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Preview: A Regular Travel Digest from Mark Moxon

A Regular Travel Digest from Mark Moxon

A selection of travel tales by Mark Moxon.

Published: Sat, 27 May 2017 07:05:02 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2017 Mark Moxon

Southern England: Street to Midsomer Norton

Sat, 27 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 27 May 2003, 14 years ago. Perhaps it was down to the 'morning after the party' feeling that hovered over me following the bank holiday weekend, but this day never really got going. The walk was inoffensive but pretty uninspiring; my destination, Midsomer Norton, was disappointingly awful; and by far the most exciting thing to happen to me all day was being shat on from a great height by a bird (interestingly, the second bird to shit on me in as many days). Still, this travelogue wouldn't be much use if I simply wrote...

India: Service Station Hell

Fri, 26 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 26 May 1998, 19 years ago. To get anything resembling a decent meal in depressing off-season Fatehpur Sikri, I had to walk some three kilometres out of town, beyond the old city walls. It wasn't long before I found myself in the bowels of hell. Indian service stations – for that is where I found the restaurant – are utterly demonic. Of course, 'service station' is a western term and is purely euphemistic when applied to India; there's lots of servicing going on, but precious little station. Lining...

India: Fatehpur Sikri

Fri, 26 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 26 May 1998, 19 years ago. This popular day-trip destination between Agra and Jaipur is a complete contrast to the Taj Mahal; it's a deserted city, and I absolutely loved it. Eventually. When I read about this huge deserted city in the middle of nowhere, I pictured windswept desolation, an area of wonderful sunsets and ancient histories, a landscape of lonely citadels and cobwebbed mosques; but what I entered when I stepped off the bus was the Indian equivalent of an English seaside town in the winter, and like the...

French Polynesia: Rikitea Harbour

Fri, 26 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 26 May 1997, 20 years ago. Quick! Let me grab the moment and describe the feeling, as it's a succinct summary of the sub-tropical paradise of anchoring off Île Mangareva. The date – I have to check this electronically as I have absolutely no idea what day of the week it is, let alone what date – is Monday 26th May, and it's 9.30pm, after dark. Zeke is moored in the beautifully sheltered harbour at Rikitea, the water gently rippling against the sides and lapping the dinghy with slightly...

India: Agra

Thu, 25 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 25 May 1998, 19 years ago. I prepared for my arrival in Agra by clamming up and refusing to budge when the touts descended. In the event it was fine; the city's legendary hassle factor was obviously too exhausted to brave the scorching temperatures. Sure, the rickshaw man tried to charge me Rs30 from the station to the hotel area, though I won that argument because I knew the price was fixed at Rs15 for all rickshaws; and I made sure he dropped me off at a different hotel to the one I wanted to stay in, to avoid the...

India: Gwalior

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 May 1998, 19 years ago. When other travellers find out that I'm planning to explore Rajasthan and Gujarat in June and July, there's a collective sucking in of breath. The reason? The heat. Heat sounds pretty tame on paper. 'It will be 41°C today,' reads the forecast and it's just a number, but the reality is something else. The heat in pre-monsoonal India has to be felt to be believed. My Gwalior-bound train finally pulled into town six hours late – not a bad effort by the driver, who managed to...

French Polynesia: Gambier Islands (Southeast)

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 May 1997, 20 years ago. Given the way we were all getting on together it was logical that we should go off exploring the Gambiers together, so we teamed up with Joe and Janet on Tegan (unfortunately Peeyoo was about to leave for Tahiti on his yacht Rammen, so he was too busy to come with us). And so the four of us set off south towards a little sheltered spot off Île Akamaru, a reef-surrounded 246m-high peak just a short trip 7km southeast from Rikitea. The Gambier lagoon is surrounded by a huge barrier...

Southern England: Taunton to Street

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 May 2003, 14 years ago. Normally I try to have a rest between two long walking days, but with the bank holiday approaching and Peta coming to visit for a couple of days, I figured I might as well press on to Street and recuperate over the weekend. Not surprisingly, doing a 22-mile day straight after a 24-mile one proved to be a bit of an effort, but yet again there were no hills, at least until the very end, and this helped. As with the walk from Tiverton to Taunton, today started off along a canal, this time the...

