• Most action-packed jungles

    Make like Tarzan and take on one of these truly original rainforest adventures. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures.

    Battlefield crossing, Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea

    Hiker on the Kokoda Track. Image by Andrew Peacock / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.

    Pacifists shouldn’t be put off the Kokoda Track, site of bloody battles in WWII, though those in questionable physical shape who aren’t sure they can hack hiking a 96km undulating trail in hot, humid conditions surely should be. The trek is the only route over the Owen Stanley Range, which divides the north and south of the island. Hiking the track usually takes nine days and includes river crossings, knee-deep mud and regular downpours, though the awesome vast valleys and jungle scenery provide a welcome diversion.

    The best time to do the trek is from April to November. A faster six-day trek is also available for the ultrahardy. Visit www.kotrek.com.

    Zip-lining, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia

    Ancient rainforests are best viewed from the perspective of a bird soaring through the canopy layer; it’s achievable through zip-lining, albeit as a bird travelling at warp speed. While you fly through this dense World Heritage–listed tropical rainforest, which borders the Daintree Cape Tribulation National Park, you’ll catch glimpses of the ocean and Great Barrier Reef, plus butterflies, birds and insects. To truly get to know the jungle’s wildlife, which includes rainforest dragons (yes, dragons!), bats, possums, spiders and snakes, tack a two-hour night walk on to your trip.

    Jungle Surfing (www.junglesurfing.com.au) operates in a private reserve using structures designed to have a negligible effect on the trees. It’s a 2 1⁄2-hour drive from traveller-hub Cairns.

    Mountain biking, Chi Phat, Cambodia

    Touring a jungle by bike doesn’t just allow you to cover far more leaf-cushioned ground than you would ordinarily be able to but it also makes the scenery whoosh past in a dreamy kind of way. The Chi Pat eco-tourism site offers a range of rides on rugged rainforest trails to a backdrop of mountains, mangroves, waterfalls and, if you’re lucky, grazing elephants. Situated in the Krâvanh Mountains, Southeast Asia’s largest remaining tract of rainforest, it was established by the NGO Wildlife Alliance in 2007 with a view to giving local families a sustainable income promoting the region’s natural wonders.

    The rides vary from an easy 12km to a more serious, sweat-inducing 42km. Some include camping in the jungle and cool-offs in the natural waterfall-fed pools. Visit www.ecoadventurecambodia.com.

    Surfing, G-Land, Alas Purwo, Indonesia

    Surfers look on as a large wave rolls through G-Land, Indonesia. Image by Krystle Wright / Getty Images.

    Surfers are no strangers to blazing a trail through the jungle in search of the best breaks and Java’s G-Land, off Indonesia’s biggest national park, Alas Purwo, was one such find. The expert-only peeling lefthander was discovered by surfers in the 1970s. The name is from a nearby stretch of rainforest which always looks green, hence the ‘G’. Aside from surfers and white-sand beaches, the park is also home to Hindu temples, meditation caves, turtles, panthers, wild pigs, leaf monkeys and several unique species of bamboo.

    The break is best reached by boat charter from Bali (in around half a day) and best surfed March to November. G-Land Surf Camp (www.surfadventuretours.com/g-land-surf-camp.php) is located just 100m from the wave.

    Tiger scouting, Chitwan National Park, Nepal

    If you want to see a tiger that isn’t shuffling about in a zoo or on the front of a cereal packet, head for Chitwan National Park in the Nepalese jungle, where there’s a 75 percent likelihood of a sighting. There are also night tours to further help you glimpse this nocturnal beast. But even if you don’t, it’s still the perfect place to channel your inner Mowgli, with heaps of other wildlife on view, such as leopards, sloths and water buffalo. Travel is via a mixture of elephant back, canoe, jeep and foot.

    Responsible Travel Tiger safaris (www.responsibletravel.com) are accompanied by a zoologist and local naturalist guides. Jeep tours and on-foot tracking tours are available, best taken late November to early May.

    Tribal touring, Fouta Djallon, Guinea

    With its fine-looking waterfalls, lush jungle and rare tropical dry forests, Fouta Djallon offers some of the best, horde-free hiking in West Africa. But it is not for the average ambler – most treks average six hours of walking per day on terrain ranging from mellow, rolling grasslands to single-track forest trails and vine bridges. There are also maze-like rock gorges, one of which presumably isn’t called ‘Indiana Jones World’ for nothing. Alongside the sublime nature are isolated villages with traditional Fouta huts that are home to the friendly Fulbe people.

    Fouta Trekking (www.foutatrekking.org) works with the Fulbe and channels funding back into local projects, such as farming initiatives. The best time to go is January to October.

    Mayan temple trekking, Tikal, Guatemala

    Tikal. Image by Adalberto Rios Szalay/Sexto Sol / Getty Images.

    The Mayans might have been wrong about the apocalypse but their one-time capital Tikal shows they knew a thing or two about building grand temples that poke above the jungle canopy with views dramatic enough to give you goosebumps. Just ask George Lucas, who chose it as the setting for the rebel base in the original Star Wars. Tikal has been a World Heritage–listed site since 1979, and the status protects not just the ruins but the unique flora and fauna that call this tropical rainforest ecosystem home. These include spider monkeys, jaguars, crocodiles, toucans, and parrots.

    Martsam Travel (www.jungletoursguatemala.com) organises hikes within the archaeological site with an indigenous guide; combine them with a hike to a bat cave at El Zotz.

