Articles

 

 

Prospect Stile on The Cotswold WayFootpaths are neglected national treasures  The Times (subscription only) – see Hugh’s copy

As the world and its dog prepares to take the traditional Boxing Day hike, it’s a good moment to take stock of one of our most under-rated resources — the nation’s footpaths. 

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IMG_5111 crater portrait 02 lighter lo resOut of a Clear Grey Sky Intelligent Life Magazine (The Economist)

One day in 2007, a meteorite landed in a Peruvian hamlet. And it wasn’t just any meteorite. Hugh Thomson visits the locals and tracks the fall-out.

‘The meteorite appeared as a fireball with a smoky tail, coming out of the clear sky above Lake Titicaca. It could easily have fallen in the lake itself. But with a last burst of energy, it carried across the water and this sphere of compacted iron and pyroxene and feldspar and kamacite buried itself in the plain of Carancas.

Valentina’s son, José, I later discovered, had seen the meteorite fall. He had been standing in a field nearby, watching over their sheep. A man of few words, José’s first thought as the fireball slammed into the ground was “this is how the world ends”. ‘

 

 

 

 

 

England 3,000 years ago was already as suburban as the outskirts of Basildon. Photo by Peter Marlow/MagnumThe Sherwood syndrome  Aeon Magazine

We picture ancient Britain as a land of enchanted forests. That’s a fantasy: axes have been ringing for a very long time.

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Walking deep into England. Image: Getty

In England’s green and pleasant land  The Spectator

The idea came to me after I had just got back from South America after a long trip to Peru.  Perhaps because I was badly jetlagged, everything about England looked strange, different — and certainly worthy of as much exploration as I would give to a foreign country.

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Peru: Inca icons get pride of place  The Independent

This week Peruvians are celebrating an event that most thought would never happen: a new and splendid museum is opening in Cusco to house the “treasures of Machu Picchu” which are finally returning to Peru after spending the last century in the Connecticut city of New Haven.

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Finding the Lost City   Geographical

For the 100th anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu,  Hugh Thomson tells the tale of how a US explorer and academic came to uncover one of the greatest architectural achievements of pre-Columbian civilisation.

 

 

Magic circles: walking from Avebury to Stonehenge  The Guardian

A new walking path links Britain’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, and is as epic as the Inca Trail.

The Great Stones Way is one of those ideas so obvious it seems amazing that no one has thought of it before: a 38-mile walking trail to link England’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, crossing a landscape covered with Neolithic monuments.

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Lima, Peru: The ‘City of Kings’ reigns again  Daily Telegraph

Lima must have one of the most fabulous sunsets in the world. It helps, of course, that the city faces due west across the Pacific, so the setting sun can flood into the beaches and pick out the last surfers elegantly essaying a few lines.

Up above on the cliffs, paragliders spiral past the smoked-black windows of the nearby hotels, many of which have infinity pools on their rooftops.  It all seems very Californian….

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Fabergé Eggs in One Basket   The Times (subscription only)

Museums do make life easy. Four years ago I tried to reach the fabled site of Aï Khanum on the shores of the River Oxus in northeastern Afghanistan, the Greek city built by the followers of Alexander the Great.  Despite having a former bodyguard of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, with us, we were beaten back….

 

Peru’s jungle treehouse  The Guardian

I was not quite sure what I expected from the Amazon. It’s become such a romanticised ecological symbol – a flagship of all we stand to lose – that it’s hard to see the trees for the wood.

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Hunting with hawks in Oxfordshire Financial Times (subscription only)

There’s something mesmeric about the way a bird of prey alights on your arm. It’s to do with both the tremendous speed of approach and the stalling when it lands, an almost filmic effect of fast and slow motion.

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Adventure ride will put some zip into the Lake District  The Times (subscription only)

For many of my younger years I took part in the fell-running “manhunts” held in the west of the Lake District, in which a few runners are chased down by the rest of the pack.   One early morning, I stood on the top of Fleetwith Pike. Below me, coming up the Honister Pass and fanning out, were the hunters. I stood deliberately on the very top of the peak so that they could see me silhouetted. Then I blew the horn.

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Stonehenge is vital to the nation. It should be spared the cuts.  The Times (subscription only)

Stonehenge was given to the nation in 1918. So far, almost a century later, the nation has done a remarkably bad job of looking after it.  The situation at the site is, in the words of one leading archaeologist, “an embarrassing, abominable, inexcusable mess”. For decades, plans have been put forward to improve the site and then postponed.

