The Savage Blog

Reaching Machu Picchu by foot, motorbike, train and hanging basket

Fancying ourselves intrepid adventurers with wanderlust galore, my husband and I chose to explore Peru by motorcycle – on our own, with no guides, just a vaguely accurate map. From Madre Dios, where the Amazon is born, through the remains of the mysterious Incan empire in the heady heights of the Andean mountains, to the even more mystical giant drawings in the sand left by the ancient Nasca, who conquered one of the the driest deserts in the world; the masses of gull and penguin guano in Paracas; the life threatening – or affirming, you choose – traffic of Lima; and finally, Machu Picchu.  MORE »

Riding the rickshaw taxis of Delhi

Jantar Mantar Road was a favorite venue for street demonstrations in Delhi. I discovered this fact when I took a room at a guest house situated in this corner of Old Delhi, not far from such monuments of the former British presence as the Imperial Hotel and India Gate. Out on the street, a permanent living theater unfolded in front of me. One could walk onto the road at any hour of the day or night and find free entertainment.  MORE »

Gabon to Namibia, Part II: Through the Congos to the midnight encampment in Luanda

As a couple of readers may have figured out by now, I recently completed a big wandering trip through Africa, where I slept on the floors of immigration posts and the like, engaged in pitched battles with insects the size of softballs, and ate over 1,000,000 kilograms of spaghetti, all while writing about it each week in a semi-polished 750- to 900-word newspaper column. Wow, it was an amazing feat, let me tell you, and now it’s all here, the whole unvarnished yarn from Tunis to Tangier to Dakar to Cape Town to Nairobi and the vast betweenity. Or most of the story anyway. Some bits didn’t make the cut, actually – details too persnickety or vulgar to put into print.  MORE »

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So you want to go from Cameroon to Namibia on public transport? Here’s more than you’d ever want to know

This post is for hard-core overland travel geeks only. The following text is actually a modified version of an email I sent to my friend Luke Aldred, who followed Roger Ward and I down the west coast of Africa from Cameroon to Namibia in February 2011. We’d started in Tangier (actually, they started in London, I in Madrid) and ended in Cape Town, traveling on land — and the occasional boat — the entire way. This post contains practical tips for people attempting the same route, most of which is not covered in any published guidebook. The prices, exchange rates and travel times mentioned here were accurate at the time of travel and may, like everything, be wildly different by the time you read this.


Crossing Angola overland: visas and more

Let’s say you’re crazy enough to want to cross overland from west or central Africa (Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon) to Namibia and South Africa. Heck, you may even wish to do it on public transport. First off, don’t be put off by the ignorant hysterics who tend to populate online travel forums saying it’s practically impossible. Thisroute isn’t for everybody, but it’s perfectly doable.


Does that horse come with Tartar sauce?

The Savage Blog is reactivatied! Scott Spires took the train a thousand miles from Moscow to Kazan, once home to Bulgars and khans, now capital of the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Tatarstan, a place with its own Kremlin — and where horse stomachs are served in a variety of styles. This is the kind of story that reminds us that the world is indeed still a big place; I myself knew virtually nothing about Kazan before I read this travelogue from his 2007 trip.


Arrival in Zanzibar: Hmm, think it’s time for a nap…

My recent trip from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam via bus and rail, including a two-day train journey via Tazara, the Tanzania and Zambia Railway, will be the subject of the final set of Africa columns soon to be published in The National and posted here, so I shan’t go into it much now. Zanzibar, where I’m sitting at the moment, is worth a word or several.


Spooked out in Arab ghost towns and abandoned Lhasa palaces

The Savage Blog has been the victim of benign neglect owing to a predilection for drinking beer, playing fussball and other pursuits in Cape Town that I can’t write about because my mother reads this (happy belated Mother’s Day, by the way). The Cape Town adventure, however, is finally finished, and to mark the occasion, here’s an update on what’s going down at Wandering Savage, now and in the near future: Tibetan trains, a ghost town in the Emirates, and lots more about Africa.


Tales of snowy peaks in Nepal, veggies pakoras and Angolan bus depots

I wish I could say I was making the most of my month-long stay in Cape Town, but the honest truth is that there’s been a lot of sitting by the pool, watching VH1, surfing the web and repeating the same jokes to one another – which in its own way, I suppose, is making the most of my stay in Cape Town. I’ve also been recovering from a hard drive near-failure, in defense of sparse posting. Anyway, there are more inspiring tales to be found here from such disparate and scattered places as Nepal and Angola.