Destinations

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Rewilding | Discover

Rewilding

Feral is a delicious word. It means to be ‘in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.’ For those of us living in the  the modern world, feral is something we yearn for, and deserve.

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Aluna: The Kogi Mamas |

Aluna: The Kogi Mamas

Shibulata is a Kogi Mama: an enlightened leader of one of the world’s last, lost tribes. Like all Mamas of the 18,000 Kogi people living in the remote Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia, he spent his entire youth in intense spiritual training – mastering a unique form of concentrated thought that the Kogi believe connects them to a kind of cosmic consciousness that underpins the material world, and is the basis of reality itself. Through this connection, they believe they are able to commune with the planet as a living entity – enabling them to protect its natural balance, and all living things within it. They call themselves the Elder Brothers of humanity, the guardians of the Earth, and they have come out of centuries of fiercely defended isolation, for only the second time in their existence, to send us, their ‘Younger Brothers’, a message.

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Embrace Culture Shock | Encounter

Embrace Culture Shock

Culture Shock. It was market day in Tanant, a dusty Berber village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Morocco. I was on my own and miles away from the tourist crowd. Stalls of fresh honey and sweet toasted almonds nestled beside hooked goat heads and enormous dried out cow tongues. People thrust hand-woven rugs and live chickens in my face. I saw a sheep being skinned to the side a blood splattered tent, and another being led calmly in. It felt like I’d been sucked into a maelstrom of brutal sensations, too raw and unfamiliar to understand. Leaving your comfort zone, I decided that day, is, well, uncomfortable.

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Cowboys & Creativity | Discover

Cowboys & Creativity

In the Great Basin of northern Nevada – a vast desert of scratchy sagebrush and bleached white, dried out salt beds – there are cowboys who recite poetry. Earlier this year I visited Elko, the town where they gather each January, and found it extraordinary that men who ride bulls and wrestle steers for fun, men whose macho swagger could run John Wayne out of town, would be inspired to get in touch with their feelings. But perhaps it shouldn’t have. Artistic inspiration can strike any of us, at any time, and recent scientific evidence suggests its blast is most potent when, like cowboys, we’re riding off into the sunset.

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Utah Chasing Dinosaurs | Discover

Utah Chasing Dinosaurs

There are monsters in the wall of bones. In the dried out sandstone desert of northeastern Utah they rise to the surface of the earth like blood flushing skin. I trail my hand against the embossed remains of enormous teeth, articulated tailbones and talons that could crush a skull like grapes. But these skeletons are not the product of nightmares; these old bones once walked the earth. “Don’t worry,” a nearby Ranger says, as if reading my thoughts. “He’s too big for your closet and he definitely won’t fit under your bed.”

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Nevada Mustang Monument | Encounter

Nevada Mustang Monument

The mustangs are running. At the base of the Goshute Mountains, in the Great Basin of Northern Nevada – a vast plain of white salt beds, scraggly sagebrush and sways of apple green crested wheatgrass – a herd, forty strong, cuts through the high desert in a bleached storm of pale yellow dust. In the distance, spring snow slips off shaded mountain slopes and wildflowers paint the unfathomable emptiness of America’s western range. What would it be like to ride in the midst of those galloping hooves, I wonder? Clay Nannini, a local cowboy whose swagger would run John Wayne out of town, looks at me with the glint of a knowing eye, “like thunder.”

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Yellowstone in Winter | Discover

Yellowstone in Winter

Winter in Yellowstone is steam and silence and dances of fire and ice. From the edge of Old Faithful, the centerpiece of the largest active geyser basin on earth, explosions echo like war drums beneath my feet. The ground hisses. A jet of scalding water erupts 90-feet in the air and crystalises instantly in the cold, falling like falsetto keys. This is the boiling ground. A wilderness of more than 10,000 hot springs, bubbling pools and tapestries of magma heated water. Temperatures here can plummet to fifty below. Herds of wild bison, elk and wolves roam free. Winter in Yellowstone is violence and solitude, life or death, a clash of fire and freeze.

