Ways of seeing

Sahara Central

Art and Survival in the Tassili Plateau

 

As I’d spent my formative tourleading years in Morocco, when one of the rarely operated tours to the middle of the Sahara came up for grabs, my managers and I both made a beeline for it.

 

The tour involved taking everything with me to run a trip which was centred around the charming sounding town of Djanet, pretty much smack in the centre of the Sahara, sandwiched between the mountainous region of Tassili n’Ajjer and the legendary Tenere stretching away south to Niger.

If a camel could take a selfie
If a camel could take a selfie

Read more . .


NOT Trainspotting, but a bit like it

Collecting STUFF. We all do it in some way or another but collecting passport stamps as a pursuit in itself, rather than incidentals that just happen from time to time always veers a bit close to braggadocio for me. Nevertheless just as train and car number plates fascinate some people, so do passport stamps. It takes all sorts ! (I have to admit my own peccadillo is collecting CAA airport significator codes – LHR, DEL, MCW etc).

Podcast version here

 

Read more . .


Comrade Bob in the Steps of Tamerlaine

I had completely forgotten that my name might arouse some amusement, to say the least, when I went on a trip to Central Asia. Bob, you see, means a bean in Russian (also Hungarian for that matter), and a polite but wry smirk crossed the face of every Intourist guide and receptionist for the next few weeks.

Read more . .


So, what’s it worth ?

The question of value, and of values, can often be highlighted by travel in countries with which we may only have a passing acquaintance. The commonest example of this disparity is when people part with money willingly. It stands to reason, I think, that when people dive out of a tour bus in a small town to get a few bits of fruit or whatever from the market; one, you’re a stranger to local prices; two,Europeans are usually unversed in haggling over prices; three, whatever you’re asked for a bunch of bananas e.g. will be still be trifling compared to what you pay at home; four, as a foreigner, you’re likely to be one of the richer people around and therefore fair game for what I like to call “skin tax”.

Podcast version here

 

Read more . .


The best thing to order is what they’ve got

We were on a tour through Ethiopia soon after the summer rains, and much of the country we saw was covered in a green pointillist haze for the time being. We were in Bahar Dar, a substantial town on the edge of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. A normally wide and shallow outflow within walking distance of our lakeside hotel allowed us a view of the waters at the start of their long journey through Ethiopian gorges until debouching onto the lower lands of Sudan, at Khartoum, where our Nile joins the White Nile, already well travelled from Lake Victoria. From there the combined waters would irrigate an intermittent strip of habitation until reaching Egypt where the population crowded around the river as far as the Mediterranean. Read more . .



How dumb can you be ? 2

It can be quite a surprise to discover how quickly someone who has high level responsibilities can abandon their sense of self preservation, observes Bob Cranwell. It’s just one example of how day dreamy some people can get when they are relieved of day to day responsibilities at work and someone else takes on the work of organising everything. Read more . .


How dumb can you be ? 1

There are, of course a number of things which a traveller should avoid doing, and any guidebook, as would Bob Cranwell, will tell you to avoid photography in sensitive areas like military camps, ports, even railway stations and bridges in most third world countries will be regarded as strategic targets. Read more . .


Do you see what I mean ?

As an aside (before I’ve even started !), I’ve had an attack of synchronicity – today I got through the post a card from my opticians, reminding me of a sight test due (I have them every year,  sometimes more often as I have glaucoma in the family), and also later a brief conversation with a new guy working for Scottish Water who has taken on my old job and my old van, too.

Podcast version here

Read more . .


Christmas in Madras 1987

As might have been expected, India burst in on me like a storm. Sometimes it’s the proverbial wall of heat when you’re coming off the plane, or the overwhelming chaos of rank and sweet smells and eye-jarring colours, but most often for me it’s the milling mass of humanity which ambushes you. 

madras_map_1862
Madras Map 1862

 

I’d read somewhere, (I think it was in Trevor Fishlock’s brilliant compendium of essays called India File), that the elephant god Ganesh, or the Taj Mahal in Agra are usually seen as emblematic of India, but the true motif of India is the crowd.

 

Podcast version here

 

Read more . .


Swat valley, Pakistan

Hotel Sarfaraz, Madyan, Swat, Pakistan. Well, after all the humming and haaring over where to go we’ve ended up in Swat – the accommodation in Gilgit, we found out, would be too expensive, coupled with the cost of getting there – and back, probably by plane, which is highly dependent on local weather and we might be stuck for many days, eventually put us off. 

Also, although the mountain scenery would be spectacular, the valley floors would be very bare at this time of year, and very, very cold. The alternative we came up with was to take the bus to Swat, costing a mere 80 Rupees (about £4.50) for a pretty interesting journey of some five hours or so from Rawalpindi.

Podcast version here

 

Read more . .


Plus ca change; plus c’est la meme chose

Chennai / Madras.

From outside the hotel traffic noise begins to filter into my mind around 6.30am, though I’d known of and had felt people moving through the city all night, sporadically waking and sleeping in time with passing truck horns. It seemed that it took until this time of the morning for the air horns, cycle bells, mendicants cries to reach a critical level of continuous cacophony that would remain at that level until around 11 that night. Some cities are said to never sleep, but Madras does sleep, although never long enough in my humble opinion.

Read more . .


  • Greenpeace
  • Ragged uni square
  • Wikipedia logo
  • Sightsavers.org
    Sightsavers.org
  • wateraid logo
    Wateraid.org