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Thursday
Dec042014

ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS: Mountain Microadventure

A mere 12km of walking on the hilltops of little old Britain. It doesn't sound like much.

It looked impressive though—my first sight of the Cuillin Ridge from many miles away, across the sea, looking over the water towards those far blue mountains.

I was heading to Skye on a whim to climb dangerous mountains with a man I’d never met, who had read my books then emailed me after we both entered a stupid winter mountain bike race. (He won the race. I just about survived it.) Alex’s idea appealed immediately: to mountain bike cross country to the sea, paddle over the sea to the mountains, and then attempt the formidable Cuillin Ridge. A triathlon of microadventures through some of the finest landscapes in Britain? I’m on my way, I replied.

So we began from “S”* (“Good pub there” is the guaranteed comment from those who know it), pedalling happily into the glen, excited to be on the move, delighted by the weather which appeared to be holding and which was crucial to our success.

The path was narrow singletrack, strewn with rocks and ditches. I quickly realised that the hills of Surrey are inadequate preparation for the skill levels needed for mountain biking through the Scottish highlands.

However, in between my stumbles, foot-downs, and a comic straight-over-the-handlebars-into-a-bog it was beautiful, remote riding. On all sides barren peaks rose from the green glen into a warm blue sky. And silence. We passed a loch, perfect for a swim, but we had miles to go before nightfall so we pressed on, hurtling along an exhilarating sweeping descent down to the blue sea and a sweeping bay. Its isolation was accentuated by a single house, built bang in the middle of the curving bay far from electricity or running water.

We rode onwards, up a bugger of a hill and blasted wooping down the other side, down to a tight little bay and the beginning of the second phase of our Highland triathlon microadventure.

We needed now to paddle out into the sea, across the bay to the base of the impressive mountain range before us. Whilst I inflated my beloved packraft Alex chatted with his friend Colin who’d met us here armed with a couple of sea-kayaks.

The day was hot and the paddle was a joy. It was a windy day with the white clouds flying. And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

Waves cooled my face and soaked my clothes as my blunt packraft battered the swell. I struggled to make headway against the headwind (the curse not only of cyclists but also, I have learned, the packrafter too). Packrafts are the jacks of all trades but the masters of none (I feel an affinity!) and as I watched the two sea kayaks pull easily away from me I knew that I was in for a long drag if we were to reach the other side before nightfall.

But it is a special thing, being in a boat. Your view is a privileged one, inaccessible to all those mere mortals left behind on the shore. Jellyfish pulsed and drifted, pretty pink and white, through the clear blue brine. The shore gradually receded behind us with each pull on the paddle. Blisters bubbled on my hands as the mountains ahead of us loomed a little larger with each small stroke. We were paddling westward into the dazzling evening sun. Liquid stars fell from our paddles and burst over the bows of my boat. At last, tired, wet, but happy we reached the lee of the mountains, sheltered from the headwind and I could lie back in my packraft and relax.

We were in the mouth of a secluded loch, tucked tight into a brooding cleft at the base of the mountains that thrust steeply straight up from the shore. The Cuillins are the ancient eroded remains of a vast volcano lip and they curved spectacularly high above us jagged and menacing like rotted black stumps of teeth.

It is hard to imagine a more beautiful sea paddle in Britain, and I grinned in smug delight once again at my decision to dedicate a year to searching for wildness and adventure here in my own country. Alex was thrilled as well. Although he knew Skye well and was a regular climber and mountain biker here, he had never experienced a paddle such as this. Even in your backyard there are new adventures, new sights, new perspectives: you just have to make the small effort to go and discover them.

Alex pointed behind me and I turned to look. A dozen seals were peering curiously at us from damp dark eyes.

Two snorted and dived. The rest watched us quizzically as we paddled smoothly towards the shore past a couple of seal pups still in their juvenile white fur. Two terns, the whitest, sleekest of sea birds, shrieked low overhead, concerned for the young in their nests. We though were concerned only for food, for we had been long on the move and were ready for dinner. We pulled our boats up onto the shore beside a small river.

