My life in travel: Richard Dunwoody

'The scenery in the Andes was stunning'

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The Independent Travel

Richard Dunwoody is a champion jockey turned travel photographer and adventurer. He will lead a new 12-day "Cuba Horse Trek" for Wild Frontiers from 20 March (020-7736 3968;

First holiday memory?

Helping my father train racehorses near Galway. We are from the Ards peninsula in Northern Ireland so it was a long drive. I remember arriving at the Great Southern Hotel (now the Hotel Meyrick) and discovering it had a swimming pool. I think we had a winner too, so it was a good trip.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Killarney. It's a beautiful place, especially Muckross House, inside the national park. It's close to the Dingle peninsula too, which is fantastic.

What have you learnt from your travels?

How little you need to have a good time. I went to Kibera, one of Nairobi's largest slums, and was astounded by the children there. They had nothing, but I've never seen happier kids. They couldn't wait to get to school. It was quite an eye‑opening experience.

Ideal travelling companion?

Bruce Parry. I've never met him, but he's done some amazing things. I'm sure he'd come in quite useful and he's quite good with the locals, too.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Climbing Aconcagua in the Andes was amazing. I don't handle altitude well, so it was hard, but the scenery was stunning. The trip coincided with the Dakar rally too, so the cars were coming into Mendoza as we finished.

Greatest travel luxury?

A head torch. If you're in a tent, or there's a power cut, it's a really handy thing to have.

Holiday reading?

I went on an expedition to the South Pole five years ago and took The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. It's about 800 pages of small print, but it became invaluable when we got stranded in a blizzard for two weeks at the Novolazarevskaya base camp after reaching the pole.

Where has seduced you?

Song-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. It's a shallow, triangular lake, surrounded by mountains. It's pretty inhospitable as temperatures can drop to minus 20C in winter, but magical in summer when the nomads are out with their horses.

Better to travel or arrive?

Travel. I did the Polar Challenge 10 years ago, a 350-mile race through the Arctic. When we got to the finish line, we thought the flags would be out, but no one was there and the plane was three hours late. It was hard work, but a great journey.

Worst travel experience?

Coming back from Chitral in northern Pakistan. We were supposed to fly back to Islamabad but the plane couldn't get over the mountains to come and collect us due to cloud. Instead, we had to drive back and stayed in a place called Dir, which is not the sort of place you want to hang around. The guesthouse had a bed and that was about it.

Best hotel?

I did a driving holiday recently through Darjeeling and Sikkim. Afterwards, we came down to Kolkata and stayed at the ITC Sonar. There was a butler for every two rooms, incredible food, a pool and a decent gym – it had the whole lot.

Best meal abroad?

The paella in Las Cachollas, a local restaurant in San Pablo de Buceite, Spain. Knocked back with a bit of rioja, it's just fantastic.

Favourite city?

Berlin. You've got the galleries and culture, as well as good clubs and bars.

Where next?

I've been working with Brooke, a charity caring for equines abroad, so I'm going to Nepal, before riding around Cuba with Wild Frontiers.