India: Mumbai, a city that defies definition


Mumbai (until 1995: Bombay), capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. 18.4 million inhabitants (or well over 20 million if you count the wider metropolitan area). Soon the population of Mumbai will surpass that of the whole continent of Australia. Each day there are 700,000 cars that clog up the roads, breathing out fumes – air pollution in the city is now three times the allowed limit. Additionally, 7.5 million passengers attempt to board the insanely overcrowded commuter trains day in, day out. The city brings in more than 30% of the nation’s tax income. Rents in trendy Malabar Hill are well above those of Manhattan. Yet one in six Mumbaikars lives in a slum. Mumbai defies logic, it is beyond comprehension.

Continue reading

Spain: Three reasons why Lanzarote is a perfect winter sun destination


New Zealand. We had already planned a trip to that mythical (at least for us) land twice before, but postponed it because of friends’ weddings in South Africa and India respectively. But 2015 was to be THE year. And then life happened again, or more precisely, two lines on a pregnancy test happened. Not knowing how things would pan out, we decided to postpone NZ once again to a not so foreseeable future and look for a closer ‘baby moon’ location before our new arrival.

Continue reading

Ethiopia: Welcome to Addis

addis view from hotel

It was all going well until I discovered that Entebbe airport offered fast, free wifi. Having checked my emails and scanned Facebook, I casually googled ‘Ethiopian visa on arrival’. The top of the embassy page was familiar enough – I had checked back home that for 50 USD (presently sitting in my wallet – such foresight!) I could obtain a tourist visa on arrival. Technically, I wasn’t travelling as a tourist, but who was going to check…  But then I scrolled down the page and my heart skipped a beat: it said there in black on white that you had to present two passport photos with your application! I frantically searched through my wallet but neither my railcard nor my gym membership card had photos that would be remotely suitable, having been either trimmed and stamped over. Continue reading

Uganda: Kampala in the rain


Let’s face it, no city is nice in the rain. But this statement is particularly true about Kampala, as I’ve recently had a chance to find out.

I get up at 6 am, mindful that traffic in and around the city can be frantic. The sky is heavy with rain clouds and by the time I leave the breakfast room at my hotel it is raining. No, wait. To say it’s raining is a serious understatement. It is pouring, pissing, weeping with rain so intense that you don’t see drops or strings of water, just a constant wet wall.

Continue reading

France: The Alps in late summer

As a passionate skier I know the Alps from the perspective of a ski lift and I tend to judge the different locations by the quality and length of the ski slopes.

From that perspective, it is easy to forget that the Alps (not only on the French side, for that matter) are a fantastic all year-round holiday destination. When the skiers are gone, which is quite late, given the nearly permanent snowcap on the glaciers, there come the hikers and bikers. But things quieten down in the early autumn, when hikers are back at their desks and skiers haven’t arrived yet. That’s when we choose to spend a week in the French Alps.

Continue reading

London: The secret ‘tribe’ of Stamford Hill


The East London borough of Hackney is one of the most diverse in the city. It has grand Victorian townhouses sitting next to drab-looking blocks of social housing. Trendy cafes are full of young and beautiful hipsters in oversized glasses and circulation-restricting jeans sipping flat whites. Former warehouses are being converted into bohemian lofts at eye-watering prices. Next to all this women in burkhas pass by like shadows.

In the heart of Hackney, at Stamford Hill, lives one of the most secretive and closely-knit communities in London: the Hasidic Haredi Jews. Around 20,000 people inhabit an area just over one square mile, where you can find as many as 74 synagogues and 32 Orthodox Jewish schools. Their way of life bears no resemblance to the 21st century – they are permanently suspended sometime in the 19th century, somewhere in Eastern Europe.

Continue reading