July 22, 2014

Our World Sabbatical; Facts, Feats, Highlights and Lowlights

World Sabbatical Image Woman in Peru

Photo Credit: TrekHound.Com

Whew!  Our trip around the world involved over a year’s worth of planning, not the least of which was figuring out how we could disconnect from our normal lives.  Any how, our recent house sit in Amman, Jordan has enabled us to compile a list of the best, worst, and the hilarious.  Also, as the end draws near, I’ve drawn up the financial stats.

Days spent on the road:  163 (from 13 Dec 06 to projected 24 May 07)

Days out of the USA: 123

Number of countries visited: 11.  In order: USA, Canada, Ecuador, Peru, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, & Kuwait.

Total Cash Spent(to date on the 13th of May): $15,100.57. This total includes 4,738.87 on two credit cards, which where used solely for large transactions such as airline tickets, rentals, and gas in the U.S.

Average per day including total:  $99.35

Average per day from ATMs plus cash carried:  $79.41 outside the US and $67.72 in the states.  That breaks down to a useful average of about $75 per day, or about $37.50 per person.   Keep in mind too that faster travel generally means more cash (ie traveling by air versus a pickup with chicken coups) up front.

Most Expensive Country:  Israel. $1USD=approx. 4 shekels. 1 16oz beer=15 shekels, low end double room=150 shekels, falafel for two plus drinks=70 shekels.

Least Expensive Country:  Cambodia. $1USD=approx 4000 reils.  1 16oz beer= 2000R, low end double 15$USD,  street food was about $1.50USD.

Total distance traveled: approx 38,000 miles, as computed from Google Earth.

Highest/Lowest elevation achieved: 12,507 ft on Lake Titicaca and -1,371 ft at the Dead Sea, for a difference of 13,878 ft.

Modes of transport used: Planes, Trains, Automobiles (both private and rented), Buses (1st through 5th class), Taxis (metered and un-metered), boats (on Lake Titicaca, the Sangkor River, and the Red Sea), Skytrain & Water taxi in Bangkok, Pick-up trucks (Sinai & Cambodia), Tuk-tuks, Motorbikes, Donkey and Mule (in Petra), and of course, lots of walking via the shoe leather express.

Farthest walked in one day: 22 miles the second day in Petra.

Best Taxi:  A local named Musa from Aquaba to Wadi Rum.  He gave us a fair price and picked us up several days later when we were ready to join civilization again.

Worst Taxi: To the Bangkok airport.  The guy thought he could get an extra tip if he “went faster…”  we patiently explained to him that we would rather arrive intact, and in any event the plane didn’t depart for several hours.

Best Bus service: Ormeno from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Tumbes, Peru.  They left on time, we were fed,  and information was passed.  Air-con worked as promised.

Worst Bus service: Sihanookville, Cambodia to Bangkok, Thailand. 14hours= four buses, four river crossings, two border check points, no A/C, and no information passed. See also near death experiences.

Best Airline:  Air Condor in Peru.  We walked in their office in Tumbes at 1030AM and by 1230PM we were airbourne to Lima.

Worst Airline:  OK I have to put a disclaimer on this one.  I worked in the US Air Force for several years,  and overall, I’m very satisfied with our Space-A experiences, not to mention tickled to death to get a once every blue moon flight to Bangkok for free.  However, no safety briefing was given (and Myscha had never flown on a C-0130, and the whole enter/exit process for Okinawa customs was rather confusing and cumbersome.

Best Airport:  Lima… it has massage tables and copious amounts of high speed internet as well as numerous drinking and eating options and it’s all past security!

Worst Airport: Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt.  OK maybe its better when the Italians are not returning home after Easter holiday,  and it IS Egypt… but departures was absolutely packed.  We also witnessed several fights break out. A bigger airport might be in order.

Most Dangerous traffic:  Kuwait City.  Imagine all the people of the world all coming together and wanting to drive in their own special way in one city.  Add in extremely cheap gas (about 60cents a gallon!) and a dash of 40 degree plus Celsius temperatures and virtually no mass transit system and you’ve got a prescription for wackiness.  Compounding the whole situation are kamikaze pre-teeens(!) in exotic sports cars and virtually no street signage.  Legend has it the Iraqis were thoroughly confused by this the first few days of the 1991 invasion.

Most people sighted on one motorbike:  six, sighted by Myscha in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  I did sight one with two live pigs in bamboo cages going to market, which would be the equivalent number of hooves.

