Here’s the plan

Lots of people are asking me what the itinerary for my imminent round-the-world trip is. I launch into an enthusiastic spiel and one of two things happens:

  • their eyes glaze over and they stop listening about half way through.
  • they get excited and ask more questions and after a while I reach the point of shrugging my shoulders and saying “… and then I’ll see.”

Hopefully you’re in the second group.

I have an itinerary because I booked a OneWorld Explorer ticket and I had to name airports and dates. I have an itinerary because I had a rough idea of the places I wanted to go and approximately how long I might want to spend in each place. The itinerary is flexible and likely to change once the travelling starts. The ticket is good for upto one year. There are very few details filled in yet between the flights. There are some highlights and must-see/must-do things and lots of vague arm-waving inbetween.

Date changes are freebies, changing my mind on the routing will cost me money – about £100 per change. Sadly there is no reciprocity between the airlines and me in this respect. They have changed two of my flights already and did not pay me £200.

So the plan at the moment is:

  • London-Delhi, Delhi-Kathmandu for a two week Everest base camp trek. This is organised by Above the Himalayas Trekking and I booked directly with them, cutting out a UK agent and saving some money in the process.
  • Kathmandu-Delhi, Delhi-Bangkok for a ten week tour around SE Asia with my friend, Hannah, who will be blogging about the trip from her perspective at travelpod. We have an approximate route worked out for this, based on information we found at travelfish. Briefly it’s a week in Bangkok including a Thai massage course at Wat Po, a few days in Koh Chang for Thai New Year, north through Thailand, south through Laos and Cambodia, north through Vietnam, topped off with 2 weeks lazing on a beach somewhere in Southern Thailand.
  • Two more weeks in Thailand by myself. I have various ideas for how to fill this time. We’ll see…
  • Bangkok-Beijing for three weeks in China. I have a very rough idea of how to get from Beijing to Shanghai involving Qi’An, Chengdu and half a dozen other cities. Probably this will be a challenge. A friend who knows much more about China than me says this will be hard outside of Beijing and Shanghai because of the language. It will probably involve lots of train journeys. We’ll see…
  • Shanghai-Melbourne for a couple of nights in Australia. Why only a couple of nights? Because I’ve been before and didn’t plan to stop in Oz at all on this trip. However, I couldn’t get from China to New Zealand in one day and will have to spend at least one night in Australia. So I’ve routed via Melbourne and will have a couple of nights there. Hopefully this will give me a chance to catch up with a tanguera friend I met last year in Buenos Aires, and maybe get to a milonga or two.
  • Melbourne-Queenstown for three weeks in New Zealand. How I get from Queenstown to Auckland is completely unknown right now. I’ll work it out much nearer the time. I have another tanguera friend to visit in Auckland and again, hopefully get to at least one milonga.
  • Auckland-Santiago de Chile. Not looking forward to this one; it is a LONG flight. I’ve got a few nights in Santiago and then double back westwards to Easter Island for a five night stay. Then it’s back to Santiago for another night. This extra night is courtesy of one of those airline imposed changes; they changed one of the flight times making it impossible to get from Easter Island to Lima in a single day.  Well, it would have still been possible but only by reducing my stay on Easter Island to two days, or by extending it to nine days.
  • Santiago de Chile-Lima for 3 weeks in Peru. I’ll go to Cusco and then Machu Picchu of course, but whether by train/bus or by trekking the Inca Trail is still to be determined. Yes, I’ll have to decide very soon – if it’s not already too late – because I’ll have to book the Inca Trail. That would pin me down to specific dates. I’m already tied down pretty tight with Easter Island so it could be argued that fixing another date for the Inca Trail would be no extra hardship. But that is approximately five months into the future and I don’t really want to be that constrained.
  • Then there’s a bit more uncertainty; I may go to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands or I may not. Money will be a big factor in that decision. All the flights up to this point except Delhi-Kathmandu-Delhi are on the round-the-world ticket. Getting from Lima to the Galapagos would be a separate trip. I had thought I’d book a LAN airpass for the intra-South America flights, but found I couldn’t because I didn’t book it at the same time as the RTW ticket. Opinion on the web is divided about whether or not this should be possible. Anyway, if I’m under budget by enough when I’ve done what I want in Peru then I might manage a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
  • Finally sometime around the middle to end of September I’ll return to Buenos Aires. Ah, proper tango, at last! A couple of months of milogas and much more learning/improving my Spanish than last time. After that travel all around Argentina until about the middle of February and then return to Buenos Aires for another month. The travelling will include Ushuaia and if I’m really really lucky an Antarctic cruise. I’ll decide in that “final” month whether to use the final Buenos Aires-London sector of my RTW ticket to come home. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Perhaps I’ll stay in Buenos Aires or perhaps by then I’ll have decided there’s somewhere else that would suit me better. We’ll see…

Great, you were in the second group!

That’s the plan so far. I have just a few more days in the UK and then the tenants move into my house and I hop on a plane to Delhi. My transit visa for India arrived today, the Nepal visa is already stuck in my passport, I’ve had jabs against just about everything and I’ve sold or otherwise gotten rid of most of my stuff. Just another dozen or so boxes to go :-)

I’ve got three more nights of tango to look forward to, one of jive and maybe one of West Coast Swing. And then several months of probably no dancing of any sort that I’m used to. Withdrawal symptoms here I come.

Have you done a trip like this or been to any of these countries? Are there any must-see places or must-do things you would recommend in the countries I’m visiting?

