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THE MEANING OF LIFE IS
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4 / Contents
ADVENTURE SPECIAL FEATURE 26. ADVENTURE THROUGH THE AGES Risk and reward in times when adventure took no prisoners
58. TO EVEREST 21 TIMES Apa Sherpa - the man who has climbed Mt Everest more times than anyone else
32. LONDON TO KATHMANDU – A LONG AND WINDING ROAD IN THE 1980s Stephen Brown takes us on a five month overland journey that promised adventure and delivered it – but not quite as expected
64. UNEXPECTED ADVENTURES From hiking up an active volcano in Coast Rica to running with wolves in Canada, Destinations finds journeys that will appeal to a range of adventurous travellers
46. PEDAL POWER Jason Lewis - the first man to circumnavigate the globe using just human power
82. ADVENTURE KIT Destinations' selection of gear that will keep adventurers moving
50. WING-SUITING AROUND THE WORLD Chuck Berry (‘Mr Sensible’) - New Zealand’s daredevil talks about extreme adventures
84. SEARCHING FOR ADVENTURE The Destinations team venture through the heart of the South Island to experience adventures that just about anyone can undertake – just get off the couch and try them
54. SIXTY COUNTRIES, FIVE CONTINENTS, FOUR YEARS AND 46,000 MILES ON A PUSH BIKE Alastair Humphreys – exploring the world’s darkest corners and discovering the shared humanity of the world’s communities
100. THE GREAT EAST AFRICAN SAFARI Kelly Badal uses her intimate knowledge of East Africa’s legendary game parks to highlight the wildlife and experiences that they offer and specialise in
112. GREENLAND Nick Walton hunts icebergs, meets local Inuit and marvels at an ice fjord 122. COLOMBIA Craig Cartwright is unable to find the beaten path, braves local seafood, drug dealers and aguardiente - the national drink 130. CLIMBING MOUNT KILIMANJARO Kelly Badal explains the mystique of Mt Kilimanjaro and takes us on her adventure to reach its summit
16. TALK TRAVEL The Destinations crew share their thoughts on adventure and what it has meant in their lives 166. BAZAAR Keeping up with travel news and happenings 22. for people going places New Zealand's motocross champion, Luke Smith, tells us about his passion
140. PAPUA NEW GUINEA Scott Elder and Vincent Paunovic set out to explore the PNG highlands on the trail of witchcraft and sorcery – getting perhaps more than they bargained for 150. ATHENS Athens has been hitting the world’s headlines for al the wrong reasons lately so Scott Alexander Young makes the most of an invitation to explore a city that brings together antiquity and modern civilisation like no other 158. A SCENIC JOURNEY SOUTH Stephen Brown whiles away two lazy days travelling from Wellington to Christchurch – first by Interislander ferry, then the Coastal Pacific train – and discovers the small port of Picton along the way
162. DUBAI ON HORSE-BACK Hermine Banks learns to play polo…. in, of all places, Dubai
5 / Contents
Travelling with you.
Photograph: Aaron Daniel Fritz Canon 5D mkIII, ISO 50, 8 min, 50mm f/1.2 lens @ f/11. Shot at around 8am in the morning. LEE Little Stopper and LEE Big Stopper filters stacked together (16 Stops).
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NEW at destinations Dear Destinations reader,
Destinations magazine has gone live with LAYAR. Readers can now enjoy the written word but also watch it spring to life with extra meaning: additional content in the form of photography, videos and articles that emerges when selected feature stories are scanned with a mobile device. Just look for pages with the Layar logo to explore this new dimension in magazine technology: visit, watch and share.
10 / News
This edition also sees the launch of Destinations' newest product, Live Editorial. First tested in early 2013, the concept of Live Editorial has been implemented for the first time with our South Island feature story â€“ with the Destinations team capturing the entire travel experience on video. This means that readers are now able to immerse themselves in stories that directly combine the best of print and digital media. Read the instructions below to start enjoying Destinationsâ€™ second interactive print edition.
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Go to page 84 to enjoy our first Live Editorial journey, the forerunner of experiences that Destinations will bring its readership in coming editions.
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Publisher Stephen Brown Editor Rowena Bahl Associate Editor Dominique van de Klundert Editor At Large Glenn A. Baker Proof Reader Anna Varghese Contributors Nick Walton, Scott Alexander Young, Brian Furbush, Hermine Banks, Craig Cartwright, Andrew Allen, Aaron Daniel Fritz, Finn McGowan, Rudolf Erubun, Vincent Paunovic, Scott Elder, Tanveer Badal, Kelly Badal, Tristan Lewis, Mike Hollman, Andrew Parker, Blake Burton, Michael J. Cohen, Scott Kublin, Dorin Mantoiu, Thomas H. Field, Wendy Smith, William Rhamey Branding & Design One Design Production Coordinator Anita Sanghera Marketing Director Cola Larcombe Sales Managers Shannon Lawton | Imrana Azimullah Printed by McCollams Print
12 / Details
Distribution Print: Netlink, Admail Online: PressReader, Zinio Advertising Enquiries email@example.com p. + 64 27 533 1984 Subscriptions firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial Enquiries email@example.com Destinations Publishing Ltd Destinations is a registered trademark of Destinations Publishing Ltd. Destinations publishes seven editions each year. Flagship Quarterly: Destinations Annually: Wedding Destinations, Wine Destinations and Cruise Destinations All content in this magazine is protected by copyright and cannot be reproduced without the consent of the editor. Destinations Publishing Ltdâ€™s acceptance of all contributed material, words, images and illustrations, is on the basis that these will be used internationally in all forms of the magazineâ€™s distribution and marketing, be that print, digital or social networking. All articles, images and illustrations submitted will remain open for reading, reference and retrieval without time limit through all forms of distribution. All material is received on this basis only. Contact Physical: Level 4, 156 Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland 1052 Postal: PO Box 137-067, Parnell, Auckland 1151 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.destinationsmagazine.com Phone: +64 9 377 1234 Social: facebook.com/destinationspublishing | twitter.com/destytravelmag
On the cover: Calm Below - an illustration by Tristan Lewis
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Paul Hersey meets the locals during Backyard & Beyondâ€™s two months in Nepal, NZ 2014 Anidesha Chuli Expedition Photo: John Price Photography
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14 / Our Word
The Destinations team travelled to the South Island for our special 'adventure' focused edition. We went with one goal in mind and that was to find and capture the meaning of adventure - its essence and what drives people to do the things that they do. At the start of our journey the meaning of adventure was rather one-dimensional, but as we delved into New Zealand's South Island, layers of 'adventure' began revealing itself. Adventure was not necessarily just about taking risks and participating in risky activities, it was a combination of experiences, people and places, and immersing ourselves in the unknown. More than anything it was about challenging and besting our own ‘ghosts’ - developing the confidence to experience the world unencumbered by old fears and doubts: almost like children. The 'unknown' we found, was a recurring theme embedded deep within the essence of adventure. We asked many people along the way about what adventure meant to them and although everyone had different perspectives, they almost always referred to the unknown or to trying something new, something you have never done before. Our whole journey was captured on film and a trailer is bound within the pages of this magazine as Destinations too embarks on its own experimentation and trials with a new product Destinations 'LIVE’ Editorial. We intend to capture a selection of journeys every year on video and use LAYAR to bring print pages to life through augmented reality. Innstructions on how to use this new and exciting platform can be found on page 10 of this magazine. I hope that readers enjoy this edition as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. Rowena Bahl - Editor
We went with one goal in mind and that was to find and capture the meaning of adventure - its essence and what drives people to do the things that they do
PUBLISHER’S WORD articles and videos (courtesy of LAYAR) at those who choose to go where we might not: paddling across the Atlantic, walking to Antarctica, clambering up volcanoes and the Himalayas, and venturing to the remote reaches of Greenland. Yet, not all of this edition’s content is on the wild side. Much of it is about being more gently adventurous – for those who just want to go to slightly different places and partake of ‘slightly’ different, but not necessarily life-threatening activities. This ‘milder side’ of adventure doesn’t require hanging by fingers and toenails from El Capitan in Yosemite or braving the spirit world – Sanguma – of
Challenging the unknown and even sometimes environments that we familiar with is rarely a Our last edition of Destinations showcased the efforts of Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, Sir Richard Branson and Stephen Attenborough and others pioneering commercial flight into outer space. Tragically, the death of co-pilot Michael Alsbury in VSS Enterprise on October 31 was a reminder that exploration and adventure often comes at a price. Challenging the unknown and even sometimes environments that we have become increasingly familiar with is rarely a no-risk game, but it remains fundamental to human achievement and survival. On behalf of the Destinations ‘crew’, I extended my condolences to Stephen Attenborough, the CEO of Virgin Galactic; however, I also emphasised that, in what must seem the darkest of times, we believe his organisation has the fortitude, strength and vision to carry on. Sometimes, this is every bit as important as technology; achievement demands resilience and, in particular, mental toughness to endure the unendurable. Which brings me to this edition, the second of the re-launched and re-branded, Destinations magazines. As Jason Lewis points out in an article on the very nature of adventure and those who partake of it, sometimes feeling indestructible is a definite advantage when venturing into new worlds: “when you suddenly become hesitant with what you’re doing, and you’re looking over your shoulder, that’s when I think things can go wrong. And that’s probably the time to hang up your crazy adventure shoes and do something a bit safer.” We’re not all cut out for extreme adventure and even those doing it sometimes ponder on ‘why’? But, as is often said: it’s in our genes – or, at least, some of our genes. So, from the somewhat safer climes of the Publisher’s desk, I can sit back and join you in staring through the vicarious looking glass of Destinations’
no-risk game, but it remains fundamental to human achievement and survival. Papua New Guinea’s highlands, but it does involve reawakening the adventurous spirit that knew few limits in childhood, before we became ‘sensible and mature’ adults. Although many might argue – through the lens of past human achievement and the National Geographic Channel – that there are few places to still explore, and therefore few opportunities to become a modern day Columbus, Livingstone, Amundsen or Peary, adventure is about challenging one’s own preconceptions and limits; indeed, it is about personal discovery, far more than the fanfare of finding new continents, rivers or lost tribes. Such challenges and achievements can take many forms, from jumping off a bridge attached to the seemingly frail umbilicus of a bungee cable, to embarking on a week-long horse trek, or even swimming amid a pod of dolphins in open seas. These are not ‘huge steps for mankind’, but they are often massive ones for the individual; they offer a frisson of danger and risk, but – of far greater importance – an overwhelming sense of achievement and appreciation of what this wonderful world still has to offer. Consequently, this edition of Destinations sets out to challenge us all, not with the need to undertake extreme activities or travel to undiscovered places, but to reawaken both our engagement with the globe and a desire for personal discovery, excitement and achievement – in a way that the ‘looking glass’ of television and computer never will. Stephen Brown - Publisher
15 / Our Word
have become increasingly
16 / Talk Travel
Scott Elder & Vincent Paunobvic The New Age Nomads
Brian Furbush The Observer
Nick Walton The Luxe Guru
What does the word adventure mean to you?
What does the word adventure mean to you?
What does the word adventure mean to you?
Scott: Stimulation dictated by a shift from my usual environment, language, religious and travel locales. If you can’t find any information on a location, it’s probably a good a place to look. Vincent: Adventure to me is balancing on the knife edge between stupidity and common sense. There needs to be risks taken and a comfort with total uncertainty.
Adventure means getting out of your comfort zone and living in the moment, regardless of the circumstance. It’s easy to find an adventure at your doorstep or across the world; you just need to be open to it.
For me it means getting off the beaten path and out of my comfort zone.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored? Scott: Ruatoria – on New Zealand’s East Cape. Vincent: Apart from Papua New Guinea, I would say Thailand during the 2010 political crisis. I was living in a squat – an abandoned brothel converted into a squat by other travellers – fell asleep in a red shirt (UDD) convoy for three hours, and was, as a result, robbed by the Thai military. Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? Vincent: I believe that a majority of travellers are looking for more than a holiday these days. They want an experience that is a total contrast to the comforts of home. Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. Scott: A directionless motorbike ride through a mountain range is always a good time. Vincent: Finding a good local bar is one of my favourite things to do when travelling, as I tend to meet some of the most colourful characters and important contacts at small local bars.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored? Ilha Grande, Brazil, an amazing island with 100 plus beaches and almost no roads. You can only reach the beaches by hiking through rainforests or via local boats. Not to mention being “guided” to Lopes Mendes beach in the rainforest by way of a suspect ex-Brazilian paratrooper only adds to the adventure. Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? People are constantly looking to push themselves outside their comfort zones but don’t think it’s achievable for them. With the recent surge by adventure-driven consumer brands such as Red Bull, people are more cognisant of the fact that the next amazing adventure lies around every corner. Whether it’s riding a previously untouched line in Alaska or para-gliding over Rio, I think people are realizing that adventure is within their reach. Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. Hiking and climbing are my favourites; I love being outside and seeing what nature has in store for me. Nothing beats the feeling of summiting a mountain and watching the world unfold under me.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored? I spent 10 days in Papua New Guinea, visiting remote tribes that had changed little in centuries. Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? People want their money to work for them now, and that means buying access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, rather than just another plunge pool to sit beside. Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. I snow-mobiled across a frozen fjord in Norway’s Arctic Circle with Hurtigruten, and then went crabbing in a blizzard. It was exhilarating.
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18 / Talk Travel
Tanveer Badal The Laid-back Local
Scott Alexander Young The Renaissance Man
Kelly Phillips Badal The Critic
What does the word adventure mean to you?
What does the word adventure mean to you?
What does the word adventure mean to you?
Being from the Western world (I call New York City and Los Angeles my homes), it sometimes feels like there’s very little wild adventure left on the planet. That’s why I really like to seek out off-the-beaten-path destinations. In 2014, my wife and I decided to travel for the entire year. Among the highlights; we’ve trekked to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas, summited Mount Kilimanjaro, explored Eastern Indonesian islands way beyond Bali, trekked through thick jungles to observe mountain gorillas, and fallen asleep to the roar of lions and leopards in East Africa. This trip has made me realise that there are still tons of adventures out there.
The way I see it, if there’s no danger then it’s not an adventure. But I’m mellowing with age; my wild days are receding behind me in the rear view mirror.
It’s a leap outside your comfort zone and a journey into the unknown, and it can apply to anything, from your first time eating sour mohinga soup in Myanmar to driving a safari jeep within a few metres of a lion pride.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored? Western Madagascar feels like it’s a 100 years back in time. We explored national parks that only receive a few hundreds visitors per year, and had the summit of the highest mountain in the country (Pic Boby) all to ourselves. We also travelled to villages with little to no cell reception, where canoes rather than cars, are the main mode of transportation. Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? I think the evolving workplace has something to do with it. Now, many jobs don’t require you to be in an office five days a week, so people are taking advantage of 'mobile workplaces'. Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. I enjoy trekking. Exploring a destination step by step makes you appreciate the scale and your place in the world.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored? Well, I was the Editor of Time Out Beirut for a few months, and reported on gangland Serbia in the wake of the NATO bombings. Both war zones. Years before, after reading PJ O’Rourke’s war correspondence and stuff like Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, I wanted to see if I could match their chutzpah. And while any personal danger I experienced was comparatively low level, I think it’d still have scared the Lycra pants off the average hand-gliding, rock climbing, kayaker.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored?
Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market?
Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? People are looking for deeper, more challenging, even life-changing, experiences: a bucket list trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro, a face-to-face encounter with rare mountain gorillas, a heartpounding drive down a remote band of coastline. There’s nothing wrong with lying on the beach sipping a margarita, but a holiday like that just doesn’t give you a no-holds-barred feeling of being alive that adventure travel delivers in spades.
I suppose sometimes people want real reality, not virtual. Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. Pairing a red wine with fish. It makes me feel radical. (Told you I was mellowing...)
On a whim, my husband and I headed out to Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression – one of the lowest, hottest, and harshest places on Earth. The landscape is so bizarrely unique that it seems extra-terrestrial. There are yellow and green sulphurous mineral formations, noxious hot springs, massive salt basins...it left a searing impression, and not just due to the 45-55 degree Centigrade heat.
Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. I’ll never tire of going on safari. It’s an addictive theatre with an ever-changing cast of wild animals, a place where life and death can play out before your eyes, and a nerve-tingling stakeout where absolutely anything can, and will, happen.
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20 / Talk Travel
Aaron Daniel Fritz The Perfectionist
Dominique van de Klundert The Philosopher
Finn McGowan The Cliffhanger
What does the word adventure mean to you?
What does the word adventure mean to you?
What does the word adventure mean to you?
Heading towards the revelation of something that intrigues me; perhaps something that scares me, but most of all something that offers a sense of accomplishment.
I think it’s a combination of the novelty factor and a roll of the dice; the stakes can be high or low. I love going anywhere I haven’t been before, no matter how mundane, because you just never know what’s around the corner.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored?
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored? The creek that runs below my family home. 'Creek explorations' would take me from the valley below our house to a myriad of perfect playgrounds for children: wooden swings in willow trees, makeshift houses in pine trees, and dark tunnels in overgrown forests of bamboo – just to name a few. Then of course the ever changing rapids perfectly shaped for my childhood polystyrene boats and slippery eels. Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? I saw an elderly man bungy jump in Queenstown, my Mother (62) recently walked to the Mt Everest base camp, and we’ve all seen more crazy stuff performed by people from all walks of life on social network pages. Perhaps the unknown is not as unknown as it used to be? Perhaps the risk just seems lower than it has been (thanks to research and technology), which potentially gives us a greater sense of security in extreme adventure activities? Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. I’ve windsurfed since I was 8 years old. Basically, I’m addicted. The speed, the perpetual power of the wind, the desire to always push myself to the next level, but most of all, the freedom. Wind, ocean, sun, me. It can be extremely solitary, but so connected at the same time.
What is the most adventurous destination you have explored? I feel like my most adventurous destinations are still ahead of me. I have a trip to Bolivia in the works, where I’ll be investigating the life of the mineros who work in the historic, yet dangerous, silver mine at Potosi. I don’t love the idea of being buried alive, so braving those conditions will be a big step for me. Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? I think it has to do with our ever-extending tourism networks. We’re not only able to reach distant places more and more easily, as technology and the economic situation improves, but we’re also made so much more aware of what’s out there due to our media connectedness: hearing about all these amazing places from intrepid reporters, photojournalists and bloggers. Social media also makes us want to get out and experience places for ourselves, to push the boundaries and try something different than what’s currently being done. Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. I actually cannot get enough of snorkelling. It’s not as immersive as diving obviously, but it’s so much more accessible. And when you’re hanging out with humpback whales, sharks, or swarms of jellyfish it can still feel pretty adventurous.
Adventure is the story you string together about new and exciting experiences.
Snorkelling the Poor Knights Islands of New Zealand’s north-eastern coast; it’s also the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Why do you think there has been such a significant growth in the adventure travel market? It’s a push-back against the repetition and stasis of contemporary life, and rightly so. Tell us about your favourite adventure activity and why you love it. Skydiving, hands down. It’s a rush and totally mind-opening. There’s nothing else like it.
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Luke Smith has always been a bit of a rebel. When his parents moved from England to New Zealand, 14 year old Smith insisted on staying behind, making his own way. For five years he alternated between staying in his council flat – a tower block “with a bunch of not very nice people” – and travelling the world as a sponsored mountain biker. Smith credits this experience with making him realise that “if you want anything in life you’ve got to go out and get it; it’s not going to be handed to you.” Eventually, he decided to give New Zealand a try. Telling his sponsors he would go to train for the summer before coming back to Europe, Smith packed his bags for a few months, and never went back. More than a decade later, he has become one of the nation’s most well-known motocross riders.
22 / For People Going Places
Soon after his arrival in New Zealand Smith picked up a bike, rented some land from a farmer, set up a jump and started practicing, informed only by internet videos. Many said he wouldn’t get anywhere, but he was determined to prove them wrong. The following year, a self-taught Smith signed up to iconic brand ‘Crusty Demons’ and rolled out to his first big show, riding for a crowd of 28,000 people at Auckland’s Western Springs. To go from playing in the back yard to this was “a bit surreal,” he recalls. Since then, Smith has ridden at shows all over the world. Travel is usually for “short bursts,” three or four days at a time, but he makes an effort to explore each destination as fully as he can. One of his favourite places is Las Vegas, where he used to ride once a year at the “always packed” Palms Casino. Smith tells us that everything we hear about Vegas being “a Disneyland for adults” is true: the amazing buildings, the party mentality, and the fact that the place never sleeps makes it worth a visit for everyone, at least once.
Daredevil Luke Smith tells us about growing up fast and his passion for motorsports.
He was a little more wary on a recent trip to Tijuana, finding the police a stark contrast to what he is used to at home in New Zealand. They were, “set up on the back of utes like snipers,” faces covered as a precaution against retribution by the drug cartels. However, riding there was unique experience. He recalls being the only person in front of 42,000 people, and the crowd – yelling, blowing air horns and running chainsaw motors – was so loud that he couldn’t even hear his motor going. “I’d love to go back,” he says. Smith has done some crazy stunts in his time, but his most daunting feat was back-flipping over Team New Zealand’s Americas Cup yacht at the Auckland Viaduct in 2008. Hitting the water at such high speed was an unknown quantity for Smith, so divers were on hand in case he was knocked unconscious. Fortunately, the stunt went off without a hitch. Even so, Smith’s career was halted very dramatically on January 7 2009, when a horrific crash resulted in traumatic brain injury. He decided to treat the challenges of recovery as a learning >>
24 / For People Going Places
FOR PEOPLE GOING PLACES
>> experience: “it…showed me that life throws many different things at you, and it’s how you learn to deal with it that matters.” Smith still tries to surround himself with as much action and adventure as he can “because tomorrow it could be gone – I want to maximise the time that I’m here on Earth. I’m not going to be here forever.” To that end, he assured his family he would lay off the motocross, giving his bikes away and turning his attention to his other passion – design. Studying the subject after his injury was a struggle at first, and both his doctors and school administrators had their doubts. However, motivated by the desire to prove the naysayers wrong, Smith stuck to it, and his hard work paid off. In 2011, Nitro Circus offered him a stand to show his motocross graphics and products, and he found himself inundated with orders. Over the last few years, the brand, Moto Mayhem, has gone from strength to strength. While he acknowledges that having famous friends to wear his shirts on the circuit hasn’t hurt, Smith also credits this to his ability to communicate his passion for motorsports through his designs. He explains that there is a commonality among different “motorsport junkies,” from “the old guys who spend hours in the garage fixing and polishing their cars” to the little kids just getting started in motocross – all get the same rush from the sport and have the same passion for it. His
goal has consistently been for Moto Mayhem to tap into that feeling. By the time the 2013 Nitro Circus rolled back into town, Smith was ready to get back on a bike again. He found he missed “the fear” – challenging himself every day. He believes this is what drives all adrenaline junkies, “that rush of pushing yourself.” Smith argues that the mind is a very powerful thing; so if we can get past that part of our brain that is telling us to play safe, we can achieve things we never knew we were capable of. He suggests this is why kids, in particular, love motorsports. They are so intuitive and so creative: “there’s no limit – the limit is in your mind.” Smith acknowledges that physical danger is par for the course in motorsports: “Obviously you’ll get a few knocks, break a few bones. Flying through the air is dangerous but you expect that… you play with fire day in and day out, you’re going to get burnt.” For budding daredevils, such as the kids he now tutors, he emphasises the importance of taking things slowly, getting to know the bike, and being as safe as possible. However, for Smith it’s all worthwhile, regardless of the risks: “the second I’m on that thing, I’m having the time of my life…everything’s forgotten when I’m on that bike.” We can have a peek at Luke’s brand on www.motomayhem.co.nz
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ADVENTURE THROUGH THE AGES Risk and reward in times when adventure took no prisoners
STORY BY CRAig cartwright illustrated by tristan lewis
Adventure Travel For much of human history, travel has remained a dangerous pursuit. Yet, when we travel now, there is the seeming expectation that nothing will go wrong, bar a bit of turbulence or the odd late flight. And if it does, we want to know who we can sue. In a world that is seemingly ever more sophisticated and free of risk, a significant segment of the tourism market has also emerged that feels the need to spice travel up a bit – with that extra frisson of adventure and danger. This has resulted in an explosion in the adventure travel industry and related tourism.
