Geographic Assignments:

Afghanistan: Kabul, Kandahar, and Bagram. 

Australia: Sydney, Cairns, Mareeba, Atherton, Gordonvale, Undara, Chillagoe, Mt. Bartle Frere, and Queensland Outback.

Egypt: Saqqare, Giza, Red Sea, The Nile River, Cairo, Valley of Kings, Hatshepsut, Abu Simbel, Armant, Aswan, Luxor, White Desert, Thebes, Safaga, Marsa al Alam, Karnak, Al Harrah and Baharia Oasis 

Fiji: Suva and Koro Island

France: Paris, Le Mans, Nice, Cannes, Toulon, Marseille, Toulouse, Montpellier and Corsica 

Greece: Athens, Thessalonique and Island of Patmos. 

Israel: Jerusalem, Golan Heights, Ramallah, Bethany, Jericho, Temple Mount, Nazareth, Gethsemane, Kasr el Yahud, Allenby Bridge, Caphernaum, Sepphoris, West Wall Tunnels and Judea. 

Italy: Rome, