Travel Writing Competition 2012 Entries Page3

A Breath of Fresh Air

From Marrakesh, situated on the dry plains of central Morocco, to the High Atlas Mountains is roughly a five hour drive depending on how insane your driver is. As the already too small roads turned to snaking...

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A Camel Ride to Forget

My first few days in the Moroccan Sahara were uneventful, but at last we left for the part of the trip I was looking forward to most: camel riding in the Sahara. The first thought that popped into my mind...

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A Grecian Journey from Hell

The man approaches me with a toothy, lascivious grin at the traffic lights—arm outstretched. Sighing, I reach into my pot of change and proffered him one Euro, at the same time activating the screen wash...

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A Place That I Didn't Want To Be

Setting off from my house in Barka, near Muscat, at 4am I meet an Indian neighbour sitting in the comfortable dark cool of the morning; we smile and wish each other a good morning. I start the car and note that the...

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A Rude Awakening

A half-Mexican traveling man mocked me for my sometimes naïve demeanor. Making a sultry face and raising the pitch of his voice, he parodied, “I came here with my suitcase and my innocence.”

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A Smile Can do Wonders

Who knew a 45 second encounter with a girl no more than 12, could have such an impact? It’s been 3 years, and I still think of her often. I wonder if she feels the same.

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A Traveler's Greatest Lessons

All travelers have their stories of challenges faced and overcome. Of mountains climbed, of rivers crossed, of storms on land and perils on the sea. Tales of wild animals, of enemies and unrest, of...

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Adventures of a Beach umbrella

The tiny, overcrowded bus from Santorini’s capital, Firà, came to a screeching halt, and unceremoniously dumped its sweaty passengers onto the black volcanic sand of Perissa beach. “God, it’s hot”, observed...

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Alaskan Baby

The drone of the small aircraft’s engine had me hypnotized as we flew farther into the Alaskan bush. I had seen the great beauty of the Brooks Range on other flights, but this one was a little different.

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Alpine Adventure

There’s supposed to be something terribly romantic about the Alps. They’ve been attracting British tourists in ever-increasing numbers since Victorian times, when young men imbued with the confidence and...

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Apocalypse, come take me now!

The colours of street lamps and traffic wipe sideways across my face as I slump against the window. I can't sleep. Music that wouldn't qualify for the Eurovision Song Contest has been blaring from the moment we...

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Appearance and Reality

I walked into that restaurant with an echelon of courage that could be equated with that of a cat on a mission to strangulate a rat for a meal. Being elected by my fellow students to represent them in the...

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Bali-hoo

Blond-haired drunks donned their swimming trunks as they did their best Michael Jackson impressions. Sloppy girls fell all over the place regardless of whether they were wearing high heels or flip-flops.

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Bed and Fled

We were desperate. A friend and I had just spent an excitingly tense day at Wimbledon, observing the familiar ritual of a British tennis player being put to the slaughter. We had just celebrated the milestone...

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Buddhist wisdom

Note to self. Next time you go to Hong Kong for new years, book a room in advance. After hours of walking I finally found a hotel with a vacancy. The owner called his wife to show me to my room.

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But I do want to be there...

O dear, have I ever been in a place I didn’t want to be? Possibly while picnicking on yesterday’s cold parathas, heavy oily flannels of indigestible dough unwrapped from the car boot and three layers of foil on the...

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Calamity on the Ski Slopes!

All around was perfect like a picture postcard. I was in the beautiful ski resort of St Anton in Austria. It was everything I’d ever dreamt of. Skiing had always been there in my mind as potentially the ideal...

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Camping with caterpillars

An old lady emerged from the trees and hobbled towards us as we waited at the barrier. She must have heard our campervan engine.

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Capri... from the other side...

Wait! Something is wrong”, these four words can get a brave heart also racing, and here they were whispered to me. Standing on one end of Piazza Le Boffe, my heart just stopped and I turned back and looked at my...

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Close encounters of an insect kind

My back was stuck to the plastic bus seat and sweat dripped down my face. As the bus lurched to a stop I heaved my overstuffed rucksack onto my back and staggered out onto the frantic Cairo street.

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Come To Addis And Get A Babba!

We land in Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia and begin to make our way through the busy transfer lounge. I notice that the Ethiopian women and strikingly beautiful, as if they were created by clever distribution of...

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Dark Waters

As I gazed out over the still waters below, I felt the characteristic sensation of my knees beginning to knock.

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Don't push it

I met Zarina on what was supposed to be my last day in Pakistan. The Karakoram highway by then had brought me lots of challenges, heaps of laughter and quite a few interesting acquaintances. "Where are you from?"

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Double Exposure

Driftwood antlers lie abandoned on the leaf-duned forest floor; from the chiaroscuro of dappled woodland, a sepia smudge slowly crystallizes into deconstructed hart: damp mushroom nose, a furtive snuffling in...

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Downhill skiing

It started so well: a week away skiing in the French Alps. Our flight was delayed, meaning that we would miss our transfer from Geneva to the resort but lady luck smiled and the bus was also late leaving: result!

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Ducking the Blow

The man came rushing toward us across the piazza at a dead run, hissing curses at every breath and pulling back his clenched fist as he drew near. My husband stepped forward and assumed a position to engage him.

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Eternal Gratitude

It was a lovely time for a cruise, cold weather outside and the promise of warm weather to come as we headed down the coast. Loaded up with baggage, we took off for the Baltimore Harbor, full of expectation.

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Feel the Ferrata Fear

Overcoming fear. There's a lot written about that. I have a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. The trouble with feeling the fear on a via ferrata or rock climb or bungee jump is that it can simply immobilise...

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Finding Culture in Barcelona

Margeaux and I hadn’t eaten since our very crowded and very screaming-baby-filled plane from New York to Barcelona was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic; and by the time we finally checked into our hotel the...

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Following Flipper (without flippers)

It had all sounded very promising during the sales pitch.. “Come let us take you swimming with our magnificent gentle dolphins in the calm spectacular beauty of their natural Indian Ocean habitat” Mr Seleem had urged.

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For Better, For Worse

There is a reason why our marriage vows include the pessimistic comparison of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

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Gone to Gonarazhou

I went along to the planning meeting anyway. Why would I want to camp in a dome tent for 7 days, in a game reserve that has seen better days, where the facilities are rudimentary at best, in Zimbabwe...

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Hammocks and Ham

I want you to close your eyes and imagine lying in a hammock with just a breath of warm air bringing scents of lemons and lavender towards you. As you look up, you can see an azure blue sky through olive tree boughs.

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Hating Venice

Sometimes, when I'm in Venice, I hate it. The food is less than average. In summer it smells, winter it floods. It is a tourist trap of the highest proportions. Nobody really lives there anymore.

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Hiking's a Drag

They pitched Mount Seorak to me as a two-hour stroll through the woods crowned by a splash in a creek. I had visions of wood nymphs bathing behind glittering falls (perhaps my first mistake was to liken South Korea...

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Honey Pains in Northeastern Turkey

There was enough time to wonder, is this it? Is this what it feels like to pause time, to travel outside of your body and look down on all of your bad decisions: the dark, pot-holed, mid-night drive from the Georgian border...

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How not to surf

My head spun and I felt ridiculous. I had laid my surf board on the hot sandy beach hoping the steady ground would cure me from nausea. Instead, the heap of smelly seaweed next to my make shift surf bed was making...

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Hunger in the Himalayan Foothills

He wanted my sleeping bag for the chicken, my knife for the eggs, my headlamp for the rice and my stove for the flour. When I looked at the goat, he only grinned, coercively. As he smiled, his brown, leathery face opened...

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I couldn't cry anymore!

I remember it so well! It was October 1985 and I’d just spent 5 months travelling around Europe with a mate. We’d had a great time but after a short earning session back in the UK I headed off again.

