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ETHIOPIA: Episode 8 - In Search of Wildlife

For the last part of our journey we headed to southern Ethiopia famed, at least in Ethiopia, for it's wildlife.  What we found though was the immense pressure that livestock agriculture was having on the environment.

But that didn't stop us from having the most unique safari experience ever.  Join us for the eighth and last film of our journey around Ethiopia.  Episode 8 - In Search of Wildlife

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 7 - Of Music And Angels

Lalibela, Ethiopia's Jerusalem, a town of faith unchanged for over a thousand years.  Episode 7 takes us into the realms of the rock hewn churches, carved out by the angels and at the centre of Ethiopia's Christian faith.  But first of all we start with stumbling into a music video at the honey market...

Check out Episode 7 of our adventures around Ethiopia.

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 6 - Salt

In the hottest place on Earth the Afar people toil throughout the scorching day to harvest thousands of kilograms of 'White Gold'.

The Afar have evolved specially to be able to withstand and work in this hot, arid landscape with little or no water.

Join us for Episode 6 of our journey around Ethiopia.

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 5 - The Hottest Place on Earth

The Danakil Depression is one of the hottest places on Earth and another incredible places we didn't even know existed before our travels around Ethiopia.  Join us to find out more in Episode 5 of our journey exploring Ethiopia:  Episode 5 - The Hottest Place on Earth

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 4 - Erta Ale

Ever found yourself on the edge of an active volcano?  We did in the far North Eastern corner of Ethiopia.  Join us for episode 4 of our travels around the fascinating country that is Ethiopia.  This is my scariest adventure to date and the most incredible thing I have ever seen!  Episode 4 - Erta Ale

 

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 3 - Buna

Ever had coffee roasted on an open fire, grounded and served right in front of you? We did, in a small village 3,000m up in the Simien mountains.  Captured beautifully in our latest film.

Check out Episode 3 of our adventure around Ethiopia:  Buna

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 2 - War

African history sits in our educational knowledge as a backwater; glossed over with some wars, a few genocides and little famine.  I class myself as well traveled and well read, however I was soon to learn that there is all of this and a lot more in Ethiopian recent history than I could have ever have thought of... and a lot of it happened in my lifetime.

This is our second episode in our epic journey around Ethiopia.  Enjoy!  Ethiopia: Episode 2 - War

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 1 - Of Mountains and Monkeys

It's been an absolute privilege to travel to some of the most incredible places on the planet.  One of these is definitely Ethiopia, a country that has always been there in the back of mind to want to visit.  This year I got the opportunity and I'm so excited to share our journey across this ancient land with you via our eight part film. 

Here is episode 1, taking us high up into the Simien mountains, an enchanted world Of Mountains and Monkeys:

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Blonde, Blonde Hair

Up in the Afar region of Ethiopia, close to the Eritrean border marks a region labelled as ‘the hottest place on Earth’.  The people that live here are mostly nomadic, some friendly, some less so to outsiders. 

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A Thousand Years of History

A thousand years ago, King Lalibela of Ethiopia, helped by angels carved twelve magnificent churches out of the ground beneath his feet in a single night.  He dug down into the ground and from solid rock carved each church before hollowing out the centre. That is how the legend goes, which our guide vehemently believed.  And despite their architectural wonder it is the belief of these churches, belief of Christianity amongst the Ethiopians that brings these buildings, some of the oldest in Africa, alive.

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A Special Lecture on Aeronautics (somewhere in the Zambian countryside)

**New short film online!**

In 2012 during another year's travelling I found myself in a small Zambian village with no electricity or running water. We were greeted with song and dance and countless smiling faces.

What could I do to give something back?

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The Fish River Canyon

In late 2012 as part of our travels through Southern Africa we sneaked onto the 90km Fish River Canyon hike in Namibia.

The hike took us through some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa.  Check out the film below.  It runs at 9mins 35secs.

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What did you do today?

Sorry for all the wait, but there will be a little more waiting as there is so much footage I need to get through.  But here's a little snippet of things to come...

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Volunteering in Africa

The basis of volunteer work is to do work that requires to be done for the benefit of society or the environment without any financial recompense. It is a socialist concept and one that isn’t tremendously popular in our predominantly capitalist society. Whilst living in north-eastern France for the last three and a half years, I discovered that the concept of volunteering is at the heart of their society. I too participated and was a member of a particular group that organised music festivals and cultural events in the local area. There was no financial reward and if you were to break it completely down we were typically out of pocket due to travel expenses and such. But the sense of achievement and fun we had typically made up for losing our weekends and evenings to long hard days of cooking food, pulling beer and being on our feet for 15 hours at a time. But this article isn’t about the wonders of volunteering in France but what we were astounded by when we went to Southern Africa this year. My girlfriend and I have just returned from a three-month trip in Southern Africa. We hitch-hiked from Namibia to Zimbabwe and continued through Zambia into Malawi. Our journey covered thousands of kilometres, meeting hundreds of people along the way. The cultures and languages within countries and across borders are fascinating and vary to a greater extent than those between neighbouring European states.

What we found in southern Africa was that ‘volunteering’ is a massive industry. But the definition of volunteering is different. What we discovered was that the premise of most ‘volunteer’ projects is that the locals are incapable of developing themselves because they are inherently incapable or culturally inept in making the necessary changes. This premise has to be true in order to justify, say, an eighteen year old, with no previous experience of development work nor knowledge of African culture or history to start telling communities what to do in teaching or health or construction or whatever projects he might be involved in. It is quite simply absurd to think that untrained westerners have a better idea of how people from a different continent, culture, lifestyle, climate should live their lives than they do, or what is best for them in terms of development. Even the experts are continually getting it wrong.

I have seen ‘volunteer’ projects advertised for teaching assistants, sport teachers, medical projects, helping to build a school/hospital or helping to look after animals. Expertise required to join these projects? None. The volunteer does not have to be an expert in his field. The teachers do not have to have any previous teaching experience, the medical helpers no medical or nursing experience and the one helping to look after animals, no zoo-keeping experience or zoology knowledge.

These projects are funded by the volunteer who makes a payment of between hundreds to thousands of pounds to attend a project of duration of typically two weeks to two months. I find that a simple way of determining who is the real beneficiary is by following the money. Whoever is paying is the ultimate beneficiary.

The volunteer benefits from learning about a new culture, experiencing a different lifestyle or close interaction with children or animals. In comparison, the communities that the volunteer has come to help in put up with the westerners with bemusement and with the infinite politeness that is common in these parts.

One day, we inadvertently overheard a conversation between a volunteer agency and leaders of the local community. The volunteer agency stated that they had X number of volunteers arriving soon who want to be involved in teaching sports. They asked the local community leaders whether they could accommodate this. It seems that the ‘need’ for volunteers has not come from the community but rather it is suggested to them from savvy volunteer tour agencies. The link between supply and demand has been lost somewhere in the world of business.

I believe it is important to think about what sort of volunteers are required for a particular need. Wouldn’t, for example, asking a group of professional teachers to lead a course to train local teachers who will stay in the community their whole lives be more beneficial for the long-term development of a school?

Nevertheless I must finish by saying that most of the volunteering programmes are not inherently bad. From my point of view they are tourism trips and should be labelled as such. They are rewarding to the participant and if managed properly the projects may benefit the local community. However they can be detrimental to development when communities stop doing things for themselves: We came across one village chief who mistook us for volunteers. After greeting us he declared that it is good that we are there and that he is relying on us to develop their country for them.

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