In last year’s travel roundup, we spoke of tumultuous events, political instability and acts of aggression across the globe.
As the French would say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Indeed, in 2016, we saw our fair share of tumult, instability and aggression – and Brexit and Trump only promise more.
Much like last year, however, we have also been reminded that there is amusement and delight in even the direst of years. From historic events (March, September) to frivolous fancies (April, June), 2016 hasn’t been all bad. Here’s a roundup of our favourite events.
January: Google launches Street View… on Mont Blanc
In January, Google launched launched Street View on Mont Blanc, allowing even the most slothful to scale the famous peak alongside expert mountaineers.
Ueli Steck ice climbs on Mont Blanc (Image: Google, Fair Use)
Viewers can watch Kilian Jornet – who holds the 4hr 57m speed record for ascending and descending Mont Blanc – running across the summit, or follow Ueli Steck as he tackles a vertical ice climb.
Alpine glaciers and daunting seracs are depicted in all their high-res glory, offering panoramic views intrepid few normally get to see.
February: Guests invited to sleep in a Van Gogh painting
In February, the Art Institute of Chicago teamed up with Airbnb to allow guests to stay in its latest installation, a recreation of Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles painting.
Guests are invited to stay for $10 a night (Images: Art Institute of Chicago; Public Domain)
The listing on Airbnb describes the room as “decorated in a Post-Impressionist style, reminiscent of Southern France and times gone by” and boasts that it will make you feel like you’re living in a painting.
The price is only $10 a night. The host explains: “I need to buy paint.”
March: Obama visits Cuba
In March, Barack Obama became the first American president to visit Cuba in nearly a century. The visit followed efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries decades after Fidel Castro’s revolution toppled US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
As he arrived, Obama tweeted: “¿Que bolá Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.”
Obama toured Havana on foot in the rain, taking care not to slip on the wet stones by the Havana Cathedral. His wife, Michelle, and two daughters were also in the country to keep him company.
April: British public votes for Boaty McBoatface
After the polls closed for the naming of its new polar research ship, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) confirmed that it received 124,109 votes in favour of RRS Boaty McBoatface, four times as many votes as the nearest competitor.
NOT Boaty McBoatface (Image: NERC, Fair Use)
The name was first suggested by BBC radio presenter James Hand and quickly caught the public’s imagination, sending the competition viral.
Sadly, NERC thwarted the public vote and chose to name the £200m arctic explorer ‘RRS Sir David Attenborough’ in honour of the BBC broadcaster.
Naturally, much was said about the decision.
Calling on Sir David Attenborough to do the right thing and change his name by deed poll to Sir #BoatyMcBoatface
— Jo Lindsay Walton (@jolwalton) May 6, 2016
May: Nepalese woman completes seventh Everest summit
In May, Lhakpa Sherpa, 42, who works in a 7-Eleven shop in Connecticut in the US, reached the summit of Everest for the seventh time, beating her own record.
Lhakpa, one of 11 children, was born in Nepal’s eastern Sankhuwasabha district, home to the world’s fifth-highest mountain, Makalu.
Lhakpa Sherpa has summitted Everest seven times (Image: Jesse Burke; Fair Use)
Despite her extraordinary achievements, Lhakpa remains largely unknown, partly due to her reticence to speak to reporters after allegedly suffering domestic abuse at the hands of her husband. Newly separated from her now ex-husband, Sherpa completed her most recent summit after a 10-year hiatus.
June: Sevelyn Gat goes to China
In a particularly amusing case of the ‘fakeation’, would-be tourist Sevelyn Gat had herself Photoshopped into a series of images depicting a trip to China.
Sevelyn in one of her ‘holiday snaps’ (Image: Sevelyn Gat, Fair Use)
The images were entirely unconvincing and prompted a meme in which Sevelyn found herself inserted into a whole host of unlikely scenarios.
In a heartwarming end to the episode, local businessman Sam Gichuru took pity on Sevelyn and raised enough cash to send her from Kenya to China for real!
Sevelyn visits China for real (Image: Sevelyn Gat, Fair Use)
July: Buzz Aldrin tweets travel expenses
In July, Buzz Aldrin tweeted his expenses… for his trip to the moon. The former astronaut posted his “travel voucher” for his trip to space, which shows that he claimed $33.31 for a journey from Houston, Texas, to the moon and back.
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) July 27, 2016
The voucher itemises Aldrin’s travel arrangements, with a “government spacecraft” noted among aircraft and automobiles used on the trip.
A second tweet shows that all the astronauts on Apollo 11 had to sign a customs form on their return to Earth. Arriving in Honolulu on 24th July 1969, Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins declared they had brought back “moon rock and moon dust samples”.
August: Greenland shark revealed as 400 years old
In August, scientists revealed that a Greenland shark is likely to be the oldest living vertebrate animal on the planet.
Using all sorts scientific sorcery – from carbon dating to eye lens analysis – the team found that a female shark measuring just over five metres in length is around 392 years old.
A Greenland shark photographed after its release from research vessel Sanna (Image: Julius Nielsen, Fair Use)
The discovery shows that the shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is far older than the bowhead whale which has been known to live for 211 years.
What’s even more surprising is that the Greenland shark pales in comparison to the world’s longest-lived animal. That title is held by Ming, an Icelandic clam that made it to 507 years before scientists killed it unwittingly.
September: National African American Museum opens in DC
In September, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on a five-acre site on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (Image: Rex Hammock, Creative Commons)
The 400,000 square foot museum aims to share the “unvarnished truth” of America’s past and celebrate the triumphs of its present. It is home to over 36,000 artifacts, among them the casket of Emmet Till, the 14-year-old boy who was murdered in 1955 for reportedly whistling at a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi.
President Obama spoke at the inauguration and said, “African American history is not somehow separate than the American story. It is not the underside of the American story. It is central to the American story.”
October: Image of Pakistani chai wala goes viral
When photographer Javeria Ali posted an impromptu snap of a Pakistani chai wala (tea seller) online, she had little idea of the frenzy it would ignite.
Arshad Khan set many a heart racing (Image: Javeria Ali, Fair Use)
The smouldering image of then unknown Arshad Khan, 18, began trending on social media as thousands of Twitter users publicly declared their love.
Riding the wave of Arshad’s newfound fame, clothing brand Fitin.pk quickly signed him on as a model. Announcing news of their partnership, the brand wrote on Facebook: “Chai wala is not more chai wala now he is fashion wala!”
November: Planet Earth returns
A whole 10 years after the first series, BBC’s Planet Earth returned to our screens to national fanfare. Comprising six episodes – Islands, Mountains, Jungles, Deserts, Grasslands and Cities – the series was narrated by Sir David Attenborough and set to an extraordinary soundtrack by none other than Hans Zimmer.
There was no end to the iconic scenes, from the face-planting bobcat and kick-boxing frog father to the snow leopard cub and lions battling a giraffe – not to mention the godawful plague of locusts. If you haven’t yet seen it, do!
December: Waterfalls appear on Uluru
In December, Uluru was transformed by a set of waterfalls created by heavy downpours. The 600-million-year-old gigantic rock formation is located in one of the driest regions of Australia and experiences extreme temperatures ranging from the high 40s in the daytime to below zero at night.
The national park at Uluru was closed after record rainfall – and dramatic pictures show why. The storm created makeshift waterfalls which cascaded down the rock’s 300-metre sandstone facades in what experts called a twice-in-a-century phenomenon.
Lead image: Dreamstime