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Travel Throwback Thursday

I’ve hijacked #tbt and turned it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. This time: I can’t believe it’s been a whoooooole year since I went to Africa.

P1000562

Possibly one of the nicest pictures I’ve ever taken.

This is the best picture I took in Africa. But let me tell you what was going on here, because I was immensely overheated, exhausted, and uncomfortable. The most ideal looking thing is often very different in reality.

We were spending the day in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and had set up camp in a lovely spot on a wee island. We’d been poled out in these mokoros in the morning along with all our stuff. But on that trip, we had our camp mattress pad things crammed up into seats in the boats, so despite being crazy hot, it was super comfortable and relaxing gliding through the water reclining on our piles of backpacks and hiding from the sun under to cheap plastic umbrellas we’d bought in Maun.

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The trip out in the morning. Super chill.

After swimming and listening to each others’ music all day in camp, we piled back into the mokoros to be taken to another island for a game walk. This time there was nothing to sit on, so it was slightly more rough and ready. And the guy poling the boat I took in the evening was a fan of plowing through the reeds, which really hurt. It was also SO. SO. SO. HOT. We went for the hottest walk I think I’ve ever been on. We saw very few animals because animals are smart and they weren’t hanging around where there was no cover from the sun like us silly humans were.

Hottest walk of my life

Hottest walk of my life

Of all the things we did on this trip, I’d have to say this walk was the furthest from a highlight. However, I don’t regret it. Because: Africa.

Plus, on the way back we got this perfectly timed, amazing view of the sunset over the Delta. And it just so happened that the boat I was in was behind Ben and Gary’s boat, which was lucky because the shot would pretty dull and forgettable if it was just the sunset on its own.

When we got back to camp, there was dinner and singing and dancing and drunken stargazing at the most stunning night sky with zero light pollution to a soundtrack of the most bizarre and wonderful clinky-sounding frogs. Completely un-capturable on camera as the best experiences often are. It was great.

Travel Throwback Thursday

I’ve hijacked #tbt and turned it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. This time: Kiplin Hall and the Lake District – my first time in the UK.

Top of Langdale Pike, which I'm pretty sure was my favourite hike of the trip.

Top of Langdale Pike, which I’m pretty sure was my favourite hike of the trip.

Waaaaaay back in 2003, I came to the UK for the first time on the best summer programme you could ever hope to imagine. At least, if you were a dorky English major. Washington College ships a group of us over to Kiplin Hall near the Lake District every summer to study the Romantics and tromp about where they did.

I got to hike all over some gorgeous bits of the country (Have you ever walked the coast from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay? Because you should.) and read a lot of good stuff with one of the best professors ever. I saw Edinburgh for the first time on that trip. The fifth Harry Potter book was released while we were here (I bought it in York). We went to Ireland as well. And for a lot of us, it was the first time we were allowed to drink in a bar because we were under 21 and the UK is a magical place for American college students where you only have to be 18 to buy a pint. So it’s also when my love affair with cask ale began.

Exhausted on the lawn of Richmond Castle.

Exhausted on the lawn of Richmond Castle.

Clearly it was amazing, and it started something bigger than I thought in terms of My Life Stuff. But then, I think anyone would be hard-pressed not to fall head-over-heels in love with this country after spending even one day in the Lake District. Even in the rain (which there was a fair bit of).

Having a break after walking out to that bloody Bronte Wuthering Heights house. Nice walk, horrible book. YES I HAVE AN OPINION. (That sheep also ate half my sandwich, but that's ok.)

Having an impromptu Lit lesson and a lunch break after walking out to that bloody Bronte Wuthering Heights house. Nice walk, horrible book. YES I HAVE AN OPINION. (That sheep also ate half my sandwich, but that’s ok.)

 

Travel Throwback Thursday

I’ve hijacked #tbt and turned it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. This time: Kalaupapa, Molokai.

Me, Kelsey, and the impressive sea cliffs of Molokai. (Hoooo-leeee crap, look at how young we are.)

Me, Kelsey, and the impressive sea cliffs of Molokai.
(Hoooo-leeee crap, look at how young we are.)

So, my Aunt lives in Hawaii, and the summer after 10th grade (which would make us 16 and 15 I think), my friend Kelsey and I went out to visit. Which was a PRETTY SWEET DEAL for some high-schoolers from the east coast. We did all the usual Hawaii stuff – hanging out on the beach, snorkeling, going to the Pearl Harbour museum, checking out the North Shore, eating pineapple soft-serve after navigating the maze at Dole. I had been before with my family and done a lot of that stuff, but it didn’t exactly lose it’s shine or anything. I mean. In Hawaii as a teenager! We basically had run of the place when we weren’t doing specific planned activities. It was fantastic.

