Day 19: A Field Report from North Africa

Day 19: Tuesday, 30 April 2019 – Fez, Morocco (34.0181° N, 5.0078° W)

“Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes
Travelling the train through clear Moroccan skies…”
Marrakesh Express lyrics by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

There really is a Marrakesh Express…it runs through Casablanca en route to Fez (6.5 hours) , where we imagine many of our travelers at least started their day. Where they are now is anyone’s guess. My guess? Gibraltar or Seville…maybe a few lingerers in the smokey cafes of Tangiers.

So you know…the Road Officials left Marrakesh this morning, hoping the Dior Express flight to Lisbon with dozens of pouty-mouthed models (Was that Haim sisters  we saw in 1st Class?)…and then onward after a brunch with a former major metro art museum director to Porto, the final meeting place of the teams on Friday.

A couple videos from Marrakesh…the souk-area at night: Call to Prayer & a 360 of the Circus.

A few photos pilfered from the blogs…

A Drum Circle…

Ying 2.0 eating sheep brains…

50% of Ying 2.0 & Lazy Monday getting henna

A day spent looking at rugs…well, the mint tea was free!

The Tanneries of Fez…

Goats head soup anyone? Mick? Keith?

The Straits of Gibraltar  shipping lanes (aka the Pillars of Hercules)


SLO Folks…got to Gibraltar fast!

That said…here’s what I can report from Morocco….

First, if you have any romantic notions of Casablanca, that we last visited in 2004 (they are still looking for the credit card fraudsters)…a port city that forever recalls the black-and-white movie era…complete with  foggy steamships and fedora hats, forget it. It is a busy African city bulging at the seams. If you are thinking about author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, strolling its wide Art Deco building-lined boulevards on his way to Dakar, or Timbuktu, forget it.  No one, aside from diplomats currying favor, stops here any more…Bogart and Bergman are long gone, and Hollywood magic can only bring a place so far and any glamour Casablanca might have actually had pre World War II, wore off a long time ago. It is now a rough-edged metropolis of probably 5+ million.

The really great cities of Morocco are the so-called Imperial Cities: Rabat, Meknes, Fez and Marrakech. With Fez and Marrakesh retaining that medieval Arabic/Berber feel. Fez is my favorite because it is so other-worldly…a true test for any traveler lacking nerve with its labyrinthine-like medina Fes el-Bali is…maybe the world’s largest car-free urban zone…that is a maze of twisting alleys and crowded souks. It was a Mandatory Scavenge for our travelers…and they will be better for having seen and done it.

So, about Morocco’s political situation—now that I’m safely gone from it’s bureaucratic grasp—36 million people with an average age, like most Middle Eastern nations, a young 26.5 who earn statistics say, about $7,500 per capita…and that the unemployment rate hovers around 10%. Is it safe? Yes, we had no problems and felt no threat—it is just chaotic, hectic, crazy and many people are desperate—but not violent. What does it’s future hold? Well, I don’t believe that the only options in the Arab world are between authoritarian regimes and Islamic jihadists…maybe not; maybe there are secular, liberal, market-oriented moderates out there…seeing that a growing middle class serves their tenure… What bout the Arab Spring? It was canceled. There were no Middle East dominos…places like Tunisia, Morocco have been facing economic problems and allegations of corruption in ruling circles for decades. But Morocco and Jordan (and now Algeria?) do allow limited freedoms of expression and have so far been able to contain any real regime changing protests….Like Jordan, Morocco’s monarchy has strong support among sections of the public—BUT Morocco’s reputation was damaged after Wikileaks revealed allegations of increased corruption, in particular the royal family’s business affairs and the “appalling greed” of people close to King Mohammed VI (who in 1999 succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, Hassan II)…that said, things appear stable, the economic pie is growing and they are entering the 21st Century. Whether theocratic aspects remain neutral, is another thing; but they keep a tight leash on everyone with their Chinese-like surveillance-systems and French-like local policing system.  Nuff said…

Okay…tomorrow starts the Euro report…BTW May Day tomorrow!


What would Bill do? Maybe…maybe, not!

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Day 18: Just another Marrakech Monday

Day 18: Monday, 29 April 2019 – Marrakesh, Morocco (31.6295° N, 7.9811° W)

Monday in Marrakech….

