Wanderlust Issue 137 (June 2013) Dream Trips • Everest Base Camp • Galápagos • Antarctica • Tanzania • Trans-Siberian • Get paid to travel • Pocket guides: Kathmandu, Vatican City, Sofia (Bulgaria)
CELEBRATING 20 YEARS IN TRAVEL 20 years of Wanderlust, 1993-2013
June 2013 | www.wanderlust.co.uk
AT S E R I P TO T WOH RT LAND TURH £2,00 PAG N TO 0 E NOW130 !
Journey to Everest Base Camp 60 years after the first ascent
Get paid toSee travel! the world AND make money – p104
Wildlife, water & wilderness
Antarctica Adventures at the edge of the world
A classic African safari – the crowd-free way
Instant escapes ] Corsica
The expert guide to your trip of a lifetime
I I World in pictures I
Canal capers Photographer Rory McDonald Every June, Italy’s most famous city by the water holds its annual Regatta of the Four Ancient Maritime Republics – an amazing spectacle to behold. To make way for the race, all the motorboats and water buses are temporarily suspended while people line the bridges cheering on the crews. Wanderlust reader Rory was there to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary and unable to resist shooting the scene. “I was standing on the Academy Bridge that crosses the Grand Canal looking towards the church of Santa Maria della Salute,” says Rory. “It’s not often that you see the canal thronged the way it would have been in Canaletto’s time; the crews even compete in traditional 17th century livery. The event really brings Venice to life and gives an insight into its history and traditions.” Rory (www.rorymcdonald.co.uk ) posted his photos on our online gallery, where we run regular competitions. To post your pics, go to www.wanderlust.co.uk/mywanderlust
: t s e r p e v m e e Ca d s n Ba d beyo an
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Everest Base Camp 1
I Himalayan walking for mortals plus 1 sherpa monasteries, yeti scalps... 1 I culture,
I I 1 Flights to Kathmandu via Delhi (14hours) I 1 March-May to see tents at Base Camp, Oct-Nov for clear skies, Dec to avoid crowds I
Because itâ€™s there? Walkers, sherpas and would-be Everest summiters share the space on the Khumbu Glacier beneath the many Himalayan giants
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Everest Base Camp Footnotes Vital statistics
Capital: Kathmandu Population: 26.5 million Languages: Nepali, Hindi, English Time: GMT+5.45 International dialling code: +977 Visas: Required by UK nationals and available on arrival. Prices start from US$25 cash for 15 days and you will need a passport photo ready for it. Otherwise apply in advance from the Embassy of Nepal, 12A Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QU (0207 229 1594, www.nepembassy.org.uk); allow two weeks. Money: Nepalese Rupees (NPR) around 133NPR to the UK£. US dollars also accepted in Kathmandu, but buy local currency to use at teahouses on your trek. There are ATMs at Tribhuvan International Airport.
Mountains and monuments Trekking to Everest takes in more than just peaks
Cost of travel
When to go Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec ■ Mar-May: Spring: Best time if you want to see the tents at Everest Base Camp. Dust from India can create haze in the afternoons; rhododendron line the hills. ■ Jun-Sept: Monsoon season: rainfall/leeches. ■ Oct-Nov: Popular trekking season: Least rain and lots of clear skies make it good for photos. Nighttime temperatures do drop low though and no tents/climbers will be at Base Camp. ■ Dec-Feb: Uncrowded walking, clear skies, coldest temperatures, especially over 4,000m.
Health & safety Make sure you’re up to date with your hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria and polio inoculations. Due to the high altitude you are at a risk of developing (potentially lifethreatening) Acute Mountain Sickness. Consider taking Diamox and visiting The Altitude Centre pre-trip (see p35 for more information). Dengue Fever is carried by mosquitoes at lower altitudes so take insect repellent. The UV levels get higher the further up you are so take SPF30+ sunscreen and lipbalm. Sunglasses are vital due to glare and dust.
Further reading & info Nepal country guides – Lonely Planet (2012), Rough Guides (2012) Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (Lonely Planet, 9th Edition) Everest: A Trekker’s Guide (Cicerone, 2012) by Kev Reynolds Nepal Trekking and the Great Himalayan Trail (Trailblazer, 2011) by Robin Boustead welcomenepal.com – Nepal Tourist Board
notorious for cancellations (due to the very changeable weather) and, without a guide to help negotiate it, the hectic check-in can be a nightmare. Remain calm, keep your wits about you and adhere strictly to the new 10kg luggage limit (hold) and 5kg (hand).
