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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: Tue, 24 Jan 2017 08:05:01 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2017 Mark Moxon

India: Konark

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 24 January 1998, 19 years ago. Puri is a procrastinator's paradise, but after a couple of days of finding my bearings, I decided I had to ease myself out of the restaurant-by-the-sea experience to explore the biggest tourist attraction in the area: the Sun Temple in Konark. A World Heritage site – always a good pointer, especially in India, which is home to lots of them – it's a gorgeous sandstone building, smothered in intricate carvings in the way that most Hindu temples are. However, Konark's carvings...

Nicaragua: León

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 January 2014, 3 years ago. Bloody hell, León is hot. Sure, it's a dry heat without a hint of moisture in the air, but the sun beats down without mercy and the breezes are hairdryer-hot, and as you walk around the colonial streets of Nicaragua's capital of political intellectualism and poetry, you can practically hear the walls panting. How anyone manages to survive in this furnace of a city, I don't know, but any plans we'd made soon evaporated in the stifling heat as even mad dogs and Englishmen waved the white flag...

New Zealand: Arthur's Pass

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 January 1997, 20 years ago. I'd originally been planning to continue north from Punakaiki, but the weather had other ideas and turned distinctly miserable, so instead I headed back to Greymouth and turned inland towards the Southern Alps, hoping that things might improve away from the gusty coast. After a night in a rest area, I arrived at Arthur's Pass to surprisingly beautiful weather, and made the most of it to scoot up Avalanche Peak, a fairly steep track up to the top of a mountain with wonderful views over the pass...

Nicaragua: Volcán Telica

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 January 2014, 3 years ago. If you like volcanoes, as I do, and you like walking, as I do, then it's hard to visit the area around León without climbing at least one of the peaks in the nearby Maribios chain. The problem is choosing which one, as there are an awful lot of volcanoes along the spine of southern Nicaragua. Most travellers tend to head for 726m-high Cerro Negro, a small but relatively new cone that only appeared in 1850, and which is almost pure volcanic ash; as such it is a popular venue for the new sport...

Australia: George Town

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 January 1996, 21 years ago. Yet again it all came together late on a Sunday night, in a little room in the Pier Hotel on the north coast of Tasmania. But this time I got the whole song out, and the listeners weren't just punters, they were the performers... Another weekend, another folk festival: this time it was the Tamar Valley Folk Festival, held for the fifth year in the industrial town of George Town on the north part of the Tamar River. Have you any idea how it feels to walk into a completely strange town, having...

India: Calcutta

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 January 1998, 19 years ago. Calcutta has an image problem. Ask most people what springs to mind when you mention the capital of West Bengal, and the images are of black holes, excessive pollution, slums, Mother Theresa and human tragedy. The guidebooks recommend that if this is your first visit to India, you shouldn't make Calcutta your point of arrival. I can see why, but in my case it was exactly what I needed to blow the cobwebs of complacency away; it has to be the best introduction to a country I've ever...

New Zealand: West Coast (South Island)

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 January 1997, 20 years ago. The night after finishing the Routeburn-Greenstone Track, I pampered myself with a couple of cold beers in the local pub, while chatting away to a fellow tramper whom I'd met in the caravan park, and who was full of stories of grizzly bears in North America and the desolation of Alaska. The next day was pretty desolate too, as I headed off to Wanaka over the highest road in New Zealand, some 1121m above sea level at the highest point. Unfortunately it's also one of the most corrugated and...

Nicaragua: Playa Esteron to León

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 January 2014, 3 years ago. There are quite a few ways to get from El Salvador to Nicaragua. The cheapest, and the slowest, is to take multiple chicken buses, first to the border of El Salvador and Honduras, then across the southern tip of Honduras to the border with Nicaragua, and then from the Nicaraguan border to your destination. You do meet people who have done this, and it's... well, it's an experience. We even met someone who witnessed one of the Nicaragua-bound chicken buses roll off the road, as it had so much...

El Salvador: Thoughts on Leaving

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 January 2014, 3 years ago. We loved El Salvador, no doubt about it. It's hard not to love a country where the people are so charming, the history so astonishing, and the landscape so beguiling, and after our rather damp experiences in Guatemala and Mexico, we lapped it up. The food is better, too. We loved papusas in the same way that we loved fry jacks in Belize, and like fry jacks, they're unique to just one country, astonishingly. We also drooled at the luscious produce in the supermarkets in places like Santa Ana...

El Salvador: Playa Esteron

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 January 2014, 3 years ago. Playa Esteron, on the eastern coast of El Salvador near the border with Nicaragua, is everything we'd hoped Playa El Tunco would be but wasn't. The beach is an absolute gem, stretching out into the distance like a salt flat while gentle surf breaks into long lines of speckled foam. The sand, while still slightly grey, is a lot more golden than the black sand further west, and every photograph you take along the beach is an exercise in perspective and vanishing points. It's utterly charming....