The one thing we did do that I hadn’t done with my family was take a very small plane over to Molokai to hike down into Kalaupapa National Park. This is where King Kamehameha V banished Hawaiian people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). It’s a small peninsula on the north side of the already tiny island that is pretty isolated (you either have to fly in on an even tinier plane, or hike in down a crazy-steep trail), so it was basically the equivalent of sweeping people under a rug. A rug with amazing views, but a rug nonetheless. A bit shit really.

I’ve just looked this up because I couldn’t remember, but apparently that trail is 3.5 miles long. For a super-steep trail, that’s a fair distance (ALL THE SWITCHBACKS) but to my current mind, it doesn’t seem all that long. It’s NOT, really. However, to our lazy-ass, opposite-of-sporty, high school selves, it was soooooooo farrrrrrrrr. I know it’s normal for you to remember things seeming so much bigger as a kid, but you tend to think that way of seeing the world fades out before you’re a teenager. This is one of those memories that proves that your sense of your own relative smallness sticks around a lot longer than you recall.

My Aunt and Uncle put up with our whinging like champs. We certainly appreciated it and it was an amazing day, but you’re talking about girls who were constantly yelled at in gym class for walking when we were meant to be running the mile. So. That gives you an idea.

Anyway, we DID opt for the walk over the donkeys (donkeys!) or the tiny plane, and we were duly rewarded with a history lesson I definitely never would have learned had I not gone there. And a stunning place in general.

This was on the way back up the trail. My uncle looking suitably unimpressed with our lack of hiking love.

On the way back up the trail. My uncle looking suitably unimpressed with our lack of hiking love. (And we did have a permit by the way. You need one to get in to the peninsula.)

Travel Throwback Thursday

I’ve hijacked #tbt and turned it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. This time: the Great Ocean Road.

Lorne Pier

Lorne Pier

I suppose there’s nothing immediately remarkable about this picture. It’s just a dude fishing on a dock near Lorne on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. I certainly took much more exciting pictures on that portion of my big Oz/NZ adventure, but this is one of the ones I always think about first. I just really love it. I think the curve of the dock makes it look like there’s some sort of wide-angle panorama going on, but there’s no trickery in this shot. It just came out looking better than I expected it to.

That seemed to happen a lot there, actually. It’s just a naturally photogenic place. I remember staring out the window at one point thinking how strange it was that all of these places probably pretty much looked the same when there was no road here, and what people must have thought the first time they saw certain bits of the coast. Loch Ard Gorge in particular, which is one of the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen.

Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge

In any case, we were there in September/October, off season, so it was too cold to swim, but we had most places relatively to ourselves, which made it that much better. Sometimes if you go somewhere off season everything is closed and you can’t really enjoy as much as you otherwise would, but I don’t think that’s true of the Ocean Road. It also made for some particularly memorable segments of driving in the middle of nowhere, losing radio stations and feeling like we might well be the last people left on the planet.

I have nothing but enthusiastic endorsement for driving the Great Ocean Road, and if you ever find yourself in that part of the world, I highly, highly recommend it. It’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever done. Loads of lovely little towns, amazing beaches, good food, and some of the best hostels I’ve ever experienced. And if you like driving, the first bit of the road is probably one of the most fun, curvy, scenic drives you can do.

Also: (obviously) Koalas!

Koala

Sleepy, snuggly koalas.

Travel Throwback Thursday

I’ve hijacked #tbt and turned it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. This time: the northern lights that were not the Northern Lights.

Gothenburg

You can hardly blame us for thinking it! Photo © Duncan Blair

They really weren’t.

Last year in December, my friend Duncan and I went to Gothenburg to see a Movits! gig. It was a totally crazy plan that spawned an awesome short trip. One of the ways we managed to do this super cheaply was taking flights using some of my air miles, and that meant flying into Heathrow at night and out to Gothenburg early the next morning. So we spent a fairly restless night on the soft seats of Costa Coffee in T5 arrivals.

When we got to Gothenburg, we walked around on nearly zero sleep until it was show time. We’d arrived slightly before the hostel check-in time so we couldn’t just go take a nap. This was probably a good thing, as we saw most of the city, and it was fantastic.

Being so far north, it got dark at about 3, and the northern lights were on my mind as I’d kept hearing they’d been particularly active lately. Neither of us had ever seen them, and when we were walking back to the hostel to get ourselves organised before the show, I turned around to look back the way we’d come and the sky was glowing green. Really, really crazily, I started asking which way was north, because SURELY that’s the northern lights. WHAT ELSE could it be? (Oh, I don’t know, Kate, light pollution? An excess of festive, decorative lights being reflected in the very low cloud-cover? SLEEP DEPRIVATION?)

