TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

PERU’S SACRED VALLEY: SMH TRAVELLER

PERU’S SACRED VALLEY: SMH TRAVELLER

High in Peru’s Sacred Valley, in a community called Huayllafara, I am discussing worm eating with a local farmer. Dropping his crude machete into the cactus-like Achupalla plant, he hacks the trunk open and picks out a handful of light-brown Suksakuro worms. He smiles as wide as the valley stretching below us and tells me, […]

MAIPO CANYON, CHILE: SMH TRAVELLER

MAIPO CANYON, CHILE: SMH TRAVELLER

Southern California has its wild Santa Ana; northern Africa has its dust-laden Sirocco. In central Chile’s Maipo canyon, we have the Raco. A freight train of a wind that pushes off your hat, messes up your hair, and completely befuddles you. As my local guide Leo and I drive into the rocky canyon, stretching more […]

AUSANGATE TREK, PERU: SMH TRAVELLER

AUSANGATE TREK, PERU: SMH TRAVELLER

I am scuttling along the dry red earth, my bottom dragging along the surface, my hands pulling me forward, my heart beating like a condor in a cage. Splayed on this Peruvian mountain face, I am terrified. I hiked up here, to over 5000 metres above sea level, thinking my acrophobia must have magically disappeared […]

KAKADU: SMH TRAVELLER

KAKADU: SMH TRAVELLER

The clouds of smoke waft over our bodies as the didgeridoo hums its mournful song. Two men from the Bininj tribe, the traditional owners of the land we stand on here in the Jabiru region of Kakadu National Park, sing to the music they’re creating, while the woman sitting cross-legged on the ground shifts the […]

OFF-THE-BEATEN-TRACK IN NEPAL: SMH TRAVELLER

OFF-THE-BEATEN-TRACK IN NEPAL: SMH TRAVELLER

In the low light, we sit on the floor, the plastic mat sticking to the backs of our thighs in the early evening heat. We hunch over our thin chopping boards, slicing clove after clove of garlic. My back twinges and I think, for the thousandth time in the past 24 hours, how easy I […]

MALAYSIA: YEN MAGAZINE

MALAYSIA: YEN MAGAZINE

Psst. You, yeah, you. Come in close, listen up, because do we have a secret for you. Malaysia is the new Indonesia. It’s the new Thailand. Hell, it blows them both out of the water in the ridiculously tasty food, sexy architecture and picturesque beaches stakes. Now Malaysia is big, so let’s zoom in a […]

Road Trip, New Zealand’s South Island: SMH Traveller

Road Trip, New Zealand’s South Island: SMH Traveller

We lay back, steam rising all around us, gazing at the upturned salt shaker of stars above Lake Tekapo’s hot springs. The 39-degree waters penetrate our muscles, seeming to almost dissolve them.   This is what my husband and I have  needed – a nature-fuelled break from reality, where we can simply sit and look […]

Langkawi, Malaysia: SMH Traveller

Langkawi, Malaysia: SMH Traveller

Our tour of Langkawi’s mangrove forest begins to unfold like a Gerald Durrell novel. No sooner do we enter than a pair of rhesus macaque monkeys hurl their little brown bodies out of a mangrove tree and paddle to the small boat beside ours, clambering up to the yelping tourists to grab bread straight from […]

Pushkar, India: SMH Traveller

Pushkar, India: SMH Traveller

The girl in the purple turban and flowing layered dress introduces herself to me as Bird. I try not to choke on my chapatti, shake her silver-encrusted hand, and ask where she’s from. “Originally the UK, but I’m a nomad now,” Bird says with a sigh, taking a long pull on her joint. She came […]

PUSHKAR, INDIA: YEN MAGAZINE

PUSHKAR, INDIA: YEN MAGAZINE

Pushkar is a place where people with names like Bird and Fern tend to congregate. A place where wearing shoes is considered the height of dorkiness; where people, when asked where they’re from, are likely to respond with: “Originally the UK, but I’m a nomad now,” or more simply, “Planet Love.” A place in the […]

KAKADU, AUSTRALIA: YEN MAGAZINE

KAKADU, AUSTRALIA: YEN MAGAZINE

Kakadu is a land of delirious extremes. Extreme heat, parched creeks and bushfires in the dry season. Extreme storms and miles of flooded country in the wet season. Extreme amounts of wildlife – including nearly one-fifth of Australia’s mammals, 120 species of reptiles and 300 kinds of birds. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed national park is […]

ESSAOUIRA: YEN MAGAZINE

ESSAOUIRA: YEN MAGAZINE

There are certain places in the world that wrap their arms around you as soon as you arrive; that whisper sweet nothings in your ear, like ‘come here sweetheart’, ‘stay with me darling’, and ‘never leave my side’. Creepy? Maybe. But the Moroccan coastal town of Essaouira (pronounced es-Sweera in Arabic) is one of those places. […]

