Above the clouds

At 5895 metres above sea level (19,340-feet), Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain on earth. Situated close to the equator, and distinctive for its snow-capped peak, Kilimanjaro attracts thousands of people every year, each hoping to hike to the summit.

I did this trek years ago, on the spur of the moment (and without much training). It was before I really got into hiking and, I suspect, one of the reasons I really love it now. On the final day, I remember huddling next to a small fire, removing my socks to warm my freezing feet over the flames, and then massaging them desperately to get the circulation flowing. The other hikers were preparing to resume the trek, but I was struggling to breathe and desperately trying to make my body co-operate.

I also remember the doubts that went through my mind at that moment. How easy it would’ve been to quit. To get back to a lower altitude where my head would stop pounding. Where I could breathe easily. Others were heading down, so why not me?

I suppose it comes down to my personality. I’m really very stubborn. Once I set my mind on something, I rarely give up, and this was no exception. At the time, the Kilimanjaro trek was the most challenging thing I’d ever done (I’ve since added to that list hiking in Alaska’s Denali National Park and trekking the Inca Trail in Peru). But, the truth is, I love challenging myself… and these are the type of trips that remain forever etched in my memory.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Tired and ready to quit? What did you do to motivate yourself to keep going? What is the most challenging thing you’ve ever done?

Keep reading for a recap of my Kilimanjaro trek Continue reading

Kangaroo Island

One of my favourite places in my home country is Kangaroo Island. It’s Australia’s third largest island and is a truly unique wilderness experience, with its spectacular landscapes and incredible wildlife.

KANGAROO ISLAND KANGAROO

About one-third of Kangaroo Island is designated national park or reserve area, including the entire western end (which comprises Flinders Chase National Park and Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area). Here, you’ll find two of the island’s biggest drawcards: Remarkable Rocks and Admiral’s Arch. From a distance, the Remarkable Rocks resemble a herd of animals, but up close, they show themselves to be an amazing collection of naturally sculptured boulders balanced haphazardly atop a smooth granite dome. In terms of wildlife, there’s opportunity to get up close and personal with New Zealand Fur Seals, sea lions, Little Penguins, pelicans, koalas and kangaroos. If you want to read more about Kangaroo Island, check out my article that was published by Jetstar magazine – Where the wild things are. Otherwise, enjoy the photos below.

PENNINGTON BAY

PELICAN FEEDING AT THE KANGAROO ISLAND PENGUIN CENTRE IN KINGSCOTE

CAPT MATTHEW FLINDERS NAMED PELICAN LAGOON FOR ITS FLOCKS OF PELICANS

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Giving back to a special place

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s premier attractions, but for me it’s also a place of great childhood memories. I grew up in western Victoria and most of our family holidays were at the beach, exploring the rocky coastline or hiking to the numerous waterfalls in the rainforest of the Otway National Park.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the times when my Dad, who passed away in 2007, took the whole family on excursions to Pebble Point (a place that most people don’t know about). From memory it was a quite an ordeal to get there, including one time when I sat down on the path not wanting to go on, only to realise I’d sat on a nest of bull-ants. That certainly got me moving again.

Once we got to Pebble Point we would spend the day collecting beautiful stones, which was rather like a treasure hunt. Then, when we got home, Dad would polish the stones and make them into jewellery for us, which was truly remarkable.

For some reason, I haven’t been back to Pebble Point as an adult, but I’ve certainly spent plenty of time enjoying various other parts of the Great Ocean Road, including one time when I did a Naturewise trip with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). This was a wonderful way for me to give something back to a region that holds a special place in my heart.

CVA’s Naturewise trips typically combine hands-on conservation work with a unique travel experience and on its Great Ocean Road trip, they’ve teamed up with another eco-certified operator, bothfeet.

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NZ: The perfect place to bike, hike and jump off a cliff

A few years ago, I travelled around New Zealand’s South Island with Flying Kiwi – a tour company that encourages cycling, hiking and other adventurous activities. The highlight was three action-packed days where I cycled into Milford Sound, hiked the 33km Routeburn Track, and finished the third day by jumping off the edge of a cliff (which is really not something that comes naturally). The paragliding was way outside my comfort zone, but, after all, I was in the adventure capital of Queenstown. I just had to try something adventurous.

Kawarau Bridge Bungy, Queenstown

Have you travelled to New Zealand? Did you feel any pressure to go bungy jumping, white water rafting or zorbing just because you were in Queenstown? And if you did, was it outside your comfort zone? I would love to hear your stories, and here’s a recap of mine.

The biking

Emerging from Homer Tunnel, en route to Milford Sound on New Zealand’s South Island, I see snow-covered mountains towering above the bus. A waterfall tumbles from a sheer cliff, and my gaze follows the road, which winds steeply down the valley. It’s a daunting sight. But I disembark, grab my bike, and commence cycling.

The journey into Milford Sound is via one of the world’s most scenic roads. On a bicycle, descending from 945 metres above sea level, it is 18km of pure adrenalin. Rainforest covers the lower slopes of the mountains, rivers flow through the valleys, and there is a succession of waterfalls.

Flying Kiwi at Milford Sound

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My life as a travel writer gone bung?

Arriving home from an extended overseas trip always feels strange. Having experienced a lifestyle not ruled by the clock, suddenly everything seems so regimented. Get up. Shower. Eat breakfast. Catch a train. Mutter a mandatory curse about unreliable trains. Arrive at work to spend the next eight hours sitting at a desk. Only this time it’s different.

When I stand up to get my morning coffee, I feel a pain in my leg. It’s strange. I don’t remember pulling a muscle. Fast-forward 24 hours to the emergency ward of Box Hill Hospital and the doctor confirms my worst fears: I have deep vein thrombosis (DVT). My heart sinks. What did this mean for future travel? As an aspiring travel writer, I fervently hoped this wasn’t the end of my dream.

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