Ghana: Thoughts on Leaving

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 January 2003, 14 years ago. Throughout West Africa I've met people doing a similar journey to mine, but in the opposite direction. In Mali I met lots of people who came from Ghana via Burkina Faso, and the one consistent impression I got from them was that Ghana is by far the most relaxed and easygoing country in the region. Within a few seconds of crossing the Ghanaian border, I knew they were right; here people smile, joke and laugh in a way that they simply don't in Senegal and Mali. And for someone whose French is...

Australia: Launceston

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 January 1996, 21 years ago. I had the number of Claire, the teacher whom I'd met at the end-of-festival party in Cygnet, jotted down in my book; she'd said she would be going to the folk festival in George Town, so when I got to Launceston I rang her and got invited to dinner. It was gorgeous: homemade quiche, eaten in the garden with all these amazingly right-on women who lived in the house, complete with a view of Launceston that took the breath away. Launceston – named after the town in Cornwall that also...

India: Thoughts Before Arriving

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 January 1998, 19 years ago. I've been excited about the prospect of visiting India for some time now, and reading about it is only making me keener. Check out these selected facts that I gleaned from a bunch of articles in Time magazine: India is home to one-sixth of the world's population, and is second only in size to China (though India is projected to overtake China in 2030). Five people die in traffic accidents in Delhi every day. Fully three-quarters of the structures in Delhi violate building standards in some...

Thailand: Thoughts on Leaving

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 January 1998, 19 years ago. So, another country gets ticked off the list. I can't really comment too much on Thailand; despite being here for a month, I never really left the cosy confines of the tourist trail, and I have no idea what the real Thailand is like. In places like Chiang Mai, the Khao San Road and Ko Samui, the locals are unavoidably tainted by tourism, and as a result they seem pretty miserable and offhand, and the service is terrible. But I'm absolutely convinced that this is not representative of Thais in...

Australia: Bicheno

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 January 1996, 21 years ago. Saying goodbye to the Cygnet gang, Tommy and I caught a coach up to Bicheno on the east coast of Tassie, hoping to get a connection to Coles Bay in the beautiful Freycinet National Park just south of Bicheno. Unfortunately the connection wasn't possible, and after half an hour's unsuccessful attempts at hitching in the fading light, we gave up and stayed the night in Bicheno, and very pleasant it was too. Bicheno is a picturesque little port, and has a colony of fairy penguins that crawl...

Ghana: Pouring Petrol on the Flames

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 January 2003, 14 years ago. Ghana's economy has taken a bit of a battering over the last few years, but I still wasn't prepared for the shock that the government unleashed on the population this morning. Today the price of a gallon of petrol has increased from 10,500 cedis to a whopping 20,000 cedis, just like that. That's an increase of over 90 per cent overnight. The main reason for the increase is depressingly simple. The state-run Tema Oil Refinery, Ghana's main refinery, is in debt to the tune of 4.5 trillion cedis...

New Zealand: Routeburn-Greenstone Track

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 January 1997, 20 years ago. The next bout of activity I'd planned was the Routeburn Track, which starts just north of Glenorchy (itself to the northwest of Queenstown) and takes you to over the mountains to a point called the Divide on the Milford Road. There I planned to pick up the Greenstone Track, taking me back towards Glenorchy, but ending some 25km of dusty road and a good day's walk from the start of the Routeburn (and my car). 'Never mind, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it,' I thought, and jumped in the...

Ghana: Visiting Jimmy Moxon

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 January 2003, 14 years ago. It was on Christmas Day back in 1998 that I first heard about Jimmy Moxon, the Gentleman Chief of Ghana. The family was gathered around the dining room table, tucking into another legendary turkey lunch, when the subject strayed onto my recent travels. This led naturally to the plans for my next trip, and when I mentioned that I hoped to travel to Africa one day, my Dad said, 'You should try to visit Jimmy Moxon while you're out there. He's a genuine African chief, you know.' I didn't really...

Australia: Cygnet

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 January 1996, 21 years ago. The search for traditional Australian music was beginning to feel like an impossible task. The contemporary Australian bands I'd come across on Triple J were great, but the only rootsy music I'd heard was didgeridoo music packaged up for tourists, and myriad chill-out albums with titles like Tropical Rainforest, Red Desert and other such inspiring names. I wanted to discover music from the days of convicts and colonies, and the Huon Folk Festival in Cygnet seemed the perfect place to try. The...

