Trips

Expert advice to enjoy a dream vacation

Young woman working on the beach

1 Do not purchase travel insurance

The tendency to go beyond those boring pages that, during online bookings, remind you of possible delays, cancellations, accidents or accidents, is a very strong temptation. Nothing could be more wrong, the expert warns. Do not take out travel insurance to save a few tens of euros could ruin an otherwise perfect holiday, turn a period of relaxation in the most stressful days of your life, or worse, blow up the projects of months. Even if you do not use it (hopefully), your travel insurance should also include health insurance to feel safe even in a foreign country and get rid of a lot of worries.

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North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA (MR)
2 Enjoy the moment..no technology

It is not necessary to take pictures every two seconds. It’s true: the view is breathtaking, the beautiful spectacle of the sunlight reflected on the crystal waves, or the skyliner that stands out against the sky, recalling a modern tower of Babel, but no … once again resist: photographing and immediately sharing is not the priority. Take all the time necessary to enjoy the scenery, to breathe deeply the exotic scents, the sea breeze, or the silence of a forest and also, why not ?, the frenzy of a metropolis teeming with life. In short, do what you can not do in your everyday life because you are oppressed by the deadlines: stop. Try to impress the sense of a different world in your memory, not just in your cell phone memory,

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Taxi boat in Krabi, Thailand
3 Walk, walk, walk ..

You have set some stops to visit absolutely, consulting hundreds of travel sites, collecting tips of places to see and browsing various tourist guides but, guess what, according to the expert, the best guide is simply walking. Rather than taking the vehicles or taxis, to discover and get closer to the local life, one must also explore taking the pleasure of getting lost. You will discover those little pearls outside the tourist circuit, but that will allow you to immerse yourself in the life of the place and to surprise you.

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Narrow street in Fez, Morocco.
4 Prohibition to work (or almost)

Is it a holiday? Well, by definition, imposes complete freedom from everything that could be listed under the work label. So forget emails, deadlines and, unless you are a parent (yes, this is a full-time job without part time or vacation), for a weekend your colleagues or clients will be able to do without you, the office it will not fall apart, the collapsed bags will be resolved and your place will be there waiting for you the following week.

But since we are human beings, and moreover, in a modern world, we do not pretend we can do without technology. We are rather looking for a middle ground by establishing an hour a day of connection. The expert explains that when she takes a little vacation she defines an hour of “connected time” from the beginning to be able to relax without too much guilt.

In the shadow of the Ossuary, Custoza is a discovery

A belvedere that takes your breath away. The scent of the must that enters the soul. The lake, the mountains, the foxes that run between cultivated land. We are in Verona, where the past is re-built and kept in the Ossuary of Custoza. With its attractive pyramidal structure, this place tells how post-Risorgimento Italy gave life to a monument, unique in its kind, dedicated to memory.

OSSUARY OF CUSTOZA
1800 skulls of soldiers between 18 and 20, of 13 different nationalities and 5 different religions who fought during the First and Third War of Independence. This is the historical and emotional content that can be seen in the Custoza Ossuary. But what really characterizes him from other ossuaries in Italy is the fact that every relic is kept outside the showcases, within reach of a “direct contact” with the visitor.

Thus, in an emotional journey, between the forty meters of height of this fascinating structure, which shows its strength from the distance and its moving meaning, we visit the chapel that introduces us perfectly into the heart of the shrine with a phrase, so significant, as unforgettable “Enemies in life / death adapted them / pity collected them”.

You can read it up there on top of the white marble.

We then descend into the crypt, where the disturbing order of the remains shakes us deep down. You go up finally, returning “to life” towards the gallery, which gives us a 360 ° look at Custoza and its surroundings, reminding us how delightful its landscape is to see, explore and taste.