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Dervla Murphy: (c) Hugh Thomson 2010

Around the world in 80 years.   Hugh Thomson, a contender for the Dolman Travel Book Award, discusses the art of travel writing with Dervla Murphy  Daily Telegraph

Dervla Murphy rarely gives interviews. She is one of our most senior and prolific travel writers – more than 20 books in a half-a-century career – but she is extremely publicity-shy, from an age before blog and spin were part of a writer’s toolkit. She’s not a J D Salinger – there’s the odd public sighting or visit to an Irish bar – but this was her first interview for many years.

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Our overcrowded trains are a disgrace:  It’s no wonder MPs want to travel first class   The Times

My journeys from hell? Waiting days for a series of cancelled boats in Ziguinchor, Senegal, at 100F in the shade, 6 out of 10. A bus trip across the Peruvian desert that lasted 24 hours, 8 out of 10. The train from Birmingham to Edinburgh, 10 out of 10. And not just because it was the last I did. Or because it cost hundreds of pounds. But because it could so easily have been better.

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(c) Hugh Thomson 2007 girls at afghan schoolWin hearts and minds in Afghanistan to win the war      The Times

Troop numbers are not the top priority. We must build schools, wells and factories
if ordinary people are to back us.

 

 

  

 

 

 Moctezuma, the Aztec dictator.  The Times

Cortés’s regime change was good for Mexico.  Moctezuma was a brutal and bloodthirsty dictator. It’s no wonder neighbouring tribes helped the Spanish to overthrow him.

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There’s a whole wide world out there still waiting to be explored  The Times

Are there still unknown corners of this world to be discovered? Is there any purpose to sending out large-scale expeditions to explore far-flung places?

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(c) Hugh Thomson 2009 umbrella fountain in anthrolopogy museum mexico 02

Mexico City Dreams   The Traveller Magazine

It may seem strange, in a tough, fast city that is so large and has such extremes of wealth and poverty, but I think of Mexico City as a place for dreamers.

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Tequila tales  Financial Times

Tequila used to be a real man’s drink, straight up and raw; the only accompaniments allowed were a pinch of lime and salt. One of PG Wodehouse’s pre-war characters ordered “a shot of that Mexican drink that they call – no, I’ve forgotten the name, but it lifts the top of your head off”.

Reins in Spain  The Guardian 

Bertrand Cauchy is a well-known figure in northern Spain: dubbed the “horse-whisperer of the Pyrenees”, he is celebrated for his ability to placate even the most difficult of steeds. But it was his reputation for placating even the most difficult of horsemen that led me to Cauchy’s home in Aragon….

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(c) Hugh THomson 2009 Hugh reading in sierra madreRevolution road   The Guardian 

on the legacy of Pancho Villa in the Chihuahua deserts:
It was the start of the Mexican national holidays, and we were celebrating in a small Latino bar in El Paso, Texas, before heading “south of the border”, as Frank Sinatra used to sing: “Down Mexico way … where the stars above came out to play.” A few more banderas and we’d be seeing stars before we even got there.

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Little treasures   The Guardian

on Belize and sailing down the cayes.
The yellow boat was called Ragga Gal and was small and shallow-keeled, not much more than 30ft in length. “We’re sailing later today, at 10. There’s still a berth left. Three days to sail down south to Placencia.”

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Festive spirits    The Guardian

Peru:  Qoyllurit’i,  “the festival of the snows”. Three days and nights of intense celebration with music and dancing culminate in a night-time ceremony on Andean glaciers 17,000ft high.

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The Island of the Sun  The Sunday Times

I was on the shores of the Island of the Sun, on Lake Titicaca, at 12,500 feet. The Island of the Sun is so called because the Incas believed it to be the sun’s birthplace.   Nothing can compare to the quality of light over Titicaca; the clear air at high altitude combines with the fast-moving clouds and weather systems to create a constantly shifting theatrical display of such a deep blue that the resulting photos often look as if artificial filters have been used.

all photographs above (c) Hugh Thomson unless credited otherwise

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Home Is Not Where the Heart is  Very Magazine

The word ‘home’ has such a warm log-fire glow to it; it’s a concept we unquestionably accept as desirable: ‘all back to mine’ goes the cry – for that’s where my heart and possessions are.

But homes can be claustrophobic, containing, diminishing – they can trap us in a routine of self-perpetuating accumulation, accelerate time so that we lose it in the dullness of daily routine.

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