In this edition of Destinations, we acknowledge the past, ranging from Ancient Greece to the Indonesian archipelago, but also focus on the New World, and discover that 'adventure travel' would have been a meaningless term for our forebears: indeed, until the dawn of the 20th Century there was no such thing as travelling without a very real sense of adventure and all too proximate danger. There is no better illustration of this than that offered by briefly turning back the pages of time…
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Whether it's the danger inherent in the passage itself, or in the sometimes crazy activities associated with particular countries and locations, adventure has been part of our travel experience since time immemorial. Now, however, it is increasingly part of the 'norm' for the worldwide travel community, as much for spectators as for actual participants. In fact, adventure travel is big business: we're invited to negotiate the world’s most dangerous hiking trail in China, cave dive in Russia, even conquer Mt Everest – a peak that was first scaled a mere 60 years ago. Often the tours offer nightly 5 star accommodations; even when supposedly 'roughing it', many of us want to do it in absolute luxury.
The Ancient Greeks
Our first reliable record of adventure travel is in Ancient Greece, beginning around the 8th century B.C. The 'Seven Wonders of the Ancient World' remain legion destinations and landmarks even now, but what is less well known is that the phrase is actually an ancient slogan: its more correct translation – referring to the seven 'sights' (of the ancient world), is a phrase that was used in many guidebooks of the time, and was meant to encourage Ancient Greeks to travel.
On January 24, 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. This discovery would trigger the greatest migration in American history: the California Gold Rush. Those that caught the gold fever and headed west came to be known as the '49ers', among the boldest of the world’s adventure travellers.
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There were even travel writers, like Heraclides Criticus, and the poet, Ion of Chios. Perhaps discounting the ordinariness of most of what they saw and experienced, such writers focused almost exclusively on the monuments and works of art they witnessed; not where they were, or how they got there. It seems bizarre to us now that the actual process of travel was rarely written about, since by today’s standards it was a logistical and practical nightmare. Regardless, from cities like Piraeus – Greece’s main port since at least 5 B.C. until its total destruction by the Goths in the year 395 A.D. – travellers would head to destinations all around the Mediterranean, visiting interesting and different civilisations: Lydia, Persia, Thrace, Illyria, Phoenicia and Egypt (the only one still remaining today). There were no ships dedicated to transporting travellers in Ancient Greece, meaning that all but the super-rich were forced to hitch a ride on trading vessels; and to even consider visiting any of the Seven Wonders demanded real commitment, as they could expect to be away from home for up to five years – or even more. For while 'cruising around' the Mediterranean was undoubtedly the trip of a lifetime for the adventurous, it could also be the last journey that these intrepid travellers ever took. Even without pirates, slave-traders and other criminals, shipwrecks were common, and an injury that might be considered fairly minor by modern standards often spelt death or disfigurement. Making matters worse was the risk of exposure to diseases like smallpox or syphilis – completely devoid of effective treatment. It's tempting to wonder why anybody would care to take these risks, but consider some of the great attractions of the ancient world that still remain today: places like the Temple of Ba‘alat Gebal in Lebanon, King Midas' grave in Persia, or even the Temple of Asklepios. Now imagine them as they once must have been, not as the crumbling ruins that still inspire us in our droves to visit them, but relatively new structures, set against the background of vibrant, bustling, thriving cities. Consider also the places that have been lost forever to antiquity, including the 'Seven Wonders', of which only the Pyramids of the Giza Necropolis remain. We can only imagine what the others must have been like, helped by the words of the famous travel writer Antipater of Sidon, who in 140 B.C. mused: "I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Babylon along which chariots may race, and on the Zeus by the banks of the Alpheus, I have seen the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Helios, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the others were placed in the shade, for the sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus."
By 1849 most of America's West was still unexplored, and the best maps available were wildly inaccurate. For the majority of eastern city-dwellers – from New York to New Orleans – 'The West' remained a vast wilderness of deserts, mountains, forests, and prairies. The '49ers set out in the spring of 1849, heading out on horseback, in wagons and on carts. Many even walked. But they all timed their departure to avoid being caught in winter snow; they had all heard the story of the Donner Party. Three years earlier, the Donner family wagon train had been snowed in amid the Sierra Nevada Mountains; after running out of food, they had first eaten their horses, then their boots, and finally each other. Just a small remnant of the original group had made it out to tell their story to a horrified world. The '49ers soon learned, however, that snow might be the least of their worries. The hardships of the trail started the day they departed, particularly for those unused to country life and 'living rough'. Most were soon sick and many started to die – from cholera and pneumonia; later from scurvy. Some of them died the very day they left, in accidental shootings and from being run over by wagons, while accidents were common. During the trip west, many were swept down rivers, fell off of precipices while hauling wagons through canyons, froze to death, and a few were even struck by lightning. At least it was hard to get lost, with the westward trail strewn with abandoned gear: broken wagons, worn out saddles, and even grand pianos. In places, the countryside reeked of the decaying livestock that had died along the way, while graves dotted the trail from beginning to end, providing the most sobering of trail markers. The '49ers would leave an indelible mark on history; the California Gold Rush opened up lands for settlement, made way for the trans-continental railroad, spawned a film industry, and sadly, displaced the Native Americans and destroyed their way of life forever. Indeed, it is estimated that the population of native Indians within Mexico and the USA fell from a high of perhaps 15 million in the 15th century to less than 1 million by the year 2000. The trail also took the ‘49ers through some of North America’s most spectacular country, and they saw some of the great sights of that era, including the immense herds of buffalo that spread like oil across the prairies of the Midwest, the Chalk Pyramids of Kansas, Chimney Rock and the truly breathtaking Rocky Mountains, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon and the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado. Indeed, the trail west helped to lay the foundation for the United States’ eventual national park system, with Redwoods National Park, Yellowstone, and the truly weird and wonderful Craters of the Moon and Hells Canyon in Idaho, eventually joining Bryce Canyon, Arches National Parks, the Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe and Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park as centrepieces of that network. Today, the path of the ‘49ers – via the California Trail and Old Spanish Trail – is commemorated both by relics of the gold rush period and by these national parks, which have become so central to the protection of the United States’ natural heritage.
Caveman vs. Cavebear While some consider our ancestors’ obsession with killing cave bears to be part of a primitive bear worshipping cult, we’re prepared to give our relations a little more credit than that. Who’s to say that in 10,000 years some archaeologist of the future may not stumble across some trophy hunter's den, and wrongly deduce that he deified the mighty and fearless Zebra by mounting his head on the wall? No, we think our ancestors did it for the fun of the thing, hiding at the entrance to the bear's cave and bashing his head in with large rocks when he came out to see off the pesky humans. The poor old bear’s head and other edible parts were then transported back to the man-cave, where the prowess of the hunters was toasted, and not a little relief expressed at the survival of the hunting party: at three metres high and weighing 700 kilograms, cave bears were big enough to elevate the pulse of the most jaded adrenaline junkie.
Visit the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in Southern France and see amazing cave art including depictions of Cave Bears. Sorry, killing a cave bear isn't part of the tour; they're long extinct. Aztec football to the death The Aztecs loved their ball sports, constructing courts for the ancient game of Ullamalitzli within each new settlement – right next door to the obligatory shrine to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. It seems his patronage was more than appropriate, given the nature of the sport. We’re not sure what Ullamalitzli athletes were paid, but we do
know that the consequences of losing were far greater for them than they are for athletes nowadays. Although most games were for the sake of peaceful entertainment and prowess, some – perhaps enough to keep everyone nervous with anticipation – involved members of the losing team being publicly decapitated. Surely, the participants of these gladiatorial contexts must go down as the ultimate team sports adrenaline junkies; making American Football or rugby look like pat-a-cake by comparison.
Visit Mexico City’s Zocalo, the Plaza de la Constitucion, to see the ruins of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, where Ullamalitzli was played.
Exploration adventures Polynesian explorers Most academics insist that the core reasons for the migration of Polynesians across the broad expanse of the Pacific Ocean were entirely mundane: overcrowding, famine, disease and tribal wars. However, we adrenaline junkies suspect that it was a thirst for adventure that led them to take to the seas in their leaky boats in a nearly hopeless search for land. It’s scarcely possible to imagine what might possess a group of people to load a vessel with stores, climb aboard, and set sail for… nowhere. While there is a myriad of islands scattered across the western Pacific, most of the rest of the Ocean is pretty empty and its islands awfully easy to miss, dooming many adventurers to lonely starvation and dehydration. We can never know how many crews were lost in this manner, but enough survived, not only to discover almost every single
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piece of habitable land in the South Pacific, but to even reach South America, where they discovered the 'kumara' or sweet potato. The legacy of those early adrenaline junkies still exists today, both in the many place names carried from distant homelands to be bestowed on islands scattered across the Pacific, and in their descendants, who are similarly scattered across its many island chains.
Travel to Easter Island to find the easternmost point of the Polynesian triangle that encompasses Hawaii, New Zealand, and all the points in between discovered by these intrepid explorers.
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Dr Livingstone, we presume While tens of thousands venture down rapids in inflatable boats for fun and millions of people hike recreationally, once upon a time these were the only two ways to traverse much of the interior of unexplored continents like Africa and the Americas. We’re not saying the explorers didn’t enjoy the experience, but unlike us they couldn’t rely on a medivac if somebody broke a leg or contracted yellow fever. Take the case of famed explorer Dr David Livingstone, whose fateful expedition in 1866 to find the source of the Nile went horribly wrong. First of all his assistants began deserting him, then they falsely reported that he was dead – with the result that no one bothered to go looking for him. Most of his supplies and all of his medicines were stolen within four months of starting his expedition, meaning that he couldn't treat the pneumonia, malaria and cholera he contracted, or the tropical ulcers on his feet. Eventually he was so destitute that he found himself performing for local villagers in return for food. After seeing about 400 villagers massacred by slave traders in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he finally gave up on his expedition, and walked 240 miles to Lake Tanganyika while still violently ill. On November 1871 he was found near the Lake by fellow explorer, Henry Stanley, who greeted him with the now immortal words, "Dr Livingstone, I presume?"
Follow in Dr Livingstone’s footsteps and visit Victoria Falls in Zambia, which he discovered prior to his ill-fated expedition to find the source of the Nile.
Land-based adventurES Land diving 'Land diving' – a rite of passage on Vanuatu’s Pentecost Island and the foundation for bungee jumping – is said to have been inspired by a woman called Tamalie, who leapt from a tall tree to escape her overly amorous husband. She was smart enough to tie a liana vine to her ankle prior to her descent; however her husband was not so lucky and fell to his death after her. Swearing never to be fooled again, the men of the island recreate Tamalie’s successful jump each Saturday during the dry season. The men make this leap of faith without safety equipment, but with generations of local knowledge going into choosing the vine that they stake their life on, the ritual only rarely results in a death – as it did in 1974, when Queen Elizabeth II was witness to precisely such a misadventure. It was the rainy season so the vines weren’t as supple, but no one wanted to let the Queen down…
To take part in (or watch) land diving; visit Vanuatu's Pentecost Island between April and June. Volcano boarding Not content with inventing surfing in the ocean, ancient Hawaiians invented another, far riskier, kind of surfing – of the volcanic variety. Although these ancient surfers admittedly didn't have to worry about being devoured by Great White sharks in the course of sliding down the side of a volcano on a piece of wood, they surely did have to watch out for lava flows, poisonous gases, jagged rocks, volcanic glass, lahars, and sudden pyroclastic eruptions. Stamped out by the missionaries after a 2000 year history, volcano surfing has recently been revived by Hawaiians wanting to get back in touch with their roots. We’ll stick to riding our boogie boards down sand dunes in New Zealand’s Far North.
Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to take part in volcano surfing, but be careful; between 1992 and 2002 there were 40 deaths as a direct result of 'geotourism' – volcanoes can be awfully unforgiving.
Up in the air Flight When we’re not stuck on one for 24 hours solid, planes can be fun. They can do whirly things in the sky and they are really good at taking us to places we’ve never been or can’t be bothered driving to. They’re safe, reliable, and we are more likely to be struck by lightning while being eaten by a shark than we are to die in a plane crash. But it wasn’t always so. History is littered with the broken bones – and heads – of adrenaline junkies who were obsessed with flying, usually after observing pesky birds showing off with their fancy wings that just grew where their arms were supposed to be. The first human flight that didn’t end with any catastrophic injuries was made by two Frenchmen in a hot air balloon in 1783. Their flight took place after the device was tested on a sheep, a rooster, and a duck, all of whom were treated to a flight that climbed to nearly 2000 metres. History hasn’t recorded what these animals did up there or what they made of the experience, but we expect the basket needed a good hosing out once they returned to earth. In 1849, George Cayley bravely convinced a 10-year-old boy to fly in the prototype glider that he had designed, and finally in 1903 the Wright brothers made their famous Kittyhawk flight in a (barely) powered, heavier than air, craft. What followed was an intense period of development that – greatly aided by the technological race associated with two world wars – has handed us the modern aeroplane and (for those who don’t believe the sceptics) put men on the moon. We will spare a thought for that brave sheep and his two feathered friends next time we fly the friendly skies.
To join hundreds of modern-day ballooning enthusiasts check out the biennial international Hot Air Balloon Festival in Lorraine, France. Parachuting What goes up must come down. In this world of base jumpers
Polymath Leonardo Da Vinci first sketched a model during the Renaissance that 300 years later would prove to work, although it bore little resemblance to the modern ‘chute’. The parachute, as it has come to be known, was first tested by Louis-Sebastien Lenormand in 1783, who flung himself out of the Montpellier Observatory’s tower in a bid to demonstrate his invention’s worth as a safety device for people trapped in burning buildings. He survived. Experimentation continued over the following century, with the first jump from a plane taking place in 1911 when Grant Morton leapt over the side in California – holding his parachute in his arms before him as he vaulted from the cockpit. The parachute as we know it came soon after, and the rest is, as we know, adventure history.
Until commercial space diving gets off the ground, take parachuting to the extreme with a skydive from 29,500 feet above Mt. Everest, Nepal.
Underwater Wars When the ancient Greeks and Romans took to the water, it wasn’t to sight-see but for war: often warriors would freedive or occasionally make use of a hollow plant stem or bone as a makeshift snorkel. Even in the 15th century, when Leonardo da Vinci designed the first air tank, he refused to give too many
details for fear the technology would be used for destructive purposes. From this time on, the development of diving technology steadily increased, along with humankind’s curiosity for what was beneath the waves. The combative nature of diving remained, with Italy, Britain, Germany, the US and the then-Soviet Union operating forces of ‘frogmen’ during World War Two. Frogmen would attach limpet mines to ships, and even ride manned torpedoes. However, just as much above-ground tourism originated in exploration, the submarine world was no exception. Documenting this world visually also became popular, with the first underwater camera and photographs being produced by Louis Boutan in 1893. Jacques Cousteau’s inventions, explorations and films from the mid-20th century onwards helped to further advance the diving industry we know and love today.
Adventure has changed a lot over the years – evolving from the necessities of survival, sexual display and rituals, and a thirst for exploration and invention – into an activity that has meaning and value in its own right. When once our antecedents had to put their lives on the line to achieve a greater, or just more fundamental, purpose, adventure has become an end in itself. In a privileged world without the day-to-day struggles of our ancestors, and also with the benefit of huge technological development, we have entered an age in which we look for reasons to push ourselves to the edge – not because we have to, but because we want to. It also helps us to rediscover just what humans are capable of and what it means to be part of our unique race.
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and other assorted lunatics, parachuting out of a plane might seem pretty blasé nowadays. But spare a thought for those who paved the way.
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a long winding road London to Kathmandu in the 1980s
Story & Photography BY stephen brown
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It was early June 1985, and I knew it really was ‘adventure travel’ when we turned off the Munich autobahn, down a side road, and started pitching tents in a farmer’s field in the middle of the night: no warning, no permission, and bucket loads of rain. Much the same in (then) Yugoslavia: while ‘normal’ tourists stayed at hotels and hostels subject to regular surveillance by the local police, we were busy pitching tents in forests and fields – again under pelting skies – to be woken in the morning by tractors pulling cart loads of farm workers to their place of work. Charlie, the Cockney driver, had made it clear at the outset of our travels that he wasn’t a tour conductor. It also transpired that neither he nor his girlfriend – who just happened to come along for a five month ride – had ever been outside the UK before. If we didn’t like it, then we were welcome to find another mode of transcontinental transport: pronto. Bill, a 60-plus year old Ottawan, decided to do exactly that in Istanbul, heading home to “sue the pants off Adventure Travel,” although his mate, Clancy, was made of sterner stuff and eventually stayed the course. In fact, the die had really been cast when we turned up to start our crosscontinental soiree in Streatham, South London. The long promised, much lauded Mercedes mini-coach had been miraculously transformed into a 14-seater, roughly post-war, Bedford that looked like it would blow several gaskets before Dover, never mind Kathmandu. This, together with Charlie’s introductory ‘speech’, meant that the mood among the mixed bag of ‘poms’, ‘kiwis’ and ‘canucks’ reluctantly clambering on board was decidedly sombre from the get-go. I sat at the back of our vintage transport and vainly tried to pretend that I was back in Spain or the south of France, but our first stop at the ubiquitous road-side caravan for a cup of tea and ‘sarnie’ soon burst that bubble. By the time we got to Istanbul, it was clear that this would be no rapid intercontinental cruise. Much as we had started off laughing at the “slow-slowbreakdown-slow” reputation of Topdeck Travel, with its antediluvian doubledecker buses, our aging Bedford was proving unwieldy, less than wholly reliable and surprisingly slow – in other words, yet another fine example of all that had made the British automotive industry what it is today: as dead as the dodo.
Fortunately, not all was dull and grey, well not once we had left the cold and damp of a Central European autumn behind. Pre-Civil War Yugoslavia and its anniversary celebrations of the partisan’s victory over Nazism provided a fascinating insight into a largely agrarian society little changed from the 1930s and ‘40s. Indeed, watching oxen tow flower garlanded carts, foot powered merry-gorounds titillate local children, and elderly men parade local streets in their partisan uniforms – complete with Soviet-era PPSh submachine guns – made our archaic bus seem right at home. Rather more awe-inspiring and evocative of the old Silk Road were the spires and architectural grandeur of Istanbul’s Golden Horn. Anchored by the Hagia Sofia, Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century monument to faith, the Sultanahmet (or “Blue”) Mosque, with its ring of exquisite minarets, the Kapali Carsi (Grand or Covered Bazaar), and the Ottoman sultans’ Topkapi Palace, this was a small quarter of the world that felt utterly exotic and fascinating. Istanbul, truly marked a point of tectonic division, perhaps even collision, between Europe and Asia. All the same, a trip on the Bosphorus slightly roughened the edges of this conjunction when it became apparent that getting back to shore was dependant on us paying somewhat more than the originally agreed fee – a sort of boatman’s surcharge that we had foolishly overlooked. Over succeeding weeks however, such concerns paled next to the beauty of Ephesus with its world-renowned amphitheatre and library, the complex ‘pancake’ layering of at least nine periods of civilisation at ‘Truva’ or Troy, the wondrous white silica terraces of Pamukkale, the charm of the port cities like Izmir and Antalya, and the truly weird and wondrous churches, dwellings and columnar sedimentary chimneys of Goreme in Cappadocia. Equally memorable, if also a good deal more sombre and emotional, was a solitary night spent near Lone Pine Cemetery, amid the 1915 battlefield at Gallipoli. As if to reinforce this theme of sacrifice and militarism, we looked back the following day towards a heart-shaped Crusader castle while crossing the Bosphorus, only for our ferry to suddenly stop as the sombre black profile of a Soviet submarine – complete with blood-red Cyrillic markings – veered across our path. Yet another reminder that Turkey has truly been the cross-roads and battleground for millennia of invaders
and empires, from Alexander the Great’s Greeks, to the yak-tailed hordes of Genghis Khan and Turkey’s own Ottomans. Over succeeding weeks such feelings were further reinforced. At Mersin, we watched flights of F-16s, Tornados and Mirages rip apart the azure sky while the Turkish Air Force trialled a new generation of equipment, and a month later – heading towards the Kurdish highlands – we followed a massive convoy of battle-ready troops, tanks, and artillery, flanked by air patrols, their afterburners reverberating off surrounding mountains. We were also to have the misfortune of straying a little too close to the Syrian border on a hill country back road, passing military camp after military camp surrounded by barbed wire and manned machine guns. This consigned our little troupe to endless passport inspections and much practice at unloading and reloading our camping gear – sans the Kalashnikovs and anti-tank missiles that the military seemed to half expect us to be clandestinely transporting. Having made it to the actual border of Syria, we were first greeted by the surreal sight of an army officer, complete with flowing white keffiyeh (a traditional Middle Eastern headdress) and shirt, racing across the no-man’s land desert on a black Arabian charger. Although the US$100 demand for an entry visa, then hours of waiting for the chief customs officer to fall drunkenly asleep, before finally crossing his patch of desert, was a rather more prosaic experience, much relief and delight came on arrival at Aleppo. All of Syria was permeated with a feeling of militarism and ardent Arab nationalism, but Aleppo also revealed its strong French heritage while the (then) magnificent Citadel of Aleppo, fronted by its monumental ramparts and walls enclosing a surprisingly delicate and elegant Muslim garden, readily transported visitors back to pre-Christian times, then successive eras of Byzantine, Ayyubid and Mamluk domination. Further south, a visit to beautiful Roman mosaic floors in the middle of the south Syrian desert provided a reminder of yet another civilisation that has left a very significant mark on much of the Middle East. This was affirmed by an afternoon spent wandering through the disinterred, but remarkably complete, remains of a Roman amphitheatre, sleeping quarters, dining hall and library still partly embedded in a massive dune formation near Busra.
Continuing southwards, more problems at yet another border crossing – this time into Jordan – were a portent of things to come. By now it was apparent that we were travelling without proper insurance cover, or even the carnet needed to transport a commercial vehicle internationally. The sight of a quarter of a million refugees in a Palestinian ghetto at the gateway to Amman – dating back to the Six Day War with Israel – was bad enough, but worse was to come. Starting out for Petra on the Queen Alia Highway, our driver Charlie saw two young children trapped on the motorway median strip. Although he slowed to what seemed a safe speed, both were ‘spooked’ by traffic on the other side of the highway and jumped the wrong way. Within minutes, turbaned and bandoliered Bedouin on camels and jeeps from a desert patrol base had taken us ‘into care’ and both children were rushed to hospital. Within hours, Charlie was in the local prison for his own ‘safety’.
In spite of this ‘auspicious’ start, we somehow managed to finally get to Petra, marvelling at the soft yellows, pinks and reds of its entry defile, and clambering atop the Treasury in a spirit of high adventure and release. Riding on the local Bedouin tribe’s camels compounded the sense of spirited release from the strain of the preceding weeks, but also produced some sore backs and the odd shirt stain from camel spit. We also just about managed to hold down what we were assured was some form of tea. That night, having chosen to sleep on the roof of a local guest house, we watched with amazement as the full panoply of northern hemisphere stars stretched out across the night sky as none of us had
Our return to Syria and Turkey was almost uneventful, apart from discovering that a large individual with an equally large white panama hat, silk scarf and a pink 1960s convertible – complete with rocket wings and tail-lights at the rear – was our ‘Mr Carnet-Fix-it Man’ at the Syrian border. There was also the slight matter of a less than entirely wholesome, chicken and gherkin sandwich, which was to have more enduring repercussions of the personal and intimate kind over coming weeks.
