Tuesday, July 1, 2008


It has been a rough adjustment for Rainey and I to get back to the real world after the Great Escapes challenge and we are now packing up to move to Nevada to start another hormone therapy trial. The competition this year raised hundreds of thousands of dollar for charity including some earmarked funds for Unicef and Doctors Without Borders as well as specific micro-financing projects in Nepal. Thanks again to all of our sponsors as well as all of the other competitors who helped raise this money. As hard as it was to take time out of our lives to do this trip, the rewards are more than worth it. Everyone's efforts really will change lives.

Monday, May 5, 2008

On our way home...

We are finally at a place where DSL works so I think that all of my blogs for the past few days should upload now. Sorry that it has taken me so long to get the last few days up here.
We are on our way home as I write. Tonight was the final Awards Dinner. We were so sad to say goodbye to everyone. We have met some of the nicest people on this trip. We (our team name was 'Lawyers without Borders') ended up coming in second ... which we felt was an outstanding ranking in light of how many teams were really competitive.

We have had such a great time - and WHAT AN EXPERIENCE. There are really no words to describe what we have been through in the last month. Thank you again to everyone who supported us and contributed to the Great Escapes Foundation and made this trip possible.



We chose to spend the little time we had in Toronto rushing to Niagara Falls since Rainey had never been there. We ended up hitting traffic on the way back in the bus - and got back to Toronto only 28 minutes before we had to check in - and we still had not done one of our mandatory eating scavenges. (If you check in late you are penalized 100 points for every 10 minutes that you are late).

So we took off running... and ran from the bus station to the Dragon City Mall in Chinatown ... gobbled (and I mean - ate whole) a piece of Dim Sum and then ran all the way from there to the CN Tower. We arrived (very hot, sweaty and red in the face) at the CN Tower at 3:19 and 54 seconds (check in was 3:20). YEAH!!! Thank God for the half-marathon training....

The Hague

We also took a train to the Hague to see the International Courts (where the war criminals are prosecuted). It is called the "Peace Palace" and in front of the building (which is a mganificient building looking more like a church than a courthouse) is the Peace Flame which burns 24/7. Around the Peace Flame is a pathway ringed with stones. Written on each stone is the name of a country in the world. You are supposed to walk around the Peace Flame (on the pathway) while reading each country's name and saying a word or prayer for peace in the world and that country. If peaceful thoughts and words count, Rainey and I have added our Peace Flame walk to the effort.

Windmills in Amsterdam

On the second day in Holland, we choose to do some bonus scavenges which took us by train out of Amsterdam. First we went to Zanne Schans - a little town which still has a row of windmills. On the train ride out we saw fields and fields of tulips with the most vibrant colors - in fact colors that are so strong there is really no words to describe them. We are not allowed to use any taxis on this leg - so this excusrion required a train, a bus, a ferry and some walking to accomplish.

Amsterdam - Eating Scavenges

One of the scavenges was to eat herring in Amsterdam prepared in a local way. We found it selling at a booth on the street - and since there was no way Rainey was touching it - I had to eat the pickled fish - covered in onions and pickles. And no, not a favorite...


We has a 3 AM wake up call today as our flight to Amsterdam was at 5:45 AM. SOOO tired.

But we got to Amsterdam to find a ton of scavenges waiting. First, we had to rent bicycles and ride them all over town (a very dangerous experience that resulted in several near misses of me either hitting a pedestrian or being mowed down by a bus). See Rainey in front of the Anne Frank house. Amsterdam is a beautiful city - very clean and organized and so different than the poverty we have seen in the past few weeks. What a difference money and education makes!!!


We left Transylvania and arrived in Bucharest by train on Tuesday afternoon. We immediately got lost on the Romanian subway system as we tried to see the sites - including the People's Palace (a building with the second most number of rooms - after the Pentagon). What a testament to Communism that while the people of Bucharest were living in drab, concrete, government provided apartment building (very ugly), the government built this to symbolize the country's "prosperity".

We ate dinner at this really nice restaurant by a lake - right as the sun was setting. So much nicer than the 10,000 thousand hours we have spent in the last few days on trains... eating nothing by potato chips and flat Coke.

