Forms of identification: Vivek Wagle
Vivek Wagle at the Eiffel Tower at sunset, in Paris, France.
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
1. Where would you rather be right now?
In Buenos Aires. I’ve always wanted to visit Argentina, and the southern hemisphere summer would be the perfect time to stock up on grilled meat, red wine and some tango action.
2. Famous person (dead or alive, real or ﬁctional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
The Doctor from Doctor Who. Being able to visit any place at any time would be the obvious draw, but an additional beneﬁt would be the ability to experience the world through the eyes of an alien.
3. Tourist must-see you think is actually a “must skip”:
Piazza San Marco, Venice. It’s one of the least interesting parts of a very interesting city. It’s crowded, stinky (in summer) and utterly underwhelming.
4. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
Alaska. Beautiful, but not exotic enough to be #1.
5. You’d be mortiﬁed if people knew you did what when you travelled?
Occasionally went to see blockbuster Hollywood movies by myself.
6. Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
We were driving in the Australian outback in a rented 4WD. We were using the spare tyre, as we had punctured a regular tyre driving off-road. Suddenly, there was a “bang” and the car lurched to the side. We smelled burning rubber. We pulled over, and the spare tyre was absolutely shredded. We were in the middle of the outback, at least 200 miles from the nearest settlement, with no spare water and no way of getting anywhere. We hunkered down in the shade and contemplated driving back on the rim. Finally, after two hours, a rig with a satellite phone passed us. We were able to ﬂag down the driver and use the phone to get help.
7. Best (or worst) person/people you’ve had to sit next to while travelling:
A trucker on a nine-hour Greyhound ride who told me that the fail rates for two hitches on big rigs were way higher than I thought. I now never drive behind big rigs.
8. Strangest meal abroad:
Soup made with bull testicles and skinned lizard in Nicaragua. The balls were spongy; the lizard was rubbery. Not recommended.
9. If someone was visiting your town, what’s the one thing you’d show them?
The salted-caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery, a San Francisco institution. It’s best enjoyed on a sunny day in adjacent Dolores Park.
10. Travel-related invention you wish existed:
A sleeping bag that packs up into wallet size.
11. Material thing you miss the most when away from home:
Coffee from my espresso machine.
12. Coolest mode of transport you’ve taken:
Zipwire. Nothing quite beats that rush.
13. The place you don’t want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here:
Las Pozas, a bizarre concrete jungle maze near Xilitla, Mexico. It’s full of headless sculptures, stairways that go nowhere and baffling “shelters”. Wandering through it, you feel as though you’ve discovered the remnants of an ancient civilization – an insane one.
14. Travel-related ﬁlm or book that inspires you to pack your bags:
Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley. A classic that really makes you want to get out there and experience the world ﬁrst-hand.
15. The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
Once, while in Sikkim (in the Indian Himalaya), I was getting on board a crowded truck. They threw my backpack on the roof and were ready to leave, but I insisted that they tie it down. That extra minute saved all of our
lives. The earth started shaking and the entire side of the mountain in front of us collapsed. A few hundred yards further, and we’d have been caught in the landslide.
16. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
Duct tape is incredibly useful, no matter whether you’re a luxury traveller or a backpacker. It instantly turns you into MacGyver.