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On the road with… Kate Humble

The presenter talks about the beauty of Snowdonia, the magic of Botswana and alternative uses for hotel shower caps

What is your favourite on-the-road moment?

Before I moved to Wales I drove to Snowdonia from London for some filming. I’d never been there before and I just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I had to stop the car and call my husband — a few years later, we moved to Wales.

Vibrant: A market in Marseille PICTURE: ALAMY

What’s your favourite city?

I’m not a very city person but Marseille is really cool. It encapsulates what is really exciting about a city. It’s not so enormous that you can’t get your head around it, it’s hilly and it’s got amazing views. It’s got these really fantastic, diverse neighbourhoods such as the old Jewish quarter and the Arab market. But the thing I love most is the way it screams this attitude of ‘take me as you find me’. It’s not twee, it feels like a vibrant city that’s really proud of its extraordinary mixed heritage. It feels edgy but friendly.

What keeps you sane on the road?

Audiobooks. I had to do a big drive the other day and I listened to Simon Reeve’s amazing book, Step By Step. It got me through the journey, even the most miserable bits of the M6.

Multipurpose: Kate doesn’t mind a shower cap

When have you been most frightened when you’ve been travelling?

When I was 19 I went to Africa on my own with a rucksack and £800 down my sock. I was staying in Dar es Salaam and every morning I would hitch into port to get a boat over to Zanzibar. One day I got into a truck with a driver who I thought was going to the port — then we went the wrong way. For a moment I thought, ‘This is bad, where’s he taking me?’ But it turned out we’d just misunderstood each other. He was lovely and found me a taxi back to the port.

What have you taken from a hotel room?

I always take the shower caps. They’re so useful for all sorts of things. Cameramen always want them because they use them as rain covers over the lens.

What is the best souvenir you’ve come home with?

A French lake! In 2010 my husband and I stayed in this little cabin by a lake in Perigord Vert, completely off-grid. It was heavenly. At the end of the week we discovered another lake for sale nearby. We just said, ‘F*** it, let’s do it.’ We turned this ugly fishing shack into a beautiful eco-cabin.

What has been your most life-changing experience while travelling?

On that first trip to Africa there were a lot of life-changing experiences. I got a job working in Chobe National Park in Botswana and we were fly camping out in the bush. I will never forget my first night shift on watch. It’s just the most amazing thing sitting in the African bush in the dark with all the sounds — you feel like you’re a wild creature. In every bush there were eyes. God knows what they were, it could have been a pack of lions slathering away. If it was, they obviously didn’t think I was up to much.

Life-changing: Humble’s time in Chobe National Park was unforgettable PICTURE: ALAMY

Where’s the strangest place you’ve spent the night?

There was a brothel in Ethiopia — but we didn’t know that when we checked in. It was very basic and it wasn’t very clean. Then, throughout the night, about every hour, there would be a knock on a neighbouring door. So then we realised — it was a knocking shop!

And the best place to stay?

There’s a lot of competition but it has to be Wadi Rum, Jordan. We had a guide who just drove us out into the desert, where we slept under stars in the middle of nowhere, with nudie dancing to welcome the sun in the morning. Glorious.

Kate Humble’s book, Thinking On My Feet, is out now. She is speaking at Stanfords’ Travel Writers Festival at Destinations: The Holiday And Travel Show at Olympia, London from Thursday to Sunday