Considered one of the best bush walks on the South Island, the Charming Creek Walkway is gorgeous. The abandoned railway line goes through vegetation that grows over the path to make a tunnel, across wooden bridges and a 37 metre-long suspension bridge. From the bridge and beyond Mangatini Falls comes into view, thundering into the river and reflecting in a pool.
Taking the boat from Sittwe to Mrauk U in Myanmar is an excellent chance to see life along the river. The ferry leaves just as the sun is rising through the mist; seagulls follow the boat as it makes its way from the dock up the river, hoping it will churn up a tasty snack. Cargo and fishing boats pass, some loaded down until they’re barely peeking out of the water, and stops at villages along the way make an interesting diversion.
The Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is one of New Zealand’s most popular, and I can see why. Winding between towering mountain peaks covered in snow, the track is easy, relatively flat, and well-maintained. Only taking a few hours, it’s one of the easiest ways to get to the spectacular alpine views New Zealand is famous for. No strenuous uphill hike, no climbing, no helicopters needed.
There were two choices for going back up to the road: the ‘safe path’ or the ‘ladder’. While the right choice seems fairly obvious, please understand that the safe path meant retracing our steps and going a very long way out of our way just to get back to the restaurant that was essentially right above us. Tiger Leaping Gorge was really about to test my fear of heights.
I sighed as once more I yanked my shoes off before making my way slowly into the water. Stepping carefully, I made my way to the other side of the river, trying not to let the current knock me over. I emerged from the water onto the muddy bank and jammed my feet into my shoes. I’d given up on socks three crossings ago and there was no point in bothering to lace my shoes up tight, because just ahead I could see the trail descending to the river once again.
I followed the short loop track along a boardwalk, between trees hung with moss and jungle-like ferns, the sunlight from above barely visible, the green of it all barely penetrating the dark mood the forest creates. And then, finally, I reached the Tōtaras. The trees towered above me, their hulking bodies dwarfing my existence, making me think of all the changes they must have witnessed in New Zealand over the past millennium.
In my travels around the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico I got completely hooked on the food. I loved the simple but vibrant flavours, the freshness of ingredients, and the versatility of the simple tortilla! This meant that by the time I got to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas state I was actively searching for someone to teach me how to make authentic Mexican food. And I found it!
The 10km Coromandel Walkway connects Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay, right at the tip of the Coromandel peninsula. It has ups and downs, fields and forests, beaches and exposed cliffs, and a dramatic viewpoint. It’s a million shades of green and blue in the trees and bushes and grass and water and sky. There are cows and more cows, plus lots of my favourite NZ birds.
Imagine hiding out in the mountains, without electricity, running water, or a consistent food supply. It’s damp and chilly at times, and your hut is made only of thin slabs of wood and a thatched roof. Surrounding your hideaway are soldiers sent by your country’s military to ‘eliminate’ you. You live in a state of caution, immediately alert to sounds from outside of your camp, speaking only in whispers lest you give yourself away. And you’re doing this for more than a year.
I climbed up the steep grassy Fantail Bay track until I was out of breath and my legs were protesting. But I kept going, thinking that the view from the top would be the perfect reward for this short but punishing climb. Then I reached the end of the track. In a forest. With no view. But the Fantail Bay Track redeemed itself once I turned around and went back the way I’d come.