How I got up Kilimanjaro
When I first started talking about hiking up Kilimanjaro my friends really thought I lost the plot. I was fit and strong but so are the other some 15,000 people who try to make it up there every year and less than half actually make it. There is always snow up there and if that doesn’t put you off there is altitude sickness, weird insects, dangerous animals and not a single Starbucks. I had been to Tanzania and loved the culture and the people but something in me was sparked and I left quite unsatisfied. For some reason I felt that I had to return one day and make my way up the tallest mountain in Africa: to Uhuru Peak. Continue reading The Uhuru of Getting up Kilimanjaro is Intense
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Although you would imagine that a city in a semi-arid climate would look dull and desolate, quite the opposite is true of Marrakech, the heart of the exotic African country Morocco. From the intricately tiled railway station to the exotic architecture of the riads, Marrakech is a mythical marvel. For university students used to going away for party weekends by driving to Brighton or taking a quick flight to Amsterdam, Marrakech was an eye-opener. It is old and new at the same time, both chaotic and peaceful and very, very mysterious. This was not just a party place; it had culture and a heartbeat like only African countries have. Continue reading My First African Experience – Morocco
Zanzibar is an island off the coast of East Africa with beautiful beaches and interesting sites to visit.
Sultans, slaves and spices
What to do when you are craving an African adventure and your fiancée is more interested in lazing on a sundrenched beach? Go to Zanzibar of course! Somehow, Anastasia and I thought Zanzibar would be less exciting and exotic than the other Indian Ocean islands we had on our list, and not quite as adventurous as most African countries. But we decided to go anyway so we could both have our way somehow. Well, we couldn’t have been more wrong… Continue reading Sizzling Zanzibar
One of the only nice things about being based in grey and dreary London is that it is easy to take short hops to countries in the European Union. Last year when winter just did not seem to want to budge in England, I decided to take a trip over the long Easter weekend to see if I could find any sun at all in Europe.
Portugal, here I come!
I decided to pay my native land’s neighbouring country a visit and booked flights to Portugal. I hadn’t been to Lisbon since I was in my teens and had never been to the Algarve. Somebody once told me that the only true contender against Spain’s magnificent cuisine is a ‘Cozinheiro Algarvio’. Compete against paella from Catalonia? I was not convinced. I decided to see what Albufeira had to offer. Continue reading My Easter Trip to the Algarve to Try their Famous Food
As a veteran traveller I was astonished at how difficult it was to get a visa for Angola. The last time I had such a hard time was when I visited Russia. It took over a month, a costly letter of invitation, other well-written supporting documentation, a criminal clearance and quite a few pounds to finally secure a visa. Then the advisories about crime, live landmines and unexploded ordnance arrived. Although I was very excited about going to Angola, this was cause for concern. After all, I was about to enter a country that was war-torn for decades. I kept wondering why Angola was not interested in tourists but after arriving, my question was soon answered.
Angola = Oil
Angola is beautiful. The landscape and vegetation are quite similar to Mozambique and other parts of Africa. Only on this incredible continent will you find grasslands, savannahs, jungles, deserts, baobabs and mountain ranges, all in one country. A tourist’s dream destination, except for one little problem: something known as black gold. To say that Angola is a producer of oil is an understatement. Angola and oil may as well be synonymous. Unfortunately the oil business in Angola is pretty much run by foreign oil companies taking advantage of a corrupt government to exploit natural resources and abuse a cheap labour force. Sadly, this is the reality for many contemporary African countries. Continue reading Expensive Angola – A Country not Interested in Tourists (but Incredible Anyway)
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my parents exploring foreign shores, especially the US. My father is a die-hard fan of American action films, the typical American ‘muscle car’, and he just loves having a burger and double-thick milkshake once in a while. Mum was happy to go along with exploring the US but when it comes to shopping, the East is where she likes spending time (and money!) Even today Mum regularly jets off to Bangkok or Beijing and comes back with suitcases filled with shoes and other bits. This particular bug bit my mother when we spent my summer holiday in China with my Dad, who was in the middle of a six month work placement contract over there. Continue reading The Time I Spent Nearly Three Months in China
China has become synonymous with cheap, mass-produced items that are widely available. Despite its current tarnished reputation, in ancient times China was better known for supplying the world with luxurious products like tea, porcelain, spices and especially beautiful silk. Handcrafted Chinese silk became so famous that the international trading route between Asia and Europe was named after it – The Great Silk Road. Always interested in places steeped in interesting history, I decided to explore part of this antiquated trading route. As usual I chose to delve into the less traveled areas where I am guaranteed to get an authentic taste of the place.
