Article: The history of Peru in 10 objects

Thomson belongs to a rare species of explorer.  He is a writer who explores and not an explorer who writes.  And it is Thomson’s extreme humility in the face of both danger and extraordinary success that places him in the same tradition as Eric Newby. (Geographical Magazine)

I normally give any article with a number in its title (“5 reasons why you must…”), a wide berth.

When it’s written by Hugh Thomson, though, I will happily make an exception especially when it seems to be in the same vein as the BBC and British Museum’s excellent podcast series A History of the World in 100 Objects.

When I first started coming to Peru 35 years ago, it’s fair to say it was not for the museums.

I spotted Thomson’s article, The history of ancient Peru in ten objects, on a recent flight back from Madrid in British Airway’s Highlife magazine.

In this short piece Thomson, describes how Peru has significantly upped its game in terms of museums showcasing its pre-Hispanic history.   

Using a variety of objects, he highlights that there is much more to Peruvian history than the Incas, including the Chimú and Moche cultures, 4,000-year-old pyramids as large as those at Giza and tombs yielding treasures rivalling those of Tutankhamun. 

Encompassing pottery, gold, jewellery, coca, pyramids,  Inca messengers, funerary masks and, of course, llamas, Thomson’s article is an inspiration for exploring some of the lesser-known historical sights in Peru. 

Thomson is a writer/explorer and film-maker who has devoted a large portion of his life to understanding and exploring Inca and pre-Columbian civilisations in the Andes.  These have included expeditions to locate Inca ruins as well as making new discoveries at known sites.

He has also written two books about his travels in Peru and the Andes: Cochineal Red and The White Rock, books I came across following an extended trip to South America.  Thomson is an author, like John Hemming, who I instantly associate with South America and the Andes. 

      

 

 

 

 

Find out more about Hugh Thomson on his website www.thewhiterock.co.uk which contains a blog and information about Thomson’s other books and film projects (one of which was the recent and fascinating BBC series, Treasures of the Indus).

If Hugh Thomson’s books appeal, these are also worth a look:

     

 

Video: Roma – city of yearning (3m27s)

Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.
Giotto di Bondone

Brilliant video of Rome from digital director and photographer Oliver Astrologo. 

Bells, coffee, cobbles, fountains, vespas, street life and Rome’s stunning architecture all feature in this video.  With interesting angles, good use of drone footage, an original score and fine editing to give it drama and pace, this short film is definitely one to watch and, like any trip to Rome, it is over too quickly and will leave you wanting more.

Oliver Astrologo’s other work can be found at vimeo.com/oliverastrologo, oliverastrologo.com and instagram.com/oliverhl/.  Nod to Travel + Leisure for featuring this video. 

Photo essay: Urbanistan, a street photography project

UrbaniStan is a street photography project that explores the urban environment of the developing world. The project aims to demonstrate that ‘urban’ in the developing world does not necessarily mean modern and to draw the attention of the general public to the slowly declining social values that are sinking under increasing pressures of modernisation. 

Excellent photo essay from Maptia and Slovenian photographer, Matjaž Krivic.

Breathtaking in its scope and with beautiful images, this gallery of 80 images of urban life around the world is a visual feast for any travel lover.  

 

The photos in this gallery are the result of Krivic’s many years’ globe-trotting in Asia, Africa and the Middle East but they are much more than simply a collection of postcard images of famous places.  

Although many of the locations are well known, Krivic captures a different angle and gives them a personality whether it is of boys playing volleyball on the streets of Thula in Yemen, Jaipur primary school pupils having a maths lesson, a boy studying at a medrassa in Mali or people at work, play or prayer around the world.  

 

Matjaž Krivic has been travelling and photographing the world for 22 years.  According to his website, he focusses on poorer parts of the world “characterised by traditions, social unrest and religious devotion…the marginal world – the voices of the neglected”.

Intimate, spontaneous and striking, this is a gallery to get lost in, to wonder not only at the places themselves but also at the people who live there and the lives they lead. Inspiring and thought provoking. 

More of Matjaž Krivic’s work can be found on his website (www.krivic.com), on Instagram (@krivicmatjaz) or on Twitter (@matjazkrivic) and if 80 photos aren’t enough and you want to see more of the Urbanistan photos, look here.  

 

 

Video: Kenya from the air (4m42s)

SOMETIMES you stumble across a place that seems like it got far more than its fair share of natural beauty. Places with spectacular wildlife, gorgeous scenery, and an almost absurdly beautiful culture. Kenya is one of those places.

