I had seen more countries in one trip than many people see in a lifetime, but somehow it left me wanting more.
To find out about the first half of this crazy trip, be sure to read travel obsession part one.
Back in Miami, I had a good night’s sleep before I started the annoying loop it took to get from the USA to Cuba. There were no direct flights in 2014, so I had to travel via Kingston and Montego Bay in Jamaica and the Cayman islands to get to Havana. At least it gave me a chance to visit the Bob Marley museum in Jamaica.
The hot topic at the time was the Chinese buying one of the local islands and transforming the National Park into a shipping depot. It wasn’t the free-loving island I remembered from a previous trip.
In the end, I arrived in Cuba with my excitement level far outweighing my exhaustion. I had three days to explore this island and I wasn’t going to waste a second with such triviality as sleep.
The first and most obvious thing you notice in Cuba is the enthusiasm and spirit of the locals. The Urban rumba was blaring in the 1956 Cadillac taxi and I could barely hear his diatribe (about US embargoes), as we crawled along slowly, through congested traffic, to my hotel.
Everywhere along the way people were out and about with activities. Maybe they had some premonition about the sanctions being lifted, but people were excited in 2014. And I was privileged to experience this first hand. I must have gone into 30 bars in those three days, drinking in the music, cigars, people (and liquor) of what was an incredible few days.
From here I completed the loop back to Miami via Bahamas, where I met the most incredible two couples from Canada. We ended up talking about our respective countries for hours until it was time to enter the USA (again). It was after midnight by the time I got to my hotel in Miami and I fell asleep not knowing that I was about to miss my first flight on this trip.
I woke early to catch my 39th flight of the trip from Miami to Orlando. Unfortunately, I got the dates wrong and the flight was the day before. All my flights on this trip were stacked like dominos, so if one fell, I would miss all the connecting flights. Since I booked them all individually, I wouldn’t be able to claim from the travel insurance, to get it back. The only exception was the one I actually missed, so I rented a car and drove from Miami to Orlando where I own a property company.
With the business part of my journey concluded I headed up to my University to attend a lecture as part of a course in my day job – Renewable Energy projects. It was great meeting my professors and the other students I had only seen online. I flew to Denver via Houston, and then via Atlanta into Washington DC so this started the long haul part of my journey.
By the time my flight from DC landed in Bogota, Colombia I knew something serious was wrong. My back was in such pain that I could hardly move. I decided to push through the pain and go for a jog. My reasoning was that I was just stiff and a loosening run would get everything aligned again.
I was wrong on so many levels and I ended up crawling back to my hotel after 10 minutes. I asked the concierge for directions to a massage parlor using only hand signals. My only Spanish being: “no hablo español” and “tu Madre is loco”.
I shuffle walked the two blocks to this establishment, and dragged my rigid body onto the table. The girl who came in to help me was dressed in such a skimpy dress that I immediately became suspicious of the place. After five minutes I knew the answer. Apparently, the hand signals I gave to the concierge was interpreted as “show me the way to a brothel” and not a masseuse.
By this time I couldn’t move, so I had to educate the poor girl on the correct massaging technique, while politely declining her more “expert services”. I made an undignified exit after thirty minutes of pointless torture, both physically and emotionally.
Ultimately, I made a very handy travel discovery. All airports have medical staff that give you free assistance. It’s part of why you pay airport tax. I lumbered into their waiting area, where a very nice local medic stabbed me twice with butt burning (literally) jaw clenching Voltaren injections.
I had spent the best part of four weeks on planes, boats, trains, taxis, walking, running, swimming and only half sleeping my way across most of the Western hemisphere and my body was done. I managed to get my protesting, weary flesh into another long haul flight back to Sao Paulo.
The Voltaren helped tremendously and pain pills got me through the next 48 hours, but I eventually succumbed to the protest from my body and cancelled my day trip flight to Rio da Janeiro from Sao Paulo. I am still sad I missed seeing one of the most beautiful cities on earth, but back then my body was driven passed its limits and I just wandered the streets of Guarulhos for two days.
I was glad to board the last flight home to Johannesburg. I had seen more countries in one trip than many people see in a lifetime, but somehow it left me wanting more.
I have since done more of these crazy trips, but nothing as extreme as this. I have also been back to explore some of the more interesting countries in more detail. I tend to use these whirlwind trips as exploratory journeys, to scout out which places I can visit at a more leisurely pace with my family.
At least then I’ve been to all of them in the region and I made up my own mind about where to go back for a second visit.
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