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Category: Trekking

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

It was November, 1971, and after two months of hitchhiking around northern Europe and having wonderful experiences, I realized it was time to head south like a migrating bird as winter closed in. It took me three days to cross France and when I reached the Spanish border, I headed west on a whim along the north coast of Spain, instead of due south towards Barcelona, Madrid and the Mediterranean beach resorts, as virtually all the other remaining backpackers did….

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Posters, Passports and British Snobs

Posters, Passports and British Snobs

I had a fascinating, if occasionally scary time in Northern Ireland in 1971, but I was relieved to leave (London) Derry and cross into County Donegal in the Irish Republic. My experiences in Belfast and especially the No Go areas of Free Derry were eye-opening and unforgettable, but I was now entering the part of Ireland I had really looked forward to travelling in. I made sure to find a somewhat disinterested Irish border official to stamp my passport because…

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Backpacking in Africa With Kids

Backpacking in Africa With Kids

Many of our friends thought we were being wildly ambitious, if not outright irresponsible. Why would you want to take your young children on a 12-week backpacking trip to east and southern Africa, they asked. How can you justify them missing three months of school? Aren’t you going to dangerous places? What about the health risks? Are you guys nuts? Edmonton Journal librarian and friend Deb Dittrick was the frankest. “If someone told me I had to go on a…

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Mountains of Mystery

Mountains of Mystery

There is no place on earth like the Mountains of the Moon. The gigantic vegetation that lines the alpine meadows, great bogs and valley bottoms of the fabled Rwenzori Mountains, and the majestic beauty of its great snow peaks shining through the constant mist have inspired many an intrepid traveller to poetic imagery. There is nothing to break the spell, nothing to dim the sense that one has journeyed back in time to a forgotten, almost primitive world, where the…

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An (Un) Reasonable Amount of Risk

An (Un) Reasonable Amount of Risk

I was shocked and deeply shaken when my pal Mick handed me a London newspaper with a terrifying front page story about wanton bloodshed in Uganda. The timing and the news could not have been much worse for me. It was January 23, 1984, the day before I was scheduled to fly from London to Nairobi, Kenya, on my way to Uganda to hike the spectacular but notoriously difficult circuit trek of the legendary Rwenzori Mountains, better known as the…

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Fear of Flying

Fear of Flying

I have racked up quite a few air miles in my many years of globetrotting, especially in the developing world. I hate flying the local airlines, especially the many ones with terrible safety records, but for a regular traveller to poor countries there is no other alternative, even when the local airline is conducting animal sacrifices to the gods to help repair its planes, or repeatedly shooing huge, wild animals off their busy runways, if not crashing into the poor…

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Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead

I have travelled a lot in Third World nations and I have had my share of annoying stomach bugs and other minor intestinal ailments, but one time in October, 2008, on the fabled Snowman Trek in Bhutan – a beautiful Himalayan country east of Nepal and south of China – I experienced the worst night of my life. I woke up just before midnight and felt a horrific rumbling in my guts unlike anything I had ever experienced. It just…

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A Close Encounter

A Close Encounter

It was a beautiful mid-October day in the Dolpo region of western Nepal in 2014. Under bright blue skies our group of 13 trekkers left the lovely village of Saldang, and crossed the 4,565 metre (14,977 foot) Khoma La mountain pass, before slowly descending to the village of Khomagaon, just in time to witness a wonderful series of horse races, part of a grand and colourful wedding celebration. I was enjoying myself immensely and mingling with the huge crowds of…

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Annapurna Adventure

Annapurna Adventure

I rolled out of bed a little before 4 a.m., feeling kind of woozy after a short night with very little sleep in a Nepali tea house in Thorung Phedi, better known as High Camp, at 4,746 metres (15,572 feet). It was Halloween, Oct. 31, 2008, but I was not thinking about tricks or treats, or wearing a goofy costume. I slapped some cold water on my face, was careful not to wake my temporary roommate, got dressed, hefted my…

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River of My Dreams

River of My Dreams

There are some adventurous moments that intrepid travellers occasionally experience which are seared into their memory forever. Moments so exotic, so far removed from their day-to-day life back home, that even decades later those memories seem to jump off the page as if they were written in italics. Chasing such experiences is like an addictive drug for hard-core backpackers, which I certainly was in my younger and not-so-young-anymore days. The episode I am thinking about occurred in January, 1982, while…

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