Superb and enticing video from Matador Network.  Using a mixture of drone and plane footage, Matador travelled to remote parts of Kenya to produce this short film.  As well as including familiar wildlife shots, it also showcases the beauty of Kenya’s varied landscapes. 

The video is narrated by Jamie Gaymer, game warden at the Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy.  Emphasising the scale of Kenya’s unspoilt mountains, deserts, savannah and jungles and urging the viewer to visit Kenya before it changes, Jamie notes:

I haven’t scratched the surface yet and there is so much out there in these remote places that has not been explored.  

Sure to stoke any traveller’s wanderlust.

Article: Freya Stark on real vs bogus travel

Above all is enjoyment with no utilitarian objective, which it is the main business of both travel and education to increase as they can.

Freya Stark is celebrated as one of the most outstanding travellers and travel writers of the 20th century.

Born in Paris at the end of the 19th century, Stark volunteered during the First World War and began her adventurous solo travels in her 30s.  

By 1931 she had made three journeys into Iran, parts of which had never been visited by Westerners.  Stark was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s Back Award in 1933 for those explorations which were also published in 1934 as The Valleys of the Assassins.  

Stark continued her travels during the 1930s and after the Second World War, chiefly around the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan.   

The text of this particular essay by Stark does not appear online but is a chapter in her collection of philosophical essays, Perseus in the Wind, published just after the Second World War in 1948. 

In the essay Stark describes the importance of travel which, for her, was comparable to the ecstasy of love, although travel was “less costly and almost equally precious in the end.”  For Stark, though, travel surpassed love in one respect:

And there is this about love: that its memory is not enough; for the soul retracts if it does not go on loving, whereas to have travelled once, however long ago – provided it was real and not bogus travel – is enough.
The secret of travel was to have experienced it and “have it behind you.”  If one had travelled well, those experiences were enough and could provide a store to draw upon in later life:
 
Good days are to be gathered like sunshine in grapes, to be trodden and bottled into wine and kept for age to sip at ease beside his fire. If the traveller has vintaged well he need trouble to wander no longer; the ruby moments glow in his glass at will. He can still feel the spring in his step, and the wind on his face, though he sit in shelter: unless perhaps the sight of a long road winding, or the singing of the telegraph wires, or the wild duck in their wedges, or horses’ hooves that clatter into distance, or the wayside stream – all with their many voices persuade him to try just one more journey before the pleasant world comes to an end.

That is not say to say that travel is something to be acquired or possessed like a souvenir.  What matters is how one travels, to ensure it is real and not bogus; and to make travel real, one must have a genuine horizon:  

There is no travelling without a horizon. This is, if you come to think of it, just what the bogus traveller lacks. He has made himself a world without a skyline. His rooms are booked in Paris, Cairo, Melbourne San Francisco, New York his routes are planned his days are scheduled: he has blotted out, with every touch of his organization, that blue rim that stands between the known world and the unknown For the rest, the chief thing the traveller carries about with him is himself. The places he visits are incidental. 

Real, as opposed to bogus, travel does not require us to pack up and head off into the deserts and jungles.  

Although Stark considered that every good journey ought to contain “some measure of exploration”, she considered that a short trip, some effort of our own and a little imagination were sufficient, provided the traveller maintained awareness of their horizon beyond which the “world is new.” 

Travelling was therefore as much a state of mind as it was a physical and geographical challenge and, despite being an intrepid explorer, this thought led Stark to wonder whether some of “the fairest journeys have been made by those who never left their houses.”  

Despite this, there is no substitute for the real experience of travel and it was through travel that Stark thought people of different races and cultures might reach a common understanding, in spite of those differences:

Travel is necessary to an understanding of men…Such delicate goods as justice, love and honour, courtesy, and indeed all the things we care for, are valid everywhere; but they are variously moulded and often differently handled, and sometimes nearly unrecognizable if you meet them in a foreign land; and the art of learning fundamental common values is perhaps the greatest gain of travel to those who wish to live at ease among their fellows.

A number of Freya Stark’s travel books are available to download for free from the Internet Archive, here.  Unfortunately, Perseus in the Wind is not among them which is still in print and available at Amazon and elsewhere. 

 

Photo essay: Ebb and Flow of life in Indonesia

Ebb and Flow is about a small, remote community living on the coast of Sumbawa, Indonesia. They live and work in harmony with the ebb and flow of the tide.

