Well travel aficionados, welcome to the Final Four! I have to admit that it has been quite a ride. When I started, my intentions were to put down one sentence or two for each head to head match up and have the whole thing done in 1 blog entry. I guess, you can say, that I underestimated my own fingers – although Round 1 of the Asia bracket was fairly sparse, ever since then, I have been a veritable eruption of creativity, spewing entries all over this page. Again, looking back, I never intended it to come to this; that is to say, I didn’t have some pre-ordained finish in mind. I simply and concisely went at the entries one at a time, picking a winner and moving on. So here we stand at the Finals with Wyoming, Nepal, Trans-Siberian Express and Easter Island. I admit that the final three are places I would give anything to see, and all places I hope to travel to someday. Wyoming was perhaps a surprise winner out of the North American bracket, but it was the place I remember the most from my travels across both Canada and the U.S. (I am not above realizing that it was part of my first real road trip and was the first state in which I truly experienced nature, thus by virtue of it being the sight of a certain loss of my travel virginity, I will always remember her fondly). I am probably the most surprised at the fact that Mongolia, Petra and Patagonia did not fare as well as they did; all three are definite places I would love to visit. But I stand by the Final Four. Let’s see what happens in the semi-finals!
(4) Wyoming vs. (8) Nepal
Well, really, a no contest. With the rest that Nepal had from completing their victory through the Asia bracket, this small Himalayan republic (recently became a republic after many years of kingdom rule) was well prepared for their stateside opponent. Wyoming relied on natural beauty to secure victory through the North American circuit, but this beauty pales in comparison to the majesty of the highest mountain range on earth. The simple truth of this encounter is that Yellowstone may be the jewel of the U.S.’s national park system, but it has only been around for about 120 years – Hinduism has been kicking it in Nepal for thousands of years. Americans may point to the outstanding hiking in Wyoming, but in Nepal hiking is taken to a new level; that level is called trekking! Home to 8 of the 10 highest mountains on earth and numerous regions renowned worldwide for trekking, Wyoming or anywhere else on earth cannot hold a candle to Nepal. Well, Americans will also respond that there is outstanding wildlife in Wyoming. Granted it is nice to see bears in their natural habitat, but do you even realize what you are saying? Tigers, elephants and rhinoceros can all be seen in Nepal for goodness sakes! And in Wyoming, they won’t let you ride the bears, whereas in Nepal, a few bucks will get you on top of the wildest elephant they have hanging around Royal Chitwan National Park (where they let you go on motorcycle safari for goodness sakes!) If Yellowstone or Devil’s tower ever start to be the home of wandering ascetics or tantric yogis, then Wyoming may stand a chance, but for now, I say go back home, thanks for playing America.
(10) Trans-Siberian Express vs. (2) Easter Island
This is not a fair match-up. I mean, this match-up is pretty much what people have in mind when they say, we shouldn’t compare apples to oranges. On one hand, you have a whole trip – a multiple week ride across most of the northern hemisphere by train. On the other hand, you have a visit to a tiny pacific island, which will probably last 2 or 3 days, plus a day or two travel time to get there and come back. With a trip by train from London to Beijing, you will have unbelievable moments of excitement, tempered with long hours of boredom – travelers like to refer to this time as reflexive contemplation of the state of affairs in their lives. On Easter Island, you will experience a journey through time, to a mythical and spiritual connection to a lost civilization. How do you compare the two destinations? Heck, I don’t even have enough vacation time to experience the Trans-Siberian Express properly! Should I pick Easter Island as a salute to the holiday that just occurred? Well, when in doubt, flip a coin. I am actually, and honestly, going to reach behind me now……ok, I got one. Since Easter Island was a better seed in the tournament, it will get heads (because everyone knows that heads wins more, ha!), and the Trans-Siberian will get tails. I will now flip the coin…..ok, before I do so, there is no best 2 out of 3 or any garbage like that. Also, I’m going to flip it and it must land on the table…..so, here goes……(drum roll please). Ok, I landed on top of a book – what should I do? I said that it had to land on the table, so I’m going to repeat the flip (it came up heads by the way). It is spinning, oh my goodness, I dare not look! It came up tails!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, by the flip of a coin, the Trans-Siberian Rail voyage advances to the finals, to take on Nepal. Shit, now I’ll probably have to throw darts to pick that winner!