Well before dawn, hundreds of monks, old and young, queue at Ananda Temple during the Ananda Pagoda Festival in Bagan, Myanmar. Around the temple, thousands of pilgrims have congregated and set up camp. A hive of activity, including worshipping, cooking, and shopping for trinkets, surrounds the temple. Here, a Buddhist monk smokes a cigar.
I’d spent a couple of days at the Lake Turkana Festival in Kenya, and the days had been hot and humid. Our last night there, dusk had arrived, and with it a fall in temperatures, allowing me to join in with the tribal dances. Pictured are members of the Samburu tribe singing and dancing well into the evening. It was a great night out.
It had been a long journey travelling by car from Yangon to Hpa An. At our destination, having unpacked, we explored the immediate vicinity of Hpa An and found a great place just as the sun was setting. Children were playing in the river, and an occasional boat would pass, but it was quiet and peaceful. A great end to the day.
This lady was hard at work in a refuse dump out in the country, several miles from the nearest town. Some of the refuse had been set ablaze and, as I ventured further in, my throat and nose became the first casualties in the onslaught brought on by the thick acrid smoke. There were two benefits though; where there was an abundance of smoke, there was a scarcity of flies, and the rotting stink from the refuse was masked. You pick your poison.
The heat of the sun, coupled with the heat of the fires, did not help. The lady worked on, moving piles of refuse from one area to another, sorting out those that should be burnt, those that should be buried, and those that could be scavenged. This was a hell to me. But these people suffer and endure. She looked over to us, and smiled.
This young girl became curious and came over to us strangers at a site being prepared for the Karen New Year festivities in a rural village. The celebrations continued long into the night. This was a few miles from Hpa An, Myanmar (Burma). Photo taken in December 2014.
There we were, travelling along the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. A journey through mountain passes and dry valleys, along dried river-beds and empty places on lonely roads, with nothing more than dust-devils keeping us company. Low temperatures and the glare of the sun added to the harshness of the landscape.
However, it was a challenge that I enthusiastically seized in my quest to reach the fabled Minaret of Jam, a place that only a few travellers reach. But here, in the middle of nowhere, there was human activity; a rest-stop for truck drivers hauling their goods across the country, a place to stretch the legs and take shelter from the elements.
Although it was August, the place was cold, and I couldn’t imagine what this place would be like in winter. A hardy landscape creates a hardy people. This man tendered to our needs with chai and food, his face betraying the challenges of the environment.