Sunset Hummer tour in Moab, Utah

Sunset Hummer tour in Moab, Utah - photo by Rob McFarland

Sunset Hummer tour in Moab, Utah – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Dec 1, 2018

“It’s OK to scream,” says Mike. Good to know because I’m about to start wailing like a teething toddler. Ahead of us is a steeply plunging wall of sandstone and we’re going down it. Fast. I can’t see what’s at the bottom but I’m fairly sure it’s certain death.

We career down the slippery rock, feet braced, knuckles gripped, stomachs lurching. While I shriek uncontrollably, Mike steers nonchalantly with one hand. Finally, we reach the valley floor and he expertly scrubs off speed and brings us to a stop. Everyone lets out a relief-fuelled sigh. No one died … well, except my dignity.

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Cycling the Waterford Greenway, Ireland

Cycling the Waterford Greenway in Ireland - photo by Rob McFarland

Cycling the Waterford Greenway in Ireland – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sun-Herald, Australia – Nov 4, 2018

Few cities are as synonymous with a product as Waterford in south-east Ireland. The renowned crystal maker was based there from 1783 until 2009, when its owning company, Waterford Wedgwood, went into receivership. Hundreds of manufacturing jobs were lost and tourist numbers dwindled.

As Phil Brennan, owner of Waterford Camino Tours, puts it: “The city went through some dark times but it’s starting to come out the other end.”

In an attempt to lure people back, the company’s new owners unveiled an impressive new visitor centre in 2010. It helped but arguably the biggest boost came from the opening in March 2017 of the Waterford Greenway, a 46-kilometre cycle path that follows a disused railway between Waterford and the coastal town of Dungarvan.

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GoBoat trip on Regent’s Canal, London

Exploring Regent's Canal with GoBoat - photo by Rob McFarland

Exploring Regent’s Canal with GoBoat – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sun-Herald, Australia – Oct 28, 2018

“Give way to everything” is the crux of the safety briefing at GoBoat’s headquarters in Paddington Basin. London’s canal system might not be the industrial thoroughfare it once was but there are still plenty of things to trouble the first-time boater. Fortunately, the top speed of the vessel I’ll be captaining is only 6.5 km/h, so even if I do hit something, I shouldn’t do much damage. At least that’s the theory.

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Bar tour in Budapest, Hungary

Szimpla ruin bar in Budapest - photo by Rob McFarland

Szimpla ruin bar in Budapest – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sun-Herald, Australia – Aug 19, 2018

“I guess she can drive!” we all cry, clinking our glasses in unison. According to Fanni, our smiling guide from Urban Adventures, this is the closest approximation to “egeszsegedre!” or “cheers!” in Hungarian.

Given Hungary’s location in the heart of Europe, you’d think its language might resemble that of one of its neighbours – Austria or Croatia perhaps? Not a chance. Its closest relative is the equally tongue-troubling Finnish.

Still, with this all-important phrase under my belt, I feel suitably equipped to tackle an evening of bar hopping around Budapest.

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Delicious Dublin food tour, Ireland

Inside Camerino bakery in Dublin - photo by Rob McFarland

Inside Camerino bakery in Dublin – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Aug 18, 2018

“I fell in love with Dublin,” says Ketty Quigley, explaining why she relocated to Ireland from France in 2004. “And I fell in love with an Irish man,” she adds with a smile. “What I didn’t fall in love with was Irish food.”

Thankfully, much has changed during the intervening years. The recession in 2008 closed many of the city’s high-end restaurants and those that survived were forced to reinvent themselves. The result was a reinvigorated casual dining scene with a focus on local produce.

Quigley was so impressed that in 2012 she started a food blog called French Foodie in Dublin. Since then, she’s been named the SHEmazing! Food Influencer of the Year, has become a judge for the Irish Restaurant Awards and is one of Tourism Ireland’s Irish food champions. Not bad for something she started as a side project because she was bored at work.

