Carrying on from my previous post, here is the second half of my A to Z of world travel.
I followed the world’s longest river inland, away from the skyscrapers and crowds of Cairo and into Sudan where this rickety ferry packed with men in gleaming white robes was the only way to cross the river.
O: ORANGE FREE STATE
Apologies for the most flaky of my letters here, not least because this South African state has now changed its name to just ‘Free State’. That aside, it’s a farming heartland of rolling fields and big skies that would be a joy to drive through on a long road trip. By bicycle however the horizons never seemed to get any nearer. Big skies = big distances…
For anyone infected with wanderlust words like “Patagonia” are sure to set the pulse racing. And you won’t be disappointed – it’s as wild, windy and wonderful as you imagine it to be.
I’m happy to have a decent option for the letter ‘Q’: Qingdao is a former German colony in Eastern China. The German legacy lives on in the form of a really good beer brewery! Qingdao was my first port of call in China so I have very fond memories of steaming soup and dumpling breakfasts at street cafes in busy, noisy markets. I have less fond memories of this TV interview where I understood not one word of the crew’s questions!
Sprawled across thousands of miles and nine time zones, it’s not possible to summarize Russia in just one photo. But I love this one for its zaniness: cycling through Siberia in the winter was a fairly mad experience. But when a vodka-toting tank driver pulled alongside for a cheerful chat we really did feel a long way from home.
S: SIERRA LEONE
I don’t want to be glib about a life in poverty, but I’m not the only traveler to have noticed a direct correlation between the poorness of a country and the enormity of children’s smiles. And for that reason (as well as many others) I loved Sierra Leone.
The weird and wonderful world of Turkmenistan is captured perfectly through this giant gold statue of the late dictator Turkmenbashi. It revolves through the day to follow the sun. A very wacky country well worth a quick visit.
No journey round the world is complete without experiencing America: the leader of the free world and the home of so much that is great – Springsteen, Dylan, Steinbeck, Baywatch… Good people, amazing landscapes and huge food portions also appealed. As an Englishman I felt a real affinity with much of America. I hope though that I am allowed to have found some bits of it quite amusing too?!
Any round the world experience will involve a degree of tedious bureaucracy and admin. You should not let this completely put you off, however. Once you have got the hang of picking up visas along the way it really is not too tricky. A bit of time, patience and money is all that is required. And the visas that are the most troublesome to get hold off usually tend to be the most worthwhile in the long run. So persevere through the tedium!
Keeping it close to home now with a little cheer for good old Britain. When the sun shines (admittedly not quite as often as it might), I honestly don’t think there’s anywhere better on Earth…
This semi-autonomous region of China holds many happy memories for me from my first big bicycle journey. Aged 20 a friend and I cycled over the Karakoram Mountains from Pakistan into Xinjiang and I realised that bicycles are certainly the best way to see the world.
For a feeling of truly untouched wilderness you need to take to a river for your journeys. Add to that the vastness of the Yukon and the senses really start to tingle. Chuck in a couple of grizzly bears too and you end up with a very excited English adventurer!
Despite the tragedy of today’s political situation in Zimbabwe, I felt very safe and welcome in this beautiful southern African country. So what better way to end my A to Z than with Zebras in Zimbabwe?!
What do you think of my selection? Can you do better? Please have your say in the comments below.
This post was originally written for the Huffington Post.