Sydney Bridge Climb: is it worth it?

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The Sydney Bridge Climb is one of Australia’s most iconic activities – but is it worth the cost and effort? We braved some boiler suits to go and find out

The Sydney Bridge Climb, if nothing else, is a lesson in sheer forcefulness. When its creator, Paul Cave, first put forward proposals for the climb, regulators replied with a list of 60-something reasons why it simply wasn’t possible.

Cave’s proposed blue suits would distract drivers, they said. Dropped items would cause accidents, and climbers would fall and hurt themselves. The list went on.

Phillip Island Penguin Parade: the day we saw 613 penguins

The Plus seating area offers the best view of the penguinsPenguins.org

We visit the Phillip Island Penguin Parade in Australia to see if it’s worth the hype

There is a palpable tension in the air. It reminds me of the atmosphere at a standing-only gig just before the doors open: everyone acts calm but then rushes forward in a desperate attempt to secure a good spot, pushing people like me – short, slight, little – to the outer margins of the room.

Needless to say, I hate standing-only gigs.

Things to do on Kangaroo Island, Australia

We chose not to visit Kangaroo Island Wildlife ParkAtlas & Boots

From charming wildlife to soaring sand dunes, we share the best things to do on Kangaroo Island in Australia

Kangaroo Island doesn’t get much billing among the famous sights of Australia. There’s Uluru of course and the Great Barrier Reef and the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but Kangaroo Island remains less known – perhaps no bad thing.

Home to around 60,000 kangaroos, this island has more roos than it does people. The roads are straight and empty and the pace of life is slow: a little bit prairie, a little homegrown.

Uluru Rock Tour: that time we camped in the outback

Uluru in the red centre of Australia is worth the tripAtlas & Boots

A 1,500km detour and two nights’ camping with spiders, snakes and dingoes – would the Uluru Rock Tour prove worth the pain?

Uluru, that iconic behemoth, that clay-red monolith, that sun-scorched sentry… that epic pain in the backside.

Yes, it’s big and, yes, it’s special, but bloody hell it’s far away. Almost right in the middle of Australia, Uluru is a major endeavour. Nearly every other sight in the country is scattered along the coast, which means planning a trip to Uluru involves a hefty detour from the rest of your route.

To Penguin Island from Perth, Australia

We visit Penguin Island from Perth to hunt for Australia’s most adorable creatures.

I was determined to see penguins in Australia. My hunt for penguins in the Galápagos was only just successful with a one-minute sighting after three days of searching. I hoped that Australia would deliver a closer encounter.

And so we headed to Penguin Island from Perth a day after arriving in Australia (following a 24-hour delay no less).

I’ve officially travelled the world. Here’s what I’ve learnt

lessons from travelling the world

Seven years ago, I asked a question on Quora: what qualifies as having travelled the world? It prompted an interesting discussion there and, later, here on our own site. We decided that it wasn’t the number of countries visited or borders crossed that mattered, but the number of Risk map regions you had seen. The logic was that visiting half of the 42 Risk regions would offer a better sampling of the world.

Salt of the earth: visiting Lac Assal in Djibouti

interesting facts about Djibouti Lac AssalAtlas & Boots

We visit Lac Assal in the Afar Depression where three diverging tectonic plates have created some of the strangest sights we’ve seen

Lac Assal in Djibouti is wickedly deceiving. At first, it appears as a glorious expanse of blue-green water and blinding white sand, easily mistaken for a Maldivian beach. Behind the facade, however, lies a painful lesson: the vast white plain is not sand at all but salt: jagged shards that bristle on skin and leave you itching for water.

Where are the female adventurers?

female adventurer lead image

The TV explorer has become an archetype of sorts: dashing, intrepid, personable – and nearly always male. We ask where are the female adventurers?

“Have you been watching Walking the Himalayas?” asked Peter’s father. “The presenter in it reminds me of Pete.”

“Tall, dark and handsome?” I asked. “Well, I can certainly get on board with that.”

Later that week, I started the TV series as advised, noting with amusement that presenter Levison Wood (pictured below) did indeed look a bit like Peter.

