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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, 24 Jun 2017 07:05:03 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2017 Mark Moxon

Northern England: Hawes to Keld

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 24 June 2003, 14 years ago. I remember this section clearly from my abortive attempt to do the Pennine Way in 2000, because this leg was where things started to go wrong. The first day of that fateful walk – from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes – went fine, though in retrospect I sunk into the hot bath in my B&B in Hawes with a little too much ooh-ing and ahh-ing for someone who was supposed to be taking the Pennines in his stride. Day two, though, was where the Pennine Way started sinking its...

Australia: Kalbarri

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 June 1996, 21 years ago. After teaming up in Cervantes, I happily offered Andreas a lift to Kalbarri, 400km to the north, as we were both planning to visit the National Park there. Little did we expect such terrible driving conditions; at times, I couldn't see a thing through the driving rain, and had to use the Force to see the road. However, we got there in one piece, and managed to fit in a visit to the coast to see Red Bluff before sunset. Red Bluff is a large, jutting cliff that gives you a good view of Kalbarri...

Northern England: Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 June 2003, 14 years ago. I set off this morning on an emotional roller-coaster. Having my girlfriend visit me as I chip away the miles is wonderful and it recharges the batteries in top fashion, but it comes at a price: I hate goodbyes. In fact today my emotions were on a double roller-coaster, because Horton-in-Ribblesdale is where I set off on my abortive Pennine Way walk back in 2000. I wondered how much I would remember from the last time I tackled the Way – after all, it's nearly three years ago...

District Line: Victoria to Bow Road

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 23 June 2008, 9 years ago. I've finished today's walk with a pain in the base of my neck, just above my left shoulder. It's a familiar pain that I tend to get after long hikes, but today's trek through central London was under ten miles long, which normally isn't enough to trigger this particular niggle. I think I know the cause, though: it's the constant stopping and starting. This isn't so much because of traffic lights or problems walking through a cityscape; actually, I've found (much to my surprise) that I can get...

Northern England: Kirkby Malham to Horton

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 21 June 2003, 14 years ago. At last! This is where the Pennine Way stops being a bloody miserable plod through bogs and moors and turns into a much more enjoyable walk. I'm glad; I was getting close to thinking it was nothing but a walk for masochistic idiots. There are three main attractions on the walk from Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, namely Malham Cove, Malham Tarn and Pen-y-Ghent. The first is a semicircular 80m-high limestone cliff that was once home to a monstrous waterfall but which is now a dry and...

India: Jodhpur

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 June 1998, 19 years ago. Jodhpur isn't only famous for its hard-nosed businessmen, it's also home to one of the most staggering fortresses you will ever see. The Mehrangarh Fort dominates the city, sitting atop a 125m-high cliff-edged hill that catches the rising sun beautifully. Not only that, my hotel, a beautiful 250-year-old haveli right in the centre of the city, was a classic of its type. A haveli is a traditional Rajasthani or Gujarati building, consisting of a number of floors based round a central courtyard....

India: Yogi and Babaji

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 June 1998, 19 years ago. In reading the story of Yogi and Babaji, bear in mind that throughout the experience I had a song going through my head, namely Sheryl Crow's ode to kiss-and-tell journalism, 'The Book'. Here's an excerpt: Never again Would I see your face. You carry a pen and a paper And no time And no words you waste. You're a voyeur, The worst kind of thief, To take what happened to us, To write down everything that went on Between you and me. Is that me? Am I being a voyeur, stealing the (possibly) good...

Australia: Top-up, Sir?

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 June 1996, 21 years ago. Ah, the local pub in Cervantes. Funny things happen in the country, not least of which are some of the methods publicans use to entice people to drink in the pub, a slightly unnecessary thing to do seeing as there's hardly any choice anyway. Andreas and I were sitting at the bar minding our own business, and he nudged me and said, 'Hey, check it out! There's a girl getting changed in the room behind the bar, but I don't think she knows we can all see her. How embarrassing!' And sure enough,...

