I am completing my favourite travel photos with my famous five, the quintet that I (currently) love the most.
Hotel Baron, Aleppo, Syria
This photo signifies so much.
Hamish and I travelled to Syria overland from Istanbul by train, bus and taxi in May 2009. This was actually the third time of trying to get there following cancellations in 2006 (conflict between Hezbollah/Lebanon/Syria and Israel) and again in 2008 (family bereavement), so just getting to Aleppo was a major cause for celebration.
The train leg from Ankara to Adana on the Toros Express remains probably my favourite ever train journey and Aleppo I think will always be my favourite city.
We stayed in the iconic Hotel Baron, the oldest hotel in Aleppo and frequented in the past by the likes of Agatha Christie, Lawrence of Arabia, Charles De Gaulle and David Rockefeller.
I remember the feeling of exultation as we sat in the atmospheric hotel bar for a well-earned gin & tonic, probably sat in the same tan leather armchairs as those distinguished former guests.
The picture itself is of me and the hotel manager. I love his sartorial style and the broad smile on his face was entirely genuine, so delighted was he to have guests all the way from England.
I am getting quite emotional as I write these words and think about the fate of so many innocent Syrians that have suffered in the last 9 years. Everyone that we met were delightful, smiling and ever so friendly and courteous, welcoming us with open arms to their country.
My heart bleeds for the victims and the damage done to a city that has stood for over 6,000 years
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
In 1998 Hamish and I visited Vietnam, starting in Ho Chi Minh City and working our way northwards to Hanoi.
It was whilst we were in the Vietnamese capital that we took a trip to the UNESCO world heritage area of Ha Long Bay, sailing along the truly beautiful stretch of water before staying the night at Cat Ba Island.
My photo however is not one of the turquoise waters of the bay, or of a Chinese junk sailing serenely or the tortoise shell like rocks that jut out of the Gulf of Tonkin, part of the South China Sea.
Part way towards Cat Ba Island we stopped off and clambered up one of the rocky outcrops to view this mountain lake. The photo was taken on an old style camera and for some reason I have always loved it despite it not being that critically great a shot, displaying it in my office as one of my ‘happy place’ pictures.
Dead Woman’s Pass, Inca Trail, Peru
The year was 2001 and Hamish and I walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a journey of three nights spent under canvas (we very nearly did not make it due to people number restrictions, but that’s a story for another time).
Day two saw us climbing up to Dead Woman’s Pass (Warmiwañusca in the Quechua language).
The Pass is famous (or infamous) due to its altitude. At 4,215m (13,828 ft), it’s the highest point of the Inca Trail, and nearly 1,800m (5,905 ft) higher than the altitude of Machu Picchu itself.
Climbing nearly 3,000 metres in altitude on rocky terrain with the sun beating down was the hardest physical feat I have ever accomplished.
I had trained for months to be the fittest since schooldays, we had acclimatised to altitude over seventeen days touring the country and Bolivia and I had a very good walking pole.
Nothing had prepared me for the trek however. It was like walking through molasses whilst wearing deep sea diving boots. I had to stop for breath after every two or three steps as we neared the top, resting on my pole that had fast become my best friend (sorry Hamish!).
I even contemplated giving up on more than a few occasions, but we managed to encourage and cajole each other to carry on, driven by the thought of what lay ahead.
The sense of relief, joy, and achievement was euphoric and this picture brings back those feelings whenever I view it.
I felt I should also sneak in another photo at the summit………..
The Malecon, Havana, Cuba
This photo was taken in 2017 and features Mrs Wilbur & Hamish, the two people that I have travelled the most with and as you would expect, both mean the world to me.
This picture screams out of the joy of being somewhere extra special with someone very special.
Says it all.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil
This is taken at the Devil’s Throat waterfall, part of the widest set of falls in the world and located on the Brazil/Argentina border.
We walked a couple of miles to get there and got up as close as we could, taking an absolute drenching from the spray of the powerful torrents.
I will never forget the embrace and kiss with Mrs Wilbur, as we both tossed away any inhibitions to cast the moment indelibly in our memory of magic experiences.
I am very pleased that Mrs Wilbur also had the presence of mind to take a couple of selfies.
Where are you favourite travel photos shot?