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SEE GEOGRAPHY 5 VIEW FROM AFAR 7, WHY DO YOU TRAVEL? 9 BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY 11 STAY OLD QUEBEC 17 DUE NORTH 19 GROS MORNE 29 WANDER RING ROAD, ICELAND 35 TAZMANIA, AUSTRALIA 43 MACHU PICCHU, PERU 55 BARCELONA, SPAIN 63 GREAT OCEAN ROAD, AUSTRALIA 67


CONTRIBUTORS

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PHOTOGRAPHERS ALLIE FOSTER, SCOTT WALKER, DAVID FOSTER, PETE LUPPE, FAYE LUPPE, STACEY KINNEY, EVAN SMITHERS, ROBERT HISCOCK WRITERS PAUL SIMPSON , STEVE DAVEY, W.D. WETHERELL, MARK SUNDEEN, MARK ADAMS, ETHAN TODORAS-WHITEHILL


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See GEOGRAPHY 5 VIEWS FROM AFAR 7 WHY DO YOU TRAVEL? 9 BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY 11


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VIEW FROM AFAR IQALUIT Nunavut, Canada

By Scott Walker

GO wants to publish great shots from your travels. Post your photo and the story behind it at gotravel.ca/views


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Why do you travel? PAUL SIMPSON

THE SIMPLE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: “WHY DO WE TRAVEL?” IS THE BEST ONE: BECAUSE WE ENJOY IT. EXACTLY WHY IS MUCH DEBATED, BUT CHATWIN MAY HAVE BEEN ONTO SOMETHING WHEN HE WROTE: “I LIKE TO THINK OUR BRAINS HAVE AN INFORMATION SYSTEM GIVING US ORDERS FOR THE ROAD, AND THAT HERE LIE THE MAINSPRINGS OF OUR RESTLESSNESS.” BESIDES, AS A PRIEST FAMOUSLY TOLD TRAVEL WRITER ROBERT SANGSTER: “IN ALL MY YEARS, I’VE NEVER ONCE HEARD A MAN ON HIS DEATHBED SAY: ‘MY ONE REGRET IS THAT I DIDN’T SPEND MORE TIME IN THE OFFICE.’”


It’s all in the mind There is evidence that we get a chemical kick from travel. Chatwin noted in his book Anatomy of Restlessness that when American specialists X-rayed travellers’ brains,

Why do you travel? Bruce Chatwin saw no mystery here: “Evolution intended us to be travellers. Settlement for any length of time, in cave or castle, has at best been a sporadic condition in the history of man. Prolonged settlement has a vertical axis of some 10,000 years, a drop in the ocean in evolutionary time. We are travellers from birth. Our mad obsession with technological progress is a response to barriers in the way of our geographical progress.”

Chatwin has a point. The earliest Homo sapiens skulls, were found in Ethiopia, are 160,000 years old. Soon after that, our ancestors migrated across Europe and Asia. The first villages were only settled around 10,000 years ago. Even today, some 30 to 40 million nomads roam restlessly, and the archetype of the loner, congenitally unable to settle because he was born under a wanderin’ star, has inspired countless folk singers, and the Beat Generation of American writers.

“THEY FOUND THAT CHANGES OF SCENERY AND AWARENESS OF THE PASSAGE OF SEASONS THROUGH THE YEAR STIMULATED THE RHYTHMS OF THE BRAIN, CONTRIBUTING TO A SENSE OF WELLBEING AND AN ACTIVE PURPOSE IN LIFE.” Journeys into the unknown stimulate our adrenalin. It is unclear whether our bodies can become dependent on adrenalin, but studies show that people in some jobs—police officers, actors and soldiers are usually cited—seek out risk in an unconscious effort to start those adrenal glands pumping. The same may be true of travellers.

Greater expectations The freedom of the road is so often eulogized it has become a cliché but, like many clichés, it contains a grain or two of truth. “Too much routine can be stressful; so can too much variety,” says Milton, “but one aspect of travel that attracts us is the way it frees us from other people’s expectations. At work, we strive to be what is expected of us; travel releases us from that. The jungle doesn’t know us, and we don’t know it.”

The brain studies that Chatwin cited in his study also showed that: “Monotonous surroundings and If we were programmed to travel, the obvious tedious regular activities wove patterns which programmer would be a gene. In the early 1990s, produced fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, selfan American scientist called Dean Hamer was disgust and violent reactions.” hailed for discovering the bungee-jumping gene. D4DR is a gene that influences the amount of dopamine in our brains. If we have too many This may be why, paradoxically, although we are copies of this gene, we have the urge to do more at the mercy of tardy airlines, grumpy customs bungee jumps to create the dopamine our brain officials and imperious barmen, travelling needs to remain active. makes us feel freer. Without getting too heavily Freudian about it, travel may help us present idealized versions of ourselves to the world. This Fascinated by the idea of a genetic explanation would explain why we, like Whitman, feel more for thrill-seeking, journalists forgot to read the authentically ourselves when travelling. The more small print. Hamer’s research actually said that mundane our job—and the more stifling the D4DR could explain only 4% of such behaviour. expectations we face at work—the greater the tonic Besides, there could be 500 genes that travel provides for our ego. ‘influence’ our personalities; the way they interact with each other—and our environment—to influence our behaviour is still largely a mystery. Such generic motivations apart, it is still hard to pinpoint why some of us travel and others don’t— or, indeed, why some of us travel when we do.

Gene genie


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GOOD BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY EXPLOITS THE UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MEDIUM. IT SHOULD NOT BE USED TO TRY TO RESCUE A BAD SHOT THAT WOULDN’T LOOK GOOD IN COLOUR. WHILE SOME PEOPLE SAY YOU CAN SHOOT BLACK AND WHITE ON DULL, OVERCAST DAYS, THIS WILL GENERALLY PRODUCE A DULL, FLAT PICTURE.

A lot of the rules for colour photography apply to black and white as well. Early morning and late afternoon light is best—not for the warmth that you get in colour photography, but for its softness and low angle. Overhead midday sun will give either very flat or too harsh lighting, obliterating details of faces and buildings. Black and white photography thrives on light and contrast. As long as the light isn’t from directly overhead, your monotone pictures can generally endure far deeper shadows than colour ones. These will appear on your picture as rich and atmospheric blacks. Look out for directional light and the subtle interplay of highlights and shadow. You need to think differently when composing a black and white picture. Bright colours that can be used as compositional elements in a colour photograph will blend into the background. Greens and reds will render pretty much the same tone, so you should look for contrast of light instead.

Other things to avoid are large areas of relatively featureless colour. Sweeping blue skies, which can look so good in colour, will be reduced to a bland grey. Try instead to photograph active skies, peppered with white clouds or dramatically overcast. Textures work particularly well, whether emphasized by light and shadow or just by a combination of light and dark tones. Portraits work well in black and white too, especially if they have been shot in directional lighting. This can show up all the textures in the skin and hair, especially in older, weatherworn faces. To see if a picture is likely to work in black and white, squint at your subject. This reduces the effect of the colours and gives an approximation of how the tones will appear. Many digital cameras have an option to shoot in black and white, but generally this alone doesn’t give good results—the pictures often look flat and lack drama. You can also convert to greyscale in a manipulation programme, such as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Again, this tends to give quite flat results, as most of the picture will be converted to grey without the rich blacks that often characterise a good black and white image.