We had, of course, decided to travel through Iran at the height of its war with Iraq. Bazargan, is the main point of transit for those entering Iran from Turkey: it lies in the very shadow of a heavily militarised Mt Ararat, of Noah’s Ark fame, and a world of snow, ice, mud, cold, and distant volcanic cones. It was a decidedly downbeat introduction to Iran. After 12 hours of haggling, we were finally given permission to travel through Iran, providing it took no more than seven days. We also collected a new passenger – a local police officer – to ensure that this happened without incident. Upon driving this unfortunate individual to his home, we had to watch in embarrassed silence as he explained the situation to his family and packed his kit, before embarking for Tabriz and beyond. Of course, he couldn’t speak a word of English and our Farsi was much worse. Indeed, things were about to get interesting. We had, of course, decided to travel through Iran at the height of its war with Iraq. Revolutionary guard checkpoints blocked our way every two to three kilometres and the trips were further punctuated by having to slow down in every town and village, as locals took the opportunity to talk to these strange and rare visitors – at least until an SUV and its gang of white bearded mullahs stared them down. We couldn’t help but notice
that most local cars seemed to comprise copies of British Hillman Hunters – a brave choice – and most militia were armed with Israeli Uzis. Each and every roundabout on the journey eastwards contained thousands of small memorial photos on sticks commemorating the recently killed, while the gateway to virtually every town or city was marked by immense archways constructed out of used artillery shells. Entering the outskirts of Tabriz, thousands of 40 gallon drums of burning oil sat in the desert belching out a dense, acrid fog of black smoke that was designed to screen the city from Iraqi bombers. Even in Tabriz, the checkpoints failed to let up, but we were still trying to meet our deadline. On the good side, the motorways dated back to the Shah’s time and were like an autobahn in the desert. Not so good was the realisation that we were driving through a country whose fuel comprised two-thirds diesel and one-third sand; although our ancient bus had a refurbished engine, we soon realised that its fuel system was devoid of any filters. Three sets of diesel injectors later, with a blue haze following us that could have been tracked from space, the wonders of Iran had largely passed us by: a quick night in Tehran with sightseeing limited to its suburban periphery, no sight of the architectural wonders of Esfahan, and precious little escape from coaxing the Bedford repeatedly back into life. Expanses of desert, palm laden oases, and old Beau Geste forts had a certain appeal and charm, but even these began to pall in our race from one side of Iran to the other. We had also been banned from all activities outside our hotel in the regional city of Zanjan, the result of the women in our party having the temerity to laugh in a local restaurant. More serious though was the physical tug of war with two Mullahs that erupted when one of our group ventured a little too close to the hotel’s front door. “The least she would have got away with was a beating, more likely she would have ended up in ditch with her throat cut,” commented the hotel deskman with a certain Insha’Allah nonchalance. These weren’t the only delights of Iran. Three knocked out Iraqi tanks formed the centrepiece of a children’s playground in Kerman – at least the bodies had been washed or vacuumed out of the hulks – while a Swiss couple regaled us with tales of being rounded up with the local population to watch 20 locals being
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Two weeks later, with the owner of Adventure Travel having raised the prospect of bankruptcy when compensation for the both children’s medical care loomed large on the horizon, we were much relieved at the arrival of a new replacement driver: Dave. While Charlie stared at the prospect of a further five months in Amman, waiting for both children to be finally discharged from hospital and some form of financial settlement reached, Dave was celebrating his arrival in the Muslim world by getting rip-snortingly drunk. He then casually revealed that he had just come from Kontiki in Europe and that his previous history had included doing ‘insurance jobs’ for failed building owners. He also lost no time in propositioning the female contingent of our little expeditionary force.
ever seen them before: a sky so deep and full of layers of twinkling lights – like the reflecting crystals on a Tsarist chandelier multiplied many times over – that it truly surpassed the man-made wonders we had seen earlier that same day.
TOP LEFT. Entering the Hagia Sophia
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publicly hung, then seeing a woman shot in the street for distributing ‘communist’ propaganda. It wasn’t just the endless egg omelettes that we were rapidly tiring of, and it was with considerable relief that we approached the Pakistan border on the edge of the Balochistan Desert. More sobering were the hordes of Afghani refugees trying to flee the war with Russia, but trapped against the border fences of both Iran and Pakistan. We also had the misfortune to meet a particularly unpleasant and intractable border official, who casually informed us that it would take 24 hours to process our documents and anyone caught in the customs compound at night could well be shot. Our police escort was deeply embarrassed and near to tears, whereas I was suffering from the return of the chicken and gherkin sandwich. Scuttling backwards and forwards like a large crab between the bus and public toilets (read ‘open slot in the ground with walls on three sides, but no door’), with a volcano in my lower reaches, almost lent some appeal to being shot. However, increasing dehydration was also becoming an issue, until finally one of my fellow travellers came to my rescue with a course of Flagyl. It was therefore with much relief that we finally entered Pakistan. Naturally enough, the local border officials decided to enter into the spirit of the moment by insisting that we completely strip the bus down: a small token on our part to confirm that we weren’t arms smugglers, drug smugglers, people smugglers or a mixture of all three. Our ‘joy’ at this exercise was compounded by the realisation that we had swapped the Shah’s broad asphalt for the much broader, dunes and plains of the Balochistan Desert, with the local ‘highway’ comprising little more than tracks in the sand and the occasional white rock marker. Just one misadventure later – resulting in lots of pushing, pulling, swearing and help from some locals with a truck –we crawled into the remote village of Dalbandin. Having arrived just in time to
see the departure of its once-weekly train service – a small, and somewhat overloaded, locomotive shrouded in steam and smoke that would take 48 hours to get to the provincial capital of Quetta (four times the road journey) – we also discovered that the only local accommodation was the now-quiet train station. Night-time ablutions took on new meaning as the only functioning toilet was the surrounding desert, a veritable minefield of human waste, while the character of this somnolent little outpost underwent a dramatic transformation from day to night. The usual donkeys and camels were suddenly replaced by SUVs and ‘ambulances’ supplied by the Tokyo or New York Red Cross, while the daytime smattering of traders and café owners was suddenly overwhelmed by a much less voluble, but clearly organised, array of bearded Afghanis wearing shemaghs (Afghani term for headdress) and AK47s. Blankets, clothing, medical supplies, yet more AK47s, and even anti-tank missiles, were hurriedly loaded into the motley assortment of donated vehicles, before they tore off into the night – trying to beat the Russian border patrols to their hill-top posts. All of this made the local fruitlessly offering blocks of hashish to all and sundry, only to transform into a police sergeant next morning – complete with a Lee Enfield slung across his shoulder – seem like ‘small beer’. Again, problems with the bus were becoming central to our existence and, faced with yet more delays, Simon – a tall, angular, former hotel concierge from east London – and myself decided it was time to brave the local transport to Quetta. Our bus was yet another Bedford: somewhat larger this time and wrapped in what looked like ornamental tinfoil with a cylindrical, bubble-like body. The cabin was also notable for a series of strobe lights that flashed whenever the driver accelerated and a red light that whirled and flashed when he slowed down. A sort of mobile disco, without the music or women, but a crush of bodies, even down
TOP RIGHT. The Taj Mahal looming out of the mist at dawn
below RIGHT. The placid waters of Lake Dal near Srinagar
to children perched bird-like, on the back of most seats. A largely uneventful journey ensued, but for the goat that tried to fall off the roof – its rope tie halted it mid-flight, but didn’t have time to strangle it – and the armed toll-way in the middle of the desert, replete with yet more AK47s and camels for toll gates. Having survived these interruptions, we finally reached Quetta, a place flanked by the foothills of the Hindu Kush from west to east and infused with dust and the raw stench of open sewers. Herds of cattle crossed the city’s intersections, but one of the local traffic police decided to take particular exception to our tuk-tuk driver, beating him savagely with a knotted cane for some perceived indiscretion among thousands at every turn. Blood streaming down his face, the poor recipient of this rough justice seemed to think it was preferable to a fine; in fact, not all that out of the ordinary for your average local road user. If we had only known that Quetta was the hub of Afghani operations for the CIA and the centre of arms manufacture within the North-west Frontier we might have perhaps been a little more understanding of this insouciance. As things stood, it was still clear that Quetta was not quite what The Lonely Planet Guide had led us to expect, so it was with some relief that we re-boarded the ‘Adventure Travel Express’, and headed south-east through the Bolan Pass towards the Indus River valley. My strongest memories of this passage recall dun coloured valleys and mountains dotted with a smattering of dun coloured hide tents. I also remember the rapid transition from people marked by hawk noses and beards – decidedly Arabic and light complexioned – into locals of a smaller, often more squat build and much darker colouring. The colours of clothing, linen and buildings also started to become a much stronger feature of the local landscape, particularly so as we approached Lahore. Our local ‘guide’ – actually, a budding entrepreneur, all of 17 years old who
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BELOW. A Sadhu near the Ganges in the holy city of Varanasi
made a living out of leasing pinball machines (yes, remember them before the days of Pacman and the first Xbox) – revealed a world of scents and spices, dyed silks being hoisted onto drying lines, marvellous domes, minarets and ornate detail that coalesced to form the Badshahi Mosque, and an endless crush of people and traffic. A far cry from the nearby countryside with its long camel trains and trucks so overloaded with huge bags of cotton that ‘outriders’ had to run ahead shooing everyone else off the road. Yet, a world of wonder for us westerners all the same, and a very appealing change from the focus on armed conflicts and things military that had dogged our journey to this point. Indeed, for all its crush, Lahore provided a touch of greenery and respite from much that had gone before. That was, at least, until we decided to try going to a local movie. All seemed normal and quiet 40 minutes or so before the film was due to start, but we did harbour a few suspicions about why the cinema had the appearance of a bunker, with thick iron bars
criss-crossing the ticket office. Still, we had our tickets and the ticket seller didn’t seem overly nervous or concerned about our group of naïve ‘Euros’. That was until about 15 minutes before the show, and what a show it was! As if on signal, a deluge of fans – like locusts descending on a summer wheat field – suddenly poured into the complex: 20 deep, complete with an aerial assault from above, this human torrent engulfed the entire ticket booth and cinema entry. We may have had tickets, but our polite, western sensibilities were not geared to this sort of mayhem. Beating a rapid retreat to the far corner of entry foyer, we were happily and endlessly harangued about cricket by an exuberant assortment of locals who had also decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Although we suspect the ticket seller eventually emerged unscathed, it was impossible to confirm as we beat a hasty retreat from this cinematic experience. Having waited for days to join the twice-monthly convoy from Lahore to New Delhi for non-local traffic, my own day of
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above. A young girl with her goat in New Delhi
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departure was rocked when, having boarded the bus, our hotel manager rushed out with my money belt – complete with the last of my US$900 stake for the entire journey, my onward airline tickets from Kathmandu and my passport. I had left the belt on my bedside table while taking a shower. Speak about going puce with embarrassment, but also shaking with relief and humbled by the manager’s honesty. What a contrast with the experience of another travel group we had just met: their English leader had ignored warnings not to go north of Islamabad – her Raj era philosophy for engaging with the locals seemed to mainly involve a lot of nasal-accented demands and wielding a big stick – with the result that this fellow band of overlanders was held up at gun point. All their passports and money immediately disappeared, the women were raped and the men were beaten: a savage, but salutary lesson in humility and taking local advice. Indeed, we had been plotting our own little deviation from officialdom, and the middle of that night saw us breaking away from the tourist convoy to head north through Amritsar, the home of the Golden Temple that had recently been invaded by the Indian Army. All good, apart from the two vehicles that followed us, one of which was carrying two comatose Indian soldiers. A rapid discussion ensued, which convinced the other drivers that we were having mechanical problems and needed to find a garage. They raced back to the main highway, with their military support none the wiser. We, on the other hand, decided that we needed to urgently find the most remote and quiet, inky black hiding place that we could possibly find, although this task was made somewhat uncertain by the fact that everywhere seemed dark as charity. The next morning, however, brought much greater clarity: we had inadvertently managed to park in the middle of a village market and were surrounded by hundreds of curious onlookers. Even the local policeman – again with a vintage Lee Enfield strapped to his back – was starting to show some interest in our sudden, UFO like arrival. Breakfast and clean teeth be-damned, we immediately scooted into the unknown: dense forest interspersed with dirt roads, villages, fields and even the odd antiaircraft battery under camouflage netting, while flights of Indian Air Force MiG 21s patrolled overhead. Feeling hopelessly paranoid by now, we somehow managed to discover a small café sitting in the middle of a small stream and waterfall. The cook and helpers, dressed resplendently in white, seemed to have been waiting for us for months, or even years. There were no other customers, the menu had a decided English breakfast bent – albeit, without bacon – and omelettes magically started to emerge. All in all, quite a surreal start to the day. Our travels north to Srinagar and Lake Dal in the heart of Kashmir – yet to be wracked by the internal conflict and warfare of following years – was unremarkable in terms of events, yet truly remarkable in the array of spectacular highland landscapes that it revealed: mountain-side terraces and villages, expansive hardwood and coniferous forests, the ever-present smell of wood smoke permeating the low valleys and river margins, and the serrated alpine backdrop of the lower Hindu Kush. At Lake Dal itself, ranks of intricately carved house-boats, arched bridges, the gardens of Shankaracharya Temple and the Mogul emperors, even Srinagar’s timber houses overhanging the Lake’s calm waters, all suffused this imagery with a sense of history and vitality. ‘Mr Groovy Flower Man’ also paid us regular visits in his flower-laden canoe, although once money had changed hands most recipients of his floral creations were surprised to see a moth-eared assortment of weeds ‘raised from the dead’, or at
least from under a top layer of more colourful floral cadavers. Even less aesthetic was the smoking, clanking diesel engine propelling a single-seat chairlift at the Gulmarg ski field nearby – a slow and not entirely trust-worthy experience that made the tasty masala dosa for sale at the foot of the field an even more enticing proposition. On the other hand, the very existence of the ski field was a reminder that the late autumnal weather was becoming increasingly bitter and snows would soon descend from the north. It was time to head for warmer climes. Finally heading ‘downhill’, into the denser atmosphere and more tropical temperatures of northern India, our old Bedford seemed
Bodies were to again be a feature of our last major stop in India, on the banks of the Ganges, at Varanasi, India’s holiest city. The burning ghats have long been imbued with a certain morbid fascination for visitors to the City. to gain a new lease of life, although both rear axles had only been saved from complete disaster by hours of painstaking welding of their leaf springs (I mentioned the bus was ‘old’) using high temperature, tungsten rods left over from the Second World War. Furthermore, the blue haze that had trailed us since Iran was growing ever darker. To anyone looking down from the heavens, that haze would have followed us to Jaipur, complete with forays to Jai Singhs’s Amber Fort, the lake-bound Jal Mahal palace, the wonderfully ornate and fragile, almost diaphanous, Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), and Jai Singhs’s solar ‘stairways’ at Jantar Mantar near the City Palace. Jaipur, one of India’s temple cities is a wonderful melange of ochre reds to soft pinks, with elephants, temples and bazaars thrown in for good measure. This was followed by stopovers at Keoladeo National Park – poling in shallow draft boats past an exotic melange of cranes, storks and other water fowl – then on to the long abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri. Yet another red city, but in stark contrast to Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri conveyed an overwhelming sense of solitude; its isolation and physical abandon creating a seeming place of ghosts. Abandoned in 1585 after only 16 years of construction and very brief occupation due to a paucity of drinking water, this Mogul complex of palaces, courts, harem, mosque, terraces and pools – surrounded by burgeoning woods – also conveyed a quite unexpected sense of grandeur and beauty. Just as remarkable, it was reverentially quiet, as if we had inadvertently intruded on a funeral: not very typical of India at all. Heading south for a compulsory visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal,
Simon and I had again decided to be mavericks by getting up early enough to ensure that we would be the very first tourists at the entry gate. I dearly wanted to capture as much of Shah Jahan’s masterpiece free of crowds as I possibly could. So, up at 5.30am, off to the nearest tuk-tuk stand, and away to the Taj – free of traffic, free of other tourists and ready for action. At least, until our teeth started chattering. We had completely overlooked Agar’s rapid changes in diurnal temperature and the air chill factor associated with being rapidly transported in little more than an open cart. By the time Simon and I arrived at the entry gates, our hands were barely functioning and it took precious minutes to find the rupees for our driver; in fact, my knees felt as if they were suffering the onset of surprisingly advanced arthritis. Even so, the effort was entirely worthwhile. I still have many wonderful memories of the ‘white mausoleum’ bathed in Agra’s grey, early morning, light. With the River Ganges flowing serenely by, it indeed represented a truly monumental statement about architectural proportionality and balance, and the redemptive power of love. A shame, however, about the pack of dogs worrying a body at the adjacent water’s edge.
As we next travelled north-east towards Varanasi, lots of people, or at least their stone facsimiles, seemed to smile down on us from the many statues carved into the facades of the Hindu temple complex at Khajuraho. Just as impressive was the athleticism associated with the multiple approaches to lovemaking depicted on those carvings. Were they a representation of some very fortunate sculptor’s life-long experiences, a statement about alternative approaches to tantric meditation, or a form of community voyeurism – a sort of pre-Guttenberg version of Playboy? Consequently, much as we might have mused about the appearance of the temple complex sitting – as it once did – in the middle of a shallow lake, and the effectiveness of the lead straps down each temple to dissipate lightning strikes, these weren’t our most enduring memories of Khajuraho. Bodies were to again be a feature of our last major stop in India, on the banks of the Ganges, at Varanasi, India’s holiest city. The burning ghats have long been imbued with a certain morbid fascination for visitors to the City: small stone jetties on which funeral pyres are lit and the earthly remains of those fortunate enough to be carried to the Mother Ganges are reduced to ash. We discovered them surrounded by the somewhat less reverential sellers of gold and other trinkets recovered from the ghats, and the wood merchants who make a living selling the wood needed to fuel each pyre. I had also decided to visit the local railway station to photograph its legendary assortment of steam locomotives. It was fantastic to see these museum-piece behemoths in action: smoke, steam, clanking boilers and the skidding acceleration of steel drive wheels on steel rails. Rather less appealing was the sight of four men carrying a recently wrapped body from the station, complete with dogs lapping at the blood pouring from the
Leaving the plains around the Ganges behind and starting the grindingly slow climb towards Lake Pokhara in central Nepal, I decided that two characteristics of India would stay with me for a long time. The first of these was colour: immense sunsets, especially over the Ganges; the many red sandstone forts and palaces; the wonderfully luminescent yellows, greens, blues and purples of women’s saris; and even the blood red of vultures’ heads emerging from the belly of a dead water buffalo. Secondly, there were smells, in fact the very many smells that were to become my other abiding memory of India: from the bitterness and putrefaction of human waste, to the tang of dust and wood smoke in the air, and the extravaganza of scents found in local spice stalls and markets – places of veritable sensory overload. By contrast, Nepal rapidly took on the countenance of a brown, grey and white place, with hillsides terraced like those of southern Kashmir. Lake Pokhara offered the opportunity to capture the full spectacle of the Annapurna Range, but monsoonal cloud formations had already reduced the window of opportunity for such views to a brief hour or two at sunrise. To make the most of this opportunity, a small group of us decided to get up at 5am and race to the summit of nearby Sarangkot for at least a glimpse of the complete range. The best laid plans of mice and men… etc, etc. As it turned out, our best intentions were not interrupted by our abject lack of fitness or even a marked lack of navigation skills, both of which could have quite legitimately unravelled our ambitions. Instead, we were undone by hospitality and human kindness – the most intangible of human qualities that rarely have anything to do with getting hopelessly lost or behind schedule. In the midst of our climb we had nearly collided with an elderly farmer, his wife and wonderfully gnarled mother, all of whom were much smaller than us westerners but who were still carrying 40kg or so bundles of straw up to their home as fodder for their water buffalo. Falling comfortably into the role of ‘village idiot’, I immediately offered to help by taking one of the bundles. Having strapped it round my forehead I then began to do a rather complex imitation of someone trying to fall off the mountainside and dislocate their neck – both at the same time. This performance generated huge mirth from the gathered masses and my blushes were only finally saved when we accepted an invitation for some tea at the farmer’s homestead. The water buffalo standing in the middle of the lower floor was certainly an impressive feature of their dwelling, but the tea was even more memorable. Indeed, we had never tried anything quite like it before. The secret of course, was not in the leaves on this occasion, but rather in what went with them: rancid butter in place of milk and salt instead of sugar. Needless to say, there were certain reservations about a ‘top up’ or second mug. However, our hospitality experience didn’t end half-way up Sarangkot. When nearly at its summit we were confronted by a young boy who looked about nine or ten years old. He then proceeded to ask if we wanted cigarettes, followed by hashish, and then – clearly going for broke – if we wanted to buy some time with his sister. With slightly embarrassed chuckles, we politely declined his offerings and plodded up the last few metres to Sarangkot’s crest, only to discover that much of the Annapurna Range was already immersed in an increasingly dense blanket of cloud. Not amused.
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Our eventual arrival in New Delhi, only weeks later than anticipated in our travel schedule, was celebrated with a thorough ear de-waxing by a man with some wire and cotton in a local park, a five-course Chinese meal (Indian was too expensive), visits to the Red Fort and Peacock Throne, and watching a snake charmer drape a, presumably drugged King Cobra, over the shoulder of one of my travel companions near the Delhi Arch: Barbara was convinced that it was a harmless python until I pointed out the large scales and retracted hood. The snake’s owner and drug-master simply fixed us both with his most innocent and benevolent smile and said little.
shroud. Anywhere else this might have seemed at least worthy of a little suspicion and concern, but apparently not on the front steps of the Varanasi Railway Station.
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BELOW. Silk that has been freshly dyed hung out to dry in a Lahore courtyard
As consolation, we then decided to get truly lost by trying to circumnavigate Lake Pokhara on foot. Local farmers threshing grain in the late morning hardly seemed to notice or care about our fleeting presence, but by the late afternoon, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the few locals in the path of our little expedition were most puzzled by both our arrival and our apparent route back to Pokhara township. Indeed, as the onset of sunset began to loom large in our thoughts, the Lake’s main settlement was worryingly illuminated on the far side of a very large expanse of water and we seemed to be descending into a swamp. By this time, I was also becoming increasingly paranoid about snakes – one of those childhood ‘things’ – so it was with great relief that we accepted the offer of some assistance from a local boatman to get back to civilisation. We had been walking for nearly 13 hours and were absolutely exhausted. Nor were we the only things suffering from that particular affliction. Our final journey towards Kathmandu was marked by a solid stain in the sky behind us and the engine’s drum-beat had become decidedly syncopated – like it was missing something on a regular basis. As we clattered, wheezed, and ground into the outskirts of Kathmandu, only four days late after all our adventures and diversions, there was the very real sense that we were reaching the end of nearly six months of things going both
right and wrong, often when we least expected it. The whole trip had ultimately been too much for some, and it would be fair to say that our little entourage was less than entirely unified as we approached the end of our ‘adventure tour’. Nevertheless, it had been a major achievement to get to Kathmandu at all, and for many there was a growing realisation that this might well be the one true adventure of lives that seem all too brief. Consequently, I also recall the final drive into Kathmandu being tinged with a hint of sadness and nostalgia – at the prospect of losing companions who had become friends, at the termination of our shared experience, and of having to return to mundane normality. Breaking this sombre and reflective mood somewhat, our eventual arrival at the Adventure Tours compound was greeted by a wealth of people pouring out of the office and side accommodation. The first words to an exhausted Dave went somewhat along the lines of: “Thank God you’re here, we desperately need the bus for a six week tour of India that departs tomorrow." Dave’s face broke into a wide grin and we all burst into laughter. It wasn’t just the passengers who had truly reached the end of the road.
“I see my passengers as friends coming to visit my home.” Nadia Hung, Flight Attendant Cathay Pacific Airways
“I grew up in a peaceful little city in Taiwan, where people are very warm and friendly. And Cathay Pacific is a very warm company, very human, with a kind heart. So maybe that’s why they chose me. I like to think so.”
