are confident, curious, novelty seeking, grand escape-oriented, and DIY independent travelers who can easily make their own travel arrangements. They take public transportation when they can because they know that getting there is still half the fun. They love talking about traveling and are typically foodies too. Often spontaneous and last-minute planners, they love the sense of freedom traveling offers them while seeking out the unfamiliar. They wholly embrace the idea of taking A Blind Date with the World. (Many are reformed Buzz Seekers)

Explorers: Are usually intellectual, mechanical travelers; old salts with high travel IQ’s. Ever-curious, sometimes historic-centric (World Heritage Sites are high priorities), it is all about the journey and taking the road less traveled wandering off the beaten path— sometimes aimlessly. Slow and inquisitive travelers, many are members of the Circumnavigators Club.

Thrillionaires: Know the enriching benefits of novel travel experiences because experiential value, while not worthless—is actually priceless. They rightly equate wealth with passport stamps, friends made, and extraordinary experiences had. They are up for anything, anywhere, anytime; with high degrees of the O-Factor: openness. Always on the lookout for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, they possess a strong sense of self-curiosity and embrace change; they are site-doers and are always willing to trust strangers in strange lands. Nothing beats new and glorious first-hand sensory experiences—be they natural beauty or human-made. They understand the positive psychological consequences of having as many lifetime peak experiences as possible. (Borderline Competitive Travelers)

Offbeat & Highbrows: A mixed lot of creative types and urban sophisticates who are perspective-seeking travelers. They seek authenticity and gravitate towards the culturally-oriented aspects of travel: music, the art scene, history, museums and architecture. (Intangible Cultural Heritage destinations figure prominently.) They like the finer things in life. They embrace uniqueness and the unconventional that stimulate them to think in new ways. Vive la difference may be their operating assumption. They are willing to experiment, learn, and allow for serendipity in their quest to find the meaning of life…and their place in it.

Travel Addicts: Just love to travel and take a lot of jaunts; the wanderlust gene (AKA dromomania) is either a system glitch or a highly evolved feature. Travel is key to their lives: they work to travel, they live to travel, they love being on the road. More long-term travelers by nature, they are always eager and excited to go—to get away. Their travel to-do list keeps growing the more they travel. They don’t count countries—they count new friends. Often a loner, and usually with more will than wallet; they are critical and inquisitive travelers, wanders really, with a sense of unlimited possibilities. Like a chameleon, they easily immerse/integrate themselves in whatever culture they are in. (Often Contrarian Travelers too)

Contrarian Travelers: Love to travel but don’t like crowds, high prices or typical tourist destinations. (80 percent of travelers go to the same 20 places) Often carrying two passports, they avoid trends like the plague and go against the grain—zagging when others are zigging: traveling in the shoulder off-seasons (spring and fall); traveling to a region following a monsoon, hurricane, volcano eruption or earthquake; following a one-off terrorist incident whose subsequent media hysteria freezes other travelers; traveling where the dollar exchange rate brings good value, and flying on carriers that just experienced high-profile incidents. Bad news equals good travel prospects. Weather doesn’t matter to them when or where they go, and they usually stay in weird ass hotels. They avoid hot destinations—they probably have already been there—and seek out quirky offbeat adventures surfing their own wave. (Usually Travel Addicts)

Achievement Traveler: Competitive? You betcha. Bucket List-oriented with type-A personalities: hard-working, driven, status-oriented, compulsive organizers, perfectionists, rule benders who like to play games. Masters of the universe. Amazing Race-like trophy hunters and mountain climbers impressed by travel-related achievements and the bragging rights that go with them. They want to be The World’s Greatest Travelers. Usually country collectors, many are members of the Century Club. Been there, done that, what’s next? Borderline jaded travelers, they love talking about their travel war stories—though they aren’t such great listeners. (Older, richer and mellowed Buzz Seekers)

