Tour The Wedgwood Factory and Museum, Stoke On Trent, England
At the moment of writing, the factory tour (and tearoom) is closed, due to government Covid restrictions, but we at WONDERLUST are ever optimists, and patient, and believe that within the next 12 months it will be open again. If you’re in England, go! It’s glorious British quirkiness. Wedgwood started making their impeccably refined and hand-painted china cups, teapots, plates and porcelain figures before America was formed and have been doing it ever since, in the same place. It’s possibly the most famous pottery in the world, and sometimes the most valuable. The Queen uses Wedgwood, by way of positioning it on the scale of English preciousness.
The factory tour is 45 minutes and is sort of like Willy Wonka giving you a tour of Alice’s Wonderland (and you can’t take photos in the factory). You get to see all facets of the extraordinary production process, the “casting, firing, glazing, figure making, decorating and hand painting, ornamentation and gilding,” to quote them. The hand painting is the work of masters, unhurried by the modern world. You can take a turn on the potter’s wheel to create your own pot, and design and decorate your own piece of Wedgwood in their Creative Studios.
The museum houses their collection of over 80,000 items of ceramics and art, and historic manuscripts and photos, gathered over 260 years of existence. In 2019, in order to preserve it for prosperity, the collection was gifted to the nation and is now part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who left it where it is on a long term loan. Some 8,000 objects are on display.
And you have to have tea in the Wedgwood tearoom! They do a great job. When open, it serves from noon to 4:00 p.m. In England having tea isn’t simply having a cup of the stuff, it’s having a small feast of tiny sandwiches, usually with a thin layer of cucumber or salmon or some mystery paste between the bread, and thick, gooey pastries, and tea — here from a selection of their own 14 blends, from what they call the Wedgwood Signature and Wonderlust Tea ranges (What?! Call our lawyers!). The tea, and the tea serving, are in their Wedgwood teacups and on their china plates. (We’re still trying to get our heads around where they got their tea range name from!)
Gorilla Tracking, Uganda and Rwanda
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Uganda and is home to various endangered species. The Bwindi Park’s cusp on the Sarambwe, a Congolese forest, allows for gorillas to enter the park and maintain healthy populations. With tour guides, you can interact or simply observe our siblings of another evolutionary tree. The Volcano National Park in Rwanda is another option.
According to a local medicine man — who goes by “the man from Arusha” — you look for what the gorilla has left behind! Perhaps the gorilla’s poop — well, is it fresh? What about that patch of grass that’s bent down? Is it from a family of gorillas or was it simply a gazelle? These little details in searching for gorillas take practice. Some other things to look for include food sources, footprints, game trails and listening for their calls. It helps to not smile with your teeth or look them in the eyes. If you piss one off your best bet is to lie on your back and make yourself as vulnerable as possible, like a dog wanting a belly rub. The gorilla will see this as a submission and hopefully leave you alone. Hopefully.
A required gorilla trekking permit costs $600 per person in Uganda and $1,500 per person in Rwanda. Funding from tourist visits help protect against poaching by supporting the park and stabilizing the overall economy of its surrounding communities.
When visiting gorillas, it may be best to keep some distance, UNESCO advises — to protect them. “As the mountain gorilla is so closely related to people, it is threatened by transmission of human diseases as a result of tourism activities.”
– TM and JM
Aogashima is the most remote island in the Japanese archipelago. This tiny island is actually made of four separate submarine volcanoes that join to form the dominating feature of this island, a 1,388-foot-tall caldera — a volcanic crater. This caldera wall, called Ikenosawa, encapsulates this tear-shaped island, protecting the smaller cone volcano, Maruyama. Though it last erupted in 1785, it is still considered active.
This small island, with only around 200 resident villagers, can only be reached by a seasonal three-hour boat ride from the larger nearby island, Hachijojima. From hotels, such as the Aogashima Suginosawa, to camping, there are several options to hang your hat. There are thankfully restaurants such as Monji, or the restaurant bar Izakaya where you can try the local Shochu alcohol called Aochu, made from sweet potatoes. The main activity on the island is hiking and taking in the unique sites and shrines. While a small island, its sites are few but outstanding, as the town is made of rusty concrete boxes on the north side of the island, outside the volcano crater, which leads to a breathtaking overlook over the edge of the Ikenosawa with views of the whole island and the volcano Maruyama in the middle.
Crossing this area takes about 90 minutes either way and there is a tunnel to the southern end of the island where the boat docks. There is hardly any infrastructure, not even true hiking trails which makes this one of the most lovely places to explore untouched land without fear of getting lost. If hiking is not your style, or if you’ve hiked too hard and need to rest, there is Fureai Sauna, a volcano-powered sauna. It’s open to the public and free — an excellent way to wind down the day on this hidden teardrop in the Pacific Ocean.
Eyre Peninsula, Australia
The Eyre Peninsula in southern Australia is a cool opportunity to experience the country’s aquatic biodiversity. You can bond with underwater creatures like the leafy sea dragon, sea lions and dolphins, and even with the Great White Shark (in a cage, of course — you that is, not the shark).
Besides for its fabulous oceanic adventures, the Eyre Peninsula is a seafood lover’s dream! Green-lipped abalone, scallops, prawns, oysters, tuna and rock lobster to name more than a few, are aplenty in these waters and served at nearly every restaurant. There’s even a self-guided seafood tasting tour.
But one must also consider socioeconomic aspects of the area. The region has a significant Aboriginal population who once prevailed across this land. So explore its indigenous history. Support the culture and past of these peoples where you can, like checking out aboriginal art at the Ceduna Arts and Culture Centre.
Dragon’s Backbone Terraces, China
Experiencing the culture of the Zhuang and Yao people of China is a scenic hike or cable car ride away in the heart of Longsheng County. On a fine, sunny day you will see thousands upon thousands of rice terraces while meeting and interacting with the locals. You can even stay with the local families. Stop by the Dazhai village and try a passion fruit juice or bamboo rice and take in the views of the scaly looking terraces. The heartening lack of development in the area will give you a seemingly raw exposure to the land and all its inhabitants.
– Sergio Gutierrez