AND THE CIRCLE IS COMPLETE

6 10 2010

Well we are back, we have gone completely around the world. Although that may have been the original premise of the trip and what sparked our desire to take a long journey it became somewhat irrelevant once we got under way. Well I will quickly recap where we have been since my last real post. First off, the pictures I had posted recently where from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Morocco, Spain and the UK territory of Gibraltar. After arriving in Munich we spent a day touring the city followed by a day trip to Austria to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck. We then left Munich and headed to Switzerland more specifically Grindelwald via Zürich and Berne. We had originally planned on staying in Interlaken but upon arrival we discovered that the rack railway train bound for Grindelwald was about to leave and decided to jump on it. I had visited the same town about four years earlier in the winter and I was very anxious to show Justyna this beautiful mountain village situated right below the infamous North Face of the Eiger. We arrived in town about an hour later and set out to find a hostel. I could have probably spent weeks there exploring the mountains but the prices of even the cheapest lodging quickly reduced that idea to two days. But what a wonderful couple of days they where. We spent most of the time hiking up in the mountains above the village and visiting the towns below. After two good days in the mountains we finally caught one of the last trains from Grindelwald to Spiez from where we had to catch another train to Milan in Italy. We unfortunately did not arrive at our hotel in Milan until close to midnight and with our flight to Morocco leaving at 10am we really did not see any of the city (although we heard from others that we did not miss much). So we caught our flight and off we went to Africa. It was at this point that I realized how far we have come as travellers. We where not only flying to another country but another continent and a place vastly different from any where we have been to before with nothing other than our back packs and a one way ticket to Marrakech. We had no hotel booked or even a good map, other than a two page excerpt in a lonely planet guide-book we where going in a bit blind. But as usual everything turned out OK. Morocco was an amazing place. It is interesting, colorful and full of energy. The people surprised us and where nearly always pleasant and often times fun to deal with. We spent a day around Marrakech before hiring a driver for a tour over the Atlas Mountains and finally to the Sahara Desert. We visited a Casbah and several Berber villages and took in some amazing views along the way. We spent a night  in a nice hotel in a massive gorge before finally venturing out into the Sahara. This was one of the highlights of our entire trip. We arrived around sunset and mounted up on some camels. We rode for nearly two hours while the sun set and lit up the endless dunes with the most amazing light. We eventually arrived at a camp well after dark. At this point we where with a group of approximately 16 people and there where 5 or so guys who prepared us dinner before playing drums and getting us all to dance late into the evening. Around midnight our entire group decided to climb to the top of the highest dune around. We all ditched our shoes and began climbing. It was a difficult hike to the top but it had its rewards. There was something really special about being up there in the nearly pitch black night. With thunderstorms rolling across the sky to the North and the incredible spread of stars above I couldn’t think of anyplace I would rather be than there. We eventually decided to head back down so we just started running down the steep face of the dune jumping ten feet or more at a time. Someone had lit a few of the dead bushes on the dune on fire which lit up the whole hill side adding to the surreal nature of the evening. When we got back to camp around 2am we set up some mattresses under the stars and tried to get a little sleep. We where abruptly woken up around 4:45am. We had a quick bite to eat before setting out on our camels to return to our trucks. This time we got to ride while the sun rose which was equally as splendid as the night before. This was scenery I had only dreamt about and had only hoped to visit one day so I was beyond thrilled to happen upon it on a little side trip we had just decided to take at the last minute. We eventually made it back out of the desert where we met back up with our driver. The ride back to Marrakech took nearly 12 hours but was made a little more pleasant by the overcast skys and the occasional rain shower which was a welcome relief from the intense sun and usually oppressive heat. Once back in Marrakech we caught a night train to the northern port town of Tangiers where we picked up the ferry to Tarifa,Spain. Tarifa was a nice little coastal town with a few interesting sights but we decided we liked it and booked a hostel for a couple of nights. We spent our time there at the beach and walking around the town. We also took a little excursion to the UK overseas territory of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is interesting and I remember wanting to visit since I was little boy and learned about it in school. The entire place is only 8 square kilometers and you actually have to walk across the runway at the airport to get into it. It seems as if every square inch is covered by some sort of either past or present piece of military equipment. The whole place is built on a rock jutting out of the sea which has been turned into swiss cheese by being perforated with hundreds of tunnels. As small as it is we still managed to get lost at one point (due to an inaccurate map) but we eventually climbed to just about the highest point of the rock proper. We also met the local primate population which resides among the upper reaches of the mountain. They where all a bit sedate and overweight compared to the once we had come across in Bali but still interesting to watch. We made our way back to Tarifa where the next day we caught a bus to the Andelucian city of Seville. The city was pleasant enough but a bit to touristy for my taste. After arriving we discovered that the only bus to Portugal left around midnight so we stowed our bags in some lockers and set out to tour the city. As usual we spent most of the day just wandering around occasionally stopping a cafe here or there. One thing Seville is famous for is Flamenco Dancing but after we found out the prices for what are most likely shows put on solely for tourists we decided that we would likely skip it. We then discovered that there was a month-long festival occurring at the moment with nightly shows put on by various performers from throughout the region. fortunately tickets where a bit cheaper so we bought a couple and went to the show. I am by no means knowledgeable about Flamenco but I do know what we saw was a very modern interpretation of the dance. It was very artistic, well done and even though completely in spanish very entertaining.  