The Liebster Award

Liebster Award You may well be reading this and thinking “what the hell is a Liebster Award?” I certainly did when @pataschasworld on Twitter nominated me. I started thinking about my acceptance speech and where my black tie was, but then thought I best do a little research.

It turns out that the Liebster Award is a bit like a blogger’s chain letter. Though rather less annoying. A blogger nominates 10 other bloggers and sets them some questions to answer on their blog. They in turn nominate another ten bloggers and set some new questions.

The web gives endless other rules, one of which is that those that I nominate must have less then 200 followers. That’s the only rule I am sticking to (kind of) as the rest are just plain muddled. So below are the questions set by Patashcas World, as detailed here in their blog entry, along with my answers.

The fact that they nominated me is quite crazy actually. The beach at the top of their blog is the astoundingly beautiful Playa Conchal in Costa Rica. I got engaged on that beach in 2011. I love the crazy randomness of an unlikely coincidence. 

1. Do you prefer city trips or nature? Why? 

I go through stages of preferring one, and then the other. When I travelled around the world I got very bored of cities. In the end, coming so quickly one after another, they started to feel very similar. Particularly in South America. But then just when I thought I had had enough of cities for ever, a real gem would come along. Like Cusco in Peru. Or Wellington in New Zealand. Or the city I could never get bored of – New York City.

So my answer changes. At the moment I can’t wait to explore Istanbul next week and Seoul a couple of weeks later. I may be sick of cities again after that though. 

2. Where was your worst night spent and what happened? 

More than one night actually. In 2011 my girlfriend and I were in Mendoza in Argentina. We arrived during a big festival and hostel rooms were really hard to find. But we managed to get 7 nights booked at a highly regarded hostel.

When we got to the dorm we noticed bed bugs on the bunk. The hostel called in exterminators and washed all our clothes but that night my girlfriend got savaged by the bugs. We spent hours the next morning looking for somewhere else to stay but without any success.

In the meantime the exterminators were called in and the infestation was traced to the rucksack of an American girl – who seemed to have gone into hiding. In the end we stayed the whole seven nights in an eternal loop of bad sleep and extermination.

Eventually the hostel burnt the mattresses. I like to think I can sleep anywhere, but knowing that I will be attacked by bugs in the night was tough. 

3. Is a rental car a too expensive way for you to travel? If yes, which transportation do you prefer? 

I feel like I am a good person to ask this to actually. I have almost completely travelled by local transport and I love it. Local chicken buses are a real experience, and trains in far out places are nothing like westernised travel (I’m looking at you Vietnam!) and are a great way to see the countryside.

But I have hired a car twice whilst travelling. Once for 6 weeks in New Zealand and again for 6 days in Tenerife. As a result I feel like these are two places I know really well.

Having the car gives complete freedom to venture from the standard tourist routes and just check out what is down that dusty track. New Zealand really is a great place to get out and about in a car too. Every road seems to have some incredible sight to behold.

So yes, a rental car is expensive, but sometimes it is worth the expense. And what do I prefer? A tuk-tuk of course. Life is always good when you are in the back of a tuk-tuk. 

4. What is your favourite destination and why? 

Without a doubt my favourite destination is Cambodia. I’ve been twice now and long to return. My main obsession is the temples, which is why I first went. But I soon realised that the people are amazing and the food is pretty good too. I can’t wait to return and next time I want to explore the coast. 

5. What was the oddest food you’ve eaten? 

Probably Guinea Pig in Cusco. Which was nice, and like most unusual foods it actually tasted like chicken. I came close to trying tarantula and deep fried whole chicken embryo in Cambodia but bottled it at the moment of truth. 

6. What was the most dangerous situation you’ve ever been involved in? 

I work in the risk industry so I am really good at finding reasons to not put myself in danger.

But retrospectively I would say that endless bus journeys in the Andes throughout Bolivia and Peru was pretty dangerous. The mountain passes and perilous roads were both spectacular and terrifying. And the drivers have a reputation of driving whilst drunk and are exposed to long period of driving without rest.

I feel lucky that we had zero problems to be honest. Others are less lucky. 