    Volcano hiking, Arenal, Costa Rica

    The Mirador El Silencio Reserve is a rich primary rainforest, which includes many old-growth trees such as the Ceiba, trumpet tree and Guarumo. It’s also just 5km from Arenal, Costa Rica’s youngest and most active volcano located in a high-risk zone where all new construction is banned. Though it’s been ‘on a break’ since 2010, Arenal’s looming presence in your eye line as you hike through the thick jungle serves to remind you that it can blow its top at any time, as it did in 1968, obliterating three villages in the process. Unwind in the nearby hot springs post-hike.

    Anywhere Costa Rica (www.anywherecostarica.com) runs twice-daily, two-hour tours along the nature reserve’s hiking trails with a naturalist guide.

    Whitewater rafting, Amazon Basin, Ecuador

    No jungle list is complete without the daddy of them all – the Amazon rainforest. And the best way to truly appreciate this vast lushness is to take a boat through its inner core, starting with a white-water raft on the rapids of the upper river and moving on to more mellow motorised dug-out canoes as you get deeper downstream. You can also visit a rehabilitation centre for rainforest animals for close-up views of species you’ll have heard of, like monkeys and snakes, and ones you won’t, such as tapirs and ocelots.

    Untamed Path (www.untamedpath.com) runs trips from Quito, Ecuador from January to March and July to December.

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    #jungle  
    #action  

  • 16 hours ago
    1 day ago
  • Chefchaouen: four ways to explore Morocco’s blue city

    Chefchaouen is an otherworldly escape nestled in Morocco’s Rif Mountains. As well as its distinctive palette of blue and white buildings, a striking contrast with the arid setting, this popular tourist town has plenty to offer. Embark on strenuous hillside hikes or idle strolls; bathe in mountain streams; or embrace the culinary scene and excellent shopping. Here’s how to tailor a trip to Chefchaouen to four different travel styles.

    For history buffs

    Founded in 1471 by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami, Chefchaouen served as a Moorish fortress for exiles from Spain. Over the centuries, the city grew and welcomed Jews and Christian converts alike.

    Chefchaouen’s powder-blue buildings mirror the cloudless Moroccan sky - but religious rather than stylistic reasons are behind the design choice. Jewish teachings suggest that by dyeing thread with tekhelel (an ancient natural dye) and weaving it into prayer shawls, people would be reminded of God’s power. The memory of this tradition lives on in the regularly repainted blue buildings.

    Traditional blue-painted doors and walls in Chefchaouen's old town. Image by David Sutherland / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images.

    Traditional blue-painted doors and walls in Chefchaouen’s old town. Image by David Sutherland / Photographer’s Choice / Getty Images.

    Nowadays Chefchaouen is a rich cultural tapestry of Berber tribespeople, Muslims and Jews, along with descendants of the Moorish exiles from Spain who lived there in the 1400s. Berber tribespeople can be seen wearing distinctive cotton clothing paired with woven hats that are decorated with brightly coloured threads.

    Peering through a powder-blue archway in Chefchaouen. Image by Jean-François Gornet / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    Peering through a powder-blue archway in Chefchaouen. Image by Jean-François Gornet / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    For explorers

    Tucked away in Africa’s northernmost mountain range, the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen has plenty to offer fitness fanatics and those looking for adventure. Valleys, gorges and picturesque peaks are in abundance where arid landscapes meet trickling mountain streams. Both multi-day treks and day trips are available, all of which start in Chefchaouen. Some routes pass the nearby village of Jevel el Kelaa, a little north of the city, through Afeska, passing through lush green forests and offering with views of the Mediterranean Sea.

    Chefchaouen's jumble of houses meets the waterfront. Image by Agnieszka Spieszny / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    Chefchaouen’s jumble of houses meets the waterfront. Image by Agnieszka Spieszny / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    Nights are spent under cloudless skies speckled with constellations unobstructed by light pollution. Alternatively, accommodations are available in some villages, ranging from budget backpacker hostels to luxury hotels.

    A two-day trek with Journey Beyond Travel (journeybeyondtravel.com) starts in Chefchaouen, passing a natural spring on the way to a small village in the Talasemtane National Park. A night spent in a small mountain lodge is followed by a visit to the Farda River and God’s Bridge before a picnic lunch, a stop off at Akchour and a transfer back to the blue city. With Tours By Locals (toursbylocals.com), visitors can explore on mule-back.

    Whatever the season, visitors are guaranteed incredible views. April to June is a popular time of year for trekkers. Chefchaouen is prone to dustings of snow in winter and may be more challenging for hikers (experience recommended).

    Some experienced mountaineers overlooking the Rif Mountains. . Image by Agnieszka Spieszny / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    Some experienced mountaineers overlooking the Rif Mountains. Image by Agnieszka Spieszny / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    For foodies

    Your taste buds wont know what’s hit them after a few days in the city, what with the hundreds of spices, aromatic herbs, variety of textures and tantalising smells. Kick off your day with a bakery trip: bread is baked in a traditional wood-fired oven, giving it a distinctive taste and crunchy outer layer.

    For lunch, try the town’s signature tagine: a typical Moroccan-style dish made with fish, vegetables, spices and oil served on a bed of fluffy couscous. Tagine, a dish for lunch or dinner, has many variations but most commonly consists of meat or fish, a mixture of vegetables and a selection of spices. The dish often includes ras-el-hanout, a tangy blend of around 30 spices including turmeric, paprika, cardamom, chilli, cumin, cinnamon and more.

