What? Highlights of 2016? What happened to this year? I still remember how I slept through the new year’s celebrations on the 31st of December 2015 (because I’m an old soul), and here we are at another year end yet again and whether or not I’ll wait for the clock to tick from 23:59 over to 00:00 on the 1st of January 2017 is debatable.
Every year I reflect on the year that was; the highlights, the lessons, the places and the people I’ve met along the way. This year is no different and even though the highlights of 2016 will most probably not earn enough mileage points compared to the highlights of 2015 – the year of 22 flights, 63 beds and 7 countries – this year completely changed direction at the speed of lightning and I had no choice but to buckle up.
In the spirit of keeping track of things and counting like last year, 2016 can be summed up in: 14 flights, 41 beds and 2 countries. But part of the highlights of 2016 I also decided to count the words I wrote this year – the sarcastic scribbles and the serious stories from my blog to pieces for publications to copywriting for websites; I was really eager to count but got tired and stopped counting at 181 743 words.
Counting is hard word. I mean, work. Counting is hard work.
I wrote like there is no tomorrow, my alarm clock knocked me out of bed 04:00 in the morning, often 03:00, I said goodbye to weekends and free time and I learned that where there is a will, there is a way. ALWAYS. Unless you have to count words late at night. And while my passport did not nearly get stamped as often as last year, the moments, choices, stepping stones and opportunities of 2016 fill me with endless gratitude.
No passport stamp, experience or destination will ever manage to beat the biggest highlight of 2016: writing. In the past, the idea of writing for publications was only a distant dream that I thought I might never get to, but looking back at 2016 I can only smile. And while writing, dabbling with words, and putting myself out there is still one of my biggest fears it is also my biggest joy.
So before I start counting or quoting Ernest Hemingway, here are a few travel highlights of 2016.
Travel Highlights of 2016
I fell hook, line and sinker for Gansbaai after the first sunset; then a walk to the caves followed, a trip to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary and an eco boat cruise. I tasted just enough of Gansbaai’s salty air to know that I’ll definitely return.
There is more to Oudtshoorn than caves and ostriches. The Meerkat Tour blew me away and while lions and elephants gave me a fair share of good wildlife memories, the meerkats of De Zeekoe, one of South Africa’s small five, delivered one incredible experience as well.
Nelson Mandela Bay
Home. I returned home after being away on and off for nearly a decade and the Bay (yes, that includes my favourite: Addo National Park) truly became a place I could call home again, now more than ever. I rediscovered old childhood favourites like Cuyler Manor Museum where Rosie still works to this day (30 years and counting) and stumbled upon something new, something old and something blue.
De Hoop Nature Reserve
My visit to De Hoop Nature Reserve forced me into a digital detox and a river stood between me and good old wi-fi. But all was forgiven and forgotten as nature took over in all its glory.
I saw the Langkloof’s apple-Formosa-peak-protea face twice this year and still haven’t written much about it because I’ve only scraped the tip of the Tsitsikamma mountains. A trip to Twee Riviere, Joubertina, Kareedouw, Louterwater and Misgund – the Eastern Cape’s section of the Langkloof – will without a doubt happen again this year.
There was just no end to the West Coast adventures this year and some, like the Darling Stagger where the force of wind joined me, I could explore in slow motion while other trips were a quick in and out. A few of my favourites include exploring Darling on foot (plus getting a glimpse of how they make beer at Darling Brew), Thali Thali Game Lodge, West Coast Fossil Park, Club Mykonos in Langebaan and Piekenierskloof close to Citrusdal, home to Carmien Tea.
I’ve spent a quarter of 2016 in Cape Town this year where, that mountain did some loud talking alongside the noon gun which gave me tiny heart attacks in October almost every single day. The city, sunsets, street art, old architecture, penguins and peeking at the hustle from Table Mountain’s kitchen counter top were a few of my Mother City highlights of 2016.
Gamtoos is my sunset spot; it’s the place where I spend quality time with family, get a daily Knysna Lourie visitor, drink in the peace and get upset with people disturbing the noisy silence of nature with blaring music. It’s also the perfect place to “just drive” and explore the rest of the Gamtoos Valley, its farm stalls in Loerie, Hankey and Patensie and of course, get lost in Baviaanskloof.
Read: Gamtoos Valley, just drive.
Sri Lanka was one of my best Asian travel experiences yet due to its friendly people, ease to travel around and the diversity of its landscapes from tea plantations, to waterfalls, to ruins to beaches. Plus it was an actual vacation.
It’s the final countdown: Time to say goodbye 2016!
And that’s a wrap 2016; you had your sad moments filled with flippen heartache and for that I want to punch you in the throat, but you also had your good moments, and for that I want to kiss you on the cheek. Twice.
The biggest lesson from 2016 is that life is too short to keep yourself busy with unnecessary shit; life is meant to be lived. Fully. 100%.
2017 is on the horizon and I’m already forming lists in my head of things I want to do in the new year; not a bucket list, more a me-list of things I want to do in the year to reduce my screen time, have actual weekends, go on digital detoxes, get back to the root of things, spend quality time with loved ones and say no.
Dear reader, I want to thank you from the bottom of my caffeinated heart for taking the time to read my blog. Thank you for the comments and the love on social media, thank you for allowing me to talk about toilets and write letters to mountains and airports. Without you reading this blog I’ll be right back at square one where only my parents read this blog (and they’ve been pretty busy lately so I don’t know if I can even count on that). This writing-thing is really a passion; it is something I’ve dreamt about doing and feared doing for the last 25 years and somehow the puzzle pieces are coming together. I still don’t know what the bigger picture looks like, but with you reading my scribbles the colours are vivid and something beautiful is forming in front of my eyes.
May you wave 2016 adieu with a smile on your face, gratitude in your heart and a hop, skip and jump in your step and may 2017 be filled with more adventures, untold discoveries, passionate living, deeper conversations and brighter photo-moments. The world is your oyster, go explore; your town is waiting, your province is calling, your country is waving a warm welcome.