Fire on the Mountain

November 1, 2018

Friday 13thJuly 2018

There is ‘fire on the mountain” this morning. Cloud shifts swiftly in long ribbon strips along the hills, white against the green, following the contours as it were, and a light rain intermittently scatters itself, sometimes so light the first awareness is the sound of the drops in the Alder, a fine pitter patter that barely registers on the ground, but after some time leaves you quite damp. We are up fairly early getting gear ready but despite even the best preparation and most comprehensive warning some are still not ready by 8.30 when everyone rushes out of the Lodge and charges up to the footbridge. We arrive there at 0836 just as Hollis arrives in his van, though we had booked him for 0900. Other trekkers or visitors (likely the latter) are waiting and expect to be given a lift but are to be disappointed when Hollis calls out “Are you the party of 19?” Read more

Fireweed Mountain

September 28, 2018

Thursday 12 July 2018


Around here the locals tell us they use the Fireweed flower as a weather barometer of sorts. The plant pushes up a single flower stalk which is preloaded with hot pink buds. These open from the bottom and over a period of time the initial blooms drop off and are replaced by new blooms opening further up the stem. So on and so on will the buds at the very top finally open. At that point, when the flowers have expired and the last ones transformed into ‘smoke’ filaments the first snow is due to arrive. There is no prospect of snow right now  since these flowers are only blooming halfway up the stem. However there is another metric at play. Fireweed Mountain, which looms high above us to the northwest of our lodgings and which forms the western buttress through which the Kennicott Glacier attempts to squeeze, is also a winter canary. Read more

Sexy Woman

July 21, 2016

IMG_0619Machu Picchu Diary

4 July 2016

Sacsayhuaman (something like “sarc-say-wha-mahn”) is an Inca site above Cusco which we visited today. The team is mostly in good shape altitude wise and managed the 200m lift in altitude to this modest hill above the city without any drama. However some are still feeling a tinge green. Hopefully another nights sleep, tomorrow’s descent into Mollepata, and the fact that we are camping at Cusco altitude later in the day should mean everyone gets another two nights of acclimatising. I am hoping that helps since we do need to get everyone over that Salkantay Pass the following day. Having said that, there is a Plan B for anyone who is forced back by the height – a bus trip back to Cusco, up the Sacred Valley and meeting us at Machu Picchu in five days time. (The Machu Picchu site is significantly lower than Cusco). Read more

OXFAM 2015

October 9, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.36.10 amThe tide silently pushes still water into the upper reaches of the seeping grey green gloom of this gully. Snatches of froth and the occasional bubble betrays the silent upstream flow of water beside me. The ground is damp so footfall is muffled. That of my colleagues metres ahead is non existent save for the occasional scuff of boot on rock. The sun has retired though it is not completely dark, but I figure in another twenty minutes we will need to retrieve and don our head torches.  Something trills above me, its call echoed in the bush, by others, on the other side of that sliding, clear water. One trill among a constant shower of bird calls and notes that are scattered down among us. Our escorting treecreepers and fly catchers sing out their last light lullabies. A single cracking call from a whip bird went unanswered and he sulked off and kept silent. Wrens scold and chitter among themselves high in the rocks on my left. Read more

The Devil’s Voice with an Angel’s Heart

July 6, 2014

mosque290 The dusk is electric this Holy day evening of Ramadan. To the south the horizon dances with light as a dry storm flashes its skirts with light but makes no noise. Two hours after the fast is broken and the air is full of voices. The voices of mullahs chanting the broadcasts. A legion of them filling the air above the city extolling the faithful and the unfaithful alike, to come to the path of enlightenment. God is, after all the only one god and Mohammed is his prophet. Over and over. Carried gently from the far horizon, soft and malleable, the sound of silver. Carried from and echoing off the nearby hills, clearer and more distinct, tinging in the air like crystal. Crackling from the speakers half a block away, hard as steel and as inviting as a witches bosom. Read more

The Genie of Fez goes shopping for Nutmeg

June 25, 2013

nutmeg 290There are those who follow the prophet Isa. They are fortunate to do so for he is a powerful prophet indeed, whose power lies even in his name. You think that is too simple a magic? Perhaps it is, perhaps it is. I like a good joke at least once every day, twice if I can. But this matter is no joke I’m afraid to say. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

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The Desolation of Singapore

June 25, 2013

singapore290I love Singapore. And loath it at the same time. The love is grounded in all that has been achieved here, the entrepreneurial spirit and all those reasons which every observer admires and on which more commentary has been made than can ever be read. The loathing is more personal I think. Read more

Daily Telegraph Interview – Flowers of Baghdad

October 2, 2012

Daily Telegraph ‘Flowers of Baghdad’ interview appeared 20 September 2012. Follow the White Rabbit below (!) to get the whole article.














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Last Leg (16)

August 6, 2012

I am sitting down by the river – our Gandaki dragon friend which is is not as violent as we saw it yesterday but it still snorts and roars and I stay clear of its bank. Everyone else is still in bed. The valley is dark and cool but the sun is dipping the tips of the peaks in light – though that just seems to accentuate the dimness and cool air down here. Steam rises off the hot springs in a serene drift, a complete contrast to the insane, boiling, continuously drumming river next to it. Read more

What Happens in Katmandu Stays in Kathmandu

June 24, 2012

It sure does. Which is why its so important to get up here. There is nothing back home that equates to the sort of experiences you can immerse yourself in here. Walk up the empty streets at 6am and meet folk getting their day underway. Read more

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