The best way to achieve a good image is to shoot in RAW and then convert to black and white at the processing stage. If you don’t have a camera that shoots in RAW, all is not lost. You can use the black and white setting on any digital camera and edit the image on a computer to give it more punch. Processing a RAW image to black and white is simple: all you need to do is exploit a few simple controls which are present in even the simplest RAW converters that come with your digital SLR. First, take the saturation right down to give you a simple black and white image. Then make it more atmospheric by using the shadows, highlights, contrast and brightness sliders. Increasing the highlights will give your picture a brighter feel; darkening the shadows will give you richer blacks in the shadow areas. Adjusting the contrast slider can make your image more contrasty, with fewer mid-tones, or less contrasty, with a more subtle range of tones.

Photographers using black and white film use filters to change the relative tones within a picture. Putting a yellow, orange or red filter over the lens progressively darkens blue skies in a black and white picture, and also lightens skin tones. A green filter lightens foliage, preventing it from rendering too grey. A blue filter lightens blue skies and water. You can achieve these effects digitally by using the colour-temperature and tint sliders used to correct white balance in a colour shot when processing a RAW file. As a rule of thumb, moving the colourtemperature slider to the bluer end of the scale will progressively darken the skies relative to the rest of the picture, and moving it the other way, to the warmer end of the scale, will progressively lighten skin tones relative to the rest of the picture. A combination of these simple RAW conversion techniques can give you a markedly different image and allow you to experiment with creative black and white photography, without having to spend hours in a darkroom. And you always have the full colour image too!


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Stay VIEUX QUEBEC 17 DUE NORTH 19 GROS MORNE 29


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The legendary French explorer Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec early in the 17th century, and the ramparts, gates, and other fortifications that subsequently surrounded the city serve as a rock-solid reminder of its role in the colonial wars for control of the Americas. The city was the capital of New France until 1760, after which time it centered the new British colony before becoming part of an independent Canada.

QUEBEC’S UPPER TOWN (HAUTE-VILLE) IS PERCHED ON CLIFFS OVERLOOKING THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AND PROVIDING VIEWS OF THE COUNTRYSIDE FOR MANY MILES BEYOND. The iconic structure of Upper Town, indeed of all Quebec City, is the castle-like Château Frontenac. The grand hotel was built by the Canadian Pacific railroad at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and has dominated the city’s skyline ever since. But Château Frontenac remains a relative newcomer in an architecturally rich ville where many museums, churches, homes, and scenic lanes date back to the 1600s. The star-shaped Citadel, which dominates the city and the St. Lawrence, was constructed after Americans attacked British Quebec in 1775-76. Suspended below the fortress, on the cliff face, lies the Promenade des Gouverneurs. This boardwalk and the adjoining Terrasse Dufferin offer a unique opportunity for strolls that showcase the commanding clifftop views prevalent on the edge of the Upper Town.

Accessible by steep stairs or via funicular car, Old Quebec’s Lower Town has its own historic charms. The Basse-Ville sprang up around the city’s harbor and was in fact the original neighborhood of the city. Homes, shops, and ancient streets sprawled here at the base of the cliffs center around Place Royale—a square on the site of the garden of Champlain’s Habitation (1608). Adjacent to the Citadel and the streets of the old city, the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille preserves the grassy, cliff-top Plains of Abraham—where French hopes of New World dominance were forever dashed on September 13, 1759. Though the French lost the battle, and with it their American empire, visitors will discover that here in Quebec French culture has enjoyed an enduring triumph. Old Quebec is a city of delightfully stark, yet virtually seamless contrasts; centuriesold fortification walls lead to chic open-kitchen restaurants, and cobblestone streets give way to bike paths and innovative


How to Visit Old Quebec is made for walking. The city’s ancient streets are narrow, winding, and so rich with unexpected treasures that a leisurely pace is well rewarded. The wide-open Plains of Abraham invite exploration by bike or, in winter, by crosscountry ski.

Allie Foster

When to Visit Those in search of a winter wonderland should visit in February, when the Carnaval d’Hiver (Winter Carnival) is in session. Winter sport, arts, and entertainment are all on offer and the chill air is amply warmed by Quebecois hospitality—and plentiful food and drink. For those with warmer blood, the Summer Festival, held in July, turns much of the Upper Town into a festive outdoor stage.

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How to Get There Quebec City is serviced by an international airport and a rail hub. Many U.S. visitors arrive by private car, though passports are now required for such travel.

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OFTEN CALLED A BIT OF OLD EUROPE ON CANADIAN SOIL, QUEBEC IS THE ONLY WALLED CITY NORTH OF MEXICO.

art institutions. The enchanting Francophone capital of Quebec province, and one of the oldest cities in North America. Perhaps more significant than the new boutique hotels, revitalized parks and gleaming cultural centers was the overdue attention the city finally received, which continues to propel it forward. Quebec City, a historic, cultural and culinary center beside the St. Lawrence River, has emerged from the long shadow cast by its ever popular neighbor, Montreal.


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G ROS MORNE THE LAND AND THE SEA ARE SAID TO BE ETERNALLY AT WAR, BUT IN NEWFOUNDLAND IT’S MORE LIKE A GRUDGING TRUCE. HAVING NO RECOURSE BUT TO ENDURE EACH OTHER, ROCK AND WATER, THOSE ANCIENT ANTAGONISTS, HAVE GRADUALLY TAKEN ON EACH OTHER’S FEATURES. W.D. WETHERELL PHOTOGRAPHY | FAYE LUPPE & ROBERT HISCOCK


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by Newfoundland and Labrador’s extraordinarily thorough travel guide. We decided to fly from Montreal to Deer Lake (via Halifax), and rent a car; there is a modern airport at Deer Lake, with frequent connections to Halifax, a reasonably short flight from almost anywhere in the northeast. The park itself is only an hour’s drive west from Deer Lake.

Gros Morne is divided roughly in half by the beautiful fjord of Bonne Bay. There’s no bridge across the fjord, and its indentation presents a long detour inland, so it’s probably best to split a visit, spending a day or two in the southern half of the park at Trout River or Woody Point, then more time in Rocky Harbour or the villages to its north.

The southern part of the park has at least three must-see features. The Green Gardens trail leaves Highway 431 a few miles west of the visitor center in Woody Point (one of two; the other is near Norris Point), and proceeds a moderately strenuous three miles to a dramatic section of coastline, with sea stacks, lava cliffs, a sea cave and views westward over the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We saw our first moose of the trip on this hike, and bald eagles soared back and forth over the cliffs when we arrived.

The ocean offshore is cold and hard, adamantine, polished; the foreshore, the shingle of beach, the steep headlands, border this with a fluid kind of acceptance, the pebbles as bright as sea spray, the boulders forged into breaker shapes, the cliffs leaning seaward. Watching from a distance toward where an impossibly high wave meets an improbably sheer cliff, their gray faces blending, it’s hard to tell which element is hitting which.

