The Gappies

So, that´s the end of our year around the world. By way of celebration, please don your black tie / party dress for the announcement of the Gap Year Awards “Gappies”.

Best Outdoor Activity

In 3rd place:  Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

In 2nd place:  White water rafting in Buller Gorge, New Zealand

And the Gappy goes to…kayaking in the Abel Tasman Sea, New Zealand

Best Hike

In 3rd place: The Pinnacles in Mulu National Park, Malaysia was technically the toughest hike.  So steep, that you have to climb virtually vertically

In 2nd place: The Inca Trail

and the Gappy goes to… The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah.

Best Educational Activity

In 3rd place: Cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam

In 2nd place: Batik class in Chiang Mai, Thailand

And the Gappy goes to…Star-gazing in New Zealand

Best Cultural Event

In 3rd place: Chinese New Year, Malaysia

In 2nd place: El Gran Poder Festival, La Paz, Bolivia

And the Gappy goes to…O-bon Festival in Nara, Japan

Best Historical Monument

In 3rd place: The Great Wall

In 2nd place: Machu Picchu

And the Gappy goes to… Angkor Wat

Best Beach

In 3rd place: Hot Water Beach, New Zealand

In 2nd place: Varkala Beach, Kerala

And the Gappy goes to… Nam Cat Island, Ha Long Bay

Best Hostel

In 3rd place: Giggling Tree, Yangshuo, China

In 2nd place: Treetop Lodge, Ban Lung, Cambodia

And the Gappy goes to …El Tesoro, Elqui, Chile

Best Mode of Transport

In 3rd place: Sea Plane, Taupo, New Zealand

In 2nd place: Bamboo boat, Li River, China

And the Gappy goes to…Bamboo train, Battambang, Cambodia

Best Food

In 3rd place: Shaved ice with adzuki beans, Japan

In 2nd place: Tim tams, Australia

And the Gappy goes to…Pho, Vietnam

Best Museum

In 3rd place: Natural History Museum in New York

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In 2nd place: Buddha Park, Laos

And the Gappy goes to…Pinang Peranakan House, Penang, Malaysia

Best Animal Encounter

In 3rd place: In a strong category, third place goes to Madidi National Park in the Amazon.  As we were fishing for piranha, we turned around to see a mother and baby tapir (usually nocturnal) crossing the river.  Our guide was even more excited than we were.

In 2nd place: A dusk hike in the Malaysian island of Langkawi.  Langkawi is more of a beach resort / duty free haven so expectations for wildlife spotting were low.  We got about two feet away from a buzzard pinning a lizard to the ground.  Then we saw flying lemurs (with tiny babies clinging to their bellies), flying squirrels and flying lizards.  All either inside or about ten minutes walk from a big hotel complex – unbelievable.

Flying Lemur & Baby, Bohol

And the Gappy goes to…snorkelling in the Celebes Sea off Mabul Island, Borneo.

Turtle

Best City

In 3rd Place: Singapore. Many people find Singapore too sterile, too controlled, too boring. It probably wouldn´t have made my top three if it had been the first place we went to, but it makes the list for two reasons: (1) after a month in India, sterility, order and a bit of luxury really hits the spot and (2) it had Elephant Parade! Plus it has great museums, a nice waterfront and all the home comforts you could want.

2nd Place: Hoi An – beach, mini Angkor Wat, amazing food and everyone there tells you that you’re beautiful.

And the Gappy goes to…Tokyo, big, full, colourful, insane.

Best Country

In 3rd place: Bolivia, salt flats, street parties, amazing wildlife in the Amazon and the picture-perfect Isla del Sol.

In 2nd Place: Japan the craziest place in the world.

And the Gappy goes to… Malaysia, which takes the crown because whereas we only spent two weeks in Japan and Bolivia, Malaysia kept us entertained for six whole weeks and was fabulous throughout. Apart from the time we nearly died on Mt Kinabalu. And the mosquitos in Kinabatangan. And Kuala Lumpur’s town planning department. But apart from that, amazing.

