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|:: The Three Things to not Forget.

Before you go, the three things to not forget in your travel bags are a corkscrew, a torch and a pair of binoculars. Don't be dissuaded from packing them in an attempt to keep your baggage allowance under the limit. Everything but the corkscrew you should be able to squeeze into your pockets or hand luggage. Of the three, the one I missed the most was the torch when I realised it was dusk, it was an hours hike back to Urabama in the Sacred Valley and the path I had come up on wasn't very good.

The photocopied hotel map, in the failing light, seemed to offer a better return route, that is, until I found myself at the edge of a terrace looking out at the tops of the trees below.  I hesitated. I've always been hopeless with maps. I had a transfer booked to the train station for 7am, so if  the sun rose at about 5am I could curl up on the ground for the night and still have enough time to get back to the hotel, shower and make the transfer. "Don't be ridiculous", I mused, "there must be an easy way down."

There was a way down, but it certainly wasn't easy; precipitous edges, breaks in the terrace walls, darkness, ancient Inca steps, double backs, a Laurel and Hardy like internal dialogue, private property and finally two hours later the last obstacle, to scale over an eight foot gate. On the other side, a thankful kiss to the ground, and I could make out in the distance under a streetlight, another human being. I was saved. I resolved to never again travel without a torch. This is by far the most important of the three to not forget.

The next, has to be the corkscrew. After such a misadventure you really want to repair to your hotel room, open a bottle of wine, have a long drink, think about how lucky you were and of how you will never ever travel again without a torch. But have you ever tried to buy a corkscrew in the Sacred Valley late on a Sunday night? Which brings us to the third essential thing to pack.

Early that evening I had gone out to see some cave paintings on the side of the mountain. Having made the hike I was determined to see them, which is fine, except they're better viewed with binoculars and of course I had none. So instead I tried to get closer, peered until the sun sank and ended up with this "great expedition" back to the hotel.

So that's item number three to not forget, a pair of lightweight binoculars. Let's face it, whether you're back packing or you've spent an obscene amount on your holiday the simple fact is you're never going to get as close as you might like; the cave paintings or the hump backed whales or the humming birds will be too distant or small to see fully with your own eyes.



|:: Antarctica

The Antarctic is one of the few places on earth that still retains a veil of mystery. Scott, lost expeditions, the Endurance, severe weather conditions, forlorn white landscapes, research stations, icebergs and abandoned whaling stations all shiver into life when we think about this vast white continent. The fact that you can visit it in relative comfort today is an amazing opportunity if you have the budget......more


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