TRAVEL: YOUR QUESTIONS

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The Independent Travel
Mountain biking

Quite simply, I would like to know if it is possible to cycle to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mark Piccolo

Salisbury

Phil Haines replies:

Being the highest mountain in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro has had its share of eccentric adventurers. In 1962-63 French parachutists landed on the crater, setting a world record for the highest landing drop, and in 1998 two Americans roller-skated to the top in six days.

up Kilimanjaro? It is certainly feasible, if you accept that carrying the bikes some of the time will be part of the exercise. To learn more about Bicycles up Kilimanjaro you could try to get hold of a book of that name by Richard and Nicholas Crane, published by Oxford Illustrated Press (now out of print). The planning, physical and psychological endurance required to make this possible is described well in the book. The park authorities would have to grant permission for anyone wishing to take a bike up the mountain.

The effects of altitude nearing the 5,896m (19,344ft) Kibo, or Uhuru, peak mean most experienced climbers have to rest every 10 steps or so, meaning the final 200m can take two hours. Most people struggle with the bare essentials, let alone bikes.

Aside from the risk of hypo- thermia, headaches, nausea and lethargy of altitude-related illness - these symptoms can be reduced with Diamox - you must drink clean water to avoid dehydration and infection. Water should be boiled for another minute every extra 300m above sea level.

Climbing Kilimanjaro usually costs about $200 to $500 (pounds 117 to pounds 294) after paying for equipment hire, food, hut, guide and park fees. But most people consider it worthwhile when they receive their certificate at Marangu on descent. Good Luck.

Phil Haines - the youngest person to have visited every country in the world - runs a travel company, Live Ltd (tel: 0181-737 3725; phil.haines@live- travel.com), "specialising in travel to special places".

Disability travel

I am 82, fairly fit but seriously deaf; conversation is difficult and tiring. I would like to go on holiday, but cannot abide too much travelling or hot climates. Where would you suggest, and are there any firms that can provide assistance?

IGS Cook

Basingstoke

The Travel Editor replies:

For overseas travel, you should contact the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR). Its information line is open 10am-4pm (tel: 0171-250 3222). RADAR produces an annual guide to travel in the UK (price pounds 7), plus guides to long-distance and European travel (price pounds 5 each). Visit the website at: www.radar.org.uk

If you have a physical, sensory or learning disability or if your income is limited, the Holiday Care Service (tel: 01293 774535) has a list of organis- ations offering specialist holidays abroad. For holiday insurance, Holiday Care Service suggests that you contact Travel- care (tel: 0800 181532).

The Welsh Tourist Office (tel: 0171-808 3838) publishes Discovering Wales Accessible, which provides information for visitors with disabilities on a range of holiday accommodation, from luxury hotels to caravans.

Chilton House (tel: 01844 265200) provides qualified nursing service, personal care, support and companionship. There are frequent excursions by car to market towns and country house gardens. Room fees range from pounds 500 a week for a single room.

Pizza and pesto

Where are the best places in Italy to sample classic Italian cuisine such as pizza and spaghetti bolognese, along with other lesser-known regional specialities?

Michelle Newman

Bedford

The Travel Editor replies:

Don't ever make the crass mistake of asking for spaghetti bolognese in Bologna: The numerous food snobs of that city call their much-copied meat sauce ragu and will feign astounded incomprehension if you call it anything else.

In fact Bologna has long regarded itself as Italy's culinary capital, although Tuscany is considered the heartland by dreamy foreigners in search of bean soup, dry bread and rustic simplicity.

It almost comes as a surprise to learn that things like pizza and pesto are still eaten in Italy - but they are. Napoli is the place to head for pizza, the original fisherman's food, while pesto's native home is Genoa.

In Piemonte, you should sample fonduta con tartufi (fondue with truffles) and in Valle D'Aosta minestra di castagne (chestnut soup). In Lombardia ossobuco alla Milanese is the typical Milanese method of preparing veal, and in Veneto you could try fegato alla Veneziana (calf's liver, Venetian- style, with onion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper and parsley).

Moving down into the centre of Italy, there's spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili peppers); in Puglia, orecchiette con broccoli is worth a try. The national dessert is tiramisu.

Gastronomic tours of Italy don't come cheap, but they do offer a good way to cram in as much quality eating and drinking as possible in a short space of time. Arblaster & Clarke (tel: 01730 893344) offers a five-day tour of Tuscany from pounds 999 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, taxes, five nights' half-board accommodation, excursions and tastings.

Wheels on fire

My friend's 17-year-old son wants to learn motocross, under supervised conditions. He is French and has good English and sees it as an opportunity to improve his English while learning a new skill. Can you suggest anything?

Dr CMK Bowden

London

Kate Calvert replies:

Most motocross courses last for a day or two, so you could combine one with some other activities. The Newham Docklands Motorcycle Project (tel: 0171-473 4434) can devise a programme of motocross riding, mechanics' tips and fitness activities.

Accommodation through the local youth service costs about pounds 125 or it might be possible to stay with a host family with a person of similar age also interested in motocross. The course costs about pounds 450.

Kate Calvert edits `Family Travel', the subscription-only publication for parents. For details (tel: 0171-272 7441).

Big Apple bites

I am heading off to New York for five days' holiday and I am concerned about mosquito-borne encephalitis. How high are the risks from the current outbreak and should I be taking any precautions?

Saskia Jones

Newcastle

Dr Larry Goodyer replies:

Insect-borne diseases are more commonly associated with the tropical areas, so it always makes news when an outbreak occurs in somewhere like New York, where there is a problem caused by St Louis encephalitis.

The chances of catching it are higher among those over 70. However, this may be an underestimation as a large number of cases may go unreported. Between 10 and 25 per cent of people who contract it will die from the disease. The virus, which directly infects the brain, is carried by the culex mosquito. But, as the authorities have been eradicating the mosquito population with insecticide, you should not be at any great risk.

It would be a good idea to wear long sleeves and trousers and apply insect repellent if going out at night.

Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel health helpline (tel: 0891 633414; calls cost 60p per minute.)

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