The Rift Valley Lakes with Reuben

  It was 9 pm when we arrived at the Reception desk of the Fairview hotel in Nairobi. They could find no record of our booking – and I overheard them telling someone who had just rolled up on the off-chance that the hotel was full, and there were no rooms available. Things weren’t looking…

A Week in the Mara

The wind must have been in the wrong direction that morning.  Bushes and tussocks of grass must have masked the lionesses from view.  A few unsuspecting wildebeest had braved the current and crocodiles, crossed the river unscathed and scrambled up the steep bank straight into danger, straight into the eight lionesses lying in wait ……

Wild Things

I’m not a big fan of canopy walkways. OK, so you’re up there on a level with the tree tops. Someone helpful and/or more knowledgeable than yourself might point out a distant brightly coloured dot, which they then might identify as some bird with an unfeasibly long name (possibly in Latin if they’re really knowledgeable)…

Iceland: dreich, bleak … magic

It wasn’t exactly bucket and spade weather. As for paddling – who in their right mind would go paddling in the far North Atlantic in waves that drenched the unwary and jostled large chunks of ice against their legs? My feet were freezing and I was slowly beginning to realise that my brand new waders…

Ladakh: Mountains and Monasteries Part 2

We woke to a day of glorious sunshine. After a relaxing morning and lunch, we strolled into Leh to see what was going on. Answer: absolutely nothing. The shops, cafes, stalls, markets were all closed and there were very few people about. The taxi strike had apparently shut down the entire town – but the…

Ladakh: Mountains and Monasteries 1

When I saw the picture on the front of the tour dossier I knew I wanted to go to Ladakh. It was a picture of a small monastery perched on a rocky crag. Just that, nothing more. The building itself wasn’t particularly imposing, but the white walls bright in sunshine against a backdrop of shadowy…

Fur and Ice 3

A shore excursion was planned for Kapp Lee, but gale force winds gusting upwards of 35 knots put paid to that idea.  Landing aborted. A zodiac cruise was to take us along the face of 45 km long Bråsvellbreen glacier on Nordaustlandet island.  But the sea was full of shattered and fragmented ice floes –…

Fur and Ice 2

Our next shore trip was at Zorgdragerfjorden on Nordaustlandet.  It’s officially described as an Arctic desert, although we were told 81 species of plants can be found there.  (We found none – unless you count a bit of lichen.)   We divided ourselves up into smaller groups according to how energetic (or not) we wanted to…

Fur and Ice 1

Thermal underwear … gloves … woolly hat … down jacket …   OK, agreed, it’s not what most people would pack for a summer cruise … but this was no ordinary cruise.  Thousands of passengers?  Choice of restaurant on different decks?  Tired floor shows?  None of that (thank goodness). Not even any sun loungers.  We were…

Tehran

Now that we were back in Tehran, we were back to the familiarity of the maelstrom of traffic, back to visiting more palaces – the White Palace, the Green Palace and one more museum, the Reza Abbasi (not named after our guide).  I’m not usually a big fan of museums, but this one with its…

Iran: part 3

We left Esfahan reluctantly.  We drove through a landscape of dun-coloured hills and mountains and far distant jagged peaks still streaked with snow.  We were headed for Abyaneh, a small village near Natanz.  Along the main highway outside Natanz, every lamp-post bore a large black and white photo.  These were portraits of Iranian soldiers from…

Esfahan

Esfahan enchanted us.  It’s a city of shaded streets, elegant bridges, richly decorated palaces and magnificent blue-domed mosques.  And friendly people. We visited the Chehel Sotun Palace.  ‘Chehel Sotun’ means ‘40 columns’ and refers to the slender wooden pillars at the front of the palace.  There are in fact only twenty of them, but through…