We found out tonight that our next stop is AMSTERDAM ... YEAH .... CIVILIZATION.

Dracula's Castle

We got up early the next day in Brasov, Transylvania and were at Dracula's castle when it opened. Of course Dracula never really lived here - since Dracula is a fictional character - but it is the castle that Bram Stoker used as inspiration for his book. Dracula is loosely based upon a real Count Vlad the Impaler (a horribly mean and sadistic man) who actually spent some time at this castle. The countryside in Transylvania is so beautiful.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


We set off from Athens two days across to get ourselves across several countries and into Bucharest by tomorrow night. First stop was Meteora to the "For Your Eyes Only" mountain or column Very neat town.

After that we got as far as Thessaloniki (a seaside town in the North of Greece) by train - in time to have a very late dinner and sleep for a few hours. The next day we were up early doing the Thesssaloniki challenges before we headed out. We had planned to go to Macedonia (a very confusing place since it is what used to be Yugoslavia - and is now called Macedonia - but the Northern area of Greece is also called Macedonia so every question we asked was suitably muddled). After one phone call and a personal visit to the train station, we realized that because of the Easter holidays, we could not get to Stopje and on to Tetovo in Macedonia by the end of the day. So we ended up dumping that entire set of scavenges and headed out instead by bus to Sofia in Bulgaria. We arrived in Sofia about 9 PM - immediately hailed a cab and did some scavenges in Sofia - and then took an 11:30 PM night train all the way across Bulgaria to the Black Sea. We woke up the next day in Varna, Bulgaria. Despite our best efforts, we did not end up with a sleeper car so we had to spend the night laying across regular train chairs. The train was SOOOO cold that about 2 AM I got up and put on 3 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, my raincoat and wrapped my head in a T-shirt. The train conductor busted out laughing when he came in the next morning to wake us. We stayed in Varna less than 2 hours before we headed out again to Russe - a town on the Danube that is half in Romania and half in Bulgaria. There we went to this really cool monastery that is carved into the hills called the Rock monastery

From Russe we crossed into Bucharest and caught a late afternoon train to Brussov. This is where Dracula's castle (or Dram's Castle) is - and we are going there first thing in the morning. I cannot wait. It sounds creepy and interesting.

The main scavenge points for tonight goes to the team that stays in the the cheapest hotel. We took on the challenge and started asking at the train station for the cheapest hostel or pensione. We were directed to this old man who agreed to rent us a room in his hostel for 15 Euros plus 5 Euros for transport to it. We agreed and headed off in his car (with thoughts of the movie "Hostel" playing in our mind - would anyone ever see or hear from us again). When we arrived we realized that it is his private home and he rents out his second bedroom. It is beyond modest -and in to downright humble. The mattresses are bare and he loaned us one sheet and two hand towels. We share a bathroom with him. As soon as we arrived he broke out the alcohol and sat and talked to for us for almost an hour while he made Rainey drink shots of tuica (luckily a food scavenge anyway - so we killed two birds with one stone). After being on trains and buses for almost two straight days just laying flat will be a luxury but this may be a double Ambien night - if nothing else just to avoid my paranoia about flesh eating parasites living in the bare mattresses.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Now starts the really interesting leg of the trip. We arrived in Athens on Saturday afternoon, had a really fun dinner all together in the Platka and then - at 9 PM - got told that we are "on our own" for the next 4 days. In that time, we have to plot our way (hitting as many scavenges as possible) through Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania and end up in Bucharest by Wednesday night at 9 PM. We got handed an envelope of cash for trains and hotels and sent on our way. But the real trick... it's Easter in Greece and everything is either closed or working at 1/4 pace for the next two days. And you cannot use the concierge to answer questions - but NOTHING is open. Quite a challenge!!Rainey and I started out that night doing all of our Athens mandatory scavenges and doing the ones that were close to the hotel. Then we got up really early the next day and finished up what we could do in Athens (the Acropolis at sunrise is awe-inspiring) and decided to head out of Greece. Even that was a trick because only a handful of buses were running and very few trains. We set out for Meteora (an amazing and beautiful town in the hills). Buses to Meteora were cancelled all day and there was only one train in and out in the afternoon - which was the slow, slow, train (stopping at every little town). It took us most of the day to get there. And when we arrived in Meteora, we realized that there were no taxis and the left luggage spot was closed, so we had to haul our suitcases with us almost 3 miles through the town and up to the Meteora columns. This computer that I am on will not let me upload photos but I will try and get to an internet cafe later to show you how fantatistic it was. The clue for the Meteora scavenge was to photograph the Meteora columns that are for your eyes only. We had no idea what that meant and neither did anyone in town until Rainey recognized that the James Bond movie "For Eyes Only" was filmed in part at one of the monasteries on the rocks - which we took tons of photos of. (see photo below from the internet which will have to do until I can get my stuff up here)The excursion cost us some time but was well worth it. Its unfortunate that with the holidays no other team was able to see it (although I guess they were smarter to do quicker scavenges). In fact, there was literally NO-ONE on the one train with us to Meteora yesterday as everyone was home eating their Easter lunch. We managed to get out to Meteora and to Thessaloniki late last night, slept a few hours in a hotel here, and are now on our way out.... I will try and get photos uploaded later.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Observations from Asia