People. They make an airline. Visit cathaypacific.com
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MIND OVER MATTER Inside the heads of ‘Yes’ men
World record holder for summitting Mount Everest the most times
First man to travel around the world on just human power
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Five continents on a push bike
Redbull athlete and New Zealand daredevil
BELOW. - Jason Lewis and Steve Smith - 'Computer and pedals'
Destinations spoke with famed 46 / Adventure Special Feature
explorer, author and sustainability campaigner Jason Lewis about travel, adventure, and the meaning of life. Interview by Craig Cartwright Words by Dominique van de Klundert
Lewis was always destined for the adventurous life. He recalls that from an early age he struggled to imagine himself in a desk job, though ironically in his latest incarnation as an adventure author, that’s exactly where he finds himself. He notes that in the UK, social and family backgrounds still play a large role in people’s career paths, political views, even dress and relationships. He found this “incredibly claustrophobic,” feeling an urge to defy the expectations of his family and peers, escaping the “cold, wet, island called England” in order to “place [his] head above the parapet” and discover the reality of the outside world. Defining ‘adventure’ as “stepping off into the abyss of not knowing, taking a leap of faith” without any certainty of how a given situation will turn out, Lewis emphasises that this may not necessarily be a physical feat, but a mental, emotional, or metaphorical one. Adventure is a state of mind. He reflects that in the comfort and predictability of the modern age, many of the challenges that defined the lives of our ancestors have disappeared,
leaving us to seek out opportunities to find out just how much we are capable of against all odds. Lewis compares this drive of his to the preferences of many of his friends, who would never wish for the precarious “feast and famine” life of the adventurer. He believes there is a small percentage of the population that is genetically hard-wired to explore, while the large majority are happier with a more domestic life. He notes, “If everyone was back working the fields, we’d never know what was over the next mountain, as it were. And if everyone was out doing adventures, there’d be no one back home actually doing some real work.” We all have roles to play. Expedition 360, Lewis’s life’s work to this point, was conceived by his friend Steve Smith in 1994, who accompanied him on the first part of the trip before deciding the adventuring life was not for him. Smith had originally come up with the idea of circumnavigating the globe by purely human power – walking, cycling, rollerblading, kayaking, swimming,
BELOW. Contemplating lunch in the Indonesian archipelago on Expedition 360
However, thirteen years later when Expedition 360 finally came to an end, Lewis had experienced many amazing places, all under his own steam. One of his most memorable experiences was paddling his kayak through Komodo National Park in Indonesia, which he describes as “just magical” due to the lack of people, incredible sea life, white sandy beaches, fascinating flora and fauna, and the prehistoric-looking topography of the islands. Lewis also loved Tibet, feeling that he had travelled through a part of the world that was in the process of becoming something very different as a result of Chinese rule and international tourism.
“I feel quite at peace with myself, and quite at rest, and I have a better appreciation for every minute that I’m alive on this planet.” Northern Sudan was another favourite: he fondly describes riding his bike up the side of the Nile, coming across ancient temples and statues and exceptionally hospitable people. He had also done a lot of growing up in the decade or so since leaving London. Aside from the challenges of malaria in Indonesia and in Laos, blood poisoning
part way across the Pacific, and dysentery in Ethiopia, he faced his own mortality in more direct ways on multiple occasions. The first of these was a near miss with a trawler on the Atlantic Ocean, while 200 miles south of Portugal rowing to Miami. Completely unprepared to find a massive ship bearing down on him, Lewis panicked and froze – fortunately the boat slid by just a few feet away. Following this up with a near drowning on the same leg and being run down by a drunk driver while rollerblading across Colorado, Lewis says he managed to get a better handle on living on the edge. In order to get through these tough times, he found the key was to maintain focus on his reasons for undertaking the trip. Waking up in hospital in Colorado, he realised being ‘first’ was not enough – he had to have a better reason for doing this. From there, the trip took an educational focus, with Lewis getting involved with local schools developing cross-cultural and environmental education programs. He notes that the bravado of a young man, who thinks he’s indestructible, can
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rowing, and pedalling a boat all the way around the world. Lewis, seemed to Smith a likely candidate for the task, as they’d spent their college years together taking off on crazy directionless weekend jaunts outside of London. He knew all about Lewis’s “wanderlust spirit.” At the time, Lewis was bored with London, “just limping along,” so he agreed, citing the simplicity of the idea as the main attraction. Plus, it was only going to take three years – or so, Smith said.
BELOW. Arrival at the Turks and Caicos Islands after rowing across the Atlantic in 1995
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actually be an advantage when exploring. He says, “when you suddenly become hesitant with what you’re doing, and you’re looking over your shoulder, that’s when I think things can go wrong. And that’s probably the time to hang up your crazy adventure shoes and do something a bit safer.” Has he reached that point yet? “I’ve been incredibly lucky so far. But I don’t want to push my luck.” Now that he has come out the other side, he feels lucky in that he no longer feels he has anything to prove: “I feel quite at peace
with myself, and quite at rest, and I have a better appreciation for every minute that I’m alive on this planet.” He appreciates that might sound a bit clichéd, but it has spurred him on to do something useful with the lessons he has learned. A whole new ‘expedition’ began with Lewis’s homecoming in 2007. He struggled to find his feet initially, feeling “like a ghost, haunting the old places that [he] used to know” while everyone else had moved on. Reconnecting was a
challenge when friends and family didn’t really understand what he had been up to, while Lewis had no idea about this ‘X Factor business’ everybody seemed to be talking about. After a false start with a book deal gone wrong that left him living out of his car in California, Lewis unpacked the 44 journals he had amassed during the trip and began the mammoth task of writing the trilogy recounting his epic journey - The Expedition: Dark Waters, The Seed Buried Deep, and To the Brink. Lewis reflects that this process helped him to work through his motivations for setting off on his expeditions in the first place. He believes he was searching for a better understanding of what he should be doing with his life on this Earth. He realised that his subsistent existence within the closed system of the little boat out at sea was a miniature metaphor for how life could be on our planet. Lewis feels that from this experience he has gained the tools to live out his life as a more responsible world citizen.
His philosophy is that despite our surface differences, people all over the world have far more in common than not. He recounts how even in those locations the safe travel organisations would tell us to avoid for the sake of our lives, he had “the most unbelievably positive experiences” with locals. In this way, he argues, we almost have a responsibility to travel – to see and experience ourselves what these places are truly like. Further, we can use our adventurous spirits to consider the collective and individual action necessary in our day to day lives to solve our global problems, such as climate change and environmental sustainability. With outcomes like that, we say let the next expedition begin.
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Lewis acknowledges that many ‘firsts’ have already been achieved, leading to crazier and crazier expeditions. With money being no object, he identifies the deep ocean and outer space as the remaining final frontiers. Otherwise, Lewis suggests that we just have to be more creative. It’s less about planting a flag on an undiscovered region or breaking a record, he says, and more about targeted expeditions that seek knowledge useful to wider society. Adventure is not out of reach for us regular folk, either. We can create our own unique expeditions that bring back alternative perspectives that help us to be more tolerant of others and more aware of the issues in other parts of the world.
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BELOW. In a Red Bull wingsuit above Pink Lake in the Esperance region of Western Australia
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Chuck Berry talks us through our fear of falling. Interview by Rowena Bahl Words by Dominique van de Klundert
As a Red Bull Athlete, it’s in Berry’s job description to dream up ideas others would dismiss as “crazy” and make them reality. Adventure has always been in his blood; a motorcycle wreck in 1997, which broke his neck, didn’t put him off, nor have more recent close shaves with the sides of buildings. Berry is a sucker for “anything that’s exciting, that gets the pulse up…your blood racing.” World renowned for B.A.S.E. (Building. Antenna.Span.Earth) jumping, his first attempt at this daredevil sport was in 1989, in the USA. Berry recalls that in those days there wasn’t the large, world-wide community of jumpers that exist now – just a small handful of people who knew, or knew of, one another. He next jumped off a large TV antenna tower in Milwaukee with a group of Americans, before returning home to New Zealand and taking the first leap off Skipper’s Canyon Bridge near Queenstown. Nearly two decades on, Berry made his first building jump in 2008, from the spectacular KL Tower in downtown Kuala
Lumpur. Berry must have felt that he had nearly two decades worth of catching up to do, because he then proceeded to leap off the KL Tower 36 times over three days. He recalls seeing what tricks he could do as he became more familiar with the tower, eventually hanging off the side like a villain in a movie about to fall to his death. The City now opens the building once a year to allow B.A.S.E jumpers to do their thing. With a life as action-packed as Berry’s it can be tough to identify stand-out moments, but he tells us that his experience of parachuting into the world’s biggest sinkhole in China was “absolutely mind-blowingly sensational.” Berry distinguishes this from other jumps which involve parachuting from well above ground level and landing on terra firma; the jump into the 680-metre deep hole near Chongqing – aptly nicknamed Xiaozhai Tiankeng or Heavenly Pit – required a skilled landing inside a crack in a wall at the bottom of the hole. A huge part of the appeal associated with
BELOW. Time-lapse photography capturing a Red Bull base jump at Wanaka, New Zealand
BELOW. B.A.S.E jumping off the Kuala Lumpur tower with Miles Daisher Photo by Nick Weller
Photo by Graeme Murray
Berry emphasises that these feats are not as crazy as they may initially appear. He argues that it all comes down to having faith in ourselves, in our abilities, and in preparation. When there is no room for mistakes, there is no choice but to avoid making them in the first place – which negates the need for a backup system. Clearly, this rules out jumping off things willy-nilly and hoping for the best. As Berry says, “If you’ve got a really good Plan A, you don’t need a Plan B.” The focus is therefore on ensuring that the initial plan is strong and well thought out. There will always be unknowns, but Berry contends that it is simply a case of controlling that which is within our power: choosing the right conditions and building enough
“The reason they can jump is that they believe they can….all adventure is about the belief that you can.” latitude into the plan so that there is room to adjust in case of the unexpected. This philosophy distances what he is doing now from his younger, more reckless days, where he recalls he would “jump off anything.” Working through the risk and the details needed to surmount them is part of what makes these adventures so rewarding for Berry. He is well aware that his life is on the line with every jump, and he is betting everything against his ability to handle whatever comes at him: “My life is in my
hands and it’s my responsibility. I can’t afford to put that into anyone else’s hands.” It is about getting into a sharply focused mindset where he knows he simply has to give “the performance of a lifetime.” After that, it’s not scary at all, but pure fun. Inspired by true life adventure stories, where people survive a tragic accident and struggle against incredible odds, Berry suggests that we can reach that same level of engagement in our existence without actually having to be in such an intense life or death situation. Challenge as a choice, rather than a state of emergency, can still lead us to a deep appreciation of how lucky we are to be alive. Further, Berry argues that challenging ourselves in this way and coming out the other side helps us to realise that we are capable of so much more than we might otherwise think. It is the self-sufficiency and selfknowledge associated with these challenges that has allowed Berry to continue pushing the boundaries. He loves the process of imagining something
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these death-defying feats for Berry is the “beautiful transition” from land to air and back down again. In contrast to our life of being literally stuck to the earth, B.A.S.E jumping involves “running off the planet; all of a sudden you’re free…the floor has fallen away” – which results in a dramatic and complete re-conceptualisation of three-dimensional space.
right. Jumping into the world's largest sinkhole - Xiaozhai Tiankeng in China with Amanda Vicharelli Photo by Dave Major
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completely out of the ordinary, combined with the challenge of making it happen in reality. The latter is crucial, as “until you actually do it…you haven’t proven anything.” There’s no point in sitting around theorising. Berry gives the example of the Red Bull tent parachute (as in: promo tent), which he used for a jump from a helicopter in 2013. No one believed it would work,
except for Berry – and it did. On what sets aerial adventurers apart, it is simple: “The reason they can jump is that they believe they can….all adventure is about the belief that you can.” He explains that those who consider his escapades “crazy”are those who judge based on their own skill set, which need not apply to others.
confound next? He has been busy dreaming up a catapult system to fling him off the edge of a cliff, and is also keen to fly a plane through a tunnel. He is motivated by taking things out of context: a tent isn’t supposed to belong in the sky, nor a plane in a tunnel. “They don’t normally go together,” he says, “but I think they can.”
So whose expectations will Berry
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BELOW. Greenland expedition
Destinations caught up with National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Alastair Humphreys to see what he was up to and talk adventures, big and small Interview by Rowena Bahl Words by Dominique van de Klundert
A trip born out of a lack of direction ended up setting Alastair Humphreys on a path to a career he had never imagined. As a university student in Edinburgh, Humphreys was at a complete loss as to what he wanted to do when he grew up – adding that in some ways, he still doesn’t. All he knew was that rather than take a boring job “just for the sake of it,” he wanted to escape familiar “little Britain,” to get off what he perceived then as a small, isolated island in search of more exciting places around the world. Indeed, this motivation seems remarkably common to many young people in developed countries, but the mode of transport Humphreys chose was more out of the ordinary. He wanted to challenge himself, while at the same time see the world in a way that was cheap and slow, opening doors to as many people as possible along the way. Getting on a bike seemed the ideal way to achieve all of this, making for a more rewarding trip than the conventional backpacking holiday. Setting off from England without undertaking any training – reasoning that he would simply get fit along the way – Humphreys cycled across Europe, through the Middle East, and all the way down the east coast of Africa before sailing across the Atlantic to South America.
From there, he headed up to Alaska, caught another boat over to Siberia, and cycled down through Russia, Japan and China to Central Asia, then back home to the UK. Humphreys estimated the trip would take around three years, though it ended up taking just over four. This was partly due to his changing motivations along the way. Humphreys explains that when he started out, he had been seeking wilderness, but as he travelled he became more and more interested in the human and cultural aspects of his travel experience. He notes that “once you’ve seen quite a few mountains and quite a few deserts, you’ve got an idea about those parts of the world. But the human side of it is endlessly fascinating.” The reactions of others to his project were varied. In general, Humphreys found that people from poorer regions, whose “horizons” and outlook on the world tend to be limited by their economic circumstances, found it difficult to comprehend why he would want to cycle from the UK to their town or country. In wealthier countries, he met more people who understood his impulse and were “a bit jealous,” that they couldn’t do the same. Getting to know the locals at each destination became easily the most
BELOW. Sunset cycling in Sudan
needed to overcome were completely in the mind: he recalls that his preconceptions of the Middle East caused him to worry about how he would be perceived. Yet, in actually travelling through the Middle East he
“once you’ve seen quite a few mountains and quite a few deserts, you’ve got an idea about
However, Humphreys emphasises that everywhere has its mixture of difficulties and perks. He notes that while first world countries in Europe and North America were easy to traverse due to their infrastructure and cultural similarities, they were also very expensive, which is an important consideration for an adventurer who is only just getting by. He compares this to his time in Ethiopia, where he could “eat like a king for hardly anything,” and the people were generally more welcoming. However, witnessing the country’s poverty also made him very self-conscious of the privilege that allowed him to undertake his expedition.
Some of the challenges Humphreys
those parts of the world. But the human side of it is endlessly fascinating.” realised that the region was “incredibly safe and welcoming.” Other limitations related to the physical demands he had anticipated, such as cycling and camping in minus 40 degree conditions in Siberia. Humphreys differentiates between enjoying an experience or destination in
the moment, and in reflection – looking back on that same experience. He tells us, “The places that I look back and enjoy are often not the places I enjoyed at the time.” It is the adventures that were “quite miserable and difficult” that he remembers fondly now. There were, however, some moments of pure fun on the expedition: Humphreys unequivocally loved cycling through Patagonia, which he describes as beautiful and wild. Since his first expedition, Humphreys has undertaken a range of other adventures, walking across Southern India from coast to coast, rowing the Atlantic Ocean, crossing Iceland, and traversing the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. He aims to balance journeys that are about meeting people, such as his Indian adventure, with those that are about surviving a hostile natural environment. As to why people seek out these kinds of experiences, Humphreys observes that in our normal lives we don’t get the chance to push ourselves and rarely get to see what we’re made of. He believes he always had the drive to accomplish his adventure goals, but didn’t see it emerge until he tested himself by setting off on his bike that first time. Once we give in to the “compulsion” and get started, Humphreys suggests adventuring is “a bit of an addiction.” It generates the desire to push ourselves that little bit harder each time, to achieve something we had thought was near impossible.
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rewarding part of the trip, but also engendered some unexpected mental and emotional challenges. Humphreys was surprised at how much he struggled with the loneliness of the expedition, which was exacerbated both by simply passing through some places and by the time it took to stop and interact with people in others. He recalls that in those places where he stayed for an extended period of time – a week here and there, often being taken in by hospitable families – he would feel that he was just starting to make friends, when it became time to have to say goodbye. Doing this over and over again, Humphreys began to miss the sense of community that he was constantly leaving behind.
BELOW. Empty Quarter Desert
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However, Humphreys emphasises that ‘adventure’ is a very open term. For him, the key is for each individual to do something they’ve never done before – something that is difficult and different for ‘them’. “For some people that might involve cycling around the world,” he says; “for others it might mean sleeping on a hill close to home.” To this end, Humphreys’ latest project is around “microadventures”. By exploring his own country, he aims to show that it’s entirely
possible for those who are “busy with their real lives” to have a local adventure in a night or a weekend. The movement seems to be taking off, with his new Microadventures: Local Discoveries, Great Escapes proving to be his “most popular book by a million miles.” The book recounts Humphreys’ own microadventures around the UK, but also provides a blueprint of adventurous ideas that could work
anywhere in the world. For example, he suggests that instead of going home after work to watch TV, anyone can make a choice to head out of town by whatever means possible, climb a hill, and sleep under the stars. The next morning, Humphreys recommends a swim in a nearby river, before getting back to our desks by 9am. We might not all be destined to cycle around the globe, but a night under the stars? Count us in.
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BELOW. The Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest
Destinations spoke with Himalayan MOUNTAINEER Apa Sherpa – nicknamed 'Super Sherpa' with his 21 summits of Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepalese) – about adventure, adversity, global climate change, and the promotion of educational awareness. Apa currently holds the world record for summitING Everest the most times. Interview by Brian Furbush Cowritten by Brian Furbush & Dominique van de Klundert Photos by Tommy Heinrich
Describing it as if “it was like (he) was in the heavens,” Apa Sherpa talks about his first ascent of Mount Everest with the reverence he reserves for the experience of summiting the world’s highest mountain. Apa, together with his then best friend Rob Hall, Peter Hillary (son of Sir Edmund Hillary), and Gary Ball – three highly regarded New Zealand climbers and guides – summited Mount Everest for the first time in 1990 (Gary Ball tragically died of oxygen starvation on Mt Dhaulagiri in 1993 and Rob Hall was to die atop Everest in 1996). Aside from that experience and his twenty subsequent climbs of Sagarmatha, Apa Sherpa still views mountain climbing and guiding as a job. He began his climbing career at age twelve after his father passed away. With minimal education, growing up in the rural village of Thame, Apa
ventured into the mountains as a means of supporting his family. Indeed, he comments that many Sherpas are forced down the same route, despite the dangers inherent in climbing peaks that are 8000 metres plus high – into the ‘death zone’ of high altitude oxygen deprivation and hypothermia. Most western climbers just have to focus on the business of climbing, but it is the Sherpas’ responsibility to lay out ropes and ladders, to shuttle supplies up to the high altitude camps, and to guide their clients towards the Himalayas’ highest summits. While Western climbers begin the process of altitude acclimatization, their Sherpa guides are hard at work providing support for expeditions into and through some of the world’s most taxing alpine terrain. On Everest, Sherpas walk through the Khumbu Icefall, one of the most perilous parts of the Southern Route
BELOW. Approaching the Hillary Step
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– not once, but hundreds of times throughout the course of their working life. In 2014, in one of the worst disasters in the mountain’s history, sixteen Sherpa guides tragically lost their lives in an avalanche on the Icefall. Apa stated that in his opinion, the attitude of Western climbers toward Himalayan mountaineering has changed since he first began guiding. He notes that the largest obstacle is the altitude on 8000-metre peaks, and has observed that guides and climbers in recent years have spent more time training on smaller peaks such as Aconcagua in Argentina and Denali in Alaska to better prepare for the rigors of the Himalayas. Previously, climbers would pay the hefty fee to travel to the Himalayas to attempt to climb with no experience, which lead to problems and avoidable deaths. He stressed that the most important change he has seen is that while Western climbers will always want to stand on top of the world, they now appear to better understand the
environment, conditions, and the pure challenge of an 8,000-meter peak. In his
“You can try next year, or the next…I know it’s not easy, but life is more important.” words, “You can try next year, or the next…I know it’s not easy, but life is more important.” To sum this up, the mountain will always be there. Apa’s twenty-first and last summit occurred in 2011; after which he retired to the United States to spend time with his family and to promote the issues of global climate change and the lack of education in his home country of Nepal.
From 1998 to 2011, Apa worked with various expeditions to clean up Mount Everest, determined to bring global awareness to the growing issue of hazardous waste polluting the pristine mountain. As of 2011, Apa, with the help of Team Eco Everest and other organizations, have removed more than 5800 kilograms of garbage, oxygen cylinders, and human waste from the 8000-metre zone on Everest left by previous expeditions. The Apa Sherpa Foundation’s mission is to empower access to education in his native country of Nepal, promote economic opportunities through communityoriented projects, and to raise awareness of global climate change. The money generated by his foundation primarily goes to a school in Thame originally built by Sir Edmund Hillary. In 2012, Apa became the first person to lead an end-to-end trek of the Great Himalayan Trail, a 1700 kilometre route that spans the length of the Nepalese
Right. The final ascent - slow progress above the Hilary Step
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Himalayas, considered to be one the of the most gruelling hikes in the world. The trek went from the Nepalese east to the Tibet border, finishing in 99 days, 20 days ahead of schedule. To Apa, the journey was to show the world that there are many beautiful places to see other than Everest, to give these regions some well-deserved promotion, and to hopefully bring prosperity to the region. Apa believes the next great adventure in Nepal and the Himalayas is paragliding from 8000-metre mountains, an
incredible physical and mental challenge. There have been several successful bids already, including a French athlete paragliding from the Everest summit to Camp Two (6,400 metres), and two Nepali athletes paragliding from the Everest summit to Namche Bazaar, landing at the Syangboche airstrip, a distance of roughly thirty kilometers as the crow flies. There are truly limitless possibilities for adventure in the region, with recent daring winter ascents of peaks including Everest by Sherpa Ang Rita, and
Gasherbrum II by a global team of Cory Richards, Denis Urubko and Simone Moro. Apa continues to promote the goals of his foundation including an expedition in April 2015 to reach Everest base camp while visiting surrounding local villages. While the days of his adventurous summiting may be behind him, his ambitions continue to remain as lofty as the mighty peaks he once conquered.
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ADVENTURES If the key to adventure is exposing ourselves to the unknown, then it stands to reason that what we seek could be hiding in the most unexpected places. Weâ€™ve searched far and wide across the globe for a mixture of some of the best â€“ not necessarily the most extreme - adventures out there.
words BY Dominique van de klundert
Photo by Andrew Parker
Walking With Wolves Although winter wolf hunting is common in nearby Canada, we prefer to take our shots by camera in snowbound Yellowstone National Park. After a day of speeding around on snowmobiles getting to know this wild ancestor of our domesticated dog, the Mammoth Hot Springs provide a perfect way to relax and recuperate. Photo by Scott Kublin
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Diving Borneo Lauded by famed sea adventurer Jacques Cousteau, a Sipadan diving safari is consistently near the top of any serious diver’s bucket list. As well as revealing striking coral walls and hawksbill and green turtles, the sought-after ‘barracuda tornado’ is a highlight of the Celebes Sea – one sea body that still teems with a diversity of ocean life.
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Photo by Dorin Mantoiu
Native Experience A dense collection of Native American pueblo ruins, Chaco Culture National Historical Park is ideal for hiking, biking and camping. But donâ€™t go to sleep too early. An internationally-recognised Dark Sky Park, visitors have the rare opportunity to experience the night sky as the regionâ€™s original inhabitants would have. Photo by Thomas H. Field
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CLIMB A GLACIER A scenic helicopter ride above Fox Glacier is just the beginning, followed by ice climbing - providing the perfect opportunity to get up and close with the glacierâ€™s geological history. An overnight stay in a hut among the tussock, watching the sun set over the Tasman Sea completes the adventure.
