Sunday, 12 September 2010
You all know I'm addicted to travel, and of course every trip brings its own array of little surprises - but a few times I've been sideswiped by things that have later seemed all too obvious. Here are some of the surprises that, with hindsight, should not have surprised me:
1. Camping above the Arctic circle sounds like a cold experience, even in summer - but we camped far enough north that the sun never came close to touching the horizon in June. As a result we had more trouble with the tent being too hot, melting our emergency chocolate rations and making it hard to sleep without the door open.
2. Landing in Denver was a surprisingly comfortable experience... because with its mile-high runway, there's hardly any difference in pressure between cabin pressure and the ground outside. My ears didn't pop until the return flight!
3. Eating out in Cuba was harder than you might imagine: outside of Havana, you often needed to book meals in the morning so the restaurant could buy enough food to feed you in the evening. Looking for an authentic experience, we asked a local couple where they would go to eat - only to be told that they didn't eat out.
4. Public transport in Rome lacks the complex metro system you'd find in most European capitals. Why? The density of archaeological remains in the city makes it complicated and expensive to dig underground tunnels.
5. As a westerner in Mongolia, my carefully-developed habit of keeping my map and guidebook in my handbag out of sight was simply a waste of time: it was my first experience travelling to a country where I was marked out as a tourist on purely ethnic grounds.
Have you ever been surprised by something that should have been obvious?