Afghanistan, Civil War - The Less Travelled Road
The flotsam and jetsam from the battle for Kabul - men and women, young and old - waited for the chance to cross into a new life. Sweltering in the midday sun, some clung to bundles or rough bags, but most were empty-handed as they waited, staring through the rusted barbed wire and barricades. On the other side of the border, thirty Pakistani policemen formed ranks behind the gates that closed the road to the multitude and the long line of vehicles stretching back into Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, Kabul - After Dark
After dark, the streets of Kabul are deserted, left only to packs of wild dogs and the occasional tank which scatters them yapping into the night as it rumbles to a new position. Those people who still have homes to go to stay indoors, but they are hardly safe. Above the roof tops heavy machine-gun tracer, glowing red and blue scream down from the central hills into the south-west of the city. Every few minutes the popping of small arms and the heavy clump of artillery shatter the stillness.
Alaska, USA - Cold War
Experiencing a 'three dog night' during the Iditarod is not, as most might imagine, tuning in to the aging rock band. In the world's toughest ultra-marathon for sled dogs it is a suvival term for how many dogs it takes to retain your bodily warmth and survive the night. In this case; one on your legs, one on your stomach and one on your head. As mushers begin the Iditarod with upwards of fifteen dogs, you start to get an idea of what the interior of Alaska can throw up in the depths of winter.
Alaska, USA - Mad Dogs
In central Alaska no one really notices the temperature until Celsius and Fahrenheit meet - that's 40 degrees below zero. According to the 'old sourdoughs' (gold prospectors 'sour' on Alaska with no 'dough' to get out) it's not really cold until it's minus 75 or thereabouts. Then they say, "you can spit and make it bounce" or, if you prefer, "piss and lean on it". From there it just gets downright ridiculous when the added wind chill from a polar storm can plunge temperatures to an unimaginable 130 degrees below. This is the realm of mad dogs and mad dogs alone, any Englishmen having long since had the good sense to make themselves scarce.
There is a grand ballroom in the Bay of Bengal, a marvellous expanse of ornate, inlaid tiles and stone that once brought pleasure, entertainment and a little of England to a distant outpost of the British Raj. Today, the mirror finish and the parties of officers and their wives who glided across it, are almost a hundred years gone. The tiles, cracked and bleached under the tropical sun, barely indicate the grand proportions through the leaf litter and palm fronds. Hidden and unused, it lies on a low island, now overgrown and unremarkable against a backdrop of crystal sea and distant jungled shore.
Arhnem Land, Australia - Hot Persuit
A solitary street light illuminates the impacted red earth of a dance space beside Bulman's main road. On the edge of darkness men and boys are transformed by the insistent clicking of music‑sticks and the echoing hum of a didgeridoo into emu, kangaroo, cockatoo and crocodile. As they step into the light, each change of pitch in the didg brings to life a different animal of the Arnhem Land bush. The dance is but a small part of a five-day circumcision ceremony, almost all of which can only be witnessed by male tribal elders. But for our small group of international mountain cyclists and foreign press this glimpse of traditional Arnhem Land is all we can wish for.
Canada - Bearing Up
In the barren cells of the Churchill 'cooler', twenty three repeat offenders wait out their sentences on nothing but water in temperatures as freezing as the windswept tundra outside. Juveniles all, they'd been caught disturbing the peace, trying to break into houses on the outskirts of town, rifling the local dump and generally running a muck. For their trouble these new kids on the block, the latest in a long line of unruly malcontents that annually disrupted the town, had received thirty days detention in the heavily reinforced quonset hut specially converted to withstand their excesses.
Ethiopia - Catherine of Addis
For days Adina's son had lain dead inside her. In labour, his head had pushed forward every five minutes, but her small fourteen-year-old pelvis had obstructed his passage. Her sister, Tinadem, had been with her from the beginning but there was nothing she or anyone could do. Adina was giving birth in a remote village in the deserts of Ethiopia's Tigray province many days walk from even a basic clinic - a caesarean was impossible.