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12 Responses to “Here’s the plan”

  1. Ruth says:

    Wow Mark, that’s a BIG itinerary. You’ll be so busy, don’t forget to really savour each individual place. You know my recommendations for NZ!

  2. WOW I am exhausted just reading all the things you are doing. India is my thing but it seems as if you aren’t really planning on doing any travelling in India………. if you do let me know and we can chat. I also have a very dear friend who lives in Vilcabamba Ecuador if you want a contact.
    See you at the Farnham Milonga Saturday.
    hugs D x

  3. sallycat says:

    Hello Mark, had put today aside for work but your post has got me dreaming of Asia and New Zealand where I once spent lots of happy time; that was a great part of my past life, and lovely that your exciting post makes me recall those good memories.
    In no particular order, here are 10 things not to miss on your travels…

    1. Queenstown, NZ. Off Road Aventures (friends of mine with passion and skill like you have never seen on bikes (and quads for those who don’t ride on 2 wheels). They show you the landscape that other vehicles cannot reach. http://www.offroad.co.nz/ (don’t pick any other company, these people are the business!)
    2. Not too far from Queenstown (near Dunedin, east coast of South Island), the Otago Peninsular Yellow Eyed Penguin colony at Penguin Place http://www.otago-peninsula.co.nz/penguinplace.html The peninsular is beautiful, but these penguins are rare and captivating; call to make sure the season is good to see them, and you could maybe hire a vehicle from Off Road Adventures to cross the island to see them, or go there as you head up from Queenstown, north(ish!).
    3. On the way up the east coast of the South Island, a hidden gem is Oamaru, with its Blue Penguin Colony; have visited it several times to see these adorable creatures come in from the sea at night… it is soooooo gorgeous to watch them: http://www.penguins.co.nz/. The town is great too, as it has a reconstructed Victorian part http://www.historicoamaru.co.nz/ and is I think, the only town like it in NZ. Spend a night here on your way through, see the penguins, and I think there is even a Victoran pub with beer!
    4. The best maps for Thailand, Nancy Chandler’s maps. No other map will do, and these will tell you everything; really they are brilliant: http://www.nancychandler.net/
    5. In Bangkok, Chatuchak weekend market (using the Nancy Chandler map to find your way around); there is no other market on earth I love more (assuming it is still similar to when I last walked through it’s maze of delights!) http://www.chatuchak.org/
    6. In Bangkok, Cabbages and Condoms restaurant (and all the charitable work they do), http://www.cabbagesandcondoms.com/restaurant.php?type=environmental Great food, more fairy lights than you could wish for, and condoms with the coffee.
    7. Cambodia and Laos, consider contacting http://www.carpe-diem-travel.com/ They are also friends of mine, as I travelled with them myself, twice; you couldn’t get a better insight into Cambodia… see the inside as well as the surface that most travellers only get to scratch. This is travel with heart and soul and respect for the local people.
    8. On a sombre note, I think in Phnom Penh you have to consider visiting the S-21 interrogation centre Tuol Sleng; be prepared to feel sad beyond measure, but I would not have missed it, in an effort to understand more about the people and the history of Cambodia http://www.tuolsleng.com/history.php. Certainly it made me appreciate every day of my life, especially my teenage years when I was moaning about not having the latest Bay City Rollers record while Cambodian teenagers were suffering fates way worse than death itself.
    9. Favourite buddha in Bangkok? Ah Wat Pho, you are there already… he is my favourite, reclining, enormous, peaceful, with the most beautiful soles of his feet I have ever seen. Walk round and put coins in every pot! (A massage course there will be amazing!)
    10. To see Angkor Wat and surrounds, rent bicycles… this way you can take your time and enjoy the peace of the place, and explore every nook and cranny, not just the obvious… you can buy an entry pass for a few days, I believe, and this gives great flexibility!
    11. oh, I know I said 10, but you know me and 11. When in Queenstown make sure you take the road to Glenorchy… http://www.glenorchyinfocentre.co.nz/ spectacular scenery and there is a nice scenic jet boat ride in Glenorchy too; I like Glenorchy!

    OK, hope there is something there you like the sound of. Ta for the chance to go back down memory lane; not just a tango addict, you see, but a travel addict too :)! I wish you unbounded joy, every step of the way. S.x.
    ps. Please tell everyone you meet about the Happy Hearts Quest http://www.facebook.com/happyheartsquest !!!

    • Mark says:

      Sally, thank you so much for so many suggestions. I’ll be sure to let you know which I follow through on and how they are.

  4. Jim & Suzanne says:

    Have a fantastic time and we look forward to travelling with you via your blog
    Suzanne was annoyed with herself that she didnt grab a dance on Sat

    • Mark says:

      Thanks, I will do my best. Suzanne didn’t miss much; my mind was mostly elsewhere on Saturday and I wasn’t dancing well. Sunday was much better. Have a fab year.

  5. Alan Jones says:

    Good luck with your tour,Mark.Don’t forget Brazil,as it is only a short flight to the Iguazu Falls in the north of the country,then the same again to Rio. Ah,the famous beach,and ‘Christ the Redeemer’. Plus,the flight is shorter on the way home! Alan Jones.

  6. David Halberstadt says:

    Yes, of course, I am firmly in the second group.

    OneWorld Explorer…got it…

    • Mark says:

      Cool, I like people in the second group. Especially the ones who take the plunge themselves.

      There are 3 main options for RTW tickets:
      * OneWorld
      * Star Alliance
      * Travel agent cobbled together individual flights

      Let me know when you’ve got a ticket. Maybe our paths will cross again…

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