"So much to see..... So little time...." mikegr's Profile
Hey - thanks for stopping by my page.
My name is Mike - a British guy who has been working in Osaka, Japan for the last 3 years but now traveling again.
OK, apologies but this is going to be kind of tedious. Here is a quick (well - that was the plan....) run through of what I have been up to over the past 9 months!
I left Japan in July 2005 and flew in to San Francisco for my first taste of the USA - a great city which I would have liked to have stayed in for longer. I also took the opportunity to visit the amazing Yosemite National Park, just a 4 hour drive away.
From there I flew to Mexico City where I travelled South into Northern Guatemala and on into Belize. We then entered Guatemala again in the South where I did some much needed study of Spanish (don't worry, I am still utterly useless at it - but getting better). After that I did a quick skip through Honduras and on into Nicaragua, a beautiful country I definitely want to return to (Isla de Ometepe is a true gem and Leon and Granada are wonderful colonial cities). Costa Rica was nice enough but very touristy and Americanized, lacking the charm of some of its other Central American neighbours - wonderful National Parks though... Then it was over the border into Panama for a few days where I got ripped off on Isla Bastimentos but loved the beautiful beaches and clear waters - Panama City is a great capital too.
Then... the big mistake of my trip so far... I flew all the way to Quito in Ecuador and missed out Colombia. What an idiot! Everyone I have met who has been there says it is amazing/the people friendly/the Spanish comprehensible. Thus Columbia goes to near the top of my "places I most want to visit" list.
Ecuador was a breath of fresh air after Central America, and seemed culturally much richer. Peru was even better. I loved the North of the country, which was much less touristy than the South (Go to Trujillo and Cajamarca!)and the people in Lima were wonderful. I really enjoyed all of Peru, with the exception of Nazca - unpleasant town and aggressive and persistant locals. Machu Picchu was of course a highlight despite the hoardes of "Pamela from Georgia" label wearing tourists.
I crossed into Bolivia via Lake Titicaca, exploring it from both the Puno, and Copacobana sides - a great place to relax for a few days. Then on into the madness of La Paz (which was awesome) and on South through the country as far as the AMAZING Salar De Uyuni (I have never seen anything like it!) where I made an unexpected U turn on account of a missing passport. (If anyone finds a British Passport in the South Of Bolivia (possibly in the middle of a 20,000km sq salt flat) please let me know!
Following a couple of long bus journeys (42 hours out of 48 spent on buses) I went to the tranquil capital of Chile, Santiago. I met up with VTer Camilo74 who confessed that Chileans are not the friendliest of South Americans and are often referred to as the English of South America (I am trying not to be offended ;-) - I don't know about the rest of the population of the country but Camilo certainly didn't demonstrate this to be true!
From Santiago I visited the pretty island of Chiloe and then took the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales (a great experience - not just for the scenery, socially it was fantastic too - very easy to make friends in those dormitories!) across the Magellan Strait to Tierra Del Fuego and Argentina.
In Ushuaia I was lucky enough to get hold of a ticket for a ship (The Maryshev) heading to Antarctica for 12 days. Definitely the biggest expense of my trip so far (though still a lot cheaper than had I bought the ticket in England!) but it was well worth it - stunning, unspoilt scenery, close encounters with the locals (penguins, seals, whales and dolphins) and good company. Even Drakes Passage was kind to us and we had a relatively calm crossing. A definite highlight of my trip so far (although I was a little gutted to discover that Antarctica is not on my VT travel map - so nothing lights up to show I have been there..... Does that make me shallow....?)
Returning to Argentina I went North to the amazing Perito Moreno Glacier at El Calafate (incredible though the crowds were a shock to the system after the tranquility of the Southern Continent), then on to the Fitz Roy National Park at El Chalten - beautiful and dramatic scenery but the weather was dodgy.
Heading back to the coast I went to Las Grutas (surprisingly not listed on VT.....), a popular Argentine beach resort and then to Puerto Madryn (though not to the popular Valdes Peninsular National Park (still trying to save money after splashing out on Antarctica). Then I hopped inland to the Argentine Lake District (close to the Chilean border) - it was really beautiful but very very crowded (with it being the middle of the Argentinian holiday season).