NOWHERE IS THIS EFFECT PLAYED OUT WITH MORE DRAMA AND BEAUTY THAN IN GROS MORNE NATIONAL PARK, WHICH PROTECTS A MOUNTAINOUS 700 SQUARE MILES OF THE RUGGED GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA OF NEWFOUNDLAND. It was established by Canada in 1973 to protect a wild landscape of fjords, seacoast, forest and mountains, including Gros Morne Mountain, which, rising a sheer 2,650 feet from the coast, dominates the view in the central regions of the park. (‘’Morne’’ is the Creole word for a small, isolated mountain; it also means dismal or gloomy in French—on a cloudy day both descriptions fit.) The Long Range Mountains include some of the toughest, least known terrain in eastern North America, but this is not a wilderness-only park, and the fishing villages, the small hamlets and lighthouses are as important a part of the experience as are the mountains and bogs.

Newfoundland is not the kind of place you pop off to on the spur of the moment, and we began planning our trip months before we left, helped

The main feature of this part of the park, the most bizarre feature, is called the Tablelands. This steep, mountainous block, shaped as its name suggests, once lay beneath the ocean, forming a transition zone between the earth’s mantle and its crust; through a rare geological trick (Gros Morne is a place of reverent pilgrimage for geologists), the block was thrust well above the sea (again, that characteristic Newfoundland confused blending of sea and rock). The rock itself is a peridotite, giving the Tablelands a powdery red color that suggests Mars more than it does Newfoundland, with a corresponding sterility.

You can explore the Tablelands by way of an easy hiking trail that leaves Highway 431 near the visitor center. An even better way is to take the boat tour at Trout River Pond. Hemmed in by mountains, this is as dramatic as any Norwegian fjord, but it’s strictly freshwater, its access to the sea having been cut off by the last glacier. We were confused here and elsewhere by the designation ‘’pond’’ for something far larger than most lakes we knew back home, but the guide told us that the fishermen who first settled this coast, knowing only ‘’ponds’’ in the west of England, simply had no other word for a body of fresh water, no matter how big.

We spent the rest of our stay based in Rocky Harbour, which is the only town in the park with extensive tourist facilities. We particularly enjoyed the ‘’confectionaries’’—general stores that carry everything from screech (the local rum) to bakeapple jam (from a local berry) to moose-meat pies. Rocky Harbour is a good base from which to climb Gros Morne, an allday hike that is well worth it for the views. More adventurous hikers can bushwhack into the Long Range Mountains, with the opportunity to see caribou and ptarmigan. This involves expertise with map and compass, and a pre-trip orientation with a park warden in order to obtain a backcountry permit.


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A half-hour drive up highway 430 leads to a parking lot and a boardwalk hiking trail into Western Brook Pond, another of the park’s spectacular freshwater fjords. Two boats operate tours on the pond; one was dragged there over the snow in winter, the other brought in by helicopter. This is the Yosemite surrounded by water part—there simply cannot be a more dramatic two-hour boat cruise in North America, the waterfalls alone being worth the trip.

To go along with Gros Morne’s landscape and wildlife, there are plenty of conventional seaside pleasures. Restaurants serve locally caught seafood, and specialize in Newfoundland dishes like brewis, that flavorful purée of cod, salt pork and broth-soaked bread.

Shallow Bay is one of the most surprising features in the entire park: a crescent-shaped beach with sand as soft and inviting as anything in the Caribbean. We strolled along this beach barefoot, looked longingly out at the crystal clear water, waded in up to our knees, shivered, stopped shivering as the sun broke through the clouds, looked around to see if anyone was watching and simultaneously, like a family of otters, took the plunge.

Swimming in Newfoundland? Well, why not. It was a bracing experience, we survived to brag about it, and it seemed to cap off our whole week like a baptism, merging us, for those few breathless seconds, into the very heart of Gros Morne.


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MARK SUNDEEN PHOTOGRAPHY | DAVID FOSTER

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WE LIFT OFF FROM J. F. K. AT 9 IN THE EVENING, HEADED TOWARD REYKJAVIK, AND BY THE TIME THE BARS BACK IN NEW YORK HAVE CLOSED, WE ARE TUCKED IN LAVA ROCK, SUBMERGED TO THE NECK IN A HOT BLUE POOL WITH SULFUROUS STEAM CLOUDS BURSTING UP AROUND US. IT’S THE SUMMER SOLSTICE, THE LONGEST DAY OF THE YEAR, AND THE SKY SURROUNDING US NEVER DARKENS.

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WE LIFT OFF FROM J. F. K. AT 9 IN THE EVENING, HEADED TOWARD REYKJAVIK, AND BY THE TIME THE BARS BACK IN NEW YORK HAVE CLOSED, WE ARE TUCKED IN LAVA ROCK, SUBMERGED TO THE NECK IN A HOT BLUE POOL WITH SULFUROUS STEAM CLOUDS BURSTING UP AROUND US. IT’S THE SUMMER SOLSTICE, THE LONGEST DAY OF THE YEAR, AND THE SKY SURROUNDING US NEVER DARKENS.


The week ahead promises us 168 hours of uninterrupted daylight in which to drive the Ring Road around Iceland. Though it’s not a particularly long distance, I already sense that seven days will be about half as long as I would have hoped for. And so we have bolted straight from the airport to the nearby Blue Lagoon. Here, the phosphorescent saltwater, the bright and flat Atlantic sky and the backdrop of industrial smokestacks give the place an otherworldly feel, which is as it should be: the lagoon is entirely man-made. Icelanders generate power geothermally, boring into the ground for the steam that spins the turbines as it blasts toward the surface; then they recapture that steam as water, pump it to a soaking pond, and charge 20 bucks a head. We are the first to arrive, in the early morning, and by noon the place is packed with Europeans, Japanese and Americans. We crawl between steam cave and hot pot, smeared in a gray silica mud bath.

On this trip, I was traveling with my friends Matthew Gross and Melony Gilles. We lived for many years in a remote nook of the Utah desert where we developed a taste for isolated places and geological oddities. So Iceland was the perfect place for us.


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The Viking turned out to be an Englishman, who had lived for 15 years in Norway, teaching lore and technique to school groups and organizing Viking festivals. This summer he’d loaded his collapsible linen tent into his EuroVan and taken the ferry to Iceland. He is a professional Viking. Speeding across the black rock desert in our rented Corolla, we would occasionally pull to the shoulder, running fingers across the bulbous lava figurines or testing the sponginess of the mossy tundra. Iceland’s Highway 1—the roughly 830-mile Ring Road—is the only route that circles the island, and it feels like someone put the American West in a blender: California’s poetic central coast, the Nevada desert’s barren expanses, Alaska’s glaciers and Yellowstone’s geysers. They’re all crammed onto this island, and if you don’t like one natural phenomenon you’re just a few hours from the next.

This time travel seemed oddly in keeping with the drive itself. Driving in Iceland is not for the efficient. Highway 1 is a narrow affair that doubles back into the fiords, like driving up and down each tooth of a comb. Most bridges have just one lane, and many stretches are unpaved.

