Kari Herbert

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Welcome to my blog

 

Here are some of my thoughts, some published and unpublished articles and other (hopefully) interesting bits and pieces. Enjoy!

By Kari Herbert, Sep 15 2016 02:43PM

"The way I see it, the further north you go, the better it gets," the old timer tells us as we fill up with fuel at Grand Marais, an end-of-the-road town in northern Michigan, on the shore of Lake Superior. A brutal cold wind whips in off the lake, direct from the Canadian wilderness. Among the huddle of buildings is a small brewery and an outfitting store (We Welcome Hunters and Trappers). Further up, a clapboard house is, appropriately, called End of the Trail.

Copyright Kari Herbert: Kari and daughter Nell at Hurricane Bay
Copyright Kari Herbert: Kari and daughter Nell at Hurricane Bay

We have driven more than 1,000 miles to get here, to the very edge of the US. To give our two-year-old daughter, Nell, the experience of being in the wilds, my husband and I have brought her on a road trip through Michigan, to its remote Upper Peninsula, on a route rated one of North America's best for autumn colour. We are in effect circumnavigating Lake Michigan, with a few detours.


By Kari Herbert, Sep 15 2016 02:17PM

"Remember, this is an expedition, not a cruise," declares our leader Boris Wise.


Projected on the wall behind him are a series of maps of the maze of islands of the Canadian Far North. These aren't just any maps though; these are real-time satellite charts, specifically detailing the extent and density of sea ice in the area. For the past five days they have been the focus of intense scrutiny.

Copyright Kari Herbert: negotiating ice-choked waters
Copyright Kari Herbert: negotiating ice-choked waters

We are hoping to navigate, from east to west, the Northwest Passage – the sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans along the north coast of North America explored from the 15th century as a trading route with Asia. Once attempted only by experienced polar explorers, the journey is now being offered by small, select expedition cruise ships and a few modern mariners. This is a very special trip. Although I have been to the Arctic several times, I will be visiting areas I have never been to before.


By Kari Herbert, Sep 15 2016 01:11PM

They come silently out of the desert – a herd of camels padding across the sand, snaking in single file through the darkness. The first lifts its head, sniffing at the smoke of our bonfire and burning frankincense. Then, just as quietly as they had arrived, they all move off, until there is nothing but us, the endless dunes of the Empty Quarter and a glittering vault of stars.


Copyright Kari Herbert: Kari atop a dune in the Empty Quarter
Copyright Kari Herbert: Kari atop a dune in the Empty Quarter

I am into my seventh day of a "grand tour" of the sultanate – an ambitious 10-day adventure, careering the length of this remarkable country, taking in mountains, canyons, lush oases, beaches and desert, available as a new group tour with Wild Frontiers.


The journey begins in Muscat, the capital. From here we follow the Batinah coast west to Wadi Bani Awf and the al-Hajar mountains, the towering gateway to Oman's interior. A silent testimony to a time of geological chaos and immense volcanic activity, the range soars dramatically from a gravel plain. Climbing precipitous tracks, our 4x4s head into a wild rockscape of giant ophiolite rocks, limestone and splintering mudstone. We head towards Snake Canyon and the Wadi Nakhar gorge. Goats graze precariously on the rock face, feeding on clumps of acacia, wild olive, aloe and grasses. These isolated mountains and wadis – river beds – are also home to wolves, foxes, jerboas and gazelle.


After hours of nerve-racking driving, we reach the lofty canyon rim. Ahead of us is Jebel Shams – the mountain of the sun. At more than 3,000m above sea level, the peak is one of the highest on the eastern Arabian Peninsula. A vulture circles silently above the chasm. We teeter on the edge, gazing at this vast panorama known as Arabia's "grand canyon".


By Kari Herbert, Sep 15 2016 12:52PM

I recognised them as new arrivals by the look in their eyes. Frightened and wide-eyed, they absorbed everything with a kind of hunger. I had seen this look several times during my few months in Dharamsala. In the distance, the snow-capped Dhauladhar mountains rose out of the wide, verdant Kangra valley, the steep valley sides lined with rhododendron, pine and Himalayan oak. For these travellers from Tibet, pressed into an old bus labouring up the Himalayan foothills, this was the last step towards refuge.

Copyright Kari Herbert: A young monk, Dharamsala
Copyright Kari Herbert: A young monk, Dharamsala

The woman next to me had a baby strapped to her back. She was beautiful, her face open and smooth, her cheeks red from exposure. A rosary moved slowly and methodically in and out of her sleeve, each dark turquoise bead acting as an abacus for time and prayer. Suddenly exhausted, she leaned against my shoulder and gripped my knee for support, and eventually fell asleep against the seat in front.


As the bus lurched into McLeod Ganj, the family were overwhelmed with relief. The woman placed her hand on the grubby window as tears coursed down her face. She paid no attention to the Indian beggar children running alongside us with their matted hair and eager grins; her eyes were fixed on the scattered groups of Tibetans beyond. Once a popular summer retreat for British colonists working or living in Delhi, the hill station, otherwise known as Upper Dharamsala or "Little Lhasa", is now home to several thousand Tibetan exiles and their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.


By Kari Herbert, Sep 15 2016 12:32PM

The icy breeze burnt our faces and froze our breath, weighing down the delicate strands of our wolf-fur hoods with frosted beads and turning our nostril hairs into icy needles. I cried out with excitement as we shot over the ice and immediately felt the lining of my lungs freeze; I almost saw the sound of our laughter shattering into splinters in this frozen world.

Copyright Kari Herbert: Hunter and dogs heading towards Herbert Island
Copyright Kari Herbert: Hunter and dogs heading towards Herbert Island

My Inuit childhood friends and I clutched on to one another as we careered over the sea-ice. Beneath the hard cobalt-blue sky, my friend's team of 12 huskies fanned out on their 20ft-long traces, tails held proud and purple-pink tongues lolling to one side. It had taken me nearly 30 years to return to this tiny, isolated outpost of civilisation, but finally I was home.


My first memories are of Greenland and its people. I spent the first few years of my life living with the most northerly tribe of hunters in the world; my first words were in their language, and my first steps were taken on their frozen shores. Now I had returned to my childhood home, to discover how life had changed for my friends and "family", and to rediscover my connection with this raw and hostile place.


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