Postcards from the Past

It’s ten years since I finished my intrepid Gap-year travels, and the highlights of that heady year still live vividly with me. It was my great privilege to have the opportunity to travel and a job which both paid my way and allowed me extra time off to do so much. I took in 11 countries across 5 continents, encompassing mountains, rainforests, deserts, ancient cities and exotic temples. It was real Jules Verne stuff: Around the World in 80 Days. It was the first time I really gave rein to my wanderlust, and ever since I let it loose I’ve never been able to put it away again.

 

During my Gap-year in 2004-5 I sat down in a select handful of particularly special places and recorded my thoughts then and there in a notebook. I still have it today, full and battered. Looking back and reading these notes is like a window on those past experiences, more eloquent than any photo. Here I share them with you…

 

Huaynu Picchu, Peru

[2,720m Andean peak looming over the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu]

It is definitely worth recording these sentiments, because, for probably the only time in my life, I am 2,500m up in the Andes, overlooking Machu Picchu, on a day so clear as to be able to see the mountains for miles around. The 360-degree views are simply exquisite; magnificent; majestic; superlative. This is real inspiration; this is one of the finest sights on earth, and I am lucky enough to behold it. Now confirmed is what I always knew: that God our Father created the world and everything in it with a divine genius and skill. Wonderful is our Lord, thank you Father. (Sunday 12th December 2004, 2:12pm)

Machu Picchu with its forested Andean surrounds, is stunning from every angle: here seen from the nearby Sun-Gate, with the peak of Huaynu Picchu towering over the old Incan city to the right
Machu Picchu with its forested Andean surrounds, is stunning from every angle: here seen from the nearby Sun-Gate, with the peak of Huaynu Picchu towering over the old Incan city to the right

 

Zion National Park, UT, USA

Sitting here at the Middle Pool of Emerald in Zion National Park, I shall try and set down a few coherent sentences. The park was named so for being a utopia, and verily, it is not far off: beautiful beyond anything I have seen before, and on a tremendous scale. Red, orange and white mountains interspersed with giggling turquoise streams and echoing slot canyons, graced by high waterfalls, clear pools and luscious swards. Praise God for his beautiful wonders. Zion étyr kalim. (Sunday 30th January 2005, 11:30am)

The Virgin River flowing serenely between the soaring walls of Zion Canyon
The Virgin River flowing serenely between the soaring walls of Zion Canyon

 

Ad-Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

This is an amazing place – a huge temple carved into the rock-face of a high mountain peak in the middle of the Jordanian desert. Below is Petra, rose-red city of the ancient Nabataeans. The landscapes are incredible, the architecture fascinating; the whole experience wonderful. The climb was hard, but there were great views all the way up. There is an oriental smell wafting on the breeze, and camels trudging past – this is Jordan, stunning heart of Arabia. (Friday 18th February 2005, 12:11pm)

The remote Ad-Deir Monastery, nestled amid cliffs above the desert city of Petra
The remote Ad-Deir Monastery, nestled amid cliffs above the desert city of Petra

 

Mena House Oberoi, Pyramid Street, Giza, Egypt

I am sitting here this evening by God’s grace in the garden adjoin the pool of Egypt’s most fabulous hotel. I have only to look up to gaze at the timeless splendour of King Cheops’ Great Pyramid. The sun is setting in a horizon awash with the colours of Africa and my hands smell of the essences of several exotic flowers from a perfume museum in Cairo. Today I have taken a trip back thousands of years, glimpsing the secrets of hieroglyphic-covered walls within deep, royal tombs and seen arrayed under the desert sun the symmetrical pinnacles of human civilisation. But God is greater than the pyramids, and He shall outlast them. Thank you Father. (Wednesday 16th March 2005, 5:56pm)

A view of the pyramids from my stately hotel in Giza
A view of the pyramids from my stately hotel in Giza

 

Ol Tukai Lodge, Amboseli National Park, southern Kenya

I am sitting on the porch of my lodge, looking south to Tanzania, where boundless savannah plains are broken imperiously by the colossus of Kilimanjaro, on whose snows the last vestiges of light are still playing red. The sky behind is a serene vermillion, an owl hoots nearby, and cicadas keep up their endless chatter. I have just got back from our game drive, where we saw baboons, gazelles, wildebeests, lions, elephants and a hippopotamus, many birds and a good number of buffalo; but above them all was ever Africa’s crown and highest mountain, making me feel like I was in the Lost World, or an another planet. It is hard to accept that such an exotic contrast between golden, game-filled plains and soaring mountains could exist on Earth. Praise be to God, its undoubted Creator. (Thursday 19th April 2005, 6:44pm)

Still with a smattering of spring snow, Mount Kilimanjaro rears out of the Tanzanian plain like a colossus
Still with a smattering of spring snow, Mount Kilimanjaro rears out of the Tanzanian plain like a colossus

 

Orcha, India

It is a lovely night tonight. I have just been for a swim under the full-moon of midsummer, riding large and serene over central India. The river Betwa flows nearby, where sacred cows and bullocks bathe, and where the silent towers of Rajput cenotaphs dip their feet. Spices and the smell of The Orient waft on the warm breeze and cicadas hum. The sights of a Hindu worship session and the last sunset of the first half of 2005 I can still see in my mind’s eye as I gaze at the stars. The Lord is with me here, but much more than that, He is speaking to me as I asked. Always listen to Him. It is a beautiful night. (Tuesday 21st June 2005, 9:25pm)

The mysterious mausoleums of Orcha stand silhouetted against a sweltering Indian dusk by the banks of River Betwa
The mysterious mausoleums of Orcha stand silhouetted against a sweltering Indian dusk by the banks of River Betwa

 

Antalya Bay, Turkey

I’m at sea-level with the Mediterranean crashing around the rocks in front of me. The sun has just set behind the Taurus Mountains, which in the twilight look so faint and mysterious that they could almost be rising above the Grey Havens of Middle-Earth, or the Watchful Straights of Maristonia. The late summer air is warm and lazy, the smell of flowers in the cliffs is around me, and at last I’ve found a real moment of peace in Turkey. Travelling with Mum has been great, but I needed this time alone – thank you Father for providing it in such a wonderful place. (Saturday 10th September 2005, 7:12pm)

A Mediterranean dusk as the sun sets behind the Taurus Mts in Antalya Bay
A Mediterranean dusk as the sun sets behind the Taurus Mts in Antalya Bay

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