Lonely Planet Magazine Interview

Explorer and TV presenter Paul Rose talks space travel, whirled peas and goat’s brain curry


What is your favourite travel book?

I always take one of HW Tilman’s books with me. I’m on location in Antarctica right now and have Mischief in Patagonia. When people ask me about getting started on expeditions, I always quote Tilman’s: ‘Put your boots on and go’.

Where in the world did you eat your most memorable meal?

On the Iran/Iraq border. I drank camel’s milk from a huge communal metal bowl, while eating a hot, goat’s brain curry. It tasted a lot better than it sounds.

What has been your scariest moment when travelling?

At US passport control in New York. I was returning from Greenland with priceless ice samples at the end of a science project. I didn’t have a visa because when I’d left the UK for Greenland, no visa was required for the US. In the months since, the rules changed. I flew to New York on a military C-130 plane and found myself stuck at passport control on a US base with the ice samples about to melt. I managed to save the samples by getting them into a food warehouse freezer – fast.

What is your biggest travel annoyance?

Bureaucracy wears me down. A good travelling partner is essential then because it seems easier to laugh it off.


Which country has surprised you most?

Tehran. It’s the only place I’ve been where you can’t cross the road! I pride myself on being able to run the gauntlet in any traffic, whether it’s in Delhi, Dhaka, anywhere really. But in Tehran it’s impossible. You have to jog up to a crossing bridge.

‘Tehran is the only place I can’t cross the road! I can run the gauntlet in any traffic, but in Tehran it’s impossible’

Do you prefer backpacking or first class?

I try to fly Business Class if I’m late with work preparation and have to do it on the journey. I find the extra cost well worth it. But I’m also a big fan of discount airlines and I wish we could get the hitchhiking habit back into our culture.

Where do you always like to return to?

The Lake District. I have a house there in Windermere and it just feels great to call it home. The views from my house are so good, I often use them as an excuse for not working.

What’s your favourite souvenir?

Can I have a few? Reindeer antlers from Greenland, which are now a coat rack at home. A wild boar’s head from Norway. A Coco de Mer from the Seychelles, fossils from Antarctica and lovely, wind-shaped juniper wood sticks from Pakistan.

Who would you least like to go on holiday with?

Anyone with a schedule needing lots of planning. I do that for work. When I travel for a holiday, the less planning, the better.

What’s your dream trip?

To go into space! To be on a spacewalk outside, looking out into immeasurable blackness and then turning round to see our fabulous blue planet... I dream of that moment. But failing that, I’d love to repeat Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh’s journey in Trieste to the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

What’s the best thing you’ve found on your travels?

A sense of optimism, from meeting the next generation in developing countries. I’m always blown away by their energy, enterprise and dreams for the future.

Do you still send postcards?

I really like sending postcards – it’s fun! The best one I sent recently was from the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway. It has a pea-green background with the words ‘Imagine Whirled Peas’ on it. I bought loads and often send them.

What passport stamp are you most proud of?

The Seychelles because I have the original Coco de Mer- shaped stamp. It’s now been replaced with a dull, factual one. And, of course, my Antarctic stamps are pretty unique.