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Wanderlust Issue 201 (November 2019) • Snow & ice special + Baja California Sur + World Guide Awards + Central America trip planner + Kyushu + Pakistan • Pocket guides: Dubrovnik + Beirut + Brisbane

Adventures in

Travel Well

SNOW & ICE From ice cold Polar classics to unexpected frozen experiences in Africa and Latin America

INSIDE: Whale-watching in Baja California Sur + Pakistan + Central America trip planner

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Wildlife wonderland (clockwise from left) South Africa, Canada, Antarctica, Switzerland & South Georgia

The call of the wild can be hard to ignore. For these wildlife photographers, it’s unavoidable, as they find the circle of life to be as brutal as it is brilliant. Shortlisted for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019 Awards, these highlights depict everything from wild dogs hunting down a lone cheetah, raccoon bandits, a leopard seal chasing a gentoo penguin and the ethereal Lake Neuchâtel, an underwater jungle where zebra mussels cling to slender stems of watermilfoil. Last but not least is a weddell seal sleeping on the ice off South Georgia’s Larsen Harbour. This year’s exhibition opens at London’s Natural History Museum on 18 October – we’ve already booked our tickets. © (clockwise from left) Peter Haygarth, Jason Bantle, Eduardo del Álamo, Michel Roggo and Ralf Schneider/ Wildlife Photographer of the Year; developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London;

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“Travel with your eyes open, be open to learning everything about the place and the people� 024-025_Interview_SO.indd 24

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Unexpected encounters with…


The presenter’s new series The Americas sees him explore the two continents – he talks about the first part of his adventure, from drinking ‘frozen toe’ cocktails in Canada to bingo in Alaska

Tell us about The Americas... I’m travelling the length of the Americas, two continents that make up a quarter of the land space of our planet. The first series covers North and Central America, starting in Alaska and travelling down to Costa Rica. Why the Americas? I was looking at a big map of the world and thinking [where] would be interesting and challenging with extremes of landscapes, people, climates and conditions? The Americas just kind of jumped out.

Jonathan Young; Alamy

What was the aim of the trip? I try and come home with different tales to tell people than what they’re expecting and hopefully show the reality of life being lived out there. But it’s an adventure as well so hopefully it’s entertaining. What did you learn? We think of the Americas – particularly the USA – as being the root cause of a lot of our environmental problems, but it’s also an area that’s really suffering the consequences. They’re really experiencing our changing climate and a lot of people there recognise that, which makes the response

from their government all the more baffling. It’s a challenging part of the world. It’s very beautiful, very troubled in places, but the characters are as big and as bold as any I’ve met. What’s been the best part of the trip so far? Denali National Park in Alaska. It was as if we had stepped off this planet and gone somewhere from science fiction. It was awe-inspiring, empty and silent; the northern lights were extraordinary. We stayed in this ludicrously luxurious chalet high in the mountains, just at the foot of Mount Denali, the biggest peak in North America and it was breathtaking. Which place surprised you the most? Los Angeles for unexpected encounters. Despite all the wealth and the glamour there are also more than 40,000 homeless people in the city and there’s a real dark side to life there. I met a homeless lady called Amy who was really one of those characters who sticks with you. She’s living in a hollow concrete railway bridge, [but she’s] just such a breathtakingly honest and wonderful human.

Bottoms up Or toes up in the case of a sourtoe cocktail

In Alaska, you played bingo with the Anupiat people. What was that like? On a lot of shows when they go somewhere remote they’re keen to keep the people in the football shirts out of the shot. I think it’s important to show a bit of the reality and a slightly different side to life. In the northern tip of Alaska in the depths of winter they gather in the community centre to play bingo. It’s weird, but completely human at the same time. How did you end up tasting a frost-bitten human toe? We went to Dawson City and I met caveman Bill who is quite the character. He survives the harsh Canadian winter living in a cave. He took me for a cocktail

in the town and it turned out to be a sourtoe cocktail, which has got somebody’s severed toe popped into it. It’s disgusting, but a bit of fun and definitely memorable. What’s your top travel tip? Travel with your eyes open, be open to learning everything about the place and the people, but also acknowledge the responsibility that comes with it. What are you looking forward to in part 2 of the series? I’m looking forward to seeing the Andes and finding out if there’s any of the Amazon left after it’s been burnt to a crisp by the Brazilian government. We’ll be filming next year. Why should people visit the Americas? It offers up millions of possible experiences and encounters with people along the way. Then there’s the landscapes, the crazy food, and the sourtoe cocktails. What’s not to like? Watch The Americas on BBC 2 or catch up on iPlayer.

