Thursday, November 16, 2017

You can now virtually ‘hike’ all of South Africa’s National Parks

Technology and adventure collide in a new initiative that showcases South Africa’s natural, historical and cultural marvels in perfectly digitized form.

Over 200 South African outdoor enthusiasts have pulled together to help make South Africa’s 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves and six UNESCO World Heritage Sites available to virtually explore via Google Street View.

The impressive collection of 360-degree imagery—which includes the likes of Mapungubwe Hill and the Drakensberg Mountains—was gathered with the help of Google’s Trekker camera (affectionately known as ‘Gary’) which is available to loan as part of Google’s Street View Camera Loan program.

Thanks to the ‘South Africa in 360’ project, eager Street-Viewers may also digitally access a range of South Africa’s culturally and historically significant sites, such as the spot where Nelson Mandela was captured. Over the course of 12 months, some 170 new trails and 232 points of interest were recorded, and 560 miles were hiked. Viewers may also virtually hike the five-day Otter Trail, walk with elephants and track cheetah on foot.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dromomania: Is travel addiction a legitimate medical condition?

Is our overwhelming desire to travel a real psychological condition or a side effect of tech-driven narcissism? We trace the origins of clinical wanderlust back to 19th-century France.

In the summer of 1886, Jean-Albert Dadas, a gas fitter from Bordeaux, woke up in a local hospital, diabolically exhausted.

Though he had almost no memory of it, Dadas—a dead ringer for the French valet Passepartout from Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days—had returned from what was, in anyone’s book, an epic journey.

During the four years’ prior, Dadas went AWOL from the French army; wandered through Prague on foot; was attacked savagely by a dog near Berlin; was arrested in Moscow for resembling a member of a nihilist movement responsible for the assassination of a czar; and subsequently sent to do time in Constantinople before being sent home by French consulate officials.

And for Dadas, it wasn’t even the first time this kind of thing had happened.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How a Greek village stopped this legendary travel writer in his tracks

Life had been a grand adventure for Patrick Leigh Fermor, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated travel writers. But what was it about this remote Greek peninsula that made him stop traveling?

In the early 1930s, an 18-year-old British aristocrat left the conveniences of a comfortable life to journey from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul—on foot and horseback, by train and automobile.

He captured the sights, smells and sounds of a Europe the Nazis were casting to oblivion. And when World War II engulfed the continent, this daredevil didn’t just watch Hitler torture it from the sidelines; he enlisted in the British army, landed on the Greek island of Crete as an anti-Nazi secret agent, and disguised himself as a shepherd under the name Kyr (Mr) Michalis to help locals kidnap a German general. This episode even inspired a Hollywood movie, Ill Met By Moonlight (renamed Night Ambush).

This restless romantic was Patrick Leigh Fermor. Described by one journalist as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene,” he is, for many—myself included—the 20th century’s most distinct travel writing voice. And the place he eventually called home until his death in 2011 is even more special for it.

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Between two continents: Snorkeling in Iceland

What’s it like to snorkel between two tectonic plates in ice-cold Icelandic waters? One writer squeezes into a dry suit—and finds a whole new (in-between) world.

At the water’s edge, the humiliation of being helped into a dry suit for what seems like hours suddenly feels like a worthwhile trade-off.

This is no ordinary snorkeling experience of flitting fish and swaying coral in warm, tropical seas. It is a plunge into the gap between two continents—a gap that happens to be awkwardly close to the Arctic Circle.

This is the Silfra fissure. Formed by the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates slowly ripping apart, it cuts through the ├×ingvellir World Heritage Site, a spectacularly bleak expanse of tuftily-mossed lava fields with stark mountains jutting up on the horizon and bone-rattling North Atlantic winds gusting through. It’s where Iceland’s first parliament—and the world’s oldest—first met in the 10th century; the national flag flies proudly beneath the intimidating rock wall.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

My first war: The diary of a conflict reporter

In search of purpose and a change of pace, freelance journalist Campbell MacDiarmid was drawn to conflict reporting. One year on, he recounts his time in Mosul, Iraq; his first war.

It all starts out like a grand adventure.

It’s the 17th of October 2016. D-Day. I am in a column of vehicles descending in a cloud of dust down from the hills onto the Ninewa Plains. We are in the front of an attack by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who’ve been sent to liberate a series of Islamic State-held villages on the edge of Mosul.

Mosul. I’ve spent nights on sand-bagged hilltop positions gazing down at its twinkling lights. Marveling that over a million people down there are going about their business, all under Islamic State control. They’ve held the city, Iraq’s second largest, since June 2014. Since then, the jihadist group has shocked, appalled, and titillated a global audience by their draconian rule—and their relish for sophisticated snuff films.

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