    Try one of these tagines, grilled meats or succulent fish dishes at Casa Hassan’s Tissemlal Restuarant (casahassan.com/en/tissemlal-restaurant).  A guesthouse-cum-restaurant, the eatery is popular with both locals and tourists, and many return again and again. Its open-plan kitchen allows a sneak peek into the preparation of the many dishes on offer.

    Polish off each meal with a refreshing mint tea, made by boiling green tea leaves and adding fresh mint and a generous helping of sugar. The tea is reputedly great for your health and is an important part of Moroccan life, as many locals meet for daily discussions over a steaming pot in one of the many cafes that line the higgledy-piggledy alleyways.

    A glistening plate of olives, the perfect appetiser for a Moroccan feast. Image by Gabriel Rodríguez / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    A glistening plate of olives, the perfect appetiser for a Moroccan feast. Image by Gabriel Rodríguez / CC BY-SA 2.0.

    For retail junkies

    Quaint and colourful, Chefchaouen’s medina is like stepping into another world. Nestled in the crooked hillside streets, the medina is an addictive emporium for those looking to burn a hole in their pocket. Brass teapots and plates glint from the shadows. Handwoven blankets and shawls conceal walls and tables. Tortoises scramble for lettuce leaves in blue plastic baskets. Aztec-patterned bags and Moroccan slippers lie in haphazard piles, spilling from sacks into the streets.

    For silver plates and jewellery, stop at the sheltered trove along Hassan 1 where trinkets balance in precarious stacks and line the walls. A little further along the cobbled path you’ll find cardigans, shawls and blankets made from sheep’s wool or camel hair are draped from rafters. Follow the hillside down to the Kasbah to an organised scattering of handmade tagine clay pots, decorated with delicate artistry and piled high for the taking.

    Before you get too carried away filing your bags with gems and jewels, carpets and spices, it’s best to learn the art of haggling. In Morocco you’ll be expected to barter for your wares, battling for the best price possible. Ask the vendor his price before making your offer, then swiftly halve his request.  Gently edge higher until you meet a compromise, and always end with a smile and a shukran to thank them.

    Tagines, the distinctive serving dishes for Morocco's best-loved food. Image by palindrome6996 / CC BY 2.0.

    Tagines, the distinctive serving dishes for Morocco’s best-loved food. Image by palindrome6996 / CC BY 2.0.

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    #morocco  
    #blue  

  • 2 days ago
    3 days ago
  • Top 5 El Salvador Experiences

    El Salvador is Central America‘s smallest country and often overlooked by travellers looking to explore the region. It is bursting at the seams with amazing culture, landscape and flavours. Here are my top five favorite things about El Salvador from the time I’ve spent within its borders.

    1. Pupusas

    Pupusas are delicious corn tortillas filled with cheese, beans, pork or any combination thereof. It’s a Salvadorian empanada/arepa made on the spot and cooked right in front of you. Served with a tasty cabbage slaw and tomato sauce, a few pupusas suffice for a meal. Best of all, they cost less than $1 each. I lived off of pupusas for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days straight on my first visit–I couldn’t get enough!

    Devouring a plate of Pupusas. Photo by M. Lulu.

    Devouring a plate of Pupusas. Photo by M. Lulu.

    2. Coffee

    El Salvador‘s neighbours tend to take all of the Central American coffee credit, but the beans harvested on its soil make a delicious cup of joe. Help out the local economy and buy a few bags of coffee to savour at home.

    Fresh fair trade coffee beans. Photo by E. Torner.

    Fresh fair trade coffee beans. Photo by E. Torner.

    3. Ruta de las Flores (The Flower Route)

    This picturesque area in western El Salvador is dotted with small towns that each have a slightly different flair and artisan craft specialty. Named after the many flowers that bloom during certain times of the year, it’s a beautiful, lush part of the country. The Ruta de las Flores has everything from a gastronomic festival on weekends in Juayua to coffee plants dotting its hills to bright, street art-style wall murals in Concepcion de Ataco.

    Street art in Concepción de Ataco.

    Street art in Concepción de Ataco.

    4. Surfing and beaches

    Surfers have been flocking to El Salvador for at least a decade now. Its surf towns aren’t as packed with travellers as those in other countries up and down the coast, and the waves are both stellar and consistent. Don’t surf? Enjoy the slow-paced beach life and be sure to sample the fresh seafood.

    Playa El Tunco, El Salvador.

    Playa El Tunco, El Salvador.

    5. The people

    Salvadorian people are some of the friendliest you’ll encounter in the region. They’ve been through a lot, including a brutal civil war that ended in 1992, but on the whole, they are quite resilient. Welcoming and proud, Salvadorians love to share their country with visitors.

    A daily scene in Apaneca.

    A daily scene in Apaneca.

    (Source: gadventures.com.au)

    #travel  

  • 3 days ago
  • Lonely Planets Travel Nightmares

    Even the most careful travellers occasionally find themselves getting lost, failing hard at local etiquette, or otherwise blundering and puking around a new destination. And while we’re seasoned explorers, Lonely Planet’s writers and staff have experienced their fair share of travel disasters.

    Multicoloured painted Mexican skulls. Image by David Pedre / E+ / Getty Images.

    But there are some anecdotes we only dare to share in hushed whispers, to wincing, open-mouthed (or nauseated) listeners. From pyrotechnic failures to illness on the road, all the way through to guns waving and wildlife encounters gone horribly wrong, these are a few of our travel horror stories.

