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March 5, 2008 | Katmandu

When we last left each other I was in the narrow canyon of Ouray, Colorado.  Ice climbers mad folk one and all that find happiness scaling daggers of frozen water temporarily suspended in space. Our tribe. We are bound by gravity, driven by the lure of adventure and inspired by the potential a new dawn brings.

Does this spirit of outdoor tribe transcend cultures and continents? As I drive down State Highway 550 to the Montrose regional airport I think about my friends and our passion for wild places. It makes our life complete. Like a secret handshake we greet each other, share the adventure and hold each other’s gaze a second longer knowing we are going back into the fray. “Be careful… be safe… hello to your family and see you soon.”

From Montrose I bump over the Rockies, a trip that just 100 years ago would have been a massive undertaking in the winter. And today? By the time I finish a tiny bag of pretzels we are landing. The flight connects to LAX, the western terminal for the Pacific Rim. Shuffling between waxed floors, pressured counter help and bored security staff I look for a bit of raw dirt. A vestige of wilderness. None to be found.

Once in the jet I’m airborne for 15 hours for a direct flight to Hong Kong. My connecting flight to Katmandu departs this evening and I have 8 hours to find something wild. A modern train whisks me from the airport past high rises that invoke images of the Emerald City from the Land of Oz. At first I think they are office towers – and then I see laundry drying 20 stories up. Do these people get outdoors? Is wilderness part of their life? Once in Kowloon I walk towards a small park. A group of men and women, who have put their youth, their backs into society and have been rewarded with time move in unison. They stretch their bodies and move their arms as if doing battle with slow moving thick air. I’m happy for these calm practitioners of Tai Chi. Their tribe is about them and they have a small bit of open space to relax in.

I find no wild in the concrete canyons of Hong Kong. Yet I find adventure. Walking down an alley, with no direction and no plot I am steered by what catches my attention. It is as if I am in a forest. Each bit of sensory input going through my mind. It has a primal feel to it. A small bun shop piques my sense of smell. My ears open to the sound of a conversation between two friends. Not knowing Cantonese I sense happiness between the two. When I see someone smile I too smile. The damp hot air escaping from a building vent makes me wonder how many people live in the building and what they all do.

From the side street I find the main road, ask a man the direction to the subway/train which will lead me back to the airport. Once through security I step back into the realm of hyber speed transport. My flight boards for Katmandu and i think of the wilderness I’m going to. I am happy.

– Conrad

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