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Longing for lonely landscapes

Landscapes that stretch forever, are the antidote to stressful city dwelling.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2011 00:54 IST
Geetika Jain

Spending time in wilderness is increasingly becoming the antidote to stressful city living. World population has narrowly become more urban than rural. Experts are predicting that within the next fifty years or so, seventy-five percent of the world's people will be living in cities.

I remember walking in the valleys near Paro in Bhutan and flying low over the Himalayas in Nepal noticing peaked hills with singular dwellings on top and wondering why anyone would want to live up there alone, miles away from the voice and warmth of another person.

As mankind tumbles towards the magnetic fields of mega cities, wide open landscapes will become the all important escapes.The tall, red sand dunes of Namibia, the dramatic ice formations of Antarctica and the impenetrable forests of Borneo will replace New York, Sao Paolo and Tokyo as favoured destinations.

Some of my favourites
In Botswana, shifting tectonic plates created a spectacular landscape- Okawango, the world's largest inland delta. Dubbed “Land of Water, Sea of Land” this part of the Kalahari Desert is replete with rivulets of water. The Moremi Game Reserve is replete with rich wildlife that is attracted to the water.

The waterfalls, geysers, natural hot springs and black sand beaches of Iceland are trumped by its active volcanoes, moss-laden hills and calving glaciers. The desert in southern Tunisia mingles with the low, craggy Atlas Mountains where I was able to clamber up the hill slopes, drench myself in an oasis waterfall, hear the whistling wind in a gorge, take a nap on a sand dune and walk across a salt lake all in one day.

The sun’s first rays turned a dew-laden cobweb into a necklace of glittering diamonds as we drove through the ethereal forests of Kaziranga National park in Assam. I climbed a watchtower and looked through binoculars to see the plains teeming with wildlife. An enormous flock of banded geese bayed in unison. Hog deer, barasingha, a lone wild buffalo and forty-six rhinos grazed in what seemed like a morning in Eden.

A running stream frozen solid, the sharp edges of pine trees rounded by thick wads of snow. The forests of Switzerland are especially spectacular in the winter. There isn’t a whiff of anything, of earth or pine needle or rock. But the snow lets me feel. Its texture is heavenly; there is sound in the crunch underfoot.
The talcum textured beaches of the Caribbean islands are particularly enticing because of the “golden mean” temperatures throughout the year. Gently curling waters rock me asleep. Settling in a self-discovered cove or a palm-fringed smuggler’s nook is paradise. Perhaps the most other-worldly and visually compelling landscape I’ve experienced is around Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile. Here glaciers nestle in mountain valleys, lapis lazuli freshwater lakes sit next to turquoise glacial spillways.

Fact File
Kalahari Desert: It is a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in Southern Africa covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa.
Kaziranga National Park: This is a national park in Assam. A World Heritage Site, it hosts two-thirds of the world's one-horned rhinoceroses.
Torres del Paine National Park: It is a national park with mountains, a glacier, a lake, and river-rich areas in southern Chilean Patagonia.
Moremi Game Reserve: It is a National Park in Botswana. The BaSarwa or Bushmen that lived there were supposed to be allowed to stay in the reserve.