As you may or may not know I’ve just returned from a years full time travel. I’ve not blogged for quite some time because I found it really hard to sit in front of my laptop when I could be out and about exploring so this is my first blog post in a really long time (so bear with me).
Just before Dan and I boarded our flight from Mexico City to London over a glass of wine we decided to list our top 10 experiences for the year. It was tricky to pick but we each managed to get a list down and now I’m going to share what my favourite things this year were.
I did the gorilla trek in about week 3 of my trip and it still sticks in my mind as the best thing I did during the whole year. When I awoke on the day of our trek it literally felt like Christmas Day and Santa had delivered the best gift ever…a family of 13 gorillas. At times the trek up to the mountain gorillas was tough as it was through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (there’s no mistaking why it got that name) but the reward at the end was a family of the most wonderful animals to exist. We only had an hour to spend with them but it is an hour that will stick in my memory forever. Charging through our group, babies playing in the vines, tired mums trying to get some shut eye and the big silverback eating his body weight were just some of the images that I’ll cherish forever. It was probably the most expensive one off thing we did but I’d pay it again tomorrow if it meant I could steal a few moments with these extraordinary creatures.
2. Climbing Dune 45 at sunrise
After Uganda, Namibia was my favourite place in Africa, purely because the scenery was just breathtaking each and every day we spent there. One of the more memorable days was arising at 4am to catch the sunrise over the mountainous dunes in the Namib desert. Climbing dune 45 barefoot and without my morning coffee was a tough one but the reward at the top was the brightest colours crawling over the endless dunes for the next hour.
3. Great White Shark Cage Diving
I didn’t think twice when it came to booking a great white shark cage diving experience upon my arrival to Cape Town. Who wouldn’t want to jump in the freezing cold water and have a shark swim towards you? After jumping into the bracing waters it wasn’t long before a huge great white appeared and swam right past the cage peering inside with his menacing eyes. Once the initial shock had taken over that I was indeed in the water with these beasts I began to enjoy the experience and couldn’t wait for it to swim past the boat again. Elegant and graceful in their approach to the boat it sure got my heart racing.
4. Spotting rhinos for the first time on safari
Africa and safari are two words that go hand in hand really, a trip to Africa without a safari would be incomplete. During my three months there I was so lucky to go on several safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana & South Africa. On my first trip to Africa several years ago there was one thing missing and that was rhinos. So this time it was so important to me that we see them. After failed attempts in the Masai Mara & Serengeti it wasn’t until we got to Etosha National Park in Namibia where we FINALLY saw one and it was a joyous occasion, there was even cheering and clapping in the vehicle. We all know that rhinos are highly endangered through poaching so being able to see one was incredibly special. From that moment on we ended up seeing many rhinos so it was great to see they are thriving within the National Parks but I’ll never forget seeing that first one strolling past our vehicle early one morning.
5. Jinga village walk in Uganda
This particular experience had a huge affect on me and it was one of those really memorable things that will always stick with me. In the village of Jinga in Uganda, myself and 5 others did a walk around the village with a local called Augustus, Jinga is located right on the River Nile just near the source. Augustus took the casual approach and took us into his garden to show us peanut plants, banana trees, lemongrass, pineapple plants and lots and lots of other vegetation that he uses to feed himself and his family. The local ladies cooked us a three course meal using only the ingredients from the garden and afterwards we spent the afternoon walking through the village and meeting all the local kids who just wanted to play. It’s hard to put into words but seeing how these people don’t have a lot but they’re very happy really stuck with me.
6. Rio de Janeiro Carnival
5 days of pure partying in one of the craziest cities I’ve ever been. Drums, music, caparhinias, costumes and 4 crazy days is how I would sum it up. From 8am to 5.30am everyday it was all go go go. The locals try and out do each other with insane costumes, the drums don’t stop beating and the dancing never stops. It was such a fun few days amongst the Carnival and I’m so glad I got to experience it. Seeing all of the incredible costumes and dancers at the Sambadrome was such a wonderful experience!
7. Torres del Paine
The five days I spent in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile will always remind me of just how beautiful this world can be. It is all mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls but everything is on such a grand scale. It’s not just one mountain, its several all towering over the next, snow capped and dripping in pink in the early hours. The lakes are just blue they are bright turquoise and the hikes had views for miles. It was a truly beautiful place and well worth the trip all the way to the end of the world to get there.
8. San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni
Over the course of 8 days I saw more scenery that was mind blowing that I could imagine. San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile was a jump off town to some seriously cool places. Red rocks, mountains, lakes, geysers and the best stargazing in the world and from San Pedro we jumped on a 4×4 jeep that took us through Bolivia which was without a doubt the best scenery we saw in the whole of South America. More grand mountains, more colours, flamingos, deserts, giant rocks and the prize at the end was the mighty Bolivian salt flats. It was a whirlwind of the best landscape I’d ever seen in my whole life but at times was hard to take in as we were averaging 4000m above sea level each day so each step I took seemed like 1000 steps and amongst the cold was the bracing wind but nothing good comes easy and Bolivia and Chile proved that.
9. Amazon Rainforest
I used to play a computer game at primary school all about the Amazon that has always stuck with me so when I finally boarded my boat to travel down the river to the eco resort to spend three days in the Amazon was just like being a kid again. The three days involved lots of trekking through the forest, learning about the animals and locals and doing our very best to spot wildlife. Our guide was so knowledgeable in the rainforest and all of it’s creatures and plants it was just a wonderful experience to be in the Amazon, one evening we even got to float down the river in a rubber boat at sunset.
The island of Providence or Providencia was an absolute gem of a location and we spent two blissful weeks on this tiny Caribbean Island to rest, recharge and find out what Caribbean life was really like. The locals are the friendliest people, the diving is cheap, the beaches are beautiful and it’s all about the simple life here which we really appreciated after 9 months of full time travel. This was probably our favourite place in all of South America purely because of the people we met, chilled vibes and Dan got to see a ton of sharks during his dives. We just clicked with this island and adored our time here, I only hope it retains it’s special nature and doesn’t get taken over with mass tourism because right now it is just perfection.
Stay tuned because I have a ton of blog posts on their way! I’ve got six months of South America to share, more from Africa and very importantly how this year has really affected and impacted me. Stick with me team.