So there I was, standing firmly on rugged ground, watching a world move around me, one familiar and exotic, both alien and near. Travels in Africa are born of a simple human desire to connect more deeply with the earth we inhabit. We all just want to see the Milky Way when we look up [...]
So maybe you've been wondering, dear reader, what happened to the enlightened man, the wide-eyed boy, the solo traveller on his seemingly-unstoppable global pilgrimage, the ambitious one, the spiritual one; what happened to the all those prolific words of wisdom, snippets of worldly knowledge, tales from faraway places and stories of inspiration?
My first diary entry of 2023 - the Land of Smiles - exploring the ancient and wild places of Thailand.
Egypt, like so many thousands before me, has captured a piece of my soul. I would travel here a hundred years if life gave me time. Gold, dust, shattered statues, pillars of light in shaded halls, ribbons of fading paint cling to grooves in chiselled walls; so remote, so close. Old colonial buildings slowly falling into ruin, bustling streets, cacophony of noise, cogs of human industry grinding against the ephemeral glitter of life.
Africa's First People. The Hadzabe tribe of East Africa. One of the oldest tribes in the world and perhaps the last authentic hunter-gatherer tribe on the planet.
What if you saw your life flash before your eyes? In a blink, every scene, every moment, winking by in a flip-book of memory. Would you be happy? What would you see?
"Now the long road of the pilgrimage meets the path of the nile... Canyons of orange and beige roll down into empty dells of rust and bone; dusted staircases and shattered statues licked with gold. Pillars of alabaster split the horizon and strange mountains rise like chiselled breasts, mocking the sky."
"...And now your eyes see it... layers of memory are ushered away to reveal kingdoms tasted in dreams long ago... Canyons of orange and beige roll down into empty dells of rust and bone; dusted staircases and shattered statues licked with gold. Pillars of alabaster split the horizon and strange mountains rise like chiselled breasts, mocking the sky. Kingfishers glide across braided ripples of copper and blue; crown of Ramses emblazoned by the fire of a sleepy star. Finally this land reaches out a hand to you, as time itself stops... a secret mark passed from the heavens kisses your brow. You have held all of this within your heart from the earliest days of boyhood. Even you had forgotten! This magical place. Land of kings, sand and stars. Your dreams upheld, an offering to the righteous sun; arms quivering. Swollen and full, you gasp. This is really happening. You are really here. The inner river finally reaches the outer shore; all tributaries aligned with the wide arms of the great valley..."
Deep, in the Bush, this kind of Africa still lives, where children run barefoot in the dust to the pounding of stone and millet, where the voices of ancestors still echo across the sunburnt hills, where the red sun hums like a glowing ember behind the billowing grey choke of campfires, blades are sharpened each morning to the tremble of the dawn chorus, arrowheads are delicately rolled in poisonous weeds by thick cracked hands, and grounded bark and pollens remain the cure-all for every disease and ailment. Here, fading gently with time, the cradle of mankind's legacy on earth waits, waits for hungry passengers of the cosmic drama to dine on its forgotten nectars and deliver its message to a world bereft of a spirit...
Life, is surely more than what we are lead to believe? A journey is only really a journey if you’re moving. Perhaps we are asleep now, and the real story has yet to be written… Or maybe we just need to take the reins and get writing.
It's a name so famous, so simple and evocative, its mere mention re-calling a plethora of timeless moments from that story, the Greatest Story ever told. Like Jerusalem this place to me was mythical, and surely didn't exist up to the present day. I've always been the kind of person to search beyond the myth, peer closer into the fabric of things... always searching, seemingly always finding.For a person who professes to value very few material things, I seem always to be acquiring, growing in the richness of life experiences, connections with people and places far and wide, and the deeper reality of being human.
"It was as if the people in this exotic and strange place were closer to the very fabric of life, the very fragility of existence. The folk I encountered were not so guarded by the thick veils and illusions that usually withhold us from embracing our reality. The air was lighter, less tense, more open. The focus was not on the pains of birth, but on the joy of infancy. Here, death was never far away; the perishable life wasn't so hidden..."
"...Once you live in love, once you embrace and go into the world open-armed, ready to give yourself to all people you encounter without judgement or fear, then loves comes to you, love finds you in all places. Love, always, finds the beloved."
Recent times have given me the chance to swim a little in that great wide pool of remembrance, and, especially, to move a little through my time in India ~ a strange, wonderful, and wholly mysterious land.
We must always be strong, we must always be faithful, we must always forgive, and love. For the One who we follow is not all the things of this world; He is One thing... He is love.