India: Air Coolers

Mon, 22 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 May 1998, 19 years ago. One of the delights of the cheap Indian hotel is the air cooler. Much more rudimentary and therefore much more cost-effective than freon-based air conditioning, air coolers are to room cooling systems what holes in the ground are to toilets: they're simple but effective. In its simplest form an air cooler is just a large box with a fan on the front face, which pulls air into the box through the other three vertical sides and pushes it out of the front. The bottom is filled with water that is...

Southern England: Tiverton to Taunton

Mon, 22 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 May 2003, 14 years ago. Towards the end of every long day's walk your mind starts to focus on the carrot at the end of the stick. No matter how fit you are, your feet start feeling tired, your energy levels start to droop, and the one thing that keeps you going through the last few miles is the thought of that gorgeous pint of beer that's already standing on the bar, your name clearly visible in the condensation down the side. Or perhaps the beer can wait, and the thing that really motivates you to keep trudging...

Southern England: Crediton to Tiverton

Sun, 21 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 May 2003, 14 years ago. The weather is seriously starting to get on my tits. I picked May as a sensible month in which to start this walk because towards the end of May the weather is supposed to get more summery, and from there to early August, when I'm scheduled to finish in northern Scotland, it's supposed to be a pretty reasonable climate for walking. Unfortunately the country is currently experiencing unseasonable misery, and for the first time in my life I'm in danger of understanding what sufferers of Seasonal...

India: Death on the Platform

Sat, 20 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 May 1998, 19 years ago. The City of the Dead wasn't going to let me go easily. I had booked myself on the overnight train to Gwalior, an eight-hour journey across the dusty plains of gently sweating northern India, but when I turned up at the station, my train was nowhere to be seen. When a train is seriously late in the West, the chances are there will at least be an announcement about it, if only to avoid recrimination from a bunch of furious commuters in angry suits. In India, however, the onus is on the passenger...

India: Varanasi

Sat, 20 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 May 1998, 19 years ago. Warning: This article contains some seriously disturbing photographs of dead human bodies. Please do not view them unless you are absolutely certain that you want to. If you want to read the article without pictures, I recommend you read the eBook version. Don't say I didn't warn you! If you had to choose one city to represent everything that is really Indian, you would probably choose Varanasi. This means it is a fascinating place; it also means it's almost impossible to describe on paper....

Southern England: South Zeal to Crediton

Sat, 20 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 May 2003, 14 years ago. Despite meandering around the northern borders of Dartmoor and occasionally straying into the moorland on the Tarka Trail, the End-to-End route steers clear of the national park, instead veering east-northeast to Crediton. I was thankful for the lack of a moor-exploring detour; moors can be pleasant in good weather, but in foul weather they're utterly, utterly dismal, as I discovered a few days ago. Dartmoor is famous for being a nasty place when the mists come down, which only adds to the...

Southern England: Okehampton

Fri, 19 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 May 2003, 14 years ago. With my right foot showing signs of imminent failure and my tent a useless pile of sodden super-light fabric, I needed to concentrate on keeping my mind happy. When your body and your gear give up the ghost within an hour of each other, there's little else you can do except pander yourself. Luckily, Okehampton turned out to be a great place in which to break down. Peta's search for a nearby bed came up with the lovely Penare B&B, where everything that is good about British Bed and...

French Polynesia: Cooking on Board

Thu, 18 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 May 1997, 20 years ago. My culinary skills have improved immeasurably since Laurent left the boat and I became honorary cook. It's been quite an awakening to discover a latent interest in something I've traditionally regarded as a pain in the proverbials; cooking in the bush was OK, because I had such a long time in which to do it, but my kitchen was little more than a camping stove, so the standard of my meals was pretty lousy (although very good in terms of nutrients, vitamins, carbohydrates, fibre and all that). I...

French Polynesia: The Sociability of Yachties

Thu, 18 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 May 1997, 20 years ago. The sociability of the Rikitea yachties really hit home on Saturday 17th May, when Joe and Janet came up with an idea for a party on their boat, Tegan: a pot-luck party where everyone provided something. We provided the meat, because when we left New Zealand we had 42kg of vacuum-packed frozen meat in the oversized freezer on Zeke, which had lasted very well and meant we had meat for longer than most yachts (who can normally only store a couple of week's worth). Our kilogram of gravy beef was...

