Last post on the trip, I promise, but actually the most important one since I will review the sites we experienced which was the sole purpose for undertaking such a whirlwind journey. Having had time to reflect on this expedition and the 24 days of my life, I now realize that I was in an internal battle with my mind and body. Without cognizing at the time I was deciding each day which emotion I would focus on: arduous or astonishing; strenuous or stimulating and exhausting or exhilarating. I attribute my success in maximizing each day and not getting sick as others were to making an unconscious decision to focus on the positive.
As our lecturer said: “It was a trip of superlatives. We saw an extraordinary number of remarkable things on our journey.” Here is a list of the superlative places and things we experienced:
1. The undisputed masterpiece of Inca architecture: Machu Picchu, the most famous monument of ancient South America.
2. The world’s longest continental mountain range: The Andes, about 4,300 miles in length.
3. The world’s most remote, or isolated, inhabited island: Easter Island.
4. The world’s largest freestanding monolithic statues: the moai of Easter Island.
5. The world’s largest monument in Polynesia: Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, an altar supporting 15 maoi. We actually met the project leader and learned about the extraordinary efforts the team undertook to recreate these stautes after they were tumbled by a tsunami.
6. The world’s largest tropical coral reef system , the largest structure on earth created by a living organism and the world’s most diverse eco system: The Great Barrier Reef
7. The world’s largest collection of religious monuments: Angkor.
8. The undisputed masterpiece of Khmer architecture and the world’s largest stone religious building: Angkor Wat.
9. The largest lake in Southeast Asia: Tonle Sap, Cambodia, one of the richest sources of freshwater fish in the world. It is also one of the earth’s great geographic anamolies, for, during the wet season, the Tonle Sap expands up to five times its dry-season size.
10. The world’s highest mountain range, The Himalayas. We flew over the eastern part of the range and viewed from above what looked like an ocean of white caps.
11. The world’s highest and largest plateau: The Tibetan Plateau and often called ” The Roof of the World”. The average altitude is 14,763 feet above sea level. No wonder many of us had issues. In hindsight we must have been quite a funny site to the locals as they watched us,upon arrival, walk through the airport taking baby steps as advised to do by our staff.
12. The masterpiece of Tibetan architecture: The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
13. The most sacred site in Tibetan Buddhism: The Jokhang Temple, the most important pilgirmage destination for Tibetan Buddhists. This was one of my favorite destinations since I felt the peace and harmony that the residents strive to have by living according to the rules of karma. Every where you looked there were residents openly practicng their beliefs.
14. One of the world’s largest monasteries: Sera Monastery, Lhasa. It used to house about 5,000 to 7,000 monks. Remember my video showing the monks in their debate routines?
15. The Taj Mahal: the world’s most famous tomb, the most famous monument built for a woman, the undisputed masterpiece of Mughal architecture and of Islamic funerary architecture and the world’s tallest mausoleum. It was as impressive as all these superlatives make it out to be. I came away feeling actually having felt the femininity of the structure.
16. The world’s largest intact volcanic caldera that is not flooded or submerged: The Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.
17. One of the world’s most important sites of rock-cut architecture: Petra, Jordan. It is also listed as one of the world’s most dramatic day-hikes.
18. One of the best-preserved traditional Islamic cities in North Africa: The medina of Marrekesh.
19. One of the largest and most influential mosques in the Western Muslim world : the 12th century Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh. I guess I better practice forgiveness for having been upset as I was woken up each morning at 5:00am by the call to prayer.
20. The largest traditional market in Morocco: The souk of Marrakesh.
Wow.. 11 countries and 4 continents in 24 days. Reference was often made to Ferdinand Magellann who led the Spanish expedition that resulted in the first circumnavigation of the earth after 3 years. We accomplished this in 24 days. In one day we saw the sunrise at the Taj Mahal and the sunset in Tanzania!
In summary, in an earlier post I gave you one of the reasons why I like to travel: to fall in love over and over again. As in any new relationship, I felt the rush and excitement for being at a new “love” destination and then the anitciapation for the next one. Life was good and there was alot of love in the air.
Thank you for traveling with me in spirit and for all of your kind words. I leave you with this quote: “When things come from the heart, the world is very small.” King Hussein