Monday, March 29, 2010

Plan of the Journey

(click to enlarge) OneWorld (red) links - air, (magenta), sea (yellow), overland(purple)

Here's our proposed 24 country world circuit in 90 days using a 16 stop One World ticket. We are posting it as a blog so that, as the planning and eventual travel experiences take place, other people, including our friends, can gain the benefit of both the tactical information and the adventures.

We have two other travel blogs:
2006 10 Countries of Asia
2007 Japan

The aim is to make a chaotic orbit of planet Earth skittering around the edge of places I/we have been on other trips (such as my circuit of the Bolivian burning season and trip down the Amazon from Peru to Brazil in 1999) to take in many countries we either haven't seen or haven't seen for a couple of decades or so. The 90 days is a rather mad constraint to keep within the limits of our Platinum VISA travel insurance cover, which is limited to an overseas trip of no more than 90 days inclusive of departure and return dates.

The world circuit is stretched sideways so that we can travel straight to Southern South America without having to connect through the US first, something that seems to be possible on a round the world ticket only with One World, because it has as partners at least two Latin American carriers, LAN (Chile) and Aero Mexicana, with other stops later, such as Jordan a chance spin-off of Royal Jordanian being a partner.

Here is a developing itinerary which we will fill out further as the details become more precise. The journey is not about volcanoes although the pictures might suggest otherwise.

South America

I have previously been twice to South America, in 1980 traveling from Colombia down the coast through Ecuador to Peru and over the Andes to Pucallpa to take ayahuasca the vine of the soul. The second journey was a circuit of the burning season in Bolivia in 1999, followed by a transit of the Andes from Machu Picchu to Quilabamba and then by dugout canoe down the Urubamba through the Pongo de Manique, on the Ucayali by banana boat to Pucallpa, and by river boat down the Amazon and via Iquitos and Letecia to Manaus, and back up the Madiera to Porto Vehlo then passing through the Pantanal en route to Rio. This trip is to compensate, by visiting the Andes further south and taking in more of Ecuador than I previously had a chance to.

Initially we plan to fly out of Auckland for Chile, where we spend seven days, starting out with the arrival day in Santiago at midday 4.5 hours before we left New Zealand, but 11.5 overnight hours later in real time. We arrive in Santiago, where we sped an afternoon and evening recuperating and if the weather is right ascending the Cerro de San Cristobal with sweeping views of the city from our nearby accommodation at Hostal Froestal in Bellavista. We then plan to do a loop of the lake district spanning Andean Chile and Argentina.

The next day we fly in the morning Sky airlines to Puerto Montt (~2 hr) and stay in Puerto Varas (30 min) visiting and Ensenada (1 hr) round the lakeside. From there we plan to take a bus across Andes Cardinal Samore Pass and the Puyehue National Park to Villa de Angostura in the Argentinian lake district (5 hr). From there we travel a short distance north to San Martin de los Andes (2.5 hr) on another lake hoping to cross back across the Andes to the Chilean Queenstown-like lakeside town of Pucon over the Tromen pass (5 hr) or if this is not possible on the Hua-hum Pass by bus and ferry to Panguipulli one lake further south in Chile. Some of these passes may be closed by winter snows, but there are six passes, some crossing via lakes, so there should be a way through and back. We then fly back from Temuco (1 hr from Pucon) to Santiago airport (2 hr) and bus to Valparaiso (1.5 hr) for the night.

Pucon Chile and Puyo Ecuador have similar volcanic mountain views
but one is cool temperate, with a snow-bound winter, and the other tropical Amazonian

Next afternoon we fly from the winter and possibly snow clad Southern Andes to equatorial Ecuador. Here we will spend about a week doing a circuit from Quito down to the upper Amazon Basin towns of Tena (5 hr) maybe with a side trip down river to Misahualli (1 hr) and on to Puyo (3 hr) before circuiting back up the Andes through the mountain town of Banos (1.5 hr) and North again through the central highlands and the regional market towns of Ambato (1 hr) (and perhaps Saquisili) to Quito(2 hr), and on to Otavalo (2.25 hr), the high country market centre for textiles.

After finding the flights from Ecuador to Panama are all pretty expensive (~$450 US all up), we have decided to then travel north up to Cali and fly out from the to Panama for $280 US on COPA. So we will head there in staggered stages firstly to Pasto (6 hr) then to Popayan (6 hr) finally arriving in Cali (3 hr) in time for an evening flight.

Central America

The last time I was in central America, apart from a stop passing through the Panama Canal in 1966, was a transit from Mexico to Guatemala City on the 1980 trip, so this is a revisit intended to traverse more of the region South to North.

From Colombia, we begin a four week overland journey through Central America. From Panama City we plan to bus up to the mountain town of el Valle (2.5 hr). We then set out passing through back roads through the cigar town of Penonome and on up the Pan-Americana to David (4.5 hr) and a second famous touristic mountain town Boquete (1hr).

