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Trip Highlights

1st third | 2nd third | Questions & Answers about Africa


Last Third of the Trip: Mediterranean Europe

8 wonders of Mediterranean Europe:

1.       Eclipse over Love Valley, Cappadocia

2.       Florence, Italy

3.       Sistine chapel, Vatican museum

4.       Costa Nova, Portugal, in August

5.       Alps

6.       Amalfi coast, Italy

7.       Rome (Roma), Italy (Italia)

8.       Santorini, Italy

Top countries:

1.       Italy

2.       Portugal

3.       Turkey

Top cities:

1.         Florence, Italy

2.         Rome (Roma), Italy

3.         Istanbul, Turkey

4.         Barcelona, Spain

5.         Porto, Portugal

Top towns:

1.         Naxos

2.         Ilhavo

3.         Goreme

4.         Amalfi

Top natural areas:

1.         Cappadocia, Turkey

2.         Douro Valley, Portugal

3.         Alps

4.         Amalfi coast, Italy

5.         Naxos, Greece

Top ruins:

1.         Pompeii, Italy

2.         Ephesus, Turkey

3.         Acropolis, Greece

4.         Delphi, Greece

5.         Cappadocia, Turkey

Top religious buildings:

1.         St. Peter’s, Vatican City

2.         La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3.         Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

4.         Fatima, Portugal

Top museums:

1.         Uffizi, Florence, Italy

2.         Vatican Museum, Italy

3.         Goreme Open Air, Cappadocia, Turkey

4.         Football Club of Barcelona

5.         Accademia, Florence, Italy

Top art:

1.         Michelangelo’s Pieta

2.         Michelangelo’s Creation

3.         Da Vinci’s Annunciation

4.         Michelangelo’s Last Judgment

5.         Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

6.         Michelangelo’s David

Top urban environs (squares, fountains & arches):

1.         Trevi Fountain, Rome

2.         Piazza Navonna, Rome

3.         St. Peter’s Square, Bernini’s colonnade, Rome

4.         Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

5.         Camp Nou, Barcelona

6.         Canals of Venice

7.         San Marcos Square, Venice

Top experiences:

·         Eclipse over Love Valley/hiking, Cappadocia, Turkey

·         Hanging out with our Portuguese cousins in Ilhavo and on the beach at Costa Nova and at the “yellow house” and “red house”

·         Sao Joao de Pesqueira in the house of Helena Teresa

·         Hanging with our friend Zeynep in Antalya, Turkey

·         Festa of Sao Joao do Porto (the festival of St. John the Baptist in Porto), annual citywide celebration, where everyone bops over the head each other with plastic mallets, roasts sardines in the streets, and dances and cavorts at entertainment stages around the city. The evening is capped off with a spectacular fireworks display over the Douro River at midnight.

·         Staying with our friends Lina and Paolo Petrucco and their family at their vineyard in Buttrio, Italy

·         Walking Rome in 3 days from morning to night

·         Touring Camp Nou and the FC Barcelona Museum in Barcelona, Spain

·         Walking around the Sistine Chapel in awe

·         Walking through the ancient Roman town of Ephesus and imagining St. Paul roaming those streets preaching the Good News.

·         Seeing the Pope (A Papa) in St. Peter’s Square

Top sightings:

·         Eclipse in Cappadocia, Turkey (4)

·         Admiring La Pieta, St. Peter’s Basilica  (2)

·         Sistine Chapel

·         Driving into the Petrucco villa/vineyard in Buttrio, Italy

·         Cannavaro, captain of the Italian soccer team, holding up the World Cup trophy

·         Italian Alps high valley

·         View from the mountain tops of interior Naxos island, Greece

·         Duomo (sprawling, Gothic, principal cathedral) in Milan

·         Entering the grand canal of Venice

·         St. Peter’s square at night/fireworks over St. Peter’s basilica

Favorite foods:

·         Bacalhau a gomes de sa (layers of codfish, potatoes and onions, smothered in olive oil)