Georgia - Heli Ski
Fabled as the land where Jason and his Argonauts battled for the Golden Fleece, Georgia is impossibly rich in culture and history with a church, monastery or cathedral crowning almost every hilltop - some dating from the 4th Century. In the fertile valleys, vintners tend fields and make wine by a method unchanged over 8,000 years. While in the southern deserts near the Turkish boarder, hillsides support the catacombs of ancient cave cities.
Iran Jaya, Indonesia - Still are Still Warriors
A great cathedral of enormous trees held up vast sections of jungle canopy, opening out the jungle for fifty metres at a time. Then an impassable mass of tangled vines, prehistoric ferns and palms would block our advance like a bombed-out ruin, as they greedily reached for the sky through an opening left by one of the fallen giants. What at first had seemed impenetrable was now simply endless as we followed our Busman guide along the twists and turns of an invisible trail fifty metres below the green ceiling.
Kamchatka, Russia - East of Eden
The creeping red colour change that would mark their rotting death had not yet begun and they were still virile and powerful after returning from the Northern Pacific to the Sea of Okhotsk. A lifetime had prepared them to now unerringly find the narrow mouth of the Palana River that had spilled them to the oceans seven years before. Now all that remained was to run the final gauntlet of watercourse that would take them deep into the heart of Kamchatka to their long remembered spawning pool.
Kashmir, India - Skiing Under the Gun
As our plane touched down, the bunkers of the Indian Air Force fighters were hard to miss. On the way into town roadblocks, thick with heavy-calibre machine guns, dominate all the major intersections. For years the Srinagar Valley in Kashmir has been a militarised zone, both the India troops and the Pakistan sponsored Kashmiri secessionists gaining little in the on-going guerrilla war.
Khartoum, Sudan – Mutton chops & post horses
Khartoum had always held a romantic fascination for me. From the journals of nineteenth century explorers, soldiers and adventurers, I'd envisaged its vivid history unfolding on the wide thoroughfares lined with Neem trees and the grand buildings of the British. The bustling river traffic at the confluence of Blue and White Nile and rich aromas of frankincense, wood smoke and cooking spice drawing me into vibrant overflowing markets ‑ journey's end for the great camel caravans of North Africa.
Manchuria, China - Harbin Ice Festival
Potholes of ice crunched under the worn tires of our battered taxi as we bumped through the back streets of Harbin, Manchuria's largest city. Under a winter sky, the sprawl was grey and stolid and reflected my mood - I was at the end of my tether. We had come to ski the remote fields of northern China, but instead of being knee-deep in powder, we were experiencing the second day of what was to be the most annoying aspect of our travels in China.
Moscow, Russia - A flight to Remember
Moscow's southern domestic airport is carved out of a pine forest at the edge of the urban sprawl, a convenient two-hour drive from Red Square - four if it's snowing. Because of an unannounced blizzard, I had been lucky enough to miss seeing the sprawl. While the few feet of pine forest I could see, a blur on either side of the taxi, gave me some assurance that we were still on the road and making progress.
Mustang, Nepal - Kingdom in the Clouds
Our Gore-tex armour was effective only as a flimsy shield against the full force of the storm that tore through the enormous gorge. With each blast, the winds blinding cargo of grit and sand found its way deeper into the cracks and seals of our jackets to mix with the sweat of our bodies.
Namibia - Guardians of the Game
In the 1830's wanderlust and the notion of a fertile 'promised land' in the North impelled the 'Vor Trekkers' (migrating Boers) to set out from South Africa across the deserts of Namibia in search of their dreams. Like the luckless mariners shipwrecked on the barren reaches of its Skeleton Coast the last of these much romanticised settlers perished in a world as alien as any on earth. Though what was terrifying desolation to the white man had been a bastion for the indigenous Africans who for millennia had lived in isolated harmony with their savage land.
Namibia - The Gods Are Still Crazy
Does the name //au/hana mean anything to you? Pronounced with the tonal clicks of the Kalahari Bushmen, //au/hana is the star of the 1981 movie ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’, in which a coke bottle fell from the skies and changed Bushman life forever. In reality, Namibia’s 1600 Bushmen have all but disappeared in the face of industrialisation; a fate shared by the Kalahari as a whole. DAVID ADAMS met //au/hana in his village and talks to conservationists about the tenuous future of ‘Real People’ and their wilderness.