    Brothel-bound in Malawi

    Lusaka, Zambia. We’re headed east to Lilongwe, Malawi, by local bus. We’ve bought reserved seats on an express bus… that never arrives. So along with two other busloads of resigned people, mostly locals, four hours later we’re herded aboard a bus making any stops and detours it is the driver’s wallet-guided whim to make.

    Somehow, my girlfriend and I wedge into side-by-side seats within reach of our bags, which have lurched aboard on the backs of touts who demand exorbitant service premiums. Most of the remaining freight gets piled on top of the bus to heights so excessive that roadside villagers point in shock. Uncustomarily for Southern Africa, the driver even slows on turns and we watch the bus’ metal superstructure shift and strain under the unwieldy weight.

    Well after dark, 12 hours into a nine-hour journey from which we have had only one short bathroom break, the bus limps into Chipata, a town several kilometres short of the border. But we’re not disgorged at the station; we’re at a depot deep within a shuttered and unlit market. Not at all comfortable, we follow the sound of music. To a brothel, of course. The owner sees me as an opportunity and my girlfriend as a business buzz kill, but he takes pity on us. We secure a room until dawn if we promise to stay inside it. This suits us just fine.

    Ethan Gelber is a writer/editor with a passion for responsible, sustainable and local travel. Follow along @thetravelword

    Bikini leech

    I was wobbly and parched from 10 hours of trekking through the land-before-time jungle of southern Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park. After a thorough leech check (at our guide’s behest), I melted into a bamboo lounger at my guesthouse. A meal, sunset and several icy Singhas later, as I peeled myself from the chair, I felt the slightest sensation on my upper thigh. I glanced down to find a leech, engorged with (my!) blood to the size of a fingerling potato, between my feet. Realizing that it had fallen drunkenly from my shorts, I found the energy to sprint to the toilet, where a small hole drilled into my bikini line proceeded to bleed for three days. Straight.

    Emily K Wolman, Lonely Planet’s Editor-at-Large

    The slithery form that sends a shiver down travellers' spines, the humble leech. Image by Sarah. CC BY 2.0.The slithery form that sends a shiver down travellers’ spines, the humble leech. Image by Sarah. CC BY 2.0.

    Bitten by a tramp in Bordeaux

    It was my first ever solo trip at the age of 19. I had been out sampling some of the region’s more affordable vintages with a group from my hostel and after the maison du vin closed we decided to grab a couple of bottles from the local supermarché and sit in the park across the road.

    As most drinkers know, after a few too many your bladder becomes impatient and when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. Conveniently there was a little thicket of trees on the edge of the park. Less conveniently it also contained a desperate young man who saw a perfect moment for an opportunistic mugging.

    Being a belligerent teenager I instantly forgot that this is exactly the kind of situation you buy travel insurance for and retaliated. Emerging victorious, with my opponent in a headlock, I was unprepared for my vindication to abruptly end with him sinking his teeth into my arm.

    The French doctor that treated me muttered darkly about ‘la rage’ (rabies) as he bandaged my arm and although I tried to soldier on for several days it quickly became apparent that backpacking on your own isn’t much fun when you’re wearing a sling.

    Almost a year later and long after the chunk of flesh missing from my left elbow had regrown, I still found myself enduring regular blood tests and inoculations at my local hospital and wishing I had just let him have my phone.

    Tom Hewitson, Digital Editor (Destinations), London. Follow @tomhewitson

    A bandaged arm - not the best travel souvenir. Image by Garrett Albright. CC BY 2.0.A bandaged arm – not the best travel souvenir. Image by Garrett Albright. CC BY 2.0.

    Silenced at gunpoint in DC

    I’m a reluctant hostel stayer but it seemed the best (that is, cheapest) option when I was in Washington DC. One morning roommates and I were in our room discussing plans for the day. It was mid morning but another guy was still in bed and grumpily asked us to keep the noise down. We lowered our voices but continued talking. Suddenly the sleeping guy reached under his pillow, pulled out a gun, aimed it at us, and shouted ‘I told you to be quiet. Don’t make me tell you again.’ We exited the room sharpish and within minutes our gun-toting roommate was being led away by police. The rest of the day’s events couldn’t really compete with that. And I’m more reluctant than ever to stay in a hostel.

    Clifton Wilkinson, Destination Editor (and reluctant hostel visitor)

    Disastrously disoriented in Budapest

    I get off the plane and the baggage carousel is on fire. Hungarian voices scream as smoke pours into the baggage claim. I am marooned without my bags, and the friend I am supposed to meet is ensconced in a post-work pálinka session (pálinka being petrol-strength vodka with the flavour of peaches). When I eventually reunite with my luggage and find him, it’s not long until we’re both the worse for wear.

    We end up in a warehouse bar, where I’m stuck with a guy who is ranting about how Lou Reed is a greater composer than Schoenberg or Mahler. My friend has vanished and isn’t answering his phone. Rookie mistake no. 1: I do not have a map. Rookie mistake no. 2: I do not have a phrasebook to ask for directions in Hungarian.

