A wet day in Wimbledon (travel plans for 2016)

However much I am adapting to my new life outside the Metropolis I do find myself pulled back to the Smoke on a regular basis. I snapped these fairytale characters on my way back from one of the travel shows held at this time every year in the great exhibition hall at Olympia. Now, it’s not as if these huge shows actually have much to say to me any more; all the highly enthusiastic youngsters on the stands have to be paid somehow but I am unlikely to fall for their salesmanship.

One of my objectives was to meet some of the staff on the India Tourism stand and send a little gift back to my most important contact in Delhi. Deepak is a wizard with the Indian railway system and, after the success of my 2013 Odyssey, we have something similar in mind for November/December of 2016. I have so much more to see in Central India and the only way I could reasonably afford to get around some of the many outstanding sites is to take a pensioner’s ticket and ride the railways for a few weeks. I certainly don’t want to think that my tombstone might be engraved with the words “She never visited Hyderabad”. In deference to my advancing years, however, I may try to persuade Grahame to come out and join me for the final two weeks of the trip.

As it turned out, Lokesh, my contact for the show had been laid low by one of the many unpleasant viruses proliferating in our soaking wet British Winter and could not be there to greet me. But the logo on one of my free goody bags says “Surprising India” and it has never failed to deliver. I made a very promising contact for my projected 2017 trip to the Seven Sisters of the North East. Apparently he has connections with Royalty but I’ve already read enough to know that these seven small, remote states were once split into countless tiny kingdoms. I don’t think I’ll be needing my ceremonial medals or white gloves.

Another reason for visiting the show was to see if I could find some options for filling out a few of my gaps in the Silk Road. Yes, I know very well that it was never just one simple route across Asia and that much of the Middle East is, to put it diplomatically, “Inadvisable” at the moment but some outfits are still offering trips through the ‘stans. Actually they are still offering trips all the way from Istanbul to Xian: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Xinjiang and the Hexi Corridor*. The full list is likely to make my eyes, rather than my mouth, water because no-one could possibly hope to absorb so much history and culture in a single trip. It took Marco Polo twenty four years, after all.

Nonetheless, I discovered some interesting possibilities. Given that I am not young or foolhardy enough to want to venture off into Central Asia on my own, there are organised segments which can be linked up as desired, there are budget options and there are more comfortable single country tours. Perhaps I will be able to get to Samarkand one day but another, much more surprising, destination is apparently still on the menu. Baghdad.

Believe it or not the outfit that took me to Afghanistan is still offering (carefully supervised) trips to Mesopotamia. Babylon, Uruk, and Ctesiphon: these names are engraved on my soul, never mind my tombstone but, while we are on the subject of tombstones, they are not looking like viable possibilities for the foreseeable. My family might just forgive me if I were washed off a mountain road in the Himalaya but if I were taken hostage in Iraq? I doubt it.

The rest of the stuff on offer at the show was all Sunday Supplement same, same, same. Thank goodness for my inspiring geography teacher of all those years ago and the modest investigative skills I still retain from the day job. It is amazing that so many people chose to go to so few destinations but I suppose that their lack of imagination is my good fortune. Here is a sample from other people’s “Before I Die” wish list posted beside the coffee shop:

I want to paddleboard the English Channel

I want to dog sled across Alaska

I want to raft the Zambezi

I want to perform a real ice axe brake

I want to visit the Shire in New Zealand

I want to ski in Antarctica

And my own offering:

I want to be able to revisit a peaceful Syria (Inshallah)

(* Actually I did manage to recite all of these countries without looking them up although a bit of help was needed with the spelling.)

Categories: Britain, London


  • Chris says:

    I bet you are just jealous because all those other travellers are all so physically fit!

  • nicolaainsworth says:

    Or like to think they are! It was January, the period of New Year’s Get-Fit-Quick resolutions, wasn’t it? Personally I think that if you never get into condition in the first place then you never risk getting out of it in the future.

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