Elizabeth Weir

Weir travels

Elizabeth Weir

I decided in early 2006 that I'd had enough of the London rat-race and the career thing - at least, for the time being - and that I'd like to take some time out: "me time", as it were; time to do at least some of the things that I'd been thinking about doing over the last few years but hadn't been able to fit in around work and client demands.

So here I am: backpack to the ready (to be honest, it had never really been put away after my '93-'94 round-the-world trip), and a gazillion ideas about how to fill the next xx months..... (And, no, I've no idea when I'll go back to the "real" world, nor what I'd do if/when I get back there. Time enough to figure that one out, I reckon.)

Being an about-to-be-former technology lawyer, I thought I'd better join the 21st century and save you all the trouble of deciphering my handwriting (not to mention saving myself the hassle of writing postcards and negotiating the purchase of stamps). So, if you're interested in what I get up to (edited highlights only, you'll be relieved to hear), do read on....

And I'm still going strong a dozen or so years' later.  Although my peregrinations are now occasionally interrupted by travel-fund-generating activities back at short-lived coalfaces in the UK, travel remains "my thing". Those itchy feet just refuse to be cured.

Africa » Burkina Faso » Sud-Ouest November 23rd 2018

The irrepressible moto-tricycle driver Abu would invariably reach our evening’s campsite before us, and, punters distracted by tea and coffee and the prospect of ‘ablutions’, he and the guides would put up our generous-sized lightweight tents, clipping the fabric to the poles so that the tents could be moved around as required. I hate to think how hard it would have been to try and bang a tent peg or two into this hard unforgiving ground. Usually the flysheets would be left to one side – anything to reduce the temperature in the tents by a degree or two – but one evening, cautious of the amount of lightning that had been flickering in the far distance all evening, we put them on. And only just in time. My recollection is that it then rained pretty ... read more
sunrise over our Kounadougou homestay
pottery dancing, Kawara
carrying it high in Banfora

Africa » Burkina Faso » Sud-Ouest November 22nd 2018

The faces shine out at me, as intrigued by us as we are by them. I can hear the drums, the insistent beat, as the women start to move, clay pots balanced precariously on their heads. I feel the heat of the mid-afternoon sun. I can smell the dust, the cooking fires. I laugh at the children, born with the beat in their blood, the youngest barely able to stand but already able to dance. And then my phone beeps, and I’m at my desk in London, shivering in several layers of winter clothing, as I sort through my photographs. But for a few minutes I was there, back in Kawara, watching the laughing faces of the dancers, uncaring about the weight of the pots on their heads, sweat pouring off their faces, and the kids ... read more
pottery dancing, Kawara
Moussono Peaks
granaries in the old 'troglodyte' village

Africa » Burkina Faso » Centre November 10th 2018

Burkina Faso. Not an obvious destination. Not a country that ever hits the headlines, good or bad. Neighbouring Ghana gets the good-news stories, the headline-grabbing presidential and royal visits, the glowing reviews as ‘easy’ Africa. Ghana speaks English, things work (comparatively), and, if not always a paragon of western democracy, it’s at least been free of civil war and third party altercations for much of its sixty years of independence. Nearby Mali and Nigeria get the bad-news stories, the kidnappings, the terrorism, the desecration of history. Burkina Faso is one of those countries in the middle, in every sense. Landlocked, unremarkable, unremarked. Most people needed a map when I mentioned it. And/or looked worriedly at me, wondering aloud or inwardly, “is it safe?”. In terms of pre-trip homework, there was remarkably little. Bradt’s country guide hasn’t ... read more
Naba Koom
pensive sculpture
do you sell oranges?

Africa » Ghana » Northern November 5th 2018

Things don’t always go to plan in Africa, or even as might reasonably be anticipated. The old hands have a couple of acronyms for this: TIAB (this is Africa, baby), or the more fatalistic AWA (Africa wins again). But this can go both ways, and the positives never seem to get much of a name-check. Seeing elephants in Mole National Park was definitely one of the latter. It’s the back end of the wet season here. Water and vegetation are everywhere, so animals disperse; no need to congregate around shrinking resources when there’s an abundance. The chance of seeing anything in the long grass – sometimes 10-12 feet just high at the roadside – let alone in a national park where only a small percentage of the park is accessible and then only when being driven ... read more
shooting the breeze, Mognori village
your boat is waiting...