As Alex boiled a big pan of pasta I followed the course of the river — surely one of Britain’s shortest — from the sea up through just a couple of hundred gentle metres to its beginning at Loch C. I had wanted to visit this spot for years. I learned about it in the book Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane. He writes…

“We reached the entrance to C at dusk. Cliffs on one side, and a cut wall of rock, waterfall-seamed, on the other. As we passed between the cliffs I felt a strong sense of having crossed a portal, or stepped over a threshold.”

We slept on the shore and then — too soon — we woke up again. 3am. Time to begin the third phase of our adventure: to tackle the famous Cuillin Ridge back to the pub at S. We hoped to reach it in time for last orders. Only 12km stood between us and beer and yet we had allowed 20 hours to get there. That should give an indication of the difficulties that stood in our way.

We left Colin sleeping (he would paddle home towing the spare kayak when he woke) and began climbing through the darkness. By sunrise we were atop our first Munro (any Scottish mountain with a height over 3,000ft (914.4m)) enjoying a staggeringly beautiful view of mountains, sea and islands.

This summit (Gars-bheinn) serves as the start point of the ridge challenge and we began at a good speed and in high spirits. The weather was beautiful, we’d made a really early start: everything was looking good. We made good speed for a couple of hours hiking, jumping and scrambling our way along the ridge.

On both sides was sky, a lot of sky, and a long, long way to fall on both sides. The views were as beautiful as from an aeroplane. But we could spare only a few glances for full attention was needed to concentrate on our footing and route finding at all times. It may seem strange that route finding is difficult high on an exposed ridge, but it’s a jumbled rocky chaos up there and progress was hellish hard. At one point Alex leaped across a gap then turned to watch me.

“I recommend you don’t look here — just jump.”

I jumped.

Then I looked down.

A long way down.

Deep breath.

Push on.

My admiration for people who run the length of the ridge in just 3.5 hours turned to amazement as we reached the first climbing section. These mountain madmen scamper up and down cliffs which, to my wimpish eye, looked frankly terrifying. I was happy indeed to be roped up as we wriggled our way up very difficult (VD) and mildly severe (MS) rock faces and abseiled down the other side. These climbing sections, we felt, were the only likely things to stop us finishing our challenge so we were chuffed to be ticking them off.

I am no climber and I do not intend to become one. I enjoyed the puzzle and the challenge of solving the riddle of hand and feet holds to heave yourself up a vertical face. But I did so with very little enthusiasm for looking down between my feet to enjoy the views. The technical term for this yawning empty space is ‘Exposure’.

I do not like Exposure one bit! But I found it fascinating to face it. I was tied securely to a rope. I was safe. But I did not feel safe. And that alone meant that this was a perfect microadventure: I was out of my comfort zone, I was pushing myself hard mentally and physically. I was learning about myself and peeling back my boundaries.

The most spectacular spot on the ridge is the marvellously named ‘Inaccessible Pinnacle’, and is described in Wild Places like this:

“A shark’s fin of black rock that jags hundreds of feet out of the ridge which had long been, to my mind, one of the wildest points in the world…”

I felt a quick buzz of fear, remembering the description of the Pinnacle by one of its first ascensionists: ‘a knife-edge ridge with an overhanging and infinite drop on one side, and a drop on the other side even steeper and longer.’

The Inaccesible Pinancle was the symbolic high point of the challenge. The view from the top was extraordinary, even if I was clinging to the rock with a vice-like grip. Unfortunately from here on things went downhill. My knee reacted badly to the terrain and, after eight hours up on the ridge I was moving like an old man. There was no way I would make it the whole way so we were forced to drop down from the ridge and concede defeat.

I was not happy to have failed, especially through something as random and uncontrollable as an injury. The triathlon microadventure challenge had been such a good one. I was disappointed to have let Alex down.

But I was also quite impressed to have failed. Britain is not a particularly wild place. You don’t tend to get beaten by the landscapes here. So I was impressed to have been humbled by these ancient, awesome mountains. I had underestimated them (the only other British challenge that I have underestimated is the Bob Graham Round). It eased one of my slight worries during this year of microadventure that, through trying to encourage others to challenge themselves, I was not particularly challenging myself.

Mountains do not care how you fare on their slopes and summits. They were around for millions of years before your petty quest began, and they’ll still be standing beautiful yet uncaring when our grandchildren’s grandchildren feel the same restless urges to test themselves.

