Archive for February, 2010

My worst journeys from hell?

February 27th, 2010 No comments


[A shorter version of this piece was published in the Times]

My worst journeys from hell?  Waiting days for a series of cancelled boats in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, at 100° in the shade — 6/10.  A bus trip across the Peruvian desert that lasted 24 hours –  8/10.  Taking a train from Birmingham to Edinburgh – 10/10 and not just because it was the last one I did.  Or because it cost hundreds of pounds more for the pleasure that the other ones.  But because you know it could so easily be improved.

Take a much cheaper coach from Birmingham to Edinburgh and you need a numbered ticket with a designated seat to travel.  Just as you do with a plane.  So why is it that British train companies get away with crowding as many people as they possibly can onto a train before shutting the doors?  This particular journey saw passengers crammed solid down the aisles and in the doorways, with luggage spilled in every direction and children crying:  it looked like a train load of refugees after a catastrophe event.  If the train company could have got away with putting passengers on the roof, they would have.  And this was not for a couple of tube stops or a suburban commute, but a five-hour journey. 

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The real story behind the flooding at Machu Picchu

February 13th, 2010 1 comment



During the recent extreme flooding in Peru, media attention centred almost wholly and shamefully on the 1,300 tourists stranded at Machu Picchu. 

Now that they have been airlifted out from their luxury hotels – one told the television cameras that the helicopter ride ‘made his holiday’ – it is worth considering the real impact of the flooding on the people who actually live there.

For the episode is just a waymark in a far more important story.  The Andes is being ripped apart by a series of recent climatic disasters that threaten to destroy the fragile peace established since the terrible period of the Sendero Luminoso when Maoist revolutionaries held Peru to ransom in the 1990s.

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