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Yosemite: High Sierra Loop | Adventure

Yosemite: High Sierra Loop

Mount Hoffman rises from the forests of Yosemite like a stone titan. From its steep and dauntingly exposed 11,000-foot summit the Sierra Nevada Mountains unfold before me in a panoramic of swirling granite peaks, like waves frozen in a storm, sunbeams break over the sheer face of El Capitan and the cracked edifice of Half Dome cuts like a shark’s fin through the mist of the valley below. Yosemite is the crown jewel of America’s National Parks, one of the most recognisable and stunning landscapes on Earth. But it is something more than that too.

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Colorado: Cliff Camping | Adventure

Colorado: Cliff Camping

I am hanging from a cliff, 500ft above the ground, in the middle of the night, with nothing to occupy my thoughts but pitch black air, bare rock walls and a dose of vertigo strong enough to cower a harpy eagle. I should be sleeping; I’ve been trying for hours. But six billion years of evolutionary common sense is keeping my pupils dilated to a steady panic. Some fears, I realise in sudden horrific clarity, are too primal to be conquered. They must be endured.

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Navajo Medicine Man Ceremony | Encounter

Navajo Medicine Man Ceremony

The medicine man sits before a pile of hot coals spread out on the compacted red earth floor of his Hogan – the traditional home of the Navajo.  “This is Native American church,” he tells me, pulling shiny black arrowheads and Golden Eagle feathers from his wooden medicine box, and twisting a thick translucent crystal before the flames.

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Interview Ryoei Takagi: Shugendo Monk | Encounter

Interview Ryoei Takagi: Shugendo Monk

Whilst walking the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail in Japan I had a rare opportunity to interview a Shugendo monk.  The entire Kumano region is sacred to the followers of Shugendo who have  lived and walked these arduous mountain slopes for thousands of years. read more…

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Enlightenment In Nature | Connection

Enlightenment In Nature

Here’s an idea: burn every self-help book you’ve ever read, ignore every piece of guru advice you’ve ever been given and just get into nature instead.  I mean really get into it.  Climb a mountain, swim a river, run a rocky shore.  The spirit is not nourished by self-reflection, it’s nourished by the world itself.  Immerse yourself in it.

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Iceland: Into the Volcano | Adventure

Iceland: Into the Volcano

As I stand on the edge of the volcano these words echo in my mind – “to descend into the interior of a canon … when perhaps it is loaded, and will go off at the least shock, is the act of a madman.”  So begins the ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ described in Jules Vernes 1864 novel, and so too begins my own. I am about to do something truly extraordinary. I am about to go inside a volcano. read more…

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Scotland: River Nevis Race | Adventure

Scotland: River Nevis Race

I am standing on the edge of a thundering 40ft waterfall with an inflatable pool Lilo in my hand, a swirling mass of white-water beneath my feet and a man telling me to jump.  This is the defining moment of the River Nevis Race – an annual bout of Scottish lunacy which sees competitors fling themselves down a two mile stretch of white-water rapids with nothing but a novelty inflatable device for company. read more…

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Tenerife: Stargazing | Connection

Tenerife: Stargazing

There is a moment watching stars when you suddenly get it.  I remember a summer, lying on my back in the cool night grass, and feeling that nothing could be more important then finding a way to touch those fiery distant lights.   But I never did build that rocket ship, and somewhere along the line I stopped looking up.  Not anymore.  The night is rising over Mount Teide National Park in Tenerife – one of the best places in Europe for stargazing – and I’m here to find that feeling again. read more…

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Ecuador: Cloud Forest Safari | Discover

Ecuador: Cloud Forest Safari

In the cloud forests of Ecuador water is king.  It hangs on the moss-covered trees like a thick wet coat.  It drips light-footed from the canopy and gathers in globules, like prisms, that stick to upturned palm leaves and blades of sheer grass.   Its noise is ever present, in rivers and waterfalls, in the soft squelch of mud and the torrent of sudden rain. read more…

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Morocco: Festival Fantasia | Discover

Morocco: Festival Fantasia

The gunshot snaps all attention to its sound.  Two-dozen Berber horsemen charge across the red earth, their rifles raised in unison at the midday sun.  Behind me a toothless women flicks her tongue in loud ululation as the riders circle back towards us, gun-smoke leaking from their barrels and shrouding us in a mist of blood-coloured dust. read more…