Highlights Reel

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This time three months ago I was picking up my bags and crying to my parents about how nervous I was about travelling on my own. I cried when they dropped me at the airport. I cried in the airport lounge. I cried on the plane. I cried while I ate my breakfast on my own in the Emirates First Class Lounge. I finally stopped crying, thank god, after I was upgraded to Business on the A380 and dived into the Grey Goose.
I sound like a little brat and three months doesn’t sound like a long time but back then the unknown absolutely scared me – not that I would have ever admitted to it. Now that I’ve done it I feel like I can do anything and it just makes me want to travel even more whether with friends or on my own.
To those of you who are too scared to do it alone, just take the leap. Yes, at times it gets lonely but 99% of the time you’ll be having an amazing time and kicking yourself for not doing it sooner. If I can do it anyone can do it.

Moving on from the emo stuff, here’s my highlights but you really should get out there and experience it for yourself. ( I tried to condense this down as much as I could!)

– High Teas: I think I was British royalty in a past life. High tea should be a mandatory daily occurrence. My all time favourites are at The Mount Nelson in Cape Town and The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi. Dill and cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, vegetable wontons, brownies, shortbread, puff pastry….the food is endless and the tea delicious!

– Cape Point, South Africa: I first visited as a proper tourist in 2013 but this year I was lucky enough to meet another solo Australian who happened to have a motorbike. Invitation for a ride down to the point? Yes please! I was scared to death nearly half the time but for the rest I had GoPro in hand taking in the amazing view (Well, sort of. My GoPro skills need some fine tuning!).

– The Imperial Hotel, New Delhi: 5 star luxury in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities. I’m so thankful for Marisa’s bright idea of ending our budget tour of India in style. We actually laughed as we were escorted through the front doors – where were we? Is this what heaven looks like?! Two nights here was money well spent, even if it means begging on the streets when I return home.

– Varanasi, India: where do I start?! This city was our first stop in India after leaving Nepal and our first proper outing was intense and incredibly overwhelming, almost too much to take in. We spent hours in a silk/cashmere store swimming in scarves, blankets and table runners. Most of you know I am a complete scarf addict so I nearly had a meltdown in this place! So many scarves but I managed to walk out with only three, including a pure cashmere masterpiece that again cost me about a week’s worth of hostel accommodation – for a scarf!? No shoppers guilt over here! Then came the wandering, and getting lost, while trying to find the main ghat where the cremations are held. We basically followed the people carrying a dead body, lost sight of them and ended up in a dead end surrounded by hundreds of men. No women in sight except for the five lost female tourists…pure fear took over me but we managed to get back to a safer area. In the early evening we set out on a boat on the Ganges for a tea lighting ceremony followed by a nightly ceremony to bless and celebrate the Ganges. To top it all off we were lucky enough to see a Bollywood scene being filmed below our restaurant.

– Bollywood movie premiere of ‘Kick’, Jaipur: hundreds of people cheering and whistling every time the main character came onscreen. It felt more like a concert than a movie screening and I can guarantee the film still wouldn’t have made sense even if there were subtitle. Three of the strangest hours of my life.

– Overnight train, Varanasi to Agra: I loved the train ride itself but the wait at the station beforehand was again very overwhelming. People…everywhere, staring, kids begging, it felt like 40 degrees with 100% humidity. The food in India is incredible when eating in restaurants, not so much anywhere else. Cashew butter biscuits, Indian Magic Masala flavoured Lays, Bourbon biscuits – the sugar and MSG kicked in and made the train ride feel like a comedy show with Marisa in the leading role.

– Taj Mahal, India: this is one icon I know I will visit again. Seeing it in real life left me speechless and covered in goosebumps. I’d been told that it was much smaller in real life so to try not be disappointed. Disappointed? Seriously people!? The structure is huge and I can’t understand how anyone could be underwhelmed by it and its energy.

– Indian food: I had eaten Indian once in my life before arriving in Varanasi and now I am hooked. It’s the one cuisine I haven’t tired of – butter chicken, rice, tandoori, garlic naan, black bean dal. Let me eat it all!

– Pamukkale, Turkey: despite the hoards of tourists this place is stunning! I was told that it’s a lot dirtier looking in real life and that Google images were photoshopped. I don’t know where those people went but the Pamukkale I saw was incredible, even if there were creepy men taking photos while we swam in the trevines. To say I was stoked to be there is an understatement.

– Hot air ballooning, Turkey: 4am start, hungover after returning to the hotel only two hours before. Things weren’t starting out pretty and I was kicking myself for possibly ruining one of the most anticipated parts of the tour. Turns out being 800m off the ground cures a hangover (until you return to the ground anyway – it must be the cooler air up there??)

– Turkish bath: I’ve seen these advertised in other countries but can’t bring myself to do it again because I know it won’t be the same as the real deal I experienced in Goreme. I won’t go into all the details but this is something you should definitely try. At the time you feel a little violated but just go with it, it’s worth it!

– London: being able to visit my bestest friend twice in two months was priceless! My liver hated me afterwards (don’t try to keep up with your vodka drinking machine Polish friend) and I will never look at Putney in the same way again after a heavy happy hour drinking session *hangs head low in shame*

– Ear surgery: a little piece of Zululand coming back home with me…in the form of a tiny tube…in my ear drum. No smiles at the time but I can laugh about it now.

– Wildlife ACT: four weeks volunteering at iMfolozi and Mkhuze reserves. I’ve never done anything like it before and already planning to go back next year. If you are passionate about helping endangered species then check these guys out. The team are working hard to increase the numbers of African Wild Dogs, of which there are approximately only 400 left in the wild. Our group was lucky enough to see the new litter of puppies outside of their den and then the pack of adolescents hunting along the track. They also monitor black rhinos, cheetahs, lions, leopards and elephants. As well as interacting with the incredible wildlife you will meet some pretty amazing people too.

There were some really tough times but overall I have had the most amazing time, made some incredible new friends and plan on doing it all again in 2015 (or when I have more money, whatever comes first!)

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