Gorgeous photo essay from Suitcase magazine and photographer Lulu Ash.  

The subject is a small community on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia.  One of the Lesser Sunda islands, the chain stretching east from Java towards Darwin, Australia and Papua New Guinea, Sumbawa is located between the more famous islands of Lombok and Flores. 

Lula Ash’s photos concentrate on the rhythm of the community’s life which is dictated by the tides as they go about daily life, fishing, harvesting seaweed, fixing boats and surfing. 

See more of Lulu Ash’s work online at www.luluash.co.uk, on Instagram (@luluashstudio) or on Twitter (@luluashstudio).

Article: Travels in the Land of Slowly Slowly

The vast, braided and silverish waterway of Brahmaputra, Assam’s heart and artery, is an antecedent river, older than the Himalayas themselves.

Assam: An Unchanged Land is a beautifully written piece by Horatio Clare for Conde Nast Traveller.

Located in a distant corner of India, east of Bangladesh and south of the eastern Himalayas, and separated from the rest of the country by a range of hills, Horatio Clare reports on the sleepy yet majestic land lying in the Brahmaputra valley.   

In this richly written piece, Horatio Clare looks beyond the tea plantations and finds abundant wildlife on the Brahmaputra floodplain, in Assam’s swamps and savannah and in Kaziranga National Park, home to rhino, elephants and tigers.

Clare describes a culture and people which link the Indian subcontinent with Southeast Asia, and finds that the unhurried pace of life, predominantly agrarian lifestyle, and relatively few foreign visitors give Assam a rockpool-like character reminiscent of an older India.  

Horatio Clare is a two-time nominee for the Dolman Best Travel Book Award.  He was shortlisted for A Single Swallow in 2010 and won the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year in 2015 with Down to the Sea in Ships.

Horatio Clare spoke at the Hay Festival in May 2015 on the subject “Why I Write”, explaining that:

Setting the world to words as if to music, is the ambition of the writer…I write because I have no wish to live in a world where the sky and the birds and the slants of light and the moods of a day and the tones of the night are of no consequence… If I have any gift, it is to set the people I write about in the actual world and to hymn that world, this precious place, our miraculous blue green bulb.

Clare’s Hay talk is available on the BBC’s website (and below):


High-quality photographs from Alistair Taylor-Young accompany Clare’s article.  More of his images from Assam (and other travels) can be seen on his website www.at-y.com.

Article: A lost library in Zanzibar

It is nearly ten years since I first sat on the terrace of the Africa House Hotel in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and waited expectantly for the sun to meet the ocean.  I was talking to the manager, who asked whether I knew that the building once housed the English Club, and that its library still existed if I would like to see it.  I forgot the sunset in an instant.”

A slice of literary history from the magazine of the London Library, this article is for bibliophiles and those interested in East Africa, Zanzibar and colonial life. 

Jono Jackson, historian and author, recounts his fascination with the library of the former colonial English Club in Zanzibar and how he traced its holdings through the collections in the London Library several thousand miles away  while researching the social value and meaning of books in Stone Town.  

In the process, he reconstructs the life of this cultural cornerstone of the former British Protectorate as well as its significance to residents and visitors to Zanzibar (including Evelyn Waugh who refers to the library in his travel book Remote People). 

He recalls a time when obtaining reading material when travelling was considerably more difficult than downloading books over a wifi connection and involved more than browsing second-hand bookshops or book exchanges in hostels, even if the underlying motives had more in common.

To the isolated dweller in the more distant parts of the Empire, books often afford an indispensable link with the old country as well as an indispensable source of happiness and comfort. 

The demise of the English Club naturally followed that of the British Empire.  Remarkably, though, much of the Club library’s collection remained intact following independence and, following a renovation, is available to be viewed by guests of the Africa House Hotel as “an unintended survivor of a colonial past”.   

Jono Jackson has contributed to the Footprint Guide to Tanzania and some more of his writing on Zanzibar can be found at Mambo magazine.  I particularly liked this one in which he follows a walking tour from an old 1961 guide to Zanzibar he picked up from a secondhand bookshop.

His article on the English Club library is at page 24 of the London Library magazine, embedded below via Issuu. 

Video: Gertrude Bell documentary – Letters from Baghdad

I am having by far the most interesting time of my life…I am so thankful to be here at this time.

