On Memorial Day weekend I went to Governor Dodge State Park in Wisconsin with a few friends to do some hiking. It was my first trip out of Chicago since coming home from New Zealand and I was long overdue for some greenery. We braved the mosquitos and walked around the Stephens’ Falls area, which is an easy loop that has a storage houses and other remnants from when the Stephens family occupied the land in the late 1800s. The namesake waterfall is tranquil, and the track is well maintained. There are many wildflowers, such as the Virginia waterleaf, daisies, dog roses, wood violets, and dandelions.
The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens is located in Delray Beach, FL and is a nice spot to relax and experience some nature. The gardens are lovely and the museum features work by Japanese artists. There is also an exhibit for children about traditional life in a Japanese home and also a variety of different types of gardens, showing how zen gardens have evolved. If you are so inclined, you can feed the koi fish in the pond as well. Try to go on a weekday when it’s not so crowded so you can get the full peaceful benefit of the environment.
Following my experiences at Cradle Mountain I was excited to take in more of the national parks of Tasmania. Luckily, Lake St. Clair and Mt. Field are just south of the mountain and the drive is puntuated by the lovely mining towns of Rosebery, Zeehan, Strahan and Queenstown.
Lake St. Clair is Australia’s deepest lake and Mt. Field National Park is the oldest national park in Tassie. Both parks have several walking trails – as do most in Tasmania – and of course there are loads of waterfalls and species of wildlife to take in.
After our Mary River cruise we finally made it to Kakadu National Park, a sprawling 20,000 square km area (that’s half the size of Switzerland!) whose geological history extends millions of years and human history of over 40,000 years. Of course you can spend months exploring the park and not see everything, but the tour I was on just hit two highlights: the rock art of Ubirr and the swimming holes at Gunlom Falls. Both were extraordinary and I hope to make it back to Kakadu during my months working in Darwin. During the wet season the waterfalls are even more stunning and the wildlife is even more abundant.
I didn’t get to attend as many Meetup hikes with WCOA as I would have liked, but I did manage to join a Thursday evening hike in Newtown to the Prydden Brook Falls. It was the day after an epic rainstorm, so the falls were churning and the river was high. There were some beautiful flowers along the trail and the view of Lake Zoar was stunning. The Meetup group was pretty small – only 4 hikers and 2 dogs – but it was lovely company and the pace was exactly right.
All-in-all it was a wonderful, crisp day.
My year (plus some) trip over three continents has finished and I’m still processing everything I saw and learned! I visited 20 countries in total. Here’s a list of each country with something I will remember about it, as well as a gallery of photos which hadn’t previously made it onto the blog.
- Peru: Amazing Incan ruins and yummy ceviche
- Bolivia: Unbelievable mountain views in the Yungas
- Argentina: Hiking and practicing my Spanish with locals
- Chile: The best street art I’ve ever seen
- Iceland: Gorgeous scenery and great food
- Germany: Beer gardens!
- Austria: All of the beautiful architecture, and staying with my friend Noemi
- Hungary: Staying with my good friend Dori and her mom
- Serbia: Eating lots of yummy meat and hiking in National Park Tara
- Romania: The kindest people in the world
- Bulgaria: Gorgeous views by the Black Sea
- Turkey: Hot air ballooning!
- Hong Kong: Hiking on Lantau Island with my friends Jane and James
- The Philippines: Kind people and interesting barbecue
- Vietnam: My amazing birthday trek in SaPa
- Laos: Learning about the Secret War
- Cambodia: Biking around Angkor Wat
- Thailand: Scuba diving!
- Malaysia: Eating my heart out in the food capital of Asia
- Singapore: Marveling at the modern architecture and efficiency of the city state
I spent 74 days in Thailand, which beats my previous record from Bolivia! My budget was all over the place, as food, accommodation, and transport were extremely cheap up north and only moderately cheap down south, but then I added on loads of scuba diving, some Thai language lessons, a cooking class, and renewing nearly my entire wardrobe. Ultimately I panned out at an average of $35 per day including everything, which still isn’t too bad!
I visited 8 places: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Sukothai, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Khao Sok, and Ao Nang. I absolutely fell in love with Chiang Mai and would consider going back to live there semi-permanently in the future. It’s a bit of a cliched expat center, but for good reason!