The spiritual heart of Bhutan

It’s only 80 miles from Wangdi to Trongsa, the geographical center of Bhutan, but the drive takes a solid five hours of hairpin turns up and down a narrow and improbably steep road. Trongsa Dzong, the largest fortress in Bhutan, is built on a spur overlooking a deep gorge of the Mangde River. From here, the view goes on forever, from the sky-high mountain range to the bottom of the gorge, a striking reminder of the dzong’s original strategic purpose.

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Eastward into the Myth

Wedged high in the eastern end of the Himalayas, Bhutan is one the most isolated countries in the word, and the last remaining Buddhist kingdom. Today we leave the capital, Thimphu, to start our journey eastward deep into the country’s heartland.

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In the Land of the Thunder Dragon

The flight into Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport, has to be one of the most spectacular in the world. We get an eye-level view of the Himalayas gleaming against a robin-egg blue sky, including Mounts Everest and Kanchenjunga and the sacred mountain of the Bhutanese Buddhists, Mount Jomulhari, before floating down into a layer of puffy clouds. When we emerge below the cloud cover, the plane is wending its way along a deep tree-lined valley dotted with farmhouses clinging to its slopes. I understand why only the handful of Druk Air pilots are certified to fly into this airport.

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Far off the cruising lanes of Alaska

I board the Island Spirit in Peterburg, a small fishing community of the Alexander Archiplago of Southern Alaska. We leave port on the evening tide, sailing up Frederick Sound at a leisurely 10 knots per hour. Within minutes, any hint of human encroachment disappears. All that’s left is pristine Alaska immensity. Distant snowy peaks sparkle in the clear dusk light.

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Cliff-dwelling through the ages

In Cappadocia, or “Land of Beautiful Horses” in the language of its Bronze Age Hittite settlers, history is hewn into the rock, by the elements and the various human waves that have inhabited it since pre-Hellenic times.

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Back to Byzantium

I land at Istanbul Atatürk Airport and immediately find immersed in the mystique of the millennia-old oriental city. Fortunately for visitors, successive dynasties of Byzantine kings, Roman caesars and Ottoman sultans conveniently settled themselves within and on top of their predecessors’ seat of power, in the Old City neighborhood of Sultanahmet.

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Farewell to Africa – for now

“Once the red dirt of Africa gets into your hiking boots, you will never get it out.” The place was Kuyenda, a tiny bush camp in the heart of Zambia’s remote South Luangwa National Park and the first stop on my first African safari. The year was 2006. The soft-spoken words came from a man who knew what he was talking about.

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The capital of the Alsacian Wine Road

La Route des Vins, the 170 kilometer itinerary that meanders north to south through the legendary Alsatian Vineyard abound with villages and towns filled with picture-perfect half-timbered facades and window-boxes of cascading red geraniums. Along the way, a proliferation of noted eateries dish out the succulent specialties for which Alsace is renowned.

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Into Botswana’s Kalahari Desert

The four-seater Cessna drones on for an hour over the flat, featureless terrain of the Kalahari desert. This is the Makgadikgaki, one of the largest saltpans in the world. Suddently the barren eternity is interrupted by an improbable line of fan palm trees. “Jack’s Camp,” my pilot volunteers as he begins his approach toward the oasis’ dusty landing strip.

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Postcard from Eden

I am working my way westward, following an itinerary commonly known as Tanzania’s Southern Circuit; great swaths of stunning wilderness spread across the southern part of the country. The largest of its national parks are located here, teaming with game. Yet, due to the lack of tourism infrastructure, it is a place that most of the three quarter of a million yearly visitors to Tanzania never see.

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Josette King

Josette King

I was barely in my teens when travel became a driving force in my life. Now as a travel writer and photographer, I have visited over 45 countries in some of the most photogenic corners of the planet, taking tens of thousands of pictures along the way. With my work, I thrive to capture the natural and cultural uniqueness of each area I visit. Get to know me better…

The International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association

 

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