Sleep­ing with the stars

Action Asia - - COMMENT -

IN 1956, IN THE HINDU KUSH MOUN­TAINS OF AFGHANISTAN, a party led by ex­plorer Wil­fred Th­e­siger met travel au­thor Eric Newby. Agree­ing to camp to­gether, he watched Newby and com­pan­ion Hugh Car­less blow up air-mat­tresses rather than bed­ding down on the ground as he was do­ing. “God, you must be a cou­ple of pan­sies,” he com­mented. Fel­low ex­plorer Bene­dict Arnold, the sub­ject of this is­sue’s Q&A, re­called this fa­mous tale in an es­say in the book, Wil­fred Th­e­siger in Africa. Read­ing this, and about Arnold’s crocodile scars and all-in, im­mer­sive ap­proach to travel, you can’t help but feel he would be on Th­e­siger’s side. Most of us are not made of such stern stuff. Also, to­day’s air-mat­tresses are a frac­tion of the weight and bulk of those of 1956 – check out the re­mark­able new Therm-a-rest in our Win­ter Great Gear Guide, for in­stance. Still, they’d prob­a­bly have had to make one in tweed to have ap­pealed to the likes of Th­e­siger. As for in­spir­ing places to try out an air mat­tress, or any new trekking gear, you could do much worse than the oth­er­worldly spots pro­filed in our fea­tures on Dolpo and Bromo. The for­mer is Nepal’s long-touted next fron­tier of trekking tourism. Still of­ten in­ac­ces­si­ble, it re­tains much of the air it had when an­other leg­endary name in travel, Peter Matthies­son, ven­tured there in the 1970s. Bromo, a vast caldera in East Java, is a per­sonal favourite, a place I have criss­crossed dur­ing the course of four trips over the years. To me it’s right up there on my life-list of great­est nat­u­ral sights, along­side Ever­est Base Camp, Grand Canyon and Foz do Iguacu. Dolpo and Bromo have a rare and raw beauty. But they are also spir­i­tual out­posts, havens for ex­pres­sions of re­li­gion that have been only strength­ened by their geo­graph­i­cal and tem­po­ral iso­la­tion. I think Th­e­siger would have ap­pre­ci­ated both. En­joy the is­sue,

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