The Story of the Bonster
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the Summer Solstice in 1978, to my wonderfully supportive and loving parents Angela and Roger Hill.
MMM... Mum, where are the Happy Baby Pics :-)
Having spent the first four years of my life living on a plot, 9.5 acres of land with views of the Magaliesberg Mountains, I got to enjoy the glorious weather, spending most of my time outdoors appreciating nature.
Lammermoor Farm, in the District of Krugersdorp, Transvaal (now known as Gauteng).
Some of my fondest memories are times I spent in the Drakensburg Mountains.
I remember, whilst hiking up the Dragons Peak with my dad, stopping off at the Grotto, a little hideaway behind a glistening waterfall, looking at the vast mountain ranges thinking just how lucky I was to experience such beauty.
Scenic view of the Drakensberg Mountain Range, KwaZulu Natal.
Although it wasn’t as easy to travel around the world from South Africa, cost being a major factor, I was luckier than most.
My parents, both born in the UK, took my brother and I there when we were very young to meet the family.
Other family members had emigrated to Australia, so I was also given the opportunity to visit my Uncle Mike and his family who lived on a farm on the outskirts of Perth.
This meant I was able to experience the real Australian outback for myself, even picking up an iguana, which I still, to this day, will never forget.
- If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s the importance of appreciating the country you live in.
- Bonster, Monster Voyage
It’s easy to think of foreign travel, maybe because it seems more inviting but, the truth is, there is so much beauty in the world and so much of it’s on your doorstep.
My parents took full advantage of this sentiment by having regular trips to the Kruger National Park, Cape Town and nearby Ostrich Ranch, cable car trips up the Magaliesberg Mountains, Wemmer Pan, Gold Reef City, Sun City, Durban and Swaziland.
My brother, Michael, looking out for his little sister at Wemmer Pan.
Michael riding an Ostrich at the Ostrich Ranch, Cape Town.
My brother and I led an adventurous and fun filled childhood.
With that in mind, I should tell you that, in 1997 my parents made the brave decision to leave South Africa and return to their home in the UK after 21 years.
Since my best friend Janet had emigrated to the Isle of Man (UK) in 1994, I decided to leave six months before as a mini gap year to join Janet on the Island.
Janet (the one being hugged) and me (in the pink next to her), in Pantomime at Gold Reef City.
After pulling pints during the famous Isle of Man TT Races, I returned to the UK to meet my parents and settle into our new home.
I did a lot of travelling through my twenties. In my first few years of working in a 9-5 office job, I visited Paris and Switzerland, fixing the infamous Millennium Bug.
- Travel is never as exciting if it’s all work and no play!
- Bonster, Monster Voyage
One of my most memorable trips is when I travelled to the US. Unknowingly, the friend I was travelling with knew the brother of Catherine Zeta Jones and we ended up staying at her house. No. 1 on the Hollywood star map.
Catherine Zeta Jones' view from the spare bedroom. The only picture I captured... Hilarious!
Although Catherine wasn’t there, I did get to see the sword from the Mask of Zoro and authentic memorabilia touched by one of my Hollywood heroes Sean Connery.
We also visited Miami and the windy city Chicago, which I can't wait to see again on our Route 66 road trip, in 2020.
Other trips included Turin, Lago di Como (literally "lake of Como"), Milan, Prague and Kuala Lumpur.
Having recently visited Croatia and the beautiful Island of Lopud, I am reminded of the time I visited in 2006, with the architectural beauty of the Dubrovnik Old Town and the crystal waters of the Adriatic Sea.
The beautiful architecture of the Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia.
For my 30th birthday I was whisked away on a surprise trip to Las Vegas.
We stayed at the Palazzo Hotel on the infamous Las Vegas strip. This is where I was proposed to and, although the marriage wasn’t meant to be, the holiday itself was absolutely out of this world.
With a trip to the Hoover Dam, helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, days of gambling in the plushest of casinos and drinks on tap, this was an experience I will never forget.
- I don't really desire things. I prefer to spend my money on experiences, on meals or travel.
- Rachel McAdams, Actress
In 2010, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a full year sabbatical travelling through Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia.
Each country had its own style, culture, vibe, weather and of course adventures.
The most enjoyable part of the trip was spending three months at Patty Hut in Bangsaphan Yai.
I learnt a bit of Thai, ate authentic food, went elephant trekking, visited jungles and waterfalls and sang with the Royal Thai Air Force.
Patty Hut, Bangsaphan Yai, Thailand.
It wasn't half bad living it up on the white beaches of Ko Samui and conking out in the intense heat on Langkawi watching insane lightning storms meters away from the doorstep.
To top up on cash we did a bit of work in Western Australia in the stunning settings of Monkey Mia and Karri Valley, then headed to Sydney and Brisbane on our final leg of the adventure.
You'll be surprised to know, based on what you've read, I've previously been a bit of a scaredy pants when it comes to taking risks.
To get me out of this mindset, before we left on an epic trip to Bali in 2015, my friend, Jenna, in her wisdom, introduced me to a few hair-raising activities, including; indoor skydiving and mine caving.
iFLY Indoor Skydiving, Milton Keynes (formely known as Airkix).
Mine Caving, Wales.
This cracked the nerves and the Bali trip was a blast!
We opted for a full day of adventure, including; walking along the ocean floor, paragliding, white water rafting and jet skiing.
At the end of 2016, I returned to my home country for my 20-year school reunion.
This was an opportunity to catch up with old friends, explore the wilderness with a safari, experience the finer things in life with the wineries of Franshoek and Stellenbosch, and take a leap of faith by abseiling off Table Mountain.
Not to mention taking in the spectacular views in Magaliesberg and Cape Town.
It’s amazing to think of how many places I’ve been, abroad and close to home, which I haven't had the chance to mention in this blog like...
Not forgetting all the adventures with the Chopster and those still to come!
Writing this blog has made me truly appreciate how lucky I am to have so many amazing friends and to have been given the opportunity to live such a well-travelled and exciting life.
- Chopster and I, through our Monster Voyage blog, hope to give you inspiration for future travel adventures and weird, wacky and wonderful experiences.
- Bonster, Monster Voyage