Harmonious Traveler: They are the virtuous serene travelers. Quest oriented, almost pilgrimage-like, they are looking for either: a soul-purifying personal transformation via cathartic spiritual enlightenment, or to make the world a better place with their own altruistic and nurturing brand of personal diplomacy. Travel is therapy. They care a lot, and are: compassionate, attentive, emphatic, responsible, nature-oriented, conscientious and somewhat mystical. There is spirituality in both the people and places they visit; and there is personal growth and healing to be had in their deep connection with our Global Village’s humanity—and it is their mission to discover it. Or, often, they just want to see if another culture is a better fit for them than their own. They subscribe to Gandhi’s travel is the language of peace ethos. (Evolved Enthusiasts)

Buzz Seekers: Passionate, creative, life of the party, event-oriented Hemingway-types. Adrenaline junkies with high-risk = high-reward mindsets, whose high wire activities make them feel more alive. Type-T personalities, who feed off the rush, the sheer audacity of their exciting thrills; and are usually, although by no means exclusively, male. They are travel outlaws who seek danger for danger’s sake. War zones—no problem. Seat of their pants travelers in a constant state of movement, they are gamblers and risk-takers prone to extreme physical activities…with more than a little machismo present. What you might think of as white-knuckle near-death experiences they merely see as just another thrill—another high; just another epic adventure perhaps to reinforce or enhance some perverted sense of themselves.

What travel personality do you see yourself fitting? More importantly, are you ready for a life-changing adventure?

Written by: William D. Chalmers

© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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20 Must See Art Pieces from Around the World: Oh, The Beauty We’ve Seen

Art lover’s of the world unite!

If you love art, beholding art…experiencing art; nothing is better than seeing it up close and personal. Having visited 85-countries on various editions of The Global Scavenger Hunt–we have seen a lot of art. The Masters, avant-garde, religious art, non-Western, aboriginal and street art. Mere words cannot convey the amazing, odd, moving, peculiar, shocking, transcendent, remarkable, sublime…humanity-inspired works of art we have been privileged to personally experience over the years. There is nothing like seeing the real thing, sometimes in the place it was designed to be seen.

And there is a lot to see…more than what is in any art history textbook that’s for sure. Sure, there’s da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Last Supper, Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chapel, and Rodin’s The Thinker, all well and good—if not a tad crowded to experience. But know that stuffy European museums are not the only places to experience incredible art; here are a few of some of the exceptional pieces we highly recommend you seeing (before you die–okay I said it!)…Enjoy!

Tree of Life
mosaic – Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos (*)

Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring – Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands (*)

Stone of the Sun
– National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico (*)

Picasso’s Guernica mural – Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid (*)

The Taj’s inlaid mosaics – Taj Mahal, Agra, India (*)

Windows of Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Caves of the Thousand Buddhas – Dunhuang, Gansu, China

Mephistopheles frescoes – Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, Bulgaria (*)

Windows of Blue Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey (*)

Rivera‘s The History of Mexico mural – National Palace, Mexico City, Mexico (*)

Klimt’s The Kiss – Belvedere Gallery, Vienna, Austria (*)

Mosaics of Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood – Saint Petersburg, Russia (*)

Madaba Map mosaic – Madaba, Jordan (*)

Zeduan’s Spring Festival on the River – National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (*)

Chagall’s  Opera Garnier ceiling – Paris France (*)

Orlando Towers – Soweto, South Africa (*)

Ajanta cave 17 paintings – Aurangabad, India

Huaca de la Luna
murals – Trujillo, Peru

Windows of La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain (*)

East Side Gallery – Berlin, Germany

…and the list goes on and on of course.

Come with us and see what beauty you will experience…

What are some of your favorite pieces of global art that truly move you?

Written by: William D. Chalmers
© 2000-19 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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$50,000 Winner Take All!

Hey Y’all –

We are upping the stakes…the 2019 edition of our little 15th annual around the world travel adventure competition will have a winner-take-all $50,000 cash prize attached to the title of The World’s Greatest Travelers™. $50,000 US dollars
We are also changing the game a little, well, a lot actually too…still a 23-day circumnavigation of the globe, still A Blind Date with the World™ to 10 secret destinations, and still a highly authentic, participatory and challenging cultural immersion…but we’re changing a few things. You’ll see…change is good.

So, the question is: Who’s game?

