Lost in Venezuela

One G&T and two Tamazapam later and I arrived in Venezuela feeling shaken and poured over ice. I met the usual Gryphon crew at the airport in Caracas and it was all bro-hugs and excited banter, exchanging stores and catching up before we piled into a tiny egg-beater of a plane bound for the small Pemon Indian village of Kavac.

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I stared out through my small plane window as the tangled concrete city peeled off the landscape, a hot sticker from the windscreen of a car. Less and less urban residue clung to the surface until there was nothing left, but rainforest.

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Clouds hugged the torso of Auyan tepui, its temporary clothing – more a ceremonious gown than for practicality. It was stunning.

That there, is ‘House of the Devil’, Said Juan Carlos, our guide. His voice belted powerfully over the roar of the Cessna props.

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     It wasn’t the only time over the ten-day trip that I just sat and stared at Auyan tepui. The way it constantly changed was charismatic. It loomed in morning light, and danced with the clouds in the afternoon. I watched it disappear entirely in a storm. Water erupted from its crevasses afterwards, fierce and stunning in its housekeeping.Rain

Home for the next ten days was nothing more than a handful of round mud brick huts and a dirt runway that separated the village from the Venezuelan Savannah like a seam. It stitched the village to the foothills of the tepui. I looked at the five guys standing there on the dirt runway of a small Indian village in the jungle of Venezuela. ‘For the next 10 days, these guys are my life.’ I thought to myself.

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Our first few days in the forest were spectacular. We set the premise for the show; shot the opening sequences, abseiled the face of a waterfall with the host, and swam a flooding gorge to another hidden mountain waterfall.

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The rainforest was our playground, and I found myself embellishing in it. I felt the tranquility that comes with the exclusivity of somewhere so remote. I lost myself in the adventure of it all.

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But on day five, it started to rain.

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Poor light ended the day, and home was an hour away in the back of a rusted out Range Rover with a shattered windscreen and no brakes. We bumped along in a muddy semicircle around the edge of the tray, cameras dormant in our laps. Immature banter and white knuckles kept me from nodding off and falling out of the tray.

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We could all see the storm building efficiently over the Savannah beside us. Alex, our Pemon Indian guide started to chatter to himself as he began to unfold a large black sheet of plastic that I knew was only for us because of our gear.

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The tepui, though still a few miles away, loomed above us in what only seemed like amusement, its skirt of clouds bubbled with excitement at the thrill of the chase unfolding below.

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The temperature dropped and the wind flexed. The storm marched into the side of us with authority, careless of our insignificance. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear sat wrapped in a black sheet of plastic in the tray at our feet. My teeth chattered as water found its way into places that hadn’t seen water for a few days. Todd (our director) looked over and a smile cracked in the corner of his mouth. With the water and his scruffy drenched hair whipping against his Amazonian sun-kissed face, he looked wild and alive.

http://youtu.be/4PsrADht2W8 (See Video)

     ‘I might take a photo of this and send it to anyone that wants to get into wildlife documentaries.’ He boomed, the crack in his mouth shattering into a hearty laugh.

His eyes sparked, the discomfort and power of the wilderness – a flint striking his eyes, and I knew he intrinsically loved every second of it. They all did; I scanned their faces, Niall our host, Andy our key grip, Pete the sound recordist, and Juan-Carlos our guide all had the same structure of light in their eyes.

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They wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world, and being a part of such a talented and disheveled party in the middle of a tropical storm is not disorientation or friendship I take for granted.crew

Photo Credits and many thanks: Andy Dittrich + Juan Carlos

Biggest and Baddest show teaser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t50JXg7w96o

Lost in Niseko

Lost and Found:

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For me, Niseko is Neverland. It’s a place where age doesn’t define you and merit is granted for how hard and fast you like to play. Everyone is chasing their own line, their own adventure. The further you venture the more you are rewarded. It snows hard, it challenges, and every morning it has stamped a polaroid into my mind, a snapshot of untracked snow. In the split second between trees I’d process it, plan four turns and charge – never forgetting what it looked like before I thrashed it into the air behind me.

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Every time I make the trip I thumb through a carbon copy of emotions. In the weeks prior I start to check the forecast, anxious; excited – it’s always snowing. The night before I go – beyond excited; no sleep. I arrive and Sapporo airport is a shrine of Burton or Dakine bags. The bus from Sapporo to Niseko (NB: sit on the same side as the driver) makes me physically sick with anticipation. It’s a slow uncapping of a heavily shaken bottle of lemonade. There is always so much snow on the ground, and although the drive is beautiful, its 2.5 hours of torture. It reminds me of travelling to the Australian snow-fields by bus as a high school student, no one sleeps, ipods are in, cards are flicked – but no one sleeps!

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And then it pops, you drive the front entrance of Hirafu village and sugar is pouring from the sky. Homeowners are shoveling meters of snow from their rooftops. A skier bombs the main street in a hurry to jam some food in before an afternoon session.

Taking the first gondola trip has your face pinned to the glass, where can I hit, what’s left for the afternoon? You spit out, strap in, jump a gate to the backcountry first run and you plow into pockets of waist deep untracked snow at 2pm on a wintery January afternoon. You can’t see much because it’s snowing so hard, but you make three turns and hit a gap in the trees, turning around to watch the snow you’ve hacked float around in the breeze, waving you on as you do it all again, and again, and again.