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I Was Here, I Lived, I Loved

I walked along the edge of the street without anyone else who could talk and share with me. Daylight and sunlight made me sick for a while when it burnt my skin. This heart was empty, but my day was not.

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I've Arrived

Even as I took in the hot summer weather and gorgeous green scenery, I still couldn't help feeling a bit homesick. I had recently experienced a major disillusionment with someone I considered a good friend;

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In a Van with an Angry Man

The driver glared at his unworthy passengers from under beetled brows, a look reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”. He spoke at me in rapid-fire local dialect, then shouted the same words, several times...

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In Italy; EAT Italian, SPEAK Italian, THINK Italian!

Below is an email I sent home to my mum and dad from my one month Italian Language school. I stayed in Sorrento in Italy with a host family who were wonderful, hilarious and different to anything I had ever...

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In the Clutches of the Green Tortoise

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a bit of an adventure prude. I like to think of myself as an adventurous person, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, the truth is I’m not. There are the extreme adventurers...

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In the wrong place, at the wrong time

Our plan was to walk up the east side of the hill, over the top and down towards the sunset, to meet Daudi, our driver. Jamie carried a rifle and a radio, and I had binoculars. Our clients were bedecked with an assortment...

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Inauspicious beginnings

Beneath crackling power lines in the stifling, prison-barred queues of Kazakh immigration, giving an inch meant a wave of people shoving past. Standing my ground, I blocked off the space with my luggage.

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Insights Out

Against my cooler instincts, I had ceded to my parents’ plead to check myself into a Contiki resort before I arrived on the island - even though my Balinese sights had been set on the cathartic.

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It wasn't like this on the website

Undefined shapes emerged from a night’s restlessness, their damp sleeping bags not softened by emaciated sleeping mats, their tousled heads wondering why this four day trek in Peru had seemed like a good idea...

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Italian accident

It was a beautiful day. Or, at least it started out that way. We were driving through a cute, little Italian town, waiting for the motor home mechanic to return after lunch.

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Journey to Aksum

Jo and I hitched out of Marsabit on the back of an overloaded goods lorry. The road, if you can call it that, was a faint trail cut through a desolate, rocky moonscape. We bounced around for twelve hours like the sacks...

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Jump on the next swell

“Jump on the next swell,” a voice shouts from above. The side of the ship rises, opening a three metre gap of rusty hull between my head and the bottom of the rope ladder.

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Jungle Fever

5am wake-up call and in the jeep for 5:30, bouncing along the uneven jungle road to the drop-off point where we would begin our trek. Our goal: to catch a glimpse of the elusive family of wild gibbons that...

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Kabul Kidnapping

‘They picked up Rashid last week,’ began Tekeste, the FAO Country Director, ‘as you know. Yesterday they released him.’

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La Zona Rosa

I want to take advantage of the holidays and take a trip. When Ruth calls, I surprise myself. “Why don’t we explore Mexico City? It’s inexpensive.”

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Lost amongst the gangs of San Salvador

I was in a poorly lit street in San Salvador; I hadn't a clue where exactly. This was something of a problem. El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world and most of these homicides occur in the shadowy...

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Lost In Delhi's Moonlit Market

We are lost. Hopelessly lost in Chandni Chowk, the ‘moonlit market’, in a sensory overload of nighttime noise and colour. The streets that seem so benign in the daylight quickly become the place where two unescorted...

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Lost in the Wild

The sun was just starting to dip between ancient trees as our jeep pulled into the jungle camp at Gunung Mulu. Grains of pollen were like glitter suspended in the moist pink haze that wrapped around us and touched everything...

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Man made whole

Bangalore, India. The land of the free, home of the brave. Germs, that is. I boast of phenomenal immunity levels, probably in the realm of the unreal.

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My new friends from Morro Bay

My husband, Dave, drove our RV to meet some of our friends in Morro Bay for a three-day vacation. I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to go, you know, one ocean looks the same as another. So to speak.

