200 days on the road: an overview

Trip Start Jan 17, 2013
Trip End Aug 12, 2013

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Flag of Morocco  , Meknes-Tafilalet,
Sunday, August 4, 2013

Seven months of cheap haircuts, street food, hot springs, massages, Couchsurfing, night bus insomnia, DIY, some lost memories, meeting great people, avoiding a lot of annoying people, hundreds of beggars and seeing countless beautiful places and natural wonders. Today I have been on the road for 200 days; I travelled to 72 cities in 16 countries and covered 60.626 kilometres by any means: nine flights so far, tuktuks, shared taxis, private taxis, buses, vans, ferries, small boats, trucks, jeeps, horses, camels, bicycles, scooters and of course by foot.

I have spent €8512,- so far and took thousands of photos, of which some were decent enough to edit them at a later date to turn into a book. I have felt snow, I have felt 45 degrees Celsius, I have walked deserts, I have climbed mountains, I have swum rivers, I have crossed bridges. This trip has been unique in every aspect.

Some preliminary conclusions:

Top three cities:
1. Hongkong, China
2. La Paz, Bolivia
3. La Habana, Cuba

Top three countries:
1. Iran
2. China
3. Bolivia

Top three budget places:
1. Iran (€90 in three weeks)
2. Bangladesh (€166 in 15 days)
3. India (around €390 in 4 weeks)

That is €664 for more than two months of living it rich!

Top three cuisine:
1. China
2. Japan
3. India

Top three most impressive places:
1. Ship-breaking yards, Chittagong, Bangladesh
2. MachuPicchu, Aguas Caliente, Peru
3. Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India

Top three most persistent street vendors:
1. Morocco
2. -
3. India

Top three reasons why 'I shouldn't be alive':
1. Traveling in night buses, Bangladesh
2. Attacked by a group of ten street dogs at night, Jaipur India
3. Altitude sickness, Volcano Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Top three places you should avoid:
1. Bogota, Colombia
2. Lima, Peru
3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Top three countries with best people:
You can find good people everywhere!

I still owe you my final conclusion on 'South America'. I hate to generalise in continents, but unlike what CNN does when they talk about 'Africa', for my case it is more of a necessity. I have not been long enough in most countries, like Colombia, to write a decent conclusion. Six weeks in four countries is not much and have spent almost three in Peru. So I would like to take them all together and specify whenever necessary.

I came to South America (SA) with no real idea about any country, pretty much like I have been doing during my whole trip. I just knew I had to make it from Bogota in Colombia to Santa Cruz in Bolivia in a matter of six weeks. All I knew from SA at that time is that I had to watch my ass as it was supposed to be dangerous. Now I can finally say I was right, however the region around the MachuPicchu (South Peru) and La Paz, Bolivia were an exception. But countless of stories from people that got robbed, pickpocketed, hijacked, attacked, etc. left their mark. I can only advise people to read my tips about staying safe in South America and in general leave your Western assumptions back home. Paying more money for a bus does not mean it is safer (I met a few people that told me that they really believed this), hijackings are aimed at buses with most value inside. Another factor of safety is the extreme sports you can do, I have seen people with broken bones because of not being able to ride a mountain bike decently but they still go and drive the Death Road in Bolivia. All in all, SA (not Iran!) was the most dangerous place I visited and all my backup safety options were in full operation at all times. I survived.

Safety factor: 3

Little did I know about the Andes mountain range, that I kept following ever since I left Colombia and it allowed for beautiful nature, cool air at (very) high altitudes and very friendly people. It did make for very slow transport all the time so I spent more than a week in buses; trains are almost non-existent. It is probably because of the Andes mountains that people feel attracted to the continent, despite the safety issues. Great opportunities for hiking, climbing active volcanos and doing extreme sports lay everywhere. South America is the place to get your thrills, that is for sure.

Thrills factor: 10
Yes, that is my highest rating ever...

I came to SA with the idea that the best food can be found in Asia. I think that this claim still holds, but SA has some good stuff! The biggest tasty and fresh avocados for dirt cheap, great raw fish (ceviche), good soups, street snacks and a lot of things I don't know the name of. The best thing are the big halls you can find which are huge markets where old ladies sell vegs and meats. in the same place you can also try the local food at the small kitchens that are there, great social places to go for a chat and have cheap coffee. I had the idea I was going to eat beans every day like you here some people saying, but I guess that only holds for Central America, I am not sure. Overall I am very happy with the food I ate.

Cuisine factor: 8

In SA (at least the countries I have been to) the prices are reasonable. Hostels are of one of the best quality you could find anywhere and all under 10 euros a night, street meals will cost you between 1 and 2 euros, buses are cheap and beers are 2 to 4 euro for a litre. Bolivia was by far the cheapest; most of the more expensive ones like Chile, Argentina and Brazil I haven't been. You only seriously have to reconsider your budgets if you are planning to do any kind of tours and choose to travel with the upscale bus companies, especially in the overrated bed buses. Things can go out of control pretty quickly and some people spent more in SA in 3 months than I did in 7 months around the world. You are warned!

Budget factor: 7.5

The next blog will be about Morocco, another 'interesting' place to visit, especially during the Ramadam. So far it reminds me of Iran and India, but in a different way. My Spanish chapter has ended and it is time to brush up my French. More to come, stay tuned!
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