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Photo by Mike Hollman
FREEDIVING FRANCE The clear, deep waters of Villefranche-surmer, just outside Nice, provide the ideal setting for freediving. The area is a mecca for renowned freedivers, hosting international competitions and claiming world record holders as residents. But the calm bay is an equal opportunity destination - full training is available for newbies too. Photo by William Rhamey
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Costa Rican Race Covering all adventure bases from jungles to beaches, a Costa Rican getaway has it all. Hike through the mysterious cloud forests of Santa Elena to a smoking volcano, raft the white water of the Pacuare River, then surf the legendary Pavones breaks (or just chill out on the beach)
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Photo by Blake Burton
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HIGH ABOVE Everest The dream of many a skydiver, mountaineer or all-round adventure junkie, the Everest skydive has been an annual event since the first jump in 2008. All it takes is a short trek along the main Everest trail followed by a helicopter lift to the highest drop zone in the world. Spectacular. Photo by Wendy Smith Tandem Instructor: Tom Noonan
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Tracking Gorillas In Rwanda Follow in the footsteps of Dian Fosseyâ€™s adventurous life and track 'gorillas in the mist' in the foothills of Rwanda, where playful golden monkeys and noisy chimps are also to be found among the clouds of butterflies in Africaâ€™s largest protected high altitude rainforest.
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Photo by Michael J. Cohen
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ADVENTURE KIT Some might say an adventurer is only as good as their gear. Hereâ€™s what is on our wish list... Words by Craig Cartwright
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1 / Grayl – Arise, Sir Drinksalot
2 / Darn Tough Sock it to me
Grayl is a clever but simple portable water filtration system that should have a place in every adventure traveller’s (or Knight of the Round Table’s) knapsack.
When Darn Tough say they really know socks, they’re not exaggerating. Ten years ago Cabot Hosiery was struggling, and the owners thought they were going to have to close their mill and source labour overseas. But after three generations of making socks they just couldn’t bring themselves to give up, and the concept behind Darn Tough was born - indestructible socks with a lifetime guarantee.
Its operation is simplicity itself. Firstly, choose which filter to use – there are three: TAP, which removes chemicals and heavy metals; TRAIL, which adds protection from bacteria and protozoan cysts; and TRAVEL, which provides the ultimate defence against viruses while travelling in developing countries or wilderness areas.
This company offers a fantastic product, while simultaneously taking itself a little too seriously. They say that the name wasn’t chosen lightly. Perhaps it should have been. The website also has other Arthurian references – the plastic/stainless steel version of the Grayl is called ‘Quest’, and the full stainless version has been dubbed ‘Legend’. At least they didn’t call it ‘Excalibur’... Regardless, we highly recommend this product. It is surely going to be indispensable for adventure travellers who are tired of stale tasting, boiled or chemically purified, water, and it’s got to be handy for any traveller going anywhere that has even remotely dodgy water.
High density knitting, a ‘performance’ fit, ribbed knit that fits contours and prevents bunching, and elastic arch support, all make these socks extra comfortable. Combining these features with merino wool and a product they call Coolmax, Darn Tough describe their product as the finest premium all-weather performance sock on the market. Darn Tough are super passionate about their socks, and judging by the testimonials on their slick and easy to navigate website, so are their customers. It might seem a bit silly – they are only socks after all, right? However, the fact is, our fancy hiking shoes are only as good as the socks we are wearing inside them.
The more products we review, the more scared we become. Why? Because it’s becoming increasingly clear that the future is now. In Back to the Future 2 we were assured that 2015 would see hoverboards and flying cars. While many of us sneered when they failed to materialise, the movie’s only real mistake may be that it was too conservative in its own predictions. Products like the Recon Jet, for example, are more Star Trek than Back to the Future – and it’s not even 2015 yet. Recon Jet is designed for cyclists, runners and triathletes. What are they? It’s a pair of glasses that are also “the world’s most advanced wearable computer”. And the features they contain are downright scary. Think Dual Core CPU with Bluetooth, WI-FI, ANT+, GPS, an on-board and 3D gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, altimeter, thermometer, HD camera and high resolution display. What do they do? They deliver information to athletes by way of a heads-up display inside the polarised lenses of their glasses. The user can access information related to their location and navigation, weather alerts, social media, digital coaching, their speed and efficiency of travel, rates of climb or descent, heart rate, and even shoe size. They can even connect with their smartphone to see caller ID and and get SMS.
4 / Phantom 2 Vision - Holy flying cameras batman Just when we thought we had all the gadgets we could ever need, someone goes and invents an affordable flying camera. The name might seem fairly self-explanatory – so it’s a camera that flies right? Well yes, but it’s a lot more than that. The camera takes very high quality images, and has hover and stability controls to keep them sharp. But it also has other great features, such as the ability for the user to see what the camera is seeing in real time via a smartphone (which can be mounted on the remote control), a GPS auto-pilot system, a flight radar that displays the current position of the unit, and a ‘Return-to-Home’ feature which automatically lands it back at the take-off point if it has flown too far away. The battery also lasts for a very decent 25 minutes of flight time. At present, laws governing the use of these cameras differ from country to country, and they are bound to get tighter and tighter. We don’t have to be an air crash investigator to realise that these things could be dangerous. There are already plenty of clips on YouTube showing what happens when drone flights go wrong. While flying cameras have a million applications in the film industry – the Phantom 2 Vision is pitched squarely at the amateur photographer or videographer. We’re picking that drones like these will soon be used for all kinds of applications. One thing is for sure, for better or worse, drone technology is destined to change the skies above us forever.
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Secondly, suspect water is poured into an outer cup. Next, an inner cup is depressed inside that outer vessel, then presto – as if conjured up by Merlin himself – the filtered water emerges. However, be warned; the Grayl will only filter water – Bear Grylls will just have to keep drinking his urine neat.
Over the past ten years Darn Tough have worked darn hard on their product, making socks that are designed and tailored for specific purposes - gym, work, hunting, skiing, hiking, biking, and everyday use. The challenge from their CEO is bold and straightforward: “If you can put a hole in our socks, send them back to me personally and we’ll replace them free of charge.” To ensure they don’t have to make good on their promise they have pulled out all the stops when it comes to design, and in researching and sourcing the very best materials.
3 / Recon Jet Boldly going where no glasses have gone before
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searching for adventure In New Zealand's South Island
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Left. Fox Glacier Photo by Mike Hollman
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Destinations decided that we would like to embark on our own adventure as part of the Adventure edition and, in doing so, highlight some of the diverse array of experiences that New Zealand’s South Island – one of the world’s true ‘adventure capitals’ – has to offer. However, this edition is not solely about extreme sports - those who get a thrill from leaping off skyscrapers, rowing across oceans or braving the heat and solitude of the globe’s deserts. Instead, we felt that we should send our editor, Rowena Bahl, south, together with a support team: Aaron, a masterful photographer and cameraman flown in from Bali; his everobliging assistant Rudolf; Anita, the new kid on the Destinations block who was to manage the entire journey; and Finn, a suave, young creative director and editor. Our aim was to focus on those adventures that us 'mere mortals' might partake in – just a little less brazen, durable and athletic than Apa Sherpa, Chuck Berry or Jason Lewis – even if they offered a challenge to our erstwhile adventurer, Rowena Bahl. However, we also wanted to take the opportunity to trial filming this Destinations journey, so that our readers would be able to watch our adventurous editor in action, not just read her ‘trials and tribulations’. This article focuses on the highlights of our South Island adventure, with the full details of the trip written up in our extended LAYAR version of the story which addresses the team’s day-by-day explorations. The LAYAR version also includes our video of the journey, representing our first attempt at full-scale integration of print and digital media. This is a major step for Destinations, one that we hope to replicate and build on in future editions.
BELOW. Queenstown in the evening
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Photo by Mike Hollman
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below. Rowena reflects on the Llama as the Llama reflects on her
right. A seal busking in Kaikoura Photo by Mike Hollman
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Photo by Finn McGowan
Llama Trekking - Kaikoura Our experience begins immediately upon stepping out of the car. Kevin, the owner of Kaikoura Farm Park, briefs us about llama behaviour and how they mimic everything we do. He says, "They are a reflection of you; whatever you are feeling, your llama will reflect." He also explains that people often get confused about llama trekking and what it is; no one rides llamas. They are – simply put – ‘walking buddies.’ We drive over to the start point of our coastal beach walk around part of Kaikoura Bay, with a spectacular mountain background afforded by the Outer Kaikouras. Four of us are trekking today, each with our own llama friend. I am paired up with a beautiful white llama named Sylvester, and I at once think we are a ‘match made in heaven’. Well, not quite: Sylvester howls at me and has a terrible scowl on his face – he looks like he may even bite me, though spitting is more likely, and I am unsure if he wants to walk with me at all. Regardless, I am determined to make him my best friend. Forty-five minutes later, Sylvester still does not want to ‘play ball’ – well, with me at least. I try taking him to the front of the pack,
but this only exacerbates his foul temper. Kevin tells me that he is not used to being a leader and that he is simply responding to being put in an uncomfortable position. Perhaps inevitably, we decide that I would be better off with another llama, so Sylvester is replaced by the true leader of the pack – Legend – with whom I have a much more comfortable relationship. The more time we spend together, the more Kevin's earlier assertion is borne out; Legend responds to my behaviour and starts to try and mimic my actions. We walk along the beach pathways and boardwalks, then along the main beach, and when we are cold we cuddle up to one another. Snow tipped mountains, coastlines, llamas and a sunset: it does not get much better than that.
Swimming With Dolphins - Kaikoura I am a little nervous as I pack my bags. I have a fear of deep water and this is the first time I will be throwing myself off a boat into the sea with no visible bottom. Furthermore, I am not a confident swimmer, having nearly drowned as a six year old. Yet, here we are, venturing out on to the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, looking for aquatic mammals. The seaside town of Kaikoura is known for its wildlife. Seals, whales, dolphins, penguins, shearwater, petrels and albatross all reside here. This is largely due
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to the ocean-currents welling up from an exceptionally narrow strip of continental shelf off the South island’s eastern coastline. Indeed, the nearby Kaikoura Canyon is one of the most productive benthic (ocean floor) deep-sea habitats in the world. We pack ourselves into a bus and drive down to the boat. It is a leisurely boat ride and the sun rises magnificently as we move along the water. The temperature is just right and the wetsuits we are wearing keep us nice and snug. We sit outside at the back of the boat, enjoying the ocean breeze and spray over us. When we get to the point where the dolphins are found, we are advised to get our snorkels on and to get ready for the jump in. Anita and I sit at the edge of the boat, ready to slip into the water, although by now my fears about the sea have truly surfaced and I almost run back to my seat. However, something inside me takes over and when the trumpet sounds I slip into the water – half as a leap of faith in the tour operator and half out of fear of embarrassment. To my surprise, the water is just lovely. However, after 10 minutes of ‘dolphin swimming’ - or in my case, hyperventilating - I decide it is time to call it quits and get out. Anita stays in the water and I watch her from the boat as she searches for dolphins. None can be seen. Three times the trumpet blows to tell us to get into the
water and twice the recall rings out. However, third time lucky, and just as everyone is doubting the likelihood of seeing any sea life at all, a large pod of dolphins emerges from the ocean’s depths: they playfully surround the swimmers left, right and centre – creating a real buzz and feeling of excitement. If only I was in the sea with them. Anita emerges from the sea grinning from ear to ear and ecstatic. She has just jumped into the unknown and come out feeling a million dollars. This is adventure – well for most at least.
Wilderness Walk Inland Kaikoura We head inland towards the Puhi Puhi Valley and our next adventure, a day-long ‘wilderness walk’ in a Significant Area of International Importance, amid the towering alpine peaks and terrain of the Outer Kaikoura Range. Our walk begins at the eco-friendly, Shearwater Lodge on part of Puhi Peaks Station, framed by beech forest on surrounding slopes, while alpine shrubland, sedges, grasses and open scree dominate the elevated slopes above. Although not as extensive as the three day walks that many lodge users experience, our foray into the
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Left. Anita and Rowena on a search for adventure in Wanaka Photo by Aaron Daniel Fritz
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Below. The fabulous Nicky McArthur, owner and manager of Kaikoura Wilderness Experience and Shearwater Lodge
alpine climes around the lodge give a wonderful appreciation of the ecological sequences and successional stages that quickly overtake one another as the walk climbs skywards. Although deer, chamois and other game animals are found in more remote parts of Puhi Peaks Station, our visit is more memorable for the evident changes from manuka and kanuka into lush beech forest, and even though a deep shroud of alpine mist covers the mountain tops, out visit to Beverley Falls is delightful, while the calls of kea higher up the valley are so evocative of the South Island’s high alpine fastness. The steep grades of part of our walk, together with its rocky course, are a bit of a struggle for true city girl Anita. As a result, we are only too happy to share with each other memories of the cosy warmth of Shearwater Lodge and owner Nicky McArthur’s cordon bleu skills from the previous night. We only get a brief taste of the real Wilderness Walk, but can appreciate why people come to explore this part of New Zealand’s alpine wonderland from around the world.
Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park Kaiteriteri Beach is Tasman’s most popular locale for summertime activities, with its spectacular beachfront framed by bushlined hills, while baches ring its coastal margins. We meet our guide on the beach, and after a thorough introduction to our sea
kayaks and a safety briefing, we prepare to venture northwards into the crystal waters of Abel Tasman National Park. Remembering only too well my introduction to the more open waters of the Pacific Ocean, the headlands, coves and bush of the park margins seem much more inviting and appealing. I am determined to conquer my fears of the deep. Tandem paddling is the order of the day and conditions are ideal, with a flat sea and absolutely fine overhead conditions. Anita and I are paired up, and our group decides to head towards Split Apple Rock: I am providing most of the ‘horsepower’, while Anita controls the rear-mounted rudder. Having been warned to watch out for the falling tide and suddenly emerging shoals, we set a somewhat meandering course to Split Apple Rock – south of Marahau Beach – and back. Sunburn is perhaps a more pressing concern than foundering on the rocks that emerge with the falling tide, and we find it fascinating to explore the nooks and crannies of the passing coastline. Devoid of houses or other people, it feels wonderfully natural, and the ability to beach our little sea craft means that we can make the most of some of the idyllic beaches - complete with white silica sand and small sand bars – that lie north of Kaiteriteri. Slightly less inspiring is the absence of paddle power from the rear of the kayak, although we are both enjoying our little
Below. The 'wedding' tree on the Kaikoura Wilderness Experience
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adventure so much that our varied course and less than optimum pace doesn’t make much difference. A fantastic day on, and next to, the sea.
Sky Diving – Lake Wanaka Every two years, Wanaka hosts an international airshow among the alpine peaks and lakes that frame the town. For the rest of the time, however, it offers a truly spectacular venue for more leisurely flying and skydiving. Having eliminated - or at least held in bay - one primal fear, it is time to address another: falling from great heights. Oh well - as the saying goes, 'it's not the fall that kills you, but the landing'. This time, though, I am not the only one setting out to beat childhood demons: Finn is equally adamant that he wants to ‘have a go’. So, suitably attired in orange jump suits and with the rest of the team lying on outdoor loungers looking skyward through sunglasses, we climb into a high-winged Cessna – de rigeur for small scale descents – and begin a slow climb up to 5,000 metres. The climb provides the opportunity for a few stomach butterflies to emerge from their chrysalises. Fortunately, the panoramic views out over Lake Wanaka, towards Roys Peninsula and the expansive backdrop of the Southern Alps, helps to provide a degree of focus and at least partially steady my nerves. Besides, I can see that Finn is fighting the same battle: we are both having
our adventure whether we want to or not; there is no way back. At 12,000 metres I slightly freak when the oxygen masks descend, but I have little choice in matters at this point: I am paired with a South American instructor and he is quite literally pushing me out the open door. The rest, as they say, is history: I keep my mouth shut to avoid blowing up like a balloon and feel bliss as the ‘chute finally opens – even if getting to that point seems to take an interminable length of time. From that point onwards the descent is magical – stunning views, floating across the landscape and gently gliding to earth: a truly amazing experience.
Bungy – Kawarau Falls Renowned extreme sportster and Red Bull athlete Chuck Berry is my host and tandem partner for the Kawarau Falls bungy. Located on a historic bridge over the Kawarau River, the bungy was the earliest operation of its kind on the planet, originally started by AJ Hackett. It now draws crowds of tourists as the archetypal New Zealand thrill-seeking adventure – though far more to watch than participate. Chuck and I can’t quite agree on whether or not we should get the full ‘works’ – ie. dunking - as well as the fall, and this debate is ongoing as we climb onto the jump platform. Up to this moment, I have remained absolutely determined to get ‘the works’, while
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Left. Rowena Bahl skydives over Wanaka Photo provided by Skydive Lake Wanaka
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BELOW. Rowena Bahl and redbull daredevil 'Mr Sensible' Chuck Berry after their bungy off the Kawarau bridge in Queenstown
Chuck has been equally adamant that he doesn’t want to get wet. Furthermore, the Kawarau Bridge Bungy team have been feeling more than a little frustrated at having failed to dunk Chuck in the river after 20 years of trying. To further complicate matters, I am starting to have doubts about the whole idea, after finally looking down at the river chasm and its rock-lined course. By the time we are finally tied into place, I have relented on the idea of a dunking and am firmly anchored to the pole next to me. Chuck, on the other hand, is increasingly nonchalant, secure in the knowledge that he is not going to be dunked, and the rest of
the Destinations team is watching safely from the riverside viewing platforms. My arms are then forcefully peeled from the safety of the platform stanchion and I must finally face the likelihood of imminent death: from hitting the rocks and water below, from drowning, from fright – or all three. It would be fair to say the sudden push and fall is absolutely terrifying and the water quite frigid – I am dunked to waist level so that the bungy crew can make sure of Chuck’s demise – and the rebound is absolute relief and joy. I have done it; perhaps more importantly, the Kawarau Bridge bungy crew has well and truly ‘done it’ to Chuck Berry.
Donâ€™t just cross the Strait Cruise it.
Interislander is far more than the New Zealand ferry service which bridges the North and South. It links our great country.
EAST AFRICAN SAFARI Story by kelly phillips badal photography by tanveer badal
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It’s been over a century since the first Europeans flocked to the exotic African landscape to undertake a newfangled trip of a lifetime. The ‘safari’, a Swahili word meaning ‘long journey,’ is now part of everyday Western vernacular. Today, the thrill of big animal spotting remains, while 21st-century comforts and conveniences take the trip to the next level: think jeeps equipped with a mini-fridge, stove and phone charging station; apps that track the wildlife; Wi-Fi and cell signals in the middle of nowhere; and luxury lodges set in the thick of the action. There is even eco-friendly mobile tent accommodation: tents the size of small apartments - festooned with feather beds, washrooms, and multi-course gourmet meals a few steps away. In short, the contemporary safari has arrived. Here’s where to go, what to see, and the best spots to stay for an East African odyssey.
KENYA Samburu National Reserve
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WHY GO: Putting aside the ‘Big Five’ – the standard animal spotter’s brag book of African lion, leopard, black or white rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo – this excellent park holds a whole extra 'Special Five' of even rarer northern species to boast about. Just ask other safari-goers if they've seen a Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, Gerenuk antelope, or Somali ostrich. Not unless they've visited Samburu; and what’s more, all of the Big Five, save rhino, are on view here too. WHERE TO STAY: Nestled on a ridge above the Ewaso Nyiro River, Sasaab Lodge is the top spot to beat the post-safari heat, with each of its nine rooms including a well-chilled (and incredibly reinvigorating) plunge pool. After a dip, watch elephants, dik dik, and impala visit the river from airy Moroccan-inspired rooms, which include beautiful wooden four-poster beds. English-speaking Samburu tribe guides are available for bush walks, village tours, and even camel rides to an incredible, hilltop sundowner spot – and more.
Solio Private Reserve WHY GO: In a word: rhinoceros. It’s tough to spot even one of these heavily poached herbivores from a distance in most parts of Africa. For those wanting a closer look, the 19,000 acre rhino conservancy within Solio’s 45,000 acre reserve is one of the best places in the world to do so. Far more than just seeing one rhino, at least 100 are on hand: black, white, babies and family groups. In addition, there’s every chance of also seeing lion, leopard, zebra, waterbuck, and lots of other wildlife.
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WHERE TO STAY: Solio Lodge provides the only overnight stay within the reserve, and practically guarantees exclusivity, with no more than a handful of people staying and observing the resident animals. Its five cottages’ large windows offer front-row seats to the ‘ranch’ from private verandahs, beds, bath tub, even the shower. Solio’s jeeps are kitted out with ultra-high rooftop seats, guaranteeing 360 degree sightseeing; they even cater for bush breakfasts cooked right behind the jeep. After dinner, another creature that’s just as rarely seen as the rhino, often emerges: a rescued bush baby, named Murray-Anne, who pops out at night to bounce about the main lodge, delighting guests.
KENYA Maasai Mara National Park
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WHY GO As one of the most famous parks in Africa, alongside Tanzania’s Serengeti – and sharing the same ecosystem – the Maasai Mara is a can’t-miss venue for anyone on safari. Head to the reserve in July through October and visitors can witness its most famous seasonal residents – a massive 1.5 million wildebeest herd, making their annual migration to the Maasai Mara’s green grasses. However, the undisputed highlight of any safari to this reserve is witnessing a mass wildebeest crossing of the mighty Mara River. WHERE TO STAY The camouflaged tents of Sala’s Camp, set on the wild, southern edge of the Mara, are right in the heart of the action. The Sand River, mere metres away, attracts elephant, antelope, and wildebeest, with the possibility of a small mass crossing right at one’s door-step. Pristine outdoor lunches are joined by a chorus of birds, while en suite bathrooms – complete with hot showers and flush toilets – make the quasi-camping experience incredibly comfortable. Fly into nearby Mara Keekorok airstrip, and there’s every chance that visitors will see hundreds of wildebeest thundering out of the way of their aircraft on its final approach.
TANZANIA Serengeti National Park, Tanzania WHY GO Rocky ledges topped with big cats, rivers teeming with hippos and crocodiles, rolling plains filled with mega herds. Serengeti is the Africa of documentaries and dreams, and it’s easy to see what lures visitors to the country’s oldest and most popular park. Millions of wildebeest stream through the reserve during its migration months, the largest population of lions in Africa live within its boundaries, and with so many animals at large all year round (including about 1,000 elusive leopard and a few rhino), ticking off the Big Five is a cinch.
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WHERE TO STAY Less-explored areas of the north and east Serengeti offer incredible accommodation sans the crowds that tend to congregate in the park’s southern and central regions. For an upscale experience, Asilia Africa's permanent Sayari Camp offers the opportunity to sunbathe by a pool or soak within the private deep stone bathtub inside each tented suite. Or, for mobile luxury camping at its best, try Asilia’s Olakira, Kimondo, or Namiri Plains camps. The choice is dictated by the view: Olakira is perched above the Mara river, Kimondo commands vistas of the expansive grasslands, and Namiri Plains is truly isolated—a 45-minute drive from the next nearest camp—in an area known for big cat sightings.
TANZANIA Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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WHY GO At the heart of this preserved land lies a massive intact and unfilled volcanic caldera – a volcano that exploded then collapsed on itself – the awe-inspiring Ngorongoro Crater. Long inactive, the bowl-shaped caldera now houses millions of animals. Consequently, instead of the long stretches between wildlife sightings that are more typical on the open grasslands of the Serengeti, animals are on display at Ngorongoro practically every minute. Lion, hyena, jackal, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, even the elusive rhino, await around every twist of the road. WHERE TO STAY Positioned at the crater rim’s highest point, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge* wins for the area’s most magnificent view. Enclosed private decks attached to each of the property’s African-style, circular cottages face west (perfect for sunsets), while large-scale windows surrounding the dining and lounge areas offer unobstructed views for those doing their own ‘grazing’. Attentive service, creative food, generous picnic lunches, and nightly traditional singing make this a highly appealing package.