“.…the lost in search of camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits…” wrote George Orwell

 

It is good to be back in the intoxicating, contradictory city of Marrakesh (aka Red City) for the first time since 1985…30+ years has passed since I once spent a Christmas here after being picked up hitch hiking at the Spanish Ceuta enclave-Moroccan border (that I had to bribe my way in, because Americans were persona non grata here days after the Reagan bombing of Gaddafi’s Tripoli tent) by three Germans hell-bent on getting to Marrakesh by sundown…it was a high fast ride through the twisting mountain passes and dirt valley roads through the even Higher Atlas Mountains.

The city evokes: mystery, glamour, romance, wannabe French elegance, wanderlust, Cold War intrigue, Arabian, African, and European influences; and captivates: moody literary-types, hippies, jet-setting partying celebrities, closeted social life personalities, and Indian Jones-types. And always, the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains are there on a clear day—which in 1985 was everyday! Founded in 1062, Marrakech was once the capital of a vast trading empire that stretched from Toledo to Senegal—Timbuktu was it’s rival; of which ancient Berber dialects report two contradictory meanings. It either means to “pass by quickly”—an old warning about desert bandits and wild animals; or, “murr akush” as in “the land of God.” Schizoid Morocco…part-Arabic, part-Gallic, part-Africa, part-ancient and part-modern, it still revels in its old cross roads ways though, as Nomadic tribes from Mauritania, Niger, Algeria & Mali, still ply their trade here to scantily-clad European housewives, paramours and college coeds tourists. Dueling chants of “balak” (get the hell out of my way) and the ritual call to prayers “Al’lah al Akbar” (God is Great) resonates throughout Morocco. Pick em.

 
Sites are many here: the classically Moroccan architecture of 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrasa, the splendid towering Koutoubia Mosque, the exquisitely-carved Bahia Palace…but the piece de resistance here is the adjoining Jemaa el Fna (aka Assembly of the Dead) and labyrinth-like souk. This is where the action is as the day turns into night.

Question of day? Why is King Abdul square a roundabout?

First the ancient funky cold North African medina…a maze-like area full of shoe salesmen, faux-antique sellers, juice makers, derivative art dealers, leather goods extraordinaire in every color imaginable, endless spice cones: henna (green), chili (orange), paprika (red), turmeric (yellow), etc…nowadays more motorcycles than donkeys warning you with cries of “Balak!” (watch out!) lurking through the clogged arteries of the walled old city…here you survive on luck, charm, a good sense of direction, wits and baraka (divine grace)…caveat emptor indeed as our cabinet of curiosities expands. 


Sydney Sisters missed…overlooking the circus.

Then as the sunset call to prayer wails, the main stage of Moroccan halqa (street theatre) begins taking shape in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el Fna. Once a medieval trading square where public executions took place (hence the Assembly of the Dead), nowadays it begins filling with honest workers plying their tourist trade: jellaba-clad Moroccan Berbers, Tuareg nomads, West African traders, veiled women, henna artists, donkeys, camels, tooth pullers, magicians, henna artists, storytellers, conjurers, acrobats, snake-charmers, fire-eaters, Gnaoua musicians, hashish salesmen, clang castanets, metal qarqaba (castanets), duff (hand drums) and twanging three-stringed ginbri (bass)…all surrounded by scores of chefs firing up makeshift grills with billowing exotically toxic smells and impromptu picnic areas…stirring vats of steaming snails, goats head soup, and sizzling kebobs…there is nowhere quite like Djemma el-Fnaa. Nowhere. The circus performs nightly….

 

We will let the days photos take it from here…
 

 

 

 
The things people do for points…love the camel butt crack!

  
Think of the smells…since 1562!

Hmmm: Interesting!? Marrakech is one the least re-visited cities by tourists—which proves one of my iron law of travel truism: Every place is worth at least one visit, even if it’s just to remind yourself that you never need to go back. Check Bucket List Box here…

Okay, off to…see you tomorrow from somewhere else.

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Day 17: North Africa to…

Day 17: Sunday, 28 April 2019 – Marrakesh, Morocco (31.6295° N, 7.9811° W)

Happy Easter to our Orthodox friends…noting says Jesus has risen like multi-colored peeps and chocolate bunnies.