Read the full interview online Go to November 2019 25

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WILDERNESSTHROUG THROU WILDERNESS Boats are not the only way to enjoy the wildlife and landscapes of Mexico’s Baja California Sur. Grab a car and follow Route 1 for a fast track to whales, cave paintings and friendly locals…

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Whale of a time

Fin whales lunge-feeding in the southern Sea of Cortez; (previous page) Route 1 is the main road down the Baja peninsula; a fin whale can be seen surfacing in the Sea of Cortez

hey circled me menacingly. I couldn’t move a muscle without being eyed with a type of intensity that made me nervous – as though at any minute they might attack and take everything I had. “Pirates,” said my kayak guide, sensing the uneasy atmosphere and attempting to defuse it. “That’s what we call the frigatebirds – they steal food from other birds – and I dare say from us too, given half a chance.” When I’d told people I was going to drive Mexico alone, people were quick to point out that pirates – or rather bandits – would surely be lying in wait for me. With President Trump and his followers shouting about the need to build a wall to separate this country from the USA in a more (pardon the pun) concrete way, it seemed everyone had an opinion on the dangers that awaited me if I ventured south of the border. Yet here I was on day 11 of 14 and the most menacing behaviour I’d experienced had been from some particularly inauspicious sea birds. This was La Paz, the compact capital of Baja California Sur, the peninsula famed for its real ales, laid back vibes and abundance of easy to

Taking the wheel And so it was that I found myself behind the wheel of a small Chevy, at dusk, heading quickly past the very Americanised all-inclusive resorts of Los Cabos at the southern tip of the peninsula, bound an hour north up the coast for the much more agreeable cobblestoned streets of the village of Todos Santos. The first thing I learned about driving in Mexico was that, other than occasional optional toll roads, the highways are usually single lane, which means keeping your wits about you – especially when it’s getting dark. The second was that if a truck in front of you starts to indicate, it’s not pulling out but rather telling you that it’s safe to overtake. And the third was that animals in Baja have a death wish. They see your headlights and seem to unanimously decide that this is the perfect opportunity to play a game of chicken with you. So, slightly frazzled from a couple of hours of cow dodging, I arrived at my first stop, relieved to be able to grab a beer and toast my arrival while colourful flags flapped in the breeze outside in the town’s plaza. ⊲

Alamy; Naturepl


reach wildlife. I had wanted to visit for years, wistfully eyeing up adverts for the expensive boats that sail down the Gulf of Mexico and navigate the Sea of Cortez, but I couldn’t help but feel that if I restricted myself to a vessel, I would somehow be missing out on actually seeing well… Baja. Looking at land from sea is never the same as actually being on land, finding family-run bars, meeting people serendipitously and tapping into local knowledge.

38 November 2019

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‘We saw blue whales, fin and humpbacks. I felt like I’d opened a door into a watery Narnia’ November 2019 39

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INSPIRE someone this

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Rediscover ghost THE ORIGINAL TRAVEL MAGAZINE towns, jungle ruins & forgotten cities Exploring El Salvador Uncover Central America’s ‘Pompeii’

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THE ORIGINAL TRAVEL MAGAZINE Wanderlust Issue 198 (July/August 2019) • Nepal: Trek Planner + Mexico: Day of the Dead + The Algarve + Chad + Adventure cruising • Pocket guides: Guyana + Malta + Christchurch

