Mark Erratt

Soicowboy

Mark Erratt

Started travelling in 2004.

Still going....



Europe » Estonia » Tallinn June 30th 2017

I first became interested in visiting the Baltic states when I heard about the Baltic Chain. This was the longest ever chain of people holding hands, stretching 600 km between Tallinn in Estonia to Vilnius in Lithuania, passing through Riga in Latvia and numerous other towns and villages on the way. This peaceful protest by over a million people in August 1989 was against the continuing Soviet occupation of the region and garnered worldwide attention to the cause of Baltic independence. This was towards the end of the era of Mikhail Gorbachev’s presidency of the Soviet Union, but it was Boris Yeltsin’s rise to Presidency of the Russian Federation in 1991 that was more influential in the break up of the Soviet Union. Russian troops finally withdrew from each country late in 1991. My research indicated ... read more
Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius

Europe » Portugal » Northern » Porto » Sao Mamede de Infesta May 11th 2017

Ascending from the Sao Bento metro station, my first view of Porto was the 12th century cathedral against the backdrop of a pure blue sky in the glow of early evening. The pre-booked hostel was just around the corner and I checked in quickly so that I could enjoy the views from the cathedral courtyard before nightfall. The cathedral sits on a crowded ridge that tops the slope up from the Douro river. The scramble of buildings from the waterside up the hillside is one of the classic views of Porto. Back at the hostel, I was the sole participant of the ‘communal’ dinner, though they rounded off the meal with a glass of port, the fortified wine produced exclusively here in the Douro Valley. The hostel was full of international students, many of whom were ... read more
Porto
Porto
Porto

South America » Peru » Arequipa » Arequipa November 26th 2014

We passed through Puno en route to Arequipa. I found Puno to be a bit uninspiring. As Peru's most famous lakeside town, I was surprised that they lived with their back to Lake Titicaca. The land becomes more industrialised as you move from the town centre towards the shore. The main point of interest around here are the floating islands, made of bound reeds, on which indigenous people used to live to avoid marauding enemies.These days they are subject to marauding tour groups. Arequipa is Peru's second largest city and the dusty outskirts do not look particularly welcoming. However, as usual, the colonial city centre provides a pleasant focus for visitors. The main plaza is quite large and is flanked along one edge by a beautiful cathedral. A fair number of old buildings survive, some of ... read more
Arequipa Cathedral
Arequipa Cathedral
Arequipa Church

South America » Argentina » Salta » Salta September 30th 2014

North Western Argentina sits in the corner where Chile meets Bolivia. It is a small corner of a big country. Heading South through Bolivia, we met many travelers who extolled the beauty of this part of the world, so we decided to add it to our itinerary as we were in the area. We crossed the border into Argentina at La Quiaca and some differences from Bolivia were immediately apparent. Gone were the bowler hatted ladies with their wide skirts, shawls and bundles (or babies) on their backs. Argentine women dress stylishly, with hairstyles to match. Generally the Argentines are fairer skinned than their Northern neighbours. This is due to the pattern of immigration that took place over the last two centuries. Much like the USA, Argentina was a new land waiting to be colonised, from ... read more
Humahuaca
Humahuaca
Tilcara - pucará ruins

South America » Bolivia » La Paz Department » La Paz August 18th 2014

We drove around the shores of Lake Titicaca to enter Bolivia. At 3800m, the world's highest navigable lake is blue and serene. The tourist bus drops the influx at the first significant town of Copacabana. The streets closest to the waters edge are dedicated to hotels, hostels, restaurants and woolly jumpers. 'It's nothing but a tourist trap' said some travellers, unaware that they would find a Cathedral dating back to 1619 just a few blocks further North. The first hotel we tried offered a nice room with bathroom, cable TV and a panoramic view of the lake for £8 per night. 'This is great' we thought. Bolivia is known as the cheapest country in South America and at these prices our budget would not be stretched. Sadly it was an anomaly, we never found such a ... read more
Lake Titicaca
Copacabana Cathedral
Isla del Sol

South America » Peru » Cusco » Sacred Valley » Huchuy Cusco June 11th 2014

Arriving in the Sacred Valley we noticed two things which had been scarce around the rest of Peru - trees and tourists. I had assumed that we had been above the tree line as we travelled along the Andes through central Peru. It turns out that all the trees were chopped down by the earliest inhabitants and only the less useful, bushy species remained in any number. The severe lack of decent wood had a profound impact in the Spanish conquest of the country. The main reason for the Spanish military successes was the use of mounted cavalry, against which the Inca's had no response at close quarters. Had there been trees available they would have been able to fashion pikes to enable them to spear the horses, out of reach of the swinging swords. The ... read more
Cusco
Cusco
Cusco

South America » Peru » Ayacucho » Ayacucho May 4th 2014

The Incas pulled together the pre-existing tracks in the region to create an extensive paved road system of 40,000 kilometres, stretching past Quito (Ecuador) in the North and Santiago (Chile) and Mendoza (Argentina) in the South. The roads were primarily used to redistribute goods, as different items were produced in different regions, and for efficient transfer of the Inca armies (which could number in the tens if thousands) to ensure their hegemony over the Empire. The Great Inca Road traversed 6000 km along the spine of the Andes and, en route, connected Cajamarca and Cusco. Today, it is not possible to make this journey without returning to the coast. Apart from flying the most direct route is to bus it from Cajamarca to Lima (13 hours) and from Lima to Cusco (24 hours). We took the ... read more
Huaraz
Yungay Cemetary
Yungay Cemetary

South America » Peru » Cajamarca » Cajamarca April 6th 2014

The Spanish were so confident that they would successfully conquest these mountainous lands that they named them 'Peru' before they had even made the first attempt. Francisco Pizarro landed at Tumbes on the northern coast in 1528 and noted the generous amounts of Gold and Silver around the town. The inhabitants did not equate gold with wealth. To them it was a link between man and the sun, a store of holy energy and was used to cover temples and create religious implements. Pizarro was back in Spain in 1529, raising funds for his next expedition to the country. While he was there King Charles V gave him the title of Governor and Captain General of Peru and demanded a levy of 20% of any wealth that was obtained. (Such a levy was par for the ... read more
Lima
Lima
Trujillo

Africa » Morocco » Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer » Rabat December 14th 2013

Morocco has long been on my list of places to visit, but had never made it to the top. Perhaps I was unmotivated because it regularly used to get voted as one of the 'hassle capitals' of the world. I had heard that there had been a concerted government campaign to change that behaviour because of a tangible reduction of the number of visitors. This might be old news, but I can say at the outset that I would now class this as a low hassle country with some of the most kind and pleasant people you would care to meet. Morocco also has the advantage of allowing Britons free entry for 3 months and is served by several budget airlines from theUK. We paid £30 (+ baggage) each way for flights to Marrakech. As we ... read more
Marrakech
Marrakech
Marrakech

Asia » Malaysia » Sabah » Kota Kinabalu July 25th 2013

A reader of my blog recently pointed out that I do not provide much useful information. So here goes: The airport bus from Kota Kinabalu airport does not go into the city of Kota Kinabalu. It parks up in a muddy field station on the outskirts of the city. This is somewhat unwelcome if you have spent the previous night on the metal chairs of the KL Low Cost Carrier Terminal before the early morning flight and then waited for an hour on the KK terminal steps for said bus to arrive. The expected saving of £2.80 did not materialize as I decided to cast my principles to the wind and spent £2 on a taxi for the remaining few kilometers into town. Kota Kinabalu is a pleasant and compact seafront city. The capital of the ... read more
Kota Kinabalu
Orangutan
Pygmy Elephants




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