We’re reasonably certain it was NOT the northern lights. We never really figured out what it was, aside from wishful thinking on our part. It was cloudy and we were in a very light-y city. But in our sleep-craving, pre-Movits!-gig state of wonder and excitement, it was a nice thought. And Dunc got a pretty bangin’ picture of it.

Then we got to see THIS, so the non-validity of the aurora borealis really did not have an negative effect on the night.

PS: It makes me so happy that the one thing on YouTube from this show is one of my favourite songs. I was a few rows behind whoever was filming this, dancing like a fool. I love these guys so hard.

Travel Throwback Thursday

I’ve hijacked #tbt and turned it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. This time: Madinda, the elephant that did her own thing (and therefore the BEST elephant).

Madinda the elephant

Trunk up! And yes, that is elephant drool on my trousers.

When most people in our group chose to go walk with Lions, my tentmate Tori and I chose to ride an elephant, and it was the greatest. We chose the elephant with a rebellious streak. Or, we ended up with her anyway. She was the biggest and I think most of the other people were a bit scared.

The minute we got on Madinda, she broke right away from the rest of the elephants lumbering along happily in a line, and shot straight for the tastiest looking tree. This made for a bit of a bumpy start. Tori was a little worried, particularly considering this ride was turning out to be the most unique hangover cure ever, but I was loving it.

Once our generous ride got her fill of that particular tree, she rejoined the herd. BUT NOT FOR LONG! The whole way, we were treated to all sorts of detours and disobedience of the guide. Never dangerous mind you, just ‘eff that, I’m not following those guys, there are way better snacks over here and I’m havin’ ’em!’

A lady after my own heart.

After our ride, we got to give Madinda loads of treats and have a little chat with her. She was absolutely lovely and I’m glad we got the standout of the herd.

Also, just so you know, the place we did this was very good. The elephants are actually free to go off and do whatever they want when they’re not doing their ride in the morning. They come back of their own free will. They’re clearly treated very, very well. And they seem to enjoy the whole thing (and the extra snacks of course).

Elephant chomping a tree

Another tasty tree. YES PLEASE.

Travel Throwback Thursday

I’ve hijacked #tbt and turned it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. This time: the doorknobs of Modena.

My first time in Italy, I decided to spend one day in Modena on the way to Florence and Rome. How could I resist the home of balsamic vinegar?

However, with a tremendous lack of foresight, I ended up there, a small town in a Catholic country, on a Sunday. SO NOTHING WAS OPEN.

Ok. Not NOTHING. A few restaurants and the council-run art gallery (which was pretty great). But the hostel I was staying in booted you out between 10 and 4, and it was raining, and I couldn’t do any of the vinegar-related stuff I figured would be available because: Sunday.

So aside from making my lunch last as looooong as possible, I wandered around. In the rain. And to entertain myself, I took pictures of the various crazy doorknobs and hardware all over town. So many fancily-adorned closed doors. Hooray for making your own entertainment in a strange land!

I did get pretty soaked. Then I went to hang out in the local park with some ducks.

Ducks about to get in the water

Nice weather for (Italian) ducks.

Travel Throwback Thursday

I’m hijacking #tbt and turning it into #ttbt so I can tell stories about old photos of my past adventures. First up: Berlin!

Reichstag selfie

I am actually in this picture. Mirrors!

I nearly didn’t get into the Reichstag. Up to this point (about a week and a half into my first solo backpacking adventure) I’d not been into anywhere with metal detectors. I’d been wandering around with my Gerber multitool in the bottom of my backpack. (You know. Just in case I had to be MacGyver. Or cut an annoying thread off my overworn t-shirt. Whatever.)

I wandered up to the security check to get in the building and chucked my backpack on the belt. I passed through before it did, and before I’d even turned back around to pick it up, one of the guards was yelling at me pretty sternly in German. And seeing as how I had NO IDEA what was going on, I must have looked pretty panicked. She kind of just kept yelling at me, and I suppose to her credit, I wasn’t really saying anything because I couldn’t find any words in my frozen panic.

Luckily, one of the other guards twigged that I wasn’t understanding, and with the magical perception of someone who works at a major tourist destination, asked me very politely in English if I had a pocketknife or multi-tool in my bag. At which point the whole ordeal made sense, but I was so worried they thought I was trying to sneak it in that I was like, ‘Oh, crap, yes! Take it! Sorry!’

The English-speaking guard just kind of laughed at me and said I could check it in there and pick it up on my way out. I continued to apologise profusely and I don’t think my heart stopped racing til after I’d been through and left half an hour later.

On top of the Reichstag

On top of the Reichstag, with a suspiciously TV-tower-shaped unicorn horn.