We wound toward Lake Myvatn in the northeast, finally approaching a landscape straight from Middle Earth: a volcanic crater ringed in moss; outcroppings of lava dotted across the hills. Here we were even closer to the Arctic Circle, and the After an afternoon of poking around dirt roads sun shone an extra hour. At a guesthouse in the tiny and sulfur pits and making our way to a lonely village of Vogar, we encountered the same sorts of lighthouse atop windy sea cliffs, we checked into a pilgrims I’ve met in the American Southwest, drawn guesthouse in Reykjavik and went straight to bed. to a bizarre and inhospitable landscape.

Heading north from Reykjavik, the buildings fell away and we found ourselves crossing green farmland backed by flat-topped snow-covered mountains. After a few wrong turns through sheep-dotted valleys we bumped along a dirt road to Eriksstadir, home of Erik the Red, founder of Greenland and father of Leif Eriksson, believed to be the first European to set foot on America.

As we got out of the car, a woman in Viking-period regalia—a coarsely woven tunic, hair in braids and a container like a powder horn lashed to her waist— emerged from a canvas tent where she had been sitting behind a laptop. She asked if we were there for the tour, and Mel could not contain herself: “Do we get to dress in Viking clothes too?”

The woman considered the question, then smiled, inviting us to a little hut where her daughter was tending a fox pup. After producing a flowing yellow dress for Mel she led us up to a sod-roof hut, a historically accurate re-creation of Erik’s home. Inside, a Viking hunkered over a fire, whittling at a spear with a long, gleaming knife. Draped around his shoulders was an entire wolf pelt, head and legs included.

Speaking perfect English, the Viking delivered a brief biography of Erik the Red while his mate fried a pancake on a cast-iron skillet. Shortly she and Mel coupled up and began cooking, weaving on the loom, and doting over the fox pup. We men talked of warfare and navigation, handled broadswords and donned battle helmets. “If you’re fighting British or Scandinavian, headshots are not allowed,” the Viking said, explaining the rules for mock battles. “But with the Poles or Russians, anything goes.”

“WE’VE BEEN HERE FIVE DAYS ALREADY,” A DUTCH WOMAN SAID. “WE CAN’T SEEM TO LEAVE.” A gray-haired German woman in the guesthouse said she had relocated full time to Iceland and spent much of her summers up in these geothermal badlands.

A short walk from the house is Grotagia, a giant fissure splitting the shelf of volcanic rock. I scrambled down into the chasm and found a clear pool steaming at about 120 degrees, then followed a footpath for a mile across a field of tundra and lava. The trail leads up one flank of a symmetrical volcanic crater called Hverfell before dropping off the other side into Dimmuborgir, a hobbit’s paradise of towering lava castles, natural arches and countless unexplored grottoes. Next we hurried to the gurgling purple and yellow sulfur cauldrons at Namafjall and to the steaming lava heap at Leirhnjukur, an active volcano itching to blow at any minute.

After a long stretch through gray, barren desert, we regained the green hills on the approach to the western fiords. The road turned to dirt, and topped out over a pass into a stunning valley of tundra, yellow and purple wildflowers bursting from its flanks, waterfalls pouring off the rim and a stream at the floor draining toward the sea. At the coast, towering moss-covered cliffs crowded the sea, leaving room only for the narrow road and an occasional red-roofed farmhouse on a carpet of green grass where sheep grazed. Rain fell as a thick mist gathered over the Atlantic, and for many miles we snaked along between a wall of rock and a wall of ocean.


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I imagined this was how it would have felt to drive California’s coast 75 years ago, downshifting on the sharp bends in the gravel road, idling before a one-lane bridge while an oncoming car made its crossing. Cold waves lapped over black beaches, lonely crags jutted up from the water, and with the sea fading from gray to green as the sun peeked through the clouds, the landscape was sublime and melancholy.

And just when I thought I’d traveled to Edward Weston’s Big Sur, we hit the glaciers. A big chunk of southeastern Iceland lies beneath the vast ice field of Vatnajokull, which crept toward the ocean down a series of finger-like canyons. Off in the distance the cracked sheets of ice were motionless and menacing. At Jokulsarlon a glacial snout calved into an aquamarine lagoon, and the icebergs drifted almost imperceptibly toward open water, penned in like zoo animals where the bus loads of tourists could gawk at their beauty.

Occasionally an iceberg floated beneath the highway bridge, was carried to sea, then was dashed on the beach by the windswept waves. We walked along the gray strand where the blocks of glacier rocked gently in the tide, and we gathered in our hands the cocktail-size ice cubes that had washed up on shore and flung them back to the sea.

On the final day around the Ring, we steered our rental car up the steep switchbacks near the coastal town of Vik. We wanted to reach the top of the seaside cliffs, overlooking a jumble of rock towers jutting from the sea, and then find a trail down to a beach. But the little car was scraping bottom before the first turn, so we left it on the shoulder and continued on foot.


The rain clouds had passed, and as we topped out on the bluff, the sun was dazzling and the wind was fierce. The grass spread out far beyond a radio tower toward an abandoned building on the promontory. We walked along the cliff, leaning away from the edge, feeling that the wind could chuck you over. After an hour of forging against the headwind, we realized that there was no trail to the beach. We were treed, here on this towering bluff.

And that’s when we saw the birds. Dozens, hundreds of little white gulls’ heads poked out of the rock wall below. We belly-crawled to the edge and peer over.

The gulls danced in the wind. They banked off a howling gust, almost bowled over backward, then straightened their wings and dived forward. They surfed back and forth, now and then catching an updraft and careening a hundred yards over the sea. The sun glistened on the whitecaps and waves surged in slow motion around the rock towers. A pair of puffins emerged from the rookery and braved the winds, looking a bit unsure of their skills, their goofy legs dangling below like parts of a puppet. We clutched the grass where we lay. The wind was going to blow like this all day long. I could have stayed there forever.


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As we neared the end of a very long climb up a very steep ridge, my guide, John Leivers, shouted at me over his shoulder. “It’s said that the Spaniards never found Machu Picchu, but I disagree,” he said. I caught up to him—for what seemed like the 20th time that day —and he pointed his bamboo trekking pole at the strangely familiar-looking set of ruins ahead. “It’s this place they never found.” He was pointing to Choquequirao, an Incan citadel high in the Peruvian Andes that so closely resembles Machu Picchu that it’s often touted as the sister site of South America’s most famous ruins. Both are believed to have been built in the 15th century and consist of imposing stone buildings arranged around a central plaza, situated among steep mountain ridges that overlook twisting whitewater rivers, with views of skyscraping peaks—known as apus, or mountain deities, to both the Incas and their Quechua-speaking Andean descendants— in several directions. Both are almost indescribably beautiful.

But there’s no question about which sibling is more popular. An estimated 3,000 people make their way through Machu Picchu’s corridors on a typical day. Between breakfast and lunch at Choquequirao, I counted 14 people, including myself, John and a few scattered archaeologists.