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Never Mind Lost In France!! Bumbling Antics From Budapest!

Back in 2005 I was invited by my Hungarian friends to join them at their homes in Kescekmet for 2 weeks for some sight-seeing and of course sampling the wonderful Tokaji wine.

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Nice to Paris Sleeper Train

Travelling across Italy to get home because of a difficultly named volcano in Iceland wasn't the perfect end to my honeymoon.

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Nightmare on Hollywood Boulevard

Forget Elm Street, the place I didn’t want to be on a cold, late-December holiday morning was Hollywood Boulevard. With nicknames like ‘Tinseltown’ and ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’, Hollywood is presumed to be...

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No Time for Tea

I was enjoying riding along the stunning greenery of trees until the South African sitting next to me said, “It’s such a shame this area is terrorized by armed bandits, isn’t it?”

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Oh Calcutta

Without warning Ray went very pale and then vomited over the potted plants in the hotel lobby. One minute later he dashed for the toilet clenching his buttocks. When the doctor came he spoke in a low voice about low...

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On the Road Home

It was dark outside. I was stiff from the flight, tremblingly hungry, and confused by this unexpected taxi ride. When I booked my return flight from Kuala Lumpur to London, I was at a desk in a crowded call centre...

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Oranges, Landslides and the Southern Cross in the Bolivian jungle

Crouched in the back of a truck amid the stench of hundreds of oranges I catch a glimpse of my travel companion's sunburnt face shining back at me through the moonlight. I smile – we both know we've just had...

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Our Trek to Hell

A team of NASA planetary scientists invited me to join them as a journalist to study a rare volcano in Ethiopia. My wife went because she would not be left behind.

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Pasta in Prison

My story begins when I was sat looking out of the window of my tiny flat watching the rain wash down the street on a dreary overcast day. “What I need is a holiday!” I thought. After very little persuasion my sister...

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Plane Daft

I'm a coward. I've never denied it. I am neither proud nor ashamed of this fact. I don't watch horror films, I am scared of any creature that has more legs than me, I am the coat holder at fairgrounds and I am...

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Possessed:

Through a veil of incense and chanting, the Tibetan woman entered her trance and became possessed by the goddess Dorje Yudronma. As her costume whirled and flapped around in the smoky light, I realized...

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Quo Vadis, Rome? The Rise and Fall of the Empire

The monochrome palette of Roman row houses cuts across the winding Tiber River like a batch of swords ferociously tossed into the midst of the battle. This is not Tuscany.

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Sarajevo

The Place you Didn’t Want to Be – but were glad to arrive: Holiday Inn, Sarajevo

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Scared and Smelly, My stay in New Delhi

From time to time, without any forewarning, a dream vacation can turn into a nightmare, with unexpected obstacles popping up endlessly. However, with a little bit of luck and careful planning, one can avoid those pesky...

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Shipwrecked on Ibo Island

‘One of the most adventurous border crossings in Africa’. I think that’s how it began. Reading these words describing the border crossing from Tanzania into Mozambique, I felt the restless stirrings of adventure.

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Sikasso: a road trip

From Lagos, Nigeria to Sikasso, Mali, by road, toddlers were in the bus. I didn’t pay attention to bleating goats strapped to the bus seats beside me. It was the screams of babies, I paid attention to.

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Skegness

Skegness....aka "Let's get a pie and a game of snooker before we go 'ome"

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Sleeping with the Beetles

No. I didn´t, did I? I must be imagining it. As my eyes struggle to adjust to the daylight penetrating the thin outer shell of our tent, my body tenses. It was happening again.

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So Your Visa Has Expired

I have avoided writing about this for a few reasons. First is that I didn’t want my family to panic, and when you read about what I went through, you will understand why. Second, I wasn’t sure what the Vietnamese...

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Stranded in Kazakhstan

There is a single interesting thing to do in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. In front of the parliament building stands the Astana Tower. If you go inside it and pay a few pennies to a frumpy woman in a recycled...

