15. Planning the itinerary
Mrs Wilbur tells me that I am a planner and she is undoubtedly correct. I love putting together tours.
This usually entails picking a country, consulting the railway timetables and compiling a spreadsheet. It is then a case of turning plan into reality.
In all my many travels, you can count the organised country tours on one hand. Organising independent travel has been my way for the past thirty years and I hope that this stays this way for many years to come.
My favourite tours have been traversing Peru, Vietnam, Morocco & Indonesia and of course my many train trips in Europe have always been special.
I think Greece & Japan may be up next……….
14. A thirst quenching beer
A day’s physical exertion in a hot, dusty land can only be topped off one way – a long, cold beer, preferably in an ice-chilled glass with some olives, flat-bread and hummus to go with it.
My top three are recalled in an instant:
3) Split in Croatia after a 14km midday hike around the headland, an al fresco lager sat in a cafe overlooking the iconic waterfront.
2) Petra in Jordan after a whole day spent exploring the Nabatean site, a golden litre in the touristy ‘Cave Bar’ hit the spot marvellously despite the kitsch surroundings.
1) Jerusalem after visiting all the old town religious sites and traversing a good part of the walls. This was extra special as we sat on plastic white chairs in a tiny cafe by Lions Gate, in an area that did not advertise the fact it sold beer.
The owner spent a good five minutes rummaging in his chest fridge and eventually triumphantly retrieved two perfectly chilled lagers, which he poured into ice covered glasses. The word beergasm was founded!
As a footnote, despite being a real ale and stout fan, nothing beats a gassy lager in the thirst quenching department in my book!
13. Seeing wildlife in natural habitat
I have been on safari in Kruger and seen three of the big five (I never could understand why a buffalo trumps a hippopotamus), have viewed majestic condors in Peru and witnessed a huge colony of jackass penguins at the Western Cape.
Equally I saw zero tigers on safari in India, sod all whales in Hermanus & Iceland and zilch dolphins in Mauritius.
As thrilling as it was to see what I did and as frustrating as it was to miss out on other times, these were all trips with a mission, carrying with them a sense of expectation and anticipation.
What I am talking about here is when you happen across wildlife totally unexpectedly.
Birds of prey in Switzerland & South Africa, luminous jellyfish in Greece & Norway, hummingbirds in Peru & Jordan, a spider with the leg span of a side plate in Java, a gigantic moth in Vietnam, a bright blue fish in Norway, llama in Bolivia.
One of my biggest ambitions is to see a kingfisher swooping for a fish – that would be really special!