    I can remember the street name and that his apartment is number 56 so I use the international language of charades to request directions.  The ensuing instructions take me to a kebab shop – tasty, but ultimately not what I wanted. By now I’m lost, tired, drunk and unable to communicate. I interrupt a pair of snogging guys and charade at them; they charade back. I think they’re inviting me to sleep at their place. I don’t want to but motion that I’ll walk with them for a bit. We finally reach their apartment door. Miracle – it’s number 56 and it’s on my friend’s street! They know the security code and I stifle tears of joy whilst hugging them profusely. I wander up to my friend’s door. Knock. Knock again. Bang. More banging. The neighbours yell at me so I give up and sleep in the doorway.  My muscles seize, the nerves in my back pinch, cold creeps over my body and I fall asleep wishing I’d brought my guidebook.

    Kate Sullivan, Corporate Lawyer

    Chased by guard dogs

    My idyllic sunset stroll along a deserted Vietnamese beach turned nasty after I spotted a sprawling mansion in the dunes, complete with sinister-looking watchtower. In the tower was a khaki-clad guard glaring at me angrily and clutching his AK47.  As I beat a hasty retreat, I heard a snarling, panting noise and glanced back to see three enormous guard dogs racing towards me. Desperate to avoid a chase I forced myself not to run, and the menacing but well-trained dogs escorted me away, leaving me a gibbering wreck at the other end of the beach.

    Anna Tyler, Destination Editor

    Gore on Iceland’s Ring Road

    The bird was safely tucked in among the tall grasses on a roadside verge. As I drove along at the speed limit of 90km/h I had plenty of time to admire the speckled plumage and graceful beak from afar.

    What I didn’t know was that the bird was cursed with unfortunate timing. Or perhaps he harboured a darkness in his avian brain, the prospect of endless days foraging for worms stretching out pointlessly in his mind. Maybe he could take no more, after another unsuccessful mating season. We may never know.

    In any case, a mere moment before my car could zoom safely past, the snipe launched himself into the air – and thunked directly into my windscreen with a queasy splatter. After the collision, the bird ricocheted over my car. All that remained after that split-second was a bloody trickle on the wind shield. I whimpered queasily as the windscreen wipers slicked the gory evidence across the glass.

    Anita Isalska is an editor, writer and cautious driver. Follow her @lunarsynthesis.

    Explosive error in Bolivia

    When I was nineteen I went to Bolivia and me and my friend Phil bought some dynamite to give to the workers in a mine near the city of Potosi – they make very little money and lead dangerous lives, so when you visit you can give them some almost as a tip . Unfortunately, we forgot to give it to them and so decided to blow it up by a deserted lake when we were on a tour of the Atacama desert. We lit the fuse nervously, scurried away, and felt slightly disappointed that the resulting explosion wasn’t more dramatic. But it was loud enough!  It turned out that the deserted lake was right by border with Chile. A couple of soldiers came running over with rifles and marched us into an office, where the local commandant shouted at us. I barely spoke any Spanish at the time and kept mumbling ‘desayuno’, which means ‘breakfast’, rather than ‘lo siento’, which means ‘sorry’. Thankfully our tour guide knew the commandant quite well and he let us go after we gave him a roll of camera film for some surveillance photos, before waving us off cheerily the next morning.

    James Smart, Destination Editor

    Midnight arrest in London

    An innocent working-holidaymaker on my first trip to the UK, I booked a bed in a London hostel with a bar so I could ‘meet people’. The hostel turned out to be a couple of beds above an old men’s boozer. Needless to say, the old men didn’t want to be my friend. One night at about 1am there was a loud banging on the door followed by a torch being shone in my face. It was the police, mistaking me for one of my dorm mates, who they found on the bunk above me and arrested for grievous bodily harm after a bloody fight with one of the downstairs drinkers. Welcome to England!

    Jessica Crouch, Lonely Planet’s Online Editorial Team

    Fear and food poisoning on safari

    My husband got an unfortunate bout of food poisoning while we were camping on safari in the middle of a national park in Tanzania. Due to the threat of wild animals you were supposed to go to the toilet in pairs but he was up all night, I got fed up of going with him and he had to keep running the gauntlet on his own. Feeling horribly ill and terrified of being eaten – poor thing!

    Becky Henderson, Foreign Rights Manager (and bad wife)


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  • 4 days ago
    5 days ago
    1 week ago
    1 week ago
  • Where to feel like one of the family Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/where-to-feel-like-one-of-the-family#ixzz2xX4Sh7xp

    With 2014 marking the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, here’s how to kip with clans worldwide.

    Casas particulares, Cuba

    Cuban men sitting in a doorway. Image by Mark Hannaford / AWL Images / Getty Images.

    Cuban men sitting in a doorway. Image by Mark Hannaford / AWL Images / Getty Images.

    The room is a retro revelation: all quirky antiques, faded family photos and leafy plants. A warm breeze teases through the paint-flaked shutters. The table heaves under a mountain of fresh prawns and impassioned conversation about Castro and what’s going on in the soaps. Then the cigars come out… Casas particulares (Cuban homestays), legalised in 1997, provide vital additional income for many locals. For travellers, they provide the best way to stay on the Caribbean Isle: not only cheaper than hotels, casas offer oodles more character, homecooked food and an instant way in to Cuban culture.

    Casas particulares (www.casaparticularcuba.org) are found island-wide.

