Room with a View

My Top 5 most memorable Human Planet camp sites

…Thanks to Iceland’s recent explosion in exports of Volcanic ash, I had to cancel my last Human Planet trip back to Mali, and since our filming schedule is now slowly beginning to wind up, I thought I’d plough through the picture archive and dig up some snaps of my favourite camping locations from the last year and a half’s travel.

So, here we go with my top 5 favourite lesser-known camping spots.

No. 5    Zanskar River, Jammu and Kashmir, India

A quiet spot by the river

During our foray up the Zanskar river a few months ago, my tent remained redundant for all but one of the nights spent out on the ice.   Before this point, the penultimate night of the trip, I had been staying in caves and mountain houses during my time in Zanskar.  This particular camping spot is well-known by the local Ladakhis who, lacking their own tents, still tend to sleep in one of the handful of caves that flank it on either side.  However, we arrived here late in the afternoon to discover that all the caves were already full, and being the large team that we were by that point, we opted for setting up our tents at this fantastic spot beside the frozen river.  One day’s walk from here is the beginning of the road back to Leh, so everyone was in great spirits and the weather was really mild… only -12°C at night which was actually quite warm compared to the temperatures further up the river.

Popping next door to borrow a cup of sugar

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No.4  Niger’s Sahara Desert, near Lake Chad

A bed under the stars

On our trip to Niger last year, we set up a small camp in the middle of a gathering of a thousand or so Wodaabe nomads.  They had all travelled there to attend a week-long Gerewol during which most of them slept very sporadically, in between lengthy bouts of dancing and singing.  Our camp was very simple.  One tent for kit, a small dome tent for each of the crew and a few mats and cushions on the floor for dining.  Since the weather is always fine at that time of the year, some of us slept outside under the stars as all of the Wodaabe did, which is the reason why this camp has remained so memorable.

Sunrise at our camp

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No.3 Dogon Country, Mali

Wot no camp?!

Our camp in Dogon Country was magnificent in as much as we got to wake up to this view every morning.  Dwarfed by the huge escarpment dotted with ancient dwellings above us, we were nestled in the trees just to the right of view in the picture above.  Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of our camp in Dogon country I’m afraid.  I do have a good reason though.  Before I’d had the inclination to document its serene setting, an incredible storm blew in and completely destroyed it.  By chance however, I had a time lapse camera set up and running as the storm blew in.  You can see what happened  here…

(Excuse the rather abrupt ending – I had to make a run for it!)

What you can see here is a 1000 ft wall of sand engulfing us.  The storm began out in the desert, the winds stirring up the sand and driving an ever enlarging dust cloud towards us.   It came in with such speed and force that the camera only managed to capture 28 frames before becoming completely engulfed by the sand cloud.  Inside the cloud it went completely dark for about 2 minutes before the huge deluge of torrential rain arrived.

The next morning, a crocodile was proudly swimming at the spot on which our camp formerly lay, by then 3 feet under water.

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No.2  Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Off the beaten track

In Ethiopia’s Simien mountains we were filming farmers who grow their crops on the incredible steep slopes you can see surrounding our camp above.  If working on a sheer cliff wasn’t enough, they also had to fend off the many packs of  devious resident Gelada Baboons, hell-bent on stealing their barley before they managed to harvest it.   It was a beautiful camp, even if we did need to keep one eye out for our mischievous neighbours.

Nice spot, shame about the grumpy neighbours

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No.1 Gobi Desert, Mongolia

The lengths some people will go to avoid a visit from the Jehovah's witnesses

When it comes to all round amazing camping spots, Mongolia has got it topped for me.  However, if I were to pick one, it would have to be this little gem from our recent trip to the Gobi Desert which resides at number one on my list of favourite campsites.   For our crew, the way in and out of this incredible location was via the valley you can see far off in the distance in the top right of the picture beyond the sand dunes, beneath the snow-capped peaks.  The problem with a topography like this of course, is that it is very hard to travel as the crow flies.  In fact, to arrive at this point, we actually had to drive about 2 hours to the left hand side along the dunes where there was a small thoroughfare navigable with a vehicle.   The dunes are continuously shifting and the way through wasn’t always in the same place, something that we discovered first hand when trying to rescue our cameraman Terry during a violent storm one day.

The best night's sleep I've ever had

For a more detailed look inside this Mongolian Human Planet camp click HERE

To see a video tour around a Human Planet camp on the Arctic sea ice click HERE

One Response to “Room with a View”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love seeing the photos of your camp. My next hiking trip will be this fall in October. Nest spring, I will be visiting friends in Senegal and am torn between going on to Ethiopis or Mali as i am fascinated by both countries and culture. Any suggestion???

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