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The Great Balkan Ride

The Great Balkan Ride

After more than two decades on and off-road Ursula was in bad shape. Her speedometer did not work, nor did her fuel gauge. Ursula’s odometer was stuck on 147,467.8km and nobody knew when it stopped counting. Her air-conditioning worked in theory, but in practise caused the engine to overheat. Her..
Four days in ‘Four Countries’

Four days in ‘Four Countries’

There’s a noise some Japanese people make when hearing something moderately interesting or unusual. It starts at the back of their throat, rises in pitch and might be written as “eurgh!” If, for example, you were to say you’re eschewing their brilliant rail system in favour of driving a rental..
The Sunshine Underground

The Sunshine Underground

I’m standing in a cloud forest on Mombacho, an active volcano in Nicaragua. Far below lies the colonial city of Granada from which the mountain’s ragged, blasted peaks make a hazy silhouette. It may not have erupted since the days of the Conquistadors, when this land was known as the Captaincy..
The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

Vail in the off season is a strange place to be. Through winter, it is one of the busiest, most expensive places in America, the resort dozens of US Winter Olympics athletes choose to call home. The glamour and buzz are much harder to imagine in early summer, when Vail..
In Search of Snow Hill

In Search of Snow Hill

The Ship There’s a strangeness to being in Antarctica, a sense of the surreal. I’m fortunate to have been several times, but repetition hasn’t shaken the peculiarity of the experience. It’s a place where the air is clearer than you can imagine, where the water is purer and the landscapes..
The Eire Up There

The Eire Up There

The smashed avo on artisanal sourdough, teased with freshly ground spices and enlivened with hand-squeezed citrus was being well received by my adolescent dinner guests. OK, I would go on to make the exact same thing for dinner the next night and, yes, it was ultimately just discounted avocado on..
The Fairmen of the Boards

The Fairmen of the Boards

Rovaniemi is not bodacious. One does not go there to hang ten. Here, on the very edge of the Finnish Arctic Circle, you’ll find Christmas song before Billabong. The town unashamedly markets itself as ‘The Official Hometown of Santa Claus’, and though I don’t see the fat man when I visit,..
Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

I have been good at many computer games, but I have been great at only one: Tekken. The ‘King of Iron Fist Tournament’ was first developed by Japanese gaming stalwarts Namco in 1994 and a few months later became one of the early flagship titles for the new Sony Playstation...
Hell in Paradise

Hell in Paradise

Ronnie Vorswyk spends most of his days in a Napoleonic jail at the edge of the Amazon jungle. A guide in the sprawling, long-disused Transportation Prison in Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana, the 60-year-old is originally from the former Dutch colony of Suriname, just on the other side..
Winter’s Past

Winter’s Past

The Governor is a man of few words but many jobs. Sitting in his permanently oil-stained orange overalls, he looks past me, out of a window in the Pyramiden Hotel with the look of a concerned parent.  Out there, on the decaying streets of Pyramiden, Petr Petrovich is caretaker, driver, gardener, janitor, just..