Rough Guide Competition

Rough Guides Competition.

The competition rules:

All you need to do is sign up to the new site if you haven’t already, and write up to 100 words underneath this article on the topic “the place that changed me”. It could be a country, city or somewhere completely rural. You could have been blown away by scenery, fallen in love with the people, or enchanted by the food – just let us know how the place changed you in some way.

Author’s notes:

This was one of those rare competitions which allowed multiple entries. As the prize was so good I invested time and effort in submitting a range of articles, each with a different slant. I know, it sounds very clinical, but it paid off! Read my entries below and see if you can work out which was the winner. Answer at the end.

1 Dawn on the balcony of my eco lodge: fearless, red-legged honeycreepers, sapphire plumage polished bright, breakfast on bananas I have speared on bamboo sticks; jewelled hummingbirds shimmer like fragments of rainbow. In the lush grounds, creaky iguanas patrol the river bank where caimans float silently past; in virgin rainforest howler monkeys call. I feast on fresh pineapple then trek through fields of orchids to Arenal volcano. Evening is spent in soothing hot springs under a starlit sky. One, unforgettable day in the Garden of Eden that is Costa Rica, where I feel at one, at peace with the world.

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2 I was eighteen. I’d never been abroad when I took my summer au-pair job in Brittany. Everything was a delightful assault on my undeveloped senses: breakfasts of pain-au-chocolat dipped in cafe au lait; suppers of fresh sardines and local cider on the beach watching the setting sun paint the sea apricot; shopping for velvety peaches and giant tomatoes at the local market; chasing my little charges through the tickly, grasshopper-loud meadow surrounding our white-shuttered gite; mournful Breton folk music; exploring Quimper with its honeyed, cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, geranium-decked bridges. The beginning of a life-long love affair with France.

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3 A summer with granddad, aged ten. As we picked runner beans and watered lettuces, granddad, a retired merchant seaman, became my virtual travel guide. One day we would explore the spice-laden clamour of a Marrakesh souk, the next, stand on top of Table Mountain. His favourite saying: ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.’ The spark of curiosity he kindled grew as I got older. Even now, whenever I clasp my passport with that familiar thrill of anticipation, I am transported back to his allotment, my launch pad to planet earth.

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4 I try to picture the long-ago birth of Athabasca glacier: rapacious lick of molten ice on rock; blinding white snow-slide, greedily gulping scree, swallowing earth; triumphant, unstoppable. Now its withered tongue sends up a mute cry of despair from the valley’s wide throat. Moraine boulders, nicotine-stained tombstone teeth, mark the path of its painful shrinkage. I stand apart from the crowds haemorrhaging from the Brewsters Ice Explorer coaches, haunted by the groans from its weeping core, numbed by the chilling reality of climate change

© Moira Ashley

Answer:

It was number 3, which was the one I thought stood the best chance of standing out from the crowd. I calculated that it would be very difficult for the judges to distinguish between the merits of ‘actual’ places, (assuming the writing was equally good) Therefore I thought writing about a ‘personal’ place where no one else could have visited ,was the approach to take.

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