Michael Batson

Travel Writer





The Temple of the Sun - 20 April 2011

Peru’s Machu Picchu has survived 500 years of rain, earthquake and landslides. The mountaintop religious retreat and citadel city is one of the world’s greatest archaeological achievements, built by Inca emperor Pachacutec probably in the 15th century, to prove his place among the gods.It’s an early start in the cold morning at Cusco railway station. I was wary. I’d been told that two English women were recently mugged near the station. They lost their bags and clothes including, apparently, the ones they were wearing. At knife point they were told to strip to their underwear, before the gang made off with their belongings.I boarded the train to kilometre 88, the jumping off point for the trek through the Andes, the Inca Trail, and a three-day walk to the fabled “Lost City of the Incas”. Alternatively, simply stay on the train, and save the foot slogging. Most people opt for the day-return journey, courtesy of Peruvian rail.My mate and I had met up with a South African woman Liz, who after some time working in the UK, had an accent somewhere between Cornwall and Durban.Your options are guided tours out of Cusco, or, as in our case hiring any essentials and doing it yourself. We were for the latter. So stocked with food, a hire tent, and a jumper made of fine alpaca wool recently purchased, off we went.There’s an entrance fee for doing the trail, a flat rate payable at the stop with pristine notes, all in US dollars.To exit Cusco, the train climbs a steep

Secret on the Desert - 10 April 2011

Nazca is a dusty town located on the Pan-American Highway between Peru’s second city Arequipa and the capital Lima.  People usually pass through on their way from one city to the other. Just outside town is located one of the mysteries of the world, the Nazca Lines. The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient hieroglyphic drawings and symbols

El Misti and The White City - 3 April 2011

The road from Chile to Arequipa, Peru’s second city, takes you along a famous highway and through the dusty provincial centre of Tacna.San Pedro de Tacna, the southern most city in the Republic of Peru, is connected to Chile by road and by rail. The rail line was built in 1855 and is one of the oldest in South America.The road is part of the

The City of Eternal Spring - 27 March 2011

 Arica is the northern most city in Chile and the jumping off point for Tacna, in Peru. By measured rainfall, Arica is one of the driest inhabited places on Earth. Oxford academic Nick Middleton came here when filming for the television series, Going To Extremes, on the trail of the coldest, wettest and hottest places on Earth, this

The Most Perfect Desert in the World - 24 March 2011

The Atacama Desert is often described as the world’s most perfect desert. Parts of the desert haven't seen a drop of rain since recordkeeping began. It is the second driest place on Earth after Antarctica. The desert stretches 1000 kilometres from Peru's southern border rising from a thin coastal shelf to the pampas—virtually lifeless plains

Red Gold Fever - 11 March 2011

Copper accounts for almost one-third of all Chile’s foreign trade. At one time the figure was a massive 75 percent. These days Chile produces about 450,000 tons of copper per year.Not for nothing then is copper known as “Chile’s salary”.Mines come complete with their own cities to house the workers, their own water and electrical plants

Valparaiso - It's By The Sea - 5 March 2011

Two hours drive by bus from Santiago is the port of Valparaiso, until the early 1900s Chile’s first city. Testament to its former glories, Valparaiso was home to Latin America’s first stock exchange and the oldest continuous Spanish language newspaper in the world. Valparaiso once served as an important stopover for ships sailing between the

It was the Land of Opportunity - 20 February 2011

La Boca is the working class district near the docks, famous for its narrow cobbled streets and brightly coloured houses. If paying a visit it pays to be cautious. It’s a fairly rough area and tourists are sometimes targeted by petty criminals. I found the area remarkably small, largely consisting of a single street, so I had trouble working out