Entry spots still limited…


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Home at last, home at last…

Tuesday, 7 May 2018 – USA, California, Home, Office…

Heading back from Miami to SFO, where the whole 2018 event started weeks ago on April 13–23-days, 11-countries and over 43,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) ago–I was struck with awe while flying over the country peering out the window like a little kid. The Florida everglades, storm clouds brewing on the horizon, the bayous of Louisiana, the plains of Texas, glorious Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, the snow-capped Sierras and the multi-colored salt pans of the San Francisco Bay…then the drive home across the Golden Gate bridge into the still green valley’s of wine country.

And for those that know me, I am not a little kid; but, some might wrongly suggest, a jaded veteran traveler of the world for decades now. I have done a lot and probably seen even more. But I am not jaded, and that awe-factor hit me; I am still enthralled with travel–the destinations, the people, the colors, the food, the cultures, the conversations, the sights and smells; and yes, even the getting there still impresses me. I still love to look out the window of a 747 slipping the surely bounds of earth. And I say this because before the adventure started, I was quietly questioning myself, wondering to myself, if I had maybe hit the travel wall? Was I maybe done with it all? Well, I am not…

And so our 14th event comes to a close and I must sum it all up in short pithy prose…and those that know me, know that is not easy.

Hmmm…bullet trains and dumplings in Taiwan; smiles and the Taj in India; ceremonial dancing and Lucy visits in Ethiopia; the roar of lions on African safari; zip-trekking across Victoria Falls; steaks, Malbec and tango in Buenos Aires; dawn beach walks and the wineries of Uruguay; playing with seals and exploring ruins in Peru; the everglades and South Beach glamour of Miami. Three weeks around the world; nine new event countries (the 14-year old event is now sitting pretty at 85 countries visited thank you very much); and hundreds of new global acquaintances made along the way. Our cups runneth over, again.

It was an ambitious trip…9,000 more kilometers flown than ever before. We had to go east to go west, south to go north. Visiting Southern Africa like we did in Zimbabwe and Zambia put us in a deep hole…but we maneuvered west to South America. Not as easy as it looked. For me, these events are always a combination of herding cats and taming lions, putting out fires and orchestrating the band. (Maybe that’s why my nickname has become the Ringmaster?) But this was a good year–they all aren’t.

There were no: cheaters, drama queens, inflated egos, bouts of malaria, acts of terrorism, liars, overly competitive teams, infectious diseases, May Day riots to circumnavigate, drunkards to contend with, cliques to infiltrate, hotel potatoes to mollify, intolerable heat waves, lost phones, wayward luggage, blowhards or Debbie-downers to counteract. The right team won. No one got too sick. Everyone genuinely liked each other–and traveled with each other from time to time. We had a good time; each of us did, I know it! We only heard grumblings about a few early flights and plastic water bottles soon overwhelming our world. That was it… All our destinations were fun. Our travel was seamless, our hotels grand, our adventures too numerous to mention. (At least right now!) Our collective memory banks full once more. We did it, again.

So, thank you all for traveling with us; both Pamela and I appreciate you taking such an amazing leap of faith with us and allowing us to show you our version of the world–that very few ever get to experience. We think it is special. And thank everyone else who followed our 2018 adventure online and via social media, we appreciate you too. But honestly, instead of sitting on the sidelines watching and pressing the like button, wouldn’t you really rather join the fun? Come…choose adventure, get out of your comfort zones and experience our world.

Life is all too short my fellow friends, enjoy it while you can.

And this point was brought home all too real for me on Sunday when I hit the tarmac in SFO. I received a sad e-mail informing me that one of our own, two-time participant (2013 & 2014) Gerry Obrecht of BC, Canada (The Ogopogos) had died after a short bout from cancer the night before. He died on the same day, five years after he and his son Phil were crowned the 2013 winners of the event and The World’s Greatest Travelers. Gerry was a kind, funny and gentle man, who lived life to the fullest and it showed: when competing; when traveling; when making practical jokes; when grinning and bearing the trials and tribulations of traveling as we do; when tying the shoelaces together of a sleeping hungover fool on our bus; when beating us, continually, at cribbage; and when generously retelling travel war stories over a cocktail in some exotic bar in an equally far-flung destination. Gerry was a gentleman and a champion. Gerry was a member of our tribe…and we will miss him. Till we meet again my friend, when the round is on you.
To that, all I can do is repeat myself: life is short–spend your time and money while you can…eat the cake, kiss the girl, and travel more!

