When all the things that need saying have been said, and all the things that need doing have been done, where can you go to be still and quietly enjoy the lightness of just being? Here are five rustic, remote spots where you can hide away from life as you know it, and rest your eyes upon the world’s prettiest parts with nothing to distract your gaze.
How do you like your sea? I like mine soupy and full of turtles and all different shades of turquoise.
My relief on the greyest of British days comes from conjuring up the image of waters such as these lapping against Gili Meno’s deserted white sands from my memory bank. It is my go-to reference point for pristine postcard paradise, and no amount of real-life drizzle can dampen the effect.
Meno is the smallest, quietest and prettiest of the three Gili Islands, which are nestled just off the coast of Lombok. The Sunset Gecko is the furthest accommodation from the dinky hamlet by the port. During the half an hour or so it takes you to walk there (slightly less if you go by horse and cart), you’ll see few other souls, and even fewer manmade structures.
At the Gecko you can expect to do little but recline in brugaks (stilted, open-sided beach huts), sip on tropical juices with crushed ice and shower under the stars, before retiring to beautiful multi-storey bamboo bungalows right on the beach. Sunsets are sublime, and best viewed from a hammock. The sky marbles and trickles like a melting peach melba down the silhouetted slopes of Bali’s highest peak, Gunung Agung, which towers formidably in the distance.
The Ottawa River weaves its way along the provincial dividing line between Ontario and Quebec through hundreds of miles of untouched wilderness before it reaches Ottawa itself. Follow it upstream from the capital and eventually you’ll reach the OWL Resort, a campsite positioned primarily to take advantage of the rapids that occupy this stretch of the river.
Spend a day rafting, floating and lazily swimming between the pines, or just kick back at the campsite eating s’mores around the campfire and going for a twilight paddle around the little bay. Bring beers, bring your family, try not to worry too much about bears (only ever seen in adjacent fields, never in the camp itself) and enjoy how very fresh the air is in this part of the world. The food’s pretty darn delicious too. What more could you ask for, eh?
A handful of bandas and tents lie scattered between acacias across several sun-dappled acres. Where the trees end, the land juts far out into the lake. The Equator is close, and even at dusk the sun is so strong that the dark water shimmers with a kind of menacing glamour. It is onto these shores that the hippos will emerge, grunting and sullen, their tails spinning like whirligigs in a gale. The crocs are already there, stagnating in the shallows, while fish eagles circle overhead and the other 469 bird species endemic to the region flit in and out of sight.
You wouldn’t catch me camping in the UK on any but the warmest summer days, but there’s a real joy in sleeping under canvas in Africa. Robert’s Camp is stationed three and half dusty hours north of Nairobi on the banks of Lake Baringo, one of the Great Rift Valley’s spectacular lagoons.
Up at the camp bar, the Thirsty Goat, there’s a fridge full of icy Tuskers to work through while we set the world to rights. A group of American volunteers sits nearby and we debate going over to join them – it’s that kind of place – but quickly decide against it when we hear them arguing over Hopper and Pollock. It seems vulgar somehow to stage such a highbrow exchange in so unaffected an environment. Leaving them to pseudo-intellectual one-upmanship, we retune our ears to the chorus of crickets and order another round of beers.
I like to think the reason my parents decided to eschew Wales in favour of Scotland for the Collins family road trip ’96 was due to my fixation with the newly released film Loch Ness, starring Ted Danson. It was almost definitely a coincidence, but a well-timed coincidence nevertheless, as Nessie fever was at its height and the famous water kelpie was never far from my mind.
We stayed in a basic but homely lodge on Loch Lochy, between Fort William and Inverness. The trip was a great success, not only because Ma C won a gold medal in the Inverness Highland Games and I got to indulge my preoccupation with the scaly cryptid, but because it was my first taste of rustic, wilderness adventure and I loved it.
A shy little shrew, which we’d occasionally catch cowering in corners, lived under a floorboard in the room I shared with my brother. At night we’d turn out all the lights in the cabin, except for the ones on the balcony, and wait quietly for the pine martens to come. Much to our delight, they’d slink gingerly around the railings and then devour in plain sight the marmalade sandwiches we’d left out for them.
The lodges – miles from anywhere, with achingly beautiful lake views — are still there, and if tripadvisor is to be believed, the pine martens are too.
No it’s not a typo — that unfortunate punctuation is very much a part of the name of this tranquil little spot, I’m afraid. You shouldn’t come to Nusa Lembongan if you’re looking for refined, slick Balinese resorts with all their apostrophes in the right place though. This little island is all about the slow. Be grateful, in fact, that they bothered to put an apostrophe in – an extra character requires extra energy, after all. And they did that for you.
They also built this tiny cluster of bohemian bungalows with an infinity pool and ramshackle bar perched just above a wild little cove for you too. Here you’ll find the few other souls who took the slow boat to this cheerful, car-free islet, and hired mopeds to navigate the pothole-ridden hills, just to check that Dream Beach was more than stuff of legend. You’ll find them sprawled on a crescent of golden sand, jumping in the rollers, watching the few local surfers ride the waves haphazardly until long after the day has started to dim.
They’re there right now, some of them, and they’re waiting for you to join them. For you.