Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Christmas Lull.

The time between Christmas and New Year in the U.K. is a kind of wierd twilight time, where nothing much seems to happen. I have been at work, but judging by my empty train carriage, very few other people are. In fact ,most people in the U.K. seem to spend this time watching rubbish t.v. or films they have seen before , whilst arguing with overstaying relatives ,or bored kids.
There is also one other important tradition that must be mentioned. That is, the deriding and taking back of rubbish gifts. Maybe its my imagination , but do half the dogs in Manchester smell of cheap aftershave at the moment? What real purpose has Talc to mankind? Do the buyers of talc look at their relatives and think `she /he is a bit tubby , they might get chapped bits, better buy them some talc to sort it out?`
If in doubt ,go for a gift voucher I say. Here is an example why:
Yesterday, one of my friends phoned me to say that his wife was not talking to him because she had `0verreacted` to her Christmas gift.
"What did you buy her ?" I asked.
"A towel, you know, that one you and Damian suggested I get her when we were in the pub last week". H e said.

"Not the one that says `Arse ` on one side and `Face` on the other?" I said.
" Yeah. That one. I though she would find it funny .But she didn`t. Where are we going on New Years Eve , Adam?"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas in the Congo.

As well as stuffing our faces, Christmas is traditionally a time we think of others.I want to take this opportunity to tell you about Dr.Joe Harvey.
I first met Dr.Harvey in Impfondo ( Congo) whilst I was travelling to the Likoula swampland to look for the Mokele-Membe, the Congo dinosaur. He and the other American missionaries there were kind enough to put me and my team up while we waited for onwards transport. It was an incredibly dangerous place, right on the edge of a war zone. At night, the bright yellow glow of artillery flares lit up the sky.During the day, I saw combatants exchanging fire across the Umbangi river, only a few hundred yards from where we were staying.
Yet this did not deter Dr.Harvey.Whether you share his beliefs or not, I have no doubt in my mind that he was doing real good for the community.There were originally two foreign Doctors;but one had died of cerebral malaria. Undaunted, Dr.Harvey carried on.
Returning from the swamps a month or so later, I helped out at the hospital. At one stage a woman came in with a dreadful abcess in her stomach.I and another man comforted her, while Joe performed surgery. The other man helping out had been badly disfigured by Leprosy-giving the appearance that his face had collapsed on one side.As I looked outside at the ever expanding queue weaving its way around the little hospital, I realised that this man was all these people had.
That night I went to a bar on the other side of town.It has to be the roughest joint this side of Moss Icely !(Star Wars). As the evening wore on `soldiers`, turned up with their weapons, and after a few drinks ,began shooting them in the air!The following night ,I spent with Dr Harvey, his family and the other family there. We sang Xmas carols around a little silver tree they had brought from home.
As we sang `Silent Night` I could hear the Kalashnikov fire getting nearer, and nearer. Everytime I hear that Carol now, I always think of that moment,captured in my mind forever, of decent caring people stuggling against violence, horror and disease. Stood around a little tree singing songs while guns blazed around them ,risking their lives for others. Doing good.....
Have a fantastic Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Too Many People Spoil The Broth.

On wednesday night, I watched a programme presented by Sir David Attenborough(B.B.C.), which focused on the worlds booming poulation, ,and the huge enviromental impact it causes. I have to say that I agree with the premise of the film-there are simply too many people in the world, and there is going to be billions more before any predicted downturn. What to do about it?I do understand it is a sensitive subject, which encompasses emotional, theological and natural desires. However, it seems that a global effort to voluntarily control childbirth needs to happen.
I have been fortunate enough to have travelled the the world looking for unusual creatures and adventure.Some of these animals are very rare, some I have concludedare either extinct, or past the point of any viable sustainability( Mongolian Almas).
Turning to the Orang-Pendek, Debbie Martyr, Jeremey Holden and Sahar on my last expedition in September, have all described the intensity of emotion they felt on seeing it, seeing an ape that walked like a man, which caused such very tough people to burst into tears.
Yet there are serious pressures here.Let me give you an example. A farmer I know has 3 children.Each one will want land.His family and other Sumatrans are living longer than ever before. Where wil they get there land from, and where will their children get there`s from?
Only one place, otherwise they starve-and who is going to let their children starve?All they need to do you see, is cut down just a little bit more jungle, then just a little bit more jungle. Oh ,of course you have to shoot all the birds as well, because they will steal your seeds, and if any larger animals come to forage- well dinner is served..........
This is just an example of what is happening in one tiny corner of our world. It is a real example, I saw this happen just as I described it, over the last 1o years.
Whether you are with me on the existence of Yetis or not, I can gurantee that we will all be weeping for lost species within our lifetimes........

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Danger in the Himalayas.

On Friday, I recieved my copy of Monsterquests ` The Abominable Snowman` show, which I featured in. I really enjoyed it, it was tightly paced and well edited. Looking at myself being interviewed on the mountain, it reminded me of how dangerous it really was . On one particularly perilous traverse, the old adage `one slip and you are dead`, really did hold true- there was nothing but ice ,between you and certain death, thousands of feet below.
During the film ,the guides and I investigate some trails to discover whether they are Yeti prints or not.Whilst we made our roped ascent,I learnt that 3 people had died on the mountain relativley recently, near to the spot where we stood.Two from altitude sickness, and one from an avalanche. Indeed , at the spot where we were filming, there was an avalanche the very next day!!
Luckily, on our exhausted return to base camp, Mr.Yagihara, the lead mountaineering expert, passed round a fish sauasage, (fresh) from Japan, for us all to tuck into..................

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

King of the Kubu.

The Kubu, or to use their correct name, the Suku Anak Dalam, are tribal hunter gatherers who live in Northeren Sumatra.
Before I left for the island, I had worked with my friends and contacts to arrange a meeting with the King of their Tribes.I was eager to learn more about their traditions and customs,especially in relation to the Orang-Pendek. Dally and Sahar had spent a lot of time negotiating a meeting, and as a result, we were lucky enough to be granted an audience with the King, during our stay in the town of Bangko.
Many of the tribe still wear traditional loincloths whilst in the jungle, but for this meeting the King strode confidently towards me in Western Dress- a casual shirt ,trousers and pink flip flops......
On greeting me , he gave me a kiss, and not sure of the protocol, I kissed him back. It didn`t seem to cause any offence , because he smiled back at me!
The King was a remarkable man, and I found the stories he recounted of his customs and traditions ,fascinating.
Turning to the Orang-Pendek, he described how he and his son-in law had disturbed one while they were out hunting in the jungle. It had chased them and in their terror, the two of them had hidden from it under some rattan.The creature had scoured the area for a while, before reluctantly giving up its quarry.
At the end of the imterview,I asked the King to wish me luck on the quest ."No, I will not do that" He said, looking worried ,"I really don`t want you to find it, look what happened to me!"
I really enjoyed my conversation with the King. His stories about his culture and about the Orang -pendek, were hugely engaging.
On the way to Volcano bound Kerinci, I reflected on our meeting.Whatever the outcome of the next few weeks I thought, how many people can say they have been kissed by a King?