Our dates are already set for 2019: April 12 – May 4, 2019! Let’s do it again

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Day 23: Miami, USA

Saturday, 5 May 2018 – Day 23: Miami, USA (25.7617° N, 80.1918° W)

Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Welcome to Miami…we arrived last evening around dinner time, actually losing an hour from Peruvian time. Miami: sun, sea, style, South Beach (SoBe), celebrities, Art Deco, Spanglish, Biscayne Bay…home of Florida Man/Woman and their Children…land of $12 Miller Lites…a wanna be LA.

Miami InterContinental

Teams today took one last lap, an easy 7-hour urban (Par 1) scavenger hunt here in Miami…before we crowned The World’s Greatest Travelers later today. We hope they enjoy their last day and finish their around the world adventure with a smile on their face.

There are 4 Bonuses and 40 scavenges…I look for surprises here:
-take an ambpious vehicle water cruise
-eat a Cubano in Little Havana
-find Jackie Gleason’s grave
-bike/roller blade South Beach boardwalk
-take in an NBA or NHL playoff game

The eternal everglades…

Gators we later eat…okay, maybe not this one in particular!

Slo Folks & ATX Traveling Bohemians w/ Road Officials being tacky tourists in USA!

And the 2018 winners are?

First up…the winners of our annual players pool (each person guesses which 11 countries we will be conducting official scavenges in) are Zoe & Marnie, who each guessed 4 of 11 correctly. They split the pot. (Sorry Mickey—just one!)

BTW: The Global Scavenger Hunt has now visited 85 countries at some point during the last 14 events! (That means just 15 to go before we turn into pumpkins! Hint, hint…)

The MIA leg did not effect our standings coming out of Peru however, and that means the teams winning, placing and showing (like todays Kentucky Derby) are:

In 3rd Place: Leo & The Crab

In 2nd Place:

…which means the third time is the charm for Team SLO Folks and they are the 2018 winners of The Global Scavenger Hunt and The World’s Greatest Travelers for 2018, we look forward to them defending their title in the next edition…. whenever that may be. Thank you all!

Thank you Pamela, for without you this does not happen!

The 2018 tribe, sans Denise & Pam, but with 2016 alum Savanah.

We will have our Winners Gala Dinner Party at Toro Toro Miami, where teams will share their:

1) Best Cabbie jokes?
2) Most forms of public Transportation used (Record: 28 in 2009!)
3) The world’s Tackiest Souvenir
4) Best Global Price Index
5) Best Travel Collection
6) Most social media friends acquired…

And we say thank you and good bye, concluding our 14th annual around the world event.

And again, nobody died.

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Day 22: Repositioning…Homeward Bound

Friday, 4 May 2018 – Day 22:

We are in Miami…we have all gotten back to the USA safely, and we have a tribe of happy travelers just now beginning to relish in what they have seen and accomplished over the last 22 days circling the globe. More later…

Old Business:
-Here are the peer reviewed scores for the Peruvian Leg (Par 3):
7th  Buckeye Terriers
6th – Team Tuna
5th – Leo & Crabby
4th – NOLA Ssecondline
2nd Tie – Lawayers without Borders & ATX Traveling Bohemians tied with same scorce cards
1st SLO Folks…who did all three points heavy BONUS scavenges
Congrats all on finishing the fun Peruvian leg…

So now we are getting interesting, after seven legs (23 of 24)…the overall top 3 teams are:
3. Leo & the Crab, 90
2. NOLA Secondline, 88
1. SLO Folks, with 33

Quick Observation before I pass out… WTF? = what is with American teenage girls carrying pillows through airports? Only place you see that? Please explain.

See you all tomorrow for our final leg here in Miami and the 2018 crowning of The World’s Greatest Travelers…and other stories to tell.