Flying from Bariloche to Sao Paulo, Brazil (via Buenos Aires) I had a fantastic Carnaval in Diamantina in Minas Gerias State. No parades or flashy costumes here - just a huge street party lasting 5 days - this was definitely a Carnaval to DO, not just to watch, and the best thing of all was that in the week that I spent there I didn?t meet a single other foreign tourist. Truly a Brazilian Carnaval.
Returning to Argentina I really enjoyed Buenos Aires - interesting districts and an air of sophistication, with great food and nightlife. I popped over the border to Uruguay for a couple of days - Colonia Del Sacramento was lovely but I don?t think I was in Montevideo long enough to really appreciate it. Back in Argentina, Cordoba won my heart in the 3 days I spent there - really friendly locals added to the overall charm of the city. In Mendoza I was unusually adventurous and went rafting (fantastic) and hydrospeeding (disasterous - thanks Carola, but next time I want a near death experience I will ask you!!!!) and then headed North via Salta to Paraguay.
Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, doesn?t really have any sights but I enjoyed wandering around, the locals were hospitable and I met up (at last) with a long term internet friend. Encarnacion is a similarly pleasant and friendly city and the ruins of the nearby Jesuit Missions are impressive. I had to spend a night in Ciudad Del Este before crossing the border back into Brazil at the amazing Iguazu Falls which are vast and defy description. My advice - just go there!
The over-hyped train ride from Curitiba to Morretes was a bit disappointing but Ilha do Mel was beautiful and very relaxing.
I am currently in Parati - a beautiful colonial town on the coast with some very pretty beaches nearby.
I like it here. In fact I might never leave..
If you see my family please tell them I love them and remind my mother to video the new series of Doctor Who on Saturday nights at 7.15!!!!!
Travel is my passion. The feeling of arriving somewhere completely new, of being lost and vunerable initially, and the sense of achievement as you begin to feel more familiar with your surroundings. It's a common story - I hated Bangkok when I first arrived there - but now I love it !
My interest in travel came about as a bit of an accident. Despite having trained to be a primary school teacher, I decided that it wasn't what I wanted to do, and as I didn't know what I did want to do, I decided to spend a year travelling.
Before that, my experience of travel had been limited to package holidays with family and friends, but that year really opened my eyes to the possibilities that travel can offer.
In the end, I ended up spending 3 weeks in Thailand and a year in Australia. And that was it - I became hooked on travel.
During my time in Japan, I have had the opportunity to revisit Thailand, go to Beijing, China,Cambodia (my favourite country so far) and Kuching in Malaysia.
My plans are in a constant state of change as I get more information and re-assess my finances. One thing is for sure, luxury is going to be in very short supply on this trip!
Want to find me on my travels? I suggest you look in the cheapest hotel in town!!!!!
I really enjoy travelling alone as it gives me the freedom to do what I want. Okay, yeah, it can be lonely at times, and sure, I guess I miss having someone to share the good times with, but at the same time there are so many opportunities to meet other people that you tend not to notice.
The big advantage of travelling alone is that it makes it so much easier to meet other people. My visit to Cambodia is a good example. There, I was lucky enough to be invited to Khmer wedding and to stay with a local family. This was by far my most rewarding travel experience and it made me realise that the destination is only one facet of a trip.
On the negative side one of the biggest problems with travelling alone is the way in which other people react to it (at least that was the case on my most recent trip, to Kuching in Malaysia). And having to answer the same question over and over again, "Where is your girlfriend?".
At first I responded politely, but the more people asked, the more frustrating it became. I found a certain twisted pleasure in lying to a waitress in Kuching, "Oh... She died in an accident". The look on her face was a picture I will treasure (with a small measure of guilt, admittedly!).
That said, I am open to the possibility of travelling with others in the future. Who knows.... maybe I will meet you somewhere down the road.
Anyone up for an adventure?
I am missing my friends in Japan, many of whom came to my leaving party - still, its great to be on the move again!
All of the photographs used on my pages were taken by myself (unless otherwise stated) and therefore fall under my copyright. Please do not use them without my permission. (If you want to use the naked ones of me - thats ok - just don?t send them to my mother)
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