06 April 2009

Africa and South America - Round 2

Welcome to the regional quarterfinals of the Southern Hemisphere's super bracket. Thanks for reading by the way!

(1) Pyramids vs. (8) Antarctica
As we go on in Region 3, many of the match-ups promise to be great battles. This one however, turned out to be a flop. Team Antarctica seemed to remember that they were, well, Antarctica, after all. Not much of a tourist destination, except for continent hoppers and extreme adventure seekers. The pyramids on the other hand are all that is left of the once mythical “7 Wonders of the Ancient World”. I know it is perhaps cliché to want to visit the Pyramids, but they are, well, the Pyramids for freaks sakes! The are perhaps the original tourist destination of all time. In the time between his childhood and just before he was crucified, we know very little of Jesus of Nazareth. You know why - because he was visiting the Pyramids. I mean come on people, the pyramids are thousands of years old, they are modern of engineering, models of wonder and symbols of one of mankind’s greatest civilizations – the ancient Egyptians. Antarctica has snow, ice and penguins. I can get the first two on my balcony (I’m still waiting for the third to arrive since putting out penguin food). No contest, the pyramids in a runaway.


(2) Easter Island vs (7) Patagonia
Must I choose? Yes, alas, with great writing comes great responsibility! This is the most difficult decision I have ever had to make (in the world of fictional blog writing that is). I could easily make a case to put each of these in the finals of not only this region, but of the entire tournament. But that is why we play the games, to find winners. One of these great destinations must go home, and we are only in the 2nd round of the region! As you can tell from the bold, Easter Island took this one, and I need not tell you that it was by the slim of their giant heads. Mere days ago I was touting the wonders of Patagonia, a serene landscape of glaciers, mountains, lakes and beautiful sky. Patagonia is the land of the gauchos, those noble cowboys of the southern most lands. Wildlife here is abundant, including the aforementioned penguins. As an immense area, occupying a vast stretch of Chile and Argentina, including the Andes, perhaps Patagonia represents too much – too much land, too much myth, and too much grandeur. No doubt, it is merely a people’s land, much like the “western frontier” of North America. Saying that I want to visit Patagonia is sort of like saying, I want to visit the entire Rockies from Alaska down to Arizona. There are a myriad of destinations within this landscape, some most likely disappointing while others simply wouldn’t live up to their billing. Easter Island on the other hand is a very specific place and time. I say time as it seems to be a time capsule of another civilization, not belonging to mankind – not to imply extraterrestrial. Rather, it is one of those rare places on earth where one can glimpse into another “man’s” ethos. What were these people like, who decided to build giant rock heads on a tiny island thousands of miles from the nearest inhabited land. Imagine, for an instance, that you lived on a 64 square mile island with, at most, a few thousand people. Now imagine your nearest neighbors being 17 days away by canoe. Imagine if you will the magic that went into building that first moai. Archeologists will be able to carbon-date these statues and we can reconstruct the Rapanui’s homes, culture, food, and livelihood. But without visiting the Island itself, we cannot truly feel and understand what life must have been like for these people. I think that if we were to choose one symbol for human history, the Easter Island moai may very well be our choice. And for this reason, it survive the Chilean civil war and will play in the next round.


(3) Safari vs. (6) Mountain Gorilla
So do you want to see a whole bunch of wild animals from the comfort of your popped-top Nissan, or do you want to see one wild animal in what will most likely be an uncomfortable setting? Maybe it’s because I just returned from a safari, and thus it has lost a bit of the magic, but I went with the Gorillas. I think the journey to the gorillas would far overshadow the safari experience, which is pretty much glorified camping. No doubt, safaris at the turn of the 20th Century were something to behold – that sense of adventure and wilderness was all too real. Although you should not misconstrue my argument to thinking that safaris are little more than zoo rides – which they most certainly are not – the mountain gorilla safari has you on foot with these wild animals. Being so close and vulnerable would leave a lasting impression on any tourist. So in the battle of safaris, I go with the one that has you up close and personal with members of our own genealogical tree. Remember to bring your family scrapbook!


(4) Rio vs. (5) Macchu Picchu
Ancient city or modern city? Archeological wonder or wonderful archeology? I went with the ancient city merely because of its uniqueness. Although you can argue with me until you are blue in the face how Rio has the best beaches and women and so on, they certainly do not have a copyright on wonderful party atmosphere, beach life and all around sinful seductions. New Orleans, Montreal and Las Vegas have all been eliminated and you could make a case for each of them as having an equally great night life – much safer too from what I understand. Australia’s beaches didn’t even make the list. So none of these arguments are valid in Rio’s case. Don’t get me wrong, if given the chance, I’ll jump at hanging at Ipanema, Copacabana or taking the lift up 38 meters of Jesus Christ. But Rio’s doesn’t hold a candle to Macchu Picchu. If someone tells you they are visiting South America, most people will instantly ask, “oh, are you going to Macchu Picchu?” Of course, as I stated in Round 1, Macchu Picchu is taking home all the rebounds for its Inca trail. If you simply take the train up the mountain pass, I don’t see how you are experience the Incan tradition. Hiking up through the jungle and arriving at sun up seems to me like the ultimate in cultural awakenings. What is must have been like for the first Europeans who looked upon this relic of the past, would truly have been a spiritual experience. I can’t wait to see what happens if and when Macchu Picchu and Easter Island meet up in the Regional Final (foreshadow much!)


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