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Contoy Island Tour, Mexico

Contoy Island in Mexico - photo by Rob McFarland

Contoy Island in Mexico – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sun-Herald, Australia – May 13, 2018

“Make some noise for the crew,” bellows an excitable guide. “No noise, no lunch!”

I’m in Cancun, Mexico’s Vegas by the sea, and have signed up for this “Paradise Island” boat tour for what I’d hoped would be a respite from the town’s all-you-can-drink happy hours and pole-dancing waitresses.

But this doesn’t bode well. An armada of minivans has delivered us to a dock north of Cancun where we’ve been divided into groups and allocated boats. I’m in the English/French group and our guide is an enthusiastic Mexican called David.

“Is anyone celebrating anything?” he cries, once we’re all aboard. “No? OK, let’s celebrate being alive!”

I let my head slump onto my life jacket. It’s going to be a long day.

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Tour of Nyamirambo in Kigali, Rwanda

Walking tour of Nyamirambo in Kigali - photo by Rob McFarland

Walking tour of Nyamirambo in Kigali – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sun-Herald, Australia – Feb 18, 2018

In a bare concrete hall, women rummage through second-hand clothing on makeshift wooden tables. “We call it caguwa wishyure, which means pick and pay,” says our guide Shema. “You can also say caguwa to a loved one. To show her she’s unique and there’s nothing else like her.”

I try to imagine how my girlfriend would react if I compared her to a piece of second-hand clothing. I suspect it would not end well.

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Embera village visit, Panama

Boat trip to Embera Quera village in Panama - photo by Rob McFarland

Boat trip to Embera Quera village in Panama – photo by Rob McFarland

Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Feb 3, 2018

After turning off the main road, we park in a small clearing and follow a dirt track down to the river. Waiting for us in a wooden dugout canoe are two men wearing small black and white beaded skirts and bright yellow loin cloths. The younger one steps out of the boat, smiles and hands me a lifejacket.

We motor up the mud-coloured Gatun River, its banks thick with fig trees, palms and rushes. Along the way we pass a three-toed sloth hanging languidly from a branch and an inquisitive capuchin monkey who climbs down from the treetops as we approach. “We’ll keep our distance,” says Luis, my guide from Chimu Adventures. “Last year one jumped into the boat and stole a lady’s $300 Prada sunglasses.”

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Rockin’ Running Tour, Memphis

Rockin Running tour in Memphis - photo by Rob McFarland

Rockin Running tour in Memphis – photo by Rob McFarland

The Sun-Herald, Australia – February 2, 2014

It’s a common holiday conundrum: how do you find time to exercise while you’re away? No one wants to spend hours cooped up in a gym when you could be sightseeing.

It’s particularly challenging in a city such as Memphis, with its tempting trifecta of blues, booze and barbecue food.

Rockin’ Running Tours reckons it has the answer: guided running tours. Who says you can’t sightsee and stay fit at the same time?

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Gibson Guitar Factory tour, Memphis, Tennessee

 

New guitars at the Gibson Guitar Factory, Memphis, TN - photo by Rob McFarland

New guitars at the Gibson Guitar Factory, Memphis, TN – photo by Rob McFarland

The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – October 27, 2013

As a guitar-mad teenager, there was only one thing I wanted for my 18th birthday: a Gibson Les Paul. Immortalised by the likes of Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Slash, it was the wannabe rock guitarist’s dream instrument.

There was only one problem: a new Les Paul cost the same as a small car. Unperturbed, I waged a six-week campaign of teenage tantrum-throwing until my parents finally buckled and agreed to go halves on a Les Paul Studio. This considerably cheaper model has the same legendary sound quality but less of the fancy ornamentation.

Given that I’m writing this story and not rehearsing for a concert at Wembley Stadium, it’s fair to say my talent plateaued somewhere around Stairway to Heaven. But the guitar remains a treasured possession and on a good day it takes me only four attempts to play the intro to Sweet Child O’ Mine.

So you can imagine my delight some 30 years later when I visit Memphis and discover it’s possible to take a tour of Gibson’s factory, one block from Beale Street.

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