Thailand: Chiang Mai

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 January 1998, 19 years ago. After an excruciating 12-hour journey, the Bangkok bus finally arrived in Chiang Mai. As with most long bus journeys, it was uncomfortable and fairly unpleasant, but luckily Charlie had discovered some sleeping pills in his travel medical kit, and they helped. Unfortunately they didn't kick in until after the obligatory full-volume Thai-dubbed American movie – arguably the most difficult part of any long bus haul in Thailand – but armed with sleeping pills, eye shades and...

El Salvador: Playa El Tunco

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 January 2014, 3 years ago. There's nothing particularly wrong with Playa El Tunco, the surfing beach on El Salvador's western Pacific Coast. The beach is pretty enough and has an interesting rock formation just off the shore that gives a certain balance to the millions of photos that you can't help snapping as the sun sets off the beach; it isn't terribly big, so it's easy to wander around on foot; there's hardly any traffic and a ticketed entry system is enforced at the weekends to keep things manageable; and most of...

New Zealand: Queenstown

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 13 January 1997, 20 years ago. 26 December 1997) --> On Boxing Day, after spending the night in the Blue Lake public shelter with Ben and Mira – where there were no Himmlers or camp fees, but then again, no right to be there either – I said my goodbyes and started south through the Lindis Pass towards Queenstown, making a lunch stop on the way at the historic Kawarau Suspension Bridge, a lovely little bridge across a deep gorge in the mountains. Well, it would have been lovely, but it's near Queenstown,...

Australia: Hobart

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 January 1996, 21 years ago. My visit to Hobart had started off in strange fashion, and it continued to surprise me. The next incident was at a pub called Knopwood's Retreat, where I was sitting outside having a nice, peaceful Cascade (the local Tasmanian brew, which is apparently made from the purest water in the world – it certainly tastes good). These two guys were sitting a couple of tables down from me, and an argument erupted, about nothing in particular. It got a bit noisy, and then one guy threatened the...

Australia: Dock of the Bay

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 January 1996, 21 years ago. Having heard good things about Tasmania, I flew to Hobart, the state capital – it's a short one-hour flight from Melbourne, and it's easier (and cheaper) to fly than the 14-hour ferry trip aboard The Spirit of Tasmania. It wasn't more than two hours into my visit that things began to happen, and I mean happen. It all kicked off as I was wandering along the dockside in Hobart, heading towards this interesting-sounding heavy rock band who were playing in a warehouse on the quay...

New Zealand: Southern Scenic Route (West)

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 11 January 1997, 20 years ago. Heading back to Te Anau on the Milford Road, I stopped off at a place called the Chasm to see some seriously weird water-sculpted rock formations – water, in case you haven't guessed, plays an important part in Fiordland's ecology – and eventually arrived in Te Anau, reported my return to DOC and decided to change my plans. With an extra day in hand I thought it might be fun to do the western half of the Southern Scenic Route from Te Anau to Invercargill, seeing as I'd...

El Salvador: Suchitoto

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 January 2014, 3 years ago. If you're looking for a poster child for the progress that El Salvador has made since the end of the civil war, then Suchitoto is a pretty good choice. The town has long been regarded as the country's cultural capital, and even today its influence is felt far and wide. In recent times, the town's recycling system has spread across the country, so you now see separate bins for plastic, aluminium and organic material everywhere; and Suchitoto's women's groups are helping to nudge the country...

Ghana: Busua

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 January 2003, 14 years ago. It wasn't Busua's fault that I didn't like the place. Located between Axim and Takoradi along the western half of the Ghanaian coast, Busua boasts a beautiful beach, a colonial fort in neighbouring Dixcove, safe swimming, and a chance to kick back once again from the rigours of African life. Unfortunately I left Axim with a familiar gurgling in my stomach, and by the time I got to Busua, exhausted from another buttock-clenching bounce along the roads of Ghana, I had no idea whether I wanted to...

Thailand: Bangkok

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 January 1998, 19 years ago. As I hooked up my computer to the public phone just off Bangkok's Khao San Road, I noticed that everything had stopped. Despite it being 8.30am and the height of Bangkok's morning rush hour, everyone on the street had suddenly stopped moving, the horns had stopped blaring, and even the most manic drivers had stopped trying to fit ten cars into the space of one. And then I realised that the national anthem was being played, and in this country where the King is revered almost to the point of...

New Zealand: Milford

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 January 1997, 20 years ago. The next day, stiff and stretching, I struck camp, hopped into Zed and headed off to Milford Sound. Milford is the main tourist attraction in Fiordland, with its stunning fiord and huge cliffs rising almost vertically out of the water, up to heights of nearly 1700m: it's quite a sight. The drive to Milford is spectacular enough, with a dangerously winding road that's home to millions of breakneck tour coaches; the Homer Tunnel, which blasts its way through the mountains to get to the sea, is...