It’s peaceful, it’s freedom.

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The snow is the main reason I find myself retracing back to Japan so often, but the world around the snow is intricate and unique. I barely scratch the cultural surface every time I go, but if I have any advice it’s talk to the locals. Eat where they eat, and ride where they ride. I’ve never met a more giving and considerate race, and they will do everything and anything to help you if you ask.

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If I learned anything else this trip it’s; 1) Take yen to Niseko – issues with cards and currency conversion (nowhere takes Mastercard or converts Canadian dollars.) 2) If you’re serious about dodging the crowds and riding untracked pow, stay at Annupuri – If you want to party as well, Hirafu is your bag. (I stayed at Bistare Kana and it was outstanding) 3) It’s going to snow hard – so take the appropriate gear, or hire longer boards/skis over there.

Sydney:Home

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Familiarity is what makes disorientation so exciting.  Exploring other lifestyles is what builds an appreciation for what’s yours. It’s only in coming home this time that I’ve really started to  notice this.

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Home is comfort. It’s an ease or a calmness in how you move about town, where you eat, who you see and what you talk about. It’s a list of people and places with memories attached to them, rather than a fascination with something new.sun

The trip home from Europe was just that – a trip. I said goodbye to one film crew, and walked straight into another. I think it’s better to keep the move, shoot, move groove going rather than stopping for a few days *(even though I don’t know what day it is, and tend to fall asleep at the strangest of times).

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With five days shooting at home before I jet again I’m on my tour de’ favourites – favourite people, places, food and coffee! It’s about getting the hometown fill, enjoying the things you miss when you’re away. Walking through the street this morning on one of Sydney’s finest spring mornings I couldn’t help but be grateful for the place I have to come back to, the place that’s mine; It’s always waiting for me to get home.

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It will always be familiar.

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Lost in Bilbao

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I’m tempted to not write anything about Bilbao; I can’t do it justice. For the first time in a long time I’ve felt lost lost. No one in Bilbao speaks English, and no one cares for it. Prague felt foreign, but Bilbao is rural. It has that small town glue that binds the locals together.dog-spring
Nursing one of the sorest heads I’ve ever had, I crawled out of bed with vague recollections of my first night in Bilbao. I remember pinchos, oversized gins, cobbled streets packed full of eating and drinking Spaniards, dancing with a blow up elmo doll, and a disjointed georgraphy conversation with two helpful foreign students on a bridge.Let’s just say itwas Bilbao 1 Lostboys 0 when I went to bed.stairs

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Avoiding the main city I just walked up. Bilbao is a bowl, with the center of town at the bottom. It was mid-afternoon, and I walked slowly, with no intention of stopping. I twisted and turned on mesmerizing backstreets for a while. Hundreds of people stood in the street and ate, so I did the same. I stood and ate a prosciutto roll in the Saturday afternoon sun, it was better than any KFC remedy I’ve had. It was like a saline drip.

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With a newfound exuberance I left the bottom of the basin and climbed a set of stairs off a side street. Old town Bilbao transformed into suburban Bilbao and the people stared at me and my camera. A drugged up teen chased me through a park, chanting Spanish at me and pointing to my camera. ‘Amigo…. Something… Amigo, amigo.’ I ran – no brainer. *The bag of smack and dark glasses were a dead giveaway. (NB: Pretty quick on the old pins, so no real danger) By the time my heart rate returned to a respectable pace I was lost, so I kept walking. But I couldn’t stop. Every time I decided I’d had enough and I’d take on one more block, I’d round a corner and the camera would be back in my face. It was an ancient looking church balanced dangerously on a cliff’s edge or an old stone archway, or a scampering set of stairs that drove the cogs in my legs to keep walking. By the time I finally gave in the light was gone, and I just let myself trickle down the side streets and back into the city.

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My time in Bilbao is definitely the highlight of my trip. The food is to die for, the people I met are already close friends, and the city is intoxicating. It sucks you in, and traps you in small, stunning pools of activity, but then changes and traps you again before you’re even aware you’d moved.

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It’s definitely the most fun place to get lost with a camera, and should be noted in remedial books as a great hangover cure.

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Lost in Chicago

It’s the heightening of the senses that makes travel exciting for me. It’s the constant analysis of the world I’m used to vs. the world I’m immersed in. In short, I take notice instead of cruising on autopilot.

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That as it is, I think every traveler is searching for that ‘unique’ experience that affirms their adventure is different to anyone else’s. It’s the same feeling you get when you hear your favourite lead singer tell you that your town rocked way harder than any other on tour.

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I’ve heard people say, ‘A city is a city, seen one seen em’ all.’ But some cities have a soul, or an anxiety,or a pulse.  I’ve spent the last few days in Chicago, with the prospect of a day off today. There has been an anxious hype pulsing through the crew ever since we arrived. It’s the 4pm sunlight reflecting off mirrored glass buildings, raking through black fire escape stairs. It’s the sound of trains roaring overhead on twisted rusting metal arches, transporting people to somewhere that I’m anxious to be missing out on seeing.  The city is intoxicating, it draws you in, and strums at your excitement  every time you discover another one of its secrets.

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Even now writing this in the hotel, I have a nervous pang that I’m missing something somewhere outside that I couldn’t experience anywhere else in the world. So I’ll leave it at that!

instagram: @the_lostboys

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