OSSUARY OF CUSTOZA
At the beginning of the 20th century the first pilgrims to visit the Ossuary were the Italian and Austrian families of fallen soldiers. Then the cycle-tourism began because Custoza, immersed in the last moraine hills for those coming from Lake Garda and among the first for those who come from Mantua, has a wonderful landscape. Monte Baldo with its 2000 meters and the expanses of vines that make it an ideal half for those in search of peace and authenticity that this village has maintained over time. It is surprising to observe the painting by Julius von Blaas, a military landscape painter, who portrays the parade of the winner of the battle between Albert of Hapsburg and his soldiers proceeding in the direction of the Belvedere hill, you will be thrilled to see that very little has changed from that distant 1906, when the painting was made.

That’s why you should never accept the first hotel room assigned to you

Each of us has experienced hotel disappointment . You arrive in what you thought would be a wonderful place to stay, and then end up in a corner room on the first floor, overlooking the parking lot and infested with the smell of cigarette.

Advice from the expert: this is the reason why you should ALWAYS ask to change rooms after seeing the first one offered to you .

Often, the second room assigned (or the third or fourth, if you are a stubborn type) is much, much better than the first. All you need is a small investigation in order to get the best, even if it is not what was initially obtained.

The recommendation is simple:

If you are not satisfied with the room that has been allocated to you, then it is worth asking for the change.

After checking the assignment object, go to the front desk and ask if there is anything they can do to meet your needs. Hotels often give customers the most basic room in the price range, says Zach Honig , editor-in-chief of The Points Guy.

It is conceivable that hotels behave in this way to keep the best rooms in store for those guests who claim or have special needs (that is, guests like you).

Honig says he would never ask for a room change without first seeing the first assignment, and that’s exactly what we would recommend to everyone.

After seeing the room in person, you can highlight problems such as lack of light, the presence of a strange smell or noisy neighbors, so as to support the request for a new arrangement.

“Providing an explanation for why a change would be preferable can make a difference,” Honig told HuffPost. “For example, if you want to spend a lot of time working from the hotel room, you can explain that extra space would be useful to make the accommodation a more comfortable work environment, so you could get a bigger room or suite. “.

The peyote is a small thornless cactus found in the Potosi desert in Mexico

THE PEYOTE

What is the peyote

What we see

The peyote is a small thornless cactus found in the Potosi desert in Mexico and the United States in the states of New Mexico and Texas.

The peyote has a very slow growth. In the wild it takes more than thirty years to reach adulthood.

It is bulb-shaped green-gray in color and is shaped like an orange. In general it does not exceed seven or eight centimeters in diameter and only protrudes a few centimeters from the ground. It is usually found at the foot of the governadoras alone or in small groups of three or four. The governadoras are thornless bushes ubiquitous in this desert.

A plant with many powers

What makes the peyote so special are these properties. It contains many active substances on the body and on the brain including mescaline.

It is consumed first and foremost for these psychotropic effects, but it also has healing properties recognized scientifically.

This plant is considered sacred in many indigenous cultures and in the first place the Huichols in Mexico who consume it during religious ceremonies.

Wikipedia makes an exhaustive list of the felt effects of peyotes. However, if I compare my personal experience with that of other people I met and testimonies I read, it seems that the effect is very different depending on the person.

Peyotes in bloomPeyotes in bloom

The stories we tell

If I came to this desert and trained my friend Aubin with me, it’s partly to discover what this truly mystical cactus is in the Potosi desert.

He is at the center of the Huicho people’s religion. Although very different, it is often compared to the mighty hayawaska of shamanic Amazonian rites.

What made me want to come to the desert to eat this strange cactus called peyote, are all the curious stories of travelers met far from here, who came to this desert before me.

