Monday, 7 December 2009

away from here....

Well, after a fruitful few hours in a travel agents over the weekend, the following schedule is now taking some shape:

-> 3 days after we get back from our skiing trip at the beginning of February, we're going to fly to Hong Kong
-> after 4 days in HK, we fly to Sydney
-> some 31 days later we fly from Brisbane to Christchurch
-> another 30 days after that, we fly to San Francisco and then back to the UK a few days later.

...and gather...

-> a couple of weeks after our return we fly to Cape Town
-> we then spend 3 weeks travelling overland through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and over into Zambia to check out Victoria Falls. Stopping off along the way at places like Fish River Canyon, the Namib desert, Etosha National Park, the Okavanga Delta, Windhoek and Chobe.  You know, animals and all that shizzle.
-> we then fly back home from Livingston via Johannesburg

...and pause for a few weeks in June.

-> a couple of days after we're back from Glastonbury and have washed all our kit, we're off to Vancouver...spending 4 weeks in the Rockies before flying back home from Calgary at the end of July (in time for the Trent Bridge Test Match, obviously)

In theory, I'm not due back at work until September, so at some point we're looking at planning another trip to cover off Egypt and Jordan. Although -- like the other Africa trip -- that will probably be more of an organised tour. We're not especially inclined to be luxury travellers, and when we're in Southern Africa we'll mainly be camping.... not sure I'll be too keen to do that in Egypt, but I certainly don't need a five star hotel or a luxury yacht down the Nile, thanks very much.

None of these trips are actually all that far away now... I go skiing in less than 7 weeks time... and I reckon I need your help. At the moment I'm a little overwhelmed by possibilities, so any recommendations you might have will be really helpful. I'm sure lots of you have been to some of these places, and -- if it's okay with you -- I need some suggestions about things to think about doing whilst I'm away. Southern Africa is mainly stitched up, but any tips about Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, San Francisco and the Canadian Rockies would be most welcome.

What kinds of things must we absolutely not miss? Everyone I speak to seems to have something else that I should add to my list, and I'm keen for that list to be as long as possible.... part of the pleasure, I think, is going to be in working out what we should do with our time.

So fire away, as I'm all ears.

Here's what's on the list of suggestions/ideas we've had so far:

Hong Kong: visiting my friend Des and his lovely family

Australia: Tasmania... and probably the top end (we did Melbourne, Sydney and the centre when we went in 2004). The Whitsundays, Fraser Island, Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge.
Erm, and other stuff, most likely....

New Zealand: I've had a few more suggestions here:

-> Bay of Islands (for diving)
-> Waitomo caves
-> Kayaking in Hahei
-> Tongariro Crossing
-> Franz Joseph glacier
-> Mt. Cook / Arthur's Pass
-> Milford Sound
-> Kaikoura to Marlborough (wine country!)
-> Eden Park (for the cricket/rugby!)

San Francisco - um, Golden Gate bridge?

Africa - pretty much covered.  Fish River Canyon, Namib Desert, Swakopmund, Etosha National Park, Kalahari, Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Windhoek, Chobe National Park, Sossusvlei.  Etc. etc.

Canada - Not sure here.  We're just really keen to spend some time in the beautiful Canadian Rockies when they're not entirely covered in snow.  We're flying into Vancouver and out of Calgary, but the rest is all beautiful opportunity....

Any ideas?

As well as a decent camera, I should warn you now that I'm going to try to take a netbook with me, and I will do my level best to journal everything as we go.... so if you don't like travel blogging, then you might want to disappear from these parts until September 2010, at which point I'll likely be moaning like hell about having to work for a living.

Assuming I go back to work....

(MS doesn't have many advantages, but that critical illness insurance payment is at least giving us this opportunity to do something other than just work...)


  1. SF. Alcatraz. It's a cliche, but it also has the single best audio guide I've ever heard. I've been there...erm, I've lost count of the number of times, but there aren't that many must see places in the city - more a case of immersing yourself in it, I think. SFMOMA is nice, if you like that kind of thing.

    If you've never been to Japan, I'd add that to your schedule.

  2. Go to Napa or Sonoma when you are in SF. Wine country is the best

  3. In sf get up early one am, taxi ride out to the otherside of the gg bridge and then run back over, along past the marinas and piers to the bay bridge.

    Wine country is ok but if you've been to the Loire valley, burgundy, Bordeaux etc the. Unless you're a wine nut Grapes is grapes and the wine making process is essentially the same the world over.

    The drive down to big sur, Monterey along the pacific coast highway etc is worth it IMO

    Alcatraz is good value and you will find yourself trying to impersonate Sean Connery

  4. We're just back from a brilliant month doing Hong Kong and the eastern side of Australia - I've also been to California a couple of times before.

    Hong Kong - well worth going up on the Peak Tram for fantastic views over the island. Also going across to Kowloon (Star Ferry) in the early evening and watching the light show which happens on the Island at 8pm daily - amazing! I wouldn't bother making the trip to see the BIg Buddha. Food pretty great everywhere as far as I could make out.

    Australia - so many wonderful things, mostly well documented, but some of the best scenery we saw was in northern NSW / southern Queensland - around Nimbin (hippy capital of Oz) and the Tweed Caldera - there's a viewpont called "Best of All Viewpoint" and its hard to fault the description. When in Sydney visit the Fishmarket at lunchtime, buy some take out seafood and a bottle of wine from the bottlo and sit outside by the harbour and enjoy. Also Doyle's Fish Restaurant at Watson's Bay in Sydney (the take away with a bottle of wine again) - the food is just as good as in the fancy restaurant but much cheaper. I am a bit of a fish fiend, not sure if you are (although I do remember seeing you in Loch Fyne once).

    SF - try going across to the western side of the peninsula, there's a great restaurant there called the Beach Chalet with amazing mosaic murals and brilliant views of the wild ocean. Also eat out in Chinatown and do the whole tram / streetcar thing -it really is as hilly as it looks in Bullitt.

    The Big Sur is also brilliant, we did the Pacific Coast Highway Drive from LA to SF stopping over at Santa Barbara and Carmel on the way, both really lovely places. I would do it south to north, otherwise you're on the ocean side of the road all the time, a tad scary. I love Santa Monica and Venice Beach in LA as well, if you're venturing that far south, and the Getty Museum is simply astounding.

    One of these days I might even post about our holiday - still coming down.

  5. I'd echo Tina's recommendation about driving the Big Sur, but would encourage you to go North to South because you are on the ocean side - no traffic blocking the view.

    If you got to Napa, the Robert Mondavi vineyard tour is really professional and in my limited experience was much better than the smaller vineyards.

    San Fran - the cable car and Alcatraz are both great. I'd recommend booking Alcatraz online in advance, so you just rock up and go rather than queueing for hours.

    In NZ I can't recommend sea kayaking on Milford Sound enough. Simply amazing. Also, Queenstown for crazy adventure sports stuff (cliche'd but still great fun).

    Oh, and try and avoid the ferry between north and south islands, I have never felt so queasy of seen so many people being sea sick.

    In NZ I'd recommend drinking flat white coffee and L&P.

  6. in australia, i'd definitely scuba/snorkel the great barrier reef. it's the most amazing, magical thing i've ever seen. i organize the trip out of port douglas, which is also beautiful. HAVE FUN!