Number of near death experiences:  7.  Near death experiences can be a great resume builder.  Nothing says “top notch employee” like someone who will court death on a regular basis.  That being said, arriving home in one piece is now high on our agenda.  Our brushes with the Reaper break down as follows;

#1- The electrocuting  shower(David): I’m sure this shower-head in a Guayaquil Hostel is still out there, gleefully zapping unsuspecting backpackers.

#2- The staircases of Machu Picchu (Myscha): A beautiful view, but hundreds of meters straight down and no guard rail.

#3- Motorbikes in Battangbong, Cambodia(David): Strange, after all the near misses I’ve seen in the third world, the first direct hit I was a passenger in.  Luckily, I merely received a twisted foot; my driver took the brunt of the hit and went temporarily into shock.  A few millimeters in either direction and it could’ve been much worse.

#4- Death bus to Bangkok(David & Myscha): I firmly suspect our driver from Trat to Bangkok was on amphetamines.   As he recklessly tried to enter hyperspace, we seriously began to believe we wouldn’t survive the trip.  And this was after we had been  in Cambodia a few weeks, so we had been fairly de-sensitized to Asian driving habits by that time.

#5- Donkey to the Monastery (Myscha):  Just looking to the right over the precipice can stop your heart cold.  Another hair raising moment on the climb routinely occurs when the path slims down to inches on a switch back turn, the donkey’s hooves slip perceptively, and it appears as if straight down is the only possible out come.  The drivers cries of “don’t worry, its safe! Inshallah! ” doesn’t really help the situation much.  Tip: as harrowing as going up hill can be,  it’s not anywhere near as frightening as the trip down, where you and the animal you are on are leaning forward straight into the abyss!  It’s a sobering statistic that other than a group of French tourists swept away in a flash flood in the early 60′s,  the guides at Petra have never lost a tourist.  The Bedouin have a safety record nearly as good as Quantas.

#6- High fever in Sinai (David):  One moment I’m signing up to climb Mount Sinai, the next I’m shivering with 105 degree fever.  I was extremely lucky I had  a travel partner to help me through that night;  few things are worse than being deathly sick alone in a strange place.

#7- Driving in Kuwait (David): see also Most Dangerous traffic.

Incidentally, seven near death experiences break down to about one per every 22.2 days.

Estimated number of beers consumed: 408.  This was arrived at by assuming an average multiplier of 2.5 per day.  Some places like Kuwait we didn’t drink (legally) at all;  others like Thailand, its cheaper than bottled water.

Estimated bottles of wine consumed: 66. The average mulipler used was .4.

Number of pictures taken: 5,271. Digital film is cheap… that would have been a whole lot of 36 exposure roles.

Most under-rated site: Jerash, Jordan.  If you only have a day in Amman, see Jerash to the north.  This Roman site deserves the popularity of places like Ephesus.  And they have a wonderful pagan festival in the summer!

Most over-rated:  Puno, Peru.  An ugly port town on Lake Titicaca.

Number of over night stops: Not including sleeping on planes or buses and the like,  we’ve laid our heads a total of 52 places.

Cheapest room:  The Jasmine Hostel in Dahab, Sinai.  At $10USD a night,  if you’ve got to get sick in Egypt, this is the place.  The staff is even friendly and helpful, to boot. Their restaurant is right on the beach,  and they change sheesha coals often.

Most Expensive Room:  The Ramada Plaza Inn in LAX. At $80USD a night,  the service was lousy.  The staff wouldn’t even start the hot tub for us.  And no sheesha.

Best Hotel/Hostel:  After a month in South America, Travis AFB billeting was a welcome respite.  It was clean, reasonably  priced, and they had the amenities every backpacker secretly craves; laundry, hot showers, coffee and internet.  The Seaview Villa in Sihanookville and the Jasmine (see above) also get honorable mention.

Worst Hotel/Hostel: Momo’s in Tel Aviv, Israel.  For the hype it got in Lonely Planet, we found this to be overpriced and rather grimy.  The communal kitchen provided was a pot AND spoon to stir it with.  Some places in the world, the bathroom is so eruptive, its preferable to have it down the hall instead of in your room… this is one of them.

Best Bathroom experience:  The Lotash Seed restaurant in Bangkok.  The toilets were clean, eco-friendly and came with such luxuries as toilet paper and closing doors.

