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December 31, 2004

There's No Place Like Home

My flight from Miami landed early into snowy Detroit, where it then took over an hour to actually get to the gate and off the plane because of the 10 inches of snow. My parents picked me up from the airport and we made a mad dash for Taco Bell, where I finally satisfied my unrelenting craving for 2 taco supremes and a nachos supreme. I spent much of the last week bringing my house out of hibernation, catching up with friends, and eating my favorite foods that I have been deprived of since June.

And now, here I am, writing this last entry from the comfort of my own home, in exactly the same spot as I was back in May designing this blog and writing its first entries. My trip was exactly 200 days long and in just 3 more days I will be rejoining the "real world." Time sure flies.

I have been sorting through the thousands of pictures I have taken which of course is stirring up memories of eveything that has happened since I was last sitting on this couch. The following will be a chronologically ordered lightening fast recap of some of the highlights of the last 200 days:

Camping above the clouds, and stumbling deliriously to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with Karen and our guides after 7 days of hiking to almost 20,000 ft ASL, and almost knocking my front teeth out after pulling a scale down onto my face.

Seeing the first lion of the trip in the Masai Mara, eating lunch while elephants roamed in the field in front of me, and having the opportunity to visit a Masai Village and learn about their way of life.

Camping in the Serengeti and being unable to sleep because I was imagining lions encircling my tent all night. Viewing the enormous amounts of wildlife in the Ngorogoro Crater.

Relaxing near the beach on Zanzibar and learning how to beat octopus from the locals looking for and beating the octopi during low tide. Experiencing my first bout of seasickness on the return ferry from Zanzibar to mainland Tanzania.

Visiting the pregnant ladies in Malawi waiting up to a month at the hospital to give birth. Playing Bowe with the locals, bargaining the 3 Malawi chairs down to $10 each, and then spending $80 to mail them home. Seeing our first group of hippos out of the water. Giving candy to schoolchildren which unfortunately resulted in a mini riot outside our truck.

Riding and feeding an elephant in Zimbabwe and taking a flight in an ultralight over Victoria Falls.

Four wheeling and sandboarding on the sand dunes, visiting the cheetah park in Ojitotongwe, watching giraffes and rhino in Etosha National Park, hiking up and around the dunes near Sossusvlei, driving in the moonlike landscape of the Skeleton Coast, and seeing (and smelling) the thousands of cape fur seals on the beach in Namibia.

Revisiting my old stomping grounds in Sydney, catching up with my Norweigan friend Line, scuba diving at the Julian Rocks Marine Reserve, almost stepping on a couple pythons in Noosa, researching deadly snakes at the Australia Zoo, visiting the koala hospital, making my didgeridoo in Dingo, and hiking around Hitchenbrook and North Stradbroke Islands.

Watching the colors of Ayers Rock change during the sunset, walking around the Olgas, Kings Canyon, and the Devils Marbles and sleeping in a swag under the stars in the "Red Center" of the Australian Outback.

Cruising for crocodiles on the Mary River, hanging out with the aboriginals, learning about the enormous termite mounds, and hiking around Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks near Darwin.

Hiking and rockclimbing through the canyons in Karijini National Park, swimming with 4 meter wide mantarays in the Ningaloo Reef, and feeding the dolphins in Monkey Mia along the west coast of Australia. Then taking the 3 day train from Perth to Adelaide.

Seeing the kangaroo dummies at Ford of Australia, driving along the Great Ocean Road, visiting with Kellie and her family, catching up with Steve, visiting with Phil and his wife who Kellie and I met in Africa, and being chased away from the penguins by the lady in green on Phillip Island near Melbourne. Catching up with Mark, who I used to work with in the Orthopedics lab in Sydney.

Being nearly mugged in La Paz with mustard while stumbling down the street suffering from altitude sickness and jetlag. Wandering though the witches market looking at the llama fetuses. Watching the bolivian women dance during a street festival.

Watching the children play with reeds on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, and spending the afternoon with the Quechua children on Amantani Island.

Exploring the Inca ruins of the Sacred Valley, hiking the Inca Trail to the lost city of Maccu Picchu, and seeing the frozen mummy Juanita in Arequipa in Peru.

Spending a few days sweating in the Amazon Jungle, getting the heebie jeebies from the tarantulas we came across during our night walk, and making friends with a tapir.

Climbing the Villarica Volcano and sliding straight down with ice axes in hand in Pucon, Chile.

Exploring the beautiful Lakes District and then getting stuck in the mud in the windy, rainy, cold climate of desolate Patagonia. Visiting the Moreno Glacier and hearing the thunderous cracking and falling of icebergs. Ice hiking and climbing on the Grey Glacier and hiking around Torres del Paine National Park.

Reaching the "End of the World" in Ushuaia and boarding the M/V Orlova to Antarctica. Finally finding the way into the Lemaire Channel after being sick on the "Smooth Drake" and having to reroute the ship numerous times due to pack ice. Watching the beautiful sunset over the sea. Barbequing on the deck surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the Lemaire Channel. Wandering amongst the penguins and seals, taking a plunge in the freezing water, and playing heated games of scrabble with some fantastic traveling companions.

Watching Tango in the streets in Buenos Aires. Finding out my flight from Buenos Aires to Lima was cancelled, making it possible for me to visit the Bolivian Salt Flats.

Thanks to everyone out there that followed along with my exploits and kept me company here on this blog. Knowing you were all out there really helped to keep my homesickness at bay, motivate me to make the entries interesting, and not give up in the endless quest to find fast internet all over the world.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Over and out.

Michelle :)

If you enjoyed reading this blog, please make a comment. I'd like to know who was out there e-traveling with me! This is your last chance!

Posted by msshell on December 31, 2004 09:41 PM
Category: Back Home

Michelle, I'm the first to read your Cliff notes! See, I'm not such a bum for not keeping up with your blog while you were actually travelling. Am I forgiven now? ;) Party on!

Posted by: Ferd on January 1, 2005 02:11 AM

I have to say that your immediate inclination to "head for the border" of Taco Bell is totally hot. ;) Is that not the best guacamole squeezed out of a tube or WHAT?

Glad you're back home safely; not glad you'll be back working SO SOON -- although I'm sure you're not glad about that too. You mentioned that you'll be rejoining "the real world" in three days... Don't you mean "getting plugged back into 'The Matrix' in three days?" "The REAL world" is out here, wouldn't you agree?

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be eating my words when I get back to the States myself (along with some Taco Bell Gorditas), huh?

Happy New Year to you, your friends, your family, and your faithful Blogreaders! Hope to see you soon in NYC, or MI (or whichever comes first). In the meantime, there's always Yahoo! Messenger... :)

Posted by: Erik in Manila on January 1, 2005 08:49 AM

FERD: If your teachers in 6th grade didn't forgive you for reading Cliff Notes then why should I? EVERYONE knows Cliffs notes are a supplement and not a replacement.... anyway, you are not forgiven because you were first, you are forgiven because you provided me with internet. Thanks!

Posted by: Michelle on January 1, 2005 09:07 AM

ERIK: I KNEW someone would eventually find my addiction to Taco Bell attractive!!! Travel safe Erik, you are now my extension cord to "the real world"

Posted by: Michelle on January 1, 2005 10:21 AM

Welcome home... but I will miss your travel stories.

Posted by: Lynn on January 1, 2005 09:04 PM

My favorite pic in this series is you 'feeding' the really capture the excitement of the moment. You never cease to amaze me, chickie! It's great to have you around again.

Posted by: Kevin on January 5, 2005 09:31 AM
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