The first known American to see Choquequirao was the young Yale history lecturer Hiram Bingham III, in 1909. He was researching a biography of the South American liberator Simón Bolívar when a local prefect he met near Cuzco persuaded him to visit the site. Many believed that the ruins of Choquequirao had once been Vilcabamba, the legendary lost city of the Incas. Bingham didn’t agree, and was mesmerized by the idea of lost cities waiting to be found. Two years later, he returned to Peru in search of Vilcabamba. On July 24, 1911, just days into his expedition, Bingham climbed


a 2,000-foot-tall slope and encountered an abandoned stone city of which no record existed. It was Machu Picchu.

This year, which marks the 100th anniversary of Bingham’s achievement, up to a million visitors are expected to visit those ancient ruins—a sharp rise from last year’s roughly 700,000, one of the highest attendance figures ever. Most of those pilgrims will hear the tale of Bingham’s 1911 trip. But few of them will know that the explorer also located several other major sets of Incan ruins, all of which approach his most famous finds in historic significance. After Machu Picchu—where he lingered for only a few hours, convinced that more important discoveries lay ahead— Bingham continued his hunt for vanished Incan sites. His 1911 expedition turned out to be one of the most successful in history. Within a few hundred square miles, he found Vitcos, once an Incan capital, and Espiritu Pampa, the jungle city where the last Incan king is thought to have made his final stand against the Spanish invaders. A year later he returned, and came upon Llactapata, a

mysterious satellite town just two miles west of Machu Picchu whose importance is still being decoded.

Today Machu Picchu is a beehive of ongoing archaeological work while elsewhere in the area restoration efforts have progressed slowly, allowing visitors a chance to see ancient history in a form that closely resembles what Bingham encountered.

I wondered if it was still possible to detour from the modern, tourist path and arrive in the same way Bingham had—by taking the scenic route. Aided by John, a 58 year old Australian expatriate who works with the Cuzco-based adventure outfitter Amazonas Explorer, I assembled a trip to do just that. Rather than start with the most famous ruins, our route began in Cuzco and looped counterclockwise around them, stopping first at the other extraordinary sites. You might call it a backdoor to Machu Picchu.


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A typical Machu Picchu package tour to Peru lasts a week. But anyone able to stretch that to two and a half weeks—and who has relatively sturdy legs—can hike in blissful solitude through roughly 100 miles of some of the world’s most varied and beautiful terrain while pausing to gawk at Bingham’s greatest hits. (April through October are the driest months to undertake such a trip; we traveled in October.) Best of all, by circumventing the most common approaches to Machu Picchu—the train from Cuzco and the Inca Trail—the Backdoor Route avoids the site’s notorious crowds almost entirely.

Though the little-seen wonders surrounding Machu Picchu exist in an area not much bigger than Los Angeles, Peru’s crazy-quilt topography and weather patterns have provided them with a grand and amazingly varied setting. “In Inca Land one may pass from glaciers to tree ferns within a few hours,” Bingham wrote. My packing list included long underwear and malaria medicine.

Since there were no proper roads to most of our destinations, John organized a team of six mules to carry our gear and three men to wrangle them, plus a cook. All four men spoke Quechua, the language of the Andes (and the Incas), among themselves, and Spanish to John and me. We drove west from Cuzco to meet our mules in the flyspeck town of Cachora.

The zigzagging trail to Choquequirao, our first stop, was only 20 miles long but required crossing a canyon nearly a mile deep. John, who, when he’s not giving tours, spends his time hiking alone through the Andes searching for pre-Columbian ruins, described the journey as “a nice walk.” And it was, for the first hour or so, as we hiked a gentle rise toward the 19,000-foot-high snowcapped Mount Padreyoc. After that, the trail plummeted, crossed the Apurimac River, and then rose almost vertically for 5,000 switchbacking feet. Occasionally we’d cross small ravines via dirt-packed bridges. For two days I was so focused on keeping up with John’s unwavering pace that I hardly noticed the scenery.

And yet, when we finally entered the Choquequirao ruins on the third morning, I knew that the effort had been well spent. As at Machu Picchu, beautiful stone terraces led up like steps to a grassy main plaza. The most important structures had been thoughtfully arranged around this open green space. John and I strolled peacefully through gabled buildings, lined with niches designed to hold mummies and sacred idols. The stonework at Choquequirao lacks the Lego-like precision of the finest temples at Machu Picchu, but illuminated by warm mountain light, the overall effect is more welcoming; one could easily imagine people living there.

Though Choquequirao was already well-known locally when Bingham arrived, its hard-to-reach location and scale—the main ruins of Machu Picchu are contained in a compact space of perhaps 20 acres, while the structures of Choquequirao sprawl over hundreds of acres— have slowed efforts to reclaim it from the surrounding cloud forest and restore its buildings to something like their original glory. (The government official who checked our tickets estimated that only 20 to 30 percent of what had existed in Incan times was currently visible.)

“Once this is all cleared, Choquequirao will be one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the world,” John told me.

Meanwhile over the years, there have been notable findings. One of the most recent, discovered in 2005, is a series of enormous agricultural terraces, each decorated with a llama motif. Walking through the partially excavated ruins, it occurred to me that a visit to Choquequirao was what a Machu Picchu excursion must have been like 50 years ago. Our chief muleteer, Juvenal Cobos, who had been to Machu Picchu on a school field trip in the 1950s, confirmed this.


It was here that Bingham climbed to the top of the ridge just above the main plaza and looked out upon a vista that, he later wrote, brought to mind inspirational lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Explorer”: “Something lost behind the Ranges. / Lost and waiting for you. Go!” It was that moment, Bingham wrote, that eventually led him to Machu Picchu.

The story sounded a little hokey the first time I read it, but after staggering up to the same spot, I found a view that really did seem to unfold to infinity—mountains and glaciers and rivers and deep green valleys extending so far it made my head hurt. Then I realized that I would be covering much of that vastness on foot—and for a moment I almost envied the tourists waiting in line for the air-conditioned bus up to Machu Picchu.

As we departed Choquequirao heading north, John calculated that by the time we reached Machu Picchu, we would have climbed and descended elevations almost equal to walking up Mount Everest from sea level and back down again. “Trust me, your legs will adapt after a few days,” he assured me. And they did, during the rollercoaster four-day walk to Vitcos—about 25 miles away as the crow flies and 40 miles on foot.

On our way to Vitcos, roughly the halfway point of our journey, directional signs and other evidence of tourism disappeared. Some mornings we passed small clusters of schoolchildren, who were often carrying sticks of firewood to be used for cooking their school’s soup lunch.

As we moved north, our trip started to fall into a natural rhythm. John and I woke before dawn, by which time the mule team had been up for more than an hour. They broke down our tents while John and I ate breakfast, then they loaded the animals and raced on ahead as we followed at a steady pace; by the time we arrived at our next rendezvous, they would have lunch ready at a table for two.

In the evenings, temperatures plummeted the moment the sun vanished behind the mountains. In a tent illuminated by candlelight, our ever-busy cook Justo Suchli would serve up traditional Andean stews with fresh, peppery aji sauce that cut through the chill. Juvenal, whose family had been leading explorers and travelers through these mountains for decades, gave impromptu tutorials in mule handling.