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Day 21: Lima, Peru

Thursday, 3 May 2018 – Day 21: Lima, Peru (12.0464° S, 77.0428° W)

Buenos Dias from Lima…our last day in an international destination.

Lima is a hyper-kinetic city: cars, people, business. Lima is an example of the coming globalized model IMHO: vast differences in life-styles between the rich and poor; their lives, their life-styles, where they live, and how the endure each day—from vast overwhelming slums far from the city center to pockets of opulence in the more beautiful livable parts of the city. We are in one of the later, the Miraflores district. A bubble, like being in Beverly Hills in LA—actually more like Santa Monica physically.

Last night, as I headed into the ether of Lima at around 8:45pm, the doorman inquired where I was headed…I casually informed him that I was headed for a ceviche dinner (my second of the day) at a nearby Punto Azul Noche. He stopped me…no sir, you cannot walk, very dangerous. I informed him that I had visited the city on more than a few occasions and have taken all proper safety consideration: No visible valuables, no passport, only one credit card, little cash. He said no sir, not safe, things can be bad in Lima. After a frustrating, depressing conversation, he wanted me to take a car. By now a crowd of several bellmen and the concierge had joined in. A hotel car would be safest; prices set at US$12.00 ($39 peruvian sol)…I said what about a local taxi; $12 sole…he finally relented but said they would call one for me and it would 5-7 minutes. I smiled, said thank you and walked. It was a straight shot around the park and maybe eight blocks straight up Calle Alanfores to Calle San Martin. Took me, ah less than 10 minutes. During my walk I encountered school girls walking home, dog owners guiltily walking their schizod pets after a long day away, joggers (both sexes), and night strollers. I saw zero menacing gangs of Peru lurking in shadowy alley ways. I joined a quick wait list—a single always gets a quick table!—ate an amazing dish of mixto ceviche (shrimp, octopus and two types of white fish served in a large soup bowl with corn and sweet potato) and walked home unmolested about an hour later.

I walked in and they all smiled at me wearily. I approached the main man. He informed me that was hotel policy to inform guests about the dangers of Peru. (And to offer an upsale hotel car.) He said I was the only person that night, and in a few days that had not heeded their fear-based warning. I assume the hotel’s guests are a little lighter in the wallet and the hotel a little heavier. The hype of fear resounds especially well with we Yanks. We hear it all day…the boogie man is under the bed, the barbarians are at the gate, they are coming for us. It sells.

Anyway, I regress…Lima last day.

Teams always ask me: Bill what are you doing today? I am usually coy in answering: busy, business to do. Well, in fact, a perfect day for me?

Visit Mercado Central early…see the colorful produce, flowers and smell the fresh fish. Then a stroll around Plaza Mayor before the crowds assemble…maybe light a candle for my mom in a dark peaceful nook of Cathedral of Lima. (And spit on Pizarro’s gravestone while I am there.) My conflicted yin/yang nature reveleaing itself. Then I would nosh a little on some morning Peruvian sweets with a couple of coffees. I walk with purpose everywhere, I carry no pack, zipped pockets with what I need and with my 35mm Nikon with 18-200m lens covered in my hand looking like a rolled shirt…I take lots of photos of faces, street art, things in juxtaposition, daily life emerging. Next I would head to the Larco Musuem and indulge erotic fantasies among their great collection of erotic figurines. By then, the city is fully alive and in full swing. I would hit a cafe and watch the wheels go round and round for a while—how I love to watch them turn. After that…I might hail a taxi head out of the city to visit the ancient ruins of Pachacamac, and then drop by the infamous bunker-like Gold Museum. By then it would be ceviche and cerveza time followed by a taxi back to the hotel and a nap before beginning my noctornal pursuits.

A Morning kiss for wife…as it should be.

The eclectic buildings of Peru

One of Peru’s mainstays

Huaca Pucllana…ruins in city.

And you thought it only came in yellow?

Cocoa leaves to help you through the day…munch, munch.

Mixto ceviche soaked in spicy Tigre’s Milk…

Have your own version of a perfect day, every day…

Our Peruvian check-in is at 10:00PM this evening in the hotel’s lobby bar…one last pisco sour! Then we are homeward bound.

