2013 – a year of 365 days, 12 months and approximately 52 weeks. A year with four different digits for the first time since 1987. A year in which I made it to ten countries via 12 airports and stayed overnight in…wait for it…121 different locations. A year in which I drove and drove something in excess of 25,000 kilometres, enduring 3 chipped or cracked windscreens and one tyre puncture. A year in which pointless statistics are endlessly available.
But, apart from such statistics, what are the highlights and where can stupidly made-up awards be, well, awarded?
Anywhere with a pit toilet must be pretty special in so many other ways. Camping amongst the pines and earthy creeks lined with River Red Gums, wonderful walking trails on your doorstep, sunset and sunrise views over the crinkled geography of the Flinders Ranges, all make for a magically rustic stay. Plus the pit toilets were actually reasonably pleasant.
Best walk: far west Cornwall in September
Of all the places, of all the walks, of all the splendid days this was the best. Under warm blue skies, half of the fun came from the open top bus journey to and from the coast path between Porthcurno and Sennen Cove. At Porthcurno a cream tea and splendid outcrop overlooks over sapphire bays set me off to amble along cliff tops cloaked in purple and gold. A pause at Lands End provided ice cream and final propulsion onward to the charms of Sennen Cove and its sweeping golden sands. Hard to match, hard to beat.
Best food experience: camping fry ups
Again proof that the simple things are often the best, some combination of pork sausage, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, tomatoes and hash brown capped off with HP sauce. Best appreciated following a wearisome day of walks and served somewhere beside the sea off southern Australia.
Best drink experience: the first sip in Munich
Long haul flight dehydration is probably not best solved by a beer; however, Munich makes it hard to resist. Popping to some nearby gardens for air, tucked under the shady trees sits a charming beer garden, serving delicious cooling Weissbier and ridiculously salty but irresistible pretzels. A chance to sit and bask back in summer and embrace the slow realisation that you have made it across the globe.
The NBN award for worthy endeavours that are behind schedule: gbpilgrim.com
In a shameless cross-promotional opportunity, may I refer you to the tales and travails of gbpilgrim.com. Here I set myself the task of writing an alphabetical tour-de-force around the world within the year. But as you would see should you go there I made it to U. Seriously sidetracked, nonetheless I am nearing the end with 21 pieces of beachside / fireside reading this summer / winter.
The Johnson-Haddin award for being really annoying: the Australian fly
There are many parallels between the Australian cricket team and the swarms of flies that irritate their way across this huge country. In your face, buzzing away, seeming to scarper then coming back in a marauding fashion to head up your nose and down your throat. It is as if the flies peppering the body around Arkaroola are wearing small baggy greens and sprouting dodgy facial hair and a little too much attitude. They may be swatted for a while, but it’s a futile effort and they come back bigger and badder than ever.
Word of the year: ablutions
Ablution. It rolls off the tongue like sheets of wafer-thin toilet paper spilling onto the floor of a damp concrete floor. It sounds as appealing as a thong-clad grandpa shuffling into the toilets for his morning dump. It rolls around like the huge industrial drying machines that leave clothes damp and itchy. Up and down the country, ablutions are servicing the needs of the ageing population living in their deluxe caravans, and offering at least a wry smile for those paying over the odds to camp amongst the awnings and concrete pitches of a mobile shanty town.
Sorry Australia, but New Zealand is simply spectacular at every turn. Nowhere more so than on the south island, where there is a surprising diversity beyond mountains and glacial rivers to a world of ancient forests, grassy meadows, jagged coast and pristine golden bays. All pleasingly accessible and navigable by car, by boat and, most of all, by foot. Somewhere you could happily return to again and again and again.