One night, about 10 miles from Vitcos, we slept in a narrow, fjord-like canyon whose steep walls were topped by jagged granite crags eerily similar to the giant carved heads of Easter Island. Justo woke us at 4 a.m. with mugs of coffee. We needed the early start: the area was known for unpredictable micro-blizzards that could dump 10 feet of snow on our morning route, a 15200foot mountain pass. Our path followed what looked like a miniature scale model of the Great Wall of China (it was only about 10 feet high), but was actually one of the finest remaining stretches of the original Incan highway system, a remnant of the royal road that once connected Choquequirao and Vitcos. A cheekful of coca leaves staved off altitude sickness long enough to get me across the mercifully snow-free pass. From there we descended 3,500 tall Incan stone steps, dropping a mile in altitude in just a few hours and gaining 50 degrees in temperature. We hadn’t seen another soul in two days.

Incan architects specialized in spectacular entrances, and the path leading to Vitcos was one of their masterpieces: a long, narrow walkway that leads to a majestic stone building, once probably a palace. From that approach, rows of mountains unfold in all directions, giving the visitor the sense of stepping onstage in the world’s biggest amphitheater.


61 | WANDER

But while the stonework of the palace doorways, the site’s finest examples of imperial Incan masonry, rivals anything in Peru, what drew Bingham—and me—to Vitcos was the White Rock, an extraordinary carved granite boulder the size of a Winnebago (and now covered with gray lichen). Bingham had found the rock mentioned in a 17th-century Spanish chronicle and thought that it might point him toward the lost city of the Incas, Vilcabamba. I was delighted to find that it looked exactly as it did in Bingham’s 1911 photos. Abstract geometric shapes were engraved into its eastern face. Its backside was cut into smooth tiers, possibly altars. It might have been dropped into its lush green field by modernist aliens.

From Vitcos, we started the rough, 30-mile trek down—way down—to Espiritu Pampa, once an ancient city set in the jungle. “Up there are the Andes,” John said, gesturing backward as we crossed a wobbly suspension bridge. “Down there is the Amazon.” Over the course of three sweaty days, we traversed a marshy basin, climbed to a gap where gale-force winds nearly knocked us over, and passed through a misty, desolate zone dotted with green salt pools. The path descended sharply and the landscape turned almost instantly to jungle. John frequently unsheathed his machete to clear branches “We must have arrived during the slow season,” encroaching on the trail. I said to John as we walked back to the empty campsite. I was hoping for one decent night’s sleep before we hiked north for several hours out We entered Espiritu Pampa via a long, winding of the ruins the next morning. We were meeting stone staircase that descends into what is now the Land Cruiser that would ferry us for 12 hours a ghost town camouflaged in ever-encroaching on sidewinding dirt roads back east toward tropical greenery. The city, which the Incas Machu Picchu. hastily abandoned when attacked by Spanish conquistadors in 1572, has a spooky, frozen“ACTUALLY, THERE ARE FEWER in-time feeling. Enormous matapalo strangler PEOPLE COMING HERE NOW fig trees loomed over its central plaza, their leaves diffusing the sunlight as it fell on dozens THAN THERE WERE IN THE MID’90S,” JOHN SAID. “PEOPLE JUST of stone buildings, many of which had toppled AREN’T AS ADVENTUROUS AS into heaps. A pile of rounded stones—John THEY USED TO BE.” guessed they were ammunition for Incan slingshots—sat, presumably undisturbed after almost five centuries. Bingham spent just two days at Espiritu Pampa in 1911, locating only a few interesting buildings Near the bare-bones campsite at Espiritu Pampa, scattered amid the thick jungle foliage. He would men were busy scrubbing piles of broken pottery later conclude that Machu Picchu had been Vilcabamba, the lost city, an assumption that is and other recently uncovered artifacts, which now considered almost certainly wrong: Most may one day provide information about the experts today agree that the ancient city was mysterious last days of the Incas. Elsewhere Espiritu Pampa. in Peru, newspapers were closely following the country’s lawsuit against Yale University demanding the return of artifacts that Bingham Those same experts believe that Machu Picchu had taken from Machu Picchu during his return was built in the mid-1400s as an estate for the visit in 1912. (The dispute was finally settled in greatest Incan emperor, Pachacutec. Over the Peru’s favor last November.) last 20 years, Johan Reinhard, an anthropologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence At Espiritu Pampa, a team led by Javier Fonseca, best known for finding a frozen Incan mummy atop a 20,700-foot mountaintop in 1995, has the site’s friendly chief archaeologist, was developed a theory that the Incas laid out their regularly discovering pieces as impressive as buildings—those at Machu Picchu especially—in anything Bingham had found at Machu Picchu. relation to the celestial paths of the sun and As we stood inside the walls of the former sun temple, one of Mr. Fonseca’s assistants bent over stars. John promised that Llactapata, our nextto-last stop before Machu Picchu, would provide and picked up a plum-size Incan pot handle, shaped like a puma’s head. The only thing Espiritu an excellent illustration of Mr. Reinhard’s theory. Pampa didn’t have much of was visitors. Though it is only 40 very bumpy miles west of Machu Picchu, the trek to get there is so arduous—akin to hiking to Choquequirao twice, and in stifling jungle heat—that only 1,800 people have signed in at the visitors’ hut over the last decade.


Llactapata has been called the “Lost Suburb of the Incas,” because it sits directly across the valley from Machu Picchu and, with a decent pair of binoculars, is visible from it. Bingham, always pressing on, spent only a few hours there in 1912. John showed me how on the morning of the June solstice—the shortest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the holiest dates on the Incan calendar—one corridor at Llactapata aligns perfectly with the Sun Temple at Machu Picchu and the exact spot on the horizon where the sun rises. The Incas were superb engineers; such an invisible axis couldn’t have been a coincidence.

“OK, but what does that mean?” I asked John.

“It means all these sites we’ve seen weren’t separate—they were linked in ways Bingham never could have imagined, because he was always in such a hurry,” John said. “And probably in ways we still haven’t figured out yet, either.”

After descending on foot into the canyon that sits between Llactapata and the Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, an 80,000-acre preserve that contains the main site and the Inca Trail, travelers can catch a train to Machu Picchu that meanders through the Urubamba River canyon. Or, as John and I did, they can slip in the rear entrance by walking the last six miles via those same train tracks.

We soon arrived at Aguas Calientes, a chaotic tourist town that serves as a sort of entry point to Machu Picchu. After two weeks of no-tech tranquillity, I found its packed Internet cafes, four-for-one happy hour specials and souvenir shops jarring. The next morning we bought two tickets and rode the bus that ascends the switchbacking Hiram Bingham Highway toward our ultimate destination.

One’s first view of Machu Picchu is a bit like seeing the Mona Lisa after staring for years at a da Vinci refrigerator magnet. You know exactly what to expect, and at the same time, can’t quite believe that the real thing exceeds the hype. Also like the Mona Lisa, Machu Picchu is more compact than it appears in photos. In less than an hour John and I were able to visit most of the ruins that Bingham saw 100 years ago, in the same order he had encountered them: the cave of the Royal Mausoleum, with its interior walls that seemed to have melted; the perfect curve of the Sun Temple; the titanic structures of the Sacred Plaza, assembled from what Bingham called “blocks of Cyclopean size, higher than a man”; and, at the very top of the main ruins, the enigmatic Intihuatana stone, around which a throng of mystically inclined visitors stood with their hands extended, hoping to absorb any good vibrations radiating from the granite. At noon, when trainloads of day-trippers arrived, John and I took a long walk out to the Sun Gate. We munched on quinoa energy bars and watched tour groups endure stop-and-go traffic up and down Machu Picchu’s ancient stone stairways. At 3 p.m., the Cuzco-bound crowds

drained through the exit like water from a tub, and we wandered the main ruins for another two hours before catching the day’s last bus down at 5:30.

