Madagascar Moments

For many people, the word ‘holiday’ conjures up thoughts of sandy beaches, sun loungers, cocktails with cute little umbrellas, late nights, late mornings … What about 5 a m wakeup calls? Jolting around in a cramped vehicle for hours at a time over steep, narrow, winding, pot-holed roads? Scrambling, stumbling up twisting paths fraught with…

Close Encounter of the Toad Kind

With ears on stalks and now thoroughly wide-awake, I sensed that I was not alone. Something had disturbed me: not the continuous high-pitched peep-pip of the tree-frogs, a sound that twinkled in the still, sultry night; not the gentle, methodical whirr of the electric fan cutting through the room’s humidity.  No, it was something else. …

Fallas de San Jose 2010

We enjoyed the Fallas so much in 2009 that we went back to Valencia the following year for another hit. This time round, no car, no satnav, no problem: first Easyjet, then metro to the centre of town, then a short walk to our hotel just off the Plaça del Ayuntamiento. Judging was due to…

The Fallas of San Jose

It was my idea to take Carruthers to Spain. Brilliant idea, I thought. Carruthers can almost always be relied on to get us from here to there without getting us lost or having an argument or losing her cool. You don’t get SatNavs with Attitude …yet. (Carruthers? Well, you wouldn’t want any old TomTom, Dick…

Nagaland

From across the valley the tops of the hills looked as if they had been sprinkled with granulated sugar.  This was our first glimpse of Kohima. We drove into a dusty, dirty town, criss-crossed with electric wires and clogged with traffic. The streets were lined with small shops selling everything from paan, cushions and quilts,…

Assam

We flew into Guwahati over neat squares of rice fields and then rattled and shook our way to Nameri. For five hours. The last hour was on a tortuous road of sand and boulders, and was perhaps a new highway under construction; or it could have been a road untouched since the days of the…

Kolkata

The sun was a silver disc in a colourless sky and quite unequal to the task of burning through the haze that permanently hangs over the city. Pollution and dust, blended with the odours of diesel oil and urine: that’s Kolkata. It’s probably the traffic that you notice first.  Swarms of yellow taxis, battle-scarred and…

High Roads: Bhutan

We arrived in Puentsholing hungry, so our priority was to find somewhere to eat. Shouldn’t be that difficult … We didn’t want a big meal – just a snack at a café. Just enough to tide us over until dinner-time that evening. Down a side road we found a couple of places: Restaurant sign outside;…

Slow roads: Sikkim and West Bengal

We left Darjeeling the next day for Pelling in Sikkim. Our route took us through slopes cushioned with the wobbly lines of tea bushes before becoming much steeper and more wooded. Pithy signs by the roadside advised drivers to exercise caution: Drive Slow Remember your family are waiting for you Better late than late Don’t…

Roads Less Travelled: Burimari to Darjeeling

We drove past paddy fields and through gently undulating tea plantations. We crossed the Teesta River over the violently-coloured Coronation Bridge and then our road was ever upwards. Destination: Darjeeling. Gradually, carefully, we snaked our way up through thick jungle on increasingly steep twisting mountain roads. I noticed rows of raised stones set into the…

Roads less travelled: Bangladesh

Dozens of small dark craft criss-crossed the waterway, the boatmen perched high in the stern, skilfully wielding a single oar. For a fleeting moment you could almost persuade yourself that you were in Venice … but these were not gondolas … and this was most certainly not the Grand Canal. The water’s edge was not…

SELOUS, MIKUMI AND RUAHA

It’s a sound to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end … It’s not loud, but it’s unmistakable – and you can’t really tell how far away it is. Or how close … There is nothing quite like the roar of a lion in the dead of night. It commands…