·         Bacalhau con natas (creamed codfish)

·         Margarita pizza

·         Risotto

·         Stuffed tomatoes, peppers

·         Sopa de legumes (Portuguese vegetable soup)

·         Feta cheese of Turkey

·         Bread

·         Gyros of Greece

·         Gelato/gelado

Second-Third of the Trip: India and East Africa


Picado-Curtis 7 Wonders of India and East Africa:

1.      Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

2.       Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

3.       Khana National Park, India

4.       Taj Mahal, India

5.       Himalayas

6.       Enoosaen, Maasai Village, Kenya

7.       Zanzibar Archipelago


Top countries:

1.       Kenya

2.       India

3.       Tanzania

4.       Uganda


Top cities or towns:

Darjeeling, India

Jaisalmer, India

Enoosaen, Kenya

Fort Portal, Uganda

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda


Top national parks:

Khana National Park, India

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

Samburu National Park, Kenya

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda


Top ruins/temples/religious buildings:

Taj Mahal, India

Fort at Jaisalmer, India

Khajaraho, India

Enoosaen Catholic Church, Kenya


Top beaches:

Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar, Tanzania


Top rivers & lakes:

Nakuru Lake, Kenya

Ganges River, India

Lake Magadi, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Mara River, Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

Ewaso Nyiro (Brown River), Samburu National Park, Kenya


Top sightings (one moment):

·         Our first sighting of the giraffe and elephant (Paul spotted the giraffe and Peter the elephant in the same vicinity), as were driving into Samburu National Park on day 1 of our Kenya safari. We were all filled with inexpressible awe and wonder.

·         Seeing tigers at Khana National Park, India

·         Tracking hyena and Thomson’s gazelle

·         One & only leopard sighting. Paul described it as: “Seeing the leopard out of the corner of my eye!”

·         Watching sunrise over the Himalayas at Tiger Hill, India: seeing Everest, Makula, Lohtse and Khanchendzonga (#1, 3, 4 and 5 highest mountains in the world)

·         Being in the middle of chimpanzees as they descended from the trees

·         Taj Mahal grounds: old residence for pilgrims just beyond the entrance gate, royalty palace on the right side, mosque on the left (and imagining in my mind’s eye what it would have looked like to see a black Taj Mahal on the other side of the river)

·         Seeing Taj Mahal as sun rose

·         Seeing cheetahs and 2 cubs in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

·         Driving into Ngorongoro Crater—looking over great expanse, valleys, trees and plains

·         Seeing prayer flags at Observatory Hill and Tiger Hill, Himalayas, India

·         Seeing fort at Jaisalmer, riding in from the train station on the motor rickshaw and other places in the surrounding area

·         Laying beside Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda, and seeing the lush, green surrounding hills, cultivated with many crops, and the peace the moment brought

·         Cheetahs stalking the Thomson’s gazelles, Samburu National Park, Kenya

·         Any time we encountered giraffes or elephants walking around, but especially the giraffes

·         Any time we saw lions with cubs; the cubs were so cute!

·         Seeing the baby chimp swinging in the vines

·         Seeing the cheetah eat its breakfast, the Thomson’s gazelle

·         Seeing the mini-migration and confusion of the wildebeests at Masai Mara National Park


Top experiences:

·         Communing with a mama cheetah and her two cubs and the cubs playing with Steve’s lens cap when it accidentally fell into their grasp!

·         Lion stalk and hunt strategy against the wildebeests, Ngorongoro Crater

·         Leopard walking a meter away from us

·         Cheetah on top of a mound, Trans Mara, Kenya

·         Seeing our first family of lions: 2 juveniles, one mother, 2 two-month-old cubs and our first male with a huge mane

·         Sunrise at Tiger Hill and experiencing a vibrant spirituality before, during and after.