The trip The author travelled with Exodus (0845 287 7607, www.exodus.co.uk). The Everest Base Camp Trek starts from £1,769pp, including return flights from London Heathrow via Delhi, return flights to Lukla from Kathmandu, 3 nights hotel accommodation in Kathmandu, 12 nights teahouse accommodation on trek, porters and walking guides and all breakfasts. Look for special departures that include two extra nights staying at Everest Base Camp in tents (usually March/April) something that is not possible to organise independently.
Getting there The author flew with Jet Airways (020 8283 1818, www.jetairways.com), which flies from London Heathrow to Kathamandu via Delhi (around 14 hours total) from £766 return. Other options include Qatar and Air India. There are no direct flights.
Getting around In Kathmandu the best way is by taxi. It’s inexpensive but you must negotiate the price before you get in. To get to Lukla you need to take an internal flight. The author flew with Yeti Airlines (www.yetiairlines. com); flight times vary depending on the aircraft (smaller equals faster) but roughly take 40mins. Prices from US$125 one way. Be warned that flights to and from Lukla are
Once out of Kathmandu, in line with the altitude, you will find the prices of everyday items – drinks, snacks, toilet roll – all begin to increase, because of how difficult it is to supply some of the villages high in the mountains. You can survive on very little if you’re canny and don’t mind treating all your own tap water and refrain from buying any snacks – but this is a false economy. At altitude you need to eat more and eat what you feel is best. Western food, ie pizza and chips, is more expensive than Nepali cuisine but sometimes it’s all you can face. Budget for 2,500NPR a day (£20; for all meals/souvenirs).
Accommodation The author stayed at teahouses on route to Base Camp. They are inexpensive, costing around 1,000NPR (£8) pppn. Usually these are shared twin rooms with shared facilities but you can pay a little more for your own bathroom and single supplement if required. Rooms are basic including little more than a bed; some provide pillows and duvets, some only the former – take a sleeping bag. Camping is an option but you will need to bring your own tent and gear and a porter to carry it! At busy times of the year pre-booking is advised, especially higher up when options are limited.
Food & drink Be prepared to drink a lot of black tea! Toast reaching Base Camp with Everest beer (though wait till you’re at Lukla as altitude and alcohol don’t mix!). Teahouses offer a similar menu of western-influenced cuisine as well as Indian and Nepalese fare. Make sure you try the dal bhat (rice and lentils) – it’s what locals eat, as well as the sherpa stew (vegetables and dumplings). Do not eat meat after Namche Bazar as it will not be fresh. Treat tap water by tablets or boiling. If needing a sugar boost try a Khumbu glacier melt (deep-fried Snickers). ■
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Southern Tanzania 1
I I I
Southern Tanzania I The vast wildernesses in Selous and 1 Ruaha, in game and drama 1 I rich
Fly UK-Dar es Salaam via Nairobi. Bush flights connect to game reserves 1 1
Jun-Oct (dry); Nov-Feb (lush, game)
A walk in the park A herd of female African Elephant wander through Ruaha National Park with their calves, scenting the air
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The beautiful south Words & Photographs William Gray
While most safari-goers flock to Tanzania’s northern parks, try the country’s south: home to one of the largest reserves in the world, it’s even wilder and – better yet – wonderfully people free 048-059_tanzania_SO.indd 49
â€˜Hippos were everywhere: sleeping in amorphous masses of grunting, bubble-blowing contentmentâ€™
Selous scenery (clockwise from above) A Hippo warily keeps guard for its offspring; a Nile crocodile; a carmine bee eater; a boat safari pulls in at sunset
< I tried my luck on a boat safari. Overlooking
a lake linked to the river system, the camp is naturally well placed for float trips and it wasn’t long before I’d bagged myself a gigabyte of trophy pixels.
Afloat and on foot The lakeshore and riverbanks were bejewelled with kingfishers and bee-eaters. Jacanas tiptoed across rafts of water cabbage, while yellow-billed storks, black egrets and Egyptian geese dabbled in the shallows. Hippos were everywhere: sleeping in amorphous masses of grunting, bubble-blowing contentment or drifting warily in deeper water, rafts of dismembered ears and nostrils twitching at the surface. Once, we spotted a female warily emerging from a sheltered creek,
her newborn beside her, pink and glossy like wet putty. There were buffalo festooned with egrets as though they’d snagged their horns on laundry lines. We even witnessed a herd of elephants crossing the river, Barossa palms rising behind them like a line of exclamation marks. Back on land, game drives in the Selous were accompanied by swirling flocks of migrant carmine bee-eaters snacking on insects in our wake. Breeding herds of impala drifted like ochre smoke through the grasslands, mingling with giraffe, zebra and wildebeest. We saw a pride of lion, another pack of wild dog, hyena, crocodile… and we had them all to ourselves. Like Ruaha National Park, the Selous was almost devoid of other visitors. As I walked
out of camp one morning, following my guide and an armed scout on a foot safari, the overwhelming sense of isolation and wildness sent a familiar prickle of anticipation along my spine. Perhaps that was how Frederick Selous felt when he set out on his hunting forays. Or was it simply the primeval tingle of feeling what it was like to slip from the top of the food chain – to walk in an African wilderness like hominids from a distant past. Whatever the reason, there was no doubt in my mind that Southern Tanzania’s far-flung Selous and Ruaha had been worth flying all that way for. Even if I did have to fly part of the way myself. ■ William Gray, Wanderlust Contributing Editor, is a multi-award-winning travel writer, author and photography, with a real passion for Africa.
