October 12, 2019

“Li-ber-tat! Li-ber-tat!” The chant was sweeping across the square like a Catalan wave. The crowd ignored the soaring heat to remind the world that their pro-independence leaders were still in exile or jail. “Libertat-del-presos-politics!!”

But we weren’t here for the politicians; we were waiting for one of city’s most anticipated traditions - the Castellers de Barcelona. Dating back to the 1800s, these human towers originated...

August 20, 2019

Vasillia gently touched my arm and leant in. “You are an Orthodox at heart,” she whispered, her eyes lighting up. “Yes, yes, I can see it inside you!” For the first time in my life I had to disappoint a nun. 

Upon learning of my Protestant upbringing Vasillia feigned disappointment. “Ahh, we all have our crosses to bear!” she laughed, her round face beaming out of her habit....

December 11, 2018

"Um, aren’t we a little low?!” shouted my fellow passenger over the Cessna’s engine.

She was right of course, we were only 50 metres above the ground and below us impala were scattering everywhere. “No, of course not,” I reassured her while secretly enjoying a personal ‘Out of Africa’ moment as she gripped the armrest.

We were half an hour out from Samburu airstrip in central Kenya, a wee spot on the map just inches above the e...

April 6, 2018

I was warned about getting shot in Colombia. The balaclava, reflective sunglasses and combat fatigues in the southern city of Pasto were a giveaway. I should have just run. Instead, I'm hit twice - not with bullets but with white foam shooting out of a canister by a 12-year old boy shouting “Viva Pasto!”  

That gushing “spssstttttttt” was my intro to El Carnaval de Negros y Blancos (Black and Whites' Carnaval), a five day...

February 24, 2018

“Smash it on the head” yelled Geranio, our guide. “Quick!” The freshly caught piranha was flip-flopping in a desperate attempt to get back to water, sharp teeth biting at air as I brought a rotting stick down upon its head. Minewa, a 60-year old local tribesman, added it to his string of dead fish and smiled at me. “Now you are a warrior!’”, laughed Geranio.

We were fishing in the Amazon Basin on the edge of the world’s most bi...

October 24, 2017

“Hold on, I just need to scrape something off…” My guide had removed his gumboot and was reaching for a knife. Slowly he sliced the blade down his leg to remove the blood sucking leech that had attached itself to him. “Welcome to Mentawai!” he said with a broad grin.

The leech and I were on the island of Siberut in the Indian Ocean, 150km west of Sumatra, on one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. I was there to spend a week living...

May 9, 2017

Even the most ardent solo traveller at some stage will need a guide - someone who knows their cantons from their arrondissements better than you do. I’ve used more than 20 guides around the world, from well-known tour companies to local specialists to random taxi drivers, so here are a few simple tips that might help next time you travel.

Choose if you can. Often I travel independently and need a local guide / translator / fix...

May 2, 2017

“In the olden days,” began Apinelu, a tone of longing in his voice, “it was never this hot. Never. Now everything has changed, not just the sea.” It was a very still 33° and my earlobes were sweating. Welcome to the small island nation of Tuvalu.

“Tomorrow I take you out to the islands, less crowded, more local,” he chuckled. We were driving around Funafuti, the densely populated capital and I’m pretty sure I was the only touri...

May 3, 2016

“Y’all not from round here, are ya? Ain’t nobody drinks Buuuud. This is Shiner Bock country, sir.”

And with that the barman passed over a golden-labelled bottle of ale. I was in Luckenbach, Texas, population 3, a small town in the Hill Country west of San Antonio. It was to be the starting point for an adventure deep into the heart of Texas, a road trip to discover the smaller side of the big state.

The Hill Country is known as...

January 24, 2016

The lion was just metres away now. “Look, he’s trying to find some shade so the meat doesn’t rot quickly,” whispered my guide, Nicholas. In the big cat’s mouth was a Maasai calf, being unceremoniously dragged across the plain towards a desert date tree. It was nature at its primeval best in Kenya’s most famous game park.

I was in the Maasai Mara in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, my first stop on a quest to see the Big Five. Not co...

January 12, 2016

“Don’t worry ‘bout a thing, cause every little thing, gonna be al-riiight…”

It seemed only appropriate that Bob Marley blared out the front of the pick-up as we bounced along the dirt road. After all, this was the country of Emperor Haile Selassie, recognised by Rastafarians as the Massiah of African Redemption and head of their religion. Not that any of that mattered as we dodged goats and dug into ruts.

I was on my way to the...

April 26, 2015

We both looked up. It was a strange sound, obviously unfamiliar to my host. “When was the last time it rained here?” I asked. A pause. “Um… this is the first time this year. Might settle the dust though,” said Nick laconically. Perhaps a good omen to mark the centenary of what some would say is Australia’s strangest town. 

I was in Coober Pedy, located in the desert of the South Australian outback, a red dirt town under big blu...

February 5, 2015

“When the alarm goes you grab this,” Officer Cadet Dusan said as he pointed to my lifejacket. “And this.” An orange survival suit. “We muster on C Deck, starboard side.” I didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing that my welcome was bringing up Titanic-like thoughts.

I had just boarded the ANL Bindaree, a Liberian-flagged freighter that was slowly pulling out into the Hauraki Gulf laden with 30,000 tones of freight, 24 crew an...

June 4, 2013

“Why Albania?” 

“Why not?”
“What have they done to us?” 
“What have they done for us?”

“See, they keep to themselves. Shifty. Untrustable.” 

No, not a weird conversation about where to holiday but a scene from Wag The Dog, where Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman are deciding who America should go to war with. Thankfully it never happened, but if it had you can bet Albania would have been ready. Dotted along its coast...

January 22, 2013

Oh my god, he’s going to do it!” screeched the American teenager to my left. Sure enough with a quick wave to the crowd, a furtive glance downwards and a tuck of the pants, over he leapt. One of Mostar’s bridge-jumpers had just taken the plunge into the icy Neretva River below. I’d just witnessed something that wasn’t possible two decades before. 

In 1992 the Bosnian town of Mostar, until then a peaceful mix of Muslims, Serbs a...

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