John Faithfull, Cartagena, Colombia

John Faithfull

  • The Americas

My Expertise

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My love affair with travel began in a vintage Italian train carriage at sunset on a hot and sticky September evening in 1983. Sardined into a two-bench compartment, I’d spent five hours sharing sweaty thighs, broken-Italian pleasantries and furtive glances while rattling towards Turin, stopping at every wisteria-draped village along the way.

As bucolic countryside was replaced by gritty city suburbs, I mulled over who my travelling companions were, where I was going to stay, how I was going to get there and that all I knew about Turin was that it had a shroud. It’s these curiosity-piquing questions that keep the romance fresh almost four decades later and inspired me to work in travel, a career that’s taken me to both polar regions and has focused chiefly on Latin America and the Caribbean. Having trekked through rainforest, swum with whale sharks, climbed temples and met an extraordinary range of characters between Mexico and Tierra del Fuego, I still love to travel by train whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Whale Shark in Shallow Waters, Baja California
Whale Shark in Shallow Waters, Baja California

Giants of Baja California

A visit to the grey whale breeding lagoons on the Pacific coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula turned out to be the most memorable, impressive and moving wildlife experience I’ve had to date, and I’ve rubbed shoulders with a lot of creatures. The close, gentle and even intimate nature of this encounter was completely unexpected. Colloquially known as the “Devilfish” for their reputation as fierce fighters, grey whales were hunted to near extinction in the nineteenth century. To my surprise, mothers nosed their calves to the side of our small boat.

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Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Costa Rica: Wilderness and White Knuckles

I’m on the lower forest-clad slopes of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. Nerves and my carabina-draped harness are jangling as I step into the ‘departure lounge’, a steel platform hovering in the trees 200 metres above the rainforest floor. SNAP! I’m now attached to a wire that slants down into a sea of green.  “Pura Vida” screams the cabin crew as he pushes me into the void.

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Church and Yellow Colonial Building, Cartagena, Colombia
Church and Yellow Colonial Building, Cartagena, Colombia

Playing with fire in Colombia

Every so often I visit a new country that reignites my enthusiasm for travel and discovery. I first visited Colombia in 2014 and grab the chance to return whenever I can. This is a country that’s littered with astonishing archaeological sites, boasts huge Andean scenery, has the world’s highest bird count and offers an extraordinarily warm and uncontrived welcome. However, one of my top tips for a complete Colombian experience is to make sure you play tejo at least once. This is a game (I would suggest national sport) that in a stroke of genius combines beer and explosives.

Downtown Havana, Cuba
Downtown Havana, Cuba

Cuba's Culinary Revolution

The old joke goes: Cuba’s three great successes are healthcare, education and social welfare and her three great failures are breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is no longer the case! A wave of small restaurants and young energetic chefs who are busy producing creative and tasty cuisine has arrived. The old staples of rice, beans, pork and chicken have not been forgotten but are featured, almost as a nod to the past. Small family or privately run restaurants have sprung up across Cuba, offering homemade, tasty and fresh food in authentic surroundings . In a phenomenon that is revolutionising the Cuban dining scene, dine on a balcony or in the antique interior of a historic building.

My Hand-Picked Holiday Ideas

Scroll to discover my pick of great journeys in the Americas. From playing hide and seek with mother and cub grey whales in Baja California to visiting the cardamom and coffee farms of western Honduras, I hope that this small selection of holiday ideas inspires an adventure of your own.

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Our trip to Baja California really surpassed all of our expectations - it was truly magical! I wouldn't hesitate to use or recommend Steppes in the future.

Destination: Baja California
Travel Expert: John

John tailored the itinerary to our needs and we were delighted with his choice of properties and activities.

Destination: Belize
Travel Expert: John

John's advice on unique locations and experiences throughout Guatemala were invaluable.

Destination: Guatemala
Travel Expert: John

John at Steppes has been excellent, brilliantly helpful, so knowledgeable and always happy to answer questions. He was brilliant at really listening to us in our first conversations, and tailored a trip that suited us perfectly.

Destination: Galapagos Islands
Travel Expert: John

Meet the Americas & Polar Experts

With a combined total of more than 180 years working in travel, we are a small and immensely knowledgeable team of experts. Having driven vintage cars in Havana, climbed granite domes in Yosemite, snorkelled with sea lions in the Galapagos and camped in Antarctica, our passion lies in curating bespoke journeys for our clients, balancing our in-depth local knowledge with a penchant for picking up on the little details that make you tick.

Why Choose Steppes?

Our knowledge and expertise set us apart. So too our curiosity. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.

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