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Day 20: Lima, Peru

Wednesday, 2 May 2018 – Day 20: Lima, Peru (12.0464° S, 77.0428° W)

We have traveled this morning from Uruguay traveling northwest across South America to Peru, our last 2018 event international destination. We also picked up another two hours…almost all the way around!

So, technically…Bienvenido a Perú.

The 2018 tribe in Lima…now out & about.

We are here for two nights…holed up at the beautiful Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel.

Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel

Old Business: We have gone over all the peer reviewed the long strategic and fun Rio Plata Leg (Par 5) scores…
7th Buckeye Terriers
6th Team Tuna
5th Leo & the Crab
4th NOLA Secondline
3rd SLO Folks
1st Tie – Lawyers w/o Borders & Traveling Bohemians – Handed in exact same score sheets with 48 scavenges completed including 3 Bonuses

Overall leaders after 6 legs about a third (par 20 or 24 completed) …the overall top 3 teams are
3. NOLA Secondline – 76
2. Leo & the Crab – 75
1. SLO Folks – 30

Three things I Learned from the last leg? May Day holidays muck the best laid plans; No one lost weight on the last leg; and South America is a destination more should visit.

One-Minute Interview with?

short and sweet easy urban Par 3 with 4 Bonuses, 25 other scavenges
-go on a ocean whale watching boat ride
-ceviche taste testing
-visit the amazing museo Oro del Peru
-find the kama sutra figurines

Just Weird: guinea pigs are unlawful to own in Switzerland, but meal staple in Peru…go figure.

Check-in time tomorrow night, Thursday 10:00PM.

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Day 19: Montevideo, Uruguay

Tuesday, 1 May 2018 – Day 19: Montevideo, Uruguay (34.9011° S, 56.1645° W)

Ahh, Montevideo…fresh sea air. Beaches for days.

Hyatt Centric Montevideo view

That’s in the summer…today it is May 1st…think November 1st in the Southern Hemisphere.

And speaking of May 1st, that means it is the almost universal celebration of workers solidarity, aka May Day. Parades will take place, most will not work today enjoying family and friends, BBQing and having fun. For the traveler it is a day when not much will happen that does not include your feet and patience, as services will be limited and few things will be open as normal. The challenge of the day…

Montevideo is the biggest city in the country, roughly 1.3 million thermos-carrying, maté tea drinking, stylishly-dressed, pot smoking, smiling, dark-haired inhabitants reside here—almost 80 percent of Uruguay’s entire population.  The city is ranked as the Latin American city with the highest quality of life/livability ranking (79 overall); and you can see why. They are big on meats, chivatos (crazy-ass big sandwiches), lot’s of pizza and pasta (the influence of a 19th century wave of Italian immigrants. The streets are broad and hardly a horn is heard. The people are very civil. The buildings are great, 1930’s and 40’s built colonial and neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Art Decó-styled in architecture, with wrought-iron balconies of the Ciudad Vieja full of narrow alleys, museums, cafes and outside restaurants that bring Paris to mind. Damn Paris…always on our minds describing cities. (Although along the waterfront near our hotel I feel like I am in a typical corniche area, could be: Alexandria, Miami, Tel Aviv… Yet Montevideo could be North American…Canada for instance with its boulevards lined with enormous trees, shopping malls everywhere…but the imported Starbucks get a run for their money with seemingly everyone sucking on a silver straw, of obviously addictive, maté tea. Which Makes Montevideo distinctly Uruguayan. And the music of candombe makes it so.

It is peaceful and calm. And the sun is out…

All the teams have been accounted for and are in Montevideo. The plan is to spend one more day until we head for our last international stop on the 2018 edition The Global Scavenger Hunt travel adventure. One more new destination…which we we will learn about tonight when we meet at 7:00PM.

Leafy streets

Havana-like buildings

Fishing at the breakwater

Again, Havana-like…

Surrounded by ocean…

I’d say eclectic…

But oh so cosmopolitan.

Until next time…just 5 days to go!

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