My Life In Travel: Nicholas Crane

'My favourite horse ride was in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan'

First holiday memory?

Floating off the beach at Tenby in South Wales on board an air-sea rescue life raft that my father had inflated by plugging it into the exhaust of his Morris Oxford car.



Best holiday?

An uninhabited island that I won't name in the Outer Hebrides. I got dropped off there for a fortnight with my wife and children. It's only one kilometre across and there are no buildings or trees. We camped and built an oven that we used to bake potatoes in and there was a stream that we washed in and drank from.



Favourite place in the British Isles?

Apart from that island, my other favourite places are Norfolk, Cornwall and Northumberland; living in the middle of Britain's biggest city I gravitate to the emptier parts of the country during holiday time.



What have you learnt from your travels?

That everybody can be an explorer. When I was a child we had old Ordnance Survey maps at home and I used to take my bike and go out exploring in the evenings with my parents. When I was 19, I thought I'd be a bit more adventurous and cycled from my home in Norfolk to Greece, and the year after that I cycled to Africa. It took three weeks to get to Greece – it would have been quicker but we had no maps because they were too expensive! It was the greatest adventure I have had.



Ideal travelling companion?

One of the most intriguing characters for me is Gerald of Wales, who made a journey around Wales in 1188 escorting the Archbishop of Canterbury on a recruitment mission for the Third Crusade. He wrote a book about it called Journey through Wales, which reads rather like a medieval Bill Bryson; it's very funny and full of observation and description. He was the first great British travel writer and had a very clear eye for the joys of travel.



Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I don't do beaches unless I'm launching a boat from one. I'm a 60/40 split between culture and adrenalin, but really it's more geographical for me. I'm very interested in the way the changes on the planet's surface have been reflected in travel writing over the centuries.



Greatest travel luxury?

I could do without almost everything, but I do always make sure that I have a map and a compass with me.



Holiday reading?

The book I go back to is a dog-eared copy of Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. He was an Argentine writer and it's a collection of cosmic fairytales.



Where has seduced you?

The Peloponnese in Greece, which is where I rode my bike to. I'd read a book by Patrick Leigh Fermor called Mani, which is about a peninsula there and that's what made me jump on my bike and visit it. Fermor is a huge inspiration. He also walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, which inspired me to walk from Spain to Turkey. But the Mani peninsula has a particular place in my heart. It's a mythical place with ancient associations.

Better to travel or arrive?

No question – to travel. I love walking, train journeys, riding a bicycle, riding horses, sailing a boat, canoeing.... I fly for filming, but not recreation.



Worst travel experience?

Bad experiences all turn good in the end. However, I was once robbed in a country I loved. I couldn't escape the sense of betrayal.



Worst holiday?

The whole idea of a holiday is such a wonderful concept, so every one of them is a great adventure.



Worst hotel?

I've never stayed in a truly awful hotel because they've all had a roof on them. I've experienced truly nightmarish bivouacs, caught under electrical storms, with my skin frozen on snow-covered mountains. They can be quite desperate times.



Best hotel?

I'd far rather sleep in the great outdoors. I have slept on high mountain ridges in the Pyrenees where you can go to sleep watching the sun set and wake up watching it rise just by rolling over – that's the best hotel for me. One of the best places I've bivouacked is on the edge of the Ordesa canyon in the Pyrenees with a warm mountain wind blowing over me and the mountains all around. Caves are good, too.



Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

My favourite walk was across Europe. It was 10,000 kilometres long and took a year and a half. I followed the mountain chains from the Pyrenees in north-west Spain, down through the Balkans and up to Turkey.

My favourite swim would be off the beach at Clachtoll in Assynt in north-west Scotland; and my favourite horse ride was in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.



Best meal abroad?

Salt tea and tsampa (roasted flour) with a Tibetan nomad family on the Tibetan plateau when I was trying to cycle across it from the Bay of Bengal with my cousin Richard. We didn't have food with us and they took us into their tent. I was very moved by their generosity. Another amazing meal was on the top of Mont Blanc at Christmas with a Scotsman. He produced after-dinner mints, which he made by thinly slicing pieces of Mars bar and spreading them with toothpaste.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Open the map.



Dream trip?

I'd like to walk across Tibet, sea canoe through the Outer Hebrides and visit Antarctica and the Scilly Isles. I'd love to revisit the Hindu Kush mountains, too, because it is absolutely beautiful there. If I had one wish it would be that peace would settle on Afghanistan, because I love that place.



Favourite city?

London – it's home and I choose to live there because I love it. Outside London it would be Edinburgh.



Where next?

To the Norfolk Broads. We're going to go sailing, canoeing and mudlarking.



Nicholas Crane is taking part in the Meet the Expert Theatre on 29 February at 2pm at The Destinations Show at Birmingham's NEC ( www.destinationsshow.com). Tickets cost £8 in advance or £10 on the door, including admission to Meet the Expert Theatres

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police