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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: Thu, 23 Nov 2017 08:05:02 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2017 Mark Moxon

Belize: Caye Caulker

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 November 2013, 4 years ago. The unofficial motto of Caye Caulker, one of the many small, sandy islands off the north coast of Belize, is 'Go Slow', and it's obvious from the moment you step off the ferry that this little corner of the Caribbean Sea dances to its own relaxed rhythm. The traffic here is all about golf buggies, bicycles and pedestrians, rather than cars, lorries and buses, and there are no traffic jams to speak of; the rastas that look after the handful of trinket stalls along the northern beach are so laid...

Mali: Bloody Nora

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 November 2002, 15 years ago. Travelling makes you stoop to new lows in a number of different ways – sleeping on corrugated iron, using toilet facilities that don't facilitate anything, or bitterly arguing over price differences that equate to a pittance, to name but three – but one of the things that really hurts is being forced to read trash. In countries where waiting is an essential part of travel – Africa being a prime example – it's important to have a good book to while away...

Singapore: A Day at the Golf Course

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 November 1997, 20 years ago. We cut our Saturday night hedonism off before it got out of hand, because we had plans for Sunday: namely, golf. Philip had decided that he needed some fresh air after the city pollution of his business trip to Bangkok and Beijing, and golf was his chosen solution; it so happened that a colleague of his was also playing golf with a friend at his club, so we all teamed up to make a foursome, Philip saying that it was his treat, and that I would owe him a round of golf if he ever made it back to...

Belize: Playa del Carmen to Caye Caulker

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 November 2013, 4 years ago. To be honest, I didn't have a clue how far we were going to get when we set off from Playa del Carmen in the general direction of Belize. I'd promised Peta that eventually we'd end up on the reportedly laid-back paradise island of Caye Caulker (pronounced 'key corker'), but that it might take a few long journeys to get there. I had visions of being trapped in dusty Mexican border towns, or stuck in a fleapit hotel room in Belize's infamously earthy capital city, waiting for a ferry to the...

Mexico: Thoughts on Leaving

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 November 2013, 4 years ago. Yeah... Mexico. To be honest, it hasn't really worked out for us here, though how much of this is down to Mexico and how much is down to things like illness and homesickness is up for debate. Whatever the reasons, we're moving on to Belize, and we're both utterly delighted with the prospect. Of course, we haven't really given Mexico much of a chance, so any whinges I might have are pretty unfair. We spent the first couple of weeks acclimatising in the tourist central of Playa del Carmen, which...

Mali: Tuareg Tea

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 November 2002, 15 years ago. Tea is one of the most universal of all drinks; I can't think of a country that I've visited that hasn't had some kind of tea on offer, even though sometimes it's barely recognisable as such. Drinking tea of some kind is a global phenomenon, and the world is a better place for it. Teapots and tea bags are common in most western countries – probably the most vexing cultural question is whether or not to put the milk in first – but throughout my travels I've come across local...

Singapore: Singapore City

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 November 1997, 20 years ago. What seems like a long time ago, my sister visited Singapore. I remember thinking how brave this was, and my mind conjured up images of sparkling skyscrapers catching the equatorial sun, Chinese lanterns hanging in the streets, and junks lapping in the harbour. I imagined Singapore to be like Hong Kong, with its distinctive smells, immense crowds and tiny people... and I was almost completely wrong. Singapore is just another city. It has neither the insane appeal of Hong Kong or, from what I...

Mexico: Diving in Cozumel

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 November 2013, 4 years ago. Finally, we've discovered something truly world class in Mexico. Yes, I know that Chichén Itzá is a World Heritage site, and it is impressive, but somehow it pales into comparison compared to the coral reefs off the island of Cozumel. When I think of Mexico, I'll remember the madness of the cenote diving and I'll think of those picturesque ruins at Tulum, but the highlight will definitely be diving in Cozumel. We almost didn't manage to get out to the island, as the boats need a minimum...

Mali: Camel Trekking in Timbuktu

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 November 2002, 15 years ago. I don't know why I love camel trekking; it's the most uncomfortable experience this side of Mali's buses, but I thrive on camel treks. Naturally, the first thing Brook and I did on arriving in Timbuktu was to talk to the Tuareg camel trekkers outside our hotel about exploring the Sahara, and we soon settled on a three-night, four-day excursion to the surrounding area. I just can't seem to say no to camels and deserts. I've done two camel treks before – one in the Thar Desert in India...

Mexico: Cenote Diving

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 November 2013, 4 years ago. 'Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, DARK WATER! ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, NOOO!' is how it normally goes when I'm faced with my nemesis. I've long had a phobia about murky depths, and a phobia it most definitely is, because it even affects me in the bath. I kid you not; if I'm in the bath and someone turns the light out, I completely freak – that's a phobia, no doubt about it. Peta once brought along a selection of scented candles on a skiing holiday so we could have some nice, romantic...

