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A is for Accommodation: (Part Two – Hostels and Hotels)

A is for Accommodation: (Part Two – Hostels and Hotels)

Welcome to the next instalment of my journey into the different types of accommodation you might encounter on your upcoming trip of a lifetime.  Part Two is all about staying in hostels and hotels, how to find them, what are the pros and cons of each one, and how to make the most of them when you get there…

Matching Photographs Part II: Arrested Development

Matching Photographs Part II: Arrested Development

Without really having time to process what was happening, the angry man marched me around the corner, and into the yard of a police station where eight other very serious looking men in police uniforms were sat around a boiling kettle making tea.  The atmosphere wasn’t welcoming in the slightest, and I began to feel very, very uncomfortable.

Why I Love...Overland Bus Travel

Why I Love...Overland Bus Travel

Loud, uncomfortable, rusty, dangerous, and slow; local buses typically don’t have the best reputation when it comes to a reliable choice of adventure transport.  However, given the choice between a busy and ramshackle public bus, or a spacious, air-conditioned private one, my heart will only be drawn one way…towards the more exciting and adventurous option…

A is for Accommodation: (Part One - Wild Camping)

A is for Accommodation: (Part One - Wild Camping)

Shelter is a fundamental part of human existence, and it is as varied as the humans who need it to survive.  At its most basic, accommodation is a simple shelter with a couple of barriers from the wind and something to keep the rain off. This blog post is dedicated to the more basic style of accommodation, looking at wild camping and free accommodation options, to hopefully convince you that you don’t always have to stay in a hostel or bed and breakfast whilst out on the road…

Matching Photographs Part I: Wrinkled Wedding Proposals

Matching Photographs Part I: Wrinkled Wedding Proposals

As I started to learn more about this man, I discovered a stash of photographs and postcards depicting his life in Khartoum in the 1930s.  With this window into the past, an idea began to form in my head, an idea which, as well as matching up the past with the present, would also see me receive a wedding proposal from an old woman, and a brief period of detention at the hands of the Sudanese authorities.

The A to Z of Adventure Planning

The A to Z of Adventure Planning

Have you been thinking about taking a trip, but don’t really know where to start?  If so then this blog post might just be for you!  The following certainly isn’t a complete compendium of how to plan a trip, and I definitely don’t claim to have all the answers, not by a long way, but I have planned a few trips in my time, so I hope that the A-Z of Adventure Planning might give you an idea of the sort of things you might want to consider when beginning to plan your own adventure, however big or small it might be… 

Top 5 Things to do in Khartoum

Top 5 Things to do in Khartoum

Khartoum is a fascinating city which sadly doesn’t often get a look in as a potential travel destination.  Fortunately, this is beginning to change, and in the last few years Sudan has witnessed a significant increase in tourism. With more and more people heading to its capital city to explore and discover it’s hidden delights, here’s my top 5 list of things to do in this off the beat travel destination.

Geographical Geekery on the River Nile

Geographical Geekery on the River Nile

Just downstream from the bridge was a slightly tired looking amusement park, normally this wouldn’t have been somewhere we would have visited, however after spying the ancient Ferris wheel slowly turning towards the sky an idea started to form in our heads, so we paid our entrance fees to the sleepy man behind the gate and made a beeline for the rusty attraction…

Adventures in No Man's Land

Adventures in No Man's Land

We knew that today’s journey was going to be a lengthy one; not only did we need to cross a potentially tricky international border, but we also knew that in order to get our visas fully validated we would need to get to Khartoum which was over 750km away from where we currently were, we weren’t even sure if it was going to be possible, but if nothing is ventured, then nothing is gained, so with bleary eyes we headed out into the dark streets to look for the first of many of today’s transport types...

The Danakil Part Four: The Gateway to Hell

The Danakil Part Four: The Gateway to Hell

If you were woken up and told that today, was the day you would be heading to the Gateway to Hell, what would your choice of breakfast be?  A Full English perhaps? Or maybe a giant stack of pancakes complete with all the toppings?  I tell you what it probably wouldn’t be: a packet of banana cream biscuits!  Yes, remarkably someone has actually created this monstrosity, and they are, as you can imagine, absolutely terrible!  This was the reality we faced as we waited outside a small police check point, deep in the Ethiopian desert, for our paperwork to be signed, before we could continue our journey; fortunately, we had been given some excellent coffee to offset the taste of the biscuits, and we both agreed that this was a journey well worth enduring any number of banana creams for.

The Danakil Part Three: Venus is a place on Earth

The Danakil Part Three: Venus is a place on Earth

In the truest sense of the word this was an alien landscape: well below sea level, a landscape of green and yellow hues and weird shapes, with day time temperatures reaching 50°C, and geothermal activity rife throughout the area, my rudimentary understanding of geology was struggling to interpret what was going on.  If NASA ever send a mission to Venus, this is where I suggest they test their equipment, as there was very little left to suggest we were actually still on the little ball of green and blue we call earth...

