International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
1. Where would you rather be right now?
On a boat heading up the Congo, heading into the heart of darkness.
2. Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
My great-grandfather was a general in the British Army and he fought campaigns in the Boer War, Burma and Afghanistan. I would have loved to have travelled with him back then, when the world was a totally different place.
3. Tourist must-see you think is actually a “must skip”:
Almost all of them. Seeing a place is not about looking at monuments; it’s about living the city and breathing the culture. Checklisting a bunch of buildings alongside a bunch of other tourists is soul destroying.
4. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
There are several places that I am desperate to visit – heli-skiing in Kamchatka, Russia; the Djenne mosque in Mali; Mobutu’s palaces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo town of Gbadolite; Burning Man festival in Nevada; ice skating around the archipelago in Stockholm – they could be in any order.
5. Strangest meal abroad:
A cobra was killed in front of me in Vietnam. Its heart was cut out and put it in a glass with its blood and some rice wine to drink. Then the snake was stir-fried for lunch. It was surprisingly good.
6. Coolest mode of transport you’ve taken:
There have been some interesting river crossings. In Sierra Leone we had to load our jeep onto a hand-pulled ferry, and later traded 20 gallons of gasoline with the army for a ride out to one of the islands in one of their boats. In Sumatra we used a dug-out canoe that we had to pull across a raging river.
7. The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
The long weekend with the Liberian warlord, [Joshua Milton Blahyi, known as] General Butt Naked. I went out to potentially publish a book on him and ended up having a surreal weekend surrounded by religion, politics and ju-ju (black magic).