It's a Guy Thing

Travel Guy

Number crunching my extraordinary journeys – Part 3

Welcome back to the final leg of my round the World sprint. Having written this I know that there are a fair few episodes still yet to be written. Especially, those last two continents that I can, so I have found out, elegantly fuse from the southern tip of Argentina. COVID-19 you haven’t beaten me! 

South Africa 

For an Englishman abroad Cape Town is a nineteenth-century colonial bolthole. Much of the architecture reflects that not-so-proud period of the British Empire yet thankfully the people and natural history of this most southerly tip of Africa more than represent what makes this a very extraordinary place. 

Table Mountain dominates the landscape, drawing you in with the peculiar shape as you ponder how that ever happened. Yet for me, the magic was both ancient and contemporary. Having been informed by the hotel receptionist to expect all four seasons in one day, I was memorized when the unique weather patterns caused by the spontaneous flux of air temperature forced the clouds to literally spill over the top of the mountain like a frothy coffee. A seasoned tea drinker, I was nonetheless open-mouthed as this spectacular show silently erupted and brought a beautiful calm to those who watched transfixed. I wondered if this natural phenomenon could be beaten. Then again this is Africa. Of course, it could! 

Boulders Beech gloriously showcased that Mother Nature will occasionally buck the universal trend. Penguins on the beach under the hot sun! How on earth could this habitat support these connoisseurs of the cold? Mind-boggling in the extreme yet so incredibly wonderful. Mouth well and truly open in amazement yet the nose somewhat twitchy since these little creatures seemingly crapped on everything! 

Δ (change) 75% 

(Love) 90% 


Part two of the African adventure was to be the chill time. Having been told that I would immediately smell the spice in the air as soon as I landed I was more than a little annoyed that my ears were blocked, as a reaction to the descent into the wonderfully rickety airport, causing my sense of smell to temporarily desert me. Being whisked off immediately to the luxurious five-star resort gave no time at all to take in this island location. 

Strolling along the golden sands and drinking at the all-inclusive bar until I could see the double of everything certainly chilled me out, but the pull of exploration drew me away from this false oasis. 

Within a few hours, I was feeling horribly claustrophobic, with my head stooped and my heart bursting under my sweat-soaked T-shirt. This experience was truly gut-wrenchingly gruesome. This dark, cruel place had once been a place of human captivity. One hundred and forty-four years earlier this beautiful island was home to one of the last open slave markets and I was located within a holding pen. On this occasion, my mouth was agape not in awe but in shame. What had led to the legitimization of this most grievous of crimes against humanity? Could it ever be repeated? Surely we are too advanced to ever tread that path again? The awful reality is humanity is often terribly flawed. For every incredible human achievement, why do we purposely self-harm? A piece of the human psyche I will never ever understand. 

Δ (change) 85% 

(Love) 90% 


March 1983, twenty years of age, Mayrhofen. Where the boy became a man. A jaw-dropping night of ecstasy in the pleasure dome of our alpine chalet. A climax yes but pretty anticlimactic if the truth be known. On reflection, I think we were both relieved that we had actually done it! I have, however, improved my technique over the years. I know I should have taken more notice of the Alps but losing one’s virginity does tend to shake the hormones about. And yes Julie I still haven’t told a soul. 

Δ (change) 95% 

(Love) 50% 


In 2018 my daughter Lucy set up home in Bondi Beach. The following year I went down under for the first time. Connecting Adelaide to Brisbane via Robe, Port Fairy, Apollo Bay, Melbourne, Sydney, the Northern Territory, Port Douglas, Daintree, and Cairns. This epic adventure stirred many people to comment on the loveliness of traveling to the other side of the planet to see her. To be honest my A-to-Z itinerary was chosen to ensure that I would see the Australian Speedway Grand Prix on a date yet to be confirmed at venues at either end of my trip. The speedway promoters pulled out at the last knockings and although this was a tad disappointing the rest of jaunt pretty much made up for the lack of 500cc motorcycles rippling around a dirt track at around eighty miles per hour with no brakes or gears. 

I had always assumed that Australia would be baking hot all the time. I’m glad I took my coat as I froze my bollocks off in Adelaide and along the Great Ocean Road. Should I have been that surprised? The next landmass south of me was Antarctica. I had to pinch myself every time I thought of that geographical notion. Seeing Kangaroos in the wild for the first time in Myponga was one of those slivers in time that I cherish the most. When old me reconnected with the much younger version which is still part of my personality. My individuality that makes me prone to crying, being stubborn, rebellious, curious, and fascinated. The hallmarks of any healthy four-year-old. I am sure that all adults have this capacity although I am not embarrassed to let it out! I had grown up with ‘Skippy the Bush Kangaroo’ on the television and here I was a stone’s throw away from the extended family but this time I was in their home. Later, I saw Koalas in a tree that arched over the carriageway. No disrespect to this inert cuddly beast but I bet it couldn’t save a kid who had fallen down a ravine. 