Southern England: Bridestowe to South Zeal

Wed, 17 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 May 2003, 14 years ago. When it rains, it pours, and this short stage from Bridestowe to South Zeal might turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Until today things have been going well, even though the blisters have been agony; generally I've been enjoying myself, even in the rain, and I've felt myself getting fitter and fitter, ready for the challenges that I know are ahead. But today everything that could go wrong went wrong, and making me feel even more helpless is the fact that I don't think I...

India: Death of the Ganges

Tue, 16 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 May 1998, 19 years ago. The Ganges has long been associated with life-giving properties, and amazingly, scientific studies may have found a scientific basis for the myth. Unfortunately, it might be too late, as the Ganges is highly polluted. At Patna, a few days after celebrating the 1997 Chhath festival on the banks of the Ganges, several devotees suddenly suffered from skin eruptions, red spots and other skin irritations. Apparently it was the 'holy dip' in the Ganges that led to this problem; something in the...

French Polynesia: Gambier Islands

Tue, 16 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 May 1997, 20 years ago. The Gambier Islands are part of French Polynesia, the French-controlled area of paradise that comprises the following: The Society Islands, which include Tahiti and Bora Bora and most of the tourism in French Polynesia. The Marquesas Islands, a collection of 12 islands some distance to the northeast of the Society Islands and north of the Tuamotus. The Austral Archipelago, seven islands lying due south of the Society Islands, and home to the southern islands in French Polynesia. The Tuamotu...

Southern England: Launceston to Bridestowe

Tue, 16 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 May 2003, 14 years ago. This should have been a terrible day, not because of the walk itself, but because I woke up to miserable, driving rain, and apart from a short break in mid-afternoon, it never really went away. How bizarre, then, that I ended up rather enjoying myself. A lot of this was down to the incredible healing that afflicted my right foot overnight. Perhaps my blisters were as keen to leave Launceston as I was, but when I woke up in my freezing bed – freezing because the window didn't shut...

Southern England: Trecollas Farm to Launceston

Mon, 15 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 May 2003, 14 years ago. Today should have been a great day, because my arrival in Launceston, Cornwall's easternmost town, brings the total distance I've walked to just over 100 miles. OK, this is a relatively inaccurate map-based estimate measured with bits of paper and a hefty amount of guesswork, but it's a psychological barrier, and it means I've only got around 1000 miles to go. In the event, today stank like a pair of walking shorts after 100 miles... The Weather Breaks I've been incredibly lucky with the...

Southern England: St Breward to Trecollas Farm

Sun, 14 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 May 2003, 14 years ago. Bodmin Moor has an image problem. There aren't many places ending in 'Moor' that keep the cockles warm, but Bodmin Moor is one of those whose very name conjures up images of beasts, ancient legends and desolate inns in the middle of nowhere. In the sunshine, though, Bodmin Moor is a pussy cat, and luckily I had sunshine all day today. True, there was a savage north wind that whistled through the rock stacks and made my ears throb, but given the unpredictability of Bodmin's weather, I got off...

India: The Power of Authority

Sat, 13 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 13 May 1998, 19 years ago. Did I mention the Toy Train? I sure did, and I thought at the time that it would be my last train story, because up until this point my experience with Indian Railways has been moderately painless. Until Siliguri, that is... The three of us, by now thick as thieves, took the jeep down from Darjeeling to Siliguri, hoping to be able to book a train ticket to Varanasi on the overnight train. I knew that the train would almost certainly be full for that night, but having had no real problems with...

French Polynesia: Sailing to French Polynesia

Sat, 13 May 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 13 May 1997, 20 years ago. The journey to the Gambier Islands was as near to a living hell as I have ever been. I had never been sailing on the open ocean before, and I discovered early on that there was a reason for that. I hated it. The final stages before leaving involved shopping for supplies – a total of about NZ$1400 at Pak 'n' Save, in eight baskets, covering us for five months for items that would be expensive in French Polynesia, like canned food, and about three or four months for everything else...