Last week was the anniversary of my officially ceasing to be a partner in a very large law firm. Things have not quite gone to plan. Rob’s need to have knee surgery and to finish some consulting contracts meant that we had to spend more time at home than originally planned. My tendency to indolence meant that I have not started learning a new language (lets face it I may never get beyond hello and how to order beer), nor am I yet as fit as I hoped to be. For all that we have enjoyed ourselves immensely and the answer to the most frequently asked question “are you bored yet?” is a resounding no. To elaborate more on why that is so I set out below the important numbers and highlights of our year.
Trips: 5 – USA, Peru and Hong Kong; Albany and Waychinicup National Park; Shark Bay, Quobba and Exmouth; Central Desert, Northern Territory, Kimberley and Pilbara; New Zealand.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 9 – Kakadu, Shark Bay, Ningaloo Coast, City of Cusco, Machu Picchu, Historic Centre of Lima; Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa, Statue of Liberty, Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park.
Distance by Plane: 56,758km.
Distance by Boat: 251km.
Distance by Car: 17,995km.
Distance by Bus: 1678km.
Distance by Train: 471km.
Distance Hiked: 361km (excludes hikes in Perth metropolitan area).
Nights in a tent: 58
Nights in motel/hotel/B&B: 78
Nights in a backpackers: 1 (it doesn’t count as a hotel type accommodation if you have to make your own bed and are given a token for the timer on the hot water).
Nights in a bamboo hut: 1
Nights in DOC NZ huts: 10
Favourite DOC NZ Hut: Whariwharangi, Abel Tasman Track.
Favourite city: Arequipa, Peru. Its worth visiting just to look at the doors on all businesses and residences.
Favourite multi day hike: Inca Trail, Peru. Yes, it did involve lots of stairs and I wasn’t really fit enough to do it, but I got to see some spectacular scenery with Rob, my nephews, Luc and Thom, and our good friends Geoff and Hwee. All while having my pack carried for me and constantly being fed. Got to be happy about that.
Favourite day hike: Ormiston Pound, Northern Territory. Just a great day and we largely had the trail to ourselves.
Most unique accommodation: Stony Bay, Banks Peninsula Track New Zealand.
Best Beach: Gnaraloo Bay, Western Australia.
Favourite Fishing Spot: Cahills Crossing, East Alligator River, Northern Territory. All the barramundi may have been undersize, but there were lots of them and the crocodiles added a frisson of excitement.
Most Crocodiles: Shady Camp, Mary River, Northern Territory. Not somewhere you want to go for a swim.
Most Wildlife: Waychinicup National Park. Wallabies, kangaroos, bandicoots and nearly impossible to sleep with all the noise from the ring tailed and brush tailed possums.
Best stars: Gregories campsite, Francois Peron National Park, Western Australia. It helps when there is no one else around.
Best sunset: Where else but Cable Beach, Western Australia.
Favourite restaurant: Amaz, Miraflores, Lima, Peru.
Best Cheap Meal: Freshly shucked oysters, Mindl Markets, Darwin.
Most snow: Washington DC. Its not a holiday in the States in December if you don’t have a flight cancelled due to snow.
Most rain: You would think the Amazon during the rainy season or even Nelson Lakes, New Zealand where it rained on us for four days. But no, the prize goes to sunny old Exmouth Western Australia where a once in a decade storm meant that we were trapped for several days due to the floods.
Best spot for birds: It was a good start to my amateur twitching (I want to say tweeting, which seems more appropriate, but given my computer skills inaccurate) with trips to the Amazonian jungle and central and northern Australia. The best birding sites were, however, at home – the Mornington Wilderness Station (where we eventually saw the elusive Gouldian finch) and Broome Bird Observatory.
Favourite Bird: Toucans, macaws and hummingbirds vied for the honour. Top spot, however, goes to the rainbow bee-eater. You have to love a bird which is so elegantly beautiful but at the same time thwacks the crap out of its prey.
Favourite museum: I confess we haven’t exactly been overly cultural this year, so the pool to pick from is small. If we hadn’t been there before the award would have gone to the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. There is something to say, however, for seeing something for the first time. The Museo Larco in Lima was fascinating and not too large that I suffered from any museum fatigue.
Favourite non fiction read: Strycker: The Magic and Mystery of Birds: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human. I am not sure about the validity of some of the comparisons which are drawn between bird and human behaviour (for example the nesting habits of purple crowned fairy wrens and game theory) but Strycker is very knowledgeable about bird behaviour and the comparisons are interesting and entertaining.
Favourite fiction read: Catton: The Luminaries. According to Rob the book lacked substance, a view shared by a few critics. I, however, loved the Man Booker prize winner from 2013. Depressing to think that Catton managed to write something so great aged only 28.
Favourite Album: Beneath the Brine by the Family Crest. Its a bit uneven but at its best is brilliant. Rob is already sick of listening to it.
People: We have been fortunate to have friends and family join us on our travels: Luc, Thom, Geoff and Hwee in Peru and Wendy, Steve, Pip and Dermso in New Zealand. We have also met a lot of cool people along the way like Fairley and Don from New Mexico and Jill, Gary, Shane, Dave and the Lake Taupo teachers from New Zealand. Before everyone starts to think I have suddenly become a nice person we have also met people I haven’t liked that much. Yes, French backpacking chicks who insisted on rearranging all their gear in the hut for an hour an half after 11.30pm, I am writing about you.
Thanks: Obviously a big thanks to Rob who has agreed to have an extended career break and support my mad dream of travel. Also thanks to mum, who is managing our life in Australia while we are away and to Luc and Thom who are looking after our house far better than we do.