A hundred miles east of Los Angeles lies the desert city of Palm Springs. It has drawn visitors for over a century for its dry heat, laid-back vibe and mountain views. It's a popular retirement destination, a seasonal home for "snowbirds" escaping winter in other parts of North America and an escape from urban life for the residents of Los Angeles.
During the winter months, the city's population triples. This makes February and March a pleasant time to visit although, as in many parts of the world, early 2019 saw more extreme weather than usual! A cold streak and flooding let to highway closures and damage to housing. On the drive from LA to Palm Springs, snow can still be seen on the surrounding mountains.
The landscape during the drive is quite varied, taking you from mountains to desert. Thousands of wind turbines dot the landscape on either side of Highway Ten, just outside Palm Springs. Some are hundreds of feet tall, with wing-spans as long as a football field. They provide a gre...
The Atacama Desert in Chile lies 1000km north of the capital Santiago. It’s a two hour flight to Calama then a 90 minute bus trip to the tourist town of San Pedro de Atacama. It is the driest place on earth, the local joke being that the weather forecast is: no rain for the next 200 years. To the east it is bounded by the cordillera – the snow-capped Andes which separate Chile from Bolivia and Argentina.
Most sites can be reached on dirt roads. The easiest trip is to Salar de Atacama, a vast salt lake where flamingos feast on brine shrimp. Lizards and water birds abound.
Mars Valley is an easy hike through sand dunes to a sand-boarding area. The desert lies at 2,500 metres above sea level, so to become acclimatised to the altitude these are good first up trips. The strong wind whips sand into every part of your clothing.
At 3,500 metres are the thermal pools, which can be reached by bus or by hiking through a shady canyon bordered by lone cactuses and old Indian stone corrals for llamas.
The High Line has become one of New York's key tourist attractions, and very popular with the locals too. A disused and abandoned railtrack was transformed by urban designers into a public walkway, outdoor art gallery and "elevated park" thirty feet above the streets of Manhattan.
The High Line runs 1.45 miles (2.33 km) from the Meatpacking District on the Lower West Side through to Chelsea in Midtown.
As well as a great view of the NYC skyline, there is art to see along the way.
Plenty of greenery is on view, with more than 500 varieties of trees, grasses and flowers planted.
Benches every few steps provide respite from all the walking.
Some residents take the opportunity to make statements, political or otherwise, visible to the passers-by...
The High Line is an escape from the traffic and urban hustle and bustle of New York. But not too much of an escape - with over 8 million visitors annually, you are guaranteed not to be alone up there!
The La Guajira peninsula is the northern most tip of the South American continent shared between Colombia and Venezuela - a thin strip of arid desert straddling the two countries and jutting out into the Caribbean Sea. The peninsula boasts more than 350 kilometres of uninhabited windswept coastline, hours of open red sand desert expanses, colonies of cactus populations and remote indigenous communities and fishing villages. It is a paradoxical place, reminding me of the beauty of outback Australia but the poverty of rural Africa – somewhere both stunning beautiful and devastatingly poor.
‘Gambas’ for sale: A Wayuu woman sells fresh prawns caught that morning in the Caribbean Sea just a few kilometres from the desert environment in which she and her family live.
Tippy top of the continent: Straddling Colombia and Venezuela, the La Guajira peninsula is the most northern point of South America.
La Guajira attracts travelers with a certain sense of adventure– those happy to go without running...
It’s that time of year when social media newsfeeds are taken over by images of European summer: scooters, beaches, Aperol spritz and antipasti platters. So instead of letting my mouth water one moment longer, I decided to do something productive with my nostalgia, and reflect back on a wonderful trip to Italy my fiancé and I had in August last year.
The little mountain village of Champoluc, nestled in the Ayas Valley (Val d’Ayas) in the region of Aosta in northern Italy, is just two hours’ drive north west of Milan. The town is only home to around 500 locals but this number swells to more than triple during the winter ski season. We visited in the ‘off season’, swapping the snow and skis for long hikes through endless mountain trails, fields of wildflowers, dinging goat bells and around turquoise glacial lakes. By the time we arrived in the last week of August, autumn was peeping its head around the corner, the summer holiday crowds were heading back home, and we felt as if we virtually...
