Here we are again beginning another new year and I feel like 2015 passed by in a blur. Just what have I been doing over the past twelve months? It simultaneously feels like I have done nothing and been nowhere, yet when I actually stopped to think about it I realised I have still managed to pack in an impressive amount of travelling over the year!
Here is a summary of my travel highlights:
Summer on a ski field, Queenstown, NZ
My job over the 2014-15 New Year period saw me working on Coronet Peak ski field just outside of Queenstown, NZ in their summer holiday. Yep, that’s right. I was employed to work on a mountain in the summer when there was no snow and the most obvious and fun thing to do with all of those downhill tracks was to ride them – on a mountain bike!
Well, I am too much of a chicken to hurtle down hill on two wheels (funnily enough, I don’t seem to have much problem on two skis), so I opted out of the mountain biking. Instead, my job enabled me to chat to all the people who were enjoying the slopes and make coffees and snacks for them to eat.
The best part of my job, just as working on the mountain in the winter, was the views.
Oh, the views.
When I left Queenstown a piece of my heart was left behind. I mean, just take a look.
I can’t really put into words how incredible the view from Coronet Peak is. Your eyes just feast on it, taking it all in, and never tire of the mountains, the lake, the clouds, the farmland. I feel hugely lucky to have been able to work and live in such a fantastic place.
Skydiving in Wanaka, New Zealand
To mark the end of my two years in New Zealand, the country that bottles adrenaline and sprinkles it on their morning Cornflakes, I felt it was only fitting to throw myself out of a plane.
And I LOVED it.
Call me crazy, but I felt like I was having an epiphany whilst I was hurtling towards the ground. Perhaps you need to play with fire, metaphorically speaking, and come away with not even a singed finger to boost your vigour for life.
Perhaps it is the simple fact that I survived jumping out of a plane that filled me with such joy and meant I walked away with a bit of a swagger. Whatever it was I felt, I tried to describe it in my blog post, which you can find here.
Memories of Milford Sound, NZ
During my two years in New Zealand I visited the enchanting Milford Sound in Fiordland several times. Fortunately for me, I visited it one last time in January 2015 to visit my friend who was living and working there for the summer season.
If you have never visited, you should put it on your to do list. Here’s a few photos to whet your appetite.
Sheer, craggy cliffs rise vertically each side of the fiord, more often than not shrouded coolly in the misty embrace of cloud.
If it has been raining hard – which happens regularly in that part of the country (Milford gets on average 6,412mm of rainfall a year) – then the cliffs roar and dance with the white streams of waterfalls cascading down their faces.
Take a cruise, like the one I did that time on the Milford Encounter, and find yourself nose to nose with snoozing seals on the nearby rocks.
Great Ocean Road, VIC
A group of friends and I rented a house in Lorne for the weekend. We soon left the city of Melbourne behind and the road became windier and hugged the coastline as we neared the Great Ocean Road.
Whilst of course the views are spectacular of the rolling surf crashing against the shoreline, what was an absolute highlight for me was spotting:
and the noisy…
I spent seven months living and working in Melbourne, Australia in 2012 and I loved it. Melbourne is a superb mix of sleek modernity and laid back arty cool; hidden alleyways of outstanding graffiti snake around the city and its surrounding suburbs. The tram system makes it easy to explore and you are only a hop, skip and a jump away from the beach.
In February I went back to visit Melbourne and spent a week happily mooching around neighbourhoods I hadnâ€™t explored the first time – finding the hidden spots of graffiti I had missed before and discovering the most delicious places to eat for brunch.
Exploring Adelaide for the first time
I had not made it across the South of Australia as far as Adelaide during my first time in the country, and as I had a couple of friends there I decided it was fine time to add it to my list.
Adelaide might not be the top of people’s list when thinking about Australia, but I discovered that it was well worth a visit. From the beautiful beach of Glenelg, with soft gold sands and spectacular sunsets, to the city itself with its gorgeous botanical garden and bustling China Town market.
Hammock days in Gili T, Indonesia
Gili Trawangan is an island off of the coast of Bali, Indonesia. Gili T has a reputation for being the most lively spot and that brings many backpackers to the island to party, snorkel and relax. Partying aside, there are plenty of hidden spots to find that make you feel like a mile away from the hectic hustle and bustle of the main street (which you’re probably not a mile away from, given that the island measures up at a tiny 5.8 square miles).
I hired a bike and set off to cycle around the island.
The compact section of shops, bars and accommodation near the beach where the ferry lands soon fades away with the tinkling of the bells on the horse drawn carts used to get around the island (there are no motorised vehicles).