Sure, you go and pit your wits, your skills, your guts, your luck against them. You might win, you might lose. But they don’t care either way. Maybe that’s part of their appeal. It’s certainly a good metaphor for doing big stuff in life.

Do it for the doing, not for the praise of others. And don’t be put off trying big stuff by the fear of failure.

The mountains don’t think any less of me because I failed. And they are far more impressive than the office jobs-worth whiner who loves to sneer at you if you fail something. So I failed this microadventure. But I did far more than if I had not even begun. And I now have an excuse, should one be needed, to return to the wild places of Skye for some unfinished business.

 

THIS ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MAPTIA

 

ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS

@al_humphreys

http://www.alastairhumphreys.com

Alastair Humphreys is a British adventurer, author and blogger. He spent over 4 years cycling round the world, a journey of 46,000 miles through 60 countries and 5 continents. Alastair has written six books. He was named as one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the year for 2012.

Wednesday
Nov122014

DAVID NOYES: The Lure of Greenland's Icy World

Fog rolled quickly up the fjord enveloping us in a colorless milieu with no visible boundary separating the perfectly still water from the cold wet air. Small surface ripples created by our zodiac boat were the only indication that we were, in fact, moving. Our driver carefully navigated around massive chunks of arctic ice that suddenly appeared and disappeared like an enchanted mirage on the grey, featureless horizon. The baritone growl of the motor echoed off the surrounding granite walls as horns and whistles announced from the distance that we were not alone.

For two days we had waited for the wind and rain to subside before traveling down Tunulliarfik Fjord to our remote tent camp at Qaleraliq Glacier. Our guide Pedro casually noted that the dense fog can last for several days in South Greenland, but it was the high winds that made travel through the fjords particularly dangerous. As our speed increased, eleven of us huddled together around the outside of the zodiac wrapped in thick parkas, peering out of small openings in our protective hoods to catch a fleeting glimpse of a passing iceberg.

After a 45-minute, adrenaline-fueled arctic boat ride, we pulled into the small harbor at Narsaq. Low-lying clouds shrouded the twin peaks that frame the third most populated town in South Greenland. The iconic, brightly painted cottages were quiet as a soft rain began to fall. Our stop was brief. We boarded a smaller boat with a mountain guide equipped with crampons, helmets, harnesses, and ice axes. Before settling into our camp, we would be trekking across one of the oldest and largest masses of ice on the planet.

Recently, this mass of ice has inspired a flood of climate scientists, researchers, and historians onto the ancient ice sheet to sample ice-cores and document the thickness and movement of dozens of individual glaciers. In their quest to understand the causes and effects of climatic fluctuations, many scientists believe that what happens in Greenland over the next couple of decades will answer important questions about the complex interactions between our atmosphere and the world’s great oceans.

These scientists and researchers are no longer alone in their exploration of one of the world’s most remote and visually stunning destinations. Adventure travelers and hearty tourists from around the globe have also been lured to this icy world by spectacular images of a truly wild place. I joined travelers from Germany, Spain, France, Australia, South Africa, Greece, Ireland, England, and the United States to experience a landscape that has become the focus of an often intense and politically charged global warming debate.

As the boat carrying our group motored along the glacier front towards our landing, the enormity of the massive ice wall left us speechless. We disembarked onto huge flat rocks and scrambled up giant boulders to the base of the glacier where we geared up for the trek. We followed our guide in single file passing holes, drains, caves, seracs, and crevasses until we reached a vertical wall of translucent ice already affixed with ropes to belay our climb to another, higher level of the glacier. The persistent overcast sky and low-lying clouds unfortunately prevented a view of the vast inland glacier, but our intimacy with the impressive ice formations hinted at the incredible scale of the ice sheet beyond.

After several days of overcast, when the skies finally cleared and the fog lifted, the unmatched beauty of the landscape was revealed. From a small bluff near camp we could see for the first time that the three visible glacier fronts were actually one massive flow of ice with three separate routes to the fjord. As the sun dipped towards the horizon, deep shadows and pockets of iridescent blue created a three-dimensional glacial panorama. Soon the magnificent colors of sunset reflected in the fjord as our camp drifted into a perpetual twilight. The silence of the arctic night was only interrupted by the eerie rumble of moving ice.