i just realized I didn't publish this post the other day-- so it's a big out of order!
We had an amazing experience to see such a cross-section of Asia in just about 10 days: From China - to Malaysia - to Singapore to Nepal. Some thoughts and comments so far:

- Flush toilets are obviously a Western luxury. I have seen more holes in the ground and squat toilets than I ever need to see again.

- There are no diet drinks. Asians apparently really like the taste of sugar (works out good as i do too!).

- In Nepal, the cows are everywhere because it is an 80% Hindu country and the Hindus believe that cows are sacred. The cows literally are in the middle of every street (causing even greater traffic jams than usual), at every market (eating whatever they want from the stalls) and in every alleyway.

- Shoes are generally optional

- Mutton and very odd fish items are favorites

- The women are relegated to doing some of the hardest jobs – including carrying pounds and pounds of weight in grass on their heads each day from the riverside where they cut it back to their home for their water buffalo.

Grocery store has a whole new meaning when it is really just a woman in a beautiful sari sitting in a shack with some hanging items and 2 shelves of packaged goods (every piece of which has expired more than 6 months ago). And yes, out of sheer hunger, we have had our share of totally stale biscuits and almost moldy potato chips.

All and all-- just a great trip!! I miss everyone though!!! (Benny, Jordy-- this means YOU!!)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

See The Pyramids along the nile... watch the sunset from a tropic isle

This trip is soooooooooooo a Bob Dylan song!
We arrived in Cairo to find it hot, full of traffic.. and wonderful. How can anyone complain when the view from the bar of the hotel is the pyramids....

Favorite scavengers in Cairo:
(a) First, go to the main souk or bazaar and buy a traditional Egyptian headdress and then ride a camel to the pyramids wearing the headdress (and we could chose which of the ridiculous headdresses we wanted to embarrass ourselves with). I choose the scarf with baubles (a charming wrap) and Rainey chose the shriner’s hat.

But what an amazing view, you round a sand dune and there are the three great pyramids right in front of you. WOW!!! Plus it is so hard to imagine that while the Egyptians were hauling these gigantic rocks up the Nile from Aswan in the South and building mathematically perfect pyramids, much of the rest of the world was still living in caves.
(b) Eat roast pigeon. Yes, I got the unlucky job since there was no way Rainey was putting that in his mouth. You know what they say … it all tastes like chicken (but it's pigeon Rainey reminds me... yeah, thanks... )

(c) Smoke a sheesha in a traditional Cairo gahwa: Each table has a huge smoking pipe and the waiter comes along and plunks the lighted tobacco into the pipe. Can’t be any worse for our lungs than the pollution of Beijing

(d) Visit the statute of Ramses II in Memphis and describe what position he is in? And the answer is… lying down. He is magnificient.

