Another year, another set of travel fantasies. The Time to Wander team members reveal their dream destinations – the places they would most like to have next stamped in their passports.
You couldn’t drag me away from an opportunity to visit China for all the tea in – well, yes, China. Is there tea in China? I have no idea. I’ll have to find out when I get there. For now, I can tell you this: there’s absolutely nothing small and retiring about this burgeoning superpower. Its physical girth and breadth alone make it the fourth largest country in the world by landmass. Its population is an eye-popping 1.4 billion (and growing, despite a decades-long one-child policy). It borders a staggering 14 countries (imagine trying to memorise all their names in primary school geography class!). And it encompasses a profusion of landscapes, from sub-Arctic tundra to tropical rainforest and deserts like the fabled Gobi. It’s gargantuan and intimidating and the language alone makes me tremble in my boots. But it has amazing food. Rich history. Fascinating culture. And pandas. Ever since I outgrew my childhood teddy bear (a panda named Angela) I’ve wanted to visit her place of origin. Take me there in 2019, and a formative part of my imaginative world will finally slot into place.
Although I have visited this remarkable country before – for just two days during a luxury cruise of East Asia in 2004 – I have yearned to return and see more of the “Land of the Rising Sun”. As friends have flocked there to ski, revel in the cherry blossoms, tackle rugged hiking holidays, wallow in a steaming onsen, I have listened with a tinge of jealousy. This year I hope to put that to rest.
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
Keeping it local on my 2019 wish list is a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland, Australia. To again snorkel among the turtles, stingrays and the very cute clownfish aka Nemo. To see rays of sunlight dancing off the brilliant rainbow colours of coral. To feel elated after a day spent swimming in the warm salty ocean and to be in left in awe of this unique underwater wonderland. This is my idea of a bliss – a natural high at any time of the year.
We need to do all we can to protect this beautiful wonderland so that generations to come can experience the beauty that we do now.
A couple of years ago I almost landed a job teaching English in Colombia for six months. It was a government program, starting off in the capital, Bogota, for a couple of weeks, then we had 19 other cities to choose from for our posting. I embarked on a grand 20-stop virtual tour of the country, trying to decide where to go. Cartagena, Colombia’s colonial gem on its Caribbean coast, was the obvious pick, I thought. But wait! Barranquilla’s only a little further along the coast – it’s famous for its carnival and musical vibe. It’d be party, party, party. Hold on! Look at Santa Marta, it’s the gateway to the Tayrona National Natural Park, which looks amazing, and there’s a jungle nearby with a lost city in the thick of it. I could teach and beach there on weekdays and be Indiana Jones on weekends. But they say the north is hot and humid, maybe it would be better to spend five months in one of the lush green cities in the interior where the Andes mountain mists swirl lovingly around you and keep heat rash at bay. Bucaramanga, for instance. It looks really cool. So do half a dozen other little cities – there’s so much greenery in Colombia! Maybe I should head for the coffee-growing areas – all the top travel companies put them on their itineraries nowadays. Hey, there’s the Amazon! I could go to Leticia in the south-eastern bottom corner of the country overlooking the borders of Brazil and Peru – five months on the Amazon shoreline would be amazing! Whoa, it could also be five months of mosquitoes. Maybe I should choose Medellin, which is said to be the most admired and livable city in the country. Oh, it’s so hard! I want to spend time in them all. The whole country looks fantastic.
Alas, the job fell through (long story). But I have had 20 pieces of bait dangled tantalisingly before me, my appetite has been well and truly whet and I really want to bite. TTW
Turtle, Clownfish and Great Barrier Reef images: Tourism and Events Queensland.