Highlights of 2016 Adventure – Half the World Away

‘What was the best part of your trip?’ – since returning from my ten month trip around the world, I’ve heard this question more than any other.
As once would expect after spending the best part of ten months in 15 different countries from Nepal to Brazil, I’m often left pondering the question for longer than the asker is prepared to sit around and wait for an answer.

The truth is it’s probably easier for me to pick out the worst bits of my trip and accepting that the rest of it was on an equally incredible level.

Getting sick in Myanmar, crashing on a moped in Thailand and having chronic insomnia on a 16 hour night bus in South America stand out as the main low points. The rest of the time, I was in an either an awe-inspired or giddy mood due to the differing surroundings and experiences.

But, if I had to pick out five highlights of the past ten months, here they are in no particular order:

1 – Watching the sunrise over the Himalayas. After trekking for four days in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas in Nepal, my guide and I woke up at 4am to hike up for an hour and a half to a vantage point called Poonhill, where we were able to watch in clear glory the sunrise lighting up the Annapurna mountain range.

It was as if the sun was setting Annapurna Three on fire, and by far and away the most rewarding sunrise I have ever seen.

2 – Trekking to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan. The first time I read about the Paro Taktsang temple I was enthralled by mere pictures of it and upon seeing it with my own eyes, early on a crisp Bhutanese morning I was astounded even more than I thought I would be. It looked surreal, I couldn’t quite believe I was seeing it for real.

Inside, the whole building just reverberated with serenity, even more so when I joined some monks in meditation. I cannot accurately explain why I was drawn so much to this place but I’m happy to let that mystery be between me and the monastery on that cliff edge.

3 – Cycling down ‘The Death Road’ in Bolivia. Also known as the Yungas Road outside of La Paz, this 56km mountainous road infamously sees at least one tourist death a year. Many stories of those who came off one of the sheer and extremely close drops were told to our group as we made our way down the road from more than 15,000 feet up.

Still, while taking care not to cut my trip short, the adrenaline rush of racing down the windy and rocky mountain pass is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling experiences of my life, reminding me at the same time just how human and therefore vulnerable I am. I fell twice, but luckily that was only at the end safely on to some rocks.

4 – Travelling the ruins of Angkor Wat temple complex. Not just the famous building itself but the surrounding area, which is full of secret temples secreted away in the thick Cambodian jungles. Riding on a bike made it easier to get around and had I had more time, I wish to have spent more time simply going off the beaten track even more and dare I say it, living the Tomb Raider experience for real.

The mix of Hindu and Buddhist structures were so ornate and different to what we in the predominantly Christian world know, that every building seemed to be altogether strange yet wondrous work of art in my eyes. Not quite intrepid exploring but made even more fulfilling by the friendly nature of the local Cambodians.

5 – The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This for me was one of the key reasons I went to South America. Something I had read about for many years and fantasised of seeing with my own eyes.

Every day as we climbed higher and higher on the trail, the struggle became more arduous but I couldn’t hold back the excitement from visiting the Inca site that is still so shrouded in mystery. We still don’t even know what happened to the Incas that were there. In that way, it helps preserve the aura of the place which just seems to be something from a different planet.

Beautiful architecture, stunning mountainous backdrops and a fascinating technology used by the Incas made the journey a true jewel in my travelling crown.

The Incas worshiped the sun as if it were a god – and watching as the sunrise lit the mountain just behind the famous citadel it’s easy to understand why. The light streaming down draped the landscape as if you were looking at paradise. Suffice to say it exceeded all my expectations, as I walked around grinning inanely like a six-year-old.  

BONUS – Visiting Graceland. On many occasions have I been awe-struck this year, and none more so than when I visited the home of Elvis Presley last month. I was shaking with anticipation while making my way to downtown Memphis and walking through the doors of the home of an icon who has transcended music and pop culture.

For me, it was a personal pilgrimage as Elvis’ music and performances have been a big aspect of my creative and appreciative mind. The house itself is frozen in time, with the rooms exactly as they where when the King lived there, even though Elvis has definitely left the building. I kept having to pinch myself walking around. Glory, glory hallelujah.

A perfect way to close my adventure – for now…