(e) We had to visit the largest mosque in Cairo and actually go inside – which required me to put on a very attractive robe…

Greatest sights from Egypt

- They have delivery service for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not unlike pizza, you can call and get KFC delivered to you by moped anywhere in Cairo. Who knew??? (at least it's not Kentucky Fried Pigeon)

- In some beautiful gardens in Alexandria, the gardener was obviously having some fun with the shrubbery.

We had a great stay in Cairo .. and even managed to eat a nice dinner one night.. had lots of fun... and even a night of actual sleep.

The below are from our day trip to Alexandria!! WE ARE OFF TO GREECE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kathmandu - Volunteer work (AND OFF TO CAIRO)

After our flight to Mount Everest, we had to spend the rest of the day volunteering at a charity here in Kathmandu. We chose to do our work at the SOS villages: they have two facilities here: a home for disabled and mentally handicapped children as well as a home for abandoned, orphaned or displaced children. It was really inspiring. The staff were some of the most compassionate and gentle people I have ever met - and the kids were just great. One little girl (aged 2) lost both legs in a fire when she was 6 months old so her mother dumped her at the facility because she was too much too handle. She was so beautiful. When we asked the director what were the greatest needs for the home, he shared with us a list of things that the Children's Committee had voted as things they wanted to save up for. The Children's Committee is an organization made up of the children of the SOS villages - and each child gets to vote on, and decide, virtually everything of importance in the facility - from rules to punishment to what they are going to fund raise for. Top of the list was the need for a TV for the common room so they could have "movie night" once a week. (They already have the DVD player but only a very small TV so all of the children could not watch together). We immediately got in a taxi, went to an electronics store, bought a large new color TV (which was ridiculously cheap as it was some knock-off brand from China) and delivered it back to the home. They were beyond excited. The photograph is of one of the bedrooms for some of the girls. The older girls get their own bed - the younger ones share a bed. Aren't they beautiful?

Here's Rainey at the electronics store. We had to end up getting a separate taxi to haul the TV back to the home.

We just found out that we are leaving tonight for Bahrain. We spend the night there and leave tomorrow AM for Cairo. We are staying at a hotel at the pyramids which apparently looks right out at the pyramids. We can't wait !!! I have always wanted to go to Egypt - and here we are - on our way. I will send details of Cairo once we are there.

Mount Everest

We got up at 5 AM this morning to take a plane flight over the Himalayas to see Mount Everest. It is breathtaking - and seems like an impossible feat to climb (Randy-- if you are reading-- we are going to be crazy impressed if you really do this). I took this shot out the plane window.

"Thats why Im going to katmandu.Up to the mountains where Im going to..."

And if I ever get out of here,Thats what Im gonna do.K-k-k-k-k-k katmandu.Thats really, really where Im going to.If I ever get out of here, Im going to katmandu." -bob seger

We returned to Kathmandu from Tiger Tops and had to do a number of scavenges in the city this afternoon which took us from one end of the town to the other. We have seen more markets and temples than you can count. The poverty of the city is truly overwhelming. Just as one example, the market had an astounding array of unsual food times including these - goat heads ( I know, I know ... GROSS).

Very tired ... very hungry ... world travelers


OH.MY.GOD. We just had the most amazing experience at Tiger Tops: a mountain safari camp in the Chitwan national park. We flew out there yesterday, spent the night at the camp and then came back by bus today (the scavenger rules did not allow us to fly both ways so that we would have to experience 6 hours of the countryside of Nepal up close and personal in a very crowded and un-air conditioned bus. Rainey sweated off at least 6 lbs).

First you fly over there in a small, prop plane which bumps and shakes all through the Himalayas - beyond scary.

Once we got into the safari lodge, and got settled into our room, we were picked up by the elephants for a safari ride in the jungle. We rode on the backs of the elephants (on a wooden platform that sways in every direction - the elephants have a very unnatural gait which makes you feels like you are being shaken in a blender). Rainey's second elephant episode went better than the first and he avoided the water. Knowing Rainey this will soon be his preferred mode of transporation (if only elephants came in black!)