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I I I
I Epic 1ride across endless wilderness, via remotest I 1 Russia, plus Mongolia & China too
Pre-book route and visas; fly (or train) UK-Moscow; ride the rails east (min six nights) 1 1
Feb-Mar: Siberian snow; Apr-Sep: exploring
Take on the
TRANs–SIBERIAN It’s the world’s greatest train journey. But how do you know which route to choose? Or which stations to stop at? Use our guide to plan the ride of your life... Words Anthony Lambert
Two types of train cross Siberia – scheduled service trains and tourist trains. The exact routes are determined by which type you choose, as there are minor variations between the two. For example, service trains do not run via Kazan, which is a stop on both the luxury Tsar’s Gold and Golden Eagle tourist trains (see page 74) to enable passengers to visit the magnificent Kazan Kremlin. For those wishing to break the journey, there are more frequent shorter services between Moscow and other cities along the route, such as Moscow-Irkutsk.
David Lean’s film, Dr Zhivago, may have inspired many Trans-Sib travellers, but the railway scenes of the journey to Yuriatin were shot in Canada, station scenes in Spain.
Did you know?
Route: Moscow-Vladivostok Distance: 9,258km Time: 7 nights The Rossiya (‘Russia’) runs every other day. It is the longest route, and the least popular with Western travellers – not because it’s an unattractive journey but because more people prefer to end in Beijing rather than Vladivostok. Onward options at the Russian coast include a train to Khabarovsk (11-18 hours) or a ferry to Donghae (South Korea) and on to Sakaiminato (Japan).
Route: Moscow-Beijing via Harbin, China Distance: 8,986km Time: 6 nights Completed in the 1900s, the TransManchurian is the older of the two routes that reach Beijing. It is served by the Vostok once a week, using Russian first- and second-class coaches. Note: both this route and the Trans-Mongolian require the bogies under the coaches to be changed at the Russian/Chinese and Mongolian/Chinese borders, where the track-gauge changes.
Route: Moscow-Beijing via Mongolia Distance: 7,621km Time: 6 nights The Trans-Mongolian route is often considered the most interesting. Using Chinese coaches with first- and second-class options only, there is just one train a week, which crosses Mongolia via the Gobi Desert to enter China.
Route: Tayshet to Sovetskaya Gavan Distance: 4,324km Time: 4.5 days For those seeking the rail less travelled, the BAM is a more northerly route across Siberia. It leaves the main Trans-Sib route at Tayshet and runs to Sovetskaya Gavan on the Pacific coast. Completed in 1991, it includes Russia’s longest tunnel, at 15.3km. > Not so terrible The UNESCO-listed Kazan Kremlin was built on the orders of Ivan the Terrible
Wanderlust June 2013 | 71
These are the principal places en route, though not all are worth a stop unless you’re an ardent Russophile. For a single stop, most would choose Irkutsk, with Yekaterinburg or Ulan-Ude for a second.
1. Perm Referred to as Yuriatin in Dr Zhivago, Perm is the gateway to the Urals. As an old centre of intellectual life (it’s twinned with Oxford), it has some fine galleries and museums. The old town has some attractive secular and ecclesiastic buildings in styles from the baroque to art nouveau.
2. Yekaterinburg Most visitors to Russia’s fourth-largest city explore the tall, white, golden-domed – but curiously soulless – church built on the site of Ipatiev House, in which the
Russian royal family was murdered in 1918 by revolutionaries. There are some good museums and a theatre devoted to opera and ballet.
3. Omsk This industrial city has two museums largely devoted to the Second World War. There is also a fine arts museum housed in the former headquarters of Admiral Kolchak, the White Russian leader defeated by the Red Army during the Civil War.
4. Novosibirsk Entirely a creation of the railway, Siberia’s largest city is built with a rare sense of space and boasts one of the world’s largest opera houses. It is the gateway for excursions into the magnificent Altai Mountains.