We arrived last night late from Athens to Marrakesh, Morocco…a town celebrated the wedding of Idris Elba—and that explains why we had to look to over 50 properties here before finding our home away from home—not the 50th worst, just 50–big, small, riads, boutiques, location, etc. But we are here at the Savoy Le Grande Hotel for two nights…

Teams slept in and dined well before our 11:00am meeting…

Observation…boarding the plane last night from ATH-RAK, flight attendants handed out long white Easter candles to all…I asked when we would lite them…they were not amused. Note to FAA: Candles on planes, yes or no?

Observation #2…many ladies on flight from scantly-clad Athens to more conservative Morocco quickly put long dress covers over their exposed bikini-bottomed butts and long-sleeve shirts on  before exiting the planes. Living in two worlds?

First, closing the books on the last Athens (Par 2) Leg in which five teams handed in score sheets:

5th – Transformed Travel Goddesses who keep competing and having fun.

There was a tie of 3rd Place – both teams did 25 total scavenges including 1 Bonus earning 965 points for SLO Folks and Order & Chaos.

2nd – went to Lazy Monday, who did 32 scavenges including 1 Bonus (worth 100) points and won the On-the-Go Team Challenge of 76 points for finding the Chalmers family (in just minutes) earning an adjusted 1,219 points.

1st – went to a team that walked 18.9 miles in 24 hours in Athens—Winning the unofficial Saskia Foot Award—doing 32 scavenges and one Bonus (worth 150 points) and earning an adjusted 1,265 points.

That means the 2019 world travel championship scoreboard looks like this with 7 Par points still to be had over the final 2 legs:
4th – SLO Folks @ 72
3rd – Order & Chaos @ 63
2nd – Lazy Monday @ 34
1st – Lawyers without Borders @ 27 (+9 Par)
2019 – Leader Board

It was a great fun toe-in-Europe leg and we are moving on…

Our participants two-weeks master class in perfecting the art of travel has come to a close. It has been an exciting time with numerous travel lessons learned along the way:

In Vancouver, they learned to hit the ground running with an element of surprise in a soggy wet urban adventure. (BTW our only rain so far!)

In Saigon, the where fish-out-of-water bleary-eyed and jet-legged travelers in a hustling and bustling exotic Southeast Asian destination when the competitive juices really started to kick in. The language barriers were challenging along with detoxing from their comfortable worlds.

In Myanmar, over a long hot four days they dealt with navigating a classic travelers triangle, the logistics of getting from here to there and finding a place for one-night…and the unique cultural nuances that is this special nation.

In Bangkok, they learned a lot about team dynamics in this seat-of-the-pants layover challenge by checking luggage and getting out and being busy—albeit for only a few hours; the marathon 23-day’s on the road aspect of the competition really hit some teams.

In Abu Dhabi, they took another urban adventure with a decidedly unique twist where things are done differently.

In Jordan, they learned that it is all about the choices you make when it comes to Bonuses and the logistical difference between city and rural traveling.

In Athens, they got their toe wet in the Euroland—efficient, normal, Western—but in the throes of a festival national holiday weekend …

Now for their final exam, when all the skills they have learned come together while their situational awareness is peaking and the Travel IQ ready for action. The Big multi-country adventure of the Par 6 North Africa/Iberian Peninsula leg: Over 150 scavenges with 19 Bonuses, 3 Team Challenges and a whole lotta good eating; six exciting days of buses, trains, ferries, camels, trams, bikes and funiculars; four diverse country stops over 1,400km (870 miles) lay between them here in Marrakesh and there in Porto. Oh yea, did I mention May Day!?

Teams were given $300 each to cover their best-guess transpo costs and told that they would be required to secure their own lodgings for three nights (Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday)…all depending on their risk/reward course of action. We will see them Friday at 11:30AM in the lobby of our Porto, Portugal hotel.

Good luck to everyone, be safe, be smart.

Leg Rule Changes:
1) Teaming up allowed, but only in Morocco!
2) Car rentals allowed, but only once, and only within one single country where the rental must be both picked-up & returned.
3) Smartphones allowed.
4) Airbnb & Uber allowed.

So their assignment is to get from here in Morocco to Porto in Portugal.