·         Enoosaen: Enoosaen Water Project (conversations with the committee where we shared spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, especially the picnic at John Murunga’s house in the hills of Enoosaen) & Enoosaen Catholic Community, especially the spirit-filled, almost Pentecostal encounter at the first mass we attended the day after we arrived in town 

·         Paul’s Masai birthday: sitting under the arbor and blessing Paul and feeling the love of this Masai community

·         Victory Community Gardens volunteer project, Kabale, Uganda

·         Kenyan safari

·         Ngorongoro Crater day trip

·         Staying at the beach at Zanzibar, swimming in the beautiful water

·         Christmas eve @ Mother Teresa’s convent

·         Tigress & 2 cubs at Khana National Park, riding in on the elephants and watching the tigers

·         Riding the camels on safari in Rajasthan and especially the long run at the end of the trek

·         Herd of wildebeests, zebra, elands, topi, and buffalo and wart hogs darting in and out between their legs, Masai Mara, Kenya

·         Cheetah stalk and hunt, Samburu National Park

·         Getting robbed in Nairobi

·         Spotting the first elephant of the trip


Top scary situations:

·         Traveling in Uganda the week before, during and after the national elections as violence had broken out at a rally in Kampala for the opponent just two weeks before the election and there was widespread tension related to the elections in the country.

·         Awakened in the middle of the night in Mbale, eastern Uganda, to the sound of scary sounds in the streets. Looked out the window and the streets were deserted. A band of motorcycles drove up to the entrance of the hotel and lined up in front. I thought they were coming to get us Americans because of tensions over the national election.

·         Concerned driving around Kolkata looking for a place to stay when we arrived late at night; it looked like a war zone with fires and people in the street.

·         Worrying that Paul had malaria our first week in India.

·         Harrowing ride from train station to Darjeeling at the foothills of the Himalayas, 8,000 feet up. The road was very steep and one time our driver took a shortcut up a particularly steep slope and didn’t make it. We had to get out of the van and walk up the slope. Steve and Therese were both sick, and Steve was so weak he could barely make it up.

·         Paul and Carrol trying to get out of the train at Agra while passengers were pressing to get in and a fight broke out at the door because of all the aggressive pushing.

·         Therese’s camel, Gangoolie, was spooked when Paul’s camel bit him on the rear end and he began bucking with Therese on his back! Apparently, according to the rest of the family, she looked hilarious bobbing erratically on the back of the camel. Thankfully she was able to wrest control by pulling on the reins, but it was definitely a frightening experience and she rode with her heart in her throat for the remainder of the safari!

·         Most miserable: Riding on the night train from Kolkata north. It was freezing and Steve and Therese both had fevers and were nauseous the whole trip.

·         Most bizarre: The day that Peter, Paul and my passports were stolen at the Kenya youth hostel in Nairobi, my money sack was stolen when Peter and I returned to do email later that day. Of course, I was carrying very little cash so there wasn’t much damage, but it was definitely a “Twilight Zone” experience as we were both being super vigilant and could not, for the life of us, figure out how it happened yet again. It was a little eerie really!


Favorite foods:

·         Naan: plain, garlic and butter

·         Mixed veg curry

·         Chicken bharta

·         Tandori roti

·         Fish curry or stew & potatoes in tomatoes

·         Dal fry

·         Dal markhani

·         Aloo curry (potato curry)

·         Paratha

·         Paneer butter masala @ Pugmark restaurant

·         Harriet’s vegetables in masala sauce

·         Harriet’s chips (or fries)

·         Tofu “tiger” scramble at Pugmark restaurant

·         Chicken & chips

·         Octopus in coconut sauce

·         Pizza at PizzArusha

·         Pizza at Coral Cove pizzeria @ Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar


One-third of the way through!