Suddenly, paradise. And it’s all for you.
A tiny beach shack housed a minuscule bar that served up delicious curries and cold drinks. Hammocks laid invitingly between the branches of the low trees, right on the water’s edge. I had found my nirvana.
Ulu Wat temple, Bali
No trip to Bali would be complete without witnessing the beautiful cliff-side temple of Ulu Wat. Perched on-top of a vertical cliff with the sea crashing at its feet, Ulu Wat sets an impressive tone.
Emerging out of a forest populated by grey monkeys, visiting this landmark takes on a different nature as you reverently give way to Monks and monkeys alike. The temple is still very much in use by the Balinese, and traditional dancing is held daily at sunset for the tourists.
Yoga in Ubud, Bali
I wrote a blog about my escapades whilst on a yoga camp in Ubud, Bali a while back. However challenging I found certain aspects of the experience – namely the heat and the biting insects – it has definitely earned its place on my top fifteen for the year.
A Birthday in Brussels
No birthday would be complete without the company of good friends. I had just arrived back in the UK after a two year period of absence and 9 days later I was on the Eurostar to Brussels for an impromptu trip away for my birthday.
I could say that we visited every museum and explored every notable sight, but my friends and I were content to nestle in atmospheric cafes and bars and catch up on two years of news. Bliss.
Camping in the Yorkshire Dales
A summer in England meant making the most of whatever the English weather throws at you. Luckily for me, I am a short drive from the Yorkshire Dales National Park and so that meant I was able to hop in the car with friends when a window of sunshine appeared.
One night camping in the idyllic spot of Hubberholme next to the river Wharfe turned into an experience I will never forget – which you can read about here.
A summer holiday with the girls in Croatia
No year would be complete without a (second) holiday with the girls. In July I jetted off to Dubrovnik in Croatia for a long weekend. Believe what you are told about Dubrovnik, it is stunningly gorgeous. The old walled city is perfect for stepping back in time, Game of Thrones geeking-out, and people watching.
My friends and I hired a villa for the weekend complete with our own pool. As the weather was blazing wall to wall sunshine, the pool was the central point of the weekend.
A highlight for me was taking a walk through our neighbourhood to find somewhere local to eat. We discovered a tiny little bar on the banks of the estuary and enjoyed a simple yet tasty meal at a tiny price, washed down by local beer.
Road trip in Spain
An unexpected highlight for the year was a road trip in November to Spain and Portugal. The cherry on the top of this for me was that I got to experience all of this in a campervan. There is something so delightfully fun about being able to drive your little home-on-the-road wherever you like, pull up whenever you feel like it, break out the deck chairs and settle in for the night.
I have never travelled in such luxury: cosy bed, gas hob, sink with running water, fridge, cupboards and shelves for all of our possessions and cooking gear, USB points for charging electrical items, internal lights – it really had it all.
Campervan aside, the western fringe of Spain was stunningly beautiful. We travelled through the remote, rural areas of Castille Y Leon, Extremadura and Andalucia and were treated to gorgeous autumn hues, endless olive groves and hillside villages that time forgot.
My roadtrip in Spain blended into a week on the south coast of Portugal. Spending time here in the middle of November made me realise why so many people from other European countries decide to winter here, as the mild weather and wall to wall blue skies remained a constant for the whole time.
It is not difficult to relax in the Algarve, as the stunningly beautiful coastline and small, sleepy towns and villages slow down your pace to a standstill. A surfer’s paradise, the southwesterly point of Portugal greeted us with endless white-tipped waves rolling in on golden sandy beaches.
Sunsets, red wine and barbeques were the name of the game, and it was a beautiful way to see the year towards its end.
A trip to Edinburgh
My last jaunt of the year took me up to Scotland for a weekend to visit my brother. This visit also coincided with when Storm Desmond descended on the UK, so when the rain wasn’t lashing down and the wind wasn’t howling (which wasn’t much of the time) we managed to get outside a little.
No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without the lung busting climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat to take in the beautiful views of the city, surrounding countryside and the Forth river.
The rain held off until we had walked passed the Scottish Parliament building, up the Royal Mile with its beautiful old buildings and countless shops selling shortbread and tartan and to the castle. A trip to the quirky Camera Obscura Museum to while away a rainy afternoon was exactly what we needed, and provided much amusement through its mind-bending interactive displays.
So, what a year! I’m looking forward to another year of meandering and hope that you will join me along the way as I share some of my experiences on this blog. Here’s to a happy, safe and healthy 2016.
What have been some of your travel highlights for 2015?
Where has been the best place you’ve visited, or the place where you made your favourite memories over the last twelve months?