On the last morning of our trip, still feeling crowd-shy, I asked John if he knew of any place at Machu Picchu that Bingham had seen but that most people never bothered to visit.

“I know just the spot,” he said without hesitating. “Mount Machu Picchu.”

Climbing a 1,640-foot-tall staircase isn’t something I normally do on vacation. But the condor’s-eye view from the top of Mount Machu Picchu, a verdant peak that looms above the ruins, was the sort of thing that compels a man to quote Kipling. Once at its summit, we had views of sacred apus unfolding in all directions; the Urubamba River snaking its way around Machu Picchu, on its way to the Amazon; and even the busy Inca Trail. We were inside the confines of Machu Picchu, and yet, like Bingham a hundred years before, we could appreciate it in peace.


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63 | WANDER


65 | WANDER

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ETHAN TODRAS-WHITEHILL

PHOTOGRAPHY | EVAN SMITHERS & ASHLEY LUPPE


69 | WANDER

ALONG THE SHORES OF THE INDIAN OCEAN, AS THE COASTLINE EAST OF ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA, WENDS ITS ROCKY WAY TOWARD MELBOURNE, LIES ONE OF THE WORLD’S CLASSIC DRIVES: THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD. HERE, BRUTAL, SLICING SURF AND WEATHER POUND MALLEABLE LIMESTONE AND SANDSTONE, EATING AWAY AT THE AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT, AND LEAVING MILE AFTER MILE OF SWEEPING VISTAS OF SCULPTURED CLIFFS, TOWERS AND ARCHES FRAMED AGAINST THE ROLLING TURQUOISE SEA.

I first traveled the Great Ocean Road in 2002, and I still remember beams of sunlight cutting through the clouds to illuminate 150-foot stone pillars jutting out of the sea, the last stalwarts of land in its eternal losing battle with the ocean. No matter what the weather, in a country as vast as Australia, an epic road trip is a traveler’s rite of passage, if only to get a sense of the scope of the place. The Great Ocean Road can be done as part of a 400-mile loop out of Melbourne, but we had opted for the 600-mile coastal route from Adelaide to Melbourne—Australia’s two closest major cities, despite being as far apart as Boston and Washington. It would take longer, crossing from the state of South Australia to Victoria. The Great Ocean Road itself is merely a small portion of the coast, the 151 miles between Torquay and Warrnambool built between 1919 and 1932 by soldiers who had returned from World War I, and dedicated to those who did not make it back. But it has an older name, too: the Shipwreck Coast. It makes sense that a dramatic ocean landscape would be a killing ground for ships. Sailors are understandably wary of belligerent seas that rip pieces off the headland the way a lion rips flesh off its prey, not to mention the changeable weather, the fog and the rock outcrops that can gut a ship like a fish. And yet, it was precisely this route that most ships from Europe took, carrying convicts, colonists and gold prospectors to Melbourne in its mid-1800s heyday. We learned all about it at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in

Warrnambool, at the western end of the Road. Flagstaff Hill has a replica village from the 1870s that, during the summer tourist season, includes volunteers in period costumes à la Colonial Williamsburg. I wandered around the ship chandlery and customs house and listened to a group of local men sing standbys like the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” under the awning of the clockmaker’s shop. In the museum, a dim, downward-spiraling corridor took us past plaques explaining 19th-century seagoing life, focusing on the experience of immigrants. (It should be noted that, although Australians are popularly depicted as the descendants of convicts, south Australia never accepted prisoners; Victoria’s growth was largely a result of immigrants from countries like Ireland and China lured to the area by the promise of gold.) In a central circular room was an exhibit devoted to the Loch Ard, the best-known of the region’s wrecks, and to its only two survivors, Eva and Tom. The Loch Ard was a clipper that left England in March 1878, carrying 37 passengers, including 18-year-old Eva Carmichael, a well-born Irishwoman, and Tom Pearce, the cabin boy, also 18. In dense fog, the ship hit a reef and sank within 15 minutes. Eva clung to a spar for several hours and was ready to give up when her cries were heard by Tom, who had just come ashore himself but went back out to rescue her. The two sought refuge in a cave overnight before Tom climbed the cliffs and brought help. But the real story, as the plaques made clear, was the attention that followed. Tom and Eva became the darlings of the Victorian newspapers and public, who desperately wanted Eva to fall in love with the now heroic and adulated Tom, perhaps reflecting the aspirations of a populace that had escaped the class-bound confines of England for a less rigid new world. But Eva, who had just lost her entire family, was in no mood to gratify them, instead sailing back to Ireland three months later to live with her remaining family. She and Tom never spoke again.


70

look had collapsed. Standing out there alone on the viewing platform, the earth-shaping forces of wind, rain and sea spray whipping against me, I felt a visceral awareness of geological time— rarely does one experience a landscape so alive, so fluid. And yet, because of my earlier visit to the museum, the highlight of the drive was Loch Ard Gorge, where Tom and Eva washed up. At Muttonbird Island, I saw the reef where Tom and Eva’s ship foundered. With the mammoth press of water and the rocky spikes and blades alternately revealed and submerged with each heaving breath of the ocean, it’s a wonder that even the two of them survived.

Tourists in the 21st century tend to fall in love with “harsh” and “unyielding” landscapes like the Shipwreck Coast, but in ages past when technology had yet to tame the elements, those same stark rocks and surf connoted not romance, but hardship, suffering and, in the case of Eva Carmichael, tragedy. It was time to see that landscape for ourselves. From the western terminus, the Great Ocean Road, a windy, two-lane highway, began as what appeared to be a flat, grassy plain. Soon, the water came into view, and I realized that I was not on a plain but a headland, separated from the beach by steep cliffs with walls grooved like wet sand after you’ve run your fingers through it. The most noteworthy features of the drive are spaced out along this end, a few hundred feet to a few miles apart. Unfortunately, because of the instability of the cliffs, visitor exploration is mostly restricted to the paths, giving the sites a zoolike atmosphere as travelers gawk and snap photos from behind railings. The wind and rain, I discovered, only enhanced the scene. In the sunnier weather of my previous visit, the landscape was merely pretty; now, it demanded respect. At the Grotto, an ocean-carved hole in the cliffs, I stood in my rain jacket and watched from above as waves sent plumes of water 40 feet high, making the saltwater-faded plaque’s explanation of the cave’s formation rather fatuous. At London Arch, formerly London Bridge, visitors used to be able to walk to the end of the headland across two sea-sculptured arches that somewhat resembled England’s famous span over the Thames. Then one day in 1990 the first arch suddenly collapsed, leaving two befuddled tourists stranded but unharmed on what was now an island. At the Twelve Apostles, the iconic limestone towers that had so burned themselves into my memory, I felt that something was missing. The stacks seemed farther away than I remembered, a perception that I initially chalked up to the different light until I learned that in 2005 the Apostle nearest the over-

The gorge itself is perhaps the least spectacular marked spot along the road, but it was one of the few places where I could get onto the beach and explore the cave that sheltered the never-would-be lovers. It was also where I got a sudden glimpse of sunshine, golden rays sneaking out to give the gorge a touch of contrast and color. Staring up at the bulbous stalactites, black and red and white from mineral deposits and lichen, everywhere around me illuminated by the late afternoon light, I could almost imagine what it felt like to be shipwrecked on the other end of the world.


