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6457.  Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:13 pm Reply with quote

On instructions from Jenny, I'm starting a new thread with three travel tips.

1. Always, invariably, without any exception, every day and on every trip even to the most 'civilised' area, carry several wodges of toilet paper with you. If you don't have it, sure as James Bond at Christmas you'll need it; or if you don't, whether for the original purpose or as a hankie, graze-or-face-washer, blood-wiper, shoe-padder, sanitary towel, or other form of medical or personal assistance, you can bet your last penny that one or more of your travelling companions will, and if you can reliably supply it your popularity is assured for the whole of the trip.

2. Take as many plastic cards as you can lay your hands on, and traveller's cheques to back them up, and English money, and dollars. Five days into a fourteen-day trip in Morocco, all three of my cards went kaput for different reasons, only one of which was my fault. Disconcerting, if good for the figure. Fortunately, I had some dollars, and some British notes; unfortunately, many of these were Scottish ones, which the local banks trefused to accept. Belt, braces, and a bit rope as well, chaps.

3. If you are a size 24, ensure that your sleeping bag is not a size 16.

6463.  Sat Mar 13, 2004 5:54 pm Reply with quote

And tell us all about the trip to Morocco Frances...

(Excellent and useful advice by the way.)

6465.  Sat Mar 13, 2004 6:05 pm Reply with quote

A bathplug, one of the flat ones that'll fit any plughole, that's what you need. And Fuji brand film comes in transparent canisters, so it's quicker for visual checking at airport security

That last one's probably a bit out of date now - you'd probably have a digital camera and the security people wouldn't allow a visual inspection anyway.

6470.  Sat Mar 13, 2004 8:45 pm Reply with quote

Buy an iPod and bung your entire CD collection on it. As well as headphones for the flight, a travel plug and a small pair of powered computer speakers connected to the iPod will give you a decent hi-fi system and access to all your music, anywhere in the World.

6473.  Sun Mar 14, 2004 1:00 pm Reply with quote

Books usually constitute my heaviest travelling item, but I'm not that fond of listening to audiobooks except in the car so I can't see me going the iPod route for those.

Packing books for a holiday is quite painful. You have to pack lightweight and heavyweight (literally as well as metaphorically) and books that you know you'll want to read and books that you know you ought to read.

When our kids were small and we used to do two or three weeks in a mobile home somewhere in France, we used to take a cardboard box full of books as there were five of us who wanted reading material. Rich and I used to try and combine a few that both of us wanted to read, but his tastes were rather different from mine most of the time. Fortunately, I've always enjoyed reading children's books, so I used to encourage the kids to take books I hadn't read yet.

6475.  Sun Mar 14, 2004 4:46 pm Reply with quote

Oh, and one tip I left out: never takes books when you're travelling.

If you must, take one book and swop it with another traveller when you've had enough of it. In my travelling days there was a perpetual game of Old Maid going on, in which everyone was trying not to be the one who got stuck with Steppenwolf.

6476.  Sun Mar 14, 2004 4:48 pm Reply with quote

<has withdrawal symptoms at the prospect of travelling without at least three choices of reading material>

6477.  Sun Mar 14, 2004 5:47 pm Reply with quote

I find puzzle books are excellent for getting me off to sleep - infuriating, but impersonally so, exercising the brain, such as it is, rather than the emotions.

If you're like me and can't get to sleep with cold feet, an empty plastic water bottle can be filled with warm - not hot - water as a hottie. Just don't put the top on until the air inside has expanded fully, or it can be an unexpected douche bath.

About Morocco, Jenny - what can I say? Wonderful markets, tiny twisted lanes where you can't look at the scenery for watching where you put your feet in case you sprain an ankle. Moulay Idris, the sacred town, is a three-dimensional maze. I got lost several times in the souks of Fez and Marrakesh, and even in Essaouira, which is a small town about the size of Nairn where I live. [Tip - always bargain but pleasantly, aiming for about half the asked price - you won't make it, probably, unless you bargain 'like a berber', but at least set yourself a limit. 'What would I pay for this at home?' Then take 10% off that, to allow for taxes, and don't exceed it.. There are few things as irritating as getting home and seeing the exact thing you have just carried home in triumph, with such tender care to prevent it being broken, grinning at you from the local charity shop at a quarter of the price.]