Tarangire National Park WHY GO Two of Tanzania’s icons – its elephant and the baobab tree – have an incredible presence at this park. For those who truly love elephants, Tarangire is unforgettable. About 3,000 of the pachyderms roam the National Park’s grounds during the peak dry season, and as it is often overshadowed by its more illustrious companion reserves – the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater – it sees fewer visitors, allowing for more intimate, and leisurely, game drives.
*For Sopa Lodge properties, visitors need their own transportation and game drive vehicle. We used the competent services of Multichoice Safaris.
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WHERE TO STAY Smack in the midst of the park, Tarangire Sopa Lodge* offers just the right balance of creature comforts and exposure to nature. There are no fences warding off the wild, and that’s a plus. As a result, the lodge’s private balconies frequently look out over several dozen trumpeting elephants and poolside lunches are often accompanied by a ‘side’ of playful monkeys. Those visitors with sharper eyesight may even glimpse the lodge’s nocturnal genet cats, who like to lurk in the main building’s wooden ceilings.
UGANDA Queen Elizabeth National Park
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WHY GO Home to 95 species of mammal and over 500 species of birds, this expansive park is also the spot to see some of Africa’s only tree-climbing lions. Fortunate visitors may even see a few big cats lazily outstretched in the branches of shady fig trees at Ishasha. If not, then there are still plenty of prides roaming the park’s grasslands. Riverboat trips down the Kazinga River are another highlight of this reserve, allowing those on ‘safari’ to idly sit back and watch the wildlife come to them; the river banks are absolutely teeming with elephant, buffalo, hippo, and hundreds of birds. WHERE TO STAY The ‘bandas’ of Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge are right on the Kazinga channel, so that the snorts of its resident hippos become part of the night’s lullaby. Nightly campfires and multi-course, candlelight dinners outdoors are a highlight, without destroying the travel budget. For a more luxurious stay, visitors can also choose the Mweya Safari Lodge, or just stop by for a delicious lunch and cocktail.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park WHY GO Accessible only by foot, this dense jungle setting is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to see the critically endangered mountain gorilla (other locations include neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo). Getting near these rare primates is the ultimate adventure trek, as this forest isn’t called ‘impenetrable’ for nothing. Tracking a gorilla family can take six plus hours of following a machete-wielding guide, slashing through vine-infested forest. Mud sucks at shoes, branches tear at clothes, and wild elephants occasionally cross the trail. But it’s all worth it for that first glimpse of a big male silverback just metres away.
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WHERE TO STAY On Itambira island amid beautiful Lake Bunyonyi, are located the unique geodomes of Byoona Amagara Island Retreat. Made of poles, papyrus, and grass, the domes are completely open, facing both the lake and its island-dotted waters. Despite this apparent lack of doors, locks, or keys, the geodomes are secure and quite private, while well-designed outdoor showers and composting toilets complete the ‘natural’ experience. Byoona Amagara is a community-run project, so part of its proceeds support local education and sustainability practices.
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The Kingdom of Ice & Wolves
GREENLAND Story & Photography by nick walton
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Left. On board sea explorer in the Ilulissat Icefjord
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BELOW. Husky puppy eyeing a world of snow, ice, rock and chilly waters
"I've always wanted to explore Greenland. As a child gazing up at a world map pinned to my bedroom wall, Iâ€™d marvel at the vastness of Kalaallit Nunaat, as itâ€™s known in Greenlandic."
Location: greenland tiny, dusty Kangerlussuaq, a World War Two bomber town that’s home to Greenland’s largest airport. In the distance the ice pack can be seen, defiant against the near zero temperature and the fleeting summer season, when an increasing number of adventure tourists make the journey to this far off land. At the end of the runway, packs of impatient Greenlandic sled dogs howl at a US Air Force transport as it lumbers into the sky. Behind fences for the summer, the wolf-like dogs pine for the great open spaces of their homeland and yap as our special off-road mini buses pass.
“Now that’s one view I never tire of,” says our Danish captain as the first wicked black peaks of Greenland come into sight far below. In a rare opportunity in post 9/11 aviation, I’ve been invited to the cockpit of our Atlantic Airways charter flight midway between Copenhagen and Kangerlussuaq on Greenland’s west coast, and arrive in time to see the ice floes that mark Greenland’s south-eastern territory drift past, replaced by the three-kilometre thick icepack that cakes the vast interior. It’s an awe-inspiring view that has all 53 guests on the flight glued to the windows as we descend towards the former US airbase of Kangerlussuaq. I’ve always wanted to explore Greenland. As a child gazing up at a world map pinned to my bedroom wall, I’d marvel at the vastness of Kalaallit Nunaat, as it’s known in Greenlandic, and would try to curl my tongue around place names like Kangilinnguit, Eqalugaarsuit, and Ittoqqortoormiit. Decades later and we touch down at
We catch sight of the Sea Explorer, the daring little adventure cruise ship chartered by Greenland travel experts Albatross Travel, from high up on a bluff. Initially it appears to be little more than a tiny speck of blue dwarfed by high, ancient, valley walls on either side; Greenland is a destination that regularly humbles travellers by its sheer scale. Even so, the Sea Explorer is the perfect vessel for navigating this unique landscape. With an ice-strengthened hull that comes in handy when shuffling through the ice at the base of glaciers, and room for 114 passengers, Sea Explorer’s staterooms are spacious and elegantly appointed. Panoramic windows welcome the summer nights’ lingering twilight and timber accents and spacious en-suites make cabins more than comfortable. Homely touches can be found throughout the bar, lounge, library, and main dining room below, and are complemented by a well-trained international crew. I greet the dawn early the next morning as we arrive at
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After soaking in the view of the icepack from a nearby peak, we lunch on whale carpaccio, whale blubber sashimi, cured musk ox, and nips of fiery local cloudberry schnapps at Restaurant Roklubben, a local institution on the banks of mirror-like Lake Ferguson. With wild flowers blooming in the heather surrounding the pure lake waters, and a robin’s egg sky above, criss-crossed with trans-Atlantic contrails, it’s certainly not the icy desolation I was expecting.
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Below. The colourful houses of Sisimiut against a backdrop of grey and white
Sisimiut, our first port of call while cruising north towards Disko Bay. The second largest town in Greenland, Sisimiut is perched on steep hills overlooking a bustling harbour lined with vibrant red, blue, and green stilted homes, a stunted timber church from 1775 watching over the entrance to the port. A family, their youngest children enjoying the warmth of a summer morning, mends traditional kayaks at a harbourside workshop; while a boutique sells clothing made from qiviut, the soft inner wool of the musk ox. Closer to town, at an artisan’s workshop, whale bone is used to make traditional Greenlandic jewellery, and nearby, a local supermarket has specials on seal, whale, walrus, and musk ox meat, fresh from the hunt. I spy my first icebergs the next morning. Rising at 5am to glorious blue skies, I take in the stunning landscapes of Disko Island’s thousand-metre high mountains in the distance as jagged chunks of ice, some the size of suburban homes, others the size of SUVs, drift past, brilliant in the intense sunshine. We anchor outside tiny Qeqertarsuaq, a town of 800, and make our way up towards the former whaling hamlet’s unusual eight-sided church,
known locally as 'Our Lord’s Inkwell'. Across the tiny settlement of brightly coloured cottages perched on bare rock slopes, massive chunks of ice bob in the shallows, caught on the sand until the winter comes. I follow a village elder named “Akku” to his home overlooking the harbour. Dressed in white fur, black boots and with a jolly face behind a tiny moustache, Akku shows me polar bear skulls from a hunt when he was a teenager, and his collection of traditional harpoons, before serenading our group with Greenlandic love songs. “Tourism is all we have now that the young people have left,” sighs Akku as he absent-mindedly strums his guitar and sips from a steaming mug of coffee. “The winters are hard in this place but we still find beauty in all the seasons. Being this remote you have to.” He reminds me of a pint-sized Elvis with his guitar and soft, crooning voice, and the visit is nothing short of magical. Like opening a set of Russian nesting dolls, we visit Niaqornat, a community of only 60 people, perched on the tip of a finger-like peninsula. The ship’s zodiacs crush their way up onto a beach of
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ABOVE. The open waters of outer Disko Bay
RIGHT. Sea Explorer nosing into Disko Bay and approaching the Eqip Sermia Glacier
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tangerine sized stones worn smooth by the sea. In the distance, Greenlandic dogs on chains bark and wrestle beside an inlet lake that reflects the village’s brightly coloured homes in its chilly waters. We walk down dirt paths and past stacks of faded sleds and drying seal pelts – beneath the village’s whale and fish drying racks – to a narrow beach, where elders have caught a seal. It’s my first time seeing a seal, and certainly my first time seeing one butchered as the men of the village skilfully dance knives between skin and meat. Every part of the animal is used, the dogs howling in anticipation of their meal. Blood soaks the stones red but is quickly washed away by the sea. It’s an awakening for the passengers of the Sea Explorer, but a part of the circle of life in many remote Greenlandic communities where traditional living continues untested. It’s late morning the next day as we nudge and grind our way towards the dramatic face of the Equip Sermia glacier in northwest Disko Bay. Throughout the morning, the presence of icebergs in the bay has increased until the ship is forced to slow and manoeuvre through a patchwork of blazing white and turquoise blue that reaches to the icy cliffs of the glacier in the distance. We travel as far as the captain dares before lunching on the outside deck surrounded by a sea of ice. In the afternoon we follow the floes, some as large as the ship, south into Disko Bay. It’s almost midnight when the Sea Explorer berths in Ilulissat, the iceberg capital of the world. It’s been slow going; the entrance to the harbour was tightly packed with slow moving icebergs, and the captain needed to wait for a departing ferry to chart a path through the ever-changing obstacle course. The fire-engine-red ferry steams past us, gaining speed on its way to its next remote berth, while the Sea Explorer eases into a port populated by fishing boats and tiny whaling vessels. Thrusters clear smaller bergs from beside the pier as passengers wrap up warmly for a guided midnight hike. The sky is bright as we depart, the air crisp and beautifully clear. Children play football on a community pitch as their mothers watch from the sidelines and we walk through sleepy 4,000-strong Ilulissat towards its UNESCO-listed Ice Fjord. The sea mouth of the Kujalleq Glacier is one of the few places where Greenland’s icecap reaches the sea, its 95-kilometre long fjord so
clogged with icebergs that it looks like a glacier itself, an expansive white landscape of gullies, chasms, and fractures. We enter the UNESCO site following a boardwalk to the coast where signs warn of tsunami waves generated by iceberg calving – the glacier produces more ice, approximately 20 billion tons a year, than any glacier outside of Antarctica. The view across the ice is mesmerising, the midnight sun painting the world a golden yellow twilight as we laze in the wild grass and sip champagne. Next morning, the air is thick with the scent of salt and ice as we navigate the ice fjord in a tiny converted fishing boat. Trawlers toot their horns as they pass between us and icebergs the size of shopping malls, their white faces reflecting off the seas as they creak and roll. It’s like we’re cruising through the world’s largest gin and tonic, the silence only split by a red tourist helicopter periodically cruising overhead. Our final stop on the journey back to Kangerlussuaq is Sarfannguit, a tiny settlement nestled at the base of mistshrouded mountains. Sarfannguit is immediately my favourite outpost; a beautiful, colourful, clutch of weather-worn cottages on steep cliffs overlooking a protected bay in which falcons and kites glide silently on thermal currents. At the village school we’re a thing of fascination to the local kids; Greenlandic pups nipping at their tails as they try to keep up with their young masters. The ship far below looks like a toy in the shadow of the mountains, a chilly wind reaching up the valley telling of the winter months to come as our group descends to the pier and our waiting zodiacs. Greenland is a place of welcoming locals, of rich traditions, and of stunning, otherworldly scenery. After ten days of exploring this formidable locale, with the ship sailing down the fjord and seeing Sarfannguit swallowed up by the sea mists, I join the Greenlandic dogs of Kangerlussuaq in pining for her vast, unexplored, expanses.
Travel Essentials Albatross Travel offers seasonal cruises along both Greenland’s west and east coasts, with charter flights from Copenhagen. www.albatros-travel.com
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Getting here Fly in from Denmark or Iceland â€“ or trek across the ice from Canadaâ€™s Ellesmere Island Transport Many places are not accessible by car, so public helicopter or coastal ferry is the way to go Language Greenlandic & Danish Currency Danish krone
Climate The winter, which stretches from October until March, sees temperatures sinking to -40 degrees and perpetual night descending. During summer - July and August - temperatures range from 5 to 18 degrees, and it can still be wet and windy. However, March and April are the best times to visit, to witness the region coming out of the darkness of winter, catch the aurora borealis, and access the North Pole.
Where Finding The Beaten Track Is The Real Challenge
colombia Story by craig cartwright
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BELOW. Tayrona National Park with its coconut palms, granite boulders and dense impenetrable looking jungle
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Photo from istockphoto.com
"People often use the cliché of wanting to “get off the beaten track” in Colombia, but I soon discover that finding the beaten track in the first place is the real challenge."
Location: COLOMBIA driving in Colombia is so reckless it has to be seen to be believed, it’s still a fantastic way to see the country; detours invariably turn up quaint old villages, complete with cobbled streets, white-washed walls, and the ubiquitous town plaza and Catholic church. And it’s in these sleepy villages that I find the South American experience I’d been craving: a donkey drawn cart idling down the main street, the owner in a sombrero and poncho just like an extra out of a spaghetti western; a man on horseback complete with moustache, cowboy hat, and revolver strapped to his hip; and tiny eateries serving traditional foods like arepas Colombianas – corn flatbread, and the Colombian national dish, bandeja paisa.
In between near-death experiences I am dimly aware that the radio is playing Western music. While I mentally compose my last will and testament, Elton John sings about the circle of life. I’m in Cartagena, on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, riding in a Chuba – an open-sided bus painted in fantastic colours. It’s making noises that suggest it’s in the process of falling apart, and closer inspection confirms that indeed it is. I notice that the driver is making good use of the horn – almost every time he overtakes other vehicles on blind corners – but by then I am too worried about the bus falling apart to be concerned about a head-on collision. Colombia is a destination that doesn’t see much tourism. People often use the cliché of wanting to 'get off the beaten track' in Colombia, but I soon discover that finding the beaten track in the first place is the real challenge. The experience on the bus has convinced me to rent a car, and it turns out to be a fantastic idea. Although the
The highway I take to Barranquilla regularly cuts through mangroves as it winds its way along the coast. Initially nothing seemed out of the ordinary, aside from the astonishing volume of rubbish washed up in them, but then I notice that there are actually people living in the mangroves, in shacks connected to each other by greasy wooden planks. Heaven knows how they get by. I catch snatches of their lives as I pass by, like pictures in a kaleidoscope. Nearby I learn an important life lesson, never eat roadside seafood. After stopping at a roadside stall I try a local delicacy, bomba, which comprises prawns, oysters, dried fish, crab meat, tomato sauce, onion, hot sauce, and some tiny things that look like miniature pipis. Served with crackers and coke, in the tropical heat it is delicious and refreshing; it also keeps me up all night with the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever had. There are more or less no foreign tourists in
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A curious thing about Colombia is how quickly the climate changes depending on the elevation. One minute I find myself driving in the rain through temperate green countryside, and ten minutes later I’m in the desert, driving past cactuses and lizards sunbathing in the blazing hot sun. It’s totally bizarre, in the best possible way.
TOP RIGHT. A family strolls by in a horse-drawn carriage outside La Vitrola, one of Cartagena's iconic restaurants along the outside walls
LOWER RIGHT. A street cart sits in the middle of Plaza de San Diego, a booming area for tourists and locals alike Photo by Brian Furbush
Photo by Brian Furbush
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Colombia, and since I am a tall white man with blue eyes this means I have to get used to being stared at. While boarding planes, walking down the street, going into bars and onto beaches, and arriving at hostels, people turn as one to stare at me. Children point me out to their mums, or sometimes run away. I seriously doubt that even a Martian walking down the street would attract more attention;- at times I feel a bit like a freak in a travelling sideshow. One of the places I am not stared at though, is a little fishing village called Taganga. It’s Colombia’s version of Thailand’s Ko Phi Phi Island, with a very similar relaxed vibe, and is packed with Americans, Brits, Aussies, French, Italians, and even the odd Kiwi. It is also the only place in Colombia where I am ever offered drugs. The dealers stand out, they dress very smartly, speak better English than most, are very friendly, and relentlessly pushy. An English couple I meet have become so tired of it all that they decide to paddle out past the breakers on their surfboards to get a rest. Their break is only short though. To their astonishment, they soon have someone shoot over on a jet ski and ask them if they want to buy some cocaine. Near Taganga is Tayrona National Park, which I have heard a lot about, and which turns out to be a must-see. To get there I
take a long-boat packed with seasick American tourists, motoring past stunning scenery: coconut palms, huge granite boulders, and dense and impenetrable looking jungle that tumbles all the way down to deserted white sandy beaches. After a slightly hairy disembarkation from the ferry, during which we are almost washed up onto a reef, I go exploring, walking through a thin strip of jungle to a more isolated beach, always in earshot of the ocean to ensure I don’t get lost. I am amazed to see the path come alive at every step as I scare dozens of geckoes, all running for their lives, and the path is intersected repeatedly by troops of leaf-cutter ants, transporting tiny pieces of leaf back to their nests.
certainly has a dark side, but almost every country in the world has places that are off-limits to all but the very brave or very stupid.
The park is beautiful. If only I hadn’t struck holiday crowds, it would have felt undiscovered. It’s completely untouched and very wild. My evening walk back to the bus through coastal jungle is unforgettable, and comes complete with bats feeding off the insects that I’ve disturbed, a bit like a spooky version of our fantail. Apparently there are howler monkeys and parrots in the jungle, and caimans and alligators in the streams and ponds. While I don’t see anything more dangerous than a horse, I can certainly hear lots of strange animal noises, and the jungle is thick enough to make me imagine that I’m about to be devoured by a jaguar. I make it back to the bus uneaten though, and the following day I make my way to El Rodadero, Santa Marta, with its perfect beaches, penthouses, and nightclubs packed with Colombian beauties.
It’s my last night on the coast, and I’m at a small restaurant and bar in the historic centre of Santa Marta, the oldest settlement in Colombia. The waiter hands me another michalada – a glass of cold beer with lime and salt on the rim. I gulp it down gratefully and enjoy the cool breeze coming in off the ocean as I watch the sun sink into the Caribbean Sea. I order another michalada and watch the live vallenato band, which are being enthusiastically cheered on by a group of exuberant Frenchmen. What’s that you say? Am I hungry? Yes a little, what would you recommend? The bomba? How about we make it a hamburger?
Colombia has the reputation of being the most risky of all the destinations in South America, and in many ways I think that’s true. The country and the people can be wild, and it’s only just starting to try and harness its tourism potential. The feeling in Colombia is hard to describe: there is an undertone of hope, and a belief that soon the rest of the world will know how great Colombia is. Colombians are desperately proud of their country, and even more desperate to shrug off the stigma left by drug-lords like Pablo Escobar. The country
I don’t like to use that tired old expression about a country being one of extremes, but that really does sum Colombia up nicely. And it’s maybe those very extremes that make the experiences so stark: one minute I’m driving past a street fire, in an area swarming with the desperately poor, two blocks later it’s a safe and affluent area swarming with police; one morning, I’m stepping out of virgin tropical rainforest onto a pristine and deserted beach, that evening I’m in a packed nightclub sipping aguardiente, the national drink.
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BELOW. A basket vendor strolls the streets within the walled city in the sweltering South American heat
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Photo by Brian Furbush
Getting here Cross into Colombia by land from neighbouring Venezuela or Ecuador, sail from Panama, or fly into Bogota from Europe or the Americas Transport Buses are the only means of public transport, and the network is fortunately well-connected. Unfortunately security concerns can make driving a little risky. Flying domestically is also an option Language Spanish
Currency Peso Climate Colombia has a relatively consistent equatorial climate, though different altitudinal zones will have different conditions. Be prepared for extremes, from hot lowlands to freezing mountain regions
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climbing mount kilimanjaro Story by kelly PHILLIPS badal photography by tanveer badal
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TOP CENTRE. Fresh popcorn and a choice of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate for post-trekking 'tea time'
TOP RIGHT. A porter carries a tarp-covered load that towers above his head
LOWER LEFT. The author hiking along the glacier-lined, gravel ridge leading to Mt. Kilimanjaro's summit
LOWER RIGHT. The road up Mt. Kilimanjaro begins in a steamy, lush rainforest, alive with colobus monkeys
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TOP LEFT. Foldable camp chairs and a lightweight table made the trek up the mountain, too; despite the chilly air, lunch alfresco was impossible to resist
"Some say that climbing Kilimajaro is like walking from the equator to the North Pole in a few days. Itâ€™s a pretty accurate comparison."
Kilimanjaro. As the world’s tallest freestanding peak, Kilimanjaro captures the imagination with a power akin to mighty Mount Everest. Like famous fellow freestander, Mount Fuji, the sight of it inspires. Hemingway’s famous short story has enthroned Kilimanjaro – and its snows – in romantic history. The Lion King offers it homage in the famous song, A Circle of Life. And Kilimanjaro’s very location, encircled by safari-land, promises adventure.
“As wide as all the World, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun...” – Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro Just below Stella Point, the first of Mount Kilimanjaro’s two summits, it happened. After struggling uphill in the darkness for nearly six hours, shaky-legged, breathless, and nearly numb from the cold, my concerned guide took a long look at my face. “Your skin is turning a bit blue around your eyes. How do you feel?” he asked. I was done and ready to quit the mountain. “Tired,” I answered, slumping down on rock. My eyes drifted upwards, focusing on what looked like an impossibly far summit. I wanted to finish this trek and so badly wanted to say I’d conquered legendary Kilimanjaro, but Kili was killing me. My vision blurred. So why was I even attempting this incredibly challenging journey? Simply because there’s no mountain on Earth with quite the aura of Mount
I had started this journey determined to beat those odds, though at this point things weren’t looking good. But suddenly a yellow mask dangled in front of my face, attached with tubes to a silver tank. Oxygen. The very thing missing up here in this rocky, windy wasteland called the alpine desert. The lack of which was causing the blue cast around my eyes. I strapped it on, and sucked in lungful after glorious lungful. The stuff worked like magic. I got to my feet. Some say that climbing Kilimajaro is like walking from the equator to the North Pole in a few days. It’s a pretty accurate comparison. On the seven-day Machame trail, considered the most scenic of the routes, the trek begins in a misty, humid jungle filled with bird and monkey calls – a far cry from the barren, icy top. All that beautiful greenery gives way to a rockier landscape at Machame Camp (2850metres), the first stopover. This was the point that my husband and I initially met our entire team from the Arusha-based boutique company Amani Afrika, the 17 people in charge of getting us up and down the mountain. The sheer number enlisted in support for two may sound
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Better yet, Kilimanjaro is considered a ‘walkable’ mountain, the easiest to bag of the Seven Summits – the highest mountains on each continent. No ropes, carabiners, crampons, or special skills are required for this massif. It’s one tough trek, sure, but it’s still just a trek. With approximately 50,000 people working their way to the peak each year, it’s become the 'everyman’s climb'. Still, this ‘easy’ mountain has a success rate that only hovers between 50 and 70 percent.