71 | WANDER

ALONG THE SHORES OF THE INDIAN OCEAN, AS THE COASTLINE EAST OF ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA, WENDS ITS ROCKY WAY TOWARD MELBOURNE, LIES ONE OF THE WORLD’S CLASSIC DRIVES: THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD. HERE, BRUTAL, SLICING SURF AND WEATHER POUND MALLEABLE LIMESTONE AND SANDSTONE, EATING AWAY AT THE AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT, AND LEAVING MILE AFTER MILE OF SWEEPING VISTAS OF SCULPTURED CLIFFS, TOWERS AND ARCHES FRAMED AGAINST THE ROLLING TURQUOISE SEA.

I first traveled the Great Ocean Road in 2002, and I still remember beams of sunlight cutting through the clouds to illuminate 150-foot stone pillars jutting out of the sea, the last stalwarts of land in its eternal losing battle with the ocean. No matter what the weather, in a country as vast as Australia, an epic road trip is a traveler’s rite of passage, if only to get a sense of the scope of the place. The Great Ocean Road can be done as part of a 400-mile loop out of Melbourne, but we had opted for the 600-mile coastal route from Adelaide to Melbourne—Australia’s two closest major cities, despite being as far apart as Boston and Washington. It would take longer, crossing from the state of South Australia to Victoria. The Great Ocean Road itself is merely a small portion of the coast, the 151 miles between Torquay and Warrnambool built between 1919 and 1932 by soldiers who had returned from World War I, and dedicated to those who did not make it back. But it has an older name, too: the Shipwreck Coast. It makes sense that a dramatic ocean landscape would be a killing ground for ships. Sailors are understandably wary of belligerent seas that rip pieces off the headland the way a lion rips flesh off its prey, not to mention the changeable weather, the fog and the rock outcrops that can gut a ship like a fish. And yet, it was precisely this route that most ships from Europe took, carrying convicts, colonists and gold prospectors to Melbourne in its mid-1800s heyday. We learned all about it at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in

Warrnambool, at the western end of the Road. Flagstaff Hill has a replica village from the 1870s that, during the summer tourist season, includes volunteers in period costumes à la Colonial Williamsburg. I wandered around the ship chandlery and customs house and listened to a group of local men sing standbys like the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” under the awning of the clockmaker’s shop. In the museum, a dim, downward-spiraling corridor took us past plaques explaining 19th-century seagoing life, focusing on the experience of immigrants. (It should be noted that, although Australians are popularly depicted as the descendants of convicts, south Australia never accepted prisoners; Victoria’s growth was largely a result of immigrants from countries like Ireland and China lured to the area by the promise of gold.) In a central circular room was an exhibit devoted to the Loch Ard, the best-known of the region’s wrecks, and to its only two survivors, Eva and Tom. The Loch Ard was a clipper that left England in March 1878, carrying 37 passengers, including 18-year-old Eva Carmichael, a well-born Irishwoman, and Tom Pearce, the cabin boy, also 18. In dense fog, the ship hit a reef and sank within 15 minutes. Eva clung to a spar for several hours and was ready to give up when her cries were heard by Tom, who had just come ashore himself but went back out to rescue her. The two sought refuge in a cave overnight before Tom climbed the cliffs and brought help. But the real story, as the plaques made clear, was the attention that followed. Tom and Eva became the darlings of the Victorian newspapers and public, who desperately wanted Eva to fall in love with the now heroic and adulated Tom, perhaps reflecting the aspirations of a populace that had escaped the class-bound confines of England for a less rigid new world. But Eva, who had just lost her entire family, was in no mood to gratify them, instead sailing back to Ireland three months later to live with her remaining family. She and Tom never spoke again.


Tourists in the 21st century tend to fall in love with “harsh” and “unyielding” landscapes like the Shipwreck Coast, but in ages past when technology had yet to tame the elements, those same stark rocks and surf connoted not romance, but hardship, suffering and, in the case of Eva Carmichael, tragedy. It was time to see that landscape for ourselves. From the western terminus, the Great Ocean Road, a windy, twolane highway, began as what appeared to be a flat, grassy plain. Soon, the water came into view, and I realized that I was not on a plain but a headland, separated from the beach by steep cliffs with walls grooved like wet sand after you’ve run your fingers through it. The most noteworthy features of the drive are spaced out along this end, a few hundred feet to a few miles apart. Unfortunately, because of the instability of the cliffs, visitor exploration is mostly restricted to the paths, giving the sites a zoolike atmosphere as travelers gawk and snap photos from behind railings.

At the Twelve Apostles, the iconic limestone towers that had so burned themselves into my memory, I felt that something was missing. The stacks seemed farther away than I remembered, a perception that I initially chalked up to the different light until I learned that in 2005 the Apostle nearest the overlook had collapsed. Standing out there alone on the viewing platform, the earth-shaping forces of wind, rain and sea spray whipping against me, I felt a visceral awareness of geological time—rarely does one experience a landscape so alive, so fluid.

The wind and rain, I discovered, only enhanced the scene. In the sunnier weather of my previous visit, the landscape was merely pretty; now, it demanded respect. At the Grotto, an ocean-carved hole in the cliffs, I stood in my rain jacket and watched from above as waves sent plumes of water 40 feet high, making the saltwaterfaded plaque’s explanation of the cave’s formation rather fatuous. At London Arch, formerly London Bridge, visitors used to be able to walk to the end of the headland across two sea-sculptured arches that somewhat resembled England’s famous span over the Thames. Then one day in 1990 the first arch suddenly collapsed, leaving two befuddled tourists stranded but unharmed on what was now an island.

The gorge itself is perhaps the least spectacular marked spot along the road, but it was one of the few places where I could get onto the beach and explore the cave that sheltered the never-would-be lovers. It was also where I got a sudden glimpse of sunshine, golden rays sneaking out to give the gorge a touch of contrast and color. Staring up at the bulbous stalactites, black and red and white from mineral deposits and lichen, everywhere around me illuminated by the late afternoon light, I could almost imagine what it felt like to be shipwrecked on the other end of the world.

And yet, because of my earlier visit to the museum, the highlight of the drive was Loch Ard Gorge, where Tom and Eva washed up. At Muttonbird Island, I saw the reef where Tom and Eva’s ship foundered. With the mammoth press of water and the rocky spikes and blades alternately revealed and submerged with each heaving breath of the ocean, it’s a wonder that even the two of them survived.


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