ISTANBUL’S B-SIDE: YAHOO7 TRAVEL

ISTANBUL’S B-SIDE: YAHOO7 TRAVEL

While Sultanahmet (Istanbul’s old town) is world famous for its Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace, the former ramshackle suburbs of Beyoglu and Cihangir on the opposite side of the Bosphorous remain relatively undiscovered by travellers, despite having transformed into hip, bohemian neighbourhoods. Filled with vintage stores and chic restaurants and bars, they have […]

MOSCOW GUIDE: YEN MAGAZINE

MOSCOW GUIDE: YEN MAGAZINE

Fur hats, wooden dolls, spies, vodka and blinis. That’s it, right? Weeell, not really. Peek over the stereotypes’ shoulders and you’ll find that Russia’s big bad capital is also the place to go to have your valenki (Russian felt boots) blown off by some of the world’s kookiest architecture, get a firsthand lesson in the […]

RABAT DURING EID FESTIVAL: SMH TRAVELLER

RABAT DURING EID FESTIVAL: SMH TRAVELLER

Before I left for Morocco, almost every person I spoke with about my itinerary suggested I cut Rabat out. “I was there seven years ago, it’s just not worth it.” “It’s the Canberra of Morocco.” These comments and more, and yet I took my chances and went, hoping to discover that the naysayers were wrong. […]

AFRICA OVERVIEW: COMMONS&SENSE MAGAZINE

AFRICA OVERVIEW: COMMONS&SENSE MAGAZINE

There are some places on earth that speak directly to your soul. Places that kick up flames from the darker corners of your mind, that whisper to you of myth and magic, that make you feel small and insignificant in the best possible way. This is Africa. A continent and a culture that many of […]

Glamping in Morocco: SMH TRAVELLER

Glamping in Morocco: SMH TRAVELLER

I’ve been in Marrakech’s Agafay Desert for only 20 minutes when I discover the startling truth: I am not, in fact, in a real desert at all. It’s a perplexing revelation, seeing as I’m surrounded by nothing but biscuit-coloured mounds of rumpled rock that stretch as far as the eye can see; that over there […]

CAPPADOCIA: YEN MAGAZINE

CAPPADOCIA: YEN MAGAZINE

When a friend tells you they’ve slept in a fairy chimney, travelled in a balloon as big as a whale, explored a subterranean city and wandered through a valley filled with giant mushrooms, you respond in one of two ways. “Those lucid dream classes are really paying off” or, “You lucky devil, you’ve been to […]

LOMBOK, INDONESIA: PARADISE MAGAZINE

LOMBOK, INDONESIA: PARADISE MAGAZINE

From the moment I touch down on Lombok, I feel as though someone has pressed the slow-motion button on life. My husband and I arrive 45 minutes later than expected from neighbouring Bali, and as we rush towards our driver with apologies, he smiles and flaps his hand to instantly convey that time here is elastic. It’s a point […]

PHOTOGRAPHY TRIP MONGOLIA: SMH TRAVELLER

PHOTOGRAPHY TRIP MONGOLIA: SMH TRAVELLER

It’s not until I’m right in the thick of it, trekking through the lush green Eagle Valley in Mongolia’s southern Gobi desert, that I realise the truth. I am a terrible photographer. This comes as a shock. People had always told me my travel snaps were great, hadn’t they? They’d had lots of likes on […]

MONGOLIA: YEN MAGAZINE

MONGOLIA: YEN MAGAZINE

Think you’re hard core? Plan a trip to Mongolia, and think again. Adventuring to this immense and empty land, one of the harshest and most remote landscapes on earth squished between China and Russia in the heart of central Asia, ain’t for pussies. This is a land that created warriors so fierce they conquered the […]

FALLING FOR FLORES: SMH TRAVELLER

FALLING FOR FLORES: SMH TRAVELLER

Arriving on Flores, I have one of those perfect travel moments: when you know that this is exactly where you need to be right now; that this destination has called you to it. I’ve just put my bags down at our Airbnb pad in the diving town of Labuan Bajo on the west coast of […]

ZAMBIA SAFARI: GET UP & GO

ZAMBIA SAFARI: GET UP & GO

Screeching vervet monkeys serve as a dawn alarm call on my first morning at Kapamba Bush Camp, tucked deep inside Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. It’s a call that hints at the activity throbbing through the park during October, the hottest and driest month of the year. Dubbed ‘suicide month’ by locals, it’s when the animals are at their most desperate. Sleep-logged, I step […]

MEURSAULT, FRANCE: SMH TRAVELLER

MEURSAULT, FRANCE: SMH TRAVELLER

MEURSAULT, BURGUNDY, FRANCE The Burgundy region of east-central France is famous for producing some of the world’s best wines, and its charming capital, Beaune, draws hundreds of thousands of grape worshippers every year. But drive 10 minutes southwest of Beaune, to the foot of the Cote d’Or escarpment, and you’ll discover Burgundy’s best-kept secret: the […]

PAPUA NEW GUINEA UNMASKED: VIRGIN VOYEUR

PAPUA NEW GUINEA UNMASKED: VIRGIN VOYEUR

I have no sooner arrived in Papua New Guinea than I’m chewing betel nut. I hadn’t planned on doing it; in fact, I’d always found the red-mouthed, spit-inducing habit rather off-putting. I’m well aware that it destroys the country’s environment with litter and blood-red spittle, and contributes to tuberculosis and cancer. Yet here I am, […]

