Thursday, May 26, 2011

How far away were we from home?

Checking back in for a post involving distances.

A quick word first on what I did over the past weekend. I spent the previous weekend hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain's National Park with a group from Hermitage United Methodist Church. We hiked up Mt. LeConte on Friday and spent the night at LeConte Lodge (link to their official site LeConte Lodge). We hiked back down the next day. LeConte Lodge is a real neat place. I would recommend it if you ever get a chance to go. The only way you can get to it is by hiking one of the 5 trails to the top. The shortest trail is Alum Cave trail at just over 5 miles and the longest is the Boulevard trail at just over 8 miles. The facilities are basic with no electricity or showers. You stay in either a cabin or lodge depending on your group size. They have flush toilets and running water (via a spring, it's treated with a little chlorine to make sure it is clean). They also include a hot dinner and hot breakfast which are great. It is a nice peaceful place to get a way from it all for a little bit. I've been numerous times throughout the years. I've been so many times I didn't even take my camera but I did snap a few pics with my cell phone. I also missed the opportunity to take a picture of a bear in Cades Coves. I saw it from inside a car driving around the loop road. It was just walking along minding it's own business out in the cove in plain sight. Bears are pretty common in the park. There are about 1,500 with a population density of 2 bears for every square mile.

view from the Cliff Top area on Mt. Leconte close to sunset - taken with my cell phone

Let me transition back to the purpose of this blog post. I could probably write several post on the Smoky's if I had to. This post will be about something that I would think about from time to time on our trip and that was exactly how far we were away from home and which places were the farthest. In this post I am thinking about physical distance versus cultural distance. It was easy to see the cultural distances since we experienced them each day face to face. In this post we'll play a little trivia game too. The question will be what was the furthest distance that Alethea and I were from our home base of Nashville, TN? I spent about a hour recently researching this topic. I plotted and plugged in various cities in most of the obvious countries that we were in throughout our travels. I was a little surprised with a couple of the locations. I went into this looking at a flat map without giving much thought about the world being round and some places being further away while some are closer than I thought.

Before I get to the top five list I'll mention a few interesting tidbits. Before our trip the furthest I'd been from Nashville, TN was Rome, Italy at 5,025 miles. Krakow, Poland was a close second at 5,002 miles. The closest we were to home on our trip was in Portugal at a little over 4,000 miles. To put that in perspective Honolulu, Hawaii is 4,337 miles from Nashville. When I started to research this it really sunk in just how far away from home we were at times. We also covered some distance on our long haul international flights. The longest flight was our first international flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia. It was 7,491 miles. We were in the air for 14 hours. I slept for nearly 6 hours and watched 3 2 hour length movies. Alethea will remember that flight because the kid next to her got sick to her stomach and she helped the poor mother who had another young child to keep an eye on.

One humorous distance related tidbit was how close we were to Osama Bin Laden. I looked it up after his untimely demise. It turns out we were only 501.4 miles away from his compound when we were in Shimla, India back in March. I plugged in the GPS coordinates into Google Earth to get an exact measurement :-). It would have nice to collect the $25 million bounty on his head but I doubt he would surrender to us especially since we would have only been armed with a plastic spork. Anyway, listed below are the top 5 places we visited that were the furthest away.

One note on my methodology: I only included a country once otherwise the country that turned out the furthest would have the top three cities. Good news is that the two cities that took the place of number two and three were close to the same distance, so this is very close to being an exact list based on distance instead of one that is actually based on countries and cities combined.

Here's the top 5 list:
  1. Invercargill, New Zealand @ 8,628 miles. This kind of surprised since I thought it would be number one but New Zealand is about a 3.5 hour plan ride east of Melbourne, Australia which puts it further east and a little closer to the US than I realized.

    pic taken south of Invercargill, New Zealand @ southern most point 

  1. Bangkok, Thailand @ 8,695 miles. This one surprised me a little but not too much.

    Buddha statues @ Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand

  1. Kochi, India @ 9,075 miles. Not too surprised on this one. This area was the furthest south we were in India. I'll remember it for the heat, mosquitos, and our overnight trip through the Kerala backwaters.

    boats of the Kerala, India backwaters

  1. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam @ 9,089 miles. This one surprised me because I didn't realize how far it was both west and south. Vietnam was a country we enjoyed quite a bit although Ho Chi Minh wasn't among our favorites. We enjoyed Hoi An in the center and Hanoi/Sapa/Halong Bay areas in northern Vietnam more.
former Presidential Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Drum roll please, well a virtual drum role.

  1. Adelaide, Australia @ 10,210 miles. I was mildly surprised. My initial guess was either somewhere in New Zealand or South Africa. New Zealand came in only at #5. Cape Town South Africa was I believe 8th. As I mentioned earlier, Melbourne would have been second and Sydney third if I were going purely on exact distances by city.   

    us feeding a kangaroo on Kangaroo Island just south of Adelaide, Australia - 10 K miles from home