Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Slide Shows from the Arte Wanderlust Hiking Series

Hi. I'll be putting some slide shows from the Wanderlust hiking series up here this week as they are aired on Arte.

South-West Coast Path, Cornwall, UK
Mallorca Crete

Saturday, July 26, 2014

New TV series on Arte

Hi all,

So my second TV series is about to air soon on Arte in France and Germany. It's called Wanderlust in German, or Un kilomètre à Pied in French and it's a ten-part series looking at different regions of Europe through their long-distance hiking trails. In the course of the hikes I meet Cornish fishermen, Mallorcan beekeepers, French cheesemakers, Greek park rangers and German ceramics designers, and go hiking with local guidebook writers, environmentalists and even a German princess. I learn how to use a traditional slingshot in Mallorca, eat wild edible plants in Cornwall and help deliver a baby calf in Saar-Hunsruck. Now that's entertainment.

The films are broadcast on Arte from August 4th at 7.30pm.

Mon, 4.8.2014:  South-West Coast Path in Cornwall, UK

Tue, 5.8.2014: The Saar-Hunsrück-Steig, Germany

Wed, 6.8.2014: The Dry Wall Way, Mallorca

Thur, 7.8.2014: The Stevenson Way, France 

Fri, 8.8.2014: Through Crete's Gorges, Greece

In the meantime we've been busy shooting the second five films. Last week I was in Norway and for the next two weeks I'm in Austria's Lech Valley. Some photos below.

Crossing the Dovrefjell on the St Olaf's Way, Norway

Lech Valley, Austria

Friday, January 24, 2014

New Guidebooks

I have three guidebooks at the printers at the moment. First is the Lonely Planet guide to Bhutan, one of my favourite destinations and books to work on. For repeat visitors there are some cool off the beaten destinations and hikes in the central and eastern parts of the book, which are the areas I concentrated on.

Second up is the Lonely Planet guide to Central Asia. For this edition I focused on the background information, from history to outdoor activites. We have two brand new chapters on border crossings and visas, which should help clarify these tricky topics.

Finally we have the eighth edition of the Odyssey guide to Uzbekistan, the definitive guide to the architecture, culture and history of this key Central Asian state.

All three books are available now.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What I've Been Doing This Summer: Part II

In between guidebook writing, this summer I've been lucky to be involved in a new TV series for Arte called 'Wanderlust'. The films follow me as I hike a selection of Europe's best long-distance hiking trails, stopping en route to explore local history, learn about regional foods and chat with people I meet along the trail.

The series consists of ten 45-minute films and so far we've filmed five;
* The GR221 'Dry Stone Route' in Mallorca's Tramuntana Mountains
* On the trail of Robert Louis Stephenson in the French Cevennes
* The little-known Saar Hunsruck Steig in south-western Germany
* Along part of the wild South-West Coast Path in Cornwall
* Mountain and coastal sections of the E4 in sunny Crete.

The aim is to give a portrait of some of Europe's most interesting micro-regions by walking its most beautiful hiking trails.

Green valleys of the Saar Hunsruck Steig

Wild rocky coastline of Cornwall

Samaria Gorge, Crete

Lybian Sea from fort above Agia Roumeli, E4 Crete

Lovely village outside Soller, Mallorca

End of a day's hiking at Loutro, Crete

Mountain lake, Tramuntana Mtns, Mallorca

Filming a soundbite on the beach in Cornwall
We have another five films scheduled for next year, with broadcast on Arte in late 2014 or early 2015. We'll keep you posted!

Friday, September 20, 2013

What I've Been Doing This Summer: Part One

Two of the guidebooks I've worked on have been released in the last couple of months: Lonely Planet China and Lonely Planet India.

For the China guide I covered Xinjiang and Tibet, in total about one-third of the country in terms of size.

For LP India I covered Himachal Pradesh and the West Bengal Hills. My personal favourite was definitely Spiti but I also always enjoy returning to Dharamsala after so many trips to Tibet.

My top tips for HP: the Orchard House in Chamba as a super peaceful place to hang out for few days in the foothills and do some day hikes (great trekking opportunities in Chamba Valley!). I'd also recommend taking a few days and walk one of the homestay treks around Kaza in Spiti.