Australia: Nambung (Pinnacles Desert)

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 June 1996, 21 years ago. My first destination after Perth was Cervantes, some 200km north up the coast and home to the incomparable Nambung National Park. It was also home to serious amounts of wind and torrential rain – it was obviously payback time for all the good weather I've been having, as it was all I could do to get the tent pegged down in time for the downpour. The rain out here comes in very short, very sharp bursts; it may only rain for one minute, but you'll be soaked to the skin by the time the...

Northern England: Lothersdale to Kirkby Malham

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 20 June 2003, 14 years ago. To be honest, I really don't know what to think. One minute I'm effing and blinding about the bloody Pennine Way, screaming at the weather, the bleak landscape and the relentless effort of it all, and the next I'm enjoying a pleasant pint in another beautiful Yorkshire village and wondering why on earth I keep getting so stressed. My mind is an optimist and only wants to remember the good parts, so as I sit down to type this outside the Victoria Inn in Kirkby Malham, with a pint of Black Sheep...

India: Hindi Pop

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 June 1998, 19 years ago. There is only one music cassette in use on the buses in India, and I hear it everywhere; the result is that despite several months of inserting my ear plugs whenever the bus boys crank the latest Hindi pop hits up to eleven, I still know the songs backwards (which, incidentally, improves them). It isn't confined to the buses, either. I hear it in shops, I hear it in buses, I hear it in rickshaws, I hear it in restaurants, and on bad nights I hear it in my sleep. It's a compilation of Hindi pop...

District Line: Turnham Green and Kensington (Olympia) to Victoria

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 19 June 2008, 9 years ago. Things started off on the wrong foot this morning, and I have to admit it spoiled things for a little while. As I lined up to take a shot of Turnham Green station – more to make a note of my starting time than anything else, as I already have a shot of the station from yesterday's walk – a man, who was unloading flowers from a white van, walked up to me and said in a fairly brusque manner, 'Oy, why are you taking pictures of the Tube?' 'Well,' I said, putting on my best...

India: Mt Abu

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 June 1998, 19 years ago. It didn't take much persuasion for me to drop my plans to visit Bhuj and Junagadh in western Gujarat; the chaos from the cyclone has sparked fears of epidemic diseases (which are being denied by the government), but whatever the risk of cholera, there's no doubt that the electricity, water and transport infrastructures are in al sorts of trouble, and I figure I could always come back another time. The journalist in me wants to investigate; the traveller in me never wants to see another bus...

French Polynesia: Man vs Cyclone Kelly

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 June 1997, 20 years ago. We finally left the Gambier Islands on Sunday 15th June, at least as finally as is possible when your passage and plans depend on the weather. We had initially planned to leave on the Friday, but having checked out with the gendarmes, the other yachties pointed out that Friday was the 13th, and if there's one thing that sailors are, it's superstitious. Besides, we still had a few jobs to get done before leaving, so we spent Friday working on the boat and trying to get hold of the weather...

Australia: Drive-through Heaven

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 June 1996, 21 years ago. The drive-through: that's the best thing about Australia's huge distances. At least, I think it's down to the distance; it could be the American influence, but because everyone in Australia has a car, you can get pretty much everything at a drive-through. Sure, we have drive-through McDonald's in the UK, but they're not everywhere like they are here; and here you've also got drive-through Kentucky Fried Chicken, drive-through Hungry Jack's (the Australian name for Burger King), drive-through...

Northern England: Hebden Bridge to Lothersdale

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 June 2003, 14 years ago. Ugh, what a horrible day. This time I can't blame the scenery because I could hardly see it; after the glorious weather of the last few days the Pennine Way suddenly switched to the cold, rainy disaster zone I remember so well from 2000, and along with the rain, memories flooded back of why I hated the bloody thing so much back then. Then again, I'm not sure that brilliant weather would have transformed things that much, because for the vast majority of the day I was back on the moors,...

