I took a 4 day camel trek, through a part of Rajasthan, India. It was 48 degrees at 9 a.m. It didn't cool down until 4 p.m. We weren't allowed to ride them between those hours just too hot for the camels. So we would ride them around from 7 a.m. until 9 to 9:30 a.m. and then, relax for a few hours. Make lunch, get out of the sun, and relax. Then, we'd ride them until 7 or 8 p.m. During the day you had to find shelter from the heat, when the only offering is a thick bush that leaves with these small spiked prickers on the ground. Those prickers were absolutely impossible to get out of cloth, and they made your skin bleed. The other problem was that I had developed saddle sores on the morning of the second day. They began to bleed on the 3rd day. Oh, what fun. It took more than 3 weeks for them to go away. Try keeping them clean and healthy while you have dysentery so badly that you lose 32 pounds of weight in 28 days. Plus the Northern India doesn't general promote healthy and clean living. Not fun.
The reward for all of that: During my 4 days across the desert, I watched the fool moon come up every night just after the sun went down. Zero light pollution and a full moon on the second night. At my request, we slept on the tops of the sand dunes every night. It was magnificent. Having been to Turkey and the Grand Bazaar, I couldn't help but let my mind drift away full of imaginary camels majestically moving the princes across the land toward the Bazaar leaving a wake of permeating fragrances and colors. One could easily drift away on a slice of that kind of beauty. I feel truly blessed to have been able to experience this moment in time.
My camel was a young boy name was Shiva. At night, to keep the camels from running away on us, they would tie their front feet together with a braided rope. To get away, the camels would have to hop like kangaroos, and they could never hop farther than we could walk. The last night we rode past a small desert village that was raising female camels. I noticed Shiva was impossible to control while we were near the village. When we woke up, my camel was nowhere in sight. I suggest the village as Shiva's hiding spot. My guide sent his baby brother, who was also my cook, to find Shiva. He was 4 kilometers away playing with the girls, right where I told him he would be. Truly funny. Men will ALWAYS be men.
Welcome to Istanbul, the secular land of religious architecture. In the photo above, you can see not only the breathtaking Blue Mosque but also an obelisk in the center of a hippodrome. Looking back on my travels, I feel very privileged to have seen the inside of this building. Despite the fact that mosaic art has been banned by Islamic Law, the entire inside of the mosque is covered wall-to-wall by beautiful delicate and colorful tiles. However, as much as I enjoyed being inside the Blue Mosque, the adjacent church Anaya Sophia is more spectacular on the inside. The funny thing about man of these buildings in Istanbul is the ostrich eggs hanging from the ceiling to ward off spiders (the decaying smell undetectable to humans AND keeps spiders out).
The other really amazing thing about Istanbul and her architecture is the Cistern. Across the street from Anaya Sophia, there is a small bus stop / office building. Go inside the building and purchase your ticket to go venture down into the depths below the roaring city. Once you walk down a few flights of narrow stairs, which are very dimly lit, you open up your eyes to an underground water cistern that was built in the 4th Century (aka over 1700 years old) to protect the city from invasion. This giant source of water allowed the city to still clean, cook, and generally function while under siege. Extremely useful, since the city has been invaded many times.The cistern has 220 columns that are at least 20 feet high. Each column is 20 meters apart in all directions, making for a very large water cistern underneath the city. Awesome.
The tiered architecture of the buildings and the style of churches constructing hippodromes on top of each other, makes for unimaginable views and a fantastic place to visit. Today, we drive cars through arches that used to carry water from the mountains far away into the city. This view of automobiles driving under each archway holding up the aqueducts is surreal. Each archway is big enough for one lane of cars. Too funny is my mind. It is one of the top 5 things/places to see in the world on my list. To be quite honest, I find it more majestic than the pyramids of Giza.
Ladies and gentlemen! There is no electricity, fresh running water to bath in, or running water at all in your bungalows on this side of Kho Chang Island in Thailand. However, when one has the time, passion, and ingenuity, you can make a couch to sit on and enjoy the afternoon, complete with coffee table to rest your island weary feet. No need to use the remote to change the channel. It's always beautiful. I highly recommend getting off your couch before the tide comes in. We don't want you to get swept away.
Here is part of the family that I was able to visit with, in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. The family had 9 members. This is the Silver Back, just hanging out with one of the females and a few babies. The photo is taken with 1600-speed "actual" film at 10 feet away since flash photography is forbidden around the gorillas. The site borders Rwanda and the Congo. It was a 5-hour trek into this jungle without any paths or trails. You are allowed to watch them for ONE hour once you find them. We were lucky enough to get as close as 3 feet to some of the family.
Nothing in my life has compared to witnessing the interaction of these animals with each other for that one hour, and I feel like nothing ever will. The entire experience was like watching life in a vacuum. Almost better than watching infants. The way that they climbed up and down the trees. One baby fell off a tree and landed on the head of the mother. She just picked him up, kissed him, and put him back down after making sure he was ok. Then, she just let him go off and run around some more. Watching two brothers wrestle and fight with each other, including the typical chest pounding and roaring, was absolutely comical. I felt like I was the inferior species. There was an easily recognizable level of intelligence and love between them that I often don't see even glimmers of amongst people. Note: Males are males. Notice the Silver Back scratching himself while watching his women. Too funny. Where's the couch and remote? And where's his sandwich?
I will tell you it is a rigorous hike through the jungle, up and down hills in a forest so thick that the sun doesn't reach the floor. You are accompanied by a few guides who are carrying fully automatic weapons. The funny thing about this was that they told us that the soldiers were there for the protection of the gorillas, and they would not fire on the poachers if they were just firing at us. It is not cheap to visit these animals. However, it's a price I would pay again in a heartbeat. There are some 800 gorillas left in the world, and more than half of them live in Bwindi. The population has actually increased by 100 gorillas since there are now daily patrols throughout this forest region. With that in mind, I'm happy to purchase my gorilla-visa and gladly shake the hands of the soldiers that help keep these incredible creatures alive and well.
These are two different termite mounds from two separate continents. For perspective, I'm 6' 5" tall. Both of those mounds are easily twice my height. When I saw the cone one in Botswana, I was amazed. Then, while in the northern territories of Australia, I saw this even bigger one. The coolest thing about the Australian mounds is the number of them in the same area. Some are called magnetic mounds, because no matter where they build them they are incredibly thin and n-shaped so that the two ends point to the North and South poles.
This picture shows what remains of the Berlin Wall. Amnesty International sponsored a mural to bring more meaning to it. Artists from all over the world have been brought in to paint their own artistic impression of the freedom from walls, destruction of walls. It's supposed to represent the oppressive nature of how walls work. Thank God for the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. It would be my greatest hope that we could grow and evolve from our past mistakes. However, it would seem that new walls are being built and expanded, in several different countries on this planet. It would seem we haven't become as humane as we would like to think our civilization is. Economic or racial issues are not a valid reason to create more walls.
I have explored 76 countries, no hand holding, no tour guides just a drive to see, smell, taste, experience, and enjoy the earth. I have been on Reality Television and spend much of my time giving back to the community. From a unique perspective of sports, adventure and travel.