Interesting trailer for the Kickstarter funded documentary about Gertrude Bell, the woman who was more influential in the Middle East than her contemporary Lawrence of Arabia and who shaped the destiny of Iraq.  

The trailer for Letters from Baghdad gives an overview of Gertrude Bell’s privileged upbringing and her subsequent career as adventurer diplomat, archaeologist and spy in the first quarter of the 20th century.   

Using fascinating archive footage and with Tilda Swinton reading from Gertrude Bell’s correspondence, this documentary will be one to watch as it follows the incredible career of a woman who rose to a position of extraordinary influence in two male dominated cultures.  

An enduring story, the film also explores how Bell’s influence echoes in our own time, drawing parallels between her insights and current affairs. 

At the time of writing, it looked as though the film will be ready for release shortly with previews already taking place.  Certainly one to watch out for.  

Article: Dream to reality – motorcycle odyssey from Scotland to Cape Town

Camping in the desert is one of the most incredible experiences you can have. We set up under this solitary tree with the most perfect night sky imaginable, knowing there was not a soul for miles besides the desert foxes. You have to check your boots for scorpions in the morning but other than that it’s the most peaceful experience in the world.

I have been a sucker for a motorbike adventure ever since reading Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance during my first trip to south-east Asia after finishing school.  What finally inspired me to get my licence though was watching Long Way Round and later reading the book that had inspired Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman, Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon.  I have yet to make a longer trip but, until I do, I’m always happy to read about someone else’s.

This article from TravelStories follows Archie Leeming and two friends as they journey from Edinburgh to Cape Town by motorbike.  The article is a breathless account of their 10 month trip but describes enough of the rides through snow, deserts and across mountains, nights spent camping, border and river crossings and encounters to convey a real sense of the excitement of the journey and the physical exertion of riding in tough conditions.  The text is accompanied by some great images.  

The climate proved to be as turbulent as our bowels for the first few months in Africa.

A lads’ own adventure, this trip is reminiscent of Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman’s second venture, Long Way Down.  The difference is that Leeming and his friends had little money, no particular mechanical skill or specialist kit and one of the group even lacked riding experience.  

They made up for this with a mix of naivety, optimism and enthusiasm, almost unexpectedly finding themselves on their bikes in Africa, demonstrating that John Steinbeck may have been onto something when he observed, “we do not take a trip, a trip takes us”.

For some reason the story ends unexpectedly in Namibia but, if this article isn’t inspiration enough, be sure to have a look at the images of Archie Leeming’s other motorcycle adventures on Instagram or at www.archieleeming.com.  

Article: Cows, couchsurfing & cultural dilemmas in Tajikistan

Didn’t we want to Couchsurf in such a remote place?
Well then, this is the time to suck it up.

An article from the Perceptive Travel blog about a standoff between people caught between the norms and expectations of their own cultures and those of another culture they are keen to learn about.

In No Country for Honest Men, when Marco Ferrarese and his girlfriend go in search of a remote, local couch surfing experience in Tajikistan, a failure to tell an untruth means they get a deeper cultural insight than they expected as they run up against the moral and religious beliefs of their hosts.  

The story is humorously told and nicely describes the social awkwardness of sitting down to afternoon tea with a family in Central Asia where there is no common language.

It is also a reminder that if we want to travel deeply and experience other cultures, that means respecting local customs and beliefs even if they are different to our own.  In this case, the extent of the cultural divide seems to take both host and guests equally by surprise, even though both have some understanding of the other and the encounter is one wanted by all concerned.  

From covering up at religious sites or eating with the correct hand to not stripping off at the top of sacred mountains or having sex on beaches, (almost) all travellers adjust their behaviour to avoid causing offence and out of respect for local laws, customs and religion.  

The custom may not always conform to our own values or morals but whatever our views is it right that, as a visitor, we should expect those in countries we have chosen to visit to adjust their attitudes to suit our values rather than the other way around?  

Sometimes, as Ferrarese points out, you have to be flexible when travelling and just suck it up.

Author Marco Ferrarese is based in Malaysia.  Read more of his travel writing at www.monkeyrockworld.com or follow him on twitter @monkeyrockworld.

Photo essay: Bolivia’s Cholita climbers

The women climb in their traditional “cholita” garb, but trade in their bowler hats for helmets.

Inspiring photo essay from Bolivian Reuters photographer David Mercado about a group of Bolivian women who have set out to climb some of the highest mountains in the Andes. 