These are the kinds of things I heard:

What I had been told about the effects of peyote

“I went to eat peyote a month ago since I am super happy” 
Giu Giu

“After taking Peyotes, I drank more alcohol for a month, I had more desire” 
Daniel

“The Peyote is not hallucinogenic it’s very personal, it makes think. When you have a big effect think of your problems, your sick grandmother, your goals in life etc. It’ll help you sort things out ” 
Daniel, Giu Giu, François, and others …

What I had been told about how to take peyote

“I met a shaman, we made a ceremony around a fire one evening in a group with other tourists. » 
Clara

“We each went to look for Peyotes in a different direction and we ate the peyote all together, but everyone ate only those he had found. Because the Peyote is magic it appears to you if you are ready. » 
Clara

I had heard many interesting stories about peyoteI had heard many interesting stories about peyote

“I left with a friend of mine who already knew. We went camping far in the desert alone. We went for long walks to look for and pick some peyote. We ate those we found as and when. We did it again for several days ” 
Giu Giu

“We went in a big band in the desert with music and a lot of alcohol and we shared the peyote we found. In the evening we had a big party and the next day we left »

And then of course there are also the huichols a group indigenous to Mexico who make a pilgrimage of 400 kilometers every year and ritually eat the peyote.

Some Mexicans still come for longer periods of at least a month, often in groups, in small houses very far away where they live on little and eat a lot of peyote.

In the end I heard very different things that seriously stirred my curiosity.

Finally, I followed Jefe’s advice.

“The peyote is medicine, its magic is in it, the shamans here are often fake shamans. It’s up to you to decide how you want to eat it “

Maxico Desert

Jefe Luis, the leader of the desert

An international reputation

As far as Nicaragua or Yucatan I have been recommended several times to meet “Jefe Luis” if I ever went to the San Luis de Potosi desert.
He would welcome me and help me take my first steps in the desert. His desert!

Here we are finally. We are in front of his house. It is a small hut a little twisted, flat roof, made of large stones color earth. The facade is pierced by two very small windows. An old battered caravan extends the house as an extra room. We are in a half-camp Roma style, half village of Tatouine of the Star Wars.

In the distance a man apparently not quite young, in military uniform from the feet to the head and to the slightly lame but assured step approaches. “It’s the Jefe Luis, that’s for sure! ”
That’s what he confirms handing us a big hand full of big fingers.

Jefe and me!Jefe and me!

Visitors from all over the world

He knows why we are here. Every week, visitors from all over the world come here to meet him, camp for a few days in the heart of nature and experience the mystical power of peyotes. He is proud to welcome each visitor personally.
He takes us aside to a tree (which is quite rare in the area) to settle us. The tent that Jefe lends us has no arches or double roof, but with string and branches of our tree we climb our little house that looks like a cobweb and has style.

“Do you have tequila and mescal? The Jefe asks us

“Oh no,” I answer.
“It will be missed! He said the sorry look probably more for him than for us.

“But I have rum and good food”
and we continue our conversation while he whistles our bottle of rum.

Washing me makes me sick

The Jefe wanted to be a soldier, it was his dream but finally he never left his desert and it never happened. One day he was offered his military uniform and since then he has not left him. He gets dressed every day with. Anyway in the desert we do not get dirty and here hygiene is not a concern. There is not enough water for that. It has been a lot of fun this year, but it’s been three years since it happened and apart from that there is just a well.

The Jefe is only washing once every five months, he says it makes him sick. But when you see the big water hole covered with a funny green moss that serves as a bath for all the members of this tiny hamlet I can imagine better why.

Without water, what are the people living here?

Looking at the dry land of the desert, I wonder how we can live here. As incredible as it sounds, he tells me that this year’s rain has allowed them to grow corn and kidney beans. He hands me a spike of but very particular. The grains are red, yellow and black and they are very hard and dry. Desert corn In years when there is no rain they leave to work in the more modern and larger farms of those who have dug very deep wells and life is harder. The Jefe tells me that he has often been hungry, thirsty and cold.

First sunset on the desert

It is in the company of Jefe that we eat our first peyote. As the sun falls on one side and the moon rises on the other side, everything becomes so beautiful that it seems unreal. My friend Aubin claims that between the hills there is the end of the world. He saw this in “The Trueman Show” and yet no, our magical world extends to infinity all around us at 360 degrees.