5. Krasnoyarsk Chekhov dubbed this the most beautiful city in Siberia, though he would not recognise much of it now, apart from its old
town on the hill and its restored Annunciation Cathedral, built 1802-12.
6. Irkutsk The grand station (opened in 1898) is an appropriate introduction to the city once known as the ‘Paris of Siberia’. Irkutsk still has some fine neo-classical architecture and characteristic wooden buildings with frilly fretwork decoration.
7. Lake Baikal (Irkutsk) Irkutsk is the gateway to 25-million-year-old Lake Baikal. Despite worsening pollution, the world’s largest freshwater expanse remains a natural wonder; two-thirds of its 1,700 species of flora and fauna are unique to its environs. Many breaking the journey here visit the Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture, which has saved over 40 buildings. Summer activities include horse-trekking, hiking and mountain-biking as well as cruises on the lake; in winter there are dog-sledding and ice-diving trips.
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How to | Skills | Gear | Health | Photo tips | Q&A
“The rules of photography were made to be broken – for a reason...” Go maverick with your camera p84
Travel need-to-knows, from avoiding rabid dogs to telling the time with a stick Take my advice
How to... travel during an uprising Tom Chesshyre, author of A Tourist in the Arab Spring, offers advice on navigating turbulent destinations
Don’t go out at night When I was in Libya, brigades of soldiers ruled. Many were young, still in their teens. During the day, there was order; after dark, even locals were fearful of what might happen – particularly of imposters pretending to be soldiers in order to rob people. Stay put and wait till dawn.
Smile a lot It’s a good way to disarm those who might take against you. At roadblock checkpoints in Libya and the Sinai, I smiled a great deal. Body language and small gestures mean a lot, especially when language is an obstacle.
Make time to Twitter Get the word on the street by making contact with useful locals via Twitter. Follow foreign correspondents, local news agencies and consulates. Then follow the people they follow. Create a web of information. You never know who might help answer a question or provide a handy nugget of news.
Move fast Hanging about will draw attention. In Tripoli, when I jumped out of my car to take pictures of graffiti (of Gaddafi with a noose round his neck), my driver was very nervous. He felt onlookers would think me voyeuristic, and urged me to hurry.
Keep your passport in your pocket In Benghazi I was briefly seized by militia belonging to a local brigade. Had I not had identification with me, it could have been extremely tricky.
Tom Chesshyre’s new book, A Tourist in the Arab Spring (Bradt, £9.99; bradtguides.com) is out now
Do a little homework During my journey, I wrote the names of the key current politicians and those opposing them – plus a little on what they each stood for – in the back of my notebook. At times of uprisings, locals love talking politics, so it helps to have some conversation up your sleeve.
Know your stuff Gen up on politics so you can chat to locals – and smile, a lot
Did you know? A car-boot-style market is now held each Friday in the grounds of Colonel Gaddafi’s bombed-out Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli Wanderlust June 2013 | 79
ma A for na m is n ger, R er pa Direow Op ob Cl rk iff e c P tor rati ord ww ope S at Robons w.r afar in saf obinp is: aris .ne ope t
How to... make a stick sundial
THE LOCAL’S GUIDE TO… SRI LANKAN HIKES
Rob Clifford, of Robin Pope Safaris, teaches you to tell the time – without a watch
Draw an east-west line (your axis line), which can be derived from the sunrise in the east. The line should pass through the base of the stick
Erect a straight stick as vertically as possible on a flat section of ground in direct sunlight
Calibrate the clock in the ground in a semicircle south of the axis line, with 1200hrs falling at 90° (due south)
Plot more times 0600hrs will start at the western extent of the axis line; 1800hrs will be the eastern most point. Calibrate equidistant lines radiating outward from the stick for the hours 0700hrs to 1100hrs and 1300hrs to 1700hrs. Where the sun’s shadow is cast indicates the time
Practise the more you use this, the better you will become at it!
Know your enemy...
Adam’s Peak Buddhists believe Buddha’s footprint is at the top; Christians think it’s where Adam first stood on earth. Either way, the country’s fourth-highest mountain (above) is a great place to watch the sun rise and to spot wildlife in the surrounding sanctuary. Horton Plains The highest plains in Sri Lanka combine unmatched landscapes with amazing animal life. They’re flanked by Kirigalpottha and Totupola, the country’s second- and third-highest mountains, and riddled by rivers. The Knuckles Named for its shape, which resembles a clenched fist, the Knuckles Range is a rugged delight. Trails cross the lush mountains, where all of Sri Lanka’s climatic zones can be experienced within one hour, producing great diversity. To arrange a bespoke trip with a local expert, visit tripbod.com
Illustration: Luke Webb Images: Dreamstime
The Indian Ocean isle is a great spot for trekking, so we asked local expert Nilantha at trip-planning site Tripbod.com to point out the best peaks...
