Terry's Top 6 Travel Moments
See Virtual Tours of South America
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I don't know if you ever played it, but a little while ago there was a vogue for making lists of favourites. It was the sort of thing someone would start at a party, or on a long journey - or waiting at the airport for the delayed journey just to start! Someone would say 'Your top five Hollywood westerns' or 'best three Broadway musicals' or 'the ten greatest novels' and everyone would have to prepare their list - and submit it to the scorn and arguments of the others. "You can't leave out 'High Noon'", that kind of thing. Quite fun, totally meaningless, impossible to choose down to the required number - and very good for reminding you of past pleasures you'd almost forgotten.
My family are great holiday-goers and at a get-together recently (on holiday in Wales, in fact) we started doing it for the five all-time great holiday experiences. Not whole holidays, just single events of the kind you never expected to have, will never ever forget, and that leave undying images in your mind that no photograph can possibly match. I've written one or two travel bits for Hearabouts and thought the selection might make an article in itself. Of course I couldn't get it down to five … so there's six; and although I can just about choose the top one, I couldn't begin to put them all in order so here at random is my own best-ever-travel list.
We start in South America, in Ecuador, which is a fascinatingly diverse country that goes from a beautiful Pacific coastline, up to the soaring peaks of the Andes (including the world's highest volcano), then down again, deep into the Amazon basin with its incredible rain forest - and that's where my first experience is set. The Cuyabeno River is one of the countless tributaries of the Amazon and our guides led us along jungle pathways, including a tricky elevated boardwalk section, to a pre-built camp site by the river. After swimming - perfectly safely, we were assured, with piranha fish - we settled on an open wooden platform for the night. It was almost impossible, in fact, to settle. Even as it grew dark, the jungle made its presence felt. Bird-sounds, animal noises, river splashes, wafts of strange and powerful scents and smells … and each time you opened your eyes to try to see what it was, brilliant stars discernible through the towering trees. And we were lying there, open to it all, just in lightweight sleeping bags.
When I woke in the morning, it was to the sight of an enormous, spectacularly patterned butterfly a few inches from my nose, gently waving its gorgeous wings as it feasted on the sugar where we'd spilt some drops of soft drink.