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Wanderlust Issue 195 (April 2019) • 20 Silk Road Adventures + Michael Palin + Reader Travel Awards + Patagonia + Namibia + Chad • Pocket guides: Luang Prabang + Scottish Highlands + Vancouver

Wanderlust Issue 193 (February 2019) • Top 50 Trips 2019 + The Maldives + South Africa + El Salvador + Costa Rica + Phoenix, Arizona • Pocket guides: Darwin + Porto + Berlin

Wanderlust Issue 196 (May 2019) • Lost Worlds + The Mekong River + Mauritius + Scotland’s Inner Hebrides + The 3 Guianas + Charleston, USA • Pocket guides: Dublin + Girona + Panama City


WIN! AMAZING TRIPS TO NAMIBIA & DOMINICA Wanderlust (October 2019) • 200 Travel Secrets + Cambodia + Yellowstone NP + Nicaragua + Japan • Pocket guides: Inverness + Tashkent (Uzbekistan) + Rabat (Morocco)


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INSIDE Namibia + Luang Prabang + Chad + Scottish Highlands + Vancouver

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ember Wanderlust Issue 201 (Nov


planner + Kyushu + Pakistan

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The unsung heroes of travel are celebrated at the Wanderlust World Guide Awards. Lyn Hughes introduces 2019’s deserving winners…

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ometimes, I wish we didn’t have to choose a winner of the Wanderlust World Guide Awards. It’s a delight, yes, but it also feels like an insurmountable challenge: every year brings thousands of testimonials by you and the guides’ colleagues, full of heartfelt praise for these incredible individuals. It’s always difficult to whittle such a stellar shortlist down to Bronze, Silver and Gold. As the awards have grown, we’ve introduced new specialist categories too, to salute guides who focus on safari, conservation, history and more. But even now, in the awards’ 14th year, the job never gets easier. I spend hours poring over those impassioned, inspirational anecdotes – often with a tear in my eye. I established the World Guide Awards after the death of Wanderlust co-founder (and my late husband) Paul Morrison in 2004. He always said that great guides were the unsung heroes of travel, so I wanted to create something fitting in his memory – and I am sure that he would have been as enthusiastic about this year’s finalists as we are. We announced the results at London’s Royal Geographical Society on 2 October, joined by the guides themselves as well as hundreds of their supporters. It was, as always, a joyful and emotional evening – hosted this year by travel expert Simon Calder and photographer Paul Goldstein. If you couldn’t make it on the night, you can meet all of the winners right here on these pages. We think they’re fantastic, and we’re sure you will too.

How the winners were chosen… We asked you to nominate your top guides, and you sent us over 4,000 recommendations – another record-breaking year. We narrowed them down to a shortlist, before inviting more testimonials from their clients and colleagues. The judging panel then decided who would win Gold, a £5,000 bursary; Silver, £2,500; and two Bronze awards, £1,000 each – as well as the various special awards. The bursaries were donated by Craghoppers and Malta Tourism Authority.

In association with

Gold Award Meas Chantha Where he guides: Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand Booked through: G Adventures ( Also known as Jack, Meas’s passion for travel is evident in the care he pays not only to his group, but the communities and wildlife around him. The high number of testimonials he received speaks volumes – they were full of tales about Jack’s knowledge of local cultures, and his ability to handle difficult situations. He has an innate talent for connecting with people, a skill that helped him to become one of G Adventures’ Chief Experience Officers (CEOs). It’s a role he doesn’t take lightly, as he explains the troubled history of SouthEast Asia with sensitivity and compassion, while paying attention to the little things too – such as organising birthday surprises and nights out for the group. Wherever he goes, he spreads his infectious

laughter and goodwill, even encouraging guests to donate their unused hotel toiletries to local children. What you said: “An incredible human. He made such an impact on us.” The judges’ view: “Meas ticks all of the boxes, with the qualities and natural attributes of an exceptional guide. He’s the one that I want to go on tour with the most.” Alex Graeme “His huge passion and knowledge come over, and he is clearly very engaging with a big sense of humour. Definitely Gold for me!” Gill Russell Bursary plans: Meas plans to develop a teaching programme for kids in his village. He also hopes to create a ‘Community Cycling Tour’ for students from the Siem Reap area to lead. Finally, he would donate some of the funds to Planeterra, a G Adventures partner, to help develop social enterprises. 