5-North African/Iberian Peninsula Sample Scavenges:

-Camp out in the Sahara desert for one night…
-Visit the Blue City of Chefchaouen…
-Take a hot air balloon ride over the Marrakesh & Atlas Mountains…
-Make a pilgrimage to visit the sacred place Fátima…
-Have fish n’ chips in Gibraltar…

Their probable first leg…although I might…

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca…

Don’t forget to follow your favorite teams…although we have no idea where they get the time (or energy?); some of our 2019 teams are blogging, and open to social media interactions:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –

And finally, as you know we try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

As for us…6 days to kill; what shall we do?

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Day 16: An Athens Lazy Saturday

Day 16: Saturday, 27 April 2019 – Athens, Greece (37.9838° N, 23.7275° E)

Good Morning…well, the Road Officials dispatched the teams yesterday afternoon upon arrival from Jordan with Scavenger Hunt Booklets, Athens maps and hotel Grand Hyatt Athens vouchers in hand. We opted to refresh ourselves for a quick 30 hours at the sea closer to the  airport before our last crazy week.

Some look one way, some the other…

Athens past….


Greece isn’t all about the food…a little history here too!

Missing our pooch Barney today, for some reason?

Threw a fun On-the-Go Team Challenge at folks today in Athens: Gave a photo of a street and said first team to find the Chalmers Family nearby earned 76 points…amazed 4 teams found us. But who was first?

Ying 2.0 found us…

Lazy Monday found us…

Order & Chaos found us…

SLO Folks found us too…

FYI…enjoy some of our 2019 team blogs, and social media posts:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  
Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –

We touch base later from our North African destination of Marrakesh!

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Day 15: Good Friday in Athens, Take 2

Day 15: Friday, 26 April 2019 – Athens, Greece (37.9838° N, 23.7275° E)

We are in Athens!

It is Holy Week in the Orthodox Christian world, which Greece counts itself in; so we are in for a festive (sic?) two-days.

We were last here in 2008 when we had our infamous drunken night at a Plaka taverna (I am sure Zoe & Rainey remember that night!)…sadly, not everyone understood the rules of that leg that took them from Athens to Bucharest…we had to throw the whole leg out, much to the chagrin of a few teams…we lived and learned!

2019 Teams at ATH…before the bomb dropped on them…

 

Old Business:  We have gone over all the peer reviewed AMM Leg (Par 4) scores…(Scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses)
5th Place went to Transformed Travel Goddesses who completed 13 scavenges including 4 Bonuses for 1,065 points
4th went to SLO Folks who completed 15 scavenges including 3 Bonuses for 1,1,50 points
3rd went to Order & Chaos who who completed 25 scavenges including 8 Bonuses for 1,860 points
2nd Place went to Lazy Monday who completed 25 scavenges including 13 Bonuses for 2,045 points; and
1st place on the Jordan Leg went to Lawyers without Borders who completed 22 scavenges including 12 Bonuses and won the 4-legged beastie challenge for 2,190 points!

Congrats all on finishing the sixth leg…let’s roll on:

Overall leaders after six completed legs (par 16 of 25 completed)…the overall top 4 teams are
4. SLO Folks at 66
3. Order & Chaos at 57
2. Lazy Monday at 30
1. Lawyers without Borders at an event low of 25 (+9 over Par)


Three-Things I Learned from the Jordanian Leg: When the going gets tough, the champions push themselves. Participants spend a lot of time—too much time—guessing where we were going to next. Too many Bonuses confounded teams. Everyone loved Jordan…amazing.

Pre-Event Global Literacy Test: #8 – How many of the world’s 1-year old children today have been vaccinated against some disease? (Answer below)
A – 20%
B – 50%
C – 80%


The rooftop view from our team’s hotel

New Business:
So, we have one night, a quick 35-hours during in Athens during Holy Week, Good Friday at that…a Par 2 that started in ATH international airport’s arrival hall…and they were sent on their way.