We watched with interest until five minutes in when Levison makes a meal of crossing a mere river.

Swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti

interesting facts about Djibouti whale sharks in djibouti close upAtlas & Boots

Swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti promised to be the highlight of our trip – but would it live up to the hype?

I’m a pessimist and Peter’s the opposite, so while he was brimming with anticipation at the prospect of swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti, I sat dolefully in a corner wondering if a) we would even see a whale shark and b) if I would be able to keep up with it.

Does my bruise look big in this? The trouble with an outdoors lifestyle

In planning a trip to the home of bungee, Kia laments the effects of an outdoors lifestyle

This year, I turn 36 and if it hadn’t been for the dismaying discovery that cellulite also creeps across stomachs, I may have continued my diet of sugary snacks and drinks forever. Instead, I’m becoming a little more mindful about the things I eat. There are still desserts and ice creams, but a little less all round.

The fact that staying in shape will now take more effort is not a huge surprise; after all, beauty magazines have been telling me so for about two decades now. What is surprising is having to think about how I treat my body in other ways.

Diving in Djibouti: my first wreck

We get comfortable in the water while diving in Djibouti

Diving in Djibouti doesn’t appear on many bucket lists, but as we learn on our trip to the country, it can be even better than Mauritius or Tahiti

Djibouti, it is said, is the Dubai of the Horn. Its port location and peaceful nature in an otherwise restive region has made it a prime location for foreign interest. The country is home to Africa’s largest US army base and France’s biggest Foreign Legion deployment. China, Japan, Italy, Germany and Spain among others also have soldiers stationed there.

Simien Mountains National Park: trekking Africa’s Grand Canyon

interesting facts about Ethiopia simien mountainsAtlas & Boots

After Erta Ale and Dallol, would Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park live up to the hype?

If Simien Mountains National Park really were ‘Africa’s Grand Canyon’, how was it that I knew nothing of it? Was this just Peter’s ploy to drag me out camping again?

I knew of the park by name, but couldn’t point to it on a map, or tell you what I might find there. To be honest, prior to planning our trip, I had no idea there were proper mountains in Ethiopia – a result perhaps of TIA syndrome which conjures dusty, flyblown vistas and not the vast gorges of lush beauty that populate Simien Mountains National Park.

Leap of faith: hiking to the vertiginous Tigray churches

Tigray churches over the plains

To reach the Tigray churches of Ethiopia, one must scale sheer rock, inch along narrow ledges and skirt around yawning chasms – all in bare feet. Naturally, we leapt at the chance

I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous. It wasn’t the narrow ledges with sheer drops that had me spooked, but the prospect of climbing with ropes – something I’d never done before.

“This is Africa”: useful mantra or ugly prejudice?

Countries-we-most-want-to-see-featimg

“This is Africa”, or TIA, is used to shrug off a range of inconveniences, but does its casual use perpetuate harmful stereotypes?

Africa, more than any other continent, has a PR problem. Popular culture tells the west that Africa is a land of conflict and famine where progress is slow and corruption is rife. Even the ‘better’ half of Africa is riddled with cliché: the giant red sun, open savannah and fearsome tribes in native garms.

The most pervasive cliché perhaps comes wrapped in a snappy epithet: “This is Africa” or its diminutive form, TIA.

Dallol: visiting the hottest place on earth

Dallol is one of the hottest and lowest places on EarthAtlas & Boots

We visit Dallol, a collapsed volcano crater filled with acid ponds, poisonous chlorine and sulphur gases, inside the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia.

I wasn’t daunted at the prospect of visiting Dallol, dubbed the hottest place on Earth. Despite its temperatures regularly reaching 45°C (113°F), I knew that after visiting Erta Ale volcano in the region, Dallol would be a walk in the park – if the park was a collapsed volcano crater filled with acid ponds and geysers, poisonous chlorine and sulphur gases.

Dallol lies 116m (380ft) below sea level in the Danakil Depression of the Afar region in Ethiopia and is part of the East African Rift where three continental plates are being torn apart.