Left. The sun sinks over an edge of Kibo, Kilimanjaro's steepest ridge â€“ with our camp for six days amid the mountain moorland
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excessive, but carrying basic shelter, bedding, food for three solid meals each day, plus cooking equipment and safety kits is no small task. Our guides, Zawadi Malisa and Raymond Thomas, took turns walking with us pole-pole (slowly-slowly) – important for proper acclimatisation – while the rest of the strong-legged team bypassed us, carrying gear balanced on their heads. Among the supplies were our own small toilet (a luxury item amid the mountain’s pit latrines) and the emergency oxygen tank that I came to rely on during summit day. Few teams carry oxygen bottles up Kilimanjaro due to the extra cost. It’s US$100 to rent the tank, plus the salary of a porter to carry it to the summit. This may sound like chump change, but considering that most porters only earn between US$5-10 per day on the mountain (plus tips), and that the average Tanzanian lives on anything from US$60 to US$800 each month, that Oxygen is expensive. But for Godwin Temba, founder and owner of Amani Afrika, the tank is a necessity. “It’s a small fee that works like life insurance,” he says. “This is probably the only time in your life that you’ll climb Kilimanjaro. You need every chance at success.” A former porter before founding his own company, Temba has seen the darker side of Kilimanjaro tourism, rife with underpaid and over-burdened porters, less than adequate food and shelter, and a lack of first aid. Even today, cost-cutting trips sometimes provide porters with only three meals for a five to seven day journey. We even witnessed our own well-fed team quietly offering extra food and tea to other porters in need. As a result, Amani Afrika doesn’t cut corners or comforts, particularly regarding food. Our popular camp chef – “Dr Stomach” – is the most important guy in the group, our guides repeatedly enthused. Each day started with tea and coffee delivered to our tent door by our kindly “waiter”, the energetic Hassan Husseini. Hot breakfast followed, then a prepared lunch at midday. Snacks were constantly on offer, the best being home-made granola from Arusha-based bakery Mama’s Kitchen. Tea, coffee and popcorn were offered as late afternoon appetisers, and dinner came in courses – one of Dr Stomach’s signature soups, then a generous main dish like chicken. Bed was a thick mattress with a pillow – true luxury in these parts – topped with our down-filled sleeping bags. There’s nothing quite like the restorative power of a good meal and good night’s sleep, Temba believes. It
showed for our team: our porters laughed, teased, high-fived, and sang traditional Tanzanian songs to us at the end of each day: rowdy, clapping songs that attracted the attention of other climbers. These guys had energy. And they passed that energy on to us. After another agonizing march up the eternal staircase of Kilimanjaro, I tagged the first of the great mountain’s two summits, Stella Point (5235 metres). Fifteen minutes of picture-snapping later, our small group moved on, determined to keep the momentum going to the tip top, Uhuru Peak (5895 metres). It was rough going. “They call me Mr Almost,” teased my guide Malisa as I muttered to him to stop his refrain that we were almost there when we so weren’t. Uhuru is nearly an hour’s uphill slog from Stella, step-bymiserable-step. But my spirits rose when the first winks of Kilimanjaro’s sparkling white glaciers appeared. I’d been hearing for years about these majestic glaciers, the world’s only equatorial summit glaciers that are rapidly shrinking. A 2002 study published in Science gave the 11,700-year-old ice an expiration date sometime between 2015 and 2020. As in, right now. The culprits? Global warming, plus the deforestation of Kilimanjaro’s foothills. The loss of the forests’ humidity means a loss of moisture-rich wind blowing toward the glaciers, allowing evaporation (a process called sublimation). But this year, Mount Kilimanjaro National Park ecologists stated that the ice cap is nowhere near extinction. In fact, they believe that due to reforestation efforts, it’s holding steady. It’ll take more study to see if this is true, and revise the deadline for the glaciers. But for now, there’s still time to buy a plane ticket to Tanzania. The last few metres were a blur. Finally, Kilimanjaro’s iconic signboard sprung into sharp relief. At the sight, I felt a surge of elation and energy. The breathlessness and muscle aches slipped away. My husband and I jumped in front of the congratulatory words, manic grins plastered across our faces. Our guides – as joyful as we were – leapt into the frigid air like action figures, posing for pictures. And nearby, standing witness to us and the thousands before, were the great glaciers. Ancient and imposingly large, they looked just as Hemingway’s simple words described them: “As wide as all the World, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun...” There they were. Here we stood. We had done it.
BELOW. At nightfall each campsite on Mt. Kilimanjaro is aglow with clusters of jewel-like tents
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BELOW. Porters walk on a ridge above the clouds â€“ often hauling as much as 30kg
BELOW. The author and photographer, Tanveer Badal, with their summit team on Uhuru Point â€“ Kilimanjaro's pinnacle and Africa's rooftop
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Getting here Fly into Dar es Salaam or Kilimanjaro from any neighbouring African country, or internationally from various global travel hubs. Transport Go with a public bus or a tour operator for longer journeys, and take local dalla-dalla (minibuses) around town. Language Swahili & English
Currency Shilling Climate Although mountain regions can be cooler, Tanzania is generally tropical year-round, with heavy monsoon rains from March to May and lighter rains from November into January.
On The Trail of Black Magic & Sorcery
T he P apua New G uinea H ighlands Story and photography by Vincent Paunovic Curated by Scott Elder
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BELOW. Three local men inquiring about our intentions
â€œBy this time, there was the growing realisation that we were travelling through a sort of sub-tropical Transylvania in search of the local nightmare.â€?
Location: papua new guinea Wilhelm, the highest mountain in PNG. But the most animated of the three men could tell we were being less than entirely open about our intentions; he sensed an underlying agenda, and pressed Casper for more information. Eventually Casper revealed our true purpose. The man then turned to us and said “Be true about what you are doing, you need to be straight.” He had made the assumption that we had come to disprove the existence of Sanguma. I myself had no belief in sorcery, but it had become apparent that the effects of Sanguma were all too real for many Papua New Guineans.
It was like the plot to an old Grimm Brothers fable as we travelled up winding roads to interview a self-proclaimed witch in the shadow of the highest mountain in Papua New Guinea. I had been in PNG for roughly two weeks investigating the killing of accused sorcerers - locally referred to as Sanguma - in the highlands with my colleague Scott, and our guide Casper. We were travelling from Kundiawa, the provincial capital of Chimbu. Our trip had led us to a small village in a district named Goglme. Scott, Casper and I had managed to hitch a ride with a priest from the local parish, and we had piled into the tray of an old beat-up utility with three other men. The three men had been inquiring into our purpose in PNG (as tourists are far and few in the highlands), however we were cautious of releasing the details of our agenda, due to the taboo nature of sorcery and the potentially violent repercussions associated with both black magic and its exposure. Initially, we tried to appease their curiosity with claims of climbing Mount
“Where does that belief come from?” I asked. “It is not a belief, it is real.” His tone had hints of hostility born from our two cultures meeting at an incomprehensible stalemate. It was at this moment that I realized the depth of this reality. I had been approaching Sanguma as a chosen belief. However, it was a fact of life here, devoid of choice. After assuring the three men our intention was not to disprove the existence of Sanguma, they began to relax and further elaborate on their personal experiences. They began to tell stories of clan members who had disappeared, an aunty who had been buried alive, the death of livestock, missing internal organs and therianthropy (shapeshifting). Ominous grey clouds began to creep over the summits of the surrounding mountains as they told tales of living nightmares. The local vegetation cover had now evolved from
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We tried to explain our thoughts on sorcery to the man, but before being able to fully elaborate he pronounced: “My father can grow wings and fly. He can grow wings and fly across rivers and mountains.” Naturally it took me several moments to come up with a response, as it was clear he was coaxing me into a debate.
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BELOW. The Highlands of north-central Papua New Guinea
low-lying jungle into climax rain forest nestled among cliffs and steep rolling hills. Its solemn demeanour suited the vehemence of the conversation that took place as we travelled up a foreboding valley teetering on the edge of cliff faces. Every time we stopped, gaunt faces emerged from the cold, dense rain forest flanking the road to offer handshakes and nods of acknowledgment, although many seemed both slightly perplexed and excited by our presence. By now, we were every bit as perplexed and confused as the locals. We had been on the road for roughly two hours when a number of tribesmen waved down our car. They appeared to be excited about something. We jumped
down and followed them as they kept repeating something about a 'bird' in pidgin English. As we approached a hut that had been built on stilts we could hear a loud screeching sound. On the dilapidated porch of the hut was an iron cage, holding two white owls in a distressed state. They were squawking and attacking each other. Their eyes were large, round and pitch black. It was disturbing seeing these birds caged, clawing at each other, their white feathers tangled in the iron mesh. The sounds they made were strangely human, like an infant crying. The locals said they very rarely see such birds in the Goglme Mountains. As we jumped back into the tray of our
ute, two of the men began telling us the significance of these birds among the people: “they are an omen - it means someone is going to die. They are used by Sanguma.” By this time, there was the growing realisation that we were travelling through a sort of sub-tropical Transylvania in search of the local nightmare. The total acceptance of and confidence in Sanguma held by all three men put us on edge and started to skew our perceptions of reality. Night fell as we arrived at the Goglme parish,an old stone-cobbled road leading us up to the steps of a rather monolithic and quite incongruous blue and white church. Built in the 1950s by German missionaries – one of whom had lost his
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RIGHT. Local villagers, some seemingly friendly, some reticent and a woman recently scarred resulting from accusations of witchcraft.
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life at the hands of local tribesmen (we passed close by his grave) – it was indeed a strange sight among the remote mountains and rain forest of central PNG. We jumped out of the ute and our bags were taken into the priest’s house. Taking a much needed break for a cigarette and wandering through the parish grounds in the dark, we also contemplated the impending meeting with a local sorcerer that was supposed to take place the following day. We had no information on exactly who we were meeting and little real appreciation or understanding – just an outsider’s perspective – of Sanguma. We stood in the darkness looking at a shrine for the Virgin Mother, and began to realise just how in the dark and alone we really were. We awoke early next morning, made some instant coffee, and worked on questions for the interview. Knowing nothing about the person we were interviewing, we focused instead on Sanguma. Its local version or manifestation was called Kumo, and it has little to do with more ritualistic forms of sorcery or black magic. Instead, it was regarded as a form of malevolent possession, similar to early EasternEuropean beliefs in vampires and witches. Those afflicted with Kumo – its hosts – were not willing participants, but were essentially 'taken over' and controlled by the Kumo spirit. Accusations of possession – often reinforced by statements, admissions and
even accusations derived in the course of prolonged torture – seemed to commonly occur when seemingly healthy members of a tribe became inexplicably sick or died, despite the fact that such maladies and deaths could almost always be readily explained and rationalised by modern medicine. However, suffering from a dearth of basic infrastructure, medical explanations remain unavailable or irrelevant for most highland communities. This also meant that there were very real risks for anyone who adopted the role of being an open sorcerer or witch. Before starting our highland odyssey, we had previously met victims of sorcery accusations and had seen the very real, often brutal, physical and mental scars that such insinuations had left them with.
luring her with sweets. Eventually the spirit was passed onto little Kathy. I asked Kathy how she knew she was Sanguma. She responded that she had been hearing a voice telling her to drink human blood, eat human excrement and kill. To say it seemed strange to hear this from the mouth of a child would be somewhat of an understatement.
Returning to the church that morning, a group of local people was speaking with Casper and the parish priest. We approached Casper and asked if the interviewee had arrived.
Over succeeding days and weeks he met with Kathy and her parents late at night at the Catholic parish. He advised Kathy to fast for several days to weaken the evil spirit within her. Then, having judged the time propitious, he again met with Kathy, her parents, and the priest at the local church just before midnight to carry out the exorcism rites. They all positioned themselves around Kathy beneath an effigy of Christ, and, with the priest holding his hand over her head while her parents seized her legs and arms; they began to cast out the Kumo spirit. After an hour, Kathy was apparently free of the Sanguma. Although speaking about the process with a degree of humility, it was clear that Norris felt some pride in the success of the exorcism. It was equally clear that the rites had probably saved
“Yes, they have” he replied. We were a bit confused, because we had been under the impression that we were going to speak with a single individual. “They are all involved in this Sanguma’s story.” Casper elaborated. In fact, it emerged, we were to interview five individuals associated with sorcery: three males, a woman and a small, nine year old girl. They sat in front of us in a row, then began to introduce themselves. It wasn’t until we got a third of the way through the interview that we were informed that “Kathy” – the nine year old girl – was actually the Sanguma. She wore a little pink dress and a silver cross around her neck, and was busying herself drawing on a torn piece of paper while we sat there slightly dumbfounded as her mother told us the story of her possession. It had taken place some months earlier: Kathy had been spending time with a relative that was apparently a known Sanguma and during this period the relative had groomed her to host the Kumo spirit –
She was in tears when she approached her parents, and told her mother that she could feel the spirit in her, and begged for help. At a loss, her parents took her to the church where they spoke to another man – “Norris” – who was present at the interview. He was a youth worker, who had previously helped to exorcise a total of 13 self-proclaimed Sanguma.
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BELOW. The seemingly innocent eyes of a nine year old 'sorceress'
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Kathy’s life: had the local community found out about Kathy being a Sanguma, she would likely have been killed. I asked Kathy what form the Kumo spirit took. She looked at me with large, seemingly innocent eyes and said: “I had two. One was a blow-fly and the other was a white owl.” This made both of us think back to the two owls we had passed on our drive up to the highlands: strange coincidences again skewing our perceptions. I found myself slowly subscribing to the Papua New Guinean ethos that everything happens for a reason. Meeting over time with our other interviewees, it was clear that they had an unshakeable belief in the existence of Sanguma. One man who was present at an accusation, claimed to have seen a snake crawl out of a woman’s ankle during her examination – or perhaps, more realistically, torture. Kathy’s father claimed that sorcery had become an epidemic, and that in several years the valleys that make up Goglme would be inhabited entirely by Sanguma. We sat in the sun looking out over the hills and jungle,
feeling more confused than ever. The next day we commenced on a trip to the 4,500m summit of Mount Wilhelm. Norris now acted as our guide, casting the role of exorcist aside for our days of proposed trekking. It took two days to reach the summit as we ventured through an ever-changing environment and climate. The rain forest thinned out, giving way to cold valleys dotted with low lying brush, while huge waterfalls cascaded off high cliffs and ridges. Atop the summit of Mount Wilhelm, almost all of Papua New Guinea appeared to be visible, laid out before us – like a huge, undulating carpet of green extending from coast to coast. Reflecting on the weeks leading up to our climb, the low clouds framing the peak seemed to still take on a beautiful, but also rather forbidding, even malevolent, ‘personage’. For Kathy’s sake, we were glad that her relatives and immediate community believed her to be cured of her dark affliction. However questions still remained: how does a child barely a decade old come to the conclusion that
she is a witch; and how could a community justify the killing of a child even if it did whole-heartedly believe in Sanguma? It seemed to us that Sanguma worked like a contagious virus: it actually permeated and altered everyone’s perceptions of reality, regardless of who was supposedly possessed by its demon spirits, and this is what we really struggled with. A spiritual virus requires no scientific evidence. But equally, who should carry the burden of proof that Sanguma or Kumo is entirely a human, perceptual construct: not reality. We could now see that Sanguma was very real for a great many Papua New Guineans; but not for our western, empirical, logical, even irreligious, minds. For the present, however, the highlands and tribal communities of Papua New Guinea remain alive with spirit worlds, witchcraft and sorcery. For 'first world' travellers to these remote climes, this may well add to the intrigue and uniqueness of the highlands, but the associated frisson of danger and adventure can become a little too tangible and real at times.
Getting here Most visitors to PNG will fly in to Port Moresby from Australia, Singapore, Manila or Tokyo. Transport Hire a car or island-hop by boat. For shorter trips, taxis are few and far between, but hitching a ride is common practice in PNG. Language Tok Pisin, an English-based Creole language is most widely spoken, though English and Hiri Motu are also official languages.
Currency Kina Climate The wet season is from December to March, and the dry from May to October. It’s hot and humid all year round, but June to September is slightly cooler and drier.
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ACROPOLIS NOW - An easy
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familiarity with the classics of
ATHENS Story by SCOTT alexander young Photography by tanveer badal
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below left. Downtown Athens is a mix of old and new, with both windy narrow alleys and wide pedestrian shopping streets dotted with historical ruins
below right Athens is also a city known for its love of food â€“ souvlaki, pitta, gyros and moussaka have all entered the common lexicon of international cuisine
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top. The Parthenon - one of the world's most recognized structures and the centrepiece of the Acropolis
"Incidentally, if expecting tear gas and body armour on the streets of Athens, one might be disappointed. All I saw in five days was one protest going on a block or two away from the Parliament, but it was confined to half-a-dozen people - and a megaphone."
Location: ATHENS destination. Arriving on a Sunday evening, I made a reconnaissance of the Plaka, the historic area around my hotel – the smart and perfectly welcoming Hotel Electra Palace. The Plaka is the oldest part of Athens, and its cobblestone streets curl around the foot of the Acropolis. This, of course, is a 2500 year old citadel located on a rocky hilltop that remains home to several buildings of immense historic and architectural importance. The most notable of these is undoubtedly the Parthenon – an astonishing sight at any time, resonating with aeons of civilisation that provides the physical and figurative centrepiece for anyone staying close to the city centre.
More than one person had said to me when I had confessed a desire to visit the Greek capital: “Oh, don’t bother with Athens; skip it and head straight for the Greek islands.” And miss the Acropolis? Well it might have gone that way, had I not received a last minute invite to an event called Tourism Trade Athens. It was happening in a fortnight, and would I like to come? The catch was, and there’s always a catch, I only had until 5pm that day to register. After careful consideration for all of 20 seconds, it struck me this was a case of Acropolis Now - if you can forgive the pun. Anyway, this story is about Athens, a city I’d gladly revisit, and for the curious, about what it’s like to go on a ‘fam’ – a familiarisation trip. A media ‘fam’ trip is where travel writers, photographers and bloggers are invited by a local tourism board to sample the best of a particular
After the Romans packed their togas and went home, the Ottomans occupied Athens for some 300 years, leaving traces behind such as the Hamam Abid Efendi – a Turkish bath built during the Ottoman reign, in the 17th century. A few hundred metres away, the Gate of the Islamic Seminary is all that is left of an 18th century Ottoman building, its moss covered doorway looking to my tired eyes like the portal to another dimension. So with a drink at the pool bar of the Electra Palace, I was ready for sleep. The next morning was all business. After transferring to a conference centre, we listened to a well-meaning
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“How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens.” – Alexander the Great (Ancient Greek King of Macedon, 356 B.C.-323 B.C.)
One might be struck by how antiquity looms large, often quite unexpectedly, when turning a corner practically anywhere in the Plaka. There is, for instance, the Lysikrates Monument – erected by, well, Lysikrates – to showcase an award he had won for sponsoring the most critically acclaimed plays of a theatrical season some 2350 years ago. So much for sic transit gloria mundi (all glory fades). A few blocks away, the pillars of a Roman forum offer a reminder that this most Grecian of architectural sites is also strewn with the reminders of other civilisations, conquerors and occupants. Particularly notable is the Tower of the Winds, also constructed by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. The figures on top of it once physically revolved, as the Tower was a working hydraulic clock.
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speech of welcome from the Mayor of Athens – including much talk of “improvements to infrastructure”, etc. This was followed a workshop at which we media experts were invited to submit ideas on how to bring 'millennials' to the city, that critical 18-30 demographic who have grown up online and show no signs of leaving. All I could think of was “start a music festival or two, make the entire city a free Wi-Fi zone, and don’t be ‘in denial’ about recent turbulence." An image and slogan came to me, 'Our future is in ruins', with a shot of the Parthenon. Having made this 'contribution' to the proceedings, it was time to get out into the real city again – accompanied by my local volunteer guide, a likeable young man named Konstantinus. A winemaker and farming smallholder who gives up his time to show visitors around, he told me he was no history expert – and then proceeded to guide me expertly around the Acropolis. Briefly then, without getting too textbook about the whole thing: the word acropolis means acro, 'edge, or extremity' and polis, 'city'. Though there are numerous other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the one in Athens is such that pretty much anyone can just call it 'The Acropolis' and it’s okay. While evidence suggests that the hill was inhabited as long ago as 4000B.C., it was Pericles, the so-called first citizen of Athens (c. 495-429 B.C.) who was behind the construction of the site’s most important buildings. We walked the long winding road uphill, stopping to admire the Roman Amphitheatre in the Southwest slope. We then ended up at the Propylaia, the steps and monumental gateway that lead to the plateau of the hill which provide the gateway to the Parthenon itself, the Erechtheion and temple of Athena Nike. Looking back from this elevated podium, the vast white city of Athens stretches below, with its backdrop of mountains on one side and the Aegean Sea on the other. Even so a few features stand out within this broad panorama, notably the Temple of Zeus, and beyond it, the old Olympic Stadium – the Panathinaiko. It was far from peak season but there were already plenty of tourists around. However when the sky opened up over the Parthenon and Zeus streaked the clouds with bolts of lightning, they were all far too preoccupied with their i-Phones to notice. However, I did. I may not be a particularly religious person – more a slightly confused agnostic, typical of our era – but these old Greek temples seem far more at
one with the supernatural than anything constructed since. What’s more, the idea of many gods, constantly at war with each other – “playing tricks on each other and on humans,” as Konstantinus put it – somehow seems more fitting and aligned with human behaviour than today’s monotheism. We had a nice chat, as I took the immense splendour of the Acropolis and its surrounds in for the first time. Not to play favourites, but I found the Erechtheion 420-406 B.C. the most individually fascinating of the site’s buildings and structures; constructed as it was on the place where the goddess Athena caused her most sacred emblem, the olive tree, to grow. It’s interesting to note too that the elegant maidens that support the roof of the south porch of the temple are all copies. Five of the original six statues can be seen in the beautifully designed New Acropolis Museum, and the sixth can be viewed in the British Museum in London, thoughtfully removed or stolen depending on your point of view by Lord Elgin, who served as British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803. The next day, the familiarisation trip began in earnest. Food, shopping and sights were all promised and delivered. This included a stop at the lemon-yellow coloured Greek Parliament building, as seen recently on BBC World News and CNN surrounded by protestors and riot squads, but originally built as a Palace for a Bavarian King. Incidentally, if expecting tear gas and body armour on the streets of Athens, one might be disappointed. All I saw in five days was one protest going on a block or two away from the Parliament, but it was confined to half-a-dozen people - and a megaphone. On the streets of Athens we're more likely to see public displays of affection. Athenians are of course Mediterraneans – meaning oodles of healthy olive skin, smiles and personal warmth to go around. Consequently, another line for Tourism Athens occurred to me: 'Demonstrations are a common sight in Athens', with the image of a young couple sharing a kiss under Hadrian’s Gate (or some similar relic of antiquity). As for personal safety in Athens, be advised to keep your proverbial wallet down the front of your trousers, especially in areas like the food market, and count your change before getting out of a taxi, but what’s new? Our bus that morning took us first to the Villa Illisia, which now houses the Byzantine Museum, but was once the former residence of the so-called Duchess of Plaisance, one Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun. This was
BELOW. The Erechtheion temple honoring Athena and Poseidon, boasts the famous "porch of the caryatidsâ€? - six draped maidens that form the supporting columns
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followed by a whirlwind tour through the Museum of Cycladic Art, an incredible collection of Greek art and antiquities, then the neo-classical Athens Academy and The National Library. The latter is the largest library in Greece and we were only allowed to file through it in small, quiet, groups, taking as many photos of books, pillars and so on as we liked, but none showing the library’s denizens in shot. It’s a gorgeous temple of learning and repository of knowledge, but by this stage I knew I wasn’t the only one building up a healthy appetite. Consequently, the food tour couldn’t have been better timed. Our guide was from Dopios.com. They are a nicely run and staffed specialist tour operator, with local guides (Dopios means local) who for a moderate fee, will show you the spots that are hidden from most visitors. FrancoGrecian Tina Kyriakis was our indefatigable guide through the many flavours of the city, and by the time we had sampled pastries and yoghurts, olives, retsina and feta cheese, I was questioning the rationale for basing myself in Central Europe, with its goulash, pork and dumplings. In fact, I have never seen more types of olive oil for sale in one place than at Pantopoleio Mesogiakis Diatrofis (on the corner of Sofokleous and Aristidou streets if I’m not mistaken). It has a lovely little tasting room out back, which we took full advantage of. Moreover, carnivores weren’t left out on the tour: we stopped in at one of the most visually arresting delicatessens I’ve ever seen, The Miran, which has been around since 1922. As an added touch, the vegetables sold inside The Miran are grown on a vertical garden suspended above its entrance. Quite spectacular and innovative. After food, shopping. Elina Yiannoulopoulou transmitted her enthusiasm and excitement about local designers to us, taking our group to the showroom of one handbag designer who had moved back to Athens and opened shop in the midst of the recession. Time and again I heard such stories, to the point where one has to be impressed by Greek resilience. We also admired the jewellery and silverware at Ilias Lalaounis, famous jewellers who have a museum in Athens and stores in New York, Geneva and Tokyo etc. One of the family spoke to us briefly,
before offering an assortment of small free gifts.