Picado-Curtis 8 Wonders of Central America and Southeast Asia:

1.       Tikal, Guatemala

2.       Luang Nam Tha/Nam Ha Natural Area, northern Laos

3.       Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

4.       Temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

5.       Taman Negara, Malaysia

6.       Cape Pakarang Boat Yard, tsunami relief project, Khao Lak, Thailand

7.       Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

8.       Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica


Top countries:


Costa Rica




Top cities or towns:

Bangkok, Thailand

Luang Prabang, Laos

Antigua, Guatemala

Kyoto, Japan


Top national parks:

Taman Negara, Malaysia

Mt. Leuser National Park, Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Manual Antonio, Costa Rica

Nam Ha Natural Area, Laos


Top ruins/temples/religious buildings:

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan

The Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

Tikal, Guatemala


Top beaches:

Tulum, Mexico

Long Beach & Turtle Beach, Perhentian Islands

Phra Nang, Railay, Thailand

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Cahuita, Costa Rica

Koh Samet, Thailand


Top sightings:

·         Seeing the rice fields of northern Laos

·         Seeing the temple of Angkor Wat for the first time

·         Swimming with the giant hawksbill turtles in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

·         Seeing tapirs all night long at the wildlife hide at Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia

·         Sighting toucans at Tortuguero National Park

·         Seeing the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan

·         Sighting howler and spider monkeys in the morning among the temples of Tikal, Guatemala

·         Walking into the Grand Plaza with Templo I and II in Tikal, Guatemala

·         Sighting the first sloth at Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

·         Rounding the bend and seeing Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, from the mountain road


Top experiences:

·         Socializing with orangutans in Mount Leuser National Park, Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

·         Homestay in Antigua, Guatemala, with host and guest families

·         First night of our trek in a mountain village in Nam Ha Natural Area, northern Laos, with our friends Veronica, from Canada, and Alex, from Germany

·         Night market in Luang Prabang, Laos, with Veronica and Alex

·         Looking out over the ocean from the rocks at Long Beach, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

·         Attending mass at San Tomas Cathedral, Chichicastenango, Guatemala Highlands

·         Watching Peter and Therese plant rice with farmers in Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia

·         Hiking 9.5 km from the cascades to the main lodge at Taman Negara, Malaysia

·         Body-surfing at Long Beach, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

·         Visiting our dear friends: Kazu and Hayato and their families and friends in Japan, Ton’s family and friends in Thailand, and Bill Savage and friends in Bangkok.


Top scary situations:

·         Getting stuck in a thunderstorm in a jungle safari and getting left on the shore of the river in Taman Negara, Malaysia.

·         The train through Thailand to Malaysia because of terrorist activities in southern Thailand.

·         Losing my passport temporarily in Laos with one day left on my visa.

·         Peter getting sick and going to the hospital in Chetumal, Mexico.

·         Ride from Tulum to Chetumal, Mexico, to escape Hurricane Emily.

·         Ride in the boat from the Perhentians to the mainland in Malaysia

·         The bad thunderstorm in Cartago, Costa Rica.

·         The 9-hour ride from the border of Thailand/Laos to Luang Nam Tha in an open bed truck in monsoon season.

·         Bus accident on the trip from Vang Vieng to Vientiane

·         Losing the trail for 1 km during a hike in Taman Negara, Malaysia


Favorite foods:

·         Mulberry shake and pancakes, organic farm, Vang Vieng, Laos

·         Pad Thai

·         Nachos (Lake Atitlan, Guatemala)

·         fresh fish barbecue, especially king fish, at Lilly's, Perhentian Islands

·         roti bom (Cameron Highlands)

·         banana pancake (Uvita)

·         arroz con pollo (San Jose) and pollo casado (Uvita) in Costa Rica

·         tamales and all other food at homestay, Antigua, Guatemala


Lessons learned:

·         It’s important to try to learn the languages of the countries you visit.

·         The world is a safer place than many Americans believe.

·         People the world over are generally hospitable, generous and kind.

·         It is important to realize that as you travel through other countries that you should keep an open mind in relation to food, customs and cultures in order to fully enjoy the experience of the trip.

·         Kids adapted to world travel better than I thought they would.

·         Be cautious about tour agents.

·         I learned about some of the things I enjoy most, like visiting national parks and seeing wildlife.