The Danakil Part Two: Salt of the Earth

The Danakil Part Two: Salt of the Earth

The first thing we saw to break to beautiful monotony were the camels; there were hundreds of them all relaxing out in the sun, so well adapted for this oppressive environment that they barely batted a long-lashed eyelid at the baking sun, which, despite the early hour, was already pushing the mercury well into the 40s.  If camels are the ships of the desert, then donkeys are the sort of raft you’d expect from a particularly awkward team-building day, and the lack of shade was clearly getting to these poor beasts of burden, desperately trying to utilise the bulks of the camels for their own personal parasol...

The Danakil Part One: Bridge Over Salty Waters

The Danakil Part One: Bridge Over Salty Waters

The Danakil depression in Northern Ethiopia is one of the most geographically unique places in the world.  Remote and truly hostile, the Danakil can lay claim to being one of the hottest and driest places on the planet, with daytime temperatures surpassing 50°C and less than an inch of rain falling in the region each year; it is also one of the lowest parts of Africa, and one of the most tectonically active, with steaming acid lakes, rivers of lava, and clouds of volcanic gases creating an almost extra-terrestrial environment.  It is little wonder then, that the Danakil and its features have inspired such enigmatic nicknames as ‘The cruellest place on earth’ or ‘Gateway to Hell’.

A Volcanic Love Affair

A Volcanic Love Affair

There was however one exception; It started like any other video lesson, the ancient television was wheeled to the front of the class and the on screen static was replaced by a poorly edited opening sequence, but instead of a ‘fun’ take on soil substrates or a cheesy animation explaining food mountains, the reassuringly familiar bearded old man, now stood at the top of a dusty hill; as the camera panned out, the hill revealed itself to be the edge of a crater, and there, far below the natty jumper, was a lake of bubbling lava, a real life version of a child’s drawing, it was the first time I had realised volcanoes like this actually existed – I was hooked. 

Would you like some lime with your vomit?

Would you like some lime with your vomit?

After asking around, we discovered that there were no direct buses from Lalibela to Mek’ele.  In addition, the route was over 400km, on roads of varying quality.  We knew it was going to be a bit of an ask to make it to Mek’ele in a day; still, it would be an experience if nothing else, and when some people laughed at our enquiries, and told us that it would be almost impossible to make it in a day, we had no other option but to accept this as a challenge, and commit ourselves to spending several hours crammed into the back of various buses, with no other plan than relying on chronic optimism to get us where we wanted to go.

The Adventures of John Barnes and the Stone Churches of Lalibela

The Adventures of John Barnes and the Stone Churches of Lalibela

A cheer bean to ripple through the crowd, and the singing and chanting intensified in volume as a procession of priests all dressed in beautifully elaborate tunics and carrying sparkling umbrellas entered the area.  As well as the umbrellas, they were carrying with them that most holy of Orthodox relics: The Ark of the Covenant; the day had just taken a turn for the Indiana Jones. 

Road Rage

Road Rage

Just outside town we turned on to the road heading east, and pulled over to the side; there weren’t any obvious passengers waiting to board the already packed bus, and surprisingly based on our experience so far, there weren’t any donkeys, carts, or young children threatening to leap out in front of us, in fact, there appeared to be no reason for us to have stopped at all.  I looked at the driver, and he looked back with a cheeky grin, and asked if I was able to drive...

Ethiopian Utopia

Ethiopian Utopia

Getting to Awra Amba was part of the appeal, given that its location is best described as ‘off the beaten track’.  After the usual arguments at the bus station, negotiating prices and reclaiming our luggage from over-eager teenagers, we were able to secure a bus from Bahir Dar heading east.  Without hesitation, our bags were tied to the roof, and we folded ourselves into a minibus ready for the mercifully short journey.

Following in Family Footsteps

Following in Family Footsteps

They say a picture paints a thousand words, well not this one; after looking at the familiar picture on my grandparents sitting room wall, I was struggling to get into double figures; I had ‘man’ and ‘moustache’ which I had quickly followed up with ‘bicycle’, ‘train’, and ‘silly hat’ (which I was definitely counting as two) but beyond that I was finding it hard to find any words to describe this unremarkable sepia image of a man in a hat – that was until I was told that the silly hatted man in question, was in fact my great grandfather.

Photo Blog: Berlin Graffiti

Photo Blog: Berlin Graffiti

For a city synonymous with walls, it’s little wonder that graffiti abounds in Berlin.  Part political satire, part art instillation, part humour and youth in revolt, Berlin’s graffiti is many things to many people.  This post features a selection of some of those pieces which caught my eye.