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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