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Grand majesties

 Grand majesties There’s a Korean proverb, "It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times". For many, the big part of travelling is that feeling you get when experiencing something completely new, something you haven’t seen, done or even imagined before.

There are wonders to be explored all around the world that have the potential to suddenly make you realise the vastness of the grand scheme of things - from towering mountains and expansive deserts to endless skies and deep oceans.

The TopDog Insurance team visit one or two of them:

Muir Woods National Monument; California, USA

Muir Woods is located 19km north of San Francisco as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Anyone familiar with the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes may recognise the location for a scene where the apes run across the Golden Gate Bridge and escape to Muir Woods, home to towering coastal redwoods. These woodland giants can grow up to 115m tall (22.5m taller than the Statue of Liberty) although here they top out at around 78m, but due to its convenient location it is the most-visited of the redwood parks. One tip (especially if driving) – get there when it opens around 8am - not only is it much more serene when the morning fog is still burning off, but also get a parking spot to avoid shuttle transfers when the park gets full.

Preikestolen; Ryfylke, Norway

The English translation of this famous attraction is ‘Preacher's Pulpit’ and it’s a 25 x 25m plateau that sits almost 604m above the waters of Lysefjorden, in south-western Norway. There’s a crack between the plateau and the mountain proper and it’s said that on the day that seven brothers marry seven sisters from Lysefjorden, the plateau will tear itself free from the mountain and fall into the fjord, creating a huge wave that will destroy all life in the surrounding area. That being said, if you still want to take in the view there’s a well prepared track from Preikestolen Mountain Lodge to the top. It’s about a 2hr hike each way but the breathtaking views are more than worth the effort!

Waipoua Forest; Northland, New Zealand

New Zealand’s far north coast is home to the kauri forests; these truly huge trees can grow over 50m high. Waipoua Forest is home to the two largest living kauri trees and while their age is unknown it is estimated that they could be anywhere between 1,200 to 4,000 years old. Firstly, Te Matua Ngahere (‘Father of the Forest’) which presides over a clearing is the second largest - rising to a height of 29.9m but has the biggest girth of any such tree at 16.41m. A little further north is a true giant, its Maori name, Tane Mahut, translates as ‘Lord of the Forest’. This colossal tree dwarves not only those that come to view it but all other trees around and whilst not as wide as Te Matua Ngahere at 13.77m, it soars to a mammoth height of 51.2m!

Victoria Falls; Livingstone, Zambia

Victoria Falls, or to give it its local name Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘the smoke that thunders’), is situated on the Zambezi River straddling the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It may not be the highest or widest waterfall in the world; however, at 1,708m wide and 108m tall, it’s the world's largest sheet of falling water. Up to 500 million litres/minute cascade over the falls; the spray can rise over 400m in the air and can be seen as far as 50km away and the rumbling of the falls can be heard from up to 40km away. It’s hard not to feel humble when in the presence of one of Nature’s most awesome sights. If standing in awe of the falls isn’t enough to get your blood pumping, why not take an altogether different perspective – dangling by your ankles from a bungee cord after taking a 111m plunge off the Victoria Falls Bridge!

Atacama Desert; northern Chile

The Atacama Desert is an elongated strip of desert in South America, running for nearly 1,600km and bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It’s considered the driest place on Earth, receiving just 0.1mm of rain per year, although snowmelt from the Andes Mountains ensures lakes and rivers are filled and the area does support wildlife, including Humboldt penguins that live year-round along the coast, nesting in desert cliffs overlooking the ocean. You may never get to walk on the surface of Mars but, in this bare but beautiful landscape, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re exploring the Red Planet. If being dwarfed by mountains and the desert isn’t enough, the arid conditions mean that clouds rarely form over the area leading to guaranteed stargazing of truly astronomical proportions! Even with the naked eye constellations are clearly defined and the Milky Way is so bright that, during a new moon, it can cast a shadow.

Wherever your travels may take you, whichever Grand majesties you may visit, we at TopDog Insurance are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away. Safe travels!

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