Jefe points at us lying there in front of us and says:

“I would be happiest if all the people from all over the world that I hosted here were all here in front of me here and they all said to me:

Hi Jefe and thank you! ”

Travel To Maxico

El pueblo fantasma

The next day in the light of day we discover the city with another look. In the alleyways away from many ruined houses and flapping shutters still testify to the not-so-distant time when the city was a ghost town.

We go climbing a hill and again we meet buildings from another time.

First, an abandoned old mine whose rusty machines mark the entrance and then at the top an entire village of which all that remains are old stones and the church not yet completely collapsed. In places we go around huge square wells which we do not see the bottom. They lead directly to the heart of the old mines. Rocks are thrown to the bottom to probe the depth and we expect to wake the goblins who must live indoors in the dark.

Real de Catorze, a city of pilgrimage

Back to Real de Catorze we head towards the church which attracts thousands of pilgrims each year in the hope that Saint Francis of Assisi will answer their prayers. As elsewhere in Mexico, the churches are full of ugly kitschy statues painted with real wig hair and glass eyes.

To request the realization of a miracle to Saint Francis or thank you we hang a golden pin with the photo of a loved one on the support provided or we made a beautiful drawing accompanied by a beautiful letter of thanks. An entire wall is lined with these letters. Reading them, I learned that Saint-François is really very strong. He saves car accidents, gives birth to children, heals almost all diseases, etc.

Meet a funny shaman

While strolling we crossed a very smiling guy quietly sitting on a low wall that stopped us. The guy, a young man of no more than thirty, was almost as badly dressed as me, dressed in poncho and wore a guitar of the kind well customized and patched with big tape:
“Hi guys, you’re going to the desert not true ? Can I help you? ”

The guy tells us that when we talk to him it is under the effect of peyotes and it seems to make him really happy. He tells us that he is called “Gusano” (earth green), that he is a shaman, that he lives in the desert and comes back to Real de Catorze every weekend to earn a living by playing the game. guitar in the streets for tourists.

He guessed that we intended to go to the desert and certainly eat peyotes. So they propose to take us. It sounds interesting but it’s not exactly how we imagined our trip in the desert and we decided to leave without him. Not resentful, he teaches us a little more about the desert, the peyotes and how to go where we planned.

 

DISCOVERING THE DESERT AND THE CACTUS WITH MYSTIC POWERS, THE PEYOTE

The desert of San Luis Potosi is a magical world covered with cacti and thorn bushes on a yellow and arid land. I went there as much to discover this fantastic landscape as to eat the peyote, this mysterious cactus with mystical powers found only there.

THE DESERT WAY

First mysterious step

On the recommendations of the friends met on the way we head to a small town with the mysterious name “Real de Catorze”, “Royale de Fourteen” in French.

This city was a mining town (gold and silver mines) until the end of the 19th century. Little by little the city has turned into a ghost town with the abandonment of mines. What to thicken the mystery.

We arrive at night and the bus leaves us at the entrance of a tunnel too narrow to continue our route. It was dug more than 150 years ago, entirely built in old stones, and especially it is the only passage towards the city. I watch the lights get lost inside by raising an eyebrow! Are we going to have to walk the three kilometers that separates us on the other side?

A funny little bus almost the width of the tunnel then arrives and makes us cross. The passengers sit on a long bench that runs along the walls. Already there are two or three travelers with unusual style including a bearded fifty years with a felt hat, feathers at the end of the hair …

Real de Catorze the ghost town

On the other side of the tunnel we are in Real de Catorze. It is said that this name is a tribute to fourteen Spaniards who were killed by the natives during the construction of the city. The city is enclosed by arid hills covered with yellow soil on which cacti and thorn bushes grow. All houses are in large stones.

At first sight the city does not have much ghost anymore. It has repopulated as tourists attracted by the magical atmosphere of the place or on pilgrimage to St. Francis of Assisi have arrived more and more numerous.

At its peak tens of thousands of people lived there, today there are almost two miles who live entirely tourism directly or indirectly. At the turn of an alley, teenagers are dressed in traditional costumes or monsters and dance to the rhythm of the drums. We are given a hot fruit drink with a drop of mescal and tamales, rolls of corn pastry stuffed with meat. Welcoming !

