Travel: memorable moments of 2011

This isn’t an original idea for a post – in fact, I stole it directly from Brian Thacker and Peter Moore. (Is that allowed?) It’s also fairly late. Nevertheless, here’s a bunch of my travel highlights from last year.

1. Japan
Whereabouts: Inside a cave, somewhere on the Kunisaki Peninsula, Kyushu
Mood: mind-blown
The eight-day Kunisaki Trek, run by the good people at Walk Japan, takes in misty mountains, hot springs, hidden monasteries and food beyond compare. This photo was taken inside a holy grotto behind Monjusen temple, just after I was ritually beaten on the back and shoulders by a monk wielding an old Buddhist scripture. Later I drank a cup of water collected from a dripping seam in the roof of the cave; the water, I was told, makes you more intelligent, but Gill reckons they were pulling my leg.

2. Thailand
Whereabouts: Pool villa, Banyan Tree, Laguna Phuket
Mood: jittery
Self-portrait taken at 4.45am, having just pinned my race bib to my shirt, a little over one hour before the start of my first half-marathon. As expected, the 21km run was two hours of hell. I know most runners suffer from mental demons at times, but mine were actually taunting me: “This is ridiculous,” they started saying from about the second kilometre. “Why are you running, fatty? This isn’t you. You’re more of a pad-Thai-and-Chang-beer guy. Really, just stop this, would you? Look at that bench over there – so comfy! ” Little pricks.

3. Malaysia
Whereabouts: Outside a sausage shop near Cherating
Mood: gruff, or some other goat-related pun

Stopped for some street food in Kuantan Province, Malaysia: deep-fried bananas (pisang goreng) and awesome* fish sausages (keropok lekor) done two ways, steamed and deep-fried, and served with an explosive chilli sauce. Befriended a herd of goats while waiting for my order to cook. (*Note: Keropok lekor might taste awesome, but they sure don’t look it. In fact, they’re some of the sorriest-looking snags ever to fill a casing. I’ve seen better-looking haggises.)

4. Sri Lanka
Whereabouts: R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Mood: patriotic

Went to Sri Lanka to watch the Aussies take on Pakistan in the World Cup only to discover that the game fell on a Buddhist festival known as Poya – a dry day. (For the record, viewing live cricket while sober is more challenging than it sounds.) To make matters worse, Australia lost. Still a great day out though. Pictured are two members of the vociferous Pakistani cheer squad brandishing a poster depicting their team’s captain Shahid Afridi sitting astride a cannon and taking down a kangaroo with a well-aimed broadside.

5. Singapore
Whereabouts: St John’s Island
Mood: celebratory

The Singaporean coastline isn’t the Caribbean, but with the right people (in this case, a dozen extended family members) and the right provisions (bottles galore of Aussie sparkling), it can make for a fun outing. On Christmas Eve, we hired a boat called the Whatever! and sailed into the Singapore Strait, mooring at an island called St John’s. Roof-jumping shenanigans ensued. (Pictured: cousin Matt, mid-leap.)

Second lot coming soon.

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