    Ger, Mongolia

    Homestays in the Gobi Desert? OK, homes don’t really ‘stay’ here: nomads shift their gers (yurts) at the whim of the weather. But some of these felt tents stay put long enough for steppe-roaming travellers to get a night of local living. There are rules: when approaching a ger, call ‘Nokhoi khor!’ (hold the dog!), the Mongolian equivalent of knocking; on entering, walk to the left (on the right is the family area); don’t sit with your back or feet pointing towards the ger’s altar; and when offered some airag (fermented mare’s milk), accept – even if you’d rather not…

    Ger camps open from mid-may. June and September are pleasant; July–August is peak season, though temperatures can top 40°c.

    Coconut plantation, Kerala, India

    A boatman on a river in Trivandrum, Kerala. Image by Andrea Booher / The Image Bank / Getty Images.

    A boatman on a river in Trivandrum, Kerala. Image by Andrea Booher / The Image Bank / Getty Images.

    The Keralan coconut trade is not what it used to be. Prices have slumped and youngsters no longer want to spend time scampering up trees to scrape a meagre living. Luckily, the residents of God’s Own Country are a resourceful lot. With the classic crop failing to raise the rupees, many plantation owners in the South Indian state have opened their colonial-cool doors to passing travellers instead. That means opportunities for intimate stays in often elegant, antique-bedecked buildings, with palms and lushness wafting outside the windows, backwaters burbling nearby and delicious (possibly coconut-infused) curries cooked each night.

    The main airports are at Cochin, Kozhikode and Trivandrum. The Trivandrum Rajdhani Express (Delhi to Trivandrum) takes 41 hours.

    Township house, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa

    In 1904 the township of Klipspruit was established southwest of Johannesburg to house the black-African labourers that officials didn’t want clogging the city. It grew exponentially, spawning the vast, chaotic melting-pot that is Soweto. Today it’s a fascinating mix: tin shacks and shebeens (pubs) lean near glitzy malls and mansions; there’s a Mandela museum (in Nelson’s former home), memorials to the 1976 student uprising, and even a distinct Soweto substyle of youth dress and lingo. Staying overnight with a local family in their township home is the best way to begin to comprehend this vibrant, tough and tenacious multicultural sprawl.

    Soweto is reached by MetroRail from Johannesburg Park Station. Guided tours are advised for exploring beyond Orlando West.

    Sobe, Croatia

    Jump off a bus or hop off a ferry somewhere along the Croatian coast in summertime, and your first encounter is not with the lapping turquoise sea or fish-grilling tavernas, but a line of sobe-ladies – often wizened old grandmas – touting rooms for rent in their homes. ‘Sobe? You want room? I give good price’, is the staccato call. And they’re not wrong. Although quality and style may vary (look before you pay), sobe are a snip, and can come with kitchenettes, cosy beds and even a surrogate mum for the duration of your stay.

    Arrive in town early for the greatest choice of rooms and the best bargaining position.

    Iban longhouse, Sarawak, Malaysia

    Iban men in traditional costumes in a longhouse. Image by Peter Solness / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

    Iban men in traditional costumes in a longhouse. Image by Peter Solness / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.

    Things can get cosy in an Iban longhouse. Members of Sarawak’s largest ethnic group (once known for their headhunting proclivities) traditionally live in communal, wonky, wooden structures that might be home to 30-odd families – and a few curious travellers. Many longhouses are secreted away in the jungle, reached only by boat. On arrival, your first port of call should be the tribe’s chief, who will hopefully grant you permission to ascend into the longhouse’s ruai (common area). This is where it all happens: eating, rice-wine drinking, gossiping, dancing… the Iban like to party, so don’t count on much sleep.

    Gifts should be given to Iban hosts, and easily divisible items are best – gifts will be shared among all the longhouse’s families.

    Village home, Otavalo, Ecuador

    There’s no rest for the guest in the Ecuadorean Highlands – not when there’s corn to be picked or sandals to be stitched. Around the traditional town of Otavalo, known for its colourfully dressed indigenous people and (fairly touristy) handicraft market, a scatter of homesteads welcomes travellers, and encourages them get their hands dirty. Rise with the cock’s crow – it’s worth it to watch the sunrise over the nearby volcanoes – then spend the day helping out, feeding the guinea pigs, planting cabbage or learning Andean embroidery. Efforts will be repaid by generous meals (remember those guinea pigs?) and a more authentic Otavaleño encounter.

    Community-tourism operator Runa Tupari arranges homestays and cultural activities in the area; see www.runatupari.com.

    Bedouin tent, Wadi Rum, Jordan

    OK, the convivial camps that dot the Jordanian desert might not be 100% authentic – you’d need to know a Bedouin family well before they invited you to stay overnight. But the tourist versions still provide a starry snap-shot of this Middle Eastern lifestyle, with the welcome addition of flush loos and solar showers. Head out amid Wadi Rum’s weird rocks by 4WD or camel, stopping to meet some real Bedouin for a cup of tea, and spend the night under canvas, snuggled in blankets while a campfire flickers in the sand and a canopy of constellations flickers far above.

    The best months to visit are March to April and October to November; from May to September temperatures can exceed 40°c.

    Bure, Fiji

    A thatched bure in Fiji. Image by Himani Himani / Perspectives / Getty Images.

    A thatched bure in Fiji. Image by Himani Himani / Perspectives / Getty Images.

    There’s not much to a traditional Fijian bure – a simple wood-and-thatch windowless cabin with dark, smoky walls and a packed-earth floor. But when paradise lies just outside, no one’s much concerned with interior decor. These days bures might have a few more amenities, but the rest is unchanged: the South Pacific is just as blue, the beaches as Bounty-ad beautiful. Better, though, is feeling part of the Fijian community. Join the ladies on a market shop, sail out with the village fishermen, learn to cook your catch in a lovo (earth-pit oven) or simply sit and shoot the sea breeze.