Worst Bathroom experience:  The Ferry boat on Lake Titicaca.  No closing door, and a cubicle centimeters square to maneuver in.

Best Meal: Haret Jdoudna in Madaba.  Maybe it was just because they had a roaring fire place and we were verging on hypothermic, but we thoroughly enjoyed this place. And the food and Mount Nebo wine rocked.  Honorable mentions:  Cabbages & Condoms (Bangkok), Si Senors (Lima), Palm Palace (Kuwait), and the Dead Fish Tower (Siem Reap).

Worst Meal: The winner has to be a forgotten falafel joint in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.  If it were Tucson, I’d suspect it was a front to launder drug money, cause they weren’t into such concepts as say, service or warm food.  Dis-honorable mention also includes breakfast in Poipet (anywhere in Poipet), Cambodia, and eating on the beach in Sinanookville(fly-blown food).

Number of teas in one day: 10 sessions, and 14 teas in Petra, Jordan.

Best Day: The river boat from BattangBong to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  This was everything I signed up for on our backpacking trip;  an adventure down a hot, lazy, Asian river.  Folks who just jet into Siem Reap, see Angkor and jet out miss the best part!  Our days of picnicking in Petra and hanging with the Bedouin were also unforgettable.  If the world ever goes to hell-in-a-hand-basket, we will look up our Bedouin friends for safe passage.

Worst Day: The Death Bus to Bangkok. (See also, near death experiences)

Best bargain haggled: A Jewish hamza in Akko, Israel.  She started at 800 shekels we got it for 300.  I snuck back secretly and bought it for Myscha’s birthday.

Most we got taken for:  10$USD equivalent buying bus tickets from Jerusalem to Eilat.  Initially the teller stated the bus was full and we had to go to Ein Gedi.  No sooner than I had bought our tickets than I discovered others buying standing tickets to Eilat.  I quickly purchased new ones and sold our pair to another backpacker for a discounted single rate. Still, we lost money.  Nothing like the “You-don’t-REALLY-know-where-you-want-to-go” syndrome.

Number of times our portable mosquito net was used: 3. It also makes a use-able pillow.

Most Used Items:  The Thai crystal, sarong, and hanging tolietries are high on Myscha’s list;  I found the notepad, wine opener and guide book indispensable.

Best Internet: Travis AFB billeting had a very speedy connection. Other honourables include our second Puno experience (they had a bar), and the Lima Airport.

Worst Internet: The connection in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador was pre-historic;  the prices at the Ramada Plaza Inn at LAX were unspeakable. We could’ve stayed on the road for another month for what they charged per hour.

Number of books read: 8 (David) +30 Myscha.

Biggest Characters Met: It’s the people met and travellers’ tales told that really stick with you over the years and make the trip.  Sometimes we hook up with other backpackers to share a day, a week, or a border crossing.  It also can increase our negotiating power.  Some of our stand outs were;

The Spanish couple on the train to Machu Piccu: Are you guys reading this?  Sorry I didn’t jot down the names… This pair had been traveling the world, financing their trip via modelling and acting stints. Very fun couple.

Missionary Guy in Poipet:  This guy was retired military who built and ran a mission in Poipet, Cambodia, which is not exactly Disney Land.

Sam- Our local guide in Battangbong,  he invited us to dinner with his extended family, all we had to do was fund the five cases of beer.

Charlie- A Brit we met in Madaba, Jordan and shared transport on our Petra leg… he had travelled the Karakorum Highway, which is another goal of ours.

Rotha- Our Bedouin guide in Petra, she also invited for dinner with her extended family.  She also would like to know why ”Bedouin women can’t marry foreigners?”

The General- This guy was retired Jordanian military and ran the Palm Camp in Wadi Rum we stayed at… on our second night, he invited us to eat in his tent as we were the only guests.

Lars- A German attorney he was on a two year motorcycle odyssey across Asia when we met him at the Hebron Hostel in Jerusalem.

And Finally The Tough Cookie Award:  This goes to Myscha, for all she’s endured and persevered.  This gal has climbed temples, rode boats through mosquito infested swamps, out-haggled crooked taxi drivers, taken questionable military transports, and done a thousand other things that other folks would cringe at… she’s one Tough Cookie and I love her.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. This is awesome Myscha! I haven’t been on in a while and am going to have to spend some serious time catching up. Very cool.

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