2015 was a special year, divided between a teaching job and pure adventure. It began in China and ended in Thailand, leading me through five asian countries, all pretty different from each other. As if it was not enough to make this past year stand out, it also witnessed my 25th birthday!
Here are the best travel moments of my trip in 2015:
To swim in the Tilicho lake (and the Annapurna circuit)
The Annapurna circuit is one of the most prized great hikes of this world, and possibly the busiest. And there are several reasons for this. In fact, many of those who have already done the circuit often describe it as an extremely varied trek. With reason.
Each day on the trail offers unique villages and incredibly different landscapes. From the jungles around Bhulbhule to the the Thorung La pass (5416m), through the Mustang’s desert and the green areas around Upper Pisang, hiking around the Annapurna continually surprise and amaze.
One of its highlights is the Tilicho lake which – at 4949m above sea level – is one of the highest lakes in the world. One of the most beautiful too (according to my completely biased opinion), surrounded by white peaks and glaciers.
For the rest… take a look at the picture above!
Setting foot in North Korea
In May 2015, while I was teaching in Beijing, I had the chance to discover another tiny part of our planet. An unexpected opportunity offered by two friends studying Mandarin who had met the right person.
A week later, we set foot in North Korea and visited a fragment of this incredibly isolated dictatorship. Speaking with one of them, contemplating the gigantic façade made up for tourists, appreciating the flaws of this falsehood and peeking in it’s cracks…
In short, in 2015, I went to the most closed country in the world!
Climbing a multipitch in Tonsai
To climb multipitch means to climb many routes, one above the other (explained a little bit more here). It’s in Tonsai that I had the chance to be approached by a Brazilian who was looking for a – slightly, at least – experienced partner to climb one.
Five routes (a 6a + and four 6b), four or five hours of climbing on a fantastic cliff studded with stalactites, columns, overhang sections and slab ones, and all kinds of holds. .. This was one of the most eclectic and original climbs I have ever made.
If we add to all this the heat of the tropics and breathtaking scenery, it has everything needed to ensure a great time!
An unforgettable party with strangers (and a snake)
Shortly after leaving my job in Beijing (mid-August), I went to Yangshuo, a touristic village in a wonderful region of southern China. I arrived there with a Canadian guy met the day before (in Guilin) and after an hour of bamboo rafting on the river, we decided to look for food. But the world is small and full of coincidences, right? So as we were walking, we spotted a group of travelers I had met in Zhangjiajie a week earlier. A French, a Brazilian, two Spaniards and a Poles therefore join us.
Having all finished our meal, I offer them to go to this hostel/bar where they serve… a live snake. An hour later, as I hoped, I had the chance to experience something completely new: to drink snake blood and to eat its still beating heart… A bit morbid, but still fascinating!
At this point the night was just beginning, and the other Canadian and I decided to storm the beerpong table. Several hours later, filled with laughters, alcohol and competition, we won the Beerpong Champions title.
An intense, abnormal, authentic and spontaneous evening that obviously has to be ranked among my unforgettable moments in this trip.
Deep water soloing in Tonsai
Deep water soloing (DWS) is the activity of climbing in swimsuit (with nothing more than climbing shoes) over a body of water deep enough to be able to fall without hurting yourself – or not too much. And I had the chance to do it in one of the best places in the world.
Under Thailand’s sun, on some cliffs of incredible quality, working on exciting routes and stressed by the lack of security perched up high, the adrenaline rush was pretty intense.
Saying goodbye to my students in Beijing
My year in China was rich in emotions, encounters and new experiences. And at the heart of it all: my students, all cuter than each other. Because even before learning to love teaching, I learned to love them. These tiny human beings who, by a spontaneous hug or a heartfelt smile, knew so well how brighten a day.
To say goodbye was certainly not easy, but to realize how much they loved me – and how I loved them – was a deeply moving moment. Seeing a mother shed a few tears on hearing my decision to leave and talking to all those parents who hoped to see me return to Beijing a few months later was more than just a nice moment. It was real.
And I miss them quite a bit, I must say…
Island Peak (or the Three Passes Trek)
Very few moments in
the last year of my life were so… “complete” as my ascent of Island Peak (6189m) was. A unique physical and mental test, a first contact with mountaineering and a sea of landscapes that could define the infinite and the grand.
The realization of a dream, itself embedded in the realization of another dream project: the Three Passes Trek.
* I could have easily add a few moments to this list. However, I decided to keep them for another text, apparently opposed to it, but surprisingly similar… To be continued.