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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: Fri, 28 Oct 2016 07:05:03 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2016 Mark Moxon

The Gambia: Tendaba

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 28 October 2002, 14 years ago. The Atlantic coast resorts might have been pleasant, but two days into the relaxing beach lifestyle, I was already champing at the bit. CNN and BBC World take only a couple of days to go from elixir to irritant, so despite the sinking feeling that I get whenever I think about long journeys and African public transport, I persuaded myself to leave the cosy glow of our bungalow for eastern Gambia. Happily Chris decided to come with me; public transport is not only cheaper with two, it's easier...

The Gambia: Fajara

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 27 October 2002, 14 years ago. The thing that surprises me most about the Atlantic beach resorts of the Gambia is how unlike most beach resorts they are. When reading about them beforehand, I'd envisaged high-rise hotels, nightclubs spilling onto the beach, and fat tourists with their arses hanging out of their swimming shorts. The only one I've managed to find is the latter, and that only once (though it was a depressingly memorable sight). Once we'd shaken off the bumster curse and found our home for the weekend, we...

Indonesia: Borobudur

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 27 October 1997, 19 years ago. The temple complex of Borobudur, about 30km northwest of Yogyakarta, contains the biggest single Buddhist temple in the world; there are larger complexes elsewhere, notably in Cambodia, but none of the individual temples themselves are as big as the one at Borobudur. And it's absolutely massive; covering the top of a hill in a square that's about 120m by 120m, this huge construction is built in a series of layers, getting progressively smaller as you get to the top; if you think of a...

The Gambia: Bumster Trouble

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 26 October 2002, 14 years ago. Speaking the official language of a foreign country doesn't just make life easier; it also makes life more amusing, not least because you can understand the local media. As I strolled round the Gambia's Atlantic beach resorts this morning, the headline of the local newspaper caught my eye: 'Mass Arrest of Bumsters' proclaimed the front page of the Sunday Observer, while inside there were plenty of other notable headlines, including 'Football Witchcraft Palaver', 'Surgeons Deliver 46-year-old...

Indonesia: Surabaya to Yogyakarta

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 25 October 1997, 19 years ago. In Surabaya I shot straight through from the ferry terminal to the train station, bought my ticket and settled in for the Indonesian train experience. I think it's safe to say that it's not quite British Rail. Some things are the same: the 'bing-bong-bing-bong' over the loudspeaker is based on Big Ben's chime, the station sells overpriced snack foods, and there's a Dunkin' Donut in every corner. But in England you would never have men working right above the heads of the crowd, painting the...

The Gambia: Banjul

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 24 October 2002, 14 years ago. I'm a little loath to ascribe such importance to the language barrier when travelling, but it's amazing how much difference crossing the border from Senegal into the Gambia has made. The Gambia – one of the few countries whose official name starts with 'the' – is a long, thin and very small country that follows the bends of the River Gambia due east from the river's mouth on the Atlantic coast, and apart from this coastal region, the country is entirely surrounded by...

Indonesia: Ujung Pandang to Surabaya

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 24 October 1997, 19 years ago. Following my sudden illness, I found myself with a bonus recuperation day. There were bananas, biscuits and conversations with a delightful Canadian couple who had moved into Rose's old room; I hadn't managed to say goodbye to my American friend, as she'd had to catch her bus while I writhed on the floor, which was a great shame. We'd meant to have a pizza in Ujung Pandang and to swap books when I'd finished the last few pages of mine on the bus – she had a John Irving book, A Prayer...

Senegal: King of the Café

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 October 2002, 14 years ago. I'd always believed that technology was one of the few international languages on this planet, along with Bob Marley and football, but when I tried to explain my plans to the woman behind the counter at the internet café in Kaolack, I realised that not only do the French have different keyboards, they have completely different terminology too. 'I wonder if you can help me,' I ventured in my best French, and she inclined her head in a noncommittal kind of way. 'I've got a little...

Senegal: Kaolack

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 October 2002, 14 years ago. Unfortunately we had to hop back onto Senegalese road transport to get out of the Siné-Saloum Delta, this time to reach the junction town of Kaolack. The plan was to head south to the Gambia, the thin, finger-shaped country that juts into Senegal like an argumentative finger into the fat belly of a belligerent taxi driver, and by far the easiest way to get there was via a night's stay in Kaolack. This makes no sense on the map – going from Foundiougne to Kaolack you're...

Indonesia: Rantepao

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 October 1997, 19 years ago. Rose and I tackled the area around Rantepao as a team, by taking public transport to interesting spots and then exploring by foot. Despite the smoke hanging round the mountains from the forest fires in western Sulawesi, we spent two days wandering around a number of different areas, marvelling at the houses (which, after two days, became more familiar than interesting, but were still fascinating) and checking out the area's tourist-friendly sights and smells. Without a doubt one of the most...

Indonesia: The Torajan People

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 October 1997, 19 years ago. We arrived in Rantepao totally exhausted, and as is always the way when you're tired beyond comprehension, we discovered that we'd arrived on market day. As market day in Rantepao is only every six days, we just had to make the effort to go, so go we did, catching a bemo to Bolu where all manner of produce gathered dust on the ground under makeshift tents and the wilful gaze of the hawkers. It was hot and strenuous, but Rose saved the day by announcing that she had a mission: as she was going...

Senegal: Foundiougne

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 October 2002, 14 years ago. The thought of trying to get out of Djiffer – stuck there on its sandy peninsula where the River Saloum flows into the Atlantic – sat at the back of my mind like the promise of tomorrow's hangover when the night is still young. Senegalese buses are enough to make anyone go weak at the knees, but when you're sitting there watching the African moonlight play over a serene beach right outside your bungalow's back door, they're even less enticing. Luckily we found an...