Mexico: Five Day Rule

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 November 2013, 4 years ago. To be honest, things haven't really been going to plan on this trip so far, and it's starting to get to us. First up, both of us have been suffering from niggling but annoying health problems. Two days in, I suddenly got terrible cramps in my left forearm that lasted for a good four days, and which literally made it a pain to type; I then got hit by a really violent bout of seasickness on the first sea dive, followed almost instantly by an insistent head cold that prevented me from diving the...

Mali: Down on the Upside

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 November 2002, 15 years ago. You might like to skip this one. It's probably nothing more than self-indulgent pap, but I feel like I need to get it down on paper. After all, dumping one's brain means that sometimes you write rubbish; so be it. As I write this I'm six weeks into my trip, and I'm absolutely stunned at how difficult I'm finding travelling in West Africa. This morning I woke up with lead in my veins and an awful realisation that I was thoroughly depressed. It was actually tangible, which I wasn't expecting....

Mali: The Waiting Game

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 November 2002, 15 years ago. If West Africa has a national sport, it must be sitting around and waiting. I've spent so much of the last few weeks sitting on my arse, waiting for something to happen, that it's practically become the raison d'être of my trip. Every day I find myself playing the waiting game, and the only way to cope with it is to adopt the local attitude that waiting is the only thing worth doing properly. If you let it get to you, you'll go mad. West Africa is the poorest region on Earth, but one...

Mali: Timbuktu

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 November 2002, 15 years ago. Everybody has heard the name Timbuktu, but an amazing number of people don't know that it's actually a real place. Before I first went travelling and met people who'd actually been here, I didn't know whether Timbuktu was a myth – hell, I didn't even know where Mali was until I fished out a guidebook to Africa and started researching this trip – but one thing that everyone knows about Timbuktu is that it's famous for being in the middle of nowhere. How right they are;...

New Zealand: Finding Wheels

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 November 1996, 21 years ago. Zed lives! He might be younger than his brother Oz – the trusty 1977 Corona that got me round Australia – but it's obvious from that jaw line and the obstinately old-fashioned looks that he's still a Toyota Corona. He's also quite a lot bigger, being a 1984 station wagon, and with the white paint and dodgy stereo he's certainly got a different character to the little monster that made it round the emptiest continent in the world, but as far as spacious accommodation goes,...

New Zealand: Auckland

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 November 1996, 21 years ago. Auckland is the first place I've seen that genuinely nestles. Looking at the city from a vantage point like Mt Eden, the way that the buildings crowd round the edges of the city's many green volcanoes reminds me of the way a cat rubs the back of his neck against your leg; Auckland positively embraces its peaks. Some of the cones even have cows grazing on them; there can't be too many western cities that have cows in their very midst. How worrying, then, that the volcanic field on which...

Mali: Marmalade!

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 November 2002, 15 years ago. Heading out into the chaos of West Africa can feel like going into battle. You might want to do something relatively simple – buying some toothpaste, checking out boat timetables or tracking down an internet café, perhaps – but in some places simply stepping outside your door is asking for trouble. Touts appear out of thin air like mischievous pixies, dancing round you like overacting extras in Les Miserables; the traffic throws clouds of noxious gas into your...

Mali: Mopti to Timbuktu

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 November 2002, 15 years ago. Despite the hassle of buying anything in Mopti, Brook and I managed to book ourselves on the public pinasse to Timbuktu, leaving on the afternoon of Thursday, 14 November. It was scheduled to be a long journey; Timbuktu is famous as a remote place, and there's a good reason for that. It's a long, long way from anywhere. The River Niger is the lifeblood of Mali. Its source is in Guinea, to the west of southern Mali, and the Niger enters Mali in the southwest, flows east past Bamako and Mopti,...

Mexico: Mérida

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 November 2013, 4 years ago. Mérida is a pleasant place in which to look after someone who's not very well... or it is once you've left your terrible hotel behind and booked into a charming little spot like the Álvarez Family Guesthouse on Calle 62. Peta stayed in bed all day on our first full day in town; we did try to pop out to Parque Santa Lucía, one block from the hotel, where we thought a nice gentle orange juice in the shady colonnades would help bring some colour back into her cheeks, but a couple of sips down...

Mexico: Hotel Illness

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 November 2013, 4 years ago. I've stayed in some pretty screwed-up places in my time, but I think I may have just discovered one of the scariest. When I say 'scary' I'm not talking about high crime rates, or ghosts stalking the corridors, or even 24-hour piped Justin Bieber, all of which would be pretty hard to handle. I'm talking about insanity, madness and an atmosphere so eerie it could give The Shining a run for its money. To be fair, we were warned, but we figured it would be interesting to take a punt. 'You will...

Mali: Mopti

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 November 2002, 15 years ago. Poor Mopti. It has such a pleasant name, the sort you'd give to a particularly endearing floppy-eared dog or a favourite teddy bear, but the odds were stacked against it from the start. I was never going to like the place. The problem was that I didn't exactly turn up in Mopti in the most optimistic frame of mind. I decided to take the overnight bus from Bamako because it was by far the easiest option; as the buses are ex-European coaches with pleasantly padded seats – some of them...

