Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mark's Highlights of the Year

These highlights were in the 3 part email series I sent out during the course of the trip, but in case you missed them here goes...

- Crossed the equator for the first time on the way to Buenos Aires
- Went to thermal pools for the first time in Salto, Uruguay
- Visited Iguazu Falls where the countries of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet.
- Sailed an old-fashioned catamaran on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia (it cost about $2 to do this)
- Went whitewater rafting on the Rio Urubamba in Cusco, Peru
- Hiked the Inca Trail (4 day hike) to Machu Pichu
- Played a couple pick-up soccer games with Peruvians (one at 4am after hiking to Machu Pichu and one at the bottom of Colca Canyon)
- Viewed wild condors (largest flying bird) while hiking in the Colca Canyon, Peru
- Felt an earthquake in Peru (ok maybe it was a tremor, but it sure felt like a quake to me)
- Spent my first Thanksgiving away from home in Iquique, Chile (it was very hard being away from my family)
- Went sandboarding ("snowboard style") in the Valle De La Muerte (Valley of Death) in the Atacama Desert of Chile (driest place on the planet)
- Biked from vineyard to vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina (great wine!)
- Saw a tango show in Buenos Aires, Argentina (this was excellent)
- Had a $5 steak or "asado" in Buenos Aires, Argentina (delicious!)
- Attended a Boca Juniors (Maradona's old team) soccer game (with the championship on the line) and sat in the visitor's section/cage (not the ideal place to be)
- Witnessed the 2007 New Year's fireworks in Sydney, Australia (best I've ever seen)
- Attended an opera in the Sydney Opera House (most recognizable building in the world)
- Worked as a porter / housekeeper / waiter in a hotel in Paihia, New Zealand (I found out my boss' son played Ares on Xena Warrior Princess)
- Saw the Southern Cross for the first time (smallest of the 88 modern constellations)
- Went sandboarding again (this time "boogie board style"....much faster) near Ninety Mile Beach, New Zealand
- Took a boat through "Hole in the Rock" in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand
- Experienced half a year's worth of rain in a four day period in Paihia, New Zealand (even the locals had never seen anything like it)
- Saw whales for the first time in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand
- Swung from trapeze to trapeze 20 feet in the air in Paihia, New Zealand
- Went to "Minus 5" ice bar (everything is made of ice) in Auckland, New Zealand
- Scored my lowest round of golf (105) in Greymouth, New Zealand (I'm not kidding that's my best, I'll keep working on it)
- Ice-climbed on the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand (this is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world)
- Skydived for the first time over Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
- Got lost in a human maze in Wanaka, New Zealand
- Bungy-jumped 440 ft. out of a gondola over the Nevis River (highest bungy in New Zealand) in Queenstown, New Zealand
- Saw more waterfalls at one time than I thought possible in Milford Sound, New Zealand
- Toured the Cadbury Chocolate Plant (saw one ton of chocolate fall like a Willy Wonka waterfall) in Dunedin, New Zealand
- Walked up the steepest street in the world in Dunedin, New Zealand
- Went zorbing (rolled down a hill in a hamster-like ball) in Rotorua, New Zealand (this was a blast!)
- Nearly run over by a large male kangaroo in Melbourne Zoo when he noticed another male "taking an interest" in one of "his" females (he ran right between me and my sister)
- Flew from Melbourne to Cairns Australia without ever showing any ID
- Spent Saint Patty's Day in Melbourne in a 16 bed dorm room with 14 Irish people (13 of whom were male) Needless to say I didn't sleep much that night.
- went diving on the Great Barrier Reef (saw Nemo and others)
- saw the India Ocean for the first time in Bali, Indonesia (picture perfect waves)
- held an impromtu english class on the beach with about 10 Indonesian kids in Lombok, Indonesia (I was the only foreigner in sight)
- motorbiked solo around the island of Lombok, Indonesia (population 2.4 million)
- spotted Anthony Edwards, the actor who played "Goose" in Top Gun, at the airport in Bali, Indonesia
- saw the Petronas Twin Towers (formerly the tallest in the world) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- witnessed the fracas that is known as the "full moon party" of Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand
- kayaked through caves, saw a huge monitor lizard, and visited a rubber plantation near Bor Thor Village, Thailand
- played the game Connect Four and lost at a go-go bar in Phuket, Thailand
- witnessed a few Thai kickboxing matches (or The Art of the Eight Limbs) in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
- jumped out of my seat at a snake show in Thailand (was able to touch a cobra)
- sat with and tentatively petted tigers at a tiger temple in Thailand (I was escorted around by a 16 year old girl, ha)
