Some complain of ruin fatigue. Some spend a week at Angkor Wat with genuine interest in every carving. Some whizz round famous sites just to say they’ve been.
I think I’m apathetic to old stones.
When I went to Cambodia, I had endured what had proved to be one of the most horrendous journeys of my life so far to reach Siem Reap overland from Thailand. I was heading for the legend that is Angkor Wat, in fact my my sole reason for visiting the country. I got the three-day pass for the site as my guidebook by a popular publisher, which normally has the same opinions as me, seemed to strongly suggest that I’d be a criminal to spend anything less than this admiring the ruins. However, after having to stay in the grotty town of Siem Reap for those three days, I heavily regretted it. I could have easily seen all I needed to at Angkor in a day.
Then there was my visit to Easter Island as part of a round-the-world ticket that had such a demoralising effect on me, I subsequently cut that whole trip short. Rows of big stone heads in a wind-beaten landscape on the most isolated inhabited island on earth inspired me to nothing more than a severe bout of depression.
Now, before you form an opinion of me as an philistine or an airhead, let me clarify – I love architecture and ancient relics – I spend my weekends going to practically every museum, artist’s house, stately home and castle in the UK, and revolve all my foreign travel around culture and sights rather than beach loungers and pools. But when I think of some of the ruins I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into reaching around the globe, I inevitably end up with a little bit of a flat feeling about them. Maybe we’re just too exposed to the wonders of the world by the mediums of media that real life will never compare anymore.
I hope not.
And now I’m headed to Peru with a key aim, of course, being to visit the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Will I stand atop a mountain, gazing down over the ruins with a sense of elation, and ecstatically cry “I made it!!”…or will I just feel as momentarily excited as when I see a new Sainsbury’s Local has opened up nearer my house? Watch this space dear reader, watch this space.
Footnote: I would like to mention one big exception – and that is the ruined city of Petra in Jordan that I visited last autumn. It completely exceeded my expectations – I got lots of wonderful surprises there and was utterly stunned. Maybe it doesn’t receive so much media coverage..?