Mexico: Chichén Itzá

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 13 November 2013, 4 years ago. There are some people on the travelling circuit who grumble about Chichén Itzá, usually because it annoys them that it's one of the most popular tourist sites in Mexico, and they're the kind of people who just don't do populism, man; or perhaps they're travelling on a tight budget, and they complain about the price of a ticket, which at 182 pesos (about £9) is considerably more than, say, Tulum's 57 pesos (though it's hardly a big ask for such a world-class site). But there's a...

Mexico: With this Ring

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 November 2013, 4 years ago. There are some parts of the world that take their religious morals really seriously, and although the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico isn't one of them, there are some countries in Central America where you have to be careful not to cause offence... and we're planning to visit some of them. Consider the case of 19-year-old Glenda Xiomara Cruz in El Salvador, who went to hospital with abdominal pains and severe bleeding back in October 2012. It turned out she was having a miscarriage, but she...

Mexico: Valladolid

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 November 2013, 4 years ago. It's a cliché for a reason, but everything looks better in the sunshine. Soon after our arrival in Valladolid, an old Spanish colonial town a couple of hours' drive west of Tulum, the by-now-familiar clouds rolled in and the heavy tropical rains kicked in, just as we'd headed out to explore the main plaza. Luckily the Spanish built their plazas with colonnades around the outside, so we dashed under cover as the plaza flooded in seconds, and the traffic started driving wakes against the...

Mali: Bamako

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 November 2002, 15 years ago. If selective hearing has a spiritual home, it must be Bamako. Never in my life have I known such a large proportion of people who are completely unable to grasp the words, 'No thank you, I do not want a guide for the Dogon Country, I don't want to buy any necklaces, and I don't want to hear any authentic African drumming.' This is a pity, because being white and being in the capital of Mali seems to attract potential guides and jewellery sellers like a light does moths; they circle round and...

Indonesia: Thoughts on Leaving

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 November 1997, 20 years ago. So, that was Indonesia; I'm now in Singapore, getting over my last dose of Indonesian food poisoning, which has proved more obstinate to move than anticipated. And what do I think of my first real Asian experience? I wish I knew. I can't decide whether I love or hate Indonesia, which probably means I'm somewhere in the middle. It's certainly been infuriating, but it's also been satisfying. It's been hard work, but it's been uplifting. It's been boring, but also exciting. It's a paradise, but...

Mexico: Tulum Ruinas

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 November 2013, 4 years ago. In contrast to the dire and depressing nearby town of the same name, the Mayan ruins of Tulum are an utter delight. Their main attraction isn't the architecture as such (though that's pretty good) but the deeply atmospheric location, perched on top of a cliff overlooking the blue Caribbean Sea. Of course, being a picturesque ruin near the most tourist-friendly corner of the Yucatán Peninsula has its disadvantages, and the large number of tourists can seem a little cattle-like, especially at...

Mexico: Tulum Pueblo

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 November 2013, 4 years ago. I have discovered the first place in Mexico that I really don't like, and its name is Tulum Pueblo. It's important not to confuse Tulum Pueblo – a drawn-out town along the main coastal highway of the state of Quintana Roo – with the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum Ruinas or the area of hotels along Tulum Beach, as the three different Tulums are quite separate from each other and are only connected by taxi rides. We came to the area for the coastal ruins, which are spectacular,...

Mexico: Making the First Move

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 9 November 2013, 4 years ago. Making the first move is always a bit scary, whether you're travelling or trying to meet your future wife, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. After ten days of being on holiday in Playa del Carmen, which we spent getting over jet lag, learning to dive and trying to acclimatise to the tropical fug, we finally decided to hit the road for the first bit of real travelling on this trip. As this was our first step into the unknown for a very long time, we took it very slowly,...

Mali: Saturday Night at the Movies

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 9 November 2002, 15 years ago. As I wandered back to the mission catholique after a day exploring Bamako, I bumped into Steve and Oliver. They were going to the movies, so I tagged along. The Vox cinema on Rue Bagayoko is an event in itself. Before the ticket booth opened, Oliver asked the patron if we could check out the projectors, and with glee he led us around the back, up some crooked steps, past a man boiling a teapot on a charcoal stove and into the projection room, where two monstrous projectors stood, each loaded...

Australia: Sydney to Melbourne

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 9 November 1995, 22 years ago. So, on Tuesday I set off on a coach tour to Melbourne. The company was called Stray Cat, and it was pretty good, though I saw so much in those three days that most of it is a blur. The first stop was Canberra. On the surface Canberra appears to be the most boring city in the whole world – it has the same vibe as Milton Keynes, though I presume something happens behind the ordered, dull exterior. We did a tour round Parliament House and watched the Melbourne Cup, the Aussie equivalent...