I often think about the effects that Western travel is having on the developing world. What if Mallory or Hillary had never decided that climbing Everest was a thing? Adventurers and explorers are amazing and I won’t talk them down, but today’s travelers come in masses large enough to change destinations from quaint, cultural islands, into pulsing masses of tourist sprawl. That’s a credit to the locals in those places, actually, having made a livelyhood from others who visit their homes. But what’s the price? Overdeveloped land that accepts more people than is is meant to support? Lowering water tables? Unmanaged trash piles?
Aside from the impact of such travel, it’s so novel to experience a land where laws are less established, wild places are less protected, and wild animals are not separated from visitors as much as they are here. Things we don’t generally consider doing in the West: riding through an Asian jungle on elephant back to see wild rhinoceros. They are a tourist attraction and bring in much needed money, but what is the expense? Attempting to tame three-ton animals well enough that this can happen? I can’t help but flash to an elephant losing it and trampling tourists along the way. In this situation, piles of tourists flood the park for the chance at an encounter with elephants, rhinos and even Bengal tigers. This makes more demand for more guides, which leads to wider paths, more hotels and ultimately, overdeveloped land that supports fewer tigers. And that’s the most intriguing thing that the tourists came for in the first place.
But there are some exceptions. This photo is from the back of a female Asian elephant, looking at a mother and baby wild one horned Asian rhinoceros which has just been moved from endangered to threatened. It’s one of the few success stories from such a situation: The locals figured out that Westerners wanted to see the rhinos, so they put laws and enforcement in place to help the last 200 in Nepal. This brought money, which allowed more enforcement, which allowed the rhinos to recover. A hundred years ago there were only 200, today there are 2500 of these wild animals. A success story in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. And perhaps that is the sort of travel that we should aim for and encourage – the kind that promotes environmental improvement, resource sustainability and responsibility for ourselves wherever we go.
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Even on my worst days, the thought that sticks with me all day is that I am following my passion. It doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, it just has to be my passion.
Whether I focus on photography, writing or cultural travel as my passion, it helps to remember that pursuing it regardless of the pitfalls, means that I have a passion. I’ll take that a thousand times over never deciding I have a passion that needs to be followed.
Excerpted from my blog.
This is a performance of the kecak dance in Bali. It is a traditional dance depiction of a Hindu epic story called the Ramayana.
Read more about it on my blog. Himalsong.blogspot.com
One of our first nights in Bali we decided to forgo sleep and hike all night instead. We left at 10 pm and worked through the night to reach the top by sunrise.
Once we reached a ridge we looked back through the darkness to the city of Denpasar at the far end of the island. Then we resumed the climb for several hours, passing acacia trees and evidence of monkeys. We even caught a civet cat’s eyes in our headlamps.
While we didn’t reach the top, we stopped a very steep half-mile short and watched the day awaken from an open rock face below the summit. There wasn’t a summit to miss, so we weren’t heartbroken. And the view was stunning.
On the way down we watched the temple at the base of the climb get closer and closer as our knees and leg muscles hummed.
(A day late) Sunrise in Sanur, Bali
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March and April of 2013 took me to Nepal for a second time, where I got elbow-deep in volunteer work and learning more about the culture. Mary Beth and I hiked through Solu, the region just below Everest, but the foothills and in the shadows of the high Himalayas, where we met an amazing village of people who don’t get much contact from the outside. They are a full day’s walk from the nearest road. We reached them by flying to the nearest airport, then walking two days, over 10,000 foot mountain ridges. It was challenging, beautiful and so very rewarding.
Asia twice in a year. Some things you just can’t anticipate, but this past year took me to Asia two times. Neither trip was planned long in advance, and both were rewarding and very worthwhile. I am also working with a travel author who leads an organization to promote gap year travel for high school graduates. It’s a cause that feels so very worthy. Travel changes people for the better. It makes our world smaller and larger all at once. Different people become more like us and we understand things we never did before. So when I got the chance to take my kids and husband to Asia, it was a no-brainer for me.
I convinced my family that we should spend Christmas in Bali. Pretty much the exact opposite end of the Asian experience, I’d bet. Tropical Southern Hemisphere breezes spoiled us, and so did the people. I filled my camera with pastoral rice filed scenes, and people working in the villages unlike they do anywhere on this continent. So I am unrolling that imagery and story on my photojournalism blog, as it comes to me. I’ve blogged about it extensively by now. You can see some of my past photo galleries here. If you see an image you love, please inquire. I am happy to print and ship it to you.
I’ve recently been spending time on my photojournalist blog, and a lot of my photos are ending up over there. I’ve done a fair amount of photo work and it sometimes ends up there as well, but as you might be able to tell from the name, From My ‘Art is where my heart is, even if it’s not where I always put my photos.
Here are a few from a recent fall hike. We had a great day and the vine maples were painted in warm colors against mossy forest floors and azure blue skies. That doesn’t happen a lot here because the fall clouds and rain serve to moderate the temps, and the cold nights are what cause leaf colors to pop. Anyway, here is a quick look at the Talapus Lake trail on October 4.
Vine maples on arrival
Light playing across mossy old log
Talus slope opening with light enough for vine maples to take hold
Waterfall enroute to the lake. I didn’t expect waterfalls, so I had fun hand-holding these.
Talapus Lake with a touch of fall color
This unsolicited email came to me today from someone I don’t know at all. It was exactly what I needed.
Dear AC and Erika
Read “Song of Chomolungma” last night and want to praise AC for being smart enough to talk Erika into going on and documenting the 2011 Everest Highway journey trip and Erika for doing such wonderful work on the book’s text and photography. The book is beautifully crafted showing the soaring physical wonders of the Himalayas and the beautiful people who live there. Erika is especially able to look into people’s eyes and hearts and understand some of their strengths and weaknesses and make this understanding accessible to those who were not there.
I am due to post photos on this site. It is after all a photo site. Really, I take photos sometimes! And I even get them put on this site occasionally, too. Stay tuned. It’s coming.