You are going to read four accounts of people who have followed their dreams and travelled someplace amazing. For questions 43-52, choose from the people (A-D). The people may be chosen more than once.
43. interacted closely with wild animals?
44. was participating in a water sport?
45. did not think he/she would like the place so much?
46. was in relatively close proximity to dangerous animals?
47. refers to documenting their travel experiences?
48. appreciated the advantages of travelling alone?
49. spent time near places of worship?
50. told someone all about his/her experience?
51. compared the place he/she visited with other places?
52. was shown around by a professional?
Just north of Fregate I met two manta rays. They were seven or eight feet wide with massive outstretched fins that seemed like rubberized wings. The water was murky, rich with plankton that attracted the giant rays that filtered it through their wide mouths. They treated me with caution, maintaining a constant distance if I turned towards them, but were content to let me swim on a parallel course, as if I, too, was feeding on the plankton. For a few minutes we were companions, until, circling and shifting shape against the depths, they became faint black shadows in the gloom and were gone. The deep blue of the Indian Ocean has captured my heart and drawn me back again and again to these pure shores. On Praslin there were dolphins offshore and a pair of octopus, sliding across the coral as they flashed signals to one another with changing skin tones as remarkable as – but much faster than – any chameleon. At Conception, close to Mahe, giant rocks formed an underwater cathedral beckoning me into its vaults where moray eels gaped at me, the strange visitor to their liquid world.
And so my first real trip to Asia unfolded in what seemed a series of dream-panels – adventures and faces and events so far removed from my day-to-day experience that I could not convert them into any tongue I knew. I revisited them again and again, sleepless, in my memories and notes and photographs, once home.
Almost every day of the three-week trip was so vivid that, upon returning, I gave a friend a nine-hour account of every moment. The motorbike ride through Sukhothai; the first long lazy evening in an expat’s teak house in Sunkumvhit; the flight into the otherworldly charm of Rangoon and the Strand Hotel, and the pulse of warm activity around the Sule Pagoda at nightfall. Long hot days in the silence, 5,000 temples on every side; slow trips at dawn along Inle lake, seeing a bird-faced boat being led through the quiet water; a frenzied morning back in Bangkok, writing an article while monsoon rains pounded on the windows all around me.
As I stepped off the six-seater Cessna plane after a bumpy flight over the Okavango Delta and my feet touched the arid ground I knew this was what I’d been waiting for all my life – Africa. Our first day was at the Selinda Camp in one of the driest parts of the Delta and when we arrived I thought that nothing could possibly survive under the relentless sun. I was almost immediately proved wrong, as Selinda is near a small lagoon – home to a group of hippos. At night we could hear their bark-like call.
Our guides warned us that although hippos may seem harmless, if threatened, they could easily kill a man! We went on to stay in various other camps that were situated in different habitats. Jacana Camp was surrounded entirely by water and only accessible by boat. But my favourite place was the Kalahari Desert. Our final camp was located just on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, which are home to many rare species of animal, such as the brown hyena.
I’d been to New York three times in the past but not for long and I couldn’t remember much of it.
This time I only had four days but I was on my own and this seems like a better way to get to know a city: less being sociable, more walking and visiting different places. Perfect. I liked New York even more than I expected and it’s right up there on my list of foreign cities where I’d like to live. It’s fighting for the top spot with San Francisco, with the next position occupied by Paris. I stayed at the Incentra Village House, which was lovely: reasonably priced, really friendly, comfortable rooms. I’d stay there again. I did a lot of walking and could easily have done a lot more. I rarely left Manhattan. One day I walked more than 12 miles, including the length of Central Park and on down Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue was the least pleasant place; it felt like London’s Oxford Street. I also walked along the High Line, which is very nicely done, although rather shorter than Paris’s Promenade Plantee.