Boys to Men

Mountains: Life in thin air

16 year old Kazakh eagle hunter, Berik

… Tonight’s episode of Human Planet will take you high up into the mountains as it serves up its weekly offering of incredible tales from around the globe.  Picking my favourite sequence from this episode has been extremely difficult since two of the stories really touched my heart.  Consequently, I present you both in this post.  In each one, the main characters are teenage boys, straddling that tricky transition from boy to manhood, something that I, like all men on our planet can easily relate to, no matter which culture or tradition we hail from.

12 year old Ethiopian mountain farmer, Dereje

Living on different continents, seven thousand kilometres apart, these two young men will never meet each other.  Someday soon, however, they will at least know of each other.  As I speak, a copy of the Human Planet book is winging its way to the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia, a journey that will take over a month before it reaches its destination.  Getting a copy to Dereje at his remote farm in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains is a much trickier proposition, and one that I must confess that I haven’t quite figured out yet, but if any of you adventurous types reading this are heading out that way in the not-too-distant future, then please do drop me a line if you think you could act as a courier… I have the GPS co ordinates of their farm, accessible only by foot, but well worth the journey I promise you.

Boy and nature

Both Dereje (pronounced Dare-a-jay) and Berik have extremely close relationships with magnificent animals.

Six months before I first met Berik, a film crew had already shot him climbing down a cliff face in search of the eagle chick that was to become the majestic bird that now graces the front cover of the Human Planet book.  In stark contrast, Dereje’s relationship with the incredibly formidable Gelada Baboon is somewhat less of a mutually beneficial affair.

Gelada Baboons.. the bane of Dereje’s existence

As the family’s crops nears harvesting, it rests upon the shoulders of Dereje and his younger sister Maaza to defend their fields from the feisty crop-raiding baboons, a duty that regularly requires them to sleep in caves away from home in order to stop these early rising primates before they strike.

Seeing off the unwelcome visitors

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Here is a quick mixed-up selection of my favourite Images from these two very different adventures…

Mongolia: Silau, Berik’s father with his own beautiful eagle

Ethiopia: On our way to Dereje’s village we stumbled across a Christening Ceremony

Ethiopia: Dereje and his sisters herd the family’s cattle to a sleeping cave at sunset

Mongolia: Riding through the Altai Mountains looking for foxes

Ethiopia: Easter celebrations in the Simien Mountains

Ethiopia: Dereje’s family is forced to grow their crops on incredibly steep slopes

Mongolia: Berik’s eagle’s first hunt

Ethiopia: The kids warm themselves around a fire during a night at a cave

Mongolia: Epic eagle hunter is epic!  Silau flies his bird

Mongolia: Epic eagle hunter is epic! Silau flies his bird

Mongolia: Berik’s friend who also hunts with eagles

Ethiopia: Dereje slingshots a troupe of baboons

Ethiopia: One of the many houses at which we stopped for tea on the walk to Dereje’s

Mongolia: Berik pets his eagle Balapan

Ethiopia: Maaza, Berik’s sister at her lookout post

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Thank you and much respect to the two young men who inspired these fantastic stories.  May you live long and prosperous lives!

Berik

Dereje

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Want to see more stories from Mongolia?  Click HERE

More stories from Ethiopia?  Click HERE

Click HERE to see a clip of Berik hunting with his eagle

Click HERE to see a clip of Dereje defending his crops from Gelada monkeys TASEARCHMONGOLIA TASEARCHETHIOPIA

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Still reading?  Join in the discussion on my Facebook page.

14 Responses to “Boys to Men”

  1. justen says:

    hi tim,

    are you using color correction in some of your photos?or just simply the skill of 5d mark 2?tnx

  2. […] vignettes: in some places, economic opportunity is very hard to come by. Sometimes it just takes a few pretty pictures, and some baboons to help that medicine go […]

  3. Nick Riley says:

    Hi Tim, am going to the Simiens in a few months time. If you still need the book taking to Dereje, shoot me an email and I’ll see what I can do!

  4. anon says:

    Very beautiful pictures

  5. Sam Bevan says:

    Hi Tim,

    I would love to know where you get your story ideas from to shoot? I guess the Human Planet researchers found most of the stories for the series but as a photojournalist you obviously must have to find stories to shoot yourself – where do you hear about such interesting stories?

    Sam

    • Timothy says:

      Hi Sam,

      On Human Planet, the stories were researched by a dedicated BBC team as you have guessed… in this day and age, finding a good story takes most of the effort… however, if you walk the road less traveled you are certainly increasing the possibility of finding something that no one has reported on before.
      Before I started on Human Planet, I had spent 6 months in India’s North East States (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_India) looking for interesting stories, one of which (the living root bridges story in the ‘Rivers’ episode) made it into the final programme. I heard of that place initially by word of mouth but no one was traveling there because of the (mostly unfounded) rumours of conflict in those NE States. It’s important to read between the lines and avoid the rumour mongering when you decide on which locations to travel to. The most interesting places are often the ones people advise you not to go to in my experience.

  6. Drew Morgan says:

    Every episode I watch, and every blog from you I am more impressed by this entire production. Easily the best piece of programming the BBC have made in a while! I love the first shot of Berik, just fantastic!

  7. Andrew Newey says:

    Tim,

    I am planning to visit Ethiopia very soon and hope to get to the Simien Mountains. I will happily visit Dereje and family to pass on the book. After watch last night episode it looks an amazing place!

    Also if you fancy some company the nest time you visit Ladakh then it would be good to do the trip together sometime in the near future – what do you think?

    Andrew

    • Timothy says:

      Great! Let me know when you are leaving and I’ll have one sent over. They live about a day’s walk from one of the camping spots that is accessible by jeep. I can get the exact details from our fixer out there. I forget the name of their village, or even if it had a name at all, but if you actually want to overnight near the family you will need to take everything with you on foot (food and tents)… but the spot is beautiful… see here for a pic…

      http://timothyallen.blogs.bbcearth.com/2009/02/24/ethiopia-the-joys-of-camping/

      Send me an email with your dates.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Salman S. Qadeer, Jorge Delgado. Jorge Delgado said: Boys to Men: http://t.co/6sDt1Zd […]

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