The Tenth Edition of our Printed Journal
The wind shrieks, its fury unmistakable. The rain pounds a tumultuous percussion on silk-thin fabric. Beyond, outside, just there, the world waits because sleep won’t come. For centuries, perhaps millennia, travellers have told stories to each other, as much to forget the storms that growled beyond their trembling shelters and the dark mouths of their dank caves, as to pass time in companionship. Whether faces are picked out by the flickering orange glow of a campfire, or by the harsh white strobe of a head torch, it is in art, and in stories in particular, that we find both truth and beauty.
‘What constitutes a great story?’ asks Krystle Wright in her foreword to this, our landmark tenth volume of Sidetracked. ‘I think of the times I’ve been engaged or, better yet, found myself completely engulfed by a mesmerising narrative. All of a sudden, time becomes irrelevant.’ Our aim has always been to make time drift away into Lethean waters, so captivated are you in the tales being woven around you. Yet good stories teach us something about the world we live in, inspire us to be better, to do more with our lives, to enrich the world around us with our words and deeds.
Chris Burkard takes us to Iceland, during one of the worst storms in a very long time, and learns that sometimes you have to seize opportunity and set aside fear, because when the natural world creates art of its own, nothing is more enchanting.
Cat Vinton returns to the Surin Islands, and her family among the Moken, fearing a world soon impoverished by the loss of another unique culture. Instead, she found hope in the form of a society adapting to its new life, and again beginning to thrive. Surviving, as they survived the 2004 tsunami, by embracing their heritage.
When the definitive history of 20th-century exploration is written, Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s legendary Transglobe Expedition will have a chapter of its own. The first, and probably the last, surface circumnavigation of planet Earth via both geographical poles was a triumph of planning, ingenuity and sheer endurance. Few stories weigh so heavily on history.
Mayan Smith-Gobat journeys for the second time to the the Zhangjiajie National Park and the Qingfeng Valley, experiencing a land of perpetual contrast; every day witnessing the brutality of human construction and the ruin of nature, but also to a near-mythical world of untouched rock and jungle; seeking to open the way for other climbers, to show local officials that a protective approach can also be beneficial.
Dan Milner cycles the LMT, a 470km-long marked hiking path that runs between Qbaiyat near Hezbollah-controlled north Lebanon, to Marjayoun in the south, near the Israeli border, gaining a new understanding of war’s inconvenient truth and how adventurers are pioneering bringing tourism back to war-torn countries.
Stories of climbing entrenched, inner walls inspire us too. Pride, pain, and exhaustion cause Anna McNuff to melt into tears during an attempt on the 6,000m summit of Volcán Uturuncu, Bolivia, but she battles on, fighting upwards from the depths of her fatigue. As Mina Guli, who once broke her back and was told she might never run again, now runs a marathon through thick, blood-red mud, she hangs onto one crucial issue, the world’s water crisis, using it as fuel for her muscles and resolve.
Stories inspire us, yes, but they, like art, remind us what we are capable of and warn us of mistakes we have made so we might avoid them in future. They build bridges and tumble walls. They transcend languages and cultures by sharing something that all peoples of the world can understand. They allow us to see, in the vivid imagery only the imagination can produce, the truth and beauty of the world which surrounds us.