Before we went to Bolivia, my entire education on the country came from this scene from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Although our arrival in the country wasn’t quite as displeasing as Robert Redford’s, Bolivia did prove one of the more challenging countries we’ve visited. Cold showers, uninspiring cuisine and high altitude were just some of things we battled. Throw in the odd hostel reminiscent of a Soviet-era gulag and you have a destination that lags well behind its more well-traversed neighbours. Continue reading
Peru’s Machu Picchu tops bucket lists everywhere, most recently appearing at number three on Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist, a compilation of 500 unmissable attractions across the world ranked by the publisher’s global community of travel experts.
There’s no doubt that our Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu was one of the highlights of our trip around the world, but there’s certainly more to Peru. From gargantuan canyons to archaeological enigmas, this South American gem offers an abundance of culture and adventure. Here are the most interesting facts about Peru we picked up on our trip across its lands. Continue reading
There are few nations preoccupied with social decorum as deeply as the Brits. We can have entire conversations consisting solely of the word ‘sorry’, we express our anger by apologising and when we’re really rageful we do such radical things as refusing to offer tea.
Our inability to cope with testing social situations is perfectly summed up in this delightful anecdote by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams.
English is a rich and diverse language but, alas, in some situations it leaves us lacking. Here, we describe 10 foreign words that don’t exist in English each of which perfectly describes a very real predicament. Continue reading
Despite its relatively small size compared with local giants Brazil and Argentina, Ecuador is home to an astounding array of wonders that include picturesque colonial towns, Amazonian rainforest, the spectacular peaks of the Andes and of course the fragile but alluring Galápagos Islands. Whether it’s nature, wildlife, culture, anthropology or language, this diverse country is sure to impress.
Here are the most interesting facts about Ecuador we picked up on our journey through its lands (and seas). Continue reading
There are certain connotations attached to country life. It’s either bourgeois and boring (if you adopt it) or insular and provincial (if you were born into it). Five years ago, the thought of spending several months in a tiny French village with nothing more than a bakery and a corner shop would have worried me. After a year on the road, however, it seemed like the perfect intermediary between the sweeping highs of travel and the challenges of city life. And, so, after a fleeting visit home, we packed our bags and moved to France for a few months. Continue reading
London lacks many things: picnic weather in July, a resilience to winter snow, an effective solution to the hipster invasion. What it does have in abundance – more so than almost any other city in the world – is an inexhaustible well of intriguing history. It spills forth from domes and spires, flows amid the currents of the River Thames, and rushes through the veins of our subterranean network.
In fact, so bountiful and broad is the history of London, one could easily walk past something different every day without realising its significance. Here we list 10 extraordinary historical sites hidden beneath a banal facade. Continue reading
We are ensconced in a small Copacabana hostel, the worst accommodation we’ve had in months. Contrary to the decidedly lovely pictures on the hostel website, our bedroom is tiny, stuffy, smelly and inexplicably noisy. With maddening frequency, a loud foghorn judders through the water pipes, keeping us up all night long. We don’t know what it is; just that it’s drip-driving us crazy. Continue reading
After several weeks in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego at the southern reaches of the inhabited world, we were very much looking forward to thawing out in Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America”. We arrived in the bohemian area of San Telmo an hour early and stood on a street corner, wondering where to go to await our host and the keys to our lovely apartment.
We saw a Starbucks sign glittering seductively in one corner and trudged towards it, backpacks growing weary on our shoulders. Alas, just as we arrived, the Starbucks shutters went down and the staff closed shop for the evening. Continue reading
This is a subjective topic I know. What counts as an interesting fact? What counts as one of the world’s least known countries? There is no scientific answer but when this question was posed on Q&A site Quora, it certainly threw up some noteworthy particulars about some of the more obscure sovereign and not-so-sovereign states of the world. Below I’ve picked out some of the most interesting. Continue reading
As our round-the-world trip nears its end in Brazil, backpackers coming the other way have started asking after our favourite country on the continent. We tell them it’s a close call between Chile with its incredibly diverse landscape and Peru with its sweeping natural beauty.
“Ah,” they say knowingly. “Machu Picchu.” Continue reading
As Kia and I enter the last few weeks of our big trip, naturally we are wondering how well we have come to know the countries we have visited. Over the last year or so, we have spent anything from just a few hours in a country to over two months and everything in between.
So, how do you really get to know a country? The answer is of course largely subjective, based on personal opinion rather than a delineated system. That said, there are certain factors that will always help or hinder. Continue reading
We examine the island’s history and explain some of the most interesting Easter Island facts. This remote Pacific island is not only beautiful but full of mystery.
First thing’s first, Easter Island is far. Very, very far.
In fact, it is one of the most remote communities in the world. Its closest inhabited neighbour is Pitcairn, 2,000km (1,200mi) to the west while the nearest continental land lies in Chile at a distance of 3,700km (2,300mi). In short, it’s not a short hop.
And so the question one must ask is: are the Easter Island statues worth the slog? Are these great hunks of rock worth the expense of a long voyage? Continue reading
After two months of continuous travel, we decided to take a few days of downtime in Santiago. We had spent no more than two nights in any one place as we raced to get to Patagonia before winter and as a result were feeling pretty fried and in desperate need of some comfort – especially after the challenges of Bolivia. With this in mind we decided to rent a super-modern self-catering apartment in central Santiago for a few days. Continue reading
When we set out for this trip nearly a year ago, I knew that there would be certain places, certain experiences that would leave me awestruck. I knew I’d be wowed by Machu Picchu, stand in awe of Easter Island’s giant statues and gaze open-mouthed at Perito Moreno in Argentina. What I didn’t expect is that I’d be similarly lost for words on the man-made Uros floating islands of Lake Titicaca. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before arriving in Peru.
I guess that’s one of the wonders of travel: discovery. The floating islands of Uros are certainly one of the most charming discoveries of our trip so far. Here’s why. Continue reading
I never felt poor until I went to university. I was one of eight siblings that grew up in a Tower Hamlets council house (vouchers for my school uniform, free school meals), but I never felt that my family was poor until I entered higher education. There, my peer-set changed from Bengali girls like me to those whose families owned second homes, second cars and even thriving businesses – not international conglomerates like you might find at Oxbridge, but impressive nonetheless: a diamond shop in west London, a doctor’s surgery in Surrey, an accountancy firm in Redbridge. Continue reading
Few cities have a setting as dramatic as La Paz. At 3,650m above sea level, it is often called the the world’s highest capital even though this isn’t strictly true. The country’s official capital is Sucre which lies 690km to the southeast. Nevertheless, La Paz has long been Bolivia’s political and commercial hub, and a customary stop for tourists. The sprawling city is cradled in a canyon, offering dramatic views of the Andes in the distance. The curves of its valley are blanketed by the makeshift housing of the poor, stubbornly clinging to the steepest of inclines. It is in essence a city of two tales: on one hand, a modern metropolis with cable cars transporting its citizens to dizzying heights; on the other, a rickety old town wedded to beliefs verging on alchemy. Continue reading
San Agustin in Colombia is a sleepy little town buried in the rolling green hills of the southwestern part of the country. The town unfortunately lacks the pretty and quaint charms of colourful Guatape or adorable Salento, but makes up for it with Colombia’s finest archaeological park within walking distance.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Parque Arqueológico is home to over a hundred 3,300-year-old statues carved from stone by the area’s famous pre-Hispanic masons. Comparable to Easter Island’s Moai statues, although not quite on the same scale, they depict some rather beguiling, if not creepy, animal-human hybrid creatures. Fanged faces smile awkwardly at you from all angles as you wander the forested trails and climb the green hilltops. Continue reading
We didn’t plan on staying a month in Colombia. After spending longer than we had planned in the South Pacific, we were wary that we had only six months for an area far larger than what we had seen thus far. Of course, our journey through Cartagena, Santa Marta, Taganga, Medellin, Guatapé, Popayán and San Agustín warranted more than the two weeks we had planned. Continue reading
Cartagena – the very name has an aura of old-world romance; of steamy hot days, winding city roads, and crumpled treasure maps. Its charming architecture and interesting history certainly didn’t disappoint, but it was a baptism of fire after six months in the Pacific.
We quickly learned that there are two rules governing the streets of Colombia. First, do not offer papaya. Second, if papaya is offered, someone has to take it. They don’t mean papaya in the literal sense of course; it’s a byword for your valuables. It reminds tourists (and locals) not to have a camera hanging over their shoulder, a strappy bag slung casually on a chair, a wallet peeking out the top of a pocket. Those are the most important lessons, but we learnt several others during our time in Cartagena. Here’s a roundup for future visitors. Continue reading
The British are an eccentric lot, occasionally bordering on downright barmy. From chasing cheese down country hills to snorkelling bogs to catch some thrills, the British are as baffling as they are charming. Here are some of our most confounding traits, according to Reddit and the A&B audience on social media.
1. Why our quaint little towns have a homicide rate comparable to Honduras…
…according to our murder mysteries that is. If Midsomer Murders is to be believed, there’s someone being knocked off every other week in genteel country towns out the way. As one American put it, “Midsomer is the most dangerous place on earth, literally worse than Mexican cartel towns.” Continue reading