With Wanderlust's annual World Guide Awards just around the corner, we chat to shortlisted guide Luca Alfatti from Dragoman
Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?
Definitely mountain, love to get to the top of any hill, mountains or anything like that. Recently got my ML as well!
First travel experience?
Maybe hard to believe, but 21-years-old, with not a word of English I jumped on a flight to the USA to go work at Summer Camp! Has all been down hill since...
OMG, I don’t know! Can I choose three?
London – Beijing
Istanbul – Cape Town
Quito – Ushuaia
Top five places worldwide?
Jety Oguz and Tash Rabat (Kyrgystan); Torres del Paine (Chile); Darwasa Crater (Turkmenistan); Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania); Kiribi Beach (Cameroon).
Special place to stay?
Villamar (Bolivian Altiplano). Maybe sounds a bit grim but this small mud village at over 4,000m on the Bolivian Altiplano is one of my favourite places to stay in the world. There is also light plane rack literally hanging of the top of a little hill.
Three items you always pack?
Book, head torch and flip flops.
Passport stamp you're proudest of?
The Ushuaia stamp that says you're at the end of the world’.
Passport stamp you'd most like to have?
Ecuador and Peru. Although I seem to be there all the time!
Guilty travel pleasure?
Pick n’ Mix... I can’t stop eating it.
Window or aisle?
WINDOW all the way!
Who is your ideal travelling companion?
Henry Morton Stanley, just get on with things.
Best meal on the road?
There have been many but this little Chinese restaurant in Liujiaxia (famous for the Bingli Si Buddha Caves), very small and fairly dirty would make any of these Jamie Olivers and the like look like dish washers.
Jungle worms, the white ones with the black head... I am sure you know what I am talking about!
Most surprising place?
Open to debate, and weird as a worldwide driver, but the Snake Pass from Sheffield to Manchester really surprised me how beautiful that drive is. No need to go to far to be happily surprised.
Terracotta Warriors in Xian. As impressive as it is, it's always SOOOOOOOO crowded that makes me not enjoy the experience.
Where do you NOT want to go?
NOWHERE! The day I won’t want to go somewhere I think it will be the day I die.
Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?
The world map has always fascinated me since I was very little. I could not stop staring! Then the Italian national TV station came out with this fantastic programme called Overland – five big, orange trucks driving everywhere in the world. I think I was 16 at the time. That was when I knew I had to make a move.
What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?
Rocking All Over The World by Status Quo this one is going to make Noel very happy).
What do you read?
Everything and anything I can lay my hands on! But mainly travel and historic books. The Great Game has got to be one of the best books ever written.
Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?
My girlfriend Sammy, who I met in Cameroon on one of my trips, definitely reaffirming (or trying to anyway!) my faith in humanity.
Lose it? Nope, not yet anyway!
What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?
Might sounds boring but "thank you" in at least 15 languages, is definitely the most useful phrase I can think of. It doesn’t matter if you have understood or not, a nice thank you will always open doors.
What is your worst habit as a traveller?
Apparently, it is my early rising. I'm a wide-awake morning person. I am not just up at the crack of dawn everyday, I need everyone else to be there with me too!
Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?
Beside keeping them warm with vodka? Mmm probably by never stop talking!
When and where in your travels have you been happiest?
This is difficult one, but probably crossing Patagonia in 2006 on my first lead!
What smell most says 'travel' to you?
The smell of HOT TARMAC! Especially after spending many, many hours servicing trucks.
Given a choice, which era would you travel in?
Definitely the Middle Ages. Marco Polo is a LEGEND!
If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?
Florence, Istanbul, Khiva... Rio de Janeiro... I can't choose!
Luca is one of four finalists in this year's Wanderlust World Guide Awards. The winner will be announced at a gala event at the Royal Geographic Society on October 4, 2012. Register for your free tickets now.