Indonesia: Unwell in Tana Toraja

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 October 1997, 19 years ago. Wednesday started like a typical Indonesian Disaster Day. I've already discovered that travel in Indonesia won't let a week pass without something going wrong, but I thought that after my recent food poisoning and horrific bus journeys, I was due a respite. Think again. I woke up with liquid stools, presumably due to the roasted pig fat I'd tried at the funeral the day before, but they didn't seem that serious, so I popped a couple of Imodium, drank plenty of water, and prepared to tackle the...

Senegal: Djiffer

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 October 2002, 14 years ago. As I peeled myself out of the basting oven that the Campement de Palmarin had amusingly substituted for a proper room, I found myself wondering whether I'm going to get the hang of Senegal, or whether I'm going to float out of the other end of West Africa's most popular tourist destination, still wondering what on earth the fuss is all about. So far I've been singularly uninspired by Senegal; I don't hate it, sure, but I don't really see the attraction either. Djiffer hasn't made the earth...

Indonesia: A Torajan Funeral

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 October 1997, 19 years ago. Whatever the sights, there's no doubt that the highlight of a trip to Tana Toraja – the area of central Sulawesi whose capital is Rantepao – is to visit a funeral. This is easier than it sounds; because the funeral celebrations take a lot of preparation, not to mention expense, the Torajans have two funerals for each death, much like the Balinese. The first one is a private affair straight away after the death, and the body is preserved in the house where it died until the...

Senegal: Palmarin

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 October 2002, 14 years ago. As soon as we got back from exploring the delights of Fadiout, Jeremy, Sarah and I tried to track down transport to Palmarin, a pleasant-sounding spot down the coast that the Lonely Planet, bless its cotton socks, describes as 'superb'. After shitty accommodation, a squalid beach, awful humidity and an island made of shells that turned out to be little more than an island made of shells, our spirits needed lifting. I've looked it up in the dictionary, and the French for 'superb' is superbe, or...

Senegal: Joal-Fadiout

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 October 2002, 14 years ago. One of the best aspects of the Peace Corps invasion of Sobo-Badé was the roundabout way in which it introduced me to Jeremy and Sarah. On the road as in normal life, people understandably tend to coalesce into groups that are bound by a common language, and my newfound Peace Corps friends soon introduced me to another American couple, who were planning to head south in the morning. I had a choice between sitting round for another day on the sun-soaked beaches of the Petite...

Senegal: Senegalese Transport

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 October 2002, 14 years ago. Wise men say that it's not the destination that counts, it's the journey, but obviously Senegal isn't the preferred holiday destination of wizened old sages. Here, the journey is a complete pain in the arse. In most parts of the developing world that I've had the pleasure to explore – particularly Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent – transport is cheap and nasty, but fascinating and effective. India's trains are a marvel, catching buses and ferries round Indonesia...

Senegal: Toubab Dialao

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 October 2002, 14 years ago. When you're travelling in the developing world, the threat of getting ill lurks beneath the surface like a cracked paving stone on a busy pavement; you know you're going to trip, you just don't know when. Before flying to Dakar, I put serious effort into building up my body's natural defences, ready for the inevitable attack from Africa's overly friendly population of local bacteria, and after four weeks of bitter-tasting Echinacea and a couple of months of Acidophilus, I felt as ready as I...

Indonesia: Poso

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 October 1997, 19 years ago. I don't want to think too much about the journey south. From the Togian Islands to Ampana to Poso to Tentena to Pendolo to Rantepao, this mammoth three-day journey on painful buses, crowded boats and sore feet was only made bearable by a friendship struck up on the Togian ferry; Rose, a solo traveller from New York state, was on my wavelength, going my way and would prove an amiable companion until we were rudely parted after a couple of weeks... but that's another story. For now we're...

Indonesia: Wild Mood Swings

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 October 1997, 19 years ago. After some 30 days of fairly hectic and intense travelling in Indonesia, I had totally lost the plot and was basically at the end of my tether. It's a travel trap that I've fallen into before; if you push yourself too far too quickly, you'll burn out, and the whole experience suffers as a result. When I got to Ampana, I was almost ready to throw in the towel and fly back to London. Let me elaborate. For a few days, aided and abetted by my bout of intestinal hockey, a really bad feeling had...

Indonesia: Togian Islands

Sun, 16 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 October 1997, 19 years ago. After recovering from my forest food poisoning, I took a long bus ride from Gimpu to Palu, then on to Poso and finally Ampana, where I managed to stay in the noisiest losmen I've ever been in; between the nocturnal cockerels, the cats on heat and the workmen who ripped the roof off my mandi at 7am, I was dog tired and ready for a rest. This proved to be fortuitous, because my ultimate destination, and the reason for the long bus journey, were the Togian Islands, an undiscovered paradise of...

Senegal: The Language Barrier

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 October 2002, 14 years ago. Thinking about it, Senegal is the first country I've been where the lingua franca between fellow travellers hasn't been English. It's often struck me how lucky I am to be able to speak English, not least because international travellers often speak English when they get together because that's the language they all have in common. In Senegal, though, it's completely different, and I get the feeling that this will be the case for all of the Francophone countries in West Africa, because the...

Senegal: St-Louis

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 October 2002, 14 years ago. I arrived in St-Louis with an annoying tic in my right eye and the hollow feeling of leaving familiar territory. I was only in Dakar for a few days, but already my mind, preoccupied with feeling homesick and sorry for itself, was desperately trying to put down roots, even somewhere as unpleasantly sweaty as the capital of Senegal. Now I've ditched the daily routine of Yoff and taken a bush taxi to the north of the country, and it feels like leaving home all over again; I guess it will take...