There’s nothing like expanding horizons through travel; exposing ourselves to different cultures and traditions and gaining an appreciation, understanding and respect for alternative perspectives and ways of living.
However, it’s not always feasible to pack up our lives and take the first outbound flight to somewhere exotic or long-dreamt about from afar. When the pressures of reality bite (as reality so often does), we stave off stagnancy a little longer through the expert long-form coverage of travel journalists. From Craig Tansley’s Costa Rican sojourn to Lee Tulloch’s exploration of the Maldives, steal a few moments of your day to take the road less travelled.
A Refuge for Hollywood’s Elite: Costa Rica’s Nosara
The stretch of Costa Rican coast, where molasses seals the streets and boa constrictors interrupt morning lattes, presents a unique challenge for other expats: how to avoid the trappings of wealth.
“See that place?”Nosara’s hardest-working real estate agent, Glenn Goodwin, is pointing at a house on a hill that looks out to a calm sea. “That sold for $10 million [$US]. And see that one? That’s Norman Reedus’s place,” he tells me, referring to the star of “The Walking Dead” series. “I sold him that. That wasn’t cheap either.”
Mel Gibson has also sought solitude in this once obscure piece of Costa Rica. He bought a place just south of Nosara in 2007, paying $US25 million for 160 hectares of empty coastline. Goodwin didn’t have the listing. But Christian Bale has been calling lately. Having rented a place in town, near the beach, for a few Christmases, he’s now looking to buy. He’s another celebrity, Goodwin says, who loves the anonymity of a town where locals don’t care (or know) who they are. “People either love this place, or they hate it,” he adds. “If they love it, they come back a second time. The third time they come, they start talking to people like me.”
If it helps you picture it, consider Nosara a much-harder-to-get-to Byron Bay. Access to the town, which lies on the Nicoya Peninsula, a narrow strip in the country’s north, is via a bumpy dirt road from Liberia International Airport, a two-and-a-half-hour journey. The road leads me through valleys of dense jungle and sweet townships where locals sell flowers and exotic fruits by the roadway. There are few cars, mostly just cows, many of them around hairpin corners. If I was less frugal, I might have flown in by small propeller plane to an airstrip a kilometre or so out of town. But this journey gives me a sense of perspective: I’m in the middle of nowhere.
By Craig Tansley
Read the full feature here.
In Greenland an Inuit Population on the Precipice of Irreversible Change
Writer Kate Hennessy explores a country where polar bears roam and some 80 per cent of the land is blanketed in ice.
Greenland introduces itself shyly, shrouded in sea fog. It’s taken 36 hours to cross the Denmark Strait from Reykjavik and it is not yet 6am when Captain Maxim Makarovskiy steers our ship, the Greg Mortimer, away from the open ocean to begin our navigation of Kangertigtivatsiaq Fjord in the country’s remote east. Most of the 86 passengers are asleep. But sleep is out for me because I’ve just seen my first iceberg.
It’s not a blue-white archway begging for a brochure cover, or anything even nudging majestic or grand. In that moment I learn that “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” doesn’t apply to icebergs, because the thing that glides goofily by the starboard balcony looks like the dashed ambitions of a small-town ice sculptor who’s tried to chisel a sleeping dragon. Puffer coat yanked over pyjamas, I go outside to see more ice sculptures show-ponying past, and not in dignified silence, either. They fizz, hiss and pop as if someone has added a scoop of sherbet to the mix.
The fog wears off. By breakfast time, nearly all passengers are outside, locked in awed silence as we cruise the 26-kilometre fjord. An Aurora Expeditions guide, Jeff Nagel, attempts to quantify the magnificence. “That big rock face is 800 to 900 metres tall at different points,” he says over the loudspeaker. “To give you some comparison, El Capitan in Yosemite Valley is a 900-metre face.” But there is no comparison. Not to the rock, nor to Greenland. This is the world’s biggest island and home of the Inuit, a place with scenery that thunders like a bowling ball down the centre of the alley, skittling most you’ve seen elsewhere.
By Kate Hennessy
Read the full feature here.
The Maldives: Coral Reefs and Climate Change Adaption
With its crystal-clear waters and decked-out resorts extending warm hospitality, the Maldives offers the ultimate in beach getaways. But the idyllic archipelago may not be here forever.
I’ve been to the Maldives several times, despite flight schedules that often have you arriving in the middle of the night. If you want a rarefied kind of barefoot luxury, there isn’t a more perfect place. It’s the ultimate wind-down destination, with sand so soft you don’t need shoes, not even at the most sophisticated resorts. The Indian Ocean provides the magic, as well as the country’s position on the old spice route from Arabia to India, giving its people the rich cultural heritage of both places.
The archipelago of almost 1,200 small islands, some of them proverbial drops in the ocean, is blessed with pristine white-sand beaches and views of the crystal sea. Then there’s the remoteness, a welcome respite in our overconnected age, and the warmth: a constant temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius, tempered by sea breezes and the occasional monsoon.
There are more than one hundred resorts scattered across the chain of 26 atolls. Overwater bungalows and private pools are entry-level features at many hotels. A private waterslide, yacht or an elevated lookout are not out of the question, either. Although all the stops have been pulled out to attract wealthy guests with a taste for bling, it’s rarely blingy — that would be counterintuitive.
By Lee Tulloch
Read the full feature here.
Returning to Istanbul, a Place of Competing Identities
When Aatish Taseer first travelled to the Turkish city, he was closeted and just beginning his writing career. This time, he explores revolutions personal and political.
At 9:05 A.M. on the 10th of November, a hush fell over the leaden turbulence of the Bosporus. All activity on the strait ceased. Coast Guard ships, ferries and caiques, like the younger members of a tribe of large marine mammals, drew close in a circle. Behind them, a Turkish destroyer kept vigil, the blue of its gunmetal merging with the strait’s frigid waters. A red-bottomed freighter marked with the words “Iraqi line” hulked in the background. That cityscape of sea-blackened buildings, broad panes glazed silver in the daytime darkness, was no ordinary Left Bank, no mere farther shore. The silhouette of low domes and pencil-thin minarets piercing a nimbus of pale sky above was the continent of Asia. The wonder of looking at it, with my feet still planted on the shores of Europe, was not lost on me. I had been in Istanbul for less than 72 hours. The air grew heavy with anticipation and then, low and deep and melancholy as whale song, came the first moan of a ship’s horn.
Everyone froze. The uniformed figure of an old sea captain snapped to salute. A stout woman in a long black coat with a blue head scarf drew her toddler near. Even the sea gulls, whose cawing and mewling were so much a part of the commotion of the Bosporus, fell in line with this solemn tableau. The air was soon resounding with ship horns and sirens. The moment of remembrance stretched out. Its object, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, stared out at me from the backs of two young Turks, where his youthful likeness was emblazoned on the red ground of the Turkish flags the pair wore as superhero capes around their necks. The Father of Turks, blue-eyed and visionary, with a touch of the derring-do of the old Omar Sharif about him, had died 82 years ago at exactly 9:05 a.m. in Dolmabahçe Palace behind me — an overcooked 19th-century confection of pilasters and sleeping columns. We stood on its manicured grounds, speckled with magnolia and spruce, remembering the fierce secularist who in the 1920s had fought off European incursions on all sides and founded a modern republic from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire.
By Aatish Taseer
Read the full feature here.