Africa » Ghana » Volta October 27th 2018

Look at a map of Ghana and you’ll soon spot a spiky body of water towards the east that seems to reach its fingers back west and north, as if probing the country for Ashanti gold. This is Lake Volta, the largest manmade body of water (by surface area anyway) in the world. And it was proving remarkably hard to find. After a couple of days in the lively and colourful Accra, I headed east to the hills that form the border with modern-day Togo. My immediate destination was the Wli Falls, thought to be the highest waterfalls in West Africa. The road there led close to the Lake, or so it appeared from the map, but neither during that journey nor on my unexpectedly arduous six-hour scramble up to (and, more wobblily, back down from) ... read more
Lake Volta from the Accra-Tamale flight
patience is an African way of life
a welcome break in the greenery

Asia » Burma » Southern Burma » Mawlamyine November 26th 2017

Rudyard Kipling spent only a few unscheduled hours in Moulmein (now Mawlamyine), by then the former capital of British Burma, on his way home – via America – from India in 1889, but it nevertheless managed to inspire the opening line of one of his most memorable poems, “Mandalay”. Having first encountered the poem only just before I left the UK, I found it getting under my skin as I travelled around Myanmar almost 130 years’ after Kipling’s visit. “But that’s all shove be’ind me - long ago an’ fur away An’ there ain’t no ’busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay; An’ I'm learnin’ ’ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells: “If you've ’eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ’eed naught else.”” It felt so resonant for me, as I combine my first ... read more
Kyaikthanian Paya
orchids for sale, Myine Yadanar Zei
colourful bananas, Myine Yadanar Zei

Asia » Burma » Southern Burma » Dawei November 24th 2017

Southern Myanmar is a long tail of land that, for more than 1,200 km, abuts Thailand, the Tenasserim Hills and their subranges forming the border. Time was now against me, which meant I couldn’t fly to Myeik, the most southerly airport open for tourists, because of the painfully long time it would take me to wend my way north again by bus (there are no flights between airports in the south; everything goes through Yangon). Instead, I opted to fly to Dawei, about halfway down (as it were), and head out to Maungmagan on the coast, and make my way back overland from there. Once released by the airport – although it was a domestic flight, passport and visa checks were carried out, as they have been almost every time I’ve crossed a state border here ... read more
selfie-taking monks
Maungmagan beach
relaunching the boats

Asia » Burma » Western Burma November 14th 2017

I’d long wanted to take a boat down (or up, I wasn’t fussy, although travelling immediately post-monsoon suggested downriver would be quicker) the Irrawaddy, the age-old “road to Mandalay”, for the sheer romance of it, but the logistics involved in trying to fit in everything that I wanted to do during this trip in a vaguely logical manner did not permit. In consolation – although, realistically, I had no other option for this particular journey – I decided to take the boat from Mrauk U to Sittwe, winding along the tributaries of, and debauching into, the Kaladan River which, at Sittwe, then joins the Andaman Sea. After the excitements involved in getting to Mrauk U, a bus journey of a little over 21 hours, a serene 4½-hour boat trip sounded sublime, even if it did involve ... read more
a very delicate exercise
the morning commute

Asia » Burma November 14th 2017

Looking back on my eight days wandering around Myanmar’s two most famous archaeological sites, I realise that so much of what I would say about one is by reference to or in contrast with the other, I thought I’d write about them together. (My apologies: this will mean even more photographs than usual.) Bagan tends to be regarded as THE must-visit site in Myanmar. Even Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda and Inle Lake, with its leg-rowing fishermen, take a back seat to this extraordinary 40 square mile area and its two/three/four/ten thousand temples, pagodas and monasteries (no-one comes up with a consistent number either of those constructed or of what remains) from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries when Bagan (Pagan) was the capital of the Pagan Empire, the first kingdom to unify regions that would later constitute modern-day ... read more
parasol, anyone?
corner detail
glorious in the evening light

Asia » Burma » Western Burma » Mrauk U November 12th 2017

In a little text box in the Bagan chapter of the new edition of the Book, it proudly proclaimed: “A new overland service connects Bagan with Mrauk U…” This was enough to hook me when I was planning this trip. Otherwise, getting between Myanmar’s two most famous archaeological sites involves two planes and a boat, none of which connect, which means a minimum of three days’ travelling. It’s only 479 km, but, as I had quickly learned on arriving here, the number of kilometres has no bearing on the time involved. Historically, the bus option necessitated backtracking almost to Mandalay, I believe, which, on the basis of the last 24 hours’ experience would be, err, suboptimal. And so, my first afternoon in Nyaung U, the transport hub for the Bagan area, I tootled off to talk ... read more
not exactly a bus station
river crossing
the shrine at the Kyaukpadraung café

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