Rule Changes: They may rent a car with another team (for Bonuses only) and smartphone use is okay. Don’t miss your plane tomorrow night…

5-Sample Greek Scavenges:
-Picnic on the island of Aegina in front of the Temple of Aphaia…
-Take a Plaka Street Art Safari…
-Participate in 3 Olympic venues: one from each the 20th Century, the 21st Century, and before the 20th Century…
-Enjoy the catch of the day at a Piraeus eatery…
-Attend an Orthodox Easter weekend service…

And teams are already having fun…
  
Lazy Monday performing Olympic feats…

One-Minute Interview with Team Ying 2.0

One-Minute Interview with Transformed Travel Goddesses

Check-in is tomorrow night at ATH airport at 9:45PM when we board one last flight and reposition ourselves from Here to There for one last week’s scramble…but where? 

We try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

 

Pre-Event Global Literacy Test: #8 Answer: C – 80% of 1 year olds are vaccinated…(but decreasing in anti-science countries)…and only 2 were correct (Chimpanzees up 7-1)

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Day 14: Floating in the Dead Sea

Day 14: Thursday, 25 April 2019 – Amman, Jordan (31.9454° N, 35.9284° E)

Good Morning from Amman…a place where fetching a taxi requires 6 conversations, 5 shoulder shrugs, 4 finger waves, 3 no’s, 2 I know a man’s and 1 final as you please.

Woke up this morning to the fishing boats heading out at dawn to get their daily catch from the Dead Sea. A gorgeous morning, quiet…only birds chirping, and Germans marking their coveted pool lounge chairs with their beach towels—they will return in hours after breakfast. Today, marks Holy Thursday in the Orthodox Christian world, and the Baptism site of Jesus a few clicks away is expected to do booming business today it is said. Lot’s Cave and Mose’s Nebo Mtn today, not so much.


Lazy Monday riding to Petra

Hanging @ a new 7 Wonder of the World

The Door of Mystery????

Lawyers without Borders on their beastie…but who’s was first?

Retired Traveling Chicks @ the seven pillars of wisdom in Wadi Rum

We are running out of days, so I am dumping three Pre-Event Global Literacy questions your way today (answers below and no cheating please…best informed guess):

5. There are 2 billion children in the world today, aged 0 to 15 years old. How many children will there be in 2100, according to UN population experts?
A – 4 Billion
B – 3 Billion
C – 2 Billion

6. The UN predicts that by 2100 the world population will increase by another 4 billion people. What is the main reason?
A – There will be more children (aged below 15)
B – There will be more adults (aged 15 to 74)
C – There will be more very old people (aged 75 and older)

7. How did the number of deaths per year from natural diasters change over the last 100 years?
A – More than double
B – Remained about the same
C – Decreased to less than half

We are meeting all the teams this evening at our 8:00PM at our Check-in Deadline with a few drinks and appies… before things start get real serious in the coming days ahead…3 legs to go with 9 first place points to be had. Stay tuned tomorrow from someplace else…where, oh where shall we go?!

Pre-Event Global Literacy answers:
5 – C…number of children in the world will remain about the same…(only 3 got that right – Chimps winning 5-0);
6 – B…a lot more adults (7 got that right….Chimps up 5-1);
7 – C…natural disaster deaths are way down due to science and technology and government regulations globally (as the insurance companies would require!) and only 1 got that right (Chimps up 6-1).
Crazy, right!

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Day 13: Looking for Indiana Jones…

Day 13: Wednesday, 24 April 2019 – Petra, Jordan (30.3285° N, 35.4444° E)

Petra…what does that word conjure in you? The exotic destination? An immovable object? Me, well thinking of home, my daughter’s name is Petra. And today, her namesake is everywhere. It subconsciously gnaws at me…a parent away from one of their children.  “I don’t know what’s worse: suffering from homesickness when traveling or from wanderlust when not?” – William D. Chalmers, circa 1989

And here we are wandering around Jordan today.


Better half of Order & Chaos on beastie


What are odds teams would all be at same truck stop at same time?

.
…we are all doing our part.


World’s smallest hotel…oh yes, a crusader castle atop that hill too.

And good night from the Dead Sea with Palestine/Israel in the background.