The next morning greeted us with a spectacular sunrise and brilliant blue skies. We walked along the sandy shore before boarding our zodiac for the ride back to our base at the fjordside village of Qassiarsuk. We were excited and renewed by the sunshine as we once again entered the harbor at Narsaq. This time the town was bustling with activity. Fishermen packed their boats as children walked like mini glacier trekkers in single file on their way to school. We had an hour to wander through town and photograph the colorful cottages against the backdrop of blue skies and glowing white towers of ice.

With a total population of only around 57,000 Greenland is the least densely populated country on earth. Most Greenlanders are decedents of Inuit and eighteenth century Danish colonists and live along the habitable fringe between the ice and the sea. Over one quarter of the country’s population lives in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk. The rest live in a handful of small towns along the west coast, separated by a deeply indented coastline that makes road development between towns impossible.

There is very little remaining of the Viking presence on Greenland except for a few scattered ruins and the legends passed down in Norse sagas. By the year 874 CE colonists from Norway had settled permanently in Iceland bringing with them a dairy-based economy that they soon combined with seal hunting and fishing to earn a living in the new land. Warm summers allowed ample hay and barley harvests for winter food and fodder. They were successful and thrived at the edge of the arctic.

The Norse were essentially farmers and fishermen who did a bit of plundering and pillaging along the way. One of those tough seafaring farmers, the infamous Erik the Red, sailed west out of Iceland after being banished from the island for three years for of murder. He set off into unknown waters with a small group of men to explore reports of mysterious islands sighted by one of his relatives some half-century earlier. He landed on the rugged eastern shore of Greenland in 982 but soon sailed around the southern tip to a fjord near Qaqortog. He spent the next three years exploring the fjords of the south.

There is evidence that Erik the Red landed on Greenland during a period of exceptional warmth and stability known as the Medieval Warm Period. In the southwestern corner of the Island the Norse found green summer pastures that provided grazing land for sheep, abundant fish, and large numbers of sea mammals. Erik returned to Iceland with glowing reports about the fertile land he called Greenland, which he thought would be an attractive name to lure potential settlers.

A year later, Erik and 14 ships arrived on Greenland to establish settlements in the sheltered waters of the Southwest. Eventually 4,000 Norse settled the massive island raising sheep and cattle like they did back home. They built churches, homes, farms, and communities on relatively fertile ground compared to the thin volcanic soil and hardscrabble of Iceland. Erik himself settled in the heart of the richest farmland at a place that is now the village of Qassiarsuk.

We were greeted at Qassiarsuk by several staff of the Leif Erickson Hostel and by its Spanish owner, polar explorer Ramon Larramendi. Larramendi became a legend of sorts following his three-year arctic expedition from Greenland to Alaska by foot, kayak, and dog sled in the early 1990s. The Hostel has become his home in Greenland and a support enclave for kayak expeditions he leads throughout the country.

After Ramon welcomed us to the hostel, Pedro took us on a tour of the village and the ruins of Brattahild—the name of Erik the Red’s original farmstead. The modern village dates from a successful effort to reintroduce sheep breeding to the area in the 1920s and is home to about 60 year-round residents. The highlights of the tour were the picturesque recreation of what archaeologists believe was the first church built in the New World, and a turf-covered reconstruction of a Norse longhouse.

There are many theories about why the Norse mysteriously disappeared from Greenland after over four centuries of settlement. Maybe a massive epidemic swept the Island or a blight devastated their grazing land. But one contributing factor to the Norse exodus was most likely the onset of a 500-year period known as the Little Ice Age. By 1300, Greenland was already experiencing increasing cold and extreme, unpredictable shifts in weather. Glacial advances began in the early thirteenth century and increased ice pack while stormy seas in the northernmost Atlantic disrupted critical trading routes. What we do know is that the last known written record of the Norse on Greenland wasn’t about a war, plague, or famine. It was about a wedding in 1408.

