Locations: Coco, La Fortuna, Arenal, Monteverde – Costa Rica // London – England // Singapore // Pulau Tioman – Malaysia
Where do I start?
The sixth month of my travels has been defined by so many singular moments of complete elation that it’s impossible to pick just one to eulogise over here. Salsa dancing in the new year on the streets of Costa Rica, or watching the sunset from my favourite local beach. Teaching my Dad to scuba dive, or the consequent time we spent travelling around Costa Rica together. Soaring through the canopy of a Cloud Forest on zip lines, or squealing in delight as inquisitive coatis sniffed my ankles. Seeing my family and bestest friends after half a year of absence, or enjoying the first hot bath, duvet and cup of tea I’ve had for months. And that’s all before I laid eyes on the paradise that is to become my home for the next chapter of my adventure – the mind-blowingly beautiful Pulau Tioman in Malaysia.
January has taken my breath away on an almost daily basis and has left me with a backlog of anecdotes that are jostling for position in my editorial calendar. After such an eventful month, I can’t wait to share the stories with you but, as each seem to deserve their own post, I’ll whet your appetite with a snapshot of my month in pictures…
The joy of coming home after 6 months away
The day my legs were replaced with baseball bats
One of the perks of having some time off to explore Costa Rica with my Dad is that he’s a ‘doer’. Not one for lazing around on beaches or idling away the day in cafes, my childhood travels were always filled with rigorous route-marches around Europe’s cultural capitals or action-packed bat-and-ball-ing, sand-sculpture-building, body-boarding, all-round-knackering days on British beaches. Despite decades having passed, nothing’s changed, and my Dad still had us up bright and early every day to devour the natural wonders that Arenal and Monteverde had to offer.
One such morning, we awoke with the local roosters (which, as anyone who’s lived in Central America knows, is early) and set out to trek our way up Cerro Chato – the mighty Arenal’s sister volcano which boasts stunning panoramic views and an emerald green lagoon nestled away from the prying eyes of the tourist trail at its peak.
I like a good trek. Having climbed the Gros Piton in St Lucia, trekked the Munti Gunung trail in Ubud, and scaled the heights of the Cameroon Highlands in Malaysia, I felt confident that we’d be up and down this volcano that was dwarfed by Arenal’s humungous bulk in record time.
Mountain hiking in Ubud, Indonesia
I was, it transpires, all too confident. I scoffed at the signs that warned inexperienced climbers against attempting a swift ascent, and for the first half of the upwards trek I skipped blithely over the loose roots and uneven steps with patronising disdain – “is this what all the fuss was about?”
But then the path began to narrow, and the slope began to steepen. Trek became climb, and climb became clamber.
By the time we’d reached the midway point the trail had become a series of mini mountains that we were supposed to use as steps. As I hauled myself up the slope, my muscles were screaming and sweat was pouring down my face with enough alacrity to rival even the most vigorous waterfalls we’d seen so far on our travels.
By the end of the trek I was, literally, a hot mess. I retired to bed that night with my feet throbbing and my quads burning, and awoke the next morning with the distinct impression that my legs had been removed during the night and replaced instead with a couple of baseball bats screwed directly into my hip bone. Getting out of bed presented a challenge, let alone trying to get down stairs with all the grace of an oversized clothes peg. But attempting another nature trail was agony.
I’m glad I was with my Dad as, without his indefatigable fervour for excursions, I’d probably have spent the morning in bed feeling sorry for myself. But thanks to his carrot-and-stick cajouling, I forced my complaining, aching legs to manoeuvre me around sufficiently to drink in more of what the stunning Costa Rican landscape has to offer.
Surprising my sister on her 30th birthday
January gave me the opportunity to be on the delivering end of an unexpected surprise when I turned up unannounced on her doorstep on the morning of her 30th birthday, So much more than just an attempt to wangle an invitation to a party, this moment actually demonstrated to profoundly to me all the reasons why I choose to travel and, perhaps even more importantly, all the reasons why I return home. You can read all about my sneaky surprise here.
2016 has definitely been welcomed in in style and, if January is anything to go by, I’ve got a hell of a year ahead of me. I can’t wait to share it all with you – you can follow along on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or follow me on BlogLovin’ to make sure you never miss a post. Happy 2016 – let’s make it great!