Wild deserts, wild mountains and wild coastline, together with some of the most wonderful people on the planet. Morocco has all the things that Jeff Barnard, one-time Intrepid leader, looks for in an adventurous destination…
“One of the best trips I enjoyed was camping in the great sand desert on the edge of the Sahara – Erg Chebbi. It has to be one of the most fantastic landscapes imaginable. Huge sand dunes rising from the desert floor, constantly being sculpted by the wind and the colours changing with the setting sun.
We were camping out under the stars and had our safari vehicle pulled up in a valley between two dunes. Before we tucked into a superb dinner, our local guide Mohamed came over to me and said he was worried by the threat of high winds. Instead of sleeping out, he asked if we wanted to move to a caravanserai after dinner. It was a perfectly still evening and everyone was looking forward to sleeping under the desert night sky, so we decided to stay put.
Seeing our world through the eyes of young travellers is a fantastic reminder that our planet really is diverse and exciting. Kaitlin Nichols went with her family to Vietnam and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since…
“I think the most fun that I have had trying to speak local dialect was actually on an Intrepid tour. It was in Vietnam and Son, our tour guide, attempted to teach our group some frequently used phrases. There were the basic ones, like hello and good bye, but we were also taught the numbers and sayings.
Cuba is renowned for its rich heritage of music and dance and as Intrepid’s Claire Baxter discovered, you can’t help but tap your toes to the rhythms of Central America…
“Music and dance are everywhere in Cuba and definitely provided some of the great highlights of my trip. I’d been attending salsa classes for a year or two and was looking forward to practising with people who really knew how. When we arrived in Santiago our leader organised a fairly informal class in a private home so that we could all learn some basic steps and rhythms. Then before dinner we were taken to watch a band practise in what appeared to be akin to a garage. As well as being a wonderful opportunity to interact with the locals, the band encouraged us to get up and dance so that we could practise amongst ourselves without a whole club watching.
When I read your item about the Marquesas, I really got nostalgic. I sailed from Newport Beach, California, in February of 1974 aboard our 32 foot double-ended wooden sailboat, to New Zealand. Our first stop was Taiohai Bay in the Marquesas. Just hearing about your travels there made me want to return to the Marquesas.
We were 32 days at sea on the first leg of the trip, with three of us sailing our boat, taking turns ‘on watch’. It was an exciting and wonderful experience.
The Marquesan people are so very friendly. In one bay a lady led us on a trail through an amazing green forest to a wonderful waterfall. We all had a swim in the pool at the foot of the falls. We also hiked from Taiohai Bay over the mountains on a path that the warriors of old used when on the war path from one village to another. We could still feel their energy, and it felt like we should crouch down and slink along so we wouldn’t be seen.
In Shanxi Province in 2005, Chinese archaeologists discovered what they believe is the world’s oldest observatory, dating back some 4,100 years. In this International Year of Astronomy we continue to wonder about our place in the Universe, and if you can really see the Great Wall from the moon, then Intrepid’s Rachel Wasser wonders who is looking at who…
“One of the major highlights of any trip to China is the Great Wall. Having been to six different sections at various times of the year, I like to consider myself somewhat of an expert. I have to say, the best way to see it is a four-hour hike along the Gubeikou to Jinshanling section. I have done the hike twice and there’s just nothing like it!
If you are searching for a real adventure that takes you off the regular tourist trail, then join Intrepid’s Jill Petrella as she reveals that hidden beneath the forested hills of Belize are river caves with tales to tell…
“Many of the Mayan ruins of Central America are well-known and sites such as Palenque, Chichen Itza and Tikal can’t fail to impress with their size and grandeur. However, not all the remnants of this civilisation are so easy to find.
From the small town of San Ignacio in Belize I enjoyed the day river-caving. To enter the cave we had to swim across deep, cold, crystal clear water. Then we spent the next two hours wading, swimming and climbing through the cave. The water was fast-flowing so we had to hold on to each other in some sections to avoid being swept away. The only light was from our head torches and the only sound was the gushing of water.
This holiday adventure had been a long time in the planning. Having a keen interest in Polynesian culture, and specifically being great admirers of the artisans who continue the traditions of tiki carving, our dream was to visit the Marquesas Islands.
This isn’t your everyday travel destination and is certainly not on the regular tourist route. The most common question when people heard where we were going was “Where’s that?” The Marquesas Islands are part of French Polynesia and sit 1500 km (800 nautical miles) northeast of Tahiti and just 6 degrees below the Equator. Although supplies come via Papeete, and this is where children usually go for higher education or where more advanced medical services are available, in many ways the Marquesas are worlds away from Tahiti. The Marquesans have their own language, unique customs and even the climate is different (often less humid and drier on some islands).
For many people, Russia is synonymous with Russian dolls (matryoshki), fur hats (shuba), samovars and Soviet memorabilia. So it’s not surprising that these are the most sought after souvenirs on visits to Mother Russia. And luckily Intrepid’s Tania George knows just the place to shop in Moscow…
“Located close to metro stop Partizanskaya and the Izmailovo Hotel complex, the Izmailovo markets seem to go on forever. Open daily from 10am till 6pm, you can buy literally everything here. Locals shop for clothes, shoes, household utensils, tools, fabric, illegally copied CD’s and DVD’s, etc. If you get hungry, you can enjoy cheap local snacks and drinks at one of the many food stalls.
All this is great, but for the souvenir shoppers among us, there is an even more interesting part… Vernisazh.
Live out your Saharan fantasies as your trusty camel takes you up and over sand dunes to a desert camp. Morocco made this desert dream come true for Jen Bird, one-time Intrepid leader, when she joined our Berber friends for a night of tall tales, traditional songs and a fireside feast…
“Deserts have long fascinated me. Their sheer endlessness and harsh, barren nature is at odds with the extraordinary life they harbour. They are the epitome of a dangerous, yet mesmerising beauty. So in Morocco, when I found the perfect opportunity to see the sands of the magnificent Sahara Desert, I was understandably thrilled!
“In my opinion critics have been a little tough on the movie A Good Year, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott. It’s true that the story is a bit predictable: Max, a British broker, inherits a rustic chateau with a vineyard in Provence. He decides to sell it, but he falls in love with the laid-back Provencal lifestyle and Fanny, a beautiful French woman. However, I loved watching it for the real star of the movie: the stunning countryside of Provence.