desert beyond the valley of the kings, egypt

Travels: mischief and misadventure


Wet weekends in Wales were the extent of my travelling experience until the age of eighteen. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, I've been desperate for adventures ever since. These began fairly close to home, with hitchhiking trips around Europe, four months in a VW van in the Outer Hebrides and an ill-advised encounter with the bullfighters of Spain. When I eventually got beyond Europe, it was really more a case of misadventure for a while. In India, I got dysentery (lost a stone); in Swaziland, I fell from a galloping horse (lost lucidity for a week); in Thailand, I came off my hired motorbike (lost a lot of skin off my left arm) and, naturally, in Morocco I met a Bogart lookalike and lost my common sense for some time.

But of course I gained much more than I lost. Most of all, I slowly gained the realisation that Africa was the place for me, and that I could happily spend a lifetime trying to explore and understand it. For almost a decade, I haven't been anywhere else. From 2001, I spent a lot of time in Egypt, and it became the setting for much of my fiction. In 2005, I went on a three-month trip around southern Africa, which kickstarted my travel journalism. I'm now based in West Africa for part of the year.

Travel Journalism

My second home. The unique archipelago of the Bijagos islands, matriarchal cultures, wildlife, fabulous music and an unforgettable Carnaval. Admittedly, also a little unstable at times...
--- Article in the Independent, 14 March 2009,  Trail of the Unexpected: Wild in West Africa

Burkina Faso
From Oct 2010 to Feb 2011, I covered every corner of this landlocked country, updating the Bradt travel guide.  Supremely friendly, with its own quirky takes on animism and mud architecture, it blew me away.
-- 2nd edition, Bradt guide to Burkina Faso, published Oct 2011

For me, Botswana was a bit of a girls' own adventure. Thieving baboons, an overexcited bull elephant, wild dogs and a failing clutch on the old 4x4. Not to mention the lions' unusual snack.
--- Article in the Independent, 17 September 2007, Okavango Delta

Despite its poverty and crippling AIDS rate, Malawi feels pretty cosy by African standards, and is a gem for action-adventurers.
--- Article in the Independent, 26 December 2009, Malawi: Journey Through a Secret Africa
--- Climbing Mount Mulanje in Make the Most of Your Time on Earth, Volume Two, Rough Guides, 2010

The Gambia
A journey into the interior. The extraordinary chimp rehab project has since closed to tourists, but there's still plenty upriver to entice you away from the beaches.
--- Article in the Independent, 19 January 2008, The Gambia: More Than Beaches and Sun?

After a break of five years, I return to Egypt to find that it's changing fast. But the wealth of places to visit is as rich and mind-boggling as ever.
--- Article in the Independent, 23 February 2008, Stepping Off The Tourist Trail in Cairo and Luxor

On a voluntourism project in Damaraland for the protection of desert elephants, I heft a lot of rocks, mix a lot of cement and brave one unhappy rhino.
--- Article in the Independent, 1 September 2007, Volunteering in Namibia

One of my favourite countries. Beautiful, otherworldly, with draws such as Tolkienesque Dogon country and legendary Timbuktu.
--- Article in the Independent, 30 June 2007, Mali: A Traditional Culture is Under Threat 
--- Contributions/updates to the Bradt guide to Mali, 3rd edition, published 2009

Notorious for coups and a dodgy relationship with slavery, Mauritania's had a lot of bad press. But it has some cool camels and the longest trains in the world.
--- Article in the Independent, 28 June 2008, Mauritania: Where Less is Moorish
--- Article in Travel Africa magazine, 14 May 2009, Saharan Caste-aways