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Surviving the River

What does not kill you makes you stronger. This made me stronger.

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The Bovine Nemesis

There air seemed more see-through than usual. We were the only people for miles, and ready for New Years Eve in the Peruvian Andes. We spent the day exploring Huascarán National Park, getting hyped about...

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The Business Trip I Want To Forget!

Our business trip to Guangzhou China - We were driving 1 hour to the factory, the sky was a dark charcoal colour..I commented 'Looks like we are in for a bad storm'? " Oh no " the driver said that is "Prousion"

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The Galata Tower the tower of doom

We were escorted by three waiters down a dark, cramped corridor, no wider than a door, with the smell of stale cigarette smoke clinging to the limited air. In shock I muttered to myself, ‘welcome to Istanbul’.

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The Ghost City

A cold autumn sun is kissing yellow leaves that are dancing in the wind. A squirrel is looking for something to eat on the ground. It does not scare people. The grass and tree trunks break through asphalt and concrete walls.

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The Hammam from Hell

There are moments in everyone’s life where one muses: “How the hell did I end up here?” For me, lying naked face-down on a concrete floor in a dark North African dungeon being tortured by a scary toothless octogenarian...

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The Last Straw

I’m still not sure why they got so upset. I was having lots of fun, but there had been some shouting about something called ‘the last straw’ and now we’re packing all of our bags and putting them back in the car.

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The Many Faces of Hanoi Vietnam

One of the great things about travelling is that you get to meet a lot of new people in a very short space of time. Remembering exactly who they all are and what they all look like, however, is not always easy.

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The number 25 bus

The number 25 bus journey will never be described in the guide books as, “a peerless travel experience”. It trundled into Brighton with every facet of its existence governed by dull predictability under the British...

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The Place I Didn't Want To Be; Temerloh

Once upon a time in my life, precisely a year back, I went to a town called Temerloh. It is located in Central Pahang of Malaysia and very famous for its exquisite attributes. I was invited for a three days Malaysian...

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The Place I didn't Want to be

I entered Joshua Tree National Park, a desert in California, to find a beautiful landscape with immense boulders and amazingly diverse cacti scattered all around. But at that moment, uncomfortably shivering...

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The place you didn't want to be

Before I meet my gruesome and untimely end, I have a few moments to ponder my predicament and reflect on how I came to be perched on a slat of wood in the Alaskan outback, pants round my ankles and about to be...

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The Sweet Smell of St. Lawrence Fuel

“Maybe we should pull in here”, my girlfriend suggested. “Hmmm, I can’t imagine they’d have a petrol station”, I pessimistically retorted.

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The Underground Palace, Istanbul

This is the first time I have ever gone to Istanbul and what a mystical, place it is with so many sights and sounds to see. Stepping back in time to the 6th century the underground dark remains of the Palace Cistern...

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The World of Adventure

I surveyed the queue of fractious children and tired adults with a mix of dread and foreboding, “Who would I be sat next to in the confined compartment?” Likely candidates included the small boy who had been screaming...

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The Wrong Beach

It had been a long morning rambling around LokrumIsland.The midday heat was now steadily rising and I was ready to take a plunge into the sparkling water.

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Trouble in Paradise

Our family bounced with excitement as we boarded the ship taking us on our Hawaiian cruise. My husband Chris had made all the arrangements. Chris is a “big picture” kind of guy, whereas I'm a more detail-oriented...

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Twitching in Embarrassment

As though traversing invisible tight ropes our arms flailed wildly as the force of the current pushed the water high up over our thighs and the rounded boulders of the river bed rolled treacherously beneath our bruised bare feet.

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Unexpected challenge at an idyllic site

I am neutrally buoyant, a trail of bubbles behind and above me, as I scuba slowly through the water. I cannot see the bottom of the ocean. Expelling a little air from my BCD, I sink a little, confirming the top...

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