As the year comes to a close (in my calendar at least), I take a look at my top twelve travel moments from 2013. This has been an action packed year of travel for me, so it’s been hard to choose these top moments. This year has seen me visit a total of 24 countries (15 of them new) and over 100 cities, towns or villages. Here’s my top 12, hope you’ve enjoyed my journeys on this planet during 2013. Incidentally there was no room for Petra, Hong Kong, Bagan or Ngorongoro Crater on this list…
1. Hyena Feeding in Harar, Ethiopia (August 2013)
Without doubt this is one of the craziest yet most incredible travel moments in my life. After a completely ridiculous mini-bus ride through the Eastern Ethiopian highlands I arrive in Harar, a city famous for Mosques and Street Markets. Oh and the hyena man. Read all about hyena feeding in Harar here!
2. Watching the Mass Games in Pyongyang, North Korea (September 2013)
My trip to North Korea was just incredible and I loved every moment, but the standout memory will always be watching the Mass Games. To make things more special, I watched it on National Day (9/9). If you fancy a cheap North Korea tour with Young Pioneer Tours, check out my link.
3. Camping in the Serengeti, Tanzania (August 2013)
I did my first proper African Safari this year with Shadows of Africa. While most cite seeing an elephant or a giraffe as a highlight, my favourite moment was our luxury tent in the Serengeti. We even had a 5 minute hot shower, followed by dinner in the tent and a beer by a campfire. Raw and real. And hyenas all around us!
4. Relaxing in Little Likeng, China (June 2013)
These tranquil moments make travel what it is. Nobody has ever heard of Little Likeng. It’s a small unknown village on a river in China’s Jiangxi Province. I loved sitting by the river with a coffee, chilling out.
5. Staying in Xinaliq, Azerbaijan (October 2013)
The mountain village of Xinaliq is magical. We stayed with a local family, got crammed into a 1980s Lada with 9 people in 5 seats and walked all around a mountain village which hasn’t changed in years. The views were simply spectacular.
6. Whale watching in Mirissa, Sri Lanka (February 2013)
I managed to meet up with my parents this year! We headed to Sri Lanka and met them for a week of travelling round a load of cool parts of the island. Waking up at 5am isn’t always the best thing, until you see the whales and realise how massive these mammals actually are! Whale watching in Mirissa.
7. Seeing the Yangtze River for the first time in Chongqing, China (June 2013)
It was a childhood dream to visit Chongqing and I finally made it this year. I was so in awe of the big city, loved the skyscrapers, the “Foreigner Street” and the Cable Car across the Yangtze. But my standout moment was seeing the Yangtze River for the first time. Amazing.
8. Hiking in Wadi Rum, Jordan (September 2013)
As the clock struck midnight on the 26th September 2013, I celebrated 10 years living away from Northern Ireland. A perfect way to celebrate was doing a tour with the excellent Rum Stars Camp. We hiked through the desert and spent a night in Bedouin tents listening to local singing. Hiking in Wadi Rum Jordan.
9. Reaching the Peak of Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia (April 2013)
As hikes go, this has to be up there with the best I’ve done!! Not quite the four day Inca Trail in Peru, but the inspiring terrain, piercing sunset and elation at reaching the peak of Mount Kinabalu felt good. It was just after my birthday and my girlfriend and I totally loved the hike to the top.
10. A Guided Tour of Hebron, Palestine (September 2013)
Expertly organised by Abraham Tours and Tourist Israel, I did a load of West Bank and Palestine travelling as well as seeing Israel. The best of these tours was a full day tour of Hebron, the flashpoint zone in Palestine – even better we got a tour of both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side. I wrote about it here.
11. Attending my Friend Haya’s Wedding in Afula, Israel (September 2013)
When Panny Yu and I got our invite to Haya and Eliran’s wedding in Afula, Israel, we were so happy. We had intended to visit Israel and Palestine at some point in 2013 and this made it all the better. We could see our friend Haya from Antarctica getting married and continue to backpack round the Middle East after that!
12. Watching Northern Ireland play Turkey in Adana (November 2013)
After years in the wilderness as a mad Northern Ireland fan, I suddenly made it to TWO Northern Ireland matches this year. In October we made it to Baku in Azerbaijan for the World Cup Qualifier, then by total chance I happened to be in Turkey when we were due to play Turkey in Adana in a friendly, so we sorted our buses down there and off we went!
I can’t believe I’ve left off New Year’s Eve/Day in the Philippines, seeing Mandalay in Myanmar, visiting an Orphanage in Tanzania, Hiking up Adam’s Peak, seeing the Canola Fields at Luoping, bamboo rafting in Yangshuo, getting a visa for Nagorno Karabakh, watching sunrise in Cappadocia, touring Georgia, seeing Petra, spending a month in Iran…what a year in travel!
It’s been a busy and crazy travel year my friends. Here’s to 2014 and yet more immense travel memories and times!
Happy New Year all my readers!