Mystical Nepal – A Trekker Haven

Day 11 Tilicho Lake 031

From my window seat, I looked out at the glacier melt streaming down from the Himalayas, running through Nepal’s natural colour palette: crystal-bluish ice and sparkling white snow on grey rock, descending into the brown, dusty land and vibrant green jungles on the border of India.

If you’re lucky your plane will circle above the Kathmandu Valley a second time before landing. Mine did, and it allowed me to absorb the landscape, but also to try and identify Mount Everest among the endlessly sprawling and majestic Himalayan summits.

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The Mountain People of Nepal: Culture in the Annapurna Circuit (Annapurna, Nepal)

Day 16 Muktinath to Kagbeni 016

Being completely absorbed in a majestic, large-scale natural environments for days on end can render man-made divides as petty in the grader picture. One gets this sense from travelling through the Annapurna region of the Nepalese Himalayas. The inspiring landscape of the Himalayas is well-documented, but what requires closer investigation is the diversity and multi-culturalism present among the towns scattered through the mountains and along the rivers. Continue reading

Spirtuality in Siberia: Shamanism on Lake Baikal (Olkhon, Russia)

“For Buryats Lake Baikal is a sacred and holy place. Historically, Baikal has given people food, fish, water, and there are many legends about Baikal,” says Masha Bambuyeva, a Buryat native of the north Baikal town of Severobaikalsk in Siberia, Russia.

Marc Olkhon (32)

While travelling in Siberia and reporting on the area surrounding the world’s deepest, oldest, and most voluminous fresh water lake in the world, I have heard as many tales of Baikal myths as I have witnessed breathtaking landscapes.

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Hunt for the Elusive Whale Shark (Ko Lanta, Thailand)

Divers travel to Thailand for some of the best diving in the world on both coasts of the country. The Andaman Sea has one of the most coveted reefs with a world top 5 in Hin Daeng and Hin Muang off of Ko Lanta. The most beginner friendly diving in the world is in the Gulf of Thailand where the island of Ko Tao certifies more divers than anywhere else.  Diving wise, what both sides have in common despite different ecosystems, is the opportunity to swim with the elusive, friendly, and very curious giant, the Whale Shark.


whale shark length

There aren’t any reefs that guarantee a Whale Shark sighting, and there are some dive masters that I met in Ko Tao, that despite diving every day, have yet to spot one. That said there is always excitement that grows on the diving boats that this dive might be the lucky one. In that case, abandon the dive game plan, and just hang around the Whale Shark being sure to give it space, especially around its tail.

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Live the Present (Thailand)

So it took me ten years but I made it. Actually, the way I say it is that I finally made it. Others, won’t agree. Old vets will say I’m too late. “You should have seen Thailand in the 70’s.”

Ko Lanta 072

Yeah, right, and I should have been in San Francisco in the late 60’s. That didn’t stop me from loving Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Love Parade simultaneously back in 2010.

Travelling the world used to be a big deal. Like a real, huge life changing event.

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A Swampy Paradise: Volunteering with Siberia’s Great Baikal Trail (Frolikha, Russia)

“I wanted to do something for Baikal, for infrastructure, for ecology, and this was a chance,” says Irkutsk native and local entrepreneur, Sergei Redkin, as he explains his reasons for volunteering with the Great Baikal Trail (GBT).

Frolikha Marc (35)

GBT is an organization whose name may seem evident at first glance. It is a trail-building establishment near Lake Baikal in Russia’s Siberia. In addition to trail building and maintenance of pre-existing paths, the group also promotes ecological education in the region.

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Propagating Kurdish Nationalist Influence (Sanliurfa, Turkey)

The perfect symmetry of the yellow stoned arches mirrored in Balikligöl pond only lasts a second. It is broken by the chaotic splashing of a few holy fish crowd surfing over the thousands more with mouths babbling ready for the feeding frenzy. They’re here because of a legend dating back millennia.

Sitting in the shade of a large tree outside the Cave of Ibrahim, I watch my hot çay tea sweat in the agonizing heat that is summer in Şanlıurfa. Reflecting on the historic significance of what I just witnessed is feverishly difficult. This is the cave where Abraham, the very same Abraham from the Old Testament, was born.

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A Frightful Night with House Red (Melnik, Bulgaria)

The rain has been pouring down all day and with increasing fury as daylight faded behind the night’s heavy clouds. Yet I sit outside, braving the storm on a humid terrace under a dry umbrella. The night is roaring thunder – its rolling downhill from a stone street, bouncing off the exposed rocks.  It frightens with sharp intensity. It grumbles like a hungry stomach with a strong metabolism. And it is expected but shouts long after patient prediction permits. It is close. The lightning was less than five seconds ago. The electricity skipped a beat in-between. Strike. Lightning. Pop. Complete darkness. Crackle. Electric light flickers. Boom! Thunder.

I said I was braving the weather: did I mention the half liter of local Melnik red wine keeping me composed?

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