The group of indigenous Aymara women, known as the ‘Cholitas’, are mostly in their 40s.  The wives of mountain guides whose previous experience of the mountains was limited to cooking and cleaning for climbers, they decided to see what mountain climbing was like for themselves.  With no formal climbing experience, they climb mountains in their cholita dresses, shawls and cardigans although do wear helmets and crampons…   

They have now summited five mountains all of which are higher than 6,000 metres:  Acotango, Parinacota, Pomarapi, Huayna Potosi and Illimani.  Their goal is to summit Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside Asia.  

Fantastic images and a great story about determination, possibilities and trying new experiences, the Cholitas show that climbing is a sport open to anyone.  And the Cholitas’ verdict?:  “It is difficult but not impossible.”  

 

 

 

Video: Sights and sounds of Rajasthan (01m47s)

Great, short video from Koatlas of a trip through Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and Amritsar.  

From looking at a guidebook and imagining a place to being plunged into the sights and sounds of its street life, this travel video nicely captures the experience of travel in Rajasthan, India and what is more, manages it without using time lapse.

Koatlas is a social network aimed at travellers to explore routes taken by other travellers as well as to plan and share their own routes.  

The website is not up and running yet but hopefully, it won’t be too long.  In the meantime, follow Koatlas on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Video: Promoting tolerance through tourism (04m37s)

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Mark Twain’s famous lines from Innocents Abroad are well known and widely quoted.  However, after overcoming anger at the murder of his brother, Aziz Abu Sarah has been putting them into practice.  

Realising that what separated Palestinians and Israelis were hatred and ignorance, Aziz decided to dedicate himself to breaking down walls and building positive connections between people.  He co-founded a company, Medji Tours, which runs tours highlighting different cultural, religious, political, and ethnic narratives within the countries they visit.  To achieve this each tour is led by two guides from different religious or political backgrounds.  

By getting tourists off buses and promoting engagement with local communities, Aziz and Medji Tours believe that tourism offers a viable way to remove barriers, foster connections and build friendships.

Medji Tours started in Israel and Palestine and now runs tour in Oman, Jordan, Turkey as well as Ireland and Cuba. 

Watch Aziz’s TED talk here:  

Article: In Athens & Crete with Daphne Du Maurier

Fasten your seat belts. Anticipation is the breath of life. 

Unexpected and great article from Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, about a trip to Athens and Crete from the 1971 issue of Holiday magazine.  

Daphne du Maurier transports her readers from the wild, rainy winter of Cornwall to the bright sunshine of Crete via reminisces of youthful journeys to Greece.  

Nothing surpasses the feeling of excitement that comes with the first sight of scenes unglimpsed before.

In contrast to the rough, vagabond trips she made when she was young, du Maurier opts for luxury and after treating herself some pre-trip shopping takes the plane to Athens.  After a short spell sight-seeing, she continues on to Crete and picks up a rental car to reach her destination, the fishing village Hagios Nikólaos. 

In this enthusiastic piece, du Maurier conveys the excitement of realising a travel dream and finding an idyll abroad. She happily makes comparisons with fishing villages in her beloved West Country while unabashedly acknowledging the change in her travelling style.  Bouncing bus journeys may have been amusing once but having someone being sick on her feet (or her velveteen slacks) on this trip would have been less than funny.

Holiday is a testament to the fact that some things still manage to get lost in an age when almost everything is archived, or at least mentioned, online. (Josh Lieberman)

Holiday was an American magazine published between 1946 and 1977 well known for employing famous authors to write travel essays which drew its readers into the jet-set lifestyle of the post-war years – when travel by ocean liner was still common and air travel glamorous and new.  

Boasting among its contributors Jack Kerouac, Arthur Miller, James Michener, Eric Ambler, Paul Bowles, John Steinbeck, Lawrence Durrell, Ian Fleming and VS Pritchett the magazine was also famous for its striking and original artwork as this article in Vanity Fair explains.    

In a loving tribute to Holiday in the Paris Review, Josh Lieberman explains how he stumbled across the magazine in an old bookshop and started collecting it after realising it was a trove of lost masterpieces.  Although a “handful of the pieces are dated”, Lieberman notes, “like the greatest travel writing, many are timeless.” 

Holiday was relaunched as a bi-annual publication in 2014.  A collection of full text stories from the original magazine appear on Josh Lieberman’s blog.