    When visiting a village it’s polite to give a gift of kava root to the host. For homestay options see www.fijihomestays.com.

    Couch, worldwide

    Beachside chalet, city apartment, bungalow, cabin, mansion, hovel – any one of these could be home for the night, anywhere on the planet. Thanks to the internet, which means you can now contact a bloke in Uzbekistan as easily as you can the man next door, the concept of couch-surfing has gone gargantuan. The idea is that when you’re travelling you can get in touch with willing locals and stay in their homes for free. In exchange, you exchange: this is about cultural mixing as much as bagging a bargain.

    The best-known free-sleep network is www.couchsurfing.org; similar options are www.bewelcome.org and www.hospitalityclub.org.

    #travel  
    #cuba  
    #india  
    #africa  
    #croatia  
    #ecuador  
    #jordan  
    #fiji  

  • 1 week ago
    1 week ago
  • 5 Tips for Exploring Marrakech’s Souks

    Shoes hanging in a market in Marrakech

    Shoes hanging in a market in Marrakech

    The souks in Marrakech are like an onion: peel back one layer and the next is more intense than the last. Not only are there endless amounts of eclectic items to buy, there is also a wild fervor that floods the marketplace’s tight, serpentine corridors.

    In Northern Africa and the Middle East, souk simply refers to a marketplace, and one of the best examples can be seen at Souk Ablueh and the other markets surrounding Djemma el-Fna in Marrakech. These traditional north African marketplaces are a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, because the stalls are filled with daily necessities to luxurious lamps, silver teapots and pretty much anything else your heart desires, including adventure.

    Adventure? Yep, that’s right. I know it may seem strange using shopping and adventure in the same line, but trust me when I say that’s exactly what visiting the souks is, especially if it is your first foray into Marrakech’s markets. So, to help you get the most of your expedition through the souks, we compiled our essential tips to aid you on your Moroccan shopping adventure.

    Take Your Time

    A lot of people come to Marrakech to do some serious shopping, and in retrospect, I really wish we had done more. Initially, the souks are a bit intimidating and approaching a shop seems a little nerve racking, so if you want to shop, spend the first day just looking around, snapping photos and taking note of everything on offer in the souks. Approach a couple shops to get a feel for the bargaining process. Make the following day your big shopping day, starting small and working up to the big ticket items you want.

    Exquisite lamps hang everywhere in the Souks

    Exquisite lamps hang everywhere in the Souks

    Carry Small Change

    Most of the sellers in the souks will take euros and U.S. dollars along with the Moroccan Dirham so remember to bring plenty of small change. It becomes a lot harder to bargain when you only have large bills. Having change in your pocket is a great way to add a little value to your offer without costing you a lot of money. Keep your money separated as well–sellers are more likely to give you a good deal if you can show them your empty pockets proving to them all you have is a certain amount of money. You don’t want to put all your cards on the table by pulling out a huge wad of bills.

    Bring Something to Trade

    Even something as simple as chewing gum could help get you a great deal. During the bartering process, throw in your item and watch the seller’s face light up. Everyone loves getting a good deal, including the merchants in the souks, and it helps when you can give them something that might be hard to get in Marrakech. Trading also helps alleviate serious bargaining matches and gets a smile from all everyone involved. It’s especially good if you can bring small items, like gum, LCD flashlights and small tools.

    Beautiful crafts are a plenty in the Marrakech souks

    Beautiful crafts are a plenty in the Marrakech souks

    Watch Out!

    Yes, you’ll be enamored by the endless amounts of glittering jewels, teapots and coins. You will likely follow your nose to the wafting smell of pastries and roasting nuts. And without a doubt, you’ll feel like you are in a completely different world and find yourself gawking at wares you only thought existed in a Pier 1 catalog. With that said, please remember to keep an eye out. People aren’t the only ones walking through souks, donkeys also stroll through and motorbikes rush past speeds that seem very unsafe to the uninitiated (you and me). A couple of times I wasn’t paying attention and almost got hit by passing motorbikes. While you’re muttering “oh wow” to yourself, just remember to keep a clear view of what is going on around you, and look out for speeding bikers coming around blind corners.

    Get Lost and Have Fun

    The souks are huge, beautiful and confusing. Don’t get stressed about getting lost, which will likely happen to you. Just remember that you are never truly that far from Djemaa el-Fna Square. It’s strange how it happens, but each time we got turned around, we ended up right back where we needed to be. Wandering around, getting lost and taking it all in is just part of the fun. Enjoy it and know you’ll find your way out eventually. If you get truly stuck, you can always ask the shop owners who will point you in the right direction.

    Do you have a tips or tricks that you use when visiting souks or markets?

    #travel  
    #souk  

  • 1 week ago
  • Santiago: Five Things to do in God’s Office

    On a clear day, Santiago luxuriates in one of the most resplendent settings of any city in the world. It’s framed by spectacular mountains — the white-tipped Andes to the east and the Chilean coastal range to the west. No wonder I was surprised when an acquaintance who had recently returned described it as “a dull hole with poor service and nothing to see beyond two hills”. While pollution and noise are likely to cloud one’s first impressions, Santiago deserves a closer look.