Danger rating: Medium: chances of contact is slim but you’re at risk if bitten in areas where it persists. The infection’s nearly always fatal once symptoms develop, between two-to-eight weeks after the bite. Rabid animals are also dangerously unpredictable. Identification: Rabid dogs – and cats, monkeys, bats, foxes, and many more – will often have dilated pupils and be trembling or restless. Rabies can cause paralysis of the jaw, making swallowing difficult, causing the characteristic ‘foaming at the mouth’.
Where found: Very common in Africa, Asia and South America. It’s largely eliminated in the UK. What to do if attacked: Seek medical attention and a rabies vaccination within 24 hours. Follow up shots should also be given for 14 days post-bite. Make sure you wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water for 5 minutes and apply antiseptic cream. Suggestion: Before travelling you can have a series of three pre-rabies vaccinations, but the key thing is to immediately seek post-bite medical attention.
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LIVING WITH EVOLUTION
Change is afoot on the Galápagos. As new rules alter boat tourism, land-based trips are offering an intriguing alternative and insight into the islands’ oddball human history Words & Photographs Nick Boulos
and may revolutionise travel on this isolated archipelago, 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador. Most people who come to the Galápagos, drawn by its world-famous wildlife, explore by boat. “People come but only for an hour or two. Then it’s back on their boats and off to the next island,” Claudio explained. But that is starting to change. Of the archipelago’s 13 main islands, five – Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela, Baltra and Floreana – are inhabited. Of those, sleepy Floreana was the first to be colonised but remains the least developed – a juxtaposition the 150 residents are fiercely proud of. “Up until now, locals here were against tourism,” Claudio told me. “They’ve seen how it can change a place. Look at Santa Cruz, it’s barely recognisable.” But Floreana – named after Juan José Flores, Ecuador’s first president who claimed the islands in 1832 – is now ready to share its secrets. Recent years have seen land tourism start to take off – much to Claudio’s delight. Keen to capitalise on the trend, he has built ten cosy beachside cabañas and a restaurant serving homecooked food; he’s also cleared the forest trails that he used to walk as a boy with his donkey, selling oranges to visiting ships. Like Trump, he
Juan Nieto, water taxi driver “Everyone who comes should visit the volcanoes, hike through lava tunnels and go snorkelling. It’s excellent.”
thinks big: plans are underway for a luxury campsite, kayaking tours and cycling trails – all to tempt people to stay a little longer. “Everyone knows about our incredible wildlife,” explained Claudio, “but the human history deserves some attention too.”
Legends & lovers The Galápagos Islands were discovered accidentally in 1535, by a bishop looking for Peru. Word soon spread and the intrepid came knocking. The archipelago is now home to 30,000 people. The first permanent inhabitant was an Irishman called Patrick Watkins. Marooned on Floreana by his crew in 1807 he settled in a cave on Asila de la Paz, a 450m-tall peak with a freshwater stream and pleasing sea views. For Patrick, who traded tropical fruit for rum >
Previous spread: Alamy This spread: Dreamstime
s the boat sped south and land appeared, I thought of the first travellers to take this journey: the pirates and prisoners, the privileged and the paranoid. A darkness hangs over Floreana’s past – a sinister back-story full of tortoiseeating thieves, feuding families and a promiscuous baroness with a taste for blood. Given its history, I wondered what awaited on one of the least-visited islands in the Galápagos. Figures began to take shape on the pier. Most were sprawled on their backs, rolling around wildly and whipping their heads from side to side, mouths open, canines on view. But the dozen dozing sea lions were far more interested in the scuttling fire-red crabs than my arrival. The same could be said for the squealing children that somersaulted into the teal water. However, standing among them was Claudio Cruz, the Donald Trump of the Galápagos. He may lack the bank balance – and the dodgy hair – of the brash billionaire but Claudio has been the driving force behind changes that will transform this tiny island
A natural selection (Clockwise from this) One of the many Sally Lightfoot crabs to be found; an ancient giant tortoise; sea lions laze on the docks of San Cristóbal island; the uninhabited island of Genovesa attracts nesting red-footed boobies; new walking trails lined with black lava rocks have been created on Floreana
Galápagos Footnotes VITAL STATISTICS
Capital: Quito (Galápagos: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno) Population: 15.4 million (Galápagos: 30,000) Language: Spanish Time: GMT-5 (Galápagos: GMT-6) International dialling code: +593 Visas: Not required by UK nationals. A 90-day entrance stamp is issued on arrival in Ecuador. A Transit Control Card (US$10) must be purchased before flying to the Galápagos, available from airports in Quito and Guayaquil. This is in addition to the national park entrance fee (US$100), payable in cash on arrival. Money: US dollar (US$), currently around US$1.5 to the UK£. ATMs are common in mainland Ecuador’s big cities but not in the Galápagos. Take cash.