In West Bengal I enjoy the grand old dame that is the hill station of Darjeeling but my favourite place is Kalimpong, partly thanks to Norling at Holumba Haven who showed me some great regional hikes that I was able to squeeze into this edition of the guide. Anyone who has read the travel accounts of Francis Younghusband, Alexandra David-Neel, Charles Bell and Heinrich Harrer will definitely want to savour a beer at Himalayan Hotel, where all of these illustrious travellers spent a night before embarking on a classic Himalayan voyage.

My last tip: I thoroughly recommend a home stay and tea tasting at Makaibari Tea Estate. You can overnight in a homestay with a tea worker, pick leaves with them in the morning, roast them in the afternoon and then take away a packet of your very own hand-picked tea. How's that for a cool Christmas present?

More to come: currently putting the finishing touches to new editions of Lonely Planet guides to Bhutan and Central Asia, for publication in 2014. It's been a busy summer...

 Views of Kangchenjunga from Kalimpong walk

 Freshly picked tea leaves from tea estate in Darjeeling

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Trekking in Zanskar

In September last year I was in India to do the trans-Zanskar trek from Lamayuru Monastery in Ladakh to Himachal Pradesh. It was an excellent 18-day walk, with a tough first ten days (7 passes!), followed by a day's rest in Padum and then a delightful walk through farming villages to the high Shingo-la pass and then down to Darcha and Keylong in Lahaul.

We hired a pony man and four horses for the two of us and camped mostly, though we did stay in homes in Reru and Photaksar villages. All in all a fantastic trek, though road construction is nibbling away at several of the trek days, especially from Honupatta to Singge La, from Hanumil to Padum, and from Padum to Tsetang. Following are photos from the trek, plus a few from Spiti and Kinnaur. Cheers to Andre for yet another fine Himalayan walk.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

One Month in Bhutan

I'm just back from a month in Bhutan in February/March. When people tell me how lucky I am to have the dream job of travel writer I normally roll my eyes and mutter something about how hard it is to get a good cappucino in Lhasa. But when it comes to researching Bhutan there are no excuses; it's simply the best job in the world.

This was my third trip to Bhutan and this time I focused on the centre and east of the country. There are plenty of up and coming places in Bhutan just begging to get in the new edition of the Lonely Planet guide. Manas National Park is now open for business and the four day trek through the forests from north to south looks fabulous. I had a great day hiking to monasteries in the hills above Mongar and did made it out to a fine meditation retreat above Shingkhar and to the remote Luege Rowe and Shugdrak retreats in the Bumthang Valley. I got as far north as Dungkhar, the ancestral home of the royal family, where I ran out of road, and made a fine hike to the fairytale chapel of Dechen Phodrang in Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in the remote far northeast.

February was chilliy in the Bumthang Valley but it was worth suffering some cold to catch four festivals into four weeks. The Punakha Dromchoe and Tsechu was the most spectacular but also had the most tourists. The Buli tsechu was fantastic because there were only about 50 people there and no foreigners when I was there. The Chorten Kora festival was also excellent and attracted people from Merak, Sakten and Arunachel Pradesh in India. The Nomad's Festival in Bumthang was less authentic but still had some great moments, including some great traditional games and masked dances.

Only another four years to go until the next trip! Now the rather less fun of actually writing the guidebook...

Click on the slideshow below to see larger pics.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Central Asia Media Roundup

Hi all,

Just back from three months in India and I thought I'd share a few books, articles and radio programmes that I think would be of interest to fans of Inner Asia.

First up, and a shameless plug is Great AdventuresLonely Planet's latest photo-led reference book. I wrote sections on watching wolves in Yellowstone National Park, jeeping Tajikistan's Pamir Highway, horse trekking in Kham, tackling a trekking peak in Nepal and trekking to the source of the Oxus in the Afghan Wakhan.