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Day 12: Historic Jordan

Day 12: Tuesday, 23 April 2019 – Amman, Jordan (31.9454° N, 35.9284° E)

“It’s alarming how much misinformation is out there. Travel is a powerful antidote. When people meet, share a coffee, and talk about their country or their experience, differences often melt away. Tourists are the best ambassadors for tolerance. Every holiday snap, every e-mail home, turns them into digital diplomats. There is no doubt in my mind that travel fosters tolerance, promotes knowledge, and encourages harmony between people of different cultures and religions.”Queen Rania of Jordan

Marhaban…and hello from Jordan! Hard to believe…but today is already the half-way point of the 2019 version of The Global Scavenger Hunt. And with Canada, Viet Nam, Myanmar, Thailand and United Arab Emirates behind us, we still have seven more destinations to test the travel skill sets of our competitors over the final 12 days.

Busy day for us and a lot to report…photos and videos too.


We moved from there…to here.

NEXUS having desert fun…

A group selfie sans Transformed Travel Goddesses


Airport debriefings…

Waiting to board AUH-AMM Flight

We are sad to farewell and good bye to The Fillies (Barbara & Sally)…who we left behind this morning at AUH who have left us and are headed back to the USA. (FYI: It was pre-arranged; so no issues there.)

Almost One-Minute Interview with Retired Traveling Chicks

One-Minute event update from Pamela in AUH

Old Business:  We have gone over all the peer reviewed AUH Leg (Par 2) scores…(Scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses)
6th – Transformed Travel Goddesses
5th – The Fillies who did 10 scavenges for 425 points
4th – Lawyers without Borders completed 17 scavenges for 680 points
3rd – SLO Folks did 18 scavenges for 690 points
2nd – Order & Chaos who emerged from the dead and completed 18 scavenges for 705 points
1st – went to Lazy Monday who won both Team Challenges (visiting the highest spot in Abu Dhabi and mounting a 4-legged beastie too) along with 21 other scavenges for 965 points!

Congrats all on finishing the fifth leg…

Overall leaders after Five completed legs (par 12 of 25 completed)…the overall top 4 teams are:
4. SLO Folks = 50
3. Order & Chaos = 45
2. Lazy Monday = 22
1. Lawyers without Borders = 21

Three-Things I Learned from the AUH Leg: Ladies and gentlemen we have a serious competition on our hands at the half way mark—a veteran team against a first time team—both are great travelers!; we lost a few more competitive teams who elected to throw in the towel while finding their own happiness quotient; and we are finally out of the heat!

New Business: For the next three days we have put together a fun but tricky Par 4 leg due to the many Bonus options available to our travelers. This leg is all about choices and Bonuses–all 13 of them! A great destination with historic and mythical biblical destinations, great Roman ruins and other cultural highlights, along with Jordan’s not-to-vast and accessible stunning natural beauty. Have I even mention the ancient Nabatean city Petra yet?! (Well…I have pissed off daughter today back in LA who’s name is Petra!)


5 Sample Jordanian Scavenges:
-Visit Lawrence’s infamous “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” and quench your thirst at Ain Shalaaleh…
-Retrace Moses’ footsteps and climb to the top of Mount Nebo…
-Visit the lowest point on Earth and float in the Dead Sea…
-Locate an oryx in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve…
-Hang with some locals sucking a shisha and talking about life…


Jordan is target rich!


But maybe a tad confusing…

Retired Traveling Chicks & Team Ying 2.0 perform at Roman Amphitheater in Amman.

We try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

We will report next from either Petra or the Dead Sea…wish you were here!

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Day 11: The Middle East Pivot

Day 11: Monday, 22 April 2019 – Abu Dhabi, UAE (24.4539° N, 54.3773° E)

Ahlan wa sahlan…Welcome to the consumer wonderland known as Abu Dhabi; the place were trophy building developments occur before the actual need for them—if you build it they will come philosophy. Cool when you have deep oil-rev pockets and only 12% of population are people that actually matter. But I regress… We were last here officially in 2015, although we know all the nooks and crannies of the AUH international airport…as it has served for years as our useful Middle Eastern pivot for us either heading to Europe, Africa or South Asia.

Today we are holed up for two nights at the wonderful St. Regis Abu Dhabi beachside of the Persian Gulf.


The bus they sent to transfer 23 passengers from the airport…seems they forgot about where to put our luggage!