When to go Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
■ Wet season brings higher humidity, warm temps (26°C-33°C) and frequent downpours. March-April are typically the hottest months. ■ Milder. Optimum time to spot penguins, migrating whales and courting albatrosses. ■ Peak season. Cooler conditions (19-23°C). The Humboldt Current drifts in making the water colder. Sea conditions are rougher.
Health & safety Crime is not a problem. No specific vaccinations are required. The main concerns are seasickness and the strong equatorial sun. Use high-factor protection and stay hydrated. Beware of straying too close to the wildlife.
Further reading & info Galápagos Wildlife (Bradt, 2011), indispensable guide to the local animals Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands (LP, 2012) Galápagos: The Islands That Changed The World (BBC Books, 2006) by Paul D Stewart – a look at the islands’ geology and botany www.ecuador.travel – Ministry of Tourism galapagos.org – Galápagos Conservancy, committed to protecting the islands
More online Visit www.wanderlust.co.uk/137 for links to more content Archive articles Galápagos Blueprint – issue 101, Feb 09 Galápagos with kids – online, Jul 11
Explosive history The island’s chilly blue waters – and volcanic surface – are easy to see
The trip The author travelled with specialist tour operator Journey Latin America (020 8747 8315, www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk), which offers a range of group and tailored trips to the Galápagos Islands. A 13-day land-and-sea trip, including time on Floreana, Isabela and Santa Cruz plus a cruise aboard the MV Seaman, costs from £4,810pp. Cruise-only packages start from £2,649pp for a ten-day itinerary that also includes time in Quito. Ten-day land-only multi-activity trips cost from £3,578pp. Prices include international flights from London Heathrow via Madrid with Iberia, domestic flights, transfers, excursions and most meals.
The trip & around There are no direct UK-Ecuador flights. Several airlines offer indirect services including Iberia via Madrid (0871 989 1190, www.iberia.com), KLM via Amsterdam (0871 231 0000, www.klm.com) and American Airlines via Miami (0844 499 7300, www.americanairlines.co.uk). Return flights start from around £640; flight time is around 16 hours.
The main entry point is Quito, though some carriers also serve Ecuador’s second city, Guayaquil. Connections from both cities to Baltra and San Cristóbal on the Galápagos are offered by AeroGal (www.aerogal.com.ec) and TAME (www.tame.com.ec). Flights cost from around £250 return. Flight time from Guayaquil is 1.5 hours; Quito services fly via Guayaquil and take two hours, plus layover time. The easiest way to get around is on a cruise. Otherwise, regular speedboats connect the main islands (San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Isabela) but get busy. Tickets can be purchased at ports and typically cost US$30 (£19) for a one-way crossing. Travel time between San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz is 2.5 hours. Exploring the inhabited islands, such as Santa Cruz, is relatively easy. Kayaking tours and guided hikes can be arranged locally; bikes can be rented for around US$2 (£1.30) an hour.
Cost of travel The Galápagos Islands are not cheap to reach. Also, the cost of importing goods from the mainland means things are slightly >
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Get paid to travel
Get paid to travel Teaching English Abroad Want to explore new places and challenge yourself too? Clare Wilson looks at how teaching English as a foreign language can help to fund your next adventure...
wo dozen pairs of little eyes stared up at me as a queasy terror pooled in the pit of my stomach. “Hello!” I said, waving at the stupefied toddlers. Then the screaming started. The poor kids, who had never seen a foreigner before, were terrified: who was this giant babbling gobbledegook at them? What was she doing here? The short answer is: I was their new English teacher.
