4 Travel Ideas From a Pilot Who's Been Everywhere
“Its been an intense career that I’ve enjoyed a lot. It’s really been because of my work I’ve had the opportunity to see so many of these wonderful places. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is all the people I’ve met, the new cultures, a different way of life.”
That’s Warren Randle, talking in an interview a couple weeks ago. Warren is a humble, thoughtful retired seaplane pilot who spends his time watching his three teenage girls grow up.
Read part 1 of my interview with Warren Randle: A Celebrated Pilot’s Lifetime of Adventure
The interesting thing about Warren’s travels, however, is that while Warren’s been so fortunate to meet such amazing people, those people have been just as fortunate to meet Warren. And Warren has basically been everywhere. Looking for a fresh travel idea? Here are 4 favourites from a pilot who’s seen it all.
1. Before You’re Gone: Machu Picchu & Peru
It’s absolutely imperative that people see Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru. No matter what it costs, there is a small hotel at the top you need to stay in. It’s probably improved since I was there in 1992, but you’ve got to stay overnight. Don’t rush, stay up there and stay overnight in this magical place and visit Machu Picchu in the morning. You can do climbing there and there are local climbers to assist you, but that’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a walk through the ruins, you have a personal tour guide and the people really treat you well. I wouldn’t rush that one. When I was there, you weren’t allowed to go into the site until 9am but I didn’t want my pictures spoiled by tourists so I snuck in at 6am. The Spanish didn’t destroy this site so its hard to call them ruins, its all immaculate, in perfect condition.
There are two trains at the bottom of Machu Picchu. The tourist train where nobody bothers you and it’s fast, or there’s the people’s train and we chose that one. The whole thing is about meeting people from there. They’re selling fruit and other items, the luggage racks are filled with bananas and produce and the person beside you is feeding her baby. People would board the train at each stop to sell soup, cheese or provide live entertainment. I remember a father and son singing and playing the guitar, their voices were so beautiful. You throw some money in a hat, and you learn all sorts of stuff by being with people of Peru.
2. Sheer Splendour in Yellowknife
I spent 12 years living in Canada’s Arctic, it is absolutely beautiful and it’s not hard to get there. Best freshwater fishing in the world. You need to fly out for it, but I was spoiled being a pilot. I would drop off clients and then stop myself two hundred miles north of Yellowknife to catch fish. From Yellowknife up to the Arctic coast, you can catch trout, grayling, whitefish and Arctic char.
I love the dog races too, and during the summer you can climb up to Pilot’s Monument and watch the airplanes take off and land. When I lived in Yellowknife it had a population of fourteen thousand. Since I left in 1990 there’s been a gold rush and a couple of diamond rushes. It looks like a small city, but it’s clean, built up, and has all the amenities. People go to Yellowknife and make friends but only stay for two to five years. I stayed for 10, but after awhile you get tired of friends moving away on you.
3. The People Of South America
For security reasons Chile is the place to go right now. They’ll take care of you there. If you like the big city, Santiago, that’s fine, but the real gems are the wonderful beaches and the people of South America. They are not tourist-jaded and if you want to meet real people that really care to know about you, go to South America. It’s the people and the experience.
Depending on what you’re into, whether it’s surfing, night-life, or motorcycling through Chile, you meet a totally different culture and it’s different way of living life. Every Sunday is family day. You see every couple holding hands no matter what age. People are responsible there and the purpose is different. Its not just shaking hands; a typical greeting always includes a hug. It takes a little bit of getting used to but its nice once you get into it. Anytime I flew down through Chile with the Twin Otter the air traffic controllers would always say “welcome to Chile, we love Canadians here”. I’ve always felt safe in Chile.
4. Burma/Myanmar: Continuous Adventure
I spent time in Myanmar and discovered a magnificent place up near Mandalay. It’s an archeological site that’s enormous, as big as the pyramids in Egypt. Because Myanmar is a poor country they’ve barely even scratched the surface. Literally.
They have these 5 hundred foot high pagodas, many of which are gilded with gold. The sun shines through windows in these structures built three thousand years ago and the sun’s rays may mark an important sarcophagus or mark the beginning of spring solstice. It was a stunning experience.
In Myanmar, security is excellent for tourists. You can walk through the capital city at any hour of the day or night and no one will bother you. If you go to a fancy resort, the coastline is pristine, the service is 5-star, the people are friendly and gentle and the cost is half the price of a stay in Thailand.