While the travels have become mellower of late, our adventure has also evolved into an increasingly global sojourn that continues to delight at every turn with new destinations and an ever-increasing variety of action attractions. After nine glorious weeks trekking and tramping to all corners of Nepal, Qatar Airways transplanted us from Kathmandu to London. The change proved a real shock to the system … not to mention the sensory overload of returning to one of the world’s premier cities. A ten-day whirlwind tour of England followed as we enjoyed theatre in the West End, test cricket at Lords, boozy pub lunches, a couple of festive birthday celebrations and I even managed to squeeze in a couple of meetings with magazine editors. The London stopover culminated with a long weekend away with family where we stayed in a delightful little lock-keepers cottage in Rye (www.visitrye.co.uk) on the south coast of England.
My sisters (Carolyn and Sue) pulled out all the stops making sure we were treated like royalty, while my brother-in-law ensured we were fed like kings during our UK stay. The braai meat was plentiful and beers were never in short supply – a real treat after all the noodles and rice of the last few dry months!
Next stop was Reykjavik en route to the USA. We selected the very friendly and accommodating Hotel Sunna (www.sunna.is), which boasted an enviable hilltop location within easy walking distance of all the city’s major sights and restaurants. With a mere 72 hours in Iceland we could only scratch the surface and Sunna was the perfect base for our explorations as we concentrated our limited time on the capital and its neighbouring attractions. Spending the best part of a day at the idyllic Blue Lagoon hydrothermal spa (www.bluelagoon.com) was a real highlight, while the thrill of half-day whale-watching and puffin-spotting boat cruises came a close second. Tours with both Elding (www.elding.is) and Special Tours (www.specialtours.is) provided me with my first glimpses of Minke whales, as well as impressive views of thousands of nesting puffins on the islands of Faxafloi Bay.
We arrived in America on June 15th and after a couple of days of feasting and catching up with family, we embarked on a long-awaited and much anticipated three-week road trip out west to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks (www.nps.gov). My quest was to find and photograph wolves and bears in the backcountry while we soaked up the beautiful mountainous scenery. The parks did not disappoint.
Record precipitation in the Rockies this winter meant the higher hiking trails were still buried under deep snow; however, this 300% higher-than-average snowfall forced the animals to congregate in the lower elevations. We were thrilled to see black bears foraging, grizzly bears hunting, wolf and plenty of moose, elk, pronghorn and deer. Absolutely idyllic weather conditions with deep blue skies, warm sunshine and barely a cloud in three weeks ensured we thoroughly enjoyed our time camping and hiking in Wyoming.
American parks are super-easy and affordable to explore with negligible park fees, cheap camping, free backcountry permits for overnight hiking deep into little-visited wilderness areas and wildlife-viewing that could tempt and woo even the most experienced African wildlife connoisseurs.
Next up we collect my sister-in-law from Bozeman airport and drive up to explore Glacier National Park in northern Montana before making our way back to Minnesota and heading east to visit friends and family in New York and South Carolina.