By 1300, the Norse had also been sharing their remote island with Inuit, who arrived from northern Canada centuries earlier. While they brought with them dogsleds, kayaks, and other essential tools and skills that would help them survive the Little Ice Age, the Norse still relied on the same fishing and dairy economy introduced during the time of Erik the Red. Their existence depended on storing enough hay and fish to survive the long harsh winter. Even a small shift in the growing season would have caused livestock to die and put vulnerable settlers at risk.

Nobody knows if the current weather patterns will lead to another ice age or if we are heading into another prolonged warming period like the one that allowed the Norse to thrive, but the history of Greenland is a history of survival and adaptation in extreme arctic conditions. It is a harsh and unforgiving land of amazing beauty where life clings to the fertile fringes between the ice and the sea.

 

THIS ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MAPTIA

 

DAVID NOYES

http://www.noyestravels.com/

David’s most recent project is the 2013 launch of his nonprofit corporation Innocent Eyes Project, Inc. Innocent Eyes Project will support grassroots child education programs working in developing countries by raising and allocating funds for projects where small amounts of money can have the largest impact on underserved children and communities. Learn more about David’s project at: www.InnocentEyesProject.org

Tuesday
Aug052014

JONNY GIBAUD: A Case for Adventure

SPLASH!

The bracing water hits my face, flowing over my body as I dive out of the sun, and into the cool water. I exhale and let myself drift slowly downwards, to sit crossed legged on the bottom of the pool. I remain motionless, listening to the faint underwater hum of the filtering system, and watch the bubbles float slowly upwards, through dancing underwater sunbeams, to break gently in an array of reflected light at the surface.

It’s 2pm. Tuesday.

This time one month ago I’d be trapped mid-way through a three hour client meeting, negotiating unavoidable delays to a project already many months late. It’s the same conversation I’ve had every week, one to keep me in the office until gone eight thirty…again.

Shaking my head in remembrance of an old life, currently so distant, I let another bubble escape my lips and watch it float upwards towards freedom. As I look around my underwater paradise, and watch the light dancing off the pool walls, I feel just like the bubble. It breaks the surface, now forever free of the old confides that once trapped it.

I smile to myself. Yes, this is definitely different.

I’ve been living in different cities and countries around the world for over a half a decade now. From the crowded shoulder to shoulder bustling of the streets of Shanghai, China to the beautiful expanse of isolated beaches of Cebu in the Philippines. I’ve experienced life at 500 feet in five star hotels in the USA, to the sharing of a minuscule meal alongside orphans in the dirty and blackened slums of Chennai, India.

During my travels I learnt a few things about what it means to leave behind your home country and stride out into the wide open world, jacket gripped tightly around you; nervousness in your heart.

I write from an apartment in Stuttgart, Germany, a country only a few hundred miles from my own, the closest I have lived to home soil during my travels, and yet at the same time so very far away. I love it, still. Half a decade on.

It changes you, travelling. Changes the way you approach life, people and the art of abundant living. It changes how your brain is wired, and adjusts the lens through which you view the world, and the people in it. You are forced to question yourself, your beliefs and carve out a place for your soul.

In some extreme cases it can change the very fabric of what makes you, you. But this is rare. More normally, in my own travels and those I have observed in others, is that it opens up your world.

After you have free dived with a pod of whale sharks, fifteen meters long, or got lost in the legendary Tata tea fields of rolling green, it is hard to ever see the world the same way again.

You are permanently changed, right down to very strands of your DNA.

When you have held the hand of an orphaned child, as dirty as the surrounding street, but smiling stronger than the richest millionaire, you are forced to rethink everything you thought you knew about life, about success and about what it means to be truly alive and living. Sometimes you wish you could go back to being naive. Sometimes. But the wish soon dissipates as quickly as it formed.

Traveling doesn’t just give you experiences, it gives you life. Life you can’t find in the cubicles of investment banks the world over, no matter how successful you become. Trust me, I know. Travel gives you a sense of yourself and a sense of this incredible planet on which we live, a planet so rich with life and energy. You soon realise one can only merely glimpse it’s enormity.