District Line: Richmond to Ealing Broadway

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 18 June 2008, 9 years ago. The only problem with this tubewalk is that I've already walked most of it at least once, and some of it I've walked more times than I care to remember. This doesn't make it any less wonderful as a walk – and wonderful it most certainly is – but it does slightly lessen the excitement when you know exactly what's round the next corner. Three years of living in Chiswick and three years (and counting) in Ealing make this as close to my manor as anywhere on the Tube, and the...

Australia: The Baby Ward

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 June 1996, 21 years ago. There are lots of defining moments in life. Your first proper drinking session; losing your virginity; realising that some of the music your parents liked isn't all that bad; growing your hair before realising that it doesn't suit you, then cutting it off, before growing it again; realising that the only thing love and logic have in common are the first two letters; learning to drive, and then learning to crash; leaving home and getting to grips with laundry, banks and two-minute noodles;...

Northern England: Standedge to Hebden Bridge

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 June 2003, 14 years ago. Ye gods, what a boring walk. I'm desperate to say something good about this stretch, but the walk from Standedge to Hebden Bridge really is tedious. If it weren't part of the Pennine Way I'm sure nobody would bother to hoof the 15 monotonous miles I've just had to endure, but a travelogue must report the highs and the lows, so here goes. Without wasting too much effort on the details, the Pennine Way goes north from Standedge over grey moorland until it crosses the A640 and the A672, both of...

Hammersmith & City Line: Hammersmith to Barking

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 17 June 2008, 9 years ago. Wow, I really wasn't expecting this walk to be amazing, but amazing it is. The architecture throughout the whole walk is stunning, the history is palpable, and it's a great example of the rich and the not-so-rich rubbing shoulders in the characteristic way that defines London's suburbs. I'm surprised, because a few years ago I used to live in Chiswick, just down the road from Hammersmith, and until a few weeks ago, I commuted every day into Paddington. But ask me if I fancied walking round...

Morocco: Ouarzazate

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 June 2002, 15 years ago. By the time we arrived at Todra Gorge, after a long and tiring drive through the sandstorms of the south and the touts of Tinerhir, we were both feeling totally knackered. I hadn't eaten properly for three days and was surviving on oral rehydration salts and dried biscuits, and Peta was suffering from the excessive heat of the desert. We needed a break. This we completely failed to get. Todra Gorge is a pleasant spot en route from the east to the west, and in the 300m-high gorge there's a...

Morocco: Desert Food

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 June 2002, 15 years ago. The guidebooks will tell you that Moroccan food is excellent, and in general they are right. Marrakech is an amazing place for a feed, and by all accounts the northern cities like Fés and Meknès are excellent too. What they don't tend to mention is that once you're out of the cities and in the desert, you're in for the same food all the time, especially in the off-season. It can get really wearing. The Berbers, who inhabit southern central Morocco, are deeply proud of...

Australia: Perth

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 June 1996, 21 years ago. Perth was where Lady Luck smiled on me, and gave me not just one job, but two. A couple of weeks into my stint at the city's Acorn dealer, the head honcho from Acorn New Zealand, whom I'd met when working for Acorn in Melbourne, was visiting Perth to talk to the dealer about developments in the company, and to reassure them following the closure of the Melbourne office, which had been announced not long after I struck west. Much to my surprise, he only went and offered me a job at Acorn in...

Metropolitan Line: Harrow-on-the-Hill to Uxbridge

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 16 June 2008, 9 years ago. I'm sorry to report that I've just finished my first uninteresting tubewalk, and I'm simply happy to be home. It wasn't a bad walk, by any means, but either I picked the dullest route possible from Harrow to Uxbridge, or this isn't a part of the capital that is particularly suited to long-distance walking. Yes, there were some pleasant spots, and I'm still glad I did it, but in the competition to answer the question 'What was your favourite part of the Tube?', I'm afraid the Uxbridge branch of...

Morocco: Space Invaders

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 June 2002, 15 years ago. Perhaps it was my fragile state on emerging from the desert, but Morocco really got to me for a couple of days after Merzouga. I've been in quite a few countries where I've been struck down by nasty stomach bugs – it's part and parcel of travelling in the developing world, and however careful you are, you can't really avoid being ill at some stage – and although it's possible that my tolerance of the hassles of some places has been undermined by ill health, I've been...

Morocco: Driving in a Sandstorm

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 June 2002, 15 years ago. My stomach wasn't the only place where a storm was brewing. The morning after our return to the comparative civilisation of Merzouga a sandstorm whipped up and started filling every crevice with gritty dust. Sandstorms aren't really storms of sand, they're just high winds in a place where everything is perpetually covered in drifts of desert. If you had high winds in a place like Australia's Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, then you could have a sandstorm, but all it takes...

India: Indian Television

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 June 1998, 19 years ago. Hindi's a funny old language, but it's even funnier on Indian TV. Listening to it is like listening to any truly foreign language – the words are a mystery but the intonation is often familiar – but Hindi has the added oddity of having a large number of English words and phrases that have been adopted and incorporated as standard. Television is a particularly good medium because the diction is fairly clear. Watching a soap opera one night on my hotel room's TV (a rare...

India: Lies, Damned Lies

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 June 1998, 19 years ago. Visitors to India can't help but notice the Indian tendency to be economical with the truth. This is often because Indians, and Asians in general, want to please you by telling you what you want to hear, even if it's not the truth – either that or they're trying to sell you something, in which case their economy with the truth is simply an extension of the approach used by East London market stall owners. I've always found this constant fraudulence illogical enough to be bordering on...

French Polynesia: Gambier Islands (East)

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 June 1997, 20 years ago. We made our last sortie from Rikitea on Thursday 5th June, accompanied by Tegan as per usual (no other yachts joined us, as they seemed to be far more interested in simply lazing around off Rikitea, probably a side-effect of visiting too many island paradises). Our mission: to head a couple of miles east towards the airport motu, Totegegie. A motu has to be one of the most classic tropical formations – or, at least, an important part of one of the most classic tropical formations,...

Northern England: Crowden to Standedge

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 15 June 2003, 14 years ago. The official Pennine Way guidebook says this is an 'easier and shorter day' than the journey from Edale to Crowden, but it doesn't take blisters into consideration. Surprisingly, for once I'm not talking about me, for it took poor David quite a while in the morning to dress his battered feet and bandage up the nasty gash in his elbow. I really felt for him; getting sore spots towards the end of the first day is bad enough, but walking on the blisters for days two, three and four is nothing...

Morocco: The Sahara by Camel

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 June 2002, 15 years ago. Climbing dunes is one way to explore the Sahara, but by far the best is to book your passage on one of the ships of the desert – the camel. As you drive into Merzouga over the rattling hammada, herds of camels loiter round the edges of the desert, looking dour and almost surprised to be there, and there's no shortage of offers of camel treks from hopeful locals once you roll into town. We booked a two-day trip on our arrival, and settled in to wait for our ships to disembark. It was...

India: Diu

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 June 1998, 19 years ago. Diu feels like a frontier town; given both its distant and recent history, this is perhaps not surprising. Stuck out on a limb at the southernmost tip of Gujarat, the island of Diu was one of the few Portuguese colonies in India (the others being Goa and Daman). Between the 14th and 16th centuries Diu was an important trading post for the Ottoman Turks, but in 1535 the Portuguese took control on their second attempt, building a huge fort and settling in for a long old occupation. They finally...

Northern England: Edale to Crowden

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 14 June 2003, 14 years ago. It can't actually be the case, but the Pennine Way seems to have a profound effect on the local time field. After this long on the road I'd normally think of 17.5 miles as a pleasant day's walk, but the first day of the Pennine Way is no jaunt. It's a hell of a slog. Luckily I'm pretty fit after about 450 miles of walking, so for me this was a tough walk over tough terrain but I survived surprisingly intact. I was surprised to have managed the walk without too much ill effect; the weather...

The Midlands: Waterloo Inn to Edale

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 13 June 2003, 14 years ago. Today was a pretty easy day's walk, but it's definitely the calm before the storm because tomorrow I start the Pennine Way, which I'm planning to follow all the way to Scotland. The Pennine Way, Britain's first official long-distance trail, is regarded by many people as the finest in the country. It opened way back in 1965, not long after the Peak National Park – also the first of its kind – opened in 1951. It was this sense of history and general approval among walkers...

Morocco: Merzouga

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 June 2002, 15 years ago. While lazing away the hours in Rissani, I'd been investigating the route to Merzouga, the home to the only genuine Saharan ergs in Morocco (an erg being a classic, sand dune desert). There are two roads to Merzouga, but both are relatively scary. The route from Rissani is the shorter of the two, but sections of it are pretty rough, and in a rented Fiat Uno it's probably not in your interests to try it, unless being stranded in the middle of the desert is your cup of tea. The other route, from...

The Midlands: Air Cottage to Waterloo Inn

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 June 2003, 14 years ago. It's amazing how quickly things change in England. Yesterday I couldn't believe how boring the walking was, but today's walk started out with some incredible views over Dovedale, continued into one of the most wonderfully English river scenes you can imagine, and managed to stay beautiful right up to the end. My feet might have ached like hell from yesterday's long hike and my blisters might have been their usual irritating selves, but when the countryside is this good you quickly forget the...

Metropolitan Line: Chorleywood to Amersham and Chesham

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 12 June 2008, 9 years ago. 'Scattered heavy showers' said the weatherman, and he wasn't kidding. As I fell out of Neal's car into the paltry shelter of the bus stop at Chorleywood station, the rain cranked up from light drizzle to power shower, and all of a sudden my decision to travel lightly didn't look so clever. For the first time, and hopefully the last, I wished I'd brought my proper walking boots rather than my trainers, because out here, it's proper countryside, and proper countryside is no place for trainers....

The Midlands: Abbots Bromley to Air Cottage

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 11 June 2003, 14 years ago. Oh my god, what an awful, awful day. I'm sure someone put something in my coffee this morning that made each hour last a week; I walked 21 miles today, and my mind is so worried about conserving my sanity that it's already started erasing the memories. I'd better write them down quickly... The problem with today wasn't just the long distance; I've done long days before, and they've been fine. The problem was the walk itself, which spectacularly failed to fire my imagination. I left Abbots...

Metropolitan Line: Moor Park to Chorleywood

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 11 June 2008, 9 years ago. Today I didn't walk alone, sharing the short hop from Moor Park to Chorleywood with my mate Neal, who lives in Beaconsfield and therefore constitutes the closest thing to a local that I can muster. Sadly he wasn't able to enjoy the wall-to-wall blue skies I've been walking under for the last few days – the theme for today was only sunny intervals – but at least the rain that's approaching from the west held off, and when you're travelling light and don't have umpteen layers...

Morocco: The Hammada

Sat, 10 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 June 2002, 15 years ago. More eager to get out of M'Hamid than it is possible to express in words, we got up with the sun, kicked the hotel staff awake (who were asleep on mattresses in the driveway), and hit the road back into the Drâa Valley. Driving before the sun has had a chance to melt the desert is a wonderful way to appreciate the hammada without losing your marbles, and we were hoping to make it back up the Drâa and onto Route 6956, heading east towards the real Sahara, at a place called...

The Midlands: Penkridge to Abbots Bromley

Sat, 10 Jun 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Written on 10 June 2003, 14 years ago. Today was packed with nostalgia, and if there's one thing I like, it's nostalgia. South Staffordshire held no memories for me, despite the excitement of finally arriving in the county where I was born, but soon after leaving Penkridge this morning I started bumping into places that rang bells. The first nostalgic stop on today's walk was Cannock Chase, a beautiful area of woodland and heath that's deservedly been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. After the farm fields of the...