Port Campbell National Park, the location of the Twelve Apostles. A collection of isolated limestone monoliths which appear to have been dropped from above into the ocean by the hand of some divine entity. The fact that there are only seven standing of the original eight wasn’t why I dropped my jaw on this occasion. Nor the fact that I had to jostle with the crowd to get the money shot (me in my Notts County shirt) whilst nearly being blown into the water by the gale-force winds, after passing a warning sign that precluded cats from being taken to the unstable cliff site. It brought home to me my legacy. When the next stack falls, which due to water erosion is assured, will my legacy be anywhere to be found? I really hope to be a grandad one day! 

The Sydney Opera House was like the Empire State Building in New York, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, or Edinburgh Castle in that, like these examples, I had seen this iconic building on the television so many times that I kind of guessed what to expect. To be brutally honest when I took in the structure for the first time my initial thought was that it needed a damn good clean! I was expecting to be blinded by a brilliant white light. Yet, later on, looking down from the vantage point of Sydney Harbour Bridge, sunlight was captured and hurled out again by this unique piece of architecture making me blink. Then I thought of the man who had designed this exceptionally beautiful cultural landmark, Jørn Utzon. As can often be apparent within the annals of governmental indifference he was never invited to the grand opening. In 2007, the year before he died, The Sydney Opera House was declared a World Heritage Site. Entangled within this marvel of human ingenuity was another far less endearing human trait – being shafted. Something I would never tire of being revolted at. Yet my next destination showed a cruelty that I had perhaps overlooked ever since I had set foot in this country, still proudly displaying its British heritage on the national flag. 

Standing in front of Uluru, the huge red sandstone rock situated in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, I posed for the customary champagne shot. It truly did change in color as the sun began its decent. Growing up I had known this incredible natural phenomenon by a different name: Ayers Rock. Named so in 1873 by William Goose, an explorer born in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, England, after Sir Henry Ayers, the then Chief Secretary of South Australia. Clustered nearby the throngs of tourists were several Aboriginal traders selling paintings and trinkets. One hundred and twenty years after imperialism had stolen its identity the rock had reclaimed its original indigenous name from the Pitjantjatjara language which in a wonderful act of defiance has no English translation. Bullies never prosper, yet it became painfully clear to me that the Aboriginal people, the true Australians, had been brutally betrayed and made to feel like a lower class of citizen within their own homeland. 

Later that night feeling a tad under the weather, mainly due to the onset of a dodgy stomach, I was witness to one of the most stunning experiences of my entire life. Certainly, more orgasmic than Austria (sorry Julie). A pitch-black sky yielded the most incredible cosmic array which our charismatic escort pinpointed in turn with a laser pen. The Milky Way. Our own galaxy. Truly and utterly mesmerizing. This has to be on everyone’s bucket list. Then, as if this experience couldn’t get any better, a haze of distant light (only a mere 200,000 light-years or so away) was located. The Magellanic Clouds. Two irregular dwarf galaxies. The light that was hitting my retinas had commenced its journey towards earth when the first Homo sapiens evolved in Africa. My jaw was almost dislocated. Never again would I ever get stressed for being a few minutes late. 

A few days later, even the Great Barrier Reef couldn’t compete. I had been truly humbled by the natural beauty we are blessed to inhabit. I wish we could remember this sometimes. 

Δ (change) 95% 

(Love) 90% 


Based in Reykjavík, the quirkiness of this country became apparent as refuge from the blistering cold that howled down the main street was secured in the Penis Museum. Further afield, and the location of where the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America met was identified by the knowledgeable guide. Mr Lanham my secondary school Geography teacher would have been mightily proud. 

The contrast of extreme cold and heat was best typified in the Blue Lagoon where when swimming in water warmer than my bath, heated by geothermal currents emanating deep from the volcanic bowels of this island nation, I was surrounded by glaciers. Standing up for any longer than a few seconds and my nipples stood prouder than the wheel nuts on a heavy goods vehicle. 

But it was nature that overwhelmed me yet again. Frozen to the core in Gardur I squinted into the night sky. The dramatic shots that I had seen numerous times in travel magazines never did materialize, although looking slightly to the right then left allowed my straining eyes to detect a hue of green. The Aurora Borealis, colloquially known as the Northern Lights. WOW! This universe was the best show on earth! 

Another reminder, if I needed it, that I am one lucky human being! 

Δ (change) 90% 

(Love) 90% 

And finally, my true love… 


India was truly life-changing, and this is reflected within much of my writings. If my personal travel guide has entertained you then please check out my reflections of this truly majestic country. Google will, as always, point you in the right direction! 

Once the pandemic is over I will return and ideally I would love to spend the twilight years of my life living there. Cumulatively my values of change and love occupy top spot in my personal list of extraordinary destinations. 

Δ (change) 100% 

(Love) 100% 

In all, I have reviewed only fifteen countries on my present travel list. These were the ones that nudged to the top of my personal list as a consequence of their impact on me. Equally some stop-off points were no more than just that. Kenya, for example, where I never left the airport, yet to be fair had the most amazing frozen yogurt in a cone ever! 

Personally, travel is like an enlightening rubber band. It has continually stretched my consciousness, sometimes in an instant. At other times after a period of reflection. But one thing is for sure, my mind never returns to its original shape and that is pure, enchanting, and captivating magic! Thank you for accompanying me! 

© Ian Kirke 2021