There’s nothing wrong with the riches the modern world offers, from Mercedes to Macbook’s and Armani to Apps. But after a few months on the road you always wonder why they were such a big deal in the first place. I love my designer clothes, my Apple products and access to organic food from around the world...but do I love them as much as an authentic local recipe cooked on the beaches of Moal Boal over a beach fire after three hours of spear fishing, the smell of life and cooking food in the air, the deep aching in the muscles that comes after a good workout and the look in the eye of your companions that says yes, this might just be as close as we can get to truly feeling alive.

It’s not all clean sailing though...

I’ve almost lost a boat off the coast of the Island of Kos, been attacked by rabid dogs in India, been targeted by a shark in Mexico, narrowly avoided jail in Bangkok and was knocked out by a sucker punch in Cebu. I have the stories to tell and the scars to prove it. Do I regret it? Not for a moment.

Life away from home is scary, exhilarating, exciting, dangerous in places, unforgiving, eye opening, degrading, spectacular and like nothing you could ever imagine. No one persons story is ever the same, because no one persons journey is every the same.

Thats the beauty of travel. A cubicle might be the same as the one next to you and the one after that. Spreadsheets vary little and everyone has the same good and bad boss. But travel is truly unique. No elephant ride through the jungle will every be quite the same. No speaking engagement in a country not your own will every be quite so nerve racking. No food from foreign lands will ever taste quite as good as when you sampled them in that land, sitting on the very soil where the ingredients were grown. 

If there is one thing everyone should do if they ever have the chance, it is to travel.

To get out of the very small sphere we are all born into and go discover the world around you. Pictures in the National Geographic can only give you so much. An underwater cavern photo, no matter how well lit, is no match to strapping on a tank and delving into the depths yourself. As you fly through the tunnels in the sediment free clear water, the magazine picture becomes like being told to imagine a colour that doesn’t exist. However good your imagination, it will never get close to the real thing.

Life is short. That we know. But it also has all the hours we need, if we know what we want.

There are many things a person can do in life, and not all of them are right for everyone. Travel, however, may just be the one that bucks the trend; the universal experience that unites people and opens up their world. If you have travelled, you know what I say is true. If you have not yet set out on your own adventure, hat on head and boots tied. Perhaps now is the time. There will never be a better one.

Write your own story. 

THIS ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MAPTIA.

 

JONNY GIBAUD

@jonnygibaud

www.jonnygibaud.com

Jonny is a British traveller and entrepreneur who loves life. He is a speaker and writer on creative thinking for success. Review his new book for free at www.thearchitechbook.com.

Tuesday
Jul222014

RENÉ QUIROZ: Chasing Stars, a Microadventure

On a saturday morning, my best friend Leo, my “compadre” Jaime, my “comadre” Carmen and their 3 kids: Jaimito, Julieta, Paquito and me, set off on a trip to my comadre's hometown, a big ranch outside a little town called San Francisco Ixtacamaxtitlán.

Here the sky is so clean and blue, that it promised us a dark sky full of stars to shoot, 3 hrs away from Puebla city we went, 7 people squeezed into my old and cool green cherokee.

On arrival to such a secluded place full of big trees and seriously huge nopales you can´t help feeling the freedom of it all and the excitement of the stories to come.

And while the little ones had been there a lot of times before, this time they shared with us the adventure mode, and while they explored upriver for the perfect place to sleep, they knew it was going to be different this time.

Here the land is covered with stories of the hands that made garlic, corn, or fresh eggs possible.

Stories of people living from and for the land and it`s hard not to feel humble as you see the extraordinary work performed by this family who had lived there forever and whose life has been measure by the seed, the rain and the crops year after year.

Learning how to distinguish a male garlic from a female one, meeting a hen who made a bucket her home, herding goats with a drone, all of this made for a whole afternoon of exchanges: of experience, knowledge and of different ways of seen the world, from the experienced eyes of a seasoned grandfather to the eyes of 5 year old Paquito who never minded the darkness and whenever he fell down, he would only say: -Hulk injured- and move on.

And with the night came dinner and came a coffee different from everything before, this coffee had the acidity of the chill clean air biting against our faces, the sweetness of the people that you care about, following you into your crazy stunts, the aroma of the trees above our heads and the body of our own first microadventure.

We got the unexpected visit of grandma Felix who shared her stories by the fire with the promise to stay -as long as her bones allowed her-, she said.