Flisvos café where we had stopped for last coffees. I was vaguely envious of their gall.
Indeed, one gets the impression that the recession is not exactly being worn on the sleeve of this town, although it was also nowhere near as congested with traffic or smog as I’d been led to believe. Perhaps the volumes of visitors and customers aren’t quite what they once were. Regardless, Elina was a first class guide to the world of Athenian fashion and materialism, but she was also very knowledgeable about her native city. For example, when we passed by a tiny church, incongruous among the high-rise buildings around it, she casually remarked that it was from the “16th century; there have been many exorcisms performed in here. The church of Agia Dynami – or Holy Power – it’s called.”
Having completed my official tours of Athens, I nevertheless decided to keep on being a tourist and tick off as many of Athens’ sites as possible. I have been going on familiarisation trips for 20 years, and they frequently seem to bring out the desire to see even more of the places that I’ve been introduced to; in fact as much as possible. In the case of Athens, this drive was even more marked, perhaps because of the sheer antiquity of its many sights: a leftover bit of the old city wall here, the Temple of Zeus – with Hadrian’s Arch in the background – there. One sight that struck me as unmissable was the Panathenaikon Stadium, the original Olympic Stadium. Although its design is 2570 years old, the stadium is so streamlined and minimal that it looks futuristic. First built out of wood in 566B.C., the Panathenaikon was reconstructed in marble in 329B.C. due to popular demand, and finally made over again for the 1896 Olympics, the first modern Olympic Games.
On the final day of the official part of the “fam”, we were picked up again by tour buses, which headed for the harbour and boat cruise, which sounded like a pretty good idea to me at the time. We sailed around Athens’ coastline on the Lepanto, a 44 foot catamaran with four double beds. After a 'second breakfast' inside, we made our way up on deck, and as the Lepanto reached open water I was seated at the helm, enjoying the sea breeze and feelings of freedom, when Alessandro, the manager of Brama Yachts & Catamarans, came by to say hello. “New Zealanders are the best sailors in the world. They should have won the America’s Cup,” he said as he handed me an 'elevenser', a nice glass of Retsina. I was impressed. Brama Yachts and Catamarans have offices in New York and Athens, and they own and manage luxury catamarans and crewed yachts for charter, mainly around the Greek Islands, but also the Eastern Mediterranean and Caribbean. There were ample home comforts on board and the spring weather mild enough that it was a very pleasant sail. A youngish bloke with dreadlocks named Laurence Norah, a British photographer, decided this was his moment to try climbing up the mast for the first time in his life. We watched as he scaled the mast, and even worked up the additional gumption to take some photos with the very serious camera he had slung around his neck. Our final port of call under the guidance of Tourism Trade Athens was the Flisvos luxury marina, crammed with an unbelievable array of multi-million dollar yachts and launches. Just enough time to say goodbyes and exchange business cards while some super cool and expensively groomed, young Athenians completely flouted the non-smoking rule in the
Of course, I also went out for drinks at night, and did some shopping along, and around, Ermou street. Indeed, one morning I went for a long walk down Ermou to find that it also has a much less fashionable, but quaintly picturesque, side; a world away of little side streets and back alleys filled with the workshops of trades and craftspeople. On my very last day in Athens I went searching for The Temple of Hephaestus, the last major site of the Acropolis and its surrounds that I had yet to cross off my wish list. It was Good Friday as I was soon reminded, and the gates were closed. Even so, I craned my neck and my camera, to get some shots through the trees of the best preserved of all ancient Greek temples in Athens. Less than satisfied with the resulting pictures, I at least have a very good reason to return to this wondrous city of new and old: “Maid of Athens, ere we part, Give, oh, give back my heart! Or, since that has left my breast, keep it now, and take the rest! Hear my vow before I go, my life, I love you." – Lord Byron, Maid of Athens
BELOW. Visitors and locals alike atop the rock promontories below the Acropolis – settling in to watch the sun set over Athens
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Getting here Options abound – take a cruise ship, ferry, bus, or rental car from elsewhere in Greece or neighbouring countries, or fly in from Europe or New York Transport The network of buses, metro and trams is well integrated and reasonably priced, so it’s not worth driving or attempting to hail a cab Language Greek
Currency Euro Climate Athens does see clear seasons, with the hot summer months of July and August morphing into rainy, and even snowy winters from November to February. May, June, September and October provide a happy medium
The Interislander, Picton
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and Coastal Pacific
A SCENIC JOURNEY SOUTH Story by STEPHEN BROWN
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Location: South island, new zealand
Wellington’s raw, wind-trammelled south coastline.
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However, the very considerable appeal of a warm lounge was also being rapidly eroded by the draw of the more distant, but nevertheless dramatic, saw-tooth profile of the Outer Kaikoura Range across the Strait – complete with a glistening cap of recent snow. Consequently, only those truly inured against the skyline of the looming South Island remained inside, massaging a hot coffee or something stronger. I, for one, was determined to make the most of this infrequent trip, and the weather gods had decided to be generous by providing a sea breeze that rapidly lessened as we ploughed into the lee of Arapawa Island.
Student jokes abound about the annual inter-island migration to and from summer holidays, via New Zealand’s Cook Strait. Notorious for mountainous seas and winds shooting horizontal rain bullets across the ferry decks in moderately inclement conditions, the Strait’s reputation has long been matched by that of its ferry service – in particular, related to its cuisine and beverages, and what often happens to both on some crossings. It would be fair to say that such crossings are part of local folklore, while the sinking of the ferry Wahine in 1968 – on Barrett Reef at the mouth of Wellington Harbour, with the loss of 51 lives – has left an indelible stain on New Zealand’s maritime history. In addition, I have old memories of what can happen with lukewarm pies and beer on rough crossings from my own distant past, and a journey through the Marlborough Sounds just over two years ago reminded me that I’m definitely a fair weather sailor. Consequently, it was with a degree of trepidation that Anna and I boarded the Aratere for a late spring crossing to Picton: the first stage in a three-part sojourn southwards from Wellington to the quake-stricken city of Christchurch – almost halfway down the South Island’s eastern coastline. Despite an ominously leaden sky at the start of our journey, I was relieved that our departure seemed to barely kiss the water surface of Wellington’s harbour. All seemed surprisingly serene, and the comfort of the premium cabin provided an additional layer of welcome insulation against both the outside elements and my past recollections. As we watched Lambton Quay, the ‘Cake Tin’, Mount Victoria, then Seatoun and the airport slip quietly by, a varied and enticing array of snacks, small meals and drinks – both of the anaesthetic kind and more benign – further smoothed the waters of my mind. Even so, by the time we glided out past Barrett Reef, then Red Rocks and a serrated line of wind turbines flanking Terawhiti Point, the rise and fall of the Aratere had become rather more apparent, while the wind whipped at the scarves, hats and coats of those determined to make the most of views towards
The approach to Tory Channel – the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds – nearly always exudes a mixture of mystery and excitement, and this time was no different. West Head is the outer extremity of Tory Channel, and its jagged sequence of serrated ridges and scarified promontories initially merged with the shadows and slopes of Arapawa Island – framing the far side of the Channel. As a result, the narrow channel entrance was all but lost in the shadows of the far slopes, so it was only as we swung hard into the turbulent stream of Tory Channel’s out-going tide that a narrow defile suddenly opened up. By this time, a solid mass of tourists and photographers lined the Aratere’s bow deck, and the passage into the Marlborough Sounds was marked by the regular clicking of shutters and excited conversation. Arrival – well, almost. In fact, nearly half the cross-Strait journey has little to do with Cook Strait at all, and involves a pleasant, if slightly meandering, approach to the small port of Picton. First this is via the narrow maritime thoroughfare of Tory Channel, then the ferry’s passage continues up the more physically generous, but in many ways even more appealing, Queen Charlotte Sound. Its sunken valley landform is framed by a series of small, intimate inlets that soon came into view, often enclosing a colourful patina of tiny settlements and scattered 'baches', while both ahead and to the north a backdrop phalanx of native forest reminded me of the New Zealand found in promotional campaigns – successive, unfolding layers of terrain climbing into the sky both sides of the Sound. Queen Charlotte’s placid waters, rippling out from the bow of the Aratere, provided the perfect mirror for this view, so that even as we approached the Interislander terminus at Picton, it was this rich cocktail of natural elements that created my most enduring impressions of our brief journey. Picton is flanked by hills and native coastal forest – well mostly – and this contributes to the small port town’s wonderful sense of intimacy; about as far from a burgeoning metropolis as one can imagine. Although the enclosed remains of the World’s ninth oldest commercial ship – the Edwin Fox – beckoned, accommodation was top of our needs, and it was the wonderfully historic Escape To Picton Boutique Hotel, complete with ridiculously generous bedrooms and olde world baths, that captured our imagination. Indeed, it provided the perfect location for sauntering around central Picton, which is hugely underappreciated as a destination in its own right. Long regarded as little more than a transit point for Strait passengers, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to overlook the very considerable appeal that Picton displays as a base from which to explore the rest of Queen Charlotte Sound and the wider Marlborough Sounds. It also offers tours that specialise in whale watching, swimming with dolphins (no offense, Kaikoura), and local bush walks. On the other hand, one
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a spare day or two. Consequently, the following afternoon found us lining up at the suitably quaint, yet efficient, railway station in central Picton for the second leg of our journey. The Coastal Pacific train duly arrived on time and, having found our aircraft type seats in Carriage C – albeit with a great deal more leg room than any economy class seating I’ve experienced – we sat back to enjoy the next five hours. While most of the train’s normal carriages offered wonderfully airy accommodation and panoramic views, I also soon discovered the open air viewing carriage that lent new meaning to 'air conditioning' thanks to a near total absence of glass or other impediments to viewing and photography. Anna, on the other hand, had discovered a dining carriage that offered a surprisingly generous array of hot and cold meals, salads, confectionary and drinks of all kinds, both alcoholic and otherwise. For those desperate to know where they were or be informed about local history, events and personalities, on-board screens provided travel updates and commentary – via headphones. Anna tried them, while many of the tourists made the most of them for the majority of our journey. I, however, was more content to make the most of the fresh air 'up front' and marvel at this new way of seeing the countryside that I had only ever viewed from a car previously. Especially so, as we passed quite literally through the extensive salt works of Lake Grassmere – with its psychedelic array of white and curiously pink ponds – before winding impressively close to the dunes, then the pebble beaches and rock shoals of the Kaikoura coastline. I was also unprepared for the deviation towards, then through, Spyglass Point, before meandering inland, past the Hawkswood Range, on our approach to North Canterbury’s basins and plains.
Although the railway line and State Highway One physically compete with one another for proximity to the ocean in their race down the Kaikoura coast, the very openness of the viewing car offered a level of interaction with all that this marvellous coastline has to offer that few road-bound vehicles can match: views of young seal pups lazing on rock promontories, the explosive concussion of waves meeting headlands and rock shoals, the quaint appeal and charm of Nins Bins alone on the sea edge (that most iconic of New Zealand crayfish or lobster sales caravans), and the absolute majesty of the snow-dusted Kaikoura Range. Perhaps less easy to explain is the affinity between those on the state highway and the train: locals constantly waved to the Coastal Pacific’s 'tourists and visitors', while a car load of young men performed an informal Maori challenge – in jest, welcome or threat, who could tell? The viewing car offers other experiences as well – the smell and salt tang of sea air, and the sudden immersion in darkness and diesel fumes heralding the Coastal Pacific’s sudden dive into a tunnel or tunnels (yes, do as the sign says and “Don’t Lean Out Of The Carriage”). This coastal journey of over 100 kilometres was undoubtedly the highlight of our day. Even so, I remained intrigued by the hillsides carpeted in yellow broom as we headed inland near the Conway River, while an hour or so later the emergence of North Canterbury’s archetypal 'patchwork quilt' – a geometric matrix of pasture, crops, forest blocks and shelterbelts that extends southwards – signalled our approach to Christchurch. Exhausted, but also exhilarated, by the tumult of images, wind and noise that I had exposed myself to for most of our journey southwards; this was an altogether much more gentle, experience. Indeed, together with an extremely relaxing seat – made use of at last – it provided an appropriate, and much needed, denouement for the day’s travel. Reflecting on our journey with both the Interislander and Coastal Pacific, we decided that all too often travel has little meaning, other than getting from A to B. Once in a while, it's nice to take some time out, to relax and to enjoy being reacquainted with just what New Zealand has to offer – for visitors and locals alike.
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could just laze around in a small coastal town for a day or two enjoying the local cafés, bars and restaurants. The nearby vineyards of Marlborough and the Wairau Valley also beckon, while Sir Peter Jackson’s World War One Aviation Museum at Omaka is anything but a conventional museum and simply stunning.
WHERE THE HORSE KNOWS THE JOB
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BETTER THAN THE RIDER
dubai ON HORSEBACK Story by Hermine Banks
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Unlike the instructions that are given in other riding disciplines, polo riding seems less about telling the horse what to do and more about simply allowing it to do its job. As Steven puts it, “The horse as an animal is one of the most efficient creatures on the planet. What makes it inefficient is human interference.”
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Once we are all transitioning smoothly from a walk to a canter then back to a walk, Steven starts to bring other aspects of the game into the lesson. We are soon riding around taking turns at hitting the ball, or - quite often, as it turns out - attempting to hit the ball. The game is certainly not as easy as the professionals make it look.
And we’re off. The reins in my left hand and the mallet swung over my right shoulder, we canter towards the pulu (ball). I half rise in the saddle, my eyes on the two tall metal goalposts ahead, and swing the mallet towards the ground. It connects, though the ball stops short of the goal line. I am nonetheless elated: two hours ago I had not even seen a mallet up close. I turn the gelding I am riding to do a victory lap around the field while Steven Thompson, our instructor and the founder of the Dubai Polo Academy, looks on in amusement. As I come back around to the group, I smile to myself, too; given the prestigious history of this game, there are probably a few other-worldly figures as well, who would also cast a bemused look on this scene. It is often said that the history of mankind is carried on the back of a horse, and it is no different with polo. From King Darius of Persia to Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and the Mughals of India, the polo pony has carried many a great name from history on its back. However, polo has become a lot more accessible over its 2,000-year history. No longer reserved for kings and cavalrymen, the game is played today by both professionals and amateurs. At facilities like Dubai Polo Academy, anyone can now have a go at the 'sport of kings'. We begin our lesson sans horses, on the ground, in order to learn the basic manoeuvres with a polo mallet. Steven shows us how to twist our bodies and swing the mallet in a backswing, over our heads and straight up into the air in front of us. It is immediately evident why this first part of the lesson is conducted unmounted. He approaches one of the students who has just completed a perfect golf swing and remarks laughingly, “your follow-through just knocked the horse out.” When we are no longer a danger to ourselves or the animals, we are allowed to mount the ponies. My horse is a lean, ten year old dark bay gelding called Jasmin, with a beautiful shiny brown coat and a perfectly plaited tail. It’s definitely love at first sight. Once we’re in the saddle, Steven teaches us the hand and leg movements required to give the horses instructions. Although we have all ridden before, the polo techniques are new to most of us.
It is easy to see that Steven, with his cheeky grin and even cheekier disposition, truly loves what he does. His journey to Dubai is evidence of that passion. In his early 20s, Steven walked out of a well-paying corporate job in London to become a polo groom earning 80 pounds a week and living in a caravan. He has absolutely no regrets about downsizing: “I truly believe that either you can sell your soul to a corporation and the money is meant to compensate, or you can do a job that you are passionate about… spending every day enjoying life and being content, albeit broke.” He credits his years grooming horses as being formative, allowing him to learn more about the industry at grass roots level. Having found that he had a talent for training young horses, he spent some time travelling the world, riding young polo horses for their first seasons in New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Argentina. He took those skills back to the United Kingdom, where he took a lease on a stable yard in the heart of the Home Counties’ polo country. Strange as it may seem, that is where the current Academy began. After one of his English clients relocated to the UAE, Steven went over to Dubai to conduct a weekend polo course in 2005. Just six months later, he found himself heading back permanently with all his horses, and he has not looked back since. “As one of the most aspirational destinations in the world, it was only fitting that Dubai should have its own polo academy. From the minute we opened the doors, we were booked out,” Steven tells us. The majority of the horses at the academy have been imported from Argentina, with the remaining sourced from within the UAE itself. The Academy has horses to suit all levels of ability, shape and size, so everyone is catered for, even those with little to no riding experience. The horses used in the lessons are all trained under the same regime to ensure they can respond to inconsistent directions given by different riders. They are trained repetitively in every aspect of the game: acceleration, deceleration, turning, and so on. Once they have started to understand each aspect clearly, all the elements are pieced together. Initially the trainee horses are involved in slow-moving games to allow them to ‘find their hooves’ without being overwhelmed and panicked by a fast-paced environment. However, the match horses at the Academy are specifically trained for competition purposes. We are able to witness this difference first hand when we settle after our lesson on the Academy’s verandah to watch one of the matches in progress. After more than two hours of riding around wielding a mallet, the Academy's bar – all mahogany and leather, reminiscent of an old English club-room and its well-mixed cocktails – provide welcome refreshment. The first goal is soon scored and the player, dressed in a bright red polo top, turns his horse to do a victory lap. I can’t help but laugh.
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OHTEL Located in the Capital city’s exclusive seaside neighbourhood of Oriental Bay is an award winning, 10 room, boutique Hotel. The four and a half star (self-rated) Ohtel sits adjacent to Wellington’s principal entertainment precinct, and en route to the City from the international airport. Major attractions, such as the Te Papa national museum, Oriental Bay beach, Circa Theatre and a wealth of restaurants & nightclubs, lie a stone’s throw away, while the main city hub provides a night-time panorama across the waters of Oriental Bay. Boutique hotels aren’t new or unique, but the ‘Mid-20th Century’ furnishings adorning the interior of Ohtel – from chairs to ceramics and tables to clocks – create a distinctive ambience that owner Alan Blundell takes pride in. He has filled the rooms and lobby with New Zealand art treasures over a seven-year period, contributing to what Lonely Planet calls “The Hippest Little Hotel in the Coolest Little Capital.” For more about Ohtel visit their excellent website at ohtel.com
Net Tours - Dubai Net Tours was established in 1989 and is one of the leading Destination Management Companies in the Middle East. It is the first and most exclusive, tourism-related service provider in the Gulf Region and a leader in the high-class service sector and destination management. As a result, they have been the recipient of more than 150 professional awards, and have achieved Superbrands status for several consecutive years. With its specialised travel divisions catering to different sectors of the industry, Net Tours places their clients’ needs first. In particular, the company is renowned for offering premium services, via its own safari camps in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These are supported by Net Tours’ fleet of exclusive luxury cars and coaches, and professional drivers. With strong links to relevant government authorities, Net Tours has both the vision and organisation needed to make any visit to the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Region memorable. For any bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org For Excursions & Tours: email@example.com For media inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
LEXUS LX570 - MEETING NEW LEVELS The Destinations team of photographers, videographers and editorial staff – together with assorted equipment – needed a vehicle for the journey from Auckland to the South Island, then to its remote reaches and back, for this edition’s adventure assignment. It needed to be spacious and comfortable, but above all it had be versatile enough to cope with both the highway and ‘back blocks’. This daunting task called for a true ‘utility vehicle’, especially as the weather forecast looked dire (it was) and the South Island’s road conditions can change dramatically (they did). Indeed, it was going to have to cope with more than just roads. The Lexus LX570 appeared to tick all of these boxes and the Lexus New Zealand team worked logistical wonders to procure one for the team’s use. To everyone’s relief, the LX570 lived up to all of these demands, delivering a rare combination of performance, comfort, safety and versatility: coping with both on and off road conditions, incessant rain, and the haulage demands of a small truck. It was the perfect vehicle for an exceptionally demanding assignment and handled everything thrown at it with aplomb. The LX570 proved to be both a very capable 4WD: it combines a strong 5.7 litre V8 with a flexible six-speed, tiptronic transmission – with paddle shift and low range settings – and seating for up to eight adults. Powerful enough to deal with a wide range of demanding conditions, it also offers real fuel economy for the sort of long distance journeys that Destinations seems to specialise in. The Lexus website provides an excellent introduction to the LX570’s features and more detailed info for those who need it. Visit www.lexus.co.nz or call Peter Carleton at Lexus of Auckland City on 09 370 0227.
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Drones in Tonga
Based in New Zealand, Active Adventures have been running multi-day hiking, biking and kayaking trips for 20 years – in New Zealand, Nepal, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. People considering joining one of their adventure vacations now have a new and exciting tool at their disposal – a fully interactive map that allows travellers to gain a much better appreciation of both individual tour routes and their highlights.
Underwater photographer and filmmaker Darren Rice uses drone technology to capture the underwater beauty of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Although Active Adventures still maintain that nothing beats the ‘boots on the ground’ destination experience, they also figure ‘why not push the boundaries of what’s possible with the pre-trip experience as well’… The result is interactive maps, powered by Google Maps, that allow the user to zoom in and out, click on the corresponding daily itinerary to see a particular area in more detail and switch between standard view and satellite. Wondering what the view is like from Key Summit on the Routeburn Track – on Day 10 of the Ultimate South Island ‘Rimu’ tour; then simply drag the ‘street view man’ to the green marker on the map and a 360-degree view pops up. For that matter, do the same with Everest Base Camp. The future for the Active Adventures interactive maps certainly looks bright, with plans to also add client photos, videos and trip survey quotes to these interactive itineraries. Freephone: 1.800.661.9073 (US and Canada) 0808.234.7780 (UK) 0800.234.726 (NZ) Website: www.activeadventures.com
Each July to October, the sight and song of humpback whales provides a major ‘draw-card’ for visitors to the kingdom of Tonga. Yet, many visitors remain much less aware of just how great the diving and snorkelling is around the Kingdom as a whole. All year round Tonga’s waters are warm, clear and safe, attracting divers and snorkelers from around the world. Darren Rice uses drone technology to take spectacular aerial shots of this aquatic environment, as well as of the whales from above – breeding and playing with their young. When not also running Matafonua Lodge, on one of Tonga’s main island groups Ha’apai, he is busy capturing amazing imagery of coral pinnacles, underwater cave formations and expanses of hard and soft coral – all in an unimaginable array of colours. Some of the South Pacific’s finest unspoilt beaches and underwater terrain that is dotted with volcanic feature – caves, tunnels and swim-throughs – add to the diversity and spectacle of this amazing maritime environment. Darren Rice recommends the northern tip of Foa Island in the Ha’apai group for some of the best snorkelling in the Kingdom. Fed directly by warm currents and nutrients rising from the Tongan Trench, the hard corals along this coast provide home for a broad array of tropical fish and ensure that the water remains crystal clear, with visibility often in excess of 40 metres. Darren Rice’s amazing imagery is available on: http://vimeo.com/darrenrice For more information on Matafonua Lodge: http://www.matafonua.com/ For travel advice and information contact Tourism Tonga: http://www.tongaholiday.com
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Published on Dec 17, 2014
Published on Dec 17, 2014
Destinations Magazine 'Adventure Edition' on sale December 22. "The Meaning Of Life Is Adventure". Featuring interviews with: Alastair Humph...