(i love this photo.... sort of an "elephants in the mist" vibe

Seeing a tiger in the wild is very rare – but about an hour into our safari – the guides picked up the paw print of a Royal Bengal tiger and started tracking it. We came across the tiger (a 4-5 year old male) in the deep tall brush – where you could barely see it. The tiger had just finished eating a baby rhino and so he was full and happy. All of a sudden, the tiger walked out of the brush and into the open and stood right beside us (not more than 15 feet away). It was one of the greatest experiences ever. He was a majestic and magnificent animal. I have to say.... I'm crazily proud of this photo (National Geographic eat your heart out!!).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Today was our first full day in Kathmandu and we started it off early this morning at a Hindu temple on the river where they burn the bodies of the dead. The photos shows the body on the funeral pyre on a ghat (a ceremonial slab that is on the edge of the river). As soon as the body is fully burned, the ashes are dumped into the river. We learned all of the rituals of death - so interesting - and such a different approach to the whole dying process. To the Hindus, death is just a passing of the mortal body and is an opportunity for rebirth.

Rainey and I are getting blessed by a "holy man" - who is really a lot like our crazy homeless (wears very little clothes, talks to himself) but is apparently filled with good spirits. We are on our way now (currently at the airport) to Tiger Tops, a elephant safari camp in the mountains in an area where the Royal Bengal tiger still runs free.

If you can throw a coin and actually hit the small pot at the gold statue's feet, you gain great luck. Rainey nailed it on the second try and got a round of applause from the crowd. We are now fully topped up with all of the necessary karma and great fortune.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


the new scores just got posted and Rainey and I are still in second place. YEAH !!!! The first place team is a two man team - and both of them have literally been everywhere in the world. In fact, we have yet to go to a place that they have not already been. So they will be basically impossible to catch. But we are giving them a real run for their money.


We arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal this afternoon and were shocked by the poverty. This is by far the poorest and most under-developed country that we have visited so far. Most houses have no electricity or water so at night the city is dark with only a candle or two in many homes. Yet the people are kind and gentle and extremely polite. The women dress in the most beautiful of saris - the colors of the rainbow. Our hotel is very nice - in sharp contrast to the rest of the city (The photo is of the hotel lobby). We are going to be here for 3 days and have to spend one of those days working at either an orphanage or the Tibetan refugee camp (I cannot even imagine the conditions of those facilities).

I have a mark of red dust on my forehead as we were met at the hotel by the manager who performed the traditional Nepalese welcome prayer for us - and put red marks on everyone's head.

Rainey got besieged by two beautiful Nepalese girls in the market who conned him into buying two screen printed purses. He refused to barter with them and ended up paying full price (about $1.80) for two hand-made purses.


The Singapore rally ended with a drink at the famous Raffles Hotel Long Bar - with Singapore slings!!! We spent the Malaysian peninsula rally in an alliance with another team: a mother and daughter team who are acclaimed bestselling authors. By the time of this photo, we had not slept more than 3 hours in close to a week - which probably explains why we are looking a little rough.
One of the eating scavenges in Kuala Lumpour: We were asked to go to a locals-only market and "make a new friend and have a drink with them" *you know we are soooo good at being social and making new friends! ha) So this is Rainey with a local drinking a sort of milk chocolate (made with water, chocolate powder and condensed milk) and served cold over ice. The custom is to pour the drink into a plastic bag with a straw and the bag is tied with a tight red ribbon and the ribbon is made into a handle so you carry the bag and drink from the straw. Only after we drank it, did we think about the fact that we were warned to not drink the water - or ice!!! Luckily, so far, no ill effects.

this challenge was to "ride a bike in a Hutong in Beijing". Hutongs are the poor alley-like areas filled with people and stores. We paid a bicycle rickshaw driver to let us ride his bike down one of the streets.

Rainey and Mia ( a girl from another team that we are in an alliance with) eating a type of beef jerky made from pig's tail - in a market in Singapore (I had to have a local tell Rainey it tasted like chicken teriyaki before i could get him to do this!).

This is Rainey riding the elephant in the river for its bath - as soon as they got midway into the river - the elephant rolled over and dumped Rainey straight into the river... and yes, with our luck he is now the proud owner of some awful Malayasian parasite..

This is me rubbing the belly of a monkey at a Hindu temple in Beijing for luck (does the monkey appear tobe grinning at me??)

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