A little berber story; a berber who gets married will often go on honeymoon alone to save money.

French, even simple schookl French, is a necessity in Morocco. Some people speak some English, but you can't rely on it. Except in the markets, naturally.

We went for a camel ride into the Sahara. Very high and unsteady; one of my friends got seasick. Out into the dunes, our shadows like a Three Kings Christmas card, to see the sunset which would have been wonderful if we hadn't been overtaken by a sandstorm. I later excavated about half a pound of sand out of my right ear, despite having a 'touareg turban' tied on firmly. If you want to know how to tie one, just ask; I brought mine home and gave it to the lad next door, who I'm told has worn it almost constantly ever since. The Riffs ride again!

The tile mosaics are incredible, as is the lacy stone-carving. And at least there the girl children, though they may wear a headscarf, don't run to hide when they see you coming.

Walking down Maohammed V Street in Marrakesh - all main roads in all Moroccan towns are Mohammed V Street and all next most important roads are Hassan !! [I may have the numbers the wrong way round] - We wondered where the lovely scent was coming from. Then we realised it was from the orange trees lining the road, with flowers and fruit; though the only oranges left were fairly well in and high up, not easy to reach. Very pleasant!

This earl in the yeary, it was actually perishing cold. Luckily I had a warm jumper and cardigan, and lots of layers, and you can buy socks everywhere. This has been the longest, wettest winter for decades, the farmers are delighted as they're getting a second crop. There were floods the week before we arrived. The whole country is still surprisingly green, and the rivers, most of them, still have some water in them.

Because we were a small party, only four, we visited berber and touareg houses, one right up about two hundred feet below the snow line on magnificent Mount Toubkal - we had to walk up to it, about three thousand feet up a very rough trail from the village below where the bus dropped us off; good thing it was towards the end of the trip, I'd never have made it at the start, but I'd walked so much that I was at least a tiny bit fit. Went to a hammam there - the whole floor was sinfully luxuriously hot to lie on, but coming out into the cold afterwards - yuk!

It was so cold up there, we insisted on getting a big charcoal pot heater to sit round in the evening. You can pick them up by the base and carry them, the charcoal glowing only inches from your hands; it's hot but not unbearable and looks terrifying. And they're great for toasting the flat rounds of Moroccan bread, just tear the quarter-loaves open and lay them on top of the charcoal - mmm. The ash is good for the digestion, anyway.

The children in anotherhouse insisted on offering me green almonds off their own garden trees; veruy sweet, like peas. I dislike the word 'cute', but they were - the children, not the almonds. All boys or men whose names you don't know are called 'Mohammed', and all girls are 'Fatima'; rather like 'Jimmie' or 'Mac' in Scotland.

In some hotels you get a kind of farola instead of porridge on the breakfast buffet. It tastes good, with some of their ubiquitous peach jam stirred in, but may give you the runs.

The oranges are the best I have ever tasted.

Two of my companions were American, who cooed over every animal they saw; 'Oh, baby!' does not suit a mangy camel. I'll swear that after a week in Marrakesh Sharon could have found her way round the souk by recognising the cats, like a dog-barking navigator.

Other points as I get my head sorted out.

6485.  Sun Mar 14, 2004 8:09 pm Reply with quote

Were the tile mosaics and the lacy stone carving like the ones we saw in Granada, Frances?

This sounds like a wonderful trip, by the way. Looking forward to reading any more that occurs to you to write about. Thank you for sharing it with us.

6495.  Tue Mar 16, 2004 10:58 am Reply with quote

Incidentally, I have the opportunity in August next year to travel to Macchu Picchu (sp?) as my daughter is doing a mega-travelling-trip for four months and wants me to join her there. I am of course salivating at the thought, and would welcome any information anybody has about the place or travel tips connected with it.