- saw a bout between a cobra and a mongoose (no animals were killed and it was the mongoose all the way)
- walked over the famous "Bridge Over the River Kwai" - outside Bangkok, Thailand
- toured the temple of Angkor Wat just outside Siem Reap, Cambodia
- shot slingshots with several Cambodian boys near Siem Reap, Cambodia
- dined on grilled kangaroo, crocodile, and ostrich all in one meal in Saigon, Vietnam
- ate scorpion and liked it Saigon, Vietnam
- watched Dave try to eat raw rabbit meat before he was stopped and told you have to cook it first in Saigon, Vietnam
- crawled through the Cu Chi tunnels of south Vietnam
- learned how to cross a street in Saigon, Vietnam
- went on an overnight cruise through Halong Bay, Vietnam (possibly the most beautiful place I've ever seen)
- attended a water puppet show in Hanoi, Vietnam
- passenger in a slight fender bender on a motorcycle in Hanoi, Vietnam (it's amazing this doesn't happen more frequently)
- went trekking/mudsliding for 2 days through Sapa, Vietnam (the other possibly most beautiful place I've ever seen)
- was taught several drinking games by the locals while on a 3 day trek through northern Thailand
- elephant trekked and went bamboo rafting (my elephant ran away and I fell off the raft), Chiang Mai, Thailand
- successfully bought train tickets in India (this is a feat...believe me)
- visited the Ellora caves (amazingly carved out of the side of a mountain) outside Aurangabad, India
- paid a visit to the Taj Mahal the day after it was voted a new seven wonder (this is one building where the pictures don't do it justice)
- had my coke stolen from me by an Indian woman on a train outside Delhi, India (she proceeded to drink it right in front of me)
- shared dinner with an Indian family on a train going to Delhi, India
- saw Mt. Everest....nuff said
- tried the apple pie at no less than 5 villages in the Khumbu region of Nepal (I'm thinking of writing a Zagat's Nepal)
- listened to Bob Dylan at a tea house in Pheriche, Nepal (it was just about the only cd they had, fortunately it was a good one!)
- had my Himalayan guide hijacked/seduced by a fellow trekker while on a 13 day trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal
- travelled in the most crowded bus conceivable in northern India (seating capacity 29, spacial capacity ~68)
- I've been told over 20 times now that I look like Michael Owen (English soccer player)
- "slept" on a night ferry to Ko Tao. A huge space with mattresses laid down. It was so cramped you couldn't roll over without bumping into the person next to you. (foreigners on port side, locals on starboard)
- Scuba dived at Southwest Pinnacle and Shark Island off of Ko Tao, Thailand
- bought a fake Breitling watch that is actually working out ok
- bought a fake G-shock that I eventually received 3 offers to buy it from me in Egypt
- went to Burma for a day to renew my visa (about a month before the uprising began)
- Six weeks before this trip ended I mailed my guitar and souvenirs home and they didn't show up until I'd been home for 3 weeks
- Saw the Hong Kong skyline for the first time (most beautiful in the world imo)
- Spent my birthday in Hong Kong, went to a space museum, played video games, and saw the laser show over the skyline.
- got lost my first night in Beijing and had a random Russian guy help us find our way
- Visited the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing
- Couldn't visit the National Museum of China because it's close for renovations for 3 YEARS!
- ate Peking duck in Beijing (delicious!)
- Hiked along the Great Wall of China (this really does deserve it's reputation as a wonder of the world)
- drank a glass of tap water for the first time in 5 months Helsinki, Finland
- Felt like a midget in Helsinki, Finland (all the clothes in the store are XXL)
- Visited a Finnish sauna (the sauna was invented here after all)
- Finally enjoyed a descent beer in Helsinki (it just wasn't cost-effective to drink imports in Asia) - Visited the Museum of Terror (building where torture was conducted by both communists and Nazis depending on who was in power at the time) in Budapest, Hungary
- celebrated the Heritage Festival in Pecs, Hungary
- went on a self-guided wine-tasting tour in Villany, Hungary
- saw Ricky Gervais perform his stand-up act Fame in London
- took out 5X more $ than I wanted b/c I got the exchange rate wrong in Turkey
- toured the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
- was able to stay with and meet locals in Istanbul (thanks to my friend Hulya)
- visited the pyramids of Giza after hours by horseback
- the director of the art museum in Cairo invited me to his daughter's wedding
- did a night dive in the Red Sea at Dahab, Egypt
- walked to the top of Mt. Sinai for sunrise in Egypt
- wore out my passport with 61 stamps
- reunited was several "Charlotte" friends in NYC
- was greeted by my entire family at the airport in Raleigh (they were equipped with balloons, a welcome home sign, and everything)


Anonymous Ernest said...

Welcome home, Mark...

12/31/2007 2:59 AM  
Blogger Carolynn said...

Wow - your trip sounds like it was so awesome! I wanna go!

1/07/2008 3:04 PM  

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