It's great to finally see Odyssey's new guide to Xinjiang: China's Central Asia by Jeremy Tredinnick. Finally this region has got the coverage it deserves. The practical details aren't quite as up to date as my Xinjiang chapter for Lonely Planet's forthcoming China guide, but the scope of the coverage and background information blow everything else out of the water, as is normal for Odyssey guides. If only they would make books that you can actually carry with you on the road - Odyssey, electronic books please!

A more specialist book is Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta by David and Sue Richardson. It's out of the range of most casual budgets but it's a great look at one of Central Asia's forgotten corners. Check out the authors website at www.qaraqalpaq.com.

One of favourite recent reads has been Christoph Baumer's Traces in the Desert. I was sceptical about the 'modern-day explorer' nature of the title but it turned out to be a well-researched and engagingly written account of some very impressive trips through Xinjiang, eastern Tibet, Mongolia and Merv in Turkmenistan. If these places appeal, I'd definitely check it out.

Finally I'd like to draw your attention to some Central Asian-related BBC radio programmes that you may have missed. All are available to download or stream. 
In Our Time is a wonderful radio series hosted by Melvyn Bragg. Each programme features a conversation with several academics on a particular topic
The following programmes are required iPod listening:
The second radio series is 'A History of the World in 100 Objects' made in conjunction with the British Museum and looking at moments in history through specific items in the museum's collection. In cased you missed them, interesting tems include:
Be well,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dark Days in Tibet

      Phuntsholing Monastery, Tibet

After six weeks of trying, I finally managed to get a permit to get into Tibet this May. Made it all the way to Everest Base Camp and the Nepal border, with stopovers at the interesting monastery ruins at Phuntsholing (above). Apart from a few tour groups there were very few foreigners in Tibet, especially outside Lhasa. The permit situation in Tibet has been a mess for the last month and the province was finally closed to foreigners just after I left, after two Tibetans from Kham set themselves on fire beside the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.

A wander around the Barkhor Square these days means passing underneath the video cameras and snipers on the rooftops and avoiding the riot squad teams walking provocatively anticlockwise around the circuit in the opposite direction to all the pilgrims. Metal detectors and SWAT teams guard the entrance to the Jokhang Square and fire extinguishers are strapped to the backs of all military teams. It's a dark, disturbing atmosphere and one that is unlikely to change significantly until the end of the summer.

I've been to all the places on this trip many times before but there's always something new to see, like this giant thangka that was being made at a warehouse outside Drongtse Monastery for a giant thankga unveiling festival in Gyangtse:

In Sakya Monastery you can now pay an extra Y10 and visit the formerly off-limits library behind the main chapel. The entire wall is made up of ancient sacred texts, printed on leaves of paper and wrapped in brocade;

As is common to most of of my research trips in Tibet, I almost got arrested at one point. It's amazing how sensitive the local PSB can be at certain sights in Tibet. After an hour of negotation, threats, anger and conciliatory slaps on the back we finally got away without major hassle, and more importantly without a fine for our excellent Tibetan guide. So if you are going to Lhatse Choede Monastery and fort, a few miles from Lhatse town on the road to Phuntsholing, make sure it is listed on your travel permit. And certainly don't post a picture of it on your blog...

My favourite monastery in Lhasa, always a delight:

I'm off to Zanskar next for a bit of trekking so I'll post some pics of that on my return.
Be well, Bradley

     Nam-tso lake at sunset

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Marco Polo Reloaded apps on iTunes!

The four Marco Polo Reloaded films are now available as apps on iTunes.

If you don't know, these films follow me as I retrace Marco Polo's route overland from Venice to China via the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
If you haven't been able to check out the films so far, each app contains one of the four films in English, plus some additional behind the scenes photos and thoughts on making the trip.

The four films are:
 * Venice to Turkey
 * Iran
 * Afghanistan & Tajikistan
* Through China

Read more about the apps here, where you'll find links to downloading the films through iTunes.

You can also download a free preview of the Marco Polo Reloaded apps by clicking on this link.
There's also a Q&A with me about the films and apps at the Get Addicted To website.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travels in Xinjiang

Sorry for the silence, I've been in China for two months, enjoying a life of Uighur kebabs and Tibetan butter tea. The Chinese authorities block Blogspot, as they do Facebook and most other Western social media sites, so I haven't been able to post anything.

