DANGER CLOSE

“Any one who hunts big game ought to be prepared to take some chances; and after all, if the element of danger were entirely eliminated, where would the fun come in?” -Frederick Courteney Selous, Travel and adventure in South-East Africa, 1893

 

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The moment a Rhino we are tracking unexpectedly crests the ridge right in front of us.

Close quarters, on foot, down hill and up wind of a surprised black rhino; not ideal.

Weighing 3000 pounds with a reputation for ill temper and capable of charging at 35mph (horses gallop at 25-30mph) I was relieved when, after a tense stand off lasting about 5-10 minutes, it bolted.

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Location: Kakoland

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Jungle Dawn

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it. -Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854.

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Lazy mornings in the jungle, sublime.

Location: Borneo

“I had learnt the satisfaction which comes from hardship and the pleasure which derives from abstinence; the contentment of a full belly; the richness of meat; the taste of clean water; the ecstasy of surrender when the craving of sleep becomes a torment; the warmth of a fire in the chill of dawn.”  -Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands, 1959.

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The beginning of a solo 4 day walk through the skeleton coast.

I carried 12lt of water to replace what was lost to the heat of the day, a down bag to keep out the bitter cold of  night and two guinea-fowl which I had the unexpected good fortune to cross paths with on the trail in.   I collected as much firewood as I could carry whenever I found it, it was a rare and valuable commodity.

Location: The Skeleton coast

“For the first time I realized the terrifying vastness of the Malayan Jungle. In every direction there were tree-clad hills, peak after peak and ridge after ridge, purple at first, then violet and blue, fading at last into the paler blue of the distance.”  – F. Spencer Chapman D.S.O, The Jungle Is Neutral, 1949.

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Location: Borneo, standing at the head of a great fallen tree which hung out over the gully and offered a rare view out over the canopy we traveled beneath.

‘The Jungle Is Neutral’ by Spencer Chapman is required reading for anyone embarking on a jungle expedition, the following extract of which will illicit knowing nods from those who have tried to navigate the deep trackless jungle.

“I was to learn that navigation in thick mountainous jungle is the most difficult in the world – and I had always rather fancied myself at map reading and finding my way in all types of country from Greenland to Australia. In the first place it is quite impossible to find out where you are on the map: the limit of your visibility is fifty to a hundred yards, and even if you are on some steep hill-side, where a small landslide has opened up a window through which you can catch a glimpse of another steep blue tree-clad hill-side, you are none the wiser, as one hill is exactly like another. There are no landmarks – and if there were, you could not see them. Another difficulty is that there is no way of judging distance: it took us more than a week to realize we were taking eight hours to travel one mile on the map instead of the three or four miles we we imagined, judging by the amount of energy we were expending. Perhaps the greatest impediment to navigation is that, having decided to move in a certain direction, you are quite unable to do so owing to the difficulties of the terrain; we were continually forced off our course by swamps, thickets, precipices, outcrops of rock, and rivers. its was impossible even to follow a ridge unless it was very steep and clearly marked. With such limited visibility it was seldom clear which was the main ridge and we soon found ourselves down in the valley bottom, having inadvertently followed a subsidiary spur. In the end I found it best to follow the line of least resistance as long as we worked steadily westward; but we very soon had absolutely no idea where we were on the map.”

“I pondered on this desert hospitality and, compared it with our own… Gaunt men in rags and hungry-looking children had greeted me, and bade me welcome with the sonorous phrases of the desert. Later they had set a great dish before me, rice heaped round a sheep which they had slaughtered, over which my host poured liquid golden butter until it flowed down on to the sand; and when I protested, saying ‘Enough! Enough!’, had answered that I was a hundred times welcome. Their lavish hospitality had always made me uncomfortable, for I had known that as a result of it they would go hungry for days. Yet when I left them they had almost convinced me that I had done them a kindness by staying with them” -Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands, 1959.

 

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Photographer: Jaime Sharp

Location: Kaokoland

FLASH FLOOD

“Go as a pilgrim and seek out danger far from the comfort and the well lit avenues of life. Pit your every soul against the unknown and seek stimulation in the comfort of the brave. Experience cold, hunger, heat and thirst and survive to see another challenge and another dawn. Only then will you be at peace with yourself and be able to know and to say; I look down the farthest side of the mountain fulfilled and understanding all, and truly content that I lived a full life and one that was my own choice”  – James Elroy Flecker, Hassan…The Golden Journey to Samarkand, 1922

 

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Photographer: Richie

A transformation in less than 5 minutes, from a serene knee deep stream to a raging torrent that rang with the sound of shifting boulders and carried away trees.

Location: Borneo

Hyenas of Harar

“Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause; He noblest lives and noblest dies who makes and keeps his self-made laws.” – Sir Richard F. Burton, The Kasîdah of Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî, 1870.

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The wild nightlife of Harar, Following in the footsteps of Sir Richard F. Burton

Location: Harar, Ethiopia

At the lowest estimates there are more than five times as many stars in the Universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of the earth; and more atoms in a single grain of sand than stars in the Universe.

Namibia Expedition 2014

The Milkyway and both Magellanic Clouds are visable in this photograph, you’ll notice a shadow around my head caused by tipping my head back a little during the long exposure, I can only stand still for so long!

Location: Omandumba, Namibia

Photographer: Dave Wilkinson

GOING UP RIVER

“Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances… And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention… its mysterious stillness watching me at my monkey tricks”Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899.

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Photographer: Petri Hartikaninen

Location: Borneo

After a long day in the jungle, having a comfortable place to sit is a huge boost to morale.

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A crazed look and pasty white complexion are the mark of a man who has spent too much time in the jungle.

Location: Borneo

Jungle Chair by http://www.UKhammocks.co.uk