We where very fortunate to have stumbled upon a performance that was put on with such intensity rather than a lesser show by a troupe that performs the same show several times a day and in all likely hood lacks much passion. After the show we caught our bus to Lisbon and what a bus ride it was. Words cannot describe how cramped and miserable the conditions where on the bus but somehow we managed to get a few minutes of sleep before arriving around 7 am in Lisbon. We had pre booked a hostel and set out to find it. We made it to the neighborhood where it was located and I began to get a bit worried. There where people sleeping on the ground and bottles everywhere. We finally located the building which had no sign and rang a couple of door bells which received no response. Just as I began to think we got ripped off someone opened the door and welcomed us in. The place turned out to be quite nice. The owner was a lawyer with some sort of noble blood line and the building was his and was furnished with all sorts of beautiful dark wood furniture. Once again we settled in and got cleaned up after that terrible bus ride before venturing out to see the city. Lisbon again was a nice place but I think at this point in our trip we where pretty burnt out on sight-seeing. So we visited a few key areas before we had a nice lunch and walked up to the top of one of the hills overlooking the city where we just relaxed and enjoyed a couple of beers at a cafe while taking in the view. The next day we visited another area of the city famous for its museums and of course leave it up to me to find the geekiest one of them all the Museo Electricidad. Again what a cool place it was an entire power plant that has been decommissioned, refurbished and turned into a huge interactive museum, I mean you could even walk through one of the huge 4 story high pressure steam boilers. The signage must have been written by engineers or former employees because it was quite technical so I was loving it because I actually learned  a lot but I am not sure Justyna found it as interesting. Also did I mention that it was free, how much better does it get. Well also free was the modern art museum which had a couple of interesting installations open. We also discovered that there would be a classical concert being performed that evening so we bought tickets for that. With six hours to kill before the show we for some reason decided to make a four-hour round trip detour  to the town of Sintra. So again when we got there our desire to sight see just wasn’t there so we just grabbed a drink and watched the people walk by for a little while before heading back. We returned to Lisbon and went to the concert which we both enjoyed before heading back to the hostel. The next morning we grabbed a cab to the airport where we needed to catch a flight to London. We met up with our friends Paul and Jen that we had met while travelling through Laos. They showed us around Paul’s home town where we spent the evening visiting some of the local pubs and catching up on remainder of our journeys. The next day we visited the city of London proper. The infamous weather of London did not disappoint and we got rained on pretty heavily for most of the morning. We still managed to take in some of the sights including London Bridge, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. London is so packed with history, it is really hard to take it all in, every where you look there is some sort of historic structure or a monument dedicated to some famous event or figure. We finally settled in a pub for lunch and to get out of the rain and after that we visited the Tate Modern Museum where once again we saw some strange yet interesting works. Later that afternoon we walked around the Houses of Parliament and of course the home of Big Ben. We also saw the London Eye. We finished out the day by visiting Piccadilly Circus (London’s Times Square) where we had dinner and made our way around to a couple more pubs. We then took a train back to our hotel and called it a night. The next day, our last day, we got our morning flight back to the States. The flight was uneventful and after a brief layover in Iceland we arrived to meet my parents in Boston around 6pm. I think I was avoiding having the trip come to an end so we spent two days around Boston with my Mom and Dad. They had never been there before so we brought them around to some of our favorite places  that we regularly visit when we are out there. We visited Harvard, the MIT museum and walk quite a bit of the Freedom Trail. We eventually finished up the day with dinner at Legal Seafood near the Aquarium a restaurant Justyna and I had gone to on our honeymoon over 8 years earlier. We finally made the last three-hour drive back to our house thus completing a full circumnavigation of the world. As further proof that I really did not want the trip to come to an end we stayed one more night away from home at my parents house before reluctantly returning and settling in at home and finally admitting that the trip was over. I feel at this point that I should sum up our journey in some way but in all honesty  I just don’t feel I can do it at this time. As it is I am just now remembering little bits and pieces of the trip throughout the day or as I review some of the pictures we took. I have tried to relay this feeling to others by describing it as if you are trying to see the entire Great Wall Of China while standing at the base of one of its walls, in other words you can see plenty of detail in that one section of wall but it is obviously impossible to take it all in at one time. Others have asked what have I learned on the trip. Well the short answer is a lot and in reality it is really not possible to say how much I have learned and how it has all impacted and changed the way I think. One thing I have learned for sure is that the world is a truly amazing place. With such diversity in culture, people, geography and climate it is astounding how we as humans have all figured out somewhat unique ways of doing the same thing, surviving. Yet for all of its uniqueness there is still a sort of common bond linking everything making it a very accessible place. We could all learn from the world around us, not only about ourselves but how everything the we and others do affect to some degree the small planet we call home. So get out there and see for your self don’t just take my word for it or my pictures for that matter go take your own! And by the way have fun because that is what it is all really about in the end.