Pakistan - Arabian Voyager
David Adams sails by Arab dhow from the forbidden coast of Baluchistan to Arabia and discovers that Dubai and the Arab Emirates offer much more than duty free shopping ‑ behind the hustle and bustle the romance and adventure of Arabia still remains.
Russia - Baikal Betrayal
Russian designed and built, my kayak had materialized out of an oversized duffel bag as a bundle of aluminium poles, wire cables, green canvas and fastenings. Lying on the rusting deck of its mother ship, the Farbater, it had looked more like the makings of an archaic tent from my youth than those of a vessel in which to explore the greatest lake on earth. As the craft had begun to take shape in the hands of my guide, Sergei Palamarchuck, I'd apprehensively eyed the perished rubber patches on the hull as he'd stretched it over the frame.
Snowy Mountains, Australia - Riding High
Charged with gold, the early morning light poured over his coat of blazing satin. Muscles, primed and expectant, cast deep shadows, defining powerful limbs of ebony, not a breath of wind disturbed the fall of perfect mane, nor the mist, forming at his alert nostrils in the crisp mountain air. He stood watching us, an unchallenged outlaw, a black Pegasus with no want of wings - the legendary Snowy Mountain Brumby.
Solomon Islands - Gizo's Ghosts
Happily spluttering and chugging, the prehistoric outboard clung to the stern of our wooden dug-out like some half drowned mechanical rodent. Its salt incrusted workings exposed to the slate gray sky, the little engine valiantly propelled us over each mountainous wave towards the threatening clouds, fat and cold with rain. In the distance the black / green mass of Simbo - the "Magical Island of the Solomon" - appeared and disappeared in the swell, ghost-like in the curtains of rain.
St Petersburg, Russia - Venice of the North
On the wide expanse of Dvortsovaya Plonchard two thousand naval cadets from St Petersburg's Admiralty stand in ragged formation awaiting their officers and the beginning of their passing-out parade. Caps pushed back on their heads, they lean nonchalantly on their rifles and chatter, seemingly unaffected by the grandeur of their surroundings. Behind them looms the Winter Palace, an enormous sweep of imperial light blue, brilliant white and gold leaf that completely overwhelms the crowds of onlookers packed beneath its ornate mass.
Sudan - Bashir & Barrel Bombs
Above and just beyond reach in the clarity of desert night, countless stars and endless clusters lay in brilliant suspension. Then dawn began to erase the night sky and the north wind, constant and cold slipped over the dune's knife-edge and found me huddled in its lea. My blanket, useless against its penetrating chill, served only to partially filter its cargo of biting sand that still worked its way into my ears and eyes and crunched uncomfortably between my teeth. Abandoning sleep I wrapped the blanket tighter and set off across the expanse of untracked dunes towards the distant rocky escarpment.
Sudan - M.D.
As the conflict in the Sudan intensifies and the number now facing starvation climbs beyond 500,000, the dilemmas confronting front line medical and refugee aid organisations become more and more difficult. Sudan is a case in point for a wider reexamination of the impartial nature of humanitarian aid.
Udaipur, India - A Hindu 'I Do'
Garlands of red, yellow and orange marigolds falling from their shoulders, the Bride and Groom rode side by side holding hands, serene in the happy madness of their wedding parade as their friends followed behind, celebrating the eve of their marriage in Rajastan.
Vanuatu - Islands of Fire and Magic
Only a few hours by boat or a few minutes by air from Port Vila the adventurous traveller can experience a world almost completely unchanged from its primitive past. Where volcano gods rule the earth and the ancient magic of island ritual impels island warriors to dive from great towers in the sky. David Adams explores the adventure of travel on Ambrym and Pentecost Islands in Vanuatu ‑ the Islands of Fire and Magic.
Zanzibar - Isle of Conquest and Romance
Vibrant triangles of wind-taut canvas catching the last rays of the setting sun, the trading dhows slide down from the north, forming white highlights against the emerald of distant jungled shore. Then the huge lateen sails collapse into billowing clouds at the end of the homeward run and spill down over the struggling crews onto weather-worn decks. These huge trading vessels dwarf the fragile fishing outriggers at the breakwater, as their momentum carries them in to join the dozens of other dhows that clog the harbour.