RIVER LANDS, BELLINGEN: YEN MAGAZINE

RIVER LANDS, BELLINGEN: YEN MAGAZINE

There are a few essentials every traveller must pack when heading to Bellingen: a tie-dyed T-shirt, a pack of patchouli incense, a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and a deck of tarot cards. They’ll help you ease into the mood of this dreamy hippie enclave, tucked halfway between Sydney and Brisbane on the mid-north coast of NSW. You might also […]

GUILIN, CHINA: SMH TRAVELLER

GUILIN, CHINA: SMH TRAVELLER

The half-naked woman in the steaming hot tub is singing opera. I’m watching her through the windows of her little wooden pagoda, and feeling like a bit of a creep. The feeling quickly fades, however, as I remind myself where I am. I’m on the Two Rivers and Four Lakes night cruise in Guilin in […]

PONDICHERRY, INDIA: YEN MAGAZINE

PONDICHERRY, INDIA: YEN MAGAZINE

Remember the opening scenes of Life of Pi? The ones with the lush gardens, spurting fountains and posh European mansions? Well that was Pondicherry, a breezy oasis in south India that’s the East’s answer to the Cotê d’Azur. Perched on the edge of the Bay of Bengal, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Pondy, […]

VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA: ESCAPE, DAILY TELEGRAPH

VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA: ESCAPE, DAILY TELEGRAPH

I’m standing on my private balcony aboard Cruiseco Adventurer, waving at the local Vietnamese kids running and laughing with delight along the shores of the Mekong Delta. As we chug along and they fall out of view, a new scene slides into view: an elderly woman up to her knees in water in a rice […]

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: PARADISE MAG

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: PARADISE MAG

Our boat draws up to the shore and we step off onto the black earth, thick with volcanic ash. Tavurvur Volcano, that volatile beast that lords over Matupit Harbour and nearby Rabaul, rises ahead of us. The Rababa hot springs just a few hundred metres from its base, steam and bubble away, and the scent […]

GUILIN, CHINA: YEN MAGAZINE

GUILIN, CHINA: YEN MAGAZINE

You’re playing Pictionary. You’ve just chosen China. You frantically scribble cities crowded with boxy buildings, factories with puffs of smoke above them, clothes with single figures scrawled on the price tags, and maybe a dim sum or two. But you lose the game, because what you should be drawing are scenes of natural beauty so […]

MATHERAN HILL STATION, INDIA: SMH TRAVELLER

MATHERAN HILL STATION, INDIA: SMH TRAVELLER

It is not what you would call a comfortable experience. In fact, watching the sweat-drenched backs of two teenage boys as they lug a wooden rickshaw – with you and your bulging suitcase atop it – up Matheran’s dusty red slopes just might make you feel like a terrible person. It certainly did my husband […]

PARADISE IN SAMOA: SMH TRAVELLER

PARADISE IN SAMOA: SMH TRAVELLER

When I was 10 years old, I had a teacher who was completely enamoured with Samoa. I recall her getting misty-eyed as she talked about its natural beauty and I wondered, as I cut the silhouette of what I imagined Samoa might look like (a lump with a palm tree sticking out of it) from […]

PORT MACQUARIE KOALAS: SMH TRAVELLER

PORT MACQUARIE KOALAS: SMH TRAVELLER

I’ve never touched a koala. As an Australian, I’m almost ashamed to admit it. It seems on par with never having eaten a Vegemite sandwich, never having been sunburnt, or never having played two-up on Anzac Day. It seems, well, downright un- Australian. So when the opportunity to head to Port Macquarie – a renowned […]

QUEENSTOWN ART ADVENTURE: SMH TRAVELLER

QUEENSTOWN ART ADVENTURE: SMH TRAVELLER

Brave is not a word I’d use to describe myself. Wuss is perhaps a more apt descriptor, and one that has occasionally been tossed my way. Like the time an eight-year-old me volunteered to be showbag-holder at the Easter Show while my friends got tossed around on the rides. Or the time an adult me […]

THE INDIAN PACIFIC ACROSS AUSTRALIA: SMH TRAVELLER

THE INDIAN PACIFIC ACROSS AUSTRALIA: SMH TRAVELLER

“You’re not from around here, are ya?”, asks a bloke in a grubby stetson hat, jeans and thongs, a stubby grasped firmly in his right hand. ”Can’t be, not lookin’ as clean as that!” He guffaws away with his mate as I look down at my all-white ensemble, as yet untouched by the red dust […]

GARDENS BY THE BAY, SINGAPORE: SMH TRAVELLER

GARDENS BY THE BAY, SINGAPORE: SMH TRAVELLER

Entering the 54-hectare urban oasis that is the Bay South area of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay feels like I imagine it might stepping into Pandora, the verdant wonderland depicted in James Cameron’s epic Avatar. It’s a combination of things: the imposing canopy of 18 steel Supertrees that range from 25 metres to 50 metres […]