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Max Le Grand

Cheltenham based travel writer and photographer, answers ten commonly asked questions. crack

You have travelled the world for over 45 years. How has security at airports and ferry crossings changed?

Back in 1960, security was virtually nil. Getting caught for smuggling to many spirits or cigarettes was common. When I started travelling regularly around Europe and other parts of the world, it was bad weather and mechanical breakdowns. These days, security against terrorism is necessary for travel safety.

How many inoculations do you have for world travel?

My doctor sends reminders for vaccinations that include Typhoid. Tetanus. Polio. Yellow Fever. Hepatitis B. Hepatitis A. Malaria tablets.

What is your perspective upon the world? How do you overcome jet lag?

In 1977-78 I was a crewman on Chay Blyth’s ketch Great Britain II in the 27,000 mile Whitbread round-the-world race. We sailed from Portsmouth to ports in Cape Town, Auckland and Rio de Janeiro. The total voyage took 134 days and under Skipper Robert James, we won the race. I see the world as big and challenging. If you flew from London to Cape Town, Auckland, Rio de Janeiro and back to London nonstop, that’s 26,562 miles in roughly 54 hours. After trip like that, you would deserve to feel tired and disorientated. Jet lag! It is a frame of mind.

Name the most memorable places you have visited?

I remember, Hato Pinero, a cattle ranch on the Cojedes Plain in Venezuela. The awesome Iguazu Falls in Brazil. Mount Everest from Holy Tengboche in Nepal. Foresters Arms Hotel, Swaziland. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Polar Bears prowling in snow on Svalbard in the midnight sun. Alone with thousands of penguins, on Sea Lion Island in The Falklands. The ornate So-o-Seh Bridge over the Zayandeh River, in the old Persian capital of Esfahan. Lastly, the views from the little church at the peak of Schmittenhohe mountain above Zell am See in Austria.

What is it like when you are the minority of one in a strange country?

I went on a uncharted safari through the Eastern Province of Zambia. Our hosts were hunters, who killed elephant, rhino and crocodile for ivory and skins. My Malawian safari leader frequently got lost. Our 4x4 fell off a pontoon into the Luangwa River. Fifty natives took four hours to haul us out. With no common language, we had fun around their camp fire, playing a form of charades.

How do you overcome language problems?

I first travelled the world in 1964. A turbo-prop flew us to Thailand via Istanbul and Bombay. The pilot had to have an engine replaced. We spent three days in Bangkok. Tourism was non-existent. I entered The Temple of the Reclining Buddha and spent five hours ‘conversing’ with the saffron robed monks. We used sign, drawings and gesticulation. There was no language or written word in common. Good experience that has stood the test of time.

What extremes of climate do you face?

I was nearly frozen to death in Swedish Lapland. My car broke down in -48F. It was mid-winter and pitch dark. Before departing, you tell people of your destination. They phone ahead when you might be expected. I was late, so they searched for me. I awoke in a hospital, my hair was falling out. By contrast I went for a 60 mile cycle ride along the Nile south of Luxor in Egypt. It was June, when the heat is around 120F. I drank pints of water and saw an Egypt not many visitors see.
Do you eat all foreign food?

Frankly, I consume what I’m given. Hunger and thirst compel me too. I suffered Dehli-Behli once in my life in Tanzania. So upon arrival at the Serengeti Gate, the fly blown ‘thunder box’ was no deterrent. I was fine after that salutary experience.

How much baggage do you carry? Has anything ever been lost?

I travel, where possible by hand baggage. I have never lost anything. After a flight to Tokyo, my case had been crushed in the aircraft hold. Two cameras were flattened. Luckily, Pentax in Japan provided me with brand new equipment. I vowed never to use a suitcase again.

Travelling in Europe must have changed over the years?

I recall a camping holiday in Northern France in 1954. Dad needed a green card for our car. Sailing from Dover to Calais was unbelievably exciting. We had our passports checked and stamped upon entering France. Changed our money from sterling to French Franc’s. I kept on asking Dad what customs were talking about. Mother almost yanked the steering wheel from Dad’s hand. She thought he was driving on the wrong side of the road. By contrast, I talked to some Cheltenham based Europeans about Britain. They think we are very foreign. We drive to the left. Speak English, and expect everyone else to comply. We maintain our sterling currency. Cannot hold our drink, and we call ourselves Europeans!