When Dad announced that he wanted us to join him on a family road trip at the end of the year, my brothers and I thought he must want to drive from the west to east coast of Australia across the Nullarbor Plain. Surprisingly though, he had a much more adventurous idea… flash forward 12 months and we were touching down in Lhasa, Tibet to begin our 800km road trip on the Friendship Highway to the border with Nepal.
The Friendship Highway is one of the highest roads in the world, with sections of the route peaking at over 5000 metres above sea level. Starting in Lhasa, the road winds west through Tibet before hitting the Himalayas and the Nepali border. At 3656 metres above sea level, and with subzero temperatures in the middle of winter, Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. It is the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in China and was home to the Dalai Lama until he was forced to flee in the late 1950s following the Chinese takeover of Tibet.
Waking up to the sunrise over the pyramids of Meroe in Sudan is one of the most magical experiences I’ve had in all my travels to date. Unzipping the tent at the crack of dawn, and walking out across the rippled red desert, we perched atop a sand dune and watched in awe as the pyramid faces gradually changed colour as the sun began to peak over the horizon.
Climbing to the top of a sand dune to watch the sun rise over the pyramids.
The Pyramids of Meroe at sunrise.
The Pyramids of Meroe are a collection of around 200 Nubian pyramids built more than 2000 years ago, which - although less impressive in size than the pyramids found in neighbouring Egypt - are nonetheless the largest collection of Nubian pyramids in the world. Nestled in the red desert about 100km north of Sudan’s capital Khartoum, the pyramids, a UNESCO world heritage site, can be visited in an overnight trip from the capital. The adventure to the pyramids can be combined with a half day trip to a collection of ancient tombs...
Springtime in Japan brings the fleeting season of 'sakura' (cherry blossoms), a major annual event that has been celebrated here for centuries. Shops and stores sell sweets, drinks and dumplings flavoured with the blossoms
The flowers are in bloom for only a week or so and then start to fall, blanketing Tokyo in a blizzard of pink. They symbolise the impermanence of life - and the importance to fully appreciate its passing moments.
"Flower appreciation picnics" take place underneath the cherry trees in Tokyo's parks and along its canal sides. In some parks the trees are lit with lanterns for viewing after dark.
It is all very beautiful, but allergy-sufferers beware! Up to a quarter of the population suffer from hay fever at this time of year, and the visitor may want to pack some medication just in case.
Night falls, and Tokyo once again turns into a neon wonderland.
Blossom-viewing is hungry work - time for a hearty meal! Ramen is a dish whose popularity has exploded not only within Japan...
When one steps first outside the airport in Brunei Darussalam, two things hit you in the face. There's the humidity of course, which immediately wraps around your skin like cling film, and then there is the large tourism signs which proudly boast that you have arrived in The Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures.
Prior to visiting Brunei, you'll probably experience a conversation like this:
"I'm going on holiday to Brunei!" "Where? You mean Bahrain, or Bhutan?" "No Brunei, its a small country on the island of Borneo" For a handful of people, the island of Borneo will be enough of a geographic reference to feign knowledge of Brunei. But for most, eyes have glazed over, interest is lost, you're talking a foreign language. Therefore you may be correct to wonder which "unexpected treasures" await in this so called "Kingdom" that you have probably never heard of.
I have a nostalgic familiarity for this tiny oil rich, jungle dense, Muslim nation, with a population of just over 400,000. Bru...
I've been in Tokyo for four weeks now. Generally weather has been mild since arrival, a jacket barely required on some days and even sunny at times. But on the Monday after I arrived was an unexpectedly severe blizzard. More than 20cm of snow dumped onto the city over the course of the day. It was the most seen in over 4 years and brought chaos with it. On the roads police were pushing cars out of snowdrifts and traffic was at a crawl or standstill everywhere else. I'm sure the media were advising everyone to stay indoors.
Unwisely I decided to honour my dinner reservation at a restaurant, a fair distance from where I was staying. When I finally got there I was the only diner. Guess everyone else had either cancelled or set out and never made it. The chef gave me an extra course on the house and the manager gifted me his umbrella when I left, no doubt concealing his amazement at my stupidity in not havi...