Who does it? There’s a perception that teaching English is just for gap year students and graduates looking to boost their CVs and earn a bit of money. But that’s not the whole story. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is becoming an increasingly popular option for a career-break – or even a full-scale career or lifestyle change. The reasons for turning to TEFL are as different as the destinations you can end up in. You may want to use it as a way to earn money while travelling; you may have always wanted to try teaching; it might be time for a new start; or TEFL’s appeal could lie in the chance to move abroad. >
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I I I
I Penguins! 1 Whales! Awesome ice! Simply put, 1 doesn’t get any cooler than this I travel
Fly UK-Ushuaia (Argentina), via Buenos Aires; expedition cruises sail from Ushuaia 1 1
Nov-Mar for the nearly 24hour daylight
Midnight sun, nosy penguins and utter silence, why camping out on ice might just be the night of your life... Words & photographs Nick Boulos
The night that never starts Campers take stock of their home for the evening
‘Penguins chased each other through the glassy water, bounded ashore, landed on their gleaming bellies and skidded away’ < In a bid to keep the cold at bay I went for
a walk, mindful of the loud crunch created by each footstep. I followed the shoreline, pausing to watch the Weddell seals sprawled on the snow like giant brown boulders. Seaweed swayed in the shallows; penguins chased each other through the glassy water, bounded ashore, landed on their gleaming bellies and skidded away. I turned my back on the campsite so no sign of man compromised the scene. It was just me and the wilderness. The mountains of Brabant Island rose from the dark water; heavy fog hung at their bottoms so only the tops were visible – as though they were floating on clouds. From close by I heard something I’d become quite accustomed to during my brief time in Antarctica – a whale releasing
an almighty sigh as it surfaced for air. I spun around hoping to catch a glimpse, looking for any sign: a dorsal fin, the splash of a tale, even the ripples of ‘whale footprints’ lingering on the surface. Nothing. Had I imagined it? Had cold and fatigue brought on hallucinations? Troubled and exhausted, I stumbled back to my sleeping bag questioning my sanity. The light was beginning to soften. Sunrise was approaching. Flocks of storm petrels and kelp gulls had taken to the sky, silhouetted against warm shades of lilac that slowly turned peachy, mixed with streaks of vanilla.
Morning has broken By 4am, the sun had risen completely. Again, I heard the same unmistakable
sound and frantically scanned the channel for signs of a whale. The waters were calm with barely a ripple – until it appeared: a humpback slowly swimming north and spouting vapour high into the air. Before long, others started to wake from their slumbers, rising to a new dawn in Antarctica. Sitting in the snow, the layered-up American lady grinned like a Cheshire cat despite no longer being able to feel her fingers. Then the most unexpected and bittersweet sound of all: the Zodiacs returning to pick us up. Yawning campers emerged from their tents, stretching and rubbing their eyes. “Good morning,” called out the snorer from the next tent. “How was your night?” I didn’t know where to begin. ■
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SOFIA BULGARIA Sofia, so good The National Assembly (front) and the domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (behind) overlook Narodno Sabranie Square
Where? Western Bulgaria Why? For an offbeat, chaotic melting pot of Euro, Russo and Ottoman culture When? Spring/early summer for café culture and birdwatching
ofia’s history is as long and colourful as you’d expect from a capital on the frontier between Europe and Asia. The city has spent most of the past 2,000 years under occupation by various empires: first settled by Thracians in the eighth century BC, the area has since seen Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Communists all leave their marks. In 2007 Bulgaria joined the EU and Sofia got a bit of a facelift. Not that this is immediately obvious. Like many former Soviet cities, Sofia is a touch unprepossessing when you first arrive, its compact heart encircled by a busy ring road. However, within that, there is a silver lining. The first indications that there’s more to Sofia than concrete housing blocks are the glinting golden domes
4Corners Images; Clare Wilson
Bulgaria’s quirky capital combines Ottoman heritage with European influences. Clare Wilson explores the city and its surrounds to help you get the best out of this corner of the Balkans
of the Russian Orthodox church. This ages, and were an integral part of the isn’t the most impressive monument in community until around 90% decided the city, though – that honour goes to to emigrate when Israel was formed. the Memorial Church of Alexander During the war, unlike most Nazi Allies Nevsky, Bulgaria’s largest cathedral. On of German-occupied countries, its outside, neo-Byzantine gilt-andBulgaria saved most of its Jewish green domes pile towards the population from being deported heavens; inside its to the concentration cavernous core, frescoes camps. The synagogue glare down from the and the Banya Bashi Traditionally, walls. Christianity may Mosque remain two of shaking your head have left the most a clutch of impressive means yes (da) and a nod means no (ne). outwardly glitzy buildings downtown, Learn the words to architectural legacy on along with the Mineral avoid confusion! Sofia, but the city’s Baths and the Sveta history as a melting pot of Nedelya church. cultures and faiths has also All Sofia’s main sights are left fascinating traces. located inside the ring road, Nowadays Sofia’s Muslim and Jewish within easy walking distance – while communities are comparatively small. public transport is readily available, the This hasn’t always been the case best way to discover the city’s though. Europe’s Sephardic Jewish charming nooks is on foot. Explore the community were welcomed by the twisty, part-cobbled streets to find Islamic Ottoman empire in the middle markets and squares that give way to
Dome comforts The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
parks and wide boulevards. And this is when you’ll discover the second indication that Sofia isn’t just Soviet-drab. Stroll down Bulevard Vitosha, pause at one of the many cafés – and then look up. Above the tram-wires and slightly shabby buildings, Mount Vitosha towers over the skyline, promising fresh air and greenery once you’ve finished exploring within the city limits. >
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Wanderlust Pocket Guides
SOFIA DAY BY DAY
Absorb the city’s east-meets-west vibe, then leave the bustle far behind... DAY 1
Essential info When to go: The shoulder seasons of May-June and SeptemberOctober are ideal for exploring both the city and the mountain on its outskirts: warm, but less crowded and less sticky than high summer (July-August). They’re the best months for birdwatching too. Getting there: British Airways (www.ba.com) and Bulgaria Air (www.air.bg) fly London-Sofia direct. Returns cost from around £160; flight time is just over three hours. Getting around: Public transport in Sofia is inexpensive and easy to use, but the city centre is best explored on foot. To head further afield, hire a car (avis.bg) – public transport between cities is slow. Where to stay: Hostel Mostel (www.hostelmostel.com) has friendly staff and a range of dorm beds (from 18BGN [£8] pppn) and private rooms (doubles from 52BGN [£23]). A walking tour and buffet breakfast are included. For a more boutique option, Casa Ferrari B&B (casaferrari.com) is central with three charming rooms from €60.