Five weeks in Xinjiang brought me back to several of the locations I visited in the Marco Polo Reloaded films (Kashgar and Hotan) and allowed me to trace the Taklamakan Desert along the southern Silk Road, from Hotan on to Charklik.

One of the highlights for me was tracking down the region's great history. Archaeology nuts will like the following faded remnants of Xinjiang's once-thriving Buddhist heritage:

Buddhist stupa surrounded by stupa bases, Yarkhoto (Jiaohe), outside Turpan

Mor pagoda, in the desert outside Kashgar

two-thousand-year-old Han dynasty watchtower, outside Kuqa

Subashi Buddhist ruins, outside Kuqa

I was also excited to finally make it out to the impressive Shipton's Arch, an hour or so outside Kashgar, off the road to the Irkeshtam Pass. Thanks to Ali of Uighur Tour for helping to make that happen.

When in Kashgar, fans of Peter Hopkirk's book 'The Great Game' should visit the former British Consulate at the back of the Chini Bagh Hotel's north building. It's currently a Chinese restaurant and you can wander through through the rooms that were once home to the Macartneys, Shiptons and others:

One side effect from authoring the Odyssey Guide to Uzbekistan is that I can't pass up obscure Timurid tomb. This one near the Xinjiang-Kazakhstan border is a cracker:

Tomb of Teglug Timur (1347-1364), ancient city of Almalik, Huocheng, near Qingshuihe.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Marco Polo Reloaded Updates (Updated July 2012)

Here are a couple of updates on the Marco Polo Reloaded films:

German speakers can now view clips from the Marco Polo series at the website of Marco Polo Reisen.

The main Marco Polo Reloaded webdoc site is now locked to visitors from the US and UK (sorry, it's an international rights thing) but you can currently view the clips at Marco Polo Reisen and some are in English.

Over the last few months the Marco Polo Reloaded films have just been shown in Italy on Rai 5 Italian TV, in Germany on Hessicher Rundfunk, in Canada on the Knowledge channel where Canadians can watch episodes online, and on a three hour marathon event across Germany via satellite station 3Sat. Most recently it was on in July 2012 on German station NDR.

One thing to look out for in June is the unveiling of four Marco Polo Reloaded apps, for iPhone and iPad, which will include the four 52 minute films, as well as some photos and thoughts from the trip. The physical DVDs are even for sale on the German version of www.amazon.com

Thanks for reading. Safe travels for 2012!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trekking the Manaslu Circuit

Manaslu and gompa at Lho village

Just back from a couple of months in Nepal, updating the Lonely Planet guide to Nepal. The highlight of this trip was a two week trek around Manaslu, the world's eighth highest mountain and Nepal's latest teahouse trek. Also did a quick blast around the little-trekked Tamang Heritage Trail trek near Langtang and had a wonderful overnight at Nuwakot at the lovely Famous Farm, possibly central Nepal's best-kept secret. Highly recommended!

As with the Annapurna Circuit trek, the best spots on the Manaslu trek are actually side trips from the main trail. If you are contemplating doing the trek, I'd strongly suggest adding three or so extra days to include the following detours.

Kal Tal, a tough day hike (3 1/2 hours climb) from the charming village of Prok, just off the main Manaslu Circuit near Ghap.

Views of Manaslu and Ngadi Chuli from Pungyen valley and glacier, the best day trip from Sama

Manslu reflected in pool, Pungyen valley

Looking down the Pungyen Glacier from the ridge above Pungyen Monastery

Views of Manaslu and Birendra Tal from near Milarepa's Cave, a ridge west of Sama village

Views east down valley from deserted village of Mimi, a short hike from Sama village

Heading to Tibet via the Gya-La, a great day hike from Samdo in upper Nupri

Upper valley below the Gya-La, near Fukang Glacier

Porter resting on the approaches to Dharamsala, the last stop before the pass

Crossing the Larkye La

Pongkar Tal & Phingi Himal, a great half day hike from Bimthang

Looking twards Pongkar Tal & the Cheo Himal, near Bimthang


Classic Pamiri Scenery of Gorno Badakhshan

Current Favourite Track