This has been a crazy year for me with many highs and lows and no in-betweens. Always full force, never slowing down and never doing things in halves. Add to that my uberklutzness and dorkiness and you got a pretty good idea how exciting it has been for everyone – you included since I could entertain you with my silly stories, teach you things you never considered thinking about regarding the places I’ve visited and threw in a gazillion of illustrative photos for good measure. However, there have been things I have done that were particularly outstanding and I have compiled my top ten list. Have a look and see if you would ever consider doing these. I certainly wouldn’t have thought I’d do them.
My first big adventure took place in the magnificent town Rotorua in New Zealand. A town easy to fall in love with but with a distinct flavour to it – for me that was a slight sense of adrenaline. I am by no means an adrenaline junky and highly doubt that in the near future you will see me anywhere near a bungy rope or sky dive equipment – unless I’m the one documenting someone else’s mission to fall into the abyss. What I did despite this was the ziplining through ancient pristine forests with 20m in height and flights of up to 200m. It was utterly enjoyable and only at one point was I slightly queasy. Turns out, I’m a natural at this.
Swim in a Volcano
Insane, right? I have already climbed a volcano halfway, Mt Etna in Sicily to be exact, but I wasn’t aware that I could swim in one until I did it. It was funny because that day everyone jumped into every super cold natural pool while I refused to dip even my toe into half of them. I am a wuss like that. But the thought of being able to proudly say a random thing like “I have swum in a volcano” intrigued me and so I did. The funny thing was, nobody else did. They thought it was too cold. Now, who’s the wuss?!
Eat Beetroot (and actually Liking It)
I was always a big fighter against the root of all food evil: beetroot. There was never a time in my life when the idea of swallowing this evil veg would not cause a slight gag reflex in me. And then I came to Australia. Beetroot was everywhere. In salads, on sandwiches, even in chocolate cakes!! (recipe will follow soon) When a friend offered me a salad and I happily said yes, you could imagine the look on my face when he produced a batch of sliced beetroot out of thin air and plopped them into the salad, which he handed me. Trying not to be offensive, I took a forkful and was surprised. It didn’t taste as vile as I remembered. Guess my tastebuds really have developed a new tolerance and I actually tend to put beetroot now on my sandwiches as well. Call me officially crazy or Australianised.
Get Kissed by a Kangaroo
Super adorbs, right? Visiting the kangaroo shelter in Coober Pedy, I got to get up close and personal with a couple of baby roos, also called joeys. The owner of the shelter and daddy to the little ones told us this little trick to get them to displays some PDAs. Blow their noses lightly and get real close so that they “kiss” you. It is actually a sign of friendship offer than anything else but this doesn’t lessen the cuteness factor.
Sleep in the Wild underneath the Stars without a Tent
I hated camping with a passion. Ever since my epic failure of “camping” in friends’ gardens, I officially had a huge dislike. Camping was just for people who like to sleep on uncomfortable ground, to get a bladder problem and to be bitten by ants. No siree, count me out. And then I signed up for an outback trip, the ultimate Australian must do. My brain somehow skipped over the print that said sleeping in swags was required and a sleeping bag brought along. I thought that might have been some kind of joke, it certainly would be just once and a lot of other ideas that lessened the dreaded thought swirled around my head. I had to google swag, I was that ignorant. I was educated in the middle of nowhere with red sand between my flip flops and the stars above me while wallabies drove their circles around our camp. I survived. And I liked it. (Wallabies are evil, though! Evil, I tell you.)
Lick an Ant’s Butt
That one took me a whole lot of courage and the persistence bordering on forcefulness by a crazy Italian girl. I was adamant, I would not like someone else’s butt. Even if it’s just an ant. Why would people make me do these things in the first place?! Because these kinds of ants with the green behind were an Aborigine remedy for cold and tasted of lemon and pepper. Should be a good experience for tourists, right? I thought otherwise but finally gave in. It was really like lemon and pepper. And I will not do it again. It was weird. But you can go ahead and traumatize a poor ant, if that’s a thing for you.
Go Surfing in the Desert
That’s right, surfing with a surfboard in the desert. Not just any desert, but the Little Sahara. Before you proclaim me insane, it was sand boarding. And no, I didn’t know such a thing existed until we stood on the whitest dunes in the middle of an island, small waxed boards in our hands. Of course I was eager to try that and after taking photos of more or less successful attempts of my other tour members, I gave it a go myself and it was cool. Don’t ask me if I liked this better than using a sleigh. I am not sure both are quite similar, yet different. One major advantage is the lack of cold and wet. That was really convenient.
Freak Out Big Time because of a Puny Spider
I always sneered at girls who fell into pitch levels only a dog can hear at the mere sight of an eight legged arachnid. It is just a tiny spider for heaven’s sake. What is it going to do? Jump you, paralyse you with their venomous fangs and spin you up in a bundle a la Aragog or the spiders in The Hobbit? Err, no. They are more scared of you than you are of them. That was my thinking before I came to the country with the deadliest creatures in the world. Every spider is out to get you, they might not be dangerous but chances are they will bite you. And it will hurt. Fact is that there is always a spider super close to you. Always.
Many backyard even have redbacks in Australia. Did you know that it is one of the few spiders that is actually harmful to humans? Now picture me sitting on my bed and spying a medium sized spider 1 metre away on the ground. Upon approaching slowly for a better glimpse, it jumped towards me. It jumped! So I did what every reasonable adult would do, I threw something over it and ran to get someone else to deal with it. Turns out it was not dangerous at all. Especially after they just killed it. A no brainer.
Get Sad over not Seeing a Worm
Worms are basically my kryptonite. Do you know Carver from the Disney cartoon The Weekenders? He is ridiculously scared of worms, like Indiana Jones is scared of snakes. Reasonable? When is it ever with fears and paranoias? So why would I ever want to see the largest worm in the world? Because Bill Bryson made it sound like a cool thing in his superb book Down Under that collects all the things you would not want to encounter or happen to you in Australia (including the most boring museums or grossest of worms). But this brilliant yet crazy writer has the gift of making everything sound awesome. Too bad said worms like about 3 metres underneath the earth and the museum was hard to reach. So I had to skip on hearing them dig through the ground by just standing around. It would probably have freaked me out anyway.
Swim with the Fishes
We have already established that I am a super klutz. So me with snorkelling gear and let loose in the ocean didn’t seem like a brilliant idea. And yet I set out to sail for three hours into the middle of the Great Barrier Reef just to try my first time snorkelling ever. The first time I hit the cold waters in my gear I instantly hyperventilated. I am not kidding here. It was shameful. It didn’t get better when I didn’t realize that the goggles could be tightened so as not to drown in them. I did see a lot but in the end I was mostly struggling. My second snorkelling experience was way better but the first one… oh dear.