With a week left in the 2018 Travel Highlights Competition, it is great to be able to feature a newcomer to our travel writing contests, James Robertson. I hope you enjoy his five travel highlights as much as I have.
My name is James Robertson and I am a young writer and traveller. I have decided to combine two of my great passions into one by channelling some of my recent gap year adventures into travel writing excerpts. I am traditionally a playwright and run the amateur theatre company "Plain English Theatre Company" in Melbourne, Australia.
We finally arrived in Monterey.
Getting out of the car, I made my way from the carpark to a small beach beside a pier which stretched out into the bay. The sun setting cut through the dappled clouds, coating the sea in yellow. Waves lapped against the concrete pier. Gulls cawed overhead. Docked ships creaked as they swayed. But there was another sound. Squeaking perhaps.
I saw, writhing in the seaweed, a young sea otter. Nearby was its mother, lying on her back, scraping shells on her belly. The baby dived playfully, slinking amongst the kelp.
I was in awe.
Despite my claustrophobia I ascended the Esztergom Basilica; the largest church in Hungary.
Enclosed by ageing walls, I took each narrow step slowly.
Once I’d survived, the landscape met me warmly. Red-capped roofs jutted out of the tree-line. Boats dotted the shimmering surface of the Danube. The only bridge in sight crossed from Hungary to Slovakia. The neighbour melted into the horizon, conjoining fertile hills with the misty skyline.
My outlook was bookend by two blue domes, topped with crosses. I’m not religious. But no Atheist could deny the beauty that the Esztergom Basilica displays.
“On this site in 1897,” read the plaque, “nothing happened.”
And nothing had happened since. Aside from the completion of Route 66.
Walking down the street I could smell the old burning rubber imbedded in the tarmac. It was as if every American car had passed through Seligman, and with it every American town too.
The hulks of re-painted vehicles lounged by the roadside. Number plates dotted the walls coloured with red, white and blue.
A pole stood directing me to Berlin, Melbourne, Glasgow and Rome. But road signs wouldn’t let me forget; I was still on Route 66.
“If we saw a bear,” said Sally, “I’d just run.”
Anything was possible. The dense forests could conceal any predator Yosemite might throw at us.
As we drove, cars in front began slowing down until we had stopped.
Sightseers leapt from vehicles, clutching their cameras. We tentatively followed, past the parked cars to the travellers by the roadside. And there she was. A body of rippling brown fur lumbered in the green meadow. Her ears twitched as she sniffed through the shrubbery.
Awestruck; we couldn’t even bring ourselves to take a photo. All we could do was stare.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the view that the small reception of our hostel was blessed with.
The body of Loch Ness.
I made my way from the hostel down to the banks of the loch. The serene lake, made bright blue by the reflection of the clear sky, stretched out in front of me. Far on the other side was a lush forest, unimpeded by the man-made. From left to right, there was no end to the loch in sight.
It appeared to go on forever.