Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: mega!

Last day of the year, and newspapers around the world are full of what I think should be called their Smiling Dead Spreads: a chequerboard of cheerful faces that would probably have been smiling somewhat less chirpily had the subjects foreseen the last use of that photo. Fortunately, I have no candidates for a similar spread of my own - even the old cat made it through another year - so, this New Year's Eve, I'm going for an overall theme.
Last year was crazy for travel: 2013 was much more restrained - but it was quality stuff, and there was a link between the overseas trips that is, in every sense, mega. The Silversea cruise along the Alaskan coast was superb and to be thoroughly recommended for its comfort and service; the scenery was magnificent, the weather fortunately brilliant and the towns we called at quirky and colourful. But it was the animals that stole the show: the bears, the whales, the sea-otters. We saw so many of them, but they were a thrill to encounter, each one. And the first two species are, literally, megafauna.
Africa, though, has megafauna er, for Africa. Having grown up in a land of birds learning my letters from an alphabet that, tantalisingly, began with A for ape and ended with Z for zebra, it was truly a glorious treat finally to be in the home of elephant, hippo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, buffalo and, of course, rhinoceros. To see all of those animals just wandering around, loose, as though they lived there, was immense; and to stand less than 30 metres away from a black rhino, as a species treading the earth for some 50 million years, was awesome in its truest sense. So though there were trips around New Zealand too, with wild kiwi, and dolphins and albatross; and tramping and horse-riding and cycling, it was Africa that stole the show this year, closely followed by Alaska. Because of the animals. More, please?

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