I hope everyone has enjoyed travelling with us. Above all my true desire is that I inspired at least a few of you to get out there and explore a bit more your selves. Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time with any comments or especially if you need some help or advise in planning your on journey be it a day or a year.You can reach me at andrewewelch@wildblue.net  Thanks again to everyone who has left comments and supported me in writing this blog. I especially want to thank my wife Justyna for not only coming with me and making the trip that much more exciting but for also encouraging me to keep on writing. Well I think that might be it for me, but who knows I may eventually decide to add to this blog at some point in the future but until the next great adventure so long and happy trails.

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3 responses

11 10 2010
Sophia

Dear Andrew and Justyna,
We’ve so enjoyed your adventure. If only I were young again I might even attempt an imitation. I will always remember your midnight climb up, and the joyful running, leaping down, the highest dune in the Sahara. The photos were beautiful and your comments wonderfully honest, immediate – felt as if I were also there.
Thank you
Sophia

10 10 2010
Roy Richey

Andrew and Justyna,
What a wonderful trip and your pictures and comments make it come alive for all
of us. You write like I wish I could.The last leg of the trip is the only places I was
familar with. I had visited Spain ( Seville), Portugal (Lisbon) and the Rock of Gibraltar
with the Navy. Janet and I had visited England and London.
I hope you make a CD of the trip and have copies for family members.
Janet and I are coming for Thanksgiving to your mom and dads and hope to see you and Justyna then.
Best Wishes and much love from us. Roy & Janet

7 10 2010
BobI

Welcome home. Your journey was epic, so relax for 10 minutes before starting the next adventure.

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