IN TIMOR, LOST IN KUPANG AND ON ROTI ISLAND


The big island of Timor in Indonesia is absolutely not touristy, fortunately Berto a local guy makes me the visit of the capital of the island Kupang and I see real Indonesia without blinkers. Then I go solo to Roti island off Timor. A real gem!

In Kupang I am lost by myself, I do not know what to do. I drag a little in the city but there is not much to see. Along the beach at night, a whole street is covered with small street vendors. You can eat all the panoply of Indonesian dishes.

Surprisingly one of the homosexuals on the boat calls me to spend the evening. Ok I have nothing to do after all. He makes me visit a kind of funny fairground. It’s very poor, the maneges are from another time. Some turn with the force of a man, who jumps on the manege to give him elan. It’s like the turnstiles of the schoolyards more elaborate and bigger.

We find friends at his home. He lives in a tiny room with no window that smells of chicken. A huge insect mounts me on it. There are no windows, the walls are not thicker than paper, yet wood. This is the first time I have faced so much poverty. It’s much worse in the cities. Neighbors arrive, I discuss Indonesians as best as I can. Everyone is incredibly friendly and warm, even the owner arrives. We drink a few beers, I spend a good evening, the owner makes me promise to come back here when I return to Kupang.

The next day I go to Rote Island with an ultra fast boat. The island is amazing, it is a kind of African desert with buffaloes and wild horses. There are miles of beaches completely deserted. Families of wild pigs roam these abandoned beaches snouting in the sand. Real traditional villages are built on the sand, the houses are all bamboo with straw roofs.
The layers of sun on the sea are very beautiful. At nightfall the inhabitants light fires on the beach and discuss under the sky covered with millions of stars.

ARRIVAL IN EAST TIMOR

The island of Timor is divided in two. On the one side Indonesia, on the other, the most recent country in the world, Timor leste. Here on the Indonesian side there are already no tourists, no one speaks English, it’s complicated to travel here. I have to go to Timor Leste or go 4 tourists a day according to the statistics …

It’s been a week since I was in the Indonesian part of Timor. I feel really deep in Indonesia, I had no contact with other tourists (except Roti island). I am without information in a big city that I do not know, or hardly anyone speaks English and in a different culture. Fortunately I made an Indonesian friend, Berto.

At the moment it’s intense but not easy. So I hesitate to go to Timor-Leste, the country next door. It is the youngest country in the world, it exists only since 2004. It is said that only 4 tourists a day return there and that the country recently independent is not yet stable politically and can be still violent. It is also said that it is the poorest country in Asia but paradoxically life is very expensive. United Nations forces control the security of the country and people still speak a different language (tetum).

I am afraid to find myself in a truly total immersion, alone and able to communicate. But now that I have come so far I make the decision to go there despite everything.

Fun situation at the time of getting in my little bus on which is written the name of the place where I have to go the locals shout me not to go up. “Ok, ok, ok!” I finally understand that here the name on the front of the bus does not indicate the final destination but simply the general direction. The locals help me get on the right bus that takes me to the border that consists of a series of tole cabins in the middle of nature.

Here I am in Timor-Leste. Now the currency is not the rupee but the US dollar. But I arrived too late, there is no bus anymore. I’m stuck at the border is it’s night.

I use my best Indonesian to haggle with a guy. I would like him to take me to the capital Dili with his scooter. We agree for $ 20. At the time it seemed to me expensive but considering what awaits me I understand better later what the price implies.

The 3 hours of roads behind the scooter with my bag on the shoulders are rather difficult for my back and my little buttocks, but the arid landscape is a treat. The road meanders along the coast sometimes on the beach sometimes in the hills and soon with a view of a beautiful sunset over the sea.
In one of the villages we pass the first UN soldiers who greet us from the top. their tank.

Tired, I arrive at night in Dili directly at the Backpacker hotel and thank my driver.