Best of 2017: Our Top 17 Travel Experiences
(or months 16-26)
It’s about time we put together a monthly summary we said. And then we realised we were a whopping 12 months behind. How long would it take us to catch up? (read: how long is a piece of string). Instead we thought we’d share our 17 most memorable travel experiences of 2017 (otherwise know as months 16-26)
Blogging takes time and if we’re honest, we’re rather be out there doing, seeing and experiencing. Want more regular updates? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Do us a favour… like and comment on a few posts once in a while. It will encourage us!!
1. Volunteering with Wildlife Act
If you’ve been following us on Instagram and Facebook, you’ll know that this is not only our top experience of 2017, but our best travel experience to date.
Chris took some wonderful wildlife photos whilst we were there, one of which was featured by BBC Travel on Instagram.
2. River boarding in Queenstown
Our friends Helen and Matt told us we couldn’t miss this when we visited Queentown. Imagine white water rafting, but instead of being in a raft, you are riding the rapids and whizzing around whirlpools on your own body board. Adrenaline busting and so.much.fun!!
3. Queenstown Luge
There’s nothing like a race to bring out our competitive side. We leaped into our carts and launched ourselves around corners, tunnels and dippers to beat each other to the finish line, and then hopped back on the chairlift to do it again and again and again. The video says it all.
4. Hiking to the Mueller Hut
Hands down the most gruelling of our New Zealand hikes but totally worth it. We staggered up thousands of steps in intense sunshine before hitting slippery scree. Rounding a windswept corner, we saw snow for the first time in two years. We crunched our way across a snow field and the shiny red Mueller hut came in to view. Were we glad to see it. At 1800 metres on the Sealy Range, it gives 360-degree panoramic views of glaciers, ice cliffs, vertical rock faces and New Zealand’s highest peaks. Simply stunning.
5. Hiking up Roys Peak
This is one of the most popular day hikes in New Zealand. Just 5km from Wanaka and its famous tree, this steady uphill trek is a calf burner and a knee killer! We panted our way up and I almost cried on the way down. Why do it? If the breathtaking views on the way up aren’t enough, the view from the summit certainly is.
6. Hiking a Section of the Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is so gorgeous it constantly took our breath away. If only we had been organised enough to book ourselves in to the huts so we could do the whole track. Instead we enjoyed a wonderful day hike that wound through the Routeburn gorge along the crystal-clear Route Burn and stopped at the Routeburn Flats to take in the stunning views before hiking up to the falls.
7. An Incredible Sunset on Rocky Mountain
We set off later than planned to reach the peak of Rocky Mountain so it was a race to the top in time for sunset. Like every landscape in New Zealand, the views were stunning, but the sunset was nothing special. Nevertheless, we spent a lovely hour admiring the view and chatting to a Japanese couple who were up there too. As we began our descent we noticed a pink glow creep up all around us. We headed straight back up again to take in the pink tinged mountains tops, candy floss clouds and striking skies on a beautiful balmy evening.
8. Giant’s Causeway
A not so hidden gem on the the North-East Coast of Northern Ireland, Giant’s Causeway is the most popular tourist attraction in the area and for good reason. The 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns were built by an Irish giant called Finn MacCool or, if you’re going to be all scientific about it, they were formed approximately 60 million years ago as a result of cooling lava flows after a series of volcanic eruptions. Our visit was all to short and we can’t wait to go back and hike around the area.
9. A Nighttime Cycle Ride through Johannesburg
Our South Africa trip began in Johannesburg where we stayed for five days. Johannesburg doesn’t have a favourable reputation, but we found an exciting, evolving city that is raising itself up out of past troubles. We stayed with quite possible, Airbnb’s most helpful host and on his advice, took an evening cycle ride with Maboneng City Cyclist, a group of locals who take a night-time ride through the city every Thursday. We found ourselves amongst a bunch of incredibly friendly and interesting people of many races, some native to the city, others having moved there. Our ride took us through the notorious CBD where groups of homeless people, many of them immigrants, huddled around fires; through neighbourhoods rich and poor until we arrived in leafy, desirable Melville where we sang karaoke before making our way back. It was a fascinating insight to the city and I think it is safe to say that we saw a Johannesburg that few visitors and even its inhabitants experience.
10. The Cenotes of Yucatan State
For all its stunning Caribbean beaches, it is the cenotes that stole the show for us in the Yucatan. The 6000 or so underwater sinkholes formed when limestone caves collapsed, revealing these underground pools. They are a great playground for snorkelling and the play of light in the crystal waters was magical.
11. Incredible Theatre: The Nature of Forgetting
In August we went up to Edinburgh to visit friends we met in Goa and to go to the Fringe Festival. We saw some great, good and not so good things but this physical theatre show is truly special. Poignant, poetic, joyful and intensely moving, we experienced Tom clutching at his fading memories as they were taken from him by early-onset dementia, through mime and an incredible musical score. They are performing at Shoreditch Town Hall in London in April. Our advice is to book now.
12. Hiking the South Downs Way
Stunning day hikes and a nightly stop in the local inn for proper pub grub and a pint… what’s not to love. We’ll forget the fog and rain of the first two days (this is England after all), and The Brewers Fayre that our kindly BnB host deposited us at with a cheery “you know what you’ll to get there” when we asked for a recommendation for dinner. Honestly, we were so hungry after hiking over 20 miles that day, we were half way through our meals before we realised how awful they were. We took in the stunning views across patchwork fields and the gorgeous Sussex coast, made all the better for sharing it with great friends. And a good reminder of just our beautiful our own country is too.
13. Slieve League
From the coast of Northern Ireland our road trip continued into Ireland’s Donegal. After passing through stunning landscapes, we reached the most dramatic of them all: Slieve League. These magnificent cliffs are the highest in Europe and truly stunning. After a brief shower, the sun shone through the clouds and presented us with a wonderful rainbow and views along the coast and out to the wide Atlantic sea.
14. The Ruins of Palenque
Swathed in a steamy morning mist we were welcomed to Palenque by a chorus of birds and the call of the odd howler monkey. We loved exploring these Mayan ruins which are all the better for their situation amongst dense jungle.
15. The Ruins of Monte Alban
Another set of ruins, this time built by the Zapotecs who spent years (or rather their slaves did) levelling the top of a high hill to create a mountaintop city. Its one of the most archaeologically rich sights in Mexico with stunning views of the surrounding valleys. We sat atop the highest pyramids trying to imagine what it must have looked like in its heyday.
16. Hiking Lions Head
With incredible views of Table Mountain and Cape Town, this hike is one to add to any South African itinerary.
17. A Heli-hike on Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier has retreated so far that the only way you can get there is by helicopter. There are other glaciers in the world that we could visit without the need for an expensive 5 minute helicopter flight, but we don’t know when we’ll get to visit them. And we’d never been in a jelliflopper before.
So this was just a small selection of some of our most memorable travel experiences from 2017. Hopefully you found some travel inspiration for your own trips. As for our 2018 travel plans, after spending six weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico we headed for Guatemala where we are happily overlooking Lake Atitlan. We’re going to be exploring more of Central America before heading back to our beloved Indonesia in June for more diving in Komodo National Park, a more successful attempt at climbing Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen and to explore the island of Sulawesi. Then we’re off to the Philippines in September. In theory our travels will come to an end in October but we’re not sure we’re up to facing a British winter… watch this space!!
Life is all about experiences.
Happy Travels! Eliza and Chris