So that’s it from my fantastic year off. Back home now, job-hunting and and that. All subscribers to this blog please feel free to unsubscribe now, because it’s going to get a lot duller from now on.

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Peruvian Food

Peruvian food also adheres to the double-carb standard of South America. In fact, is this the most Peruvian meal possible? Alpaca, double-carb, Inca Kola on the side.

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Mr Beet and the Peruvians agree on one thing – their love of roast chicken and chips. Apparently there is even a Roast Chicken Day in Peru.

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Edible totara reed on a totara reed island on Lake Titicaca

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Coca tea (with muna as well) – the Peruvian Panacea, it’s good for what ails you.

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Al looking very smug with a pisco sour

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Mr Beet and I didn’t want to try cuy aka guinea pig. Fortunately, we had a guinea pig-guinea pig, in the shape of Alastair. Unfortunately, Al couldn’t resist playing with his cooked guinea pig cadaver until we all felt thoroughly put off our dinners.

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Chicharrones – fried pork ribs: salty, fatty and utterly delicious.

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McDonalds on Tour – Peru

Can you believe that Peruvian McDonalds do not offer a “BigMachu-Picchu” burger? What a missed opportunity. Obviously the BigMachu-Picchu would contain avocado, sliced and fanned out to resemble the Incan terraces. I had to settle for a plain old BigMac

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KFC were making slightly more effort, as there branch in Cuzco offered a “Mega Cuzqueno Bucket”. Not sure what made it Cuzqueno, but we got it anyway.

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Lima

Last stop in Peru is Lima. We are staying in Miraflores, which is by the sea. But it’s one of the eleven months of the year when Lima is shrouded in cold white fog, so not really good beach weather.

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Attractions in Miraflores include Kennedy Park, home to hundreds of friendly stray cats.

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It is difficult to get into Lima city centre as the taxi drivers all refuse to take us. When we do finally manage to get a bus, we get hopelessly lost. We do find the best attraction; the water fountain park.

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On our last day we are in our hotel room and everything starts to vibrate. It goes on getting stronger for about half a minute. We rush outside and see the family who run the hotel sheltering in a doorway, so we do the same until the quake subsides.

So that’s all for Lima and for South America. We say adios to Al, who is heading back to London, while we are flying on to Los Angeles for the final leg of our trip.

More pictures of Lima are on Mr Beet’s flickr page.

Lake Titicaca, Arequipa and Nazca

Mr Beet and I visited Lake Titicaca from the Bolivian side, but Al hasn’t so we go again from Puno in Peru. This also gives us the chance to visit the famous floating islands. The islanders build the islands out of reeds, which they also use to make their houses, boats, souvenirs for tourists and the reeds are edible as well.

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Tourism is big business on the islands and to share the profits, each visiting boat gets allocated an island in strict rotation. We visit the island of Suma Balsa, which is home to three or four families. We get a ride in their reed boat, where we play with one of the island children who takes a great interest in my camera, and who definitely wasn’t dropped on his head by Alastair. Definitely not.

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We are now making our way along the coast to Lima. We break our journey at the town of Arequipa, where all the buildings are made of beautiful white volcanic stone.

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Next stop is Nazca, home of the famous lines. We arrive, organise a flight over the lines and leave town again with ruthless efficiency. First we have to sit through the world’s shittest documentary about the lines, but soon we are up in our tiny six-seater plane. There’s a lot of banking left and right so that everyone gets to see everything, which makes for a stomach-churning half-hour, but we just about manage to hold on to our breakfasts. Most of the lines are just straight lines, but the best ones are the animal and human figures. They are a lot more impressive in real life than in my photos, but you’ll have to forgive me as I was distracted by my the contents of my stomach trying to make a re-appearance.

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The “Astronaut” on the side of that hill.

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The Pelican

More pictures of Lake Titicaca , Arequipa and Nazca are on Mr Beet’s flickr page.