Bucket List

Monday, 5 August 2013

Travelling the Trans-Mongolian train from Beijing to Moscow last month put the final tick on a bucket list I drew up in 1992. I don’t think the expression ‘bucket list’ had been created back then, but the list I drew up had 15 ‘must do’s’ on it and 13 of them I enjoyed over the next 10 years. It took another decade to knock off the final two:

1. 1992 – Angkor Wat – it was just after Cambodia started to reopen, probably a bit early since two groups of backpackers were kidnapped and killed by the Khmer Rouge in the next couple of years
2. 1993 – Birdsville Track – the best known Australian outback track, it was our second attempt to drive the track, the first time it was flooded, a rare but not unknown occurrence. When we eventually did drive the Birdsville track it quickly became something of an anti-climax, because we then met up with some people in Birdsville and made a much more interesting crossing of the Simpson Desert, a trip you should only make in a small convoy since there is no fuel, water or other support for 5 or 6 days.

▲ Across another Simpson Desert sand dune

3. 1993 – Ferrari – the only ‘get something,’ rather than ‘do something or go somewhere’ item on my list. I bought a Ferrari and owned it for 7 years. I never went very far in it but I did go very fast – I drove it on a number of racing tracks and, even faster (much faster), I was driven around one of those tracks by a real racing driver – John Bowe who twice won the Bathurst 1000. I joked that the Ferrari kept me fit, it never seemed right to drive it on short trips, so I ended up running or taking my bike much more often.

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4. ▲ 1994 – USA coast to coast – we drove San Francisco-Boston in a baby blue 1959 Cadillac. And then back again, often following Route 66 and hitting every rock & roll highlight from Buddy Holly’s grave and the Cadillac Ranch (both in Texas) to Woodstock (in New York).

5. 1995 – Mt Blanc Circuit – the walk that goes around the Mt Blanc massif, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland. I did the walk with my son Kieran.
6. 1997 – Milford Track – probably New Zealand’s best known walk, famous for its rain and I certainly had that on my walk.
7. 1998 – Mt Kailash Circuit – one circuit of Tibet’s famous pilgrimage mountain wipes out all the sins of your current lifetime. With a group of friends we walked for a week through western Nepal to the Tibet border and then continued on to Kailash.

1998 - Mt Kailash circuit - loading a yak 542
▲ Mt Kailash campsite – loading a yak

8. 1998 – Lhasa –and on the same trip I visited Lhasa in Tibet.
9. 1999 – Damascus –the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, I’d always wanted to walk the Biblical Street Named Straight and Syria as a whole was a delight. Shame about the current on-going disaster.
10. 2000 – Truk Lagoon – a diving trip to the sunken fleet of Japanese ships from WWII, mind-blowing diving, I loved it. We dived five times a day (twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, once at night) and twice I went down past 50metres, as deep as I’ve ever dived.

2000 - Gunbarrel Highway 27111. 2000 – Gunbarrel Highway – another classic Australian outback 4WD trip. This one was with next door neighbour Don Whitford, we took his 20-year-old Toyota Hilux, drove it across the Nullarbor and then back along the Gunbarrel, meeting lots of people, seeing lots of wildlife and fantastic scenery, having a great time. Afterwards we walked the Tanami Track out of Alice Springs.

12. 2001 – Hinchinbrook Coast – a beautiful three day walk along the coast of Hinchinbrook Island off the northern Australian coast. A boat drops you off one end and another boat picks you up the other end. I did it by myself and had a wonderful time.

13. 2001 – Annapurna Circuit – the three week walk around the Annapurna mountains in Nepal, probably the classic walk in the Himalaya and it met all the expectations. Maureen and I had our 30th wedding anniversary during the walk. So I’d put 13 ticks on my bucket list, but then somehow it took more than a decade before I added number 14.

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▲ Our 30th wedding anniversary came up one day on the walk, the Sherpas made us a cake

14. 2012 – Karakoram Highway – from northern Pakistan across the Karakoram Pass into China and up to Kashgar
15. 2013 – Trans-Siberian Express – and finally the last tick although technically it was the Trans-Mongolian not Trans-Siberian. Last month Maureen and I took the train from Beijing to Moscow.

Of course I’ve subsequently drawn up more bucket lists and put more ticks on them. Here are 5 I still intend to get around to:

1. Sail on the Aranui – the French-Polynesian cargo-passenger vessel that regularly sails from Tahiti to the Marquesas (where Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel died).
2. Visit the Yemen – the architecture and the people have always fascinated me.
3. See polar bears – at Churchill in Canada or on the Norwegian island of Svalbard?
4. Visit Sitakunda – the ‘ship-wrecking beach’ near Chittagong in Bangladesh
5. Walk the Camino Santiago – walking the ‘Way of St James’ to Santiago de Compostela has been a hit with everybody I know who has done it.