Forms of identification: Tom Hall
Tom Hall, Lonely Planet editor, at Krak des Chevaliers in northwestern Syria.
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas
1) Where would you rather be right now?
Wandering the backstreets of Istanbul, searching out remains and ruins of old Constantinople fuelled by baklava and thick, strong coffee.
2) Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
You’d have a hard time beating the adventures you’d have with 19th-century British explorer Richard Burton, who explore the upper reaches of the Nile and was the first European for four centuries to go on pilgrimage to Mecca.
3) Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
It would be the mountain biking trip to the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. Number one on the list is Jerusalem and number two comprises a long list of mountains in the Highlands of Scotland.
4) You’d be mortified if people knew you did what when you travelled?
On solo trips to more unusual places I tend to not wash much. After a while I don’t have to worry if I tell people or not.
5) Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
I’ve never found anything bleaker than being asked to leave a night train at the Czech/German border in the middle of the night as my rail pass didn’t cover the journey, watching the train pull out and there being not a soul left with me on a freezing cold platform.
6) If someone was visiting your town, what’s the one thing you’d show them?
Highgate Men’s Pond, with a non-optional dip in the waters of the lost River Fleet.
7) Travel-related invention you wish existed:
I’m still waiting for the flying carpet.
8) Material thing you miss the most when away from home:
I have a Brompton folding bicycle which would make an excellent travelling companion, but never gets to come along. I have probably ten occasions each day I’m away when I think it’d be perfect to hop onto it, but can’t. There’s a business opportunity – Brompton hire in popular world cities!
9) Most unique souvenir:
They’re not mine, but my father and brother came back from Jordan with a huge set of worry beads which you can barely carry.
10) The place you don’t want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here:
Knoydart in Scotland, a remote mountainous peninsula in the northwest Highlands is only accessible by a ferry or a long, hard walk. Once there, you’re in a secret wonderland with fjord-like sea lochs, golden eagles and an incredible sense of isolation. There are also little mountain bothies, simple shelters, to sleep in.
11) The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
I’m not sure why I brag about it because it’s quite a stupid thing to do, but in 2009 I rode some of the Tour d’Afrique bike ride, which runs from Cairo to Cape Town. I took on the section from Victoria Falls to Windhoek, Namibia and on one day rode (unintentionally) straight past the camp for the night and ended up riding two days in one which was a day ride in 45 C (113 F) heat of about 190 miles. Ten miles from home I got my third puncture of the day and rode into town on a farm truck. As the van with our gear was 100 miles behind me I couldn’t change my clothes and had to stink the campsite out until it arrived the following day.
12) Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
Don’t take very much stuff with you. Books, notepad and pen, a few changes of clothes, a waterproof jacket and a camera is all you need.