Sunday, November 15, 2015

Crossing The Empty Quarter #1

The Rub Al Khali - the Empty Quarter. The largest sand desert in the world.
An Englishman born in Pil (home of my paternal grandparents - another story) became the first 'white man' to cross the Rub Al Khali from Salalah to Doha in 1930 -31. He was assisted by many camels and tribesmen throughout the 60 day journey. His name was Bertram Thomas.

85 years later, this journey will be recreated. My English friend Mark Evans has put together a small team of people - two Omanis, himself, and a handful of camels to walk the 1100-1200 kilometres following in Bertram Thomas's footsteps. In addition will be be two others, driving the two support vehicles, capturing the journey on movie and still photography, searching for archeological items, etc.

I am fortunate to be one of those two support people - and may become the first Kiwi to cross the Rub Al Khali. I depart NZ on the 15th November 2015. The actual journey will commence on the 10th December at Salalah - the same day Thomas started 85 years ago. I am due back home on 26th February 2016.

The expedition can be followed on
Bertram Thomas's map 1930-31 (the solid red line is the route we plan to follow)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bucket List.

We all have a bucket list - or at least we all should have. Those things to tick off before before we can no longer do so - mountains to climb, valleys to tramp, huts to visit, countries to explore, cities to investigate, galleries and museums to wander through - and friends to visit.
My list is long - very long. So long, I figured that I needed to live to 150 to complete the list. The trouble is, I keep adding to the list - faster than I can tick items off. A few years I drew a short straw and was diagnosed with prostate cancer, now treated and all behind me - but it did make me stop and think about that bucket list. Can I really complete it and do I really still want to do all that? I looked thoroughly at that bucket list and came to the conclusion that, allowing for slowing down (something I hate to admit is gradually happening) and a few other distractions, I could maybe complete that list by the time I'm 145 years old. I've cut 5 years off the original estimate!!

This all brings me back to the present. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to accept a place on a tour to China and Tibet with the New Zealand China Friendship Society. A photographic tour and I knew many of the other participants planning to go. The price was good so it was a no-brainer. I was going!
And so to attend to two items on my bucket list.
1. Since I was a teenager, I've wanted to see the Polata Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Tibet is a country that has always fascinated me - for its culture, religion, monasteries, altitude, people - and of course its mountains. It is a country that has gone through a huge amount of angst since the 1950s.
2. I've also wanted to see the panda bears. Ideally I would like to see them in their natural habitat but that is virtually impossible so I was happy to see them in a sanctuary.

Maybe later I will talk about the rest of the China/Tibet journey, but for now share with me these two ticked items on my bucket list. Both hopefully will be revisited with Chris at a later date - maybe enroute to other bucket list items.

Breakfast at the Great Panda Centre near Chengdu
Almost replete
Polata Palace at dusk - Lhasa, Tibet