Trip Start Oct 15, 2006
Trip End May 01, 2007

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

So that's it - the end - after 7 months of trawling round the world, I'm sitting here at San Francisco airport on my last day of travelling - I've done the shopping, hit duty free and the last thing to do is get on the plane. Chances are, by the time you read this blog, I'll already be back home.  It's odd - it seems like a lifetime ago that I was sitting by the pool in my hotel in Delhi at 8am, waiting for my room to be ready, contemplating what lay ahead of me - and now here I am - less than 24 hours from home.

But firstly, San Francisco and New York. Well, not a lot to say about New York as I didn't actually do anything touristy - my parents were in town so it was some shopping, a night at the theatre, catching up with friends and family in town and just generally chilling. It's slightly strange to visit one of the world's most popular tourist destination cities and not actually do any sightseeing, but there you go - I've done enough on this trip and I'm sure I'll make it back there at some point.

As for San Francisco, I've been really surprised  by this place. Having seen and visited numerous American cities, this is undoubtedly my favourite - it's certainly a lot more relaxed than I'd expected and the bohemian spirit of the 60's seems to still be very much in evidence. When you get off the ferry in Sausalito, where I've been staying, you're greeted by a guitar playing dog! I suspect one legacy of the 60's is the very large amount of perfectly normal people you pass in the street talking to themselves, perhaps an enduring symptom of a few too many illegal substances a few years back. Weirdness seems endemic here - how else can you explain this particular houseboat?!

Sausalito is a gorgeous little place, at one end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Although the tourist brochures reckon it's like the French Riviera, I'm not so sure - it reminded me more of somewhere like Hampstead, but with better views. Very villagy and relaxed. I stayed in Sausalito to see my mates Ben and Jo who are on their second secondment out here and I must say the life seems to suit them, in particular Ben's morning commute on the ferry across the bay. Interestingly, Otis Redding wrote Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, whilst on a houseboat in Sausalito.  

Of course, whilst I'm here, I had to do the touristy things - Alcatraz, China town and of course a ride on the trams. Alcatraz is a very cool place to visit - I suppose it's one of those places whose reputation seems to have been made in spite of the truth of its existence. It wasn't really home to mass-murderers, but prisoners who had a nasty habit of escaping from other places. Even Al Capone was meant to be placid here, mainly because he was going mad with syphilis! Even though the place is cram full of tourists, the cell block retains a large element of creepiness, with cells recreated showing how the inmates lived. During the 30 years it was actually a prison, it only housed around 1,500 inmates and again the myth seems to have overcome fact for example The Birdman of the same film, didn't actually keep birds there - that was in his previous prison. However, the famous escape of Clint Eastwood's film, did take place and the false heads used by the inmates are proudly shown in situ.

Of course, no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a trip on a cable car and up I went to the top on one of the hills - and then I got off and walked back down again - well, at least I can say I've done it!

And that's San Francisco, my penultimate city on this trip - one more to go, London, where I have decided to be a tourist for a few days on my return. I haven't been to the Tower or the Natural History Museum for years and now seems as good a time as any. London blog to follow next week!!

But, back to the reflections.  At some point in the next few weeks, I'll probably have the chance to sit down and pen my thoughts about the entire trip, but for those list lovers amongst you, here are some of the highlights, lowlights and the all important facts about this trip:

I have been away for 195 days
I have travelled around 70,000 miles - that's the equivalent of going round the world nearly 3 times
I have taken 52 flights
I have visited 11 countries and 2 SARS (Honk Kong and Macau)
I have stood in 28 immigration queues
I have eaten one Guinea Pig
I have gone as far South on the globe as it is possible to go (without visiting Antarctica) , at Cape Horn
The furthest North I'll be, is actually London
I have missed 19 matches at the Emirates Stadium
I have lost 2 stone, gained stone and then lost it again
I have taken 5,283 pictures
I have broken one camera (though I still reckon it was Dad's fault)

Most Surreal moment - Being chucked out of the Taj Mahal for not being Muslim
Best City - a tie this one - Buenos Aries for it's fun and faded glamour and Hong Kong for its sheer vibrancy
Worst City - Agra - truly one of the world's great shitholes
Best Country - China - Surprising, great people, great fun
Worst Country - Japan - disappointingly dull
Best airline - Cathay Pacific
Worst airline - American Airlines - crap
Nature at its best - Swimming with seals in the Galapagos
Nature at its worst - The West coast of the South Island in New Zealand during a cyclone - not fun
Worst experience - Panic attack whilst diving in New Zealand - really was a life flashing in front of your eyes moment
Most emotional moment - The slums of Delhi - until you see them you can't appreciate the desperation
Dullest place - Christchurch, New Zealand
Best food - China - variety and flavour - fantastic
Worst food - Peru, where Piranha was a highlight
Best Scam - Monkey shit on the shoe in Delhi - Peru comes a close second
Most impressive man-made visit - The Terracotta Army
Most impressive scenery - A late entry, but the glaciers and fjords of Patagonia - stunning
Most over-hyped trip - Machu Pichu - cold, wet and quite frankly not worth the money or the trip
Place I wish I'd stayed longer - The Galapagos - a week's just not enough
Trip I wish I hadn't done - ferry ride in Chile, dull and overlong
Strangest sight - another very late entry - the houseboat in Sausalito built like the Taj
Best sunset - Varkala, India
What was the point of that? - Getting up at 4am to see sunrise over the real Taj
Most relaxing place - Belize - so laid back, it's virtually horizontal
Most hectic place - Mumbai - insanity
Chalk and Cheese - Flying from Mumbai to Tokyo - are there two more different cities in the world??
Place I'll be grateful never to go again - Miami Airport - three times through, each one a nightmare

And that's it - The End
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