As I creep closer to the start of 2016 and the end of a mighty expedition, my mind naturally starts to ponder the future. What mad adventures can I place on the horizon, so I have something to look forward to? What type of travel am I craving at this point in my life?
Well, having spent the past 11 months driving from Singapore to London, I can confidently say I adore the road less travelled. Relatively untouched destinations, like Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Bhutan had me completely buzzing. They offered raw, authentic and unfamiliar cultural experiences, which not only changed me as a person but also the way I viewed the world – for the better.
I’ve come to realise many of the countries which are plagued by negative headlines have the most to give. Their best attributes receive little airtime, which means they’re generally “undiscovered” and remain pure. The locals are often aware of their PR challenges, and will go above and beyond to treat them like royalty – even family. The potential risk that comes with exploring these countries also has it’s own appeal. Maybe it’s just my rebellious streak talking, but I love venturing into the unknown. It makes me feel more alive.
So, as I inspected my globe and wondered where to go next, I started plucking countries from “the shadows”. Couch-surfing through Iran? Maybe next year. Table-dancing in Venezuela? It’s bound to happen at some point. Getting tribal in Papua New Guinea. Yep, that’s the one!
For some reason, I can’t get this tropical gem out of my mind. The pristine dive sites, active volcanoes, gruelling jungle treks, colourful village life, dreamy surf beaches, diverse natural environment, living history and cultural potpourri are just the beginning. Quite simply, Papua New Guinea sounds wild! Here are some of the mind-blowing facts, which have tantalised my adventurous heart.
> Papua New Guinea is one of the few countries, which hugs the equator and still experiences snowfall.
> The world’s only known poisonous bird, the Hooded Pitohui, is native to Papua New Guinea.
> Despite its modest population (approx. 7 million), Papua New Guinea is home to over 850 languages, 12 of which have no known living speakers.
> Until the 1950s, cannibalism and headhunting were rampant in the country. They were practiced as part of rituals to warfare and taking in enemy spirits or powers.
> Until 1933, the Papua New Guinea used seashells as its national currency.
> The country is made up of over 600 islands, many of which are undeveloped and some of which are volcanic.
> Papua New Guinea is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the collision point of several tectonic plates. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis are relatively common.
> Papua New Guinea is home to a wide ridge of mountains known as the Highlands. The rugged territory is so densely forested and topographically forbidding that many of the local villages remained isolated for thousands of years. As a result, Papua New Guinea houses a plethora of unique cultural styles and has become one of the most ethnically diverse countries on earth.
> Papua New Guinea is one of the least explored countries in the world and there are many animal and plant species waiting to be discovered.
> Due to its harsh terrain, there are few roads in Papua New Guinea. Travel around the country is usually by plane – or foot if you’re feeling particularly adventurous!
> Papua New Guinea is one of the few rural countries in the world, with most of its population living in villages and relying on subsistence farming.
Google hasn’t been my only source of enthralling facts about Papua New Guinea. With many of my loved ones having lived in the country, they’ve been able to share some pretty epic tales. My mum often reminds me about the time she slept in a hut and the ceiling was covered with crawling, bird-eating spiders – the size of her hand. OMG!
My fellow wanderlust child, Kayleen, told me about an experience that brought her to tears. While on a remote village tour, she noticed a group of children staring intently at her. Kayleen later discovered they’d never seen a white person before. The villagers were so excited by her presence, they held a traditional feast (moo moo) in her honour.
So it seems, Papua New Guinea is a land of unforgettable travel experiences – the kind that gets your heart pumping, blows your mind and enriches your spirit. Everything is authentic, nothing is contrived, and any touring is practically DIY. Papua New Guinea really is an adventure traveller’s ultimate playground. I’m sold. Book me a ticket and bring on 2016!
What’s your dream destination in 2016? Share your ideas in the comment area below – I’d love to read them. Better yet, write a blog about your perfect adventure broad and enter it into the Travelex Dream Holiday Competition here.