This mornings opulent breakfast salved everyone from an arduous day yesterday and everyone is ready to go…

Quick Thought…Was thinking…ten places that didn’t exist not so many years ago…let’s say since the 70’s…Incheon, South Korea, an airport city of 3million+…every major development in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar…Brasilia, Brazil…and then thinking what will surive us in 3000 years…only things in the dry deserts…so Vegas, Dubai, etc…

Old Business:  The Road Officials have had time to go over all the peer reviewed hot & nasty 8-Hour Layover Challenge Leg (Par 1) in Bangkok scores…

7th Place = Transformed Travel Goddesses with 145 points

6th Place = SLO Folks with 235 points

Three-way tie for 3rd Place = Team Ying 2.0, The Fillies & Order & Chaos with 265 points each

Tie for 1st Place = Lawyers without Borders & Lazy Monday (who lost their book before leaving the airport…but recovered in time to find a real live elephant) with 270 points each

Congrats all on finishing the fourth leg…

Overall leaders after four completed legs (par 11 of 25 completed)…the overall top 3 teams on the 2019 – Leader Board 2 are:

The Elephant Shot that won the Team Challenge (again by Lazy Mondays…beginning to think it’s their thing.)

Three-Things I Learned from the RGN & BKK Legs: More is not our goal or our spirit…Quality matters over quantity…teams need to slow down and enjoy the experiences (between themselves and the places they are visiting), learn from the people the meet about what they are seeing and doing; experiences matter more than points. All good life lessons. We have 5 legs still worth 15 Par…so this is still anyone’s event to win.

Having fun with the Global Literacy Test…Question 4 a simple one: What is the average life expectancy of the world today?
A – 50 Years
B – 60 Years
C – 70 Years (No cheating…answer below)

New Business: Having arrived last night after a three country sprint from Yangon and Bangkok, we are really only in operation here for one full day, today. So we have put together a relatively easy nouveau riche Middle East urban adventure Par 2…with our check-in deadline tonight at 10:00 pm here in the hotel lobby.

5 Sample Abu Dhabi Scavenges:
-Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster…
-Visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and handle one…
-Kayak the mangroves of Abu Dhabi…
Visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi and find the world’s most expensive painting… 
Visit a Western fast food establishment (Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.), but eat something not on the normal American menu…

One Minute Interview with Barbara & Sally of The Fillies.

FYI…enjoy some of our 2019 team blogs, and social media posts:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  
Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –


An eerily beautiful phenomena of winter is the morning fog playing with the buildings


The amazing, Taj-like,  Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


They put gold leaf in coffees here…for a price.


Time for lunch…

Again…we try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you…shukran jazilann too!

The answer to question 4 of our Global Literacy is C – 70 years! There has been amazing progress in this regard as infant deaths are drastically reduced. Only 2 of our travelers answered correctly…Chimps now up 4-0!

See you all tonight at our 10:00PM Deadline Checkin…

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Day 10: A Sultry Layover Challenge in Bangkok

Day 10: Sunday, 21 April 2019 – Bangkok, Thailand (13.7563° N, 100.5018° E)

You say layover, I say happy hour!” – William D. Chalmers, circa 1988

Sawasdee—Welcome to Thailand! BTW…Happy Easter everyone…

We took a rare backtrack today, because oddly, we had to fly slightly east to further our westward global trajectory…Myanmar is still hard to get into and out of with limited connections to mostly its regional neighbors…especially Bangkok and Singapore. Today we chose Bangkok as a more interesting layover in our exit strategy. Thus we a have fun 8-Hour Layover Challenge…but I am getting ahead of myself.

Old News First: We have gone over all the peer reviewed challenges of the Myanmar Leg (Par 5) scores…with Team Order & Chaos receiving a prorated average of 613 points that was the average score of the top 5 teams first 24 hours in Myanmar scores (throwing out the high and low) through no fault of their own due to not being allowed entry into Myanmar on a visas technicality. This was only fair.

#7 – The FILLIES did 32 scavenges in Yangon, Bagan & Mandalay (but elected to fly between the latter) earning 395 points after hefty penalty…but having a ball with no regrets.

#6 – Transformed Travel Goddesses did 20 scavenges in Yangon & Bagan earning 770 points

#5 – Order & Chaos in their abbreviated scavenging did 20 scavenges and after the prorated points earned 1,668 points.