7. Did you ever needed medical treatment during a stay. If yes, in which country and what happened? 

I broke my ring finger 3 days after getting married. I braved a rope swing into the lake at Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. Sadly it seems that my fear of heights is more prominent in my left hand, which refused to let go of the rope. Once my full body weight had done it’s job the bone in my finger cracked in half kind of lengthwaysOuch!Luckily we had a nurse from the UK in the floating hut next to us. Once I had swum one handed to get back to the huts she helped me straighten my finger – which crunched loudly enough for everybody in the room to hear. I struggled through the next 2 weeks of honeymoon – Malaysia and then Cambodia – before seeking proper medical assistance back in the UK. 

8. Hostel or suite? 

A constant debate between my wife and I. Well into our 30’s now, we do rather stand out in hostels. Not that it bothers me. But in all honesty we are now hotel  people. But I still miss the conversations and weirdness of hostels and their dorms. 

9. Your best memory of a stay… 

Hmmm. That’s a tough one. So many memories.

In March 2011 we landed in Buenos Aires after nearly 2 months in New Zealand. Which was a real shock to the system. New Zealand has just over 4 million citizens. The province of Buenos Aires alone has over 15 million and when we arrived it seemed that a large chunk of them were bustling around the streets of San Telmo. We needed a bolt hole and we stumbled upon a newly opened estancia in Uruguay by the name of El Galope. 

Getting there was a challenge. We took a ferry across the Rio Plata to Colonia del Scaramento in Uruguay and then a bus. We had to disembark at a random spot in the middle of nowhere where the owner of El Galope, Miguel, was waiting for us.

At the time El Galope was fairly new and they didn’t have much in the way of online reviews and web presence. We were the only guests and as Miguel pulled into the estancia it dawned on us just how remote the place was. Rolling green countryside disappeared to the horizon in all directions.

Despite the fact that we don’t ride horses we had a wonderful three day stay. Miguel and his wife Monica were amazing hosts, and continue to be to this day. Their dog, Tupac, kept us company. We visited a local goat’s cheese farm on bikes. The food, cooked each evening by Migeul and Monica, was good and the local wine was brilliant. I even assisted Miguel (badly) with some building alterations to the guest quarters.

El Galope was nothing like we ever expected. It was the most relaxing 3 days in a truly special place, and it was the perfect preparation for our subsequent trip into the insanity of South America. 

10. What do you collect? (Because everyone collects something) 

Nothing that I can think of in a material sense. But as a traveller I collect memories. Weirdly I have a shocking memory at work or at home, yet my memories of travel are as clear as if they happened yesterday. 

11. Why do you travel? 

Because I only have one life and there is a hell of a lot to see.   

 

My Nominations 

I am a bit new to Twitter so my nominations are rather random. Here goes…

@goneabroad – who have quit their jobs to travel. Which makes them inspirational ! Good work. 

@karthiknomad  – likes travelling and skateboarding. Great combination.

@aflyingirishman – I’ve met loads of travelling Irish. Ireland must be rubbish. 

@krystianya – I love the photo atop her Twitter feed. Burma is it? 

@GAffairTravel – are helping women travel solo. Which is good as I have witnessed first hand the difficulties solo-female travellers face. 

@wheresdariel – by the looks of his Twitter feed he is at the top a rather big mountain!

@onenomadwoman – 40 countries since 2012! Impressive. But I won’t believe she can time travel unless she comes round my house yesterday to prove it. 

@WeMustDash – a man with a moustache and his other half, setting off on the trip of a lifetime. I’ve done that and it was great. My facial hair went a bit ginger though. 

@wtravelist – Let’s travel the world! So says the WorldTravelist. I’m game…let’s go! 

@ExplorerOnEarth – also wants to travel the world. They should hook up with the @WorldTravelist. They seem to be like-minded. 

@Adrian1707 – who travelled the length of Africa and wrote a superb blog. 

My Questions for you 1. Which country sits at the top of your travel bucket list and why?

2. Top bunk or bottom bunk?

3.  Do you ever wear those weird baggy and colourful backpacker trousers? If so, post a photo to make me chuckle.

4. What is the most relaxing place you had ever travelled and what is so great about it?

5. When you aren’t tweeting or blogging, what do you do with your days?

6. What is your best bit of travel advice?

7. Have you ever been the victim of a scam whilst travelling? Yes? You best tell us…

8.  Guide Book or just turn up and wing it?

9.  What is your favourite country? Tell us why and make us want to go there.

10. What is the weirdest place you have slept whilst travelling? And how did that happen?!

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