“Far from a scripted tour guide, Jack delivered his stories with real magic.”

Kindly supported by November 2019 87

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Look but don’t stare

In monkey society, gazing closely at another creature’s eyes is an expression of hostility

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Adventures in

SNOW & ICE Travelling doesn’t need to come to a standstill because winter has arrived. Indeed, there are many good reasons why we should all be embracing the cold




See snow monkeys relaxing in Japan

The simien craze for hot-tubbing at Jigokudani – a hot spring (or onsen) in the foothills of the Japanese Alps near Nagano city – is thought to have started when a plucky female macaque dipped her toes in the

40°C water back in the early 1960s. Now hundreds of so-called snow monkeys are at it. The best time to see the pink-faced primates soaking in the steaming waters is during winter when snowdrifts surround the geothermal pool. You can catch a train from Nagano to the Jigokudani trailhead, from where it’s a 45-minute hike to the monkey park. These are wild animals, free to come and go as

they please. Feeding or touching the monkeys is a no-no – and don’t even think of joining them for a dip. Also See: As well as some 3,000 monkeyfree onsens, other winter highlights in Japan include the flamboyant courtship dance of red-crowned cranes at Kushiro Marsh near Tsurui. Skiing is popular at several resorts in Hokkaido. ⊲


Camera batteries will drain faster in freezing conditions, so take one or two spares and keep them in an inside jacket pocket. Only bring them out when you need them. November 2019 121

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Pocket Guide

Out of the blue Head to the Gemmayzeh district to see the blue dome of the Al Amin Mosque

Your cut–out and keep travel companion




Don’t let Beirut’s civil war past put you off a city visit today. With architecture and culture spanning centuries, Lebanon’s capital is a delight to discover, says Paul Clammer

he restaurant waiter had the deepest baritone I’d ever heard. ‘Welcome!’ he boomed, ushering us inside. Menus were battered and the decor didn’t look like it had been updated for decades, but we took our seats with the promise of a good meal. My partner was a regular diner here when she lived in Beirut more than 15 years earlier. And to our delight, the staff remembered her, overjoyed she’d come back to order her favourite dish. The experience sums up Beirut – a bit worn around the edges, but keen to welcome you in with an optimistic smile, and feed you until you burst with a succession of tasty meals.

I didn’t start to understand the city properly until I began to explore the place on foot. On any given street I’d come across extraordinary buildings, ranging from Ottoman mansions to 1930s art deco, and concrete brutalism to gleaming modern glass. A new apartment block seemed to float over the remains of a painstakingly reconstructed Roman bath, uncovered during its construction. Some of the facades of these buildings show the pockmarks of bullet holes from the civil war, but my guide on one of my explorations, Marc Ghazali, was keen to dispel the notion that everything still revolved around a conflict that finished nearly 30 years ago. There is so much else

to talk about, he insisted, and pointed out how the celebrated reconstruction of the ravaged downtown had pushed locals out of the centre, but it had also helped spur creative life in districts that are now buzzing with cafés, galleries and bars. Beirut has existed for 5,000 years he implied, but it’s a city that’s always looking forward. Beirut is also the centre of a country that’s so small most parts of it can be reached from the capital within little more than two hours. Throw in its location (less than a five-hour flight from London, with a minimal time zone shift) and pleasing climate, and the city becomes surprisingly ideal for an adventurous getaway. ⊲


“If you want to find the touristic landmarks in Beirut’s downtown area, find the medallions on the sidewalk with the dolphin symbol and follow the trident that will take you to them. You’ll find an info sheet for each one.” Marc Ghazali, Beirut Urban Tours November 2019 161

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Profile for Wanderlust Publications

Wanderlust 201 - sample  

Wanderlust 201 - sample