From Boquete we will head for the border with Costa Rica and to San Jose (8 hr 8.30 am), possibly with an overnight stop en-route. Here we may visit the Volcan Poas National Park then on to Volcan Arenal and the town of La Fortuna (4.5 hr 6.15, 8.40, 11.30 am San Carlos Terminal) with the little neighbouring village of El Castillo overlooking the volcano. From there we travel further North-West to the twin Tico and Quaker villages of Monteverde and Santa Elena (3 hr jeep-boat-jeep) traveling across a lake to get there. From there we go to Liberia (3 hr) which is a centre for several national parks, volcanic Rincon de la Vieja with hot springs and coastal Santa Rosa.

la Fortuna Costa Rica and Lago de Atitlan Guatemala

We then head again for the border with Nicaragua, stopping at Rivas (6.5 hr from Monteverde) and exploring Isla de Ometepe, a little double cone island in Lago de Nicaragua. From there it is on to Granada a Nicaraguan cultural center (which can be reached either directly in a 4 hr ferry ride or indirectly in a return 1 hr ferry and a 1.5 hr bus), with charming architecture, and possibly the university town of Leon and/or the Sandinista mountain stronghold of Matagalpa before flying out to Guatemala, or possibly the alternative three day bus connection to Tegucigalpa (8 hr), Copan (7 hr), with a rest day there, and Guatemala City (5.5 hr) if the flights are too expensive.

From Guatemala City we head to another cultural center, Antigua (1.25 hr) and on to make a circuit through the villages surrounding the volcano clad Lago de Atitlan famous for its textiles Panajachel (2.5 hr), and to Chichicastenango (1.5 hr) the highland market and textile center, Quetzaltenango (2.5 hr), Huehuetanango (2 hr 3.5 ex Atitlan) and to the Southern border of Mexico (2 hr) and San Cristobal (3.5 hr).

In Mexico, we will focus on Chiapas, Oaxaca and a little of Yucatan, visiting San Cristobal de las Casas, with its nearby Tzotzi community of San Juan Chamula (10 k) with mixed Mayan and Catholic practices, passing through Ocosingo (2.25 hr). to Palenque (2.75 hr). From there we go to Oaxaca City either by air (11.15>Mexico City>3.25), or in a two day bus trip from Villahermosa (2 hr) via Veracruz (8 hr) visiting Oaxaca City (7 hr) and surrounding villages, El Tule with its ancient tree (10 k), Teotitlan del Valle (25 k), and Santa Anna del Valle north of Tlacolula (31+4 k) with their weaving, before heading for Mexico City (6-7 hr), where we fly out to San Francisco.

US and Ireland

Here we have a three day recuperation with friends in Los Gatos, visiting Davis to hopefully pick up the Machiguenga hunting kit I collected in 1999 on the Rio Urubamba near the Pongo de Manique, before flying to Chicago, where we will spend a day in the city and a second day in a hire car driving along the shores of Lake Michigan, possibly camping in one of the small lakeside fishing towns such as Benton Harbor, or South Haven.

From there, we fly to Dublin, provided the Icelandic volcano is behaving, where we plan to do a five day rental-car circuit South-West through Galway and Shannon to the Dingle Peninsula and back up the East side, probably staying in camp sites, as we will try to do wherever possible in Europe to avoid spiraling costs.

Iberia and Mediterranean

We have made many visits to Europe, so this traverse is concentrating on the North Mediterranean, from Iberia, through Southern Italy to Greece and some of its culturally significant islands.

We fly into Lisbon in the morning and begin a three week traverse of the Northern Mediterranean, with three days in Portugal, venturing on a short circuit through Sintra and around Lisbon. We then plan to drive to Evora and then south to the coast at the south west tip of Portugal stopping a coule of nights camping and then on to Faro in the morning, with a couple of hours there before linking by an afternoon bus (Eva or Eurolines ) to Seville in Spain.

From Seville we will make a short rental car circuit of some of Andalucia, taking in Cordoba and surrounding towns (conceivably Granada) and some of the small hilltop towns on the way, before flying Spanair (1.5 hr Euro 65) 16.55 > 18.25 to Barcelona, where we have another One World link to Rome, via Madrid (9.30 > 14.10).

In Italy, we will again hire a car and, having explored Rome, will travel South to Naples and then over the boot of Italy working our way through some of the smaller mountain towns and possibly the peninsula of Gargano, and on south through the Murgia to Brindisi.

Vesuvius from Pompeii and the central volcanic crater area Gunung Batur

In Brindisi we will board a day ferry deck class to Igoumenitsa (11.00 > 21.00) visiting Corfu and then make our way by deck class day ferry to Patra (12.00 > 20.00) on the Peloponnese, Delphi, Athens and on to Crete by boat (11.00 > 17.00) where we scored a cheap (E98) Agean air flight out from the Eastern town of Sitia to Athens and on to Istanbul (7.20 > 8.10, 14.00 > 15.15).

Middle and Far East

From Istanbul we fly to Amman, where we may try to cross for a day to Jerusalem to take stock of the situation, and maybe give a talk there, before doing a circuit South in Jordan to Petra via the King's Highway (235 km 2.5 hrs on the desert highway but longer with stops on the King's) and back up via the Eastern shore of the Dead Sea taking in the mosaic town of Madaba.

We then fly on to Mumbai where we recuperate before carrying on to Singapore where we have a return link flight to Bali for a recreational break in and around the artistic center of Ubud, where we originally went together around 1972 and probably rent motor bikes to go back to Gunung Batur.

We then fly on to Sydney, where we stay a night with friends, before flying back into New Zealand.

Of course this whole escapade depends on being able to fly into Dublin and on to Lisbon, which over the last few weeks has been impossible, due to the eruption of huge ash clouds over Europe, from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull ...

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