Take a walking tour
Where to eat: Bulgarian cuisine is an interesting mix of Mediterranean and eastern European – expect lots of feta cheese, potatoes and pork. Try shopska salad (tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, feta) and tarator – a cold soup made from yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, parsley and olive oil. Sitting in the centre of town, Pri Yafata (28 Solunska St) is a folk-style restaurant in a beautiful three-storey house. Further info: Check out bulgariatravel.org for more advice.
(just watch your bags) before turning south-eastwards to explore some of the city’s other monuments – the University, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Rotunda of St George. A free guided walking tour (in English) leaves from outside the Palace of Justice daily at 11am and 6pm (freesofiatour.com). You’ll pass plenty of museums flanking Bulevard Tsar Osvoboditel and the streets parallel to it; the National Art Gallery, Ethnographic Museum and the Archaeological Museum are all worth the extra shoe leather.
Go on a pilgrimage
Head for the hills
Not every capital has a mountain on its doorstep! Mount Vitosha (pictured) is just 20km from downtown Sofia – perfect for a day’s hike through woods and meadows (or skiing in winter). There’s a diverse range of wildlife to be spotted, from a variety of birds (such as the spotted nutcracker) and reptiles to wild boar, bears and wolves that still live in the more remote areas. Pack a picnic and take the cablecar up from Simeonovo to savour the views without the effort, and pausing to gather wild herbs and berries. Alternatively, tackle the highest peak,
Sofia is a very walkable capital, and feels cosier than its population of 1.25 million would suggest. Start in the heart of the city, at Sveta Nedelya Church. Head north past the gigantic golden statue of St Sofia to the Banya Bashi Mosque, Sofia Synagogue, Market Hall and the Public Mineral Baths (pictured), which are clustered together north of the Largo, an elongated plaza flanked by domineering Communist-era buildings. Head further north to the Flower Market, a general bazaar where you can pick up almost anything
2,290m Cherni Vrah. There are two starting points for this hike. From Zlatni Mostove (Golden Bridges) it takes about three hours, through varied terrain that includes the moreni (stone rivers) – piles of huge, rounded granite rocks lining the river valleys where gold was once found. The climb from Aleko is shorter, steeper and less varied. Hostels and some hotels can arrange transport and guides, or it’s fairly easy to take public transport to the suburbs (Boyana, Dragalevtsi or Simeonovo) from the Hladilnika terminus – services are most frequent at weekends.
About two hours’ drive south of Sofia is Bulgaria’s famous religious site, the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery (pictured right, www.rilamonastery. pmg-blg.com). The monastery is famous both for its architecture and its mountainous setting. It’s a very popular day-trip from the capital – most hotels will offer excursions. The building has its origins in the tenth century, when friend-ofthe-animals St John of Rila (Ivan Rilsky) took to living as a hermit in these forested mountains to escape from the decadence and laxity of contemporary monasteries; after his death, it became an important spiritual centre. The monastery standing today dates mostly from the 19th century, rebuilt after a catastrophic fire in 1833. As well as admiring the bold red, white and black facade and richly coloured frescoes inside, you can take short hikes in the surrounding woods – including one to the cave where St John of Rila lived the last 20 years of his life. ■
Bulgaria is allegedly the birthplace of everyone’s second favourite fermented-milkproduct, yoghurt – you’ll find it served with almost everything and everywhere. How cultured.
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