    That Santiago solicits such polarizing opinions is telling — and while the city might not match the romance and grandeur of Buenos Aires— it is nonetheless cultured and quirky. In truth, it’s a bit of an anachronism — very modern and inviting with citizens that exude an old-world charm and humility. The city’s survived the challenges of earthquakes, financial crises, dictatorships and floods to emerge safe, energetic and inviting.

    People in Chile’s provinces are fond of saying, “God is everywhere, but his office is in Santiago.” So what to do if you have a day or two to spend in the Big Guy’s office? Check out my recommendations below!

    1. Plaza de Armas

    A local chalk artist putting the finishing touches on the Virgin Mary.

    A local chalk artist putting the finishing touches on the Virgin Mary. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    As with any metropolitan centre in South America, the Plaza de Armas serves as the focal point of the city. The plaza was the midpoint of the Spanish settlement of 1541—and the square once served as a military training ground—hence its name. With time, however, it became the focus of Santiago’s social and commercial life. Santiago’s Plaza is a lively place, with outdoor cafes, local artists, street vendors, buskers, a statue of the local hero and, of course, grand buildings around the square. It’s a great place to people watch while sipping a beer or a coffee on a patio.

    2. Santa Lucia Hill

    Santa Lucia’s curving staircases are beautiful.

    Santa Lucia’s curving staircases are beautiful. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    Located in the heart of Santiago Centro, Santa Lucía Hill takes 15–20 minutes to climb and provides a very sweet view of the city unsurpassed inside Santiago—except by Cerro San Cristóbal (see below). It’s frequented by tourists—and lovers! Scattered throughout the park are various murals, statues, lookouts and liplocked couples. With multiple ways to get to the peak, just keep heading upwards and you can’t go wrong! The hill borders Avenue Bernardo O’Higgins in the south, Santa Lucía Street in the west and Victoria Subercaseaux.

    3. Bellavista

    Alrededores de Bellavista, Santiago.

    Alrededores de Bellavista, Santiago. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    Described by Frommer’s as one of the city’s most enigmatic neighborhoods, Bellavista “is to Santiago what Montmartre is to Paris”—that is, a popular bohemian quarter. The influence doesn’t end there, however, as Barrio Bellavista is known for French touches in its architecture and culture, too.

    4. Cerro San Cristóbal

    Statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of Cerro San Cristóbal.

    Statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    According to the locals we met, there is really no view of the entire city that compares to the panorama at the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. Take a ride up in the funicular from Bellavista and make sure you visit the statue of the Virgin Mary at the peak. Arrive half an hour before sunset on a clear day and watch night fall over the city—it’s breathtaking. Named by the Spanish conquistadors for St Christopher, in recognition of its use as a landmark, the hill boasts a 22m statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary donated by France in the 1920s. The statue is partly the work of French sculptor Bartholdi (of Statue of Liberty fame).

    5. Maipo Valley

    The Maipo Valley is a significant wine-producing, surrounding the national capital Santiago.

    The Maipo Valley is a significant wine-producing region. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    Vineyards stretch eastward from Santiago to the Andes and westward to the coast to form three distinct sectors of the Maipo Valley, considered the home of Chilean wine. It was here that the first wines were produced in the mid sixteenth century by Spanish missionaries. Some of the most established and respected names in Chilean wine are located in the Maipo Valley, for the simple reason that the original wineries were located, for obvious logistical reasons, within close proximity of Santiago city.

    Conclusion

    Santiago is one of my favourite cities in South America, with a breathtaking location framed by the Andes mountains. The city offers wonderful museums, colourful colonial architecture, appealing day trips—and great food and wine. My only complaint was that I didn’t have more time to spend touring God’s ‘office’.


    Getting There

    Curious to see what it would be like to stay to tour God’s Office? G Adventures runs a number of small group trips in Chile encompassing a wide range of departure dates, and trip styles to cater for different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you South America as you’ve never seen it — check out our small group trips to Chile here.

    #god  
    #travel  
    #chile  

  • 1 week ago
  • Sailing, Cape Horn, Chile
Dientes de Navarino Mountains in Chile by Dimitry B. CC BY 2.0.
Tall ships may look like they’ve sailed straight out of a classic oil painting, but you don’t need to set your DeLorean to 1870 to navigate the stormy seas in one – but you should be prepared to get stuck in on deck, and climbing the rigging is especially encouraged. The Auckland-to-Falklands route around Cape Horn is one of the gnarliest shipping channels on the planet, and you’ll rack up 5400 nautical miles among some of the world’s biggest waves.
You need some crewing experience for Classic Sailing’s Cape Horn trip (www.classicsailing.co.uk), though they organise shorter voyages for those with none.
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/best-adventure-travel-for-2014#ixzz2xX2wRsvE

    Sailing, Cape Horn, Chile

    Dientes de Navarino Mountains in Chile by Dimitry B. CC BY 2.0.

    Tall ships may look like they’ve sailed straight out of a classic oil painting, but you don’t need to set your DeLorean to 1870 to navigate the stormy seas in one – but you should be prepared to get stuck in on deck, and climbing the rigging is especially encouraged. The Auckland-to-Falklands route around Cape Horn is one of the gnarliest shipping channels on the planet, and you’ll rack up 5400 nautical miles among some of the world’s biggest waves.

    You need some crewing experience for Classic Sailing’s Cape Horn trip (www.classicsailing.co.uk), though they organise shorter voyages for those with none.

    #chile  
    #sailing  
    #travel  

  • 2 weeks ago
    2 weeks ago