One of the ‘stans’ of central Asia in Marco Polo’s wake
Legendary merchant traveler Marco Polo was known as the first tourist to pass through the Silk Road, and I thought it would be fun follow in his five centuries old footsteps. Just like Mr Polo, the fearless adventurer, I wanted to go where no foreigner has ever gone before (or at least where tourists don’t bother going) and really discover one of the five ‘stans’; Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Continue reading Nikuv, and Other Quaint Places Along the Great Silk Road Less Travelled
Christmas is celebrated by Christians in many different ways across the world, and even in many places by non-Christian folk. Most celebrations involve traditions like gift giving, carol singing, religious services and sharing special meals. I enjoy that time of the year because of the positive spirit around and naturally because of the seemingly endless supply of delicious food. While the joy shared in the festive season seems to be global, regardless of religious persuasion, I have always found Europe to be the most obviously (and joyously!) geared for celebrations. Over the last few years we have been taking one or two short breaks to European cities every December to experience how different parts of Europe transform during this time. Despite the great variety of traditions, you will find most European cities elaborately decorated and lit up, bustling with activity and heaving with food. This year we decided to explore several new cities and did this by going on a Viking River Christmas Market Cruise. Continue reading Cruising to Christmas in Europe
I realised one day that I am like a foreigner in my own country. Although I have explored Africa from top to bottom, I hardly knew my Spain. A holiday at home was well overdue and I decided to explore Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona. Located a good seven hour drive away from Salamanca, where I am from, on the other side of Spain, I was sure I would have some fascinating experiences.
People ask me what I miss most about Spain. There are so many wonderful things about my country of origin that it’s hard to decide on just one. One of the first things that spring to mind though is definitely the coffee. Aaaaah, the coffee. It’s not just the taste of the brands that are available in Spain you won’t find in Starbucks or Costa Coffee. It is the way we drink coffee in Spain. There is at least one café on every block and it’s not uncommon to visit your favourite café several times a day. Coffee is not just a beverage to perk you up in the morning, it’s a social thing, enjoyed by family and friends old and new. Salamanca even has a few famous coffee houses like the Café Novelty. Of course I get to explore Café Novelty and the other coffee houses when I visit family, but while I was visiting Barcelona a world of new and aromatic coffee shops beckoned. Instead of my usual mosquitoes, wild animals and weird foods, this holiday would be about coffee, art, music and fine dining. Continue reading A Tourist on My Own Turf
Yes, there is rum too!
Jokes and R & R’s (a delicious concoction consisting of rum and raspberries) aside, my trip to Mozambique was surprisingly wonderful. This particular country was at the bottom of my list of African countries to explore because it seemed very touristy. My idea has always been to explore Africa off the beaten track and to immerse myself in local culture. For me it is about experiencing the wonderful wildness of it. I want unpredictable weather, potentially dodgy water sources, weird food and logistical headaches. It is Africa after all and if I wanted to visit luxurious beach resorts I could hop on a quick flight home to Spain or to the Algarve. Why did I go to Mozambique if I wasn’t keen? Love, of course. Anastasia wanted to try snorkeling somewhere in Africa and kept suggesting Mozambique. Womanly wiles and my love for the great food available in all the former Portuguese colonies got me to start planning the trip. Continue reading Mozambique is not Just About Prawns and Beer