This is my last week as editor of Herald Travel. After 50 years in journalism, the last eight as Travel Editor, I think it's time for a break.
But that doesn't mean I won't retain an interest in travel. I hope to continue writing about it. And there are still plenty of places on my bucket list, including Iran, the Arctic, the remains of the Inca, Maya and Aztec civilisations and the mountain gorillas of Uganda.
Over many years of travelling the world - including prior to doing this job - I've had some wonderful experiences. People often ask what's the best place I've been to, but they're all special in different ways.
If pressed, however, I find the experiences that stick in my mind most are those involving the glories of nature: seeing the icy grandeur of the Antarctic and being welcomed there by a million squawking penguins and hundreds of seals and sea elephants; meeting more penguins and seals during a trip to the Sub-Antarctic Islands; following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin at the Galapagos Islands; watching the rays of the rising sun illuminate Everest; and camping at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, a place so unspoiled, in fact so dangerous, I felt I was experiencing the real Africa.
Possibly because New Zealand is such a young country, I'm also in awe of places where humans have worked and worshipped for thousands of years, so my other special experiences include: watching the sunrise at Stonehenge with no one else around; marvelling at the sublime Taj Mahal; exploring the jungle temple of Ta Prohm which was even more amazing than Angkor Wat; seeing the Buried Army of the megalomaniac Emperor Qin; and visiting storied Samarkand and its fellow Silk Road cities.
Those are my top 10 but there are lots more unforgettable experiences I have to mention: walking round Red Square and the Kremlin - which for much of my life was the capital of the enemy empire; meeting Huli wigmen in Papua New Guinea; exploring the hundreds of abandoned temples and palaces at Bagan in Burma; drinking fermented mare's milk with Kyrgyz nomads; searching for the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi; listening to evensong in Salisbury Cathedral (my favourite of all the magnificent churches I've seen); singing with a whale in Niue; and touching the ancient stones of the pyramids.
Oh and that's not to mention all my favourite things in New Zealand, including Cape Reinga, Tane Mahuta in Waipoua Forest, the kokako of Tiritiri Matangi, the migratory seabirds at Miranda, the Tongariro Crossing, West Coast beaches (almost anywhere), the kotuku breeding area near Okarito, Captain James Cook's campsite in Dusky Sound, making a pig of myself at the Bluff Oyster Festival, flying over Aoraki/Mt Cook with Air Safaris and... but that's enough to be going on with.
It really is a wonderful world out there. And you're never too old - or too young - to enjoy it. Happy travelling. And thanks for your company over the years.By Jim Eagles Email Jim