Fortunately, I won a free round trip ticket to London from Philippine Airlines (PAL). So, in the middle of this year I can strike off Stonehenge from the line-up. Too long I’ve yearned to feel the energies within this mystic 3,000 year old ring of standing stones, sacred to pagan Druids.
Of course, while I’m in the United Kingdom, I’ll look for ghosts in the Tower of London, where Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth 1 was beheaded – one of over a hundred people executed there for four centuries.
I’ll grab the chance to ogle at the golden hoards and antiquities of the British Museum, with its Rosetta stone and the Elgin marbles, which was missing from the Acropolis when I visited Greece.
I’ll tour Westminster Abbey for the tombs of my favorite bards in the Poets’ Corner and venture to Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare’s birthplace, onwards to Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle, the legendary home of King Arthur.
I might still pursue my plan to fly to the Middle East in two months, so maybe I can cross to Iran to see the ruins of the Persepolis, home of ancient Persian rulers, which a drunk Alexander the Great burned in retribution for the Persians’ razing down the Acropolis.
And I intend to pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In my travels I have seen many relics of the Holy Cross – from its wood to the nails used to crucify Jesus but I want to pay my respects in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where He was nailed on the cross and where He was buried.
Likewise, I feel compelled to do a second pilgrimage in Europe to visit the tombs of my favourite saints, among them, Saint Rita, patron saint of the Impossible, whose incorrupt body lies in Cascia, Italy and Padre Pio, whose crypt is in San Giovanni Rotondo, as well as St. Bernadette, in Nevers, France.
I wish to pray in the monastery of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, where my favourite angel, St. Michael, appeared to the bishop and instructed him to build a church in the rocky islet.
Uluru in Central Australia, beckons to me too. “The Island Mountain” is sacred to the aboriginal “people of the dreaming”.
Actually, I have lots of exotic islands in my list.
Foremost is Easter Island, one of the remotest in the planet, with its 887 “Moai” – giant ghostly stone statues of the deified ancestors of its Rapa Nui people.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have touched the “Moai” which the islanders sent to visit the Louvre, Paris to “spread spiritual energy to transform humanity”. He instilled in me such a longing to see his country.
Socotra Island in Yemen, one of the world’s most isolated landforms on earth, also draws me irresistibly, with its unearthly landscape of dragon blood trees whose red sap is used to treat the wounds of gladiators in ancient days.
Galapagos, home of the giant tortoises which gave the islands their name, the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, is a must-see for me before its rich biodiversity is gone forever. Humans, introduced species and global warming now threaten this Eden.
At the same time, I intend to explore the Amazonas and the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil, last stronghold of wild jaguars. Then I’ll proceed to Bolivia to volunteer at the Inti Warayassi sanctuary to care for big cats, ocelots, margays and pumas.
Because I can’t shake off my addiction to big cats, I intend to return to Africa but first, I’ll visit India’s Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore and Jim Corbett’s National Parks, along with the Bangladeshi Sunderbans.
The last is home to over half a thousand man-eating tigers who kill as many as 250 people a year but I just have to go there.
Furthermore, I’m still in love with the mountains and the kingdoms of ice.
Russia’s Kamchatka is high on my list – the breeding ground of Steller’s sea eagles, golden eagles and gyr falcons, grizzlies, wolves and lynxes.
So is Patagonia, from where I’ll set out to Antarctica, to seek leopard seals among the ice floes and penguins in their rookeries among towering glaciers. I hope to spot blue whales too and climb Mount Erebus while I’m there.
Alaska remains to be a dream destination for climb Denali, “The High One” and the Aleutian Islands, “The Home of the Winds” in the Bering Sea.
In Churchill, Manitoba, I wish to observe polar bears and behold the aurora borealis.
In the Yukon, I’ll learn mushing and travel by dog sled, perhaps even watch the Yukon Quest – a 1,000 mile international dog sled race, the toughest in the world, where women have won the top place.
Same way, I aim to solo-trek in Tibet and Nepal as well as the base camps of Mount Everest, the world’s highest, and K2, “The Savage Mountain” – the most dangerous, which kills one out of four climbers.
I’d love to aim for the summit though I can’t afford the price – around P4 Million, including gear, for Everest and just a little less for K2.
But if I survive through the other items in my bucket list and manage to get expedition sponsors, I’ll go for it.
The oldest person to summit K2 was a 65-year old Spanish climber although only five women made it to the peak and three of them died on the descent.
The oldest man to summit Everest, a Japanese, was 80 and his rival declared he’ll try for another summit till he’s 84. The oldest woman to gain the peak, also a Japanese, was 73.
That means, I have a reasonable number of decades left, if I’m lucky.
And if I die in the attempt, I’ll be happy to end my life in the ultimate adventure rather than in a hospital bed with tubes feeding into my flesh.
(Copyright to me. Reprinted from my Manila Bulletin travel column, “My World in a Flashpack”, Confessions of a Bucket Lister.)