Frederick The Monk
6497.  Tue Mar 16, 2004 11:28 am Reply with quote

My advice on going to Machu Picchu is to go whilst it's still there.
Slip sliding away......

The fabled lost city of the Incas is teetering on the edge of a landslide

MACHU Picchu, the ancient Incan stronghold in the Peruvian Andes, is in imminent danger of being destroyed by landslides. Japanese geologists have found that the earth beneath the ruins is shifting at an alarming rate. They say a major landslide could split the ruins in two at any time.

Machu Picchu was the last refuge of the Inca empire after it was overrun by Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century. Perched in the Andes 2550 metres above sea level, the city is built on two ridges on a spur, with a gentle "front" slope on the eastern side and a steeper "back" slope on the west side. American archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins in 1911 and UNESCO has listed the city as a World Heritage Site.

Researchers from the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University set up 10 extensometers to measure the rate of surface movement. They found that one section of back slope was moving downwards at a rate of up to 1 centimetre per month.

"This is quite fast, and it's a precursor stage of a rockfall or a rock slide," says Kyoji Sassa, who recently presented his findings at a Tokyo symposium organised by UNESCO. "It's not possible to say exactly when the landslide might occur, but that will be the focus of the next stage of our research."

Sassa estimates that the landslide will be around 100 metres deep, enough to destroy all of Machu Picchu. The two-ridge structure of the siteówith a concave dip in the middleómeans that it could disappear in two stages. The west slope would collapse first, making the east slope and its ridge unstable. Then the second slope would follow.

Landslides are common at Machu Picchu, and the spur on which the Inca citadel rests is actually made of rocks from a previous landslide. "Usually such (mountain) villages are constructed on landslide areas," says Sassa. "Other parts aren't suitable, and only landslide areas can supply water and soil for farming."

Sassa discovered that small rockfalls and deformations have already damaged the structures at Machu Picchu. There is a distortion line running north-south inside the citadel and buildings along the line show signs of damage. A popular lodge and cafe had to be repaired after suffering structural damage because of subsidence.

As well as determining when a catastrophic landslide might occur, the Kyoto university researchers hope that future studies will help them work out how to avoid the impending disaster.

Of course there is an argument that one of the causes of the problem is too many visitors.......

s: New Scientist vol 169 issue 2281 - 10†March†2001, page 20

6500.  Tue Mar 16, 2004 11:51 am Reply with quote

I'm now dithering about whether to go or not - I don't want to be there when it finally gives way!

6518.  Thu Mar 18, 2004 11:53 am Reply with quote

I'm just back from driving in blinding rain and mist, a six-hour trip from Inverness, via Fort William, through Glencoe and the Trossachs and out west to Bute, and then back oin weather which, like the curate's egg, was excellent in parts. I have travelled fairly extensively in the Northern Hemisphere, including the Karakoram Highway, and as far as my expeience goes I am here to tell you, as my American friends would say, that I would back Scotland, in any weather, for variety, beauty and majesty of scenery in any weather against any country you like to name.

6519.  Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:07 pm Reply with quote

Hey Frances - fancy a trip to Machu Picchu with me in August next year? So we can see it before it gives way (assuming it lasts that long and doesn't collapse meanwhile, like New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountains)?

6520.  Thu Mar 18, 2004 1:12 pm Reply with quote

Frances, I've just got back from my local shop which is a hard 25 minute tramp away to read your last post. These little incidentals of my life are only of interest because the shop happens to overlook Bute. Whenever I think, as I occasionally, do, what the hell am I doing here, a walk to that shop, and now your post, answers the question. I'm in the process of planning an island hopping trip by bus and ferry ( my front door to Islay - Colonsay - Tiree - Barra - Uist - Harris - Lewis - Skye - Mallaig - my front door ) for the summer. In fact, the Calmac timetable arrived today.


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