After looking for enough branches for the fire, we set up for what would be the kids first night with the sky as their roof…

The sunrise found us staring at the retreating mist, revealing the hills that had watched us sleep. And with morning came a walk surrounded by the first light, that makes everything look different. From this light I believe, we should charge our batteries as often as possible, is the light of possibilities, the light that promises you that the day will be as good as you'll let it be.

To walk in a different terrain, breathe a different air, lie beneath different shadows and find animals that you would never see in the city, from a truly awesome stick insect to a close encounter with a quite friendly frog.

Over the mountain we went and this was a quest, for we were sent there to see the complete Ixtacamaxtitlán valley, flying the drone allowing Mister Odilón to see his whole land in a single frame.

Seeing the landscape stretch beyond your sight, full of different shades of green, that’s when you know it. Making that photo is worth every step.

And don’t think that I forgot to mention, that night there were no stars above us…

THIS ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MAPTIA.

 

RENÉ QUIROZ

instagram.com/renepq

Born in a small town that filled his veins with coffee and awesome stories, René is now a photography teacher that tastes, lives, and photographs his extraordinary surrealist México.

 

Tuesday
Jul152014

CLARA KERWIN: Video Volunteers Fundraiser

On June 18, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a fundraising event for Video Volunteers in New York City, which had nearly 200 guests and raised $19,000.  The fundraiser included mingling time with some of New York's finest, delicious food and beverages, a killer view of NYC, and of course, a video presentation. By talking with such diverse and interesting affiliates, I was moved and inspired.  Their stories reminded me that passionate individuals do have the capacity to fuel life-altering improvements for entire communities.

In many underdeveloped regions of the world, there is a lack of information sharing.  This means that countless newsworthy stories are left untold and the serious problems in local communities become shrouded by national and international headlines.  Fortunately, modern technology has permitted individual actors to enter the realm of global media—all they need is the skills to get started.  Video Volunteers (VV) is working to solve this news deficiency by empowering local men and women in the poorest parts of the world to spread the word for themselves.

VV was founded in 2003 by Jessica Mayberry, who was inspired by her experiences teaching filmmaking to rural Indian women while working with the American India Foundation.  Her organization quickly took off and has grown to include hundreds of volunteers working around the world.  The core model consists of an international team of partners who go into underrepresented areas and teach video journalism skills to individuals who live there.  These men and women then have the capacity to report the untold stories around them, thereby taking it upon themselves to rectify the injustices around them. 

The success of VV’s efforts can be seen most clearly in India, where the organization’s first community news service, IndiaUnheard, took root.  The first step was to train a set of Community Producers—marginalized individuals who have the potential to make a difference through video journalism.  This group consists of a diverse assortment of Indian villagers including teachers, artists, diamond polishers, rickshaw drivers, and housewives.  Community Producers also represent many demographics including dalits, Muslims, tribal groups and Hindus.  Once trained, these Community Producers regularly produce footage and content that is aired on public media channels and online.

The work that VV supports in India has provided an authentic look into the real world of Indian society.  Issues discussed on IndiaUnheard videos include the caste system, education failures, gender inequalities, and identity conflicts.  Because lower classes in India have typically been excluded from the media’s focus and from national politics, VV has provided a crucial platform for the two-way conversation that needs to take place between India’s impoverished communities and its government.  Since its founding, IndiaUnheard has grown to include more than 200 Community Correspondents who live in 27 Indian states.

            Check out more of VV’s impressive statistics!  In the last year . . .

  • ·      More than 700 story ideas were pitched
  • ·      550 stories were produced (128 of which helped to solve the problem addressed)
  • ·      100 new Community Correspondents were trained, 67 of whom are women
  • ·      Some 50,000 people were directly impacted
  • ·      VV engaged with 125 different civil society groups

Follow Video Volunteers on Twitter at @videovolunteers.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF VIDEO VOLUNTEERS.

 

CLARA KERWIN

@clarakerwin

Clara is a Politics major at Princeton University focusing on international relations and global health.  She is originally from Ashland, Oregon but loves traveling whenever she can.  Clara is currently the FIND YOUR MISSION intern for MISSION.tv.