If running a marathon seems like an exhausting prospect, then spare a thought for the British couple that ran a marathon every single day for 15 months. The mammoth feat was part of an epic plan to run the entire length of South America– ,504 miles to be precise.
Katharine and David Lowrie became the first people to ever run the length of the continent when they crossed the finish line in Venezuela last week. But their arduous journey began way back last year on the first day of the London Olympics when they set off from the southern tip of Chile.
The intrepid pair was determined to complete the journey and strode on despite all sorts of unpleasant conditions, be it hurricane-force winds, knee-deep mud or slippery ice. The temperatures they faced were no better, ranging from one extreme (14 F) to another (113 F). And if running miles in these conditions wasn’t bad enough, the couple did it all while they dragged their supplies behind them. There wasn’t much reprieve at night either, with the couple hunkering down in wonky tents as they tried to gather their energy for the next grueling day of running.The Lowries say they went through 10 pairs of shoes during the trip, although they ran a significant portion of their journey barefoot, kind of brave when you consider the Amazonian insects that were swarming them and the snakes that assaulted them. Those critters did come in handy a few times, however, with the couple admitting to eating termites for breakfast when they ran out of food at one point.
The pair says they made the record-breaking run to raise awareness about the importance of the planet’s forests and ecosystems and to raise money for conservation.
Do you ever feel nervous going through border control in a new country? How about when you return home? A study by IXP visas polled 1,000 travelers who had been to at least ten foreign countries; over 60% said they felt intimidated by border officials at some time, with the most intimidating vote going to American border control. The reasons sited for the nerves included “obvious weaponry on display,” a “lack of humor,” and a general “intimidating demeanor.”
The countries with the most intimidating border officials:
- USA: 22% (of respondents called border control officers intimidating)
- UAE: 12%
- Mexico: 9%
- Canada: 8%
- South Korea: 6%
- UK: 5%
- Israel: 5%
- Pakistan: 4%
- Venezuela: 4%
- Cuba: 3%
Have you felt intimidated entering (or re-entering) the U.S.? Which country has you most nervous at immigration?
Venezuela’s late socialist leader Hugo Chavez set money controls a decade ago that have caused a wacky system of disparity between official and black market rates for local currency. One result has been flights out of Venezuela booked for months in advance as locals take advantage of a loophole to gain financially.
In Venezuela, the disparity between the official and black-market rates for the local bolivar currency is insane. It sells on the illegal market at about seven times the government price of 6.3 to the dollar. To compound the problem, there are strict limits on the availability of dollars at the 6.3 rate.
But a special currency provision for travelers with a valid airline ticket allows Venezuelans to exchange up to $3,000 at the government rate. The result has sold out planes flying half full, tickets bought by Venezuelans who had no intention of traveling. Others are exchanging currency, easily paying for their travel via the financial gain afforded by the special travel provision.“It is possible to travel abroad for free due to this exchange rate magic,” said local economist Angel Garcia Banchs in a Reuters report.
Better yet, those actually flying take credit cards abroad to get a cash advance, bringing back dollars to sell on the black market for about seven times the original exchange rate.
A couple of passengers departing Caracas, Venezuela for Paris, France checked 31 articles of luggage on the flight, all of which were tagged under false names. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that the bags were filled with 2,866 pounds of pure cocaine. Suspicions were apparently only raised when the passengers who checked the bags didn’t actually board the plane. The flight date was on 9/11 no less, a date we all know for extra precautions at airports, at least in the United States. The unaccompanied bags of cocaine were eventually detained at the Charles De Gaulle airport.Several people have been arrested in France regarding the incident — three are Italian and three are British. Venezuelan authorities have arrested three officers of the National Guard and have said that they expect more arrests to come. According to Minister Miguel Rodriguez, Venezuelan authorities are also suspicious of the airline workers involved in this flight. While we don’t have any further details regarding just how this much cocaine wound up on this plane, it’s pretty clear that with National Guard members and possibly airline workers aiding in the transport of the drugs, a massive coverup and/or coercion may have been present. Most drug rings wouldn’t risk this much cocaine on a single flight unless they felt success was inevitable, a presumption that is contingent on corruption.
Have you ever been to a country that just seems to give tourists the cold shoulder? Now, there are some figures behind those unwelcome feelings; the World Economic Forum has put together a report
that ranks countries based on how friendly they are to tourists.
The extensive analyses ranks 140 countries according to attractiveness and competitiveness in the travel and tourism industries. But one category, “attitude of population toward foreign visitors,” stands out.
According the data, Bolivia (pictured above) ranked as the most unfriendly country, scoring a 4.1 out of seven on a scale of “very unwelcome” (0) to “very welcome” (7).
Next on the list were Venezuela and the Russian Federation, followed by Kuwait, Latvia and Iran (perhaps when visiting one of these countries, you should try your best to not look like a tourist?).
On the opposite side of the scale were Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco, which were ranked the world’s most welcoming nations for visitors.
Tourism infrastructure, business travel appeal, sustainable development of natural resources and cultural resources were some of the key factors in the rankings. Data was compiled from an opinion survey, as well as hard data from private sources and national and international agencies and organizations such as the World Bank/International Finance Corporation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), among others.
The report also emphasized the need for continued development in the travel and tourism sector, pointing out that the industry currently accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide.
All of the results of the survey can be found after the jump.
Attitude of population toward foreign visitors
(1 = very unwelcome; 7 = very welcome)
1. Iceland 6.8
2. New Zealand 6.8
3. Morocco 6.7
4. Macedonia, FYR 6.7
5. Austria 6.7
6. Senegal 6.7
7. Portugal 6.6
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina 6.6
9. Ireland 6.6
10. Burkina Faso 6.6
1. Bolivia 4.1
2. Venezuela 4.5
3. Russian Federation 5.0
4. Kuwait 5.2
5. Latvia 5.2
6. Iran 5.2
7. Pakistan 5.3
8. Slovak Republic 5.5
9. Bulgaria 5.5
10. Mongolia 5.5
Have you ever visited somewhere where they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat? Alternatively, have you visited somewhere on the “unfriendly” list and had a great, welcoming experience? Let us know how your travel experiences compare with the survey’s ranking in the comments below.
[Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons]