SALKANTAY-TREK-TO-MACHU-PICCHU

Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu: highlights and lowlights

I look back on the highlights and lowlights of our Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu in Peru, to help future trekkers prepare for the challenge ahead.

There are three things I feared when embarking on our year-long trip around the world. First: the bugs (let’s face it, that was warranted). Second: our multi-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu (was I fit enough? Could I cope with the altitude? What about the lack of commode? Would I break down after a long bout of camping?). Third: Dealing with the Patagonian winter (I’ll face that battle when I come to it).

Having completed the 5-day Salkantay trek with Alpaca Expeditions, I can happily report that it was much easier than I expected. Day 1 was in fact the most challenging with several hours’ hiking uphill but after that it was all fairly straightforward.

I’ve put together a list of tips, highlights and lowlights to help future trekkers prepare for the challenge ahead.

Continue reading
best machu picchu trek a comparison

Best Machu Picchu trek: a comparison

What is the Best Machu Picchu trek for you? We compare the pros and cons of each route to help you choose the trek that’s right for you.

Machu Picchu, that great Wonder of the World, that icon of South America so ubiquitous on travel websites and agency storefronts. Is it any wonder would-be visitors fret about choosing the perfect trek?

Some book their trip months in advance to make sure they get their trek of choice, others are left heartbroken when they turn up to find that they’ve missed the boat.

Prior to our trip, we had one pressing question: is the Inca Trail worth it?

Continue reading
cotopaxi-volcano

Testing my limits on Cotopaxi Volcano

I knew it was going to be cold. I knew it was going to be hard. What I didn’t know is that I’d want to give up after a mere 10 minutes on Cotopaxi Volcano. Our altitude of 4,500m mixed with unusually harsh weather made every breath difficult, every step a labour. As the wind slapped my face, I closed my eyes and wondered not for the first time why I had let Peter talk me into this. Glaciers were his thing. Trekking in freezing cold weather was his hobby. I like adventure, sure, but not when it hurt this much. I prefer my adrenaline 10 degrees above freezing, thank you. Continue reading

zion-national-park-utah-peter-watson

On the road to Zion National Park

One of my favourite things about travel is its continuous ability to surprise me. Whether it’s discovering hidden beaches in Vanuatu or coming across sea turtles on a dive in Samoa, travel often presents the unexpected. The latest example was during our unplanned visit to Zion National Park in Utah on our (again unplanned) American road trip.

We had spent a couple of days exploring Grand Canyon National Park and were enjoying our final meal at our lodge when we got chatting to another group of hikers. They suggested adapting our route to take in Zion National Park. “It’s like a red Yosemite in the desert,” they told us. “You’ll love it.” Continue reading

THINGS-TO-DO-GRAND-CANYON

Off the beaten canyon: exploring Grand Canyon’s hidden gems

This article featured on Lonely Planet as one of their top posts from February 2015.

There’s something familiar about the Grand Canyon. Its dramatic landscape and red-gold hues have been depicted in movies, posters, pencil cases and postcards. It’s a recurring symbol of the road movie, a faithful slice of wholesome Americana – and, yet, when you see it for the first time, it’s still daunting, still overwhelming. Its sheer scale stretches for 277 miles (446km) along the course of the Colorado River, reminding you that America isn’t just a land of super-sized McDonald’s and greasy hotdogs; it’s home to some of the most beautiful scenery on the face of this Earth. Continue reading

things-to-do-around-grand-canyon

Things to do at the Grand Canyon

A trip to the Grand Canyon can be overwhelming, not only because of the incredible vistas on display but the sheer range of activities, hikes, trails and viewpoints to choose from. To make your visit as easy as possible, we put together the top things to do at the Grand Canyon during your trip. Note that numbers 1-4 can be done in a single day but you will need several days should you wish to do the rest. Continue reading

rarotonga cross island walk

Rarotonga Cross Island Walk: probably the best hike in the South Pacific

The Rarotonga Cross Island Walk is one of the best hikes in the South Pacific. Even the most inexperienced hiker can get up there with a bit of care.

We stood outside our hostel, staring up at the morning sky. It had been raining all night long and the ominous clouds still threatened to thwart our plans. Adrienne, the hostel owner, had already warned us against doing the Rarotonga Cross Island Walk.

Continue reading
Mount Yasur volcano

Trekking Mount Yasur volcano

The first few weeks of us had been active enough. We’d hiked, climbed, caved, canyoned, kayaked and more. It would have been perfectly acceptable to spend a few days lounging on a beach on Tanna Island, soaking up the Pacific sun. However, you don’t go to Tanna without seeing the “Old Man” that is Mount Yasur volcano, and we were no exception.

The imposing volcano dominates the skyline and can be seen from almost everywhere on Tanna. Whether you’re skidding across the ash plains that surround the volcano or watching the smoke plumes drift out to sea, there’s no escaping the commanding influence Mount Yasur volcano has on the island and its people. Continue reading

da-craterman-samoa

Meeting “Da Craterman – world famous in Samoa”

The day started badly. Our taxi was 30 minutes late, which isn’t so awful considering we were on island time but we were desperate to beat the midday sun on our six-hour round trip to Mount Matavanu Crater. Despite this, we cheerily greeted our driver who dropped us off at the base of the crater.

We started off at a decent pace, our sturdy hiking boots serving us well. However, an hour in we realised that we had been stupidly complacent: with just one flask of water, already half drunk, we were going to struggle to stay hydrated. Continue reading

Millennium Cave in Vanuatu feat

Exploring the dark depths of Millennium Cave in Vanuatu

We’re two weeks into our long-awaited round-the-world trip and already in the midst of a haze of activity. So far, we’ve had a day at Kiwanis (Vanuatu’s annual horse-racing event), swum beneath Mele Cascades waterfall, kayaked to Erakor Island, dived for the first time ever and seen the wreck of the SS Coolidge.

Every day has brought a new experience, the most demanding of which has been the Millennium Cave Tour, a trek through Vanuatu’s biggest cave located on the outskirts of Luganville.

Continue reading

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest peak

Why climb? Because it’s there… and it can actually be done by most.

Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest freestanding mountain, meaning it is not attached to a mountain range. I trekked it in 2010 and it was inspirational to say the least.

It was part of a big trip for me to East Africa — and after an extensive safari throughout the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, coupled with several days on the exotic and dreamy island of Zanzibar — Kilimanjaro could easily have been overshadowed. But it wasn’t.

Climbing Kilimanjaro was exhilarating, awe inspiring, breathtaking, incredible and one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I recommend it to anyone who has the time (and the energy). Continue reading

climbing-nevis-peak-unguided

Climbing Nevis Peak unguided, St Kitts & Nevis

Nevis looks more like rolling hill than a volcano – until you try climbing Nevis Peak unguided. That’s when it reveals itself as a formidable feat!

If you ever find yourself on the tiny island of Nevis in the Caribbean, you’ll surely notice Nevis Peak, the 3,232ft volcano that provides a beautiful backdrop to the picturesque island. With its lush and verdant greenery, Nevis looks more like rolling hill than a volcano – until you try climbing Nevis Peak solo. That’s when it reveals itself as the formidable feat it really is.

Continue reading