#4 – Team Ying 2.0 were all over the place, from Yangon to Bagan and Mandalay…earning 1,935

#3 – Lazy Monday did 47 scavenges (the most in Yangon) along with some in Mandalay earning themselves 1,945 points (including winning the 4-Legged Beastie Challenge again!)

#2 – SLO Folks did 37 scavenges in Yangon, Bagan & the point rich area of Inle Lake for 2,055 points

#1 – Lawyers without Border completed 52 scavenges in Yangon, Bagan & Inle earning themselves 2,745 points

That said, the new overall leaders after three completed legs (par 9 of 25 completed) are:

3rd Place = Team Ying 2.0 @ 30
2nd Place = Lazy Mondays @ 19
1st Place = Lawyers without Borders @ 12

Three Things I Learned from the Myanmar Leg: Having a sound travel strategy is key and travel IQ still matters more than money; some teams are still moving way too fast—he who runs can still not walk with dignity; Myanmar was amazing—it always is. Oh, and Emory’s blog is too funny!

One-Minute Interview with Team NEXUS.

Onward…now about this Par 1 urban 8-Hour Layover Challenge!

lay•over  \ ‘lā-, ō-vәr \ noun (1873) – STOPOVER n (1885): a period spent by a passenger at an intermediate point in waiting for a transportation connection; a brief halt in a journey caused by scheduling in the course of a journey; a short stop in a long journey, especially one between airplane flights; free time between flights spent in an airport hub—and to be avoided like the plague.


5-Sample Bangkok Scavenges:
-pay homage to the Grand Palace…
-get a cool foot massage…
-utilize four different modes of public transportation…
-eat at one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite street food carts…
Team Challenge: Obtain a photo of a live elephant…

Do you stay at the airport trapped like a tourist in transit in the mall-like terminal? No you don’t
Do you find a floor, a quiet corner or bench, and attempt to catch a few zzzz’s. No you don’t…
Do you zone out talking with other travelers drinking beer watching CNN? No you don’t
Do you get an expensive spa treatment at the airport spa? No you don’t
Do you go to the airport fitness area or prayer room to work on your cardio, abs or soul? No you don’t
Do you hang out in a premium lounge and answer e-mails, play computer solitaire, or post a new Instagram photo? No you don’t…
Do you eat some notoriously bad generic airport food? No you don’t…
Do you go guilt shopping for duty-free? No you don’t…

-You escape the airport albeit for a short time with only one rule…don’t miss your flight!
…you embrace this short window of opportunity
…you take a mini-excursion…explore a neighborhood…see something you’ve always wanted to see
…you stretch your legs in an exotic location
…you go out and see and do as much as possible
…you maximize your exposure to a new place, a new culture
…you engage with real human beings
…you have a good time
…take a whirlwind hit n’ run no-time-to-waste tour
…but the clock is ticking— you have to be time sensitive
…you won’t turn into a pumpkin—but you will miss your flight!
…so efficiency matters…you have to know when to walk away—it’s just not working out
…forget lines and mass tourism spots
…our layover challenges test their Travel IQ…their situational awareness…
…but they have to be careful, be smart
…remember the vagaries of local logistics
…and the airport boogaloo awaiting them: check-in, security, customs & immigration queues…
Remember: don’t miss your flight!

 

On the other hand, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist George Stigler—that if you’ve never missed a flight, you’ve probably spent way too much time in airports!

Here’s math professor Jordan Ellenberg getting his geek on for you with his three options:

“Option 1: arrive two hours before flight, miss flight two percent of the time
Option 2: arrive one and a half hours before flight, miss flight five percent of the time
Option 3: arrive one hour before flight, miss flight fifteen percent of the time

Using util values for time, you can figure out which scenario affords you the most positive utility. In the first scenario, two hours of your time equals -2 utils (negative because it’s a loss to be wasting time), but the chance of missing the flight two percent of the time has to be accounted for as well (-6 utils times the two percent chance of that happening). When the two are added together, the utility for the first scenario lands at -2.12 utils. For option two, your utility ends up being -1.8 (-1.5 utils plus -6 times five percent) and for option three, your utility is -1.9 utils. So from a mathematical standpoint, your best bet would be to arrive one and a half hours before your flight.” (Smithsonian, 23 June 2014)


Okay, that said…we are now en route to Abu Dhabi…martinis at midnight!

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