The World at My Feet: Solo Travel in Central and South America

RÓISÍN SORAHAN had a good job and a comfortable life. Then she decided she could grow old very quickly waiting for the perfect man to show her the world. So she took a break from work – and it has changed her life.

MY GUT DECIDED that I was going travelling long before my head agreed.

Me pictured on the Inca Trail in Peru
Róisín pictured on the Inca Trail – just one day from the Hidden City.
Carving a boat from a tree in a coastal village in Honduras
Carving a boat from a tree in a coastal village in Honduras.

Photographer: Will Chin

Under African Skies

Most people arrive in Africa full of preconceptions. Best look for the real continent, writes RÓISÍN SORAHAN, whose time in Zanzibar prepares her for a trip up Kilimanjaro.

AFRICA HAS been over exploited and over explained – usually in terms of what it is not. It has been described as a dark star and a heart of darkness. It is an absence to be filled and a dilemma to be solved. “The problem with Africa” is a line I heard repeatedly when I arrived in Tanzania.

The snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro.
Ngalawa: Zanzibar’s traditional canoe.

Photographer: Will Chin

On the Crest of a Mexican Wave

Last year RÓISÍN SORAHAN wrote about leaving her good job and comfortable life to travel through Central and South America. Moving north, to Mexico, she found a fiesta-filled country that puts its best foot forward.

MEXICO LOVES to party. Any excuse and it’s off: no snobbery, social nuances or age restrictions. Everyone is invited.

A boy in traditional costume for the Danza de los Negritos.
Dancers in Cuernavaca.

Photographer: Will Chin

On the Trail of Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas

RÓISÍN SORAHAN felt like she was starring in ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ as she trekked through dense jungle in pursuit of an elusive prey, armed only with her camera.

IT FELT LIKE I was watching an old cinema reel. Thick mist cloaked the volcanic peaks. Trackers with machetes led the vanguard. Exotic plants with exaggerated genitalia leered drunkenly. Dense vegetation threw up its almost impenetrable shields. All the while, a cricket banged on about the silence.

Members of the Susa Group in Parc National des Volcans.
The dominant silverback of the group.

Photographer: Will Chin

Hottest Ticket in Town

RÓISÍN SORAHAN joins the volcano tourist trail in South America.

VOLCANOES aren’t something we think about too often in Ireland. Carrauntoohil, our highest peak, is a sleepy, docile creature; the most threatening thing about it is probably the name of its access route, Hag’s Glen.

Volcan Villarrica, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, towers over the idyllic town of Pucán in Chile.
Hikers start the ascent of one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Photographer: Will Chin

Only Thrill Seekers Need Apply

From white-water rafting to diving with sharks, RÓISÍN SORAHAN on the holiday experiences that set the heart hammering but are definitely not for the faint-hearted.

A SENSE OF self-preservation and power of reason are some of the weightier items we often leave at home while holidaying. It seems that when we’re out of our norm, the tendency to behave out of our minds is greatly increased.

A fishing dhow in full sail in the Lamu Archipelago, Kenya
The road to Tupiza, Bolivia

Photographer: Will Chin

In Search of Shangri-La

A townland in southwest China has changed its name from Zhngdiàn to Shangri-La. A shameless marketing ploy? Certainly. Is it working? Absolutely, writes RÓISÍN SORAHAN.

SHANGRI-LA. The name rolls around your tongue like a ripe plum.

Naxi women from the local minority group flood Lijiang’s central square where they join in traditional dancing.
“The Famous Dr Ho” pictured outside his herbal medicine clinic in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Photographer: Will Chin

‘There is no feeling of humanity. People are sick of their lives’

For the 25,000 living in a square kilometre, the Balata refugee camp is a place of despair and death.

Mural on the exterior wall that confines the camp.
Mural depicting the Palestinian flight

Photographer: Will Chin

What a Wonderful World

Following a huge public poll, the seven new wonders of the world were announced, replacing the old list of wonders (of which only one remains). RÓISÍN SORAHAN visited them all.

In 2001 a campaign was launched to update the list to a modern catalogue.

The Great Pyramid, flanked by the Sphinx.
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Machu Picchu, The Lost City of the Incas.

Photographer: Will Chin

Mighty Time in Yosemite

Being woken by scavenging bears only whetted the appetite for a greater taste of the wild at California’s Yosemite National Park, writes RÓISÍN SORAHAN.

Our breaths lingered in the chilly air as we muddled our way through the labyrinthine camp and pitched our tent under a cluster of pinewood trees.

Autumn in Yosemite.
Hiking trail above Yosemite Valley.

Photographer: Will Chin

Why quitting my job and moving to China was the best thing I ever did 

RÓISÍN SORAHAN packed her bags, dusted off her ‘Teaching English’ cert and headed to the Far East – and hasn’t looked back since.

WE WERE directed under an ornate red arch which straddled a narrow street that heaved with motor-bikes of all shapes and sizes. As we wandered the length of the strip, the traders’ faces transformed from dour boredom to full-beam excitement. We weren’t just potential customers; we were the foreigners in town. 

Róisín, pictured with her students.
Entrance to the ancient walled city of Luoyang

Photographer: Will Chin

Drama in the Desert

Retrace the steps of T.E. Lawrence, and lodge with a Bedouin family in the magnificent desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan and you are sure to be smitten, writes RÓISÍN SORAHAN.

I COULDN’T understand a word, but their intimacy was obvious. Black-kohl eyes danced above the glow of a cigarette. Her deep, coarse laugh blared confidence. Her husband, capable and strong, smelled of camels and desert sands. The cigarette passed between them and we were forgotten for a time as we lounged on the mattress spread by the fire, eyes smarting as the smoke thickened the air of the Bedouin tent.

Wadi Rum is a protected area in South Jordan.
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Bedouin goat hair tent.

Photographer: Will Chin

Hiking the Himalayas

A 300km trek which wraps around the Annapurna Range in western Nepal is considered by many to be one of the finest hikes in the world, writes RÓISÍN SORAHAN.

RIVERS CAN’T keep secrets. Over time they spill onto their banks. Even the old dark ones that have remained hidden for centuries.

View of the peaks from Manang.
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A Stupa bedecked in Tibetan prayer flags.

Photographer: Will Chin