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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, 22 Feb 2018 08:05:02 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2018 Mark Moxon

Cyprus: Nicosia

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 February 2003, 15 years ago. Things have changed in Nicosia. Not long after I visited the capital of Cyprus the border guards started letting people across the Green Line. This means that an awful lot of this article is now out of date, and if I visit Cyprus again – and I hope I do – I'll update it. Until then, here's a story from the days before the Green Line came down. There are many unique aspects to Nicosia, but to the casual visitor one of the most obvious differences between the capital of...

Cyprus: War Zone Accommodation

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 22 February 2003, 15 years ago. We arrived in South Nicosia in the middle of the most miserable rainstorm we'd seen since landing in Cyprus. The clouds that had smothered Mt Olympos in snow had decided to lurk around for a few more days, and whereas the storm was beautiful and entertaining above the snow line, it was downright depressing in the central plains. I was determined not to let this get to me, though; my research had painted such a bleak picture of the political state of Nicosia that it would have been easy to let...

Cyprus: Mt Olympos

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 February 2003, 15 years ago. It has to rate as one of the strangest places to find a ski run, but Mt Olympos, the highest point on Cyprus, boasts not one but four pistes, along with three T-bar ski lifts, a ski school, a shop hiring out skis and boots, a restaurant, and even its very own club, the Cyprus Ski Federation. Nobody comes to Cyprus specifically to ski, but if you're here at the right time of year and fancy a quick slalom in between the island's more traditional sights, it's certainly a unique place in which to...

Cyprus: Kakopetria

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 February 2003, 15 years ago. After the exertions of digging the car out of the Troodos snow, we realised that the only way to cope with the unexpected weather Cyprus was throwing at us was to relax. The problem with relaxing in wintry Cyprus is that the beaches, the normal route for holiday makers looking for somewhere to crash out, are far too cold and windswept to be comfortable, and the sea is distinctly Arctic. Cyprus does excel, though, in cosy little hotels with real fires, and as luck would have it we stumbled on a...

Costa Rica: Culture Shock

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 February 2014, 4 years ago. Crossing the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica is a fascinating exercise in 'spot the difference'. This is not surprising, as Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, while Costa Rica is one of the richest; it comes out top in 'quality of life' measurements such as life expectancy, education, child mortality, crime prevention and so on, though Panama actually has a bigger economy because of the canal. As a result, the change when you head east is astounding. While Nicaragua is...

Cyprus: Troodos

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 February 2003, 15 years ago. If there's one thing you mustn't do when shacked up in an isolated and empty hotel in the middle of a snowstorm, it's to think about The Shining. Make sure you don't think back to the chilling moment when the little boy rides his tricycle round the corner and sees the ghosts of the two twins at the end of the corridor, or that painfully narrow escape the terrified wife makes through the too-small bathroom window away from the mad axe-wielding of Jack Nicholson. Oh no, don't think about it, or...

Nicaragua: Thoughts on Leaving

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 February 2014, 4 years ago. As we've travelled south through Central America, we've asked people coming the other way what they've thought of the countries they've visited, and there's a surprising consistency to their opinions. Costa Rica gets summed up as being expensive and touristy, but great for wildlife and outdoor sports; El Salvador is always described as incredibly friendly, but fairly light on big attractions; and when people talk about Guatemala they tend to talk about the other travellers they met there, and...

Nicaragua: Isla de Ometepe

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 February 2014, 4 years ago. After spending so long lounging around on Little Corn Island, we weren't sure about the wisdom of visiting another island so soon, but I'm so glad we did. Isla de Ometepe, the world's largest freshwater island that sits about halfway along the southern edge of Lago de Nicaragua, is a stunningly beautiful place – particularly if you like volcanoes, as I do – and although we didn't stay for long, it was well worth the detour on our way south to the border with Costa Rica. The...

Cyprus: Pafos

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 February 2003, 15 years ago. As a place to start and finish our tour of Cyprus, Pafos was an excellent choice, quite a relief as I'd only bought flights to Pafos because everywhere else was sold out. Pafos seems to have managed a balance between package tourism and historical interest that you simply don't find in places like Larnaka and Agia Napa, and because of this it's a great introduction to Cyprus. Pafos repays a bit of investigation, though, because a cursory glance at its harbour won't reveal all its charm, even...

New Zealand: Mahia Beach

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 February 1997, 21 years ago. The east coast of the North Island is dry and hot, just like the east coast of the South Island, and for the same climactic reasons. As I drove through Napier and along the curved coastline of Hawke's Bay, the sun blasted down without letting up for one minute; this made the drive along the incredibly winding coast road very pleasant, though it was pretty hard to look at any of the scenery with all the right-angle bends every few metres and some serious drop-offs on either side of the road. In...

Nicaragua: Granada to Isla de Ometepe

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 February 2014, 4 years ago. We'd heard some pretty nasty things about the twice-weekly public ferry from Granada to Isla de Ometepe, and to be honest, I was a bit scared. Lago de Nicaragua, the huge freshwater lake that the ferry crosses to get to the island, is famous for its strong winds, and as any sailor knows, strong winds mean big waves. And big waves and passenger ferries do not mix well, particularly when I'm on them. It didn't help that when we returned to Granada after our wonderful visit to Little Corn Island,...

New Zealand: Taupo

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 February 1997, 21 years ago. I'd briefly stopped at Taupo on the very first day of my road trip, but it was raining so hard that I simply hid in the car, wondering just what I'd got myself into. Luckily my second visit proved a much more interesting one, especially as it was the first real experience I'd had of hardcore tourism since I'd last been in the North Island; the South Island is relatively untouched by tourism, apart from the Queenstown area, but not so the North Island. The caravan park I was in was crammed full...

India: The High Commission

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 February 2007, 11 years ago. I hadn't expected my second visit to India to start a month before I flew there, but it did, and in true Indian style. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Indian High Commission in London. Getting a tourist visa can be one of the great hurdles of modern travelling, as anyone who has tried to travel through Africa will tell you. Some countries insist on reams of paperwork, backed up with an entire album of photographs, before they'll even consider letting you darken their door, where some...

India: Trichy

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 February 1998, 20 years ago. It wasn't tricky to get to Trichy, just time-consuming. Trichy, whose full name Tiruchirappalli is only ever used by those inside the bubble of railway bureaucracy, is an interesting and bustling town in the central south, and its sights are well worth the severe shuddering of the bus journey from Pondicherry. Trichy's two main attractions are the Rock Fort Temple and the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. The first one is interesting because it's perched on top of a huge hill of smooth stone,...

New Zealand: Tongariro

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 February 1997, 21 years ago. With my work done in Taranaki, I didn't waste any time in driving to Whakapapa Village, the main town in Tongariro National Park in the centre of the North Island. On the way I passed through sleepy Raurimu, where only the Saturday before a loony had gone crazy with a gun and blown a bunch of innocent people away. It was such a tiny little place, easy to miss in the blink of an eye, which just goes to show that in this day and age, it's always the quiet ones that go off at the deep end......

Nicaragua: Little Corn Island

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 February 2014, 4 years ago. We unashamedly fell off the budget bandwagon in Little Corn Island, and it was absolute bliss. So far on this trip we've had one splurge – Christmas on the beach in Guatemala – but we've generally stuck to a reasonable budget, because if you spend too much when travelling, you tend to get pushed away from the very culture that you've come to experience. But after three months of eating fairly dreadful local food, getting numb limbs on hard mattresses, wincing as the chicken...

India: Thanjavur

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 February 1998, 20 years ago. Saturday morning's head hurt, and I very nearly ended up slipping into a day-long lethargy of recuperation, but after a couple of minutes back in the madness of India I was raring to go. There's no better pick-me-up than live insanity on your doorstep. Howard and I parted company as he boarded the southbound bus from Trichy to Madurai, but I had one more mission to accomplish before following him; I wanted to check out another World Heritage site in the town of Thanjavur, an hour and a half...

India: I'll Have a Limca, Please

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 13 February 1998, 20 years ago. If you had been sitting in the Trichy restaurant where Howard and I were attempting to eat on the evening of Friday the 13th, you would have heard the following conversation. 'And to drink, sir?' 'I'll have a Limca, please.' 'Sorry sir, no Limca.' 'Do you have any Teem, then?' 'No Teem, sorry sir.' 'Do you have any lemon drinks at all?' 'Just lemon soda, sir.' 'Hmm, OK. Well, what bottled drinks do you have, then?' 'We have Limca, Teem, Coca-Cola...' 'Limca, eh? How about that. Yes, I think...

India: Pondicherry

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 February 1998, 20 years ago. Pondicherry threw me from the first second. Rising on the morning of our departure from Mamallapuram, we grabbed a quick two-silce Breake Fast and headed for the bus stand, where an almost empty bus was waiting, proclaiming 'Pondy' on the front. Empty buses don't exist in India, but there, in front of us, was one with leg room and space for luggage, and not only was it empty, but it only took an hour and a half to do the three-and-a-half hour stretch south to Pondicherry. It quite unnerved me....

India: Mamallapuram

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 11 February 1998, 20 years ago. After exhausting the sights of Chennai, Howard and I finally boarded the bus south to the temple beach town of Mamallapuram (previously known as Mahabalipuram, another name change in a land that is confusing enough without dithering about what to call things). Mamallapuram is best known for its rock temples and pretty little beach, but these days it's as popular for its travellers' scene as anything else. The bus was incredibly packed. I had a little kid sitting on my feet (and eventually...

India: Slowing Down

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 February 1998, 20 years ago. India is beginning to slow me down, as if I'm walking through treacle. I've had schedules and plans to keep me company since I started this trip in Sydney some two-and-a-half years ago, and India's no different, but for the first time, I'm losing interest in rushing round and ticking off everything on my list; now I seem to spend most of my planning sessions dropping things from the itinerary, rather than adding them. It's India, you see. The concepts of 'mañana', 'whenever' and...

New Zealand: Taranaki

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 9 February 1997, 21 years ago. I'd been looking forward to getting back to the North Island, because I had a plan: to explore the amazing volcanoes of Taranaki and Tongariro. I thought I'd start with the Around the Mountain Circuit (AMC) at Taranaki, with a trip up to the top of Mt Taranaki itself if possible, because there was an Acorn dealer nearby whom I'd arranged to meet for some post-walk work; so I didn't waste any time in driving straight from the Catchpool Valley to Egmont National Park on the western coast of the...

India: Chennai

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 8 February 1998, 20 years ago. Incredible though it might seem, Chennai, the fourth biggest city in India, is almost pleasant. The traffic's comparatively light, the slums are only moderately squalid, there aren't that many beggars, the pollution isn't solid enough to pose an ornithological challenge, the buses only ooze people at rush hour, and most surprisingly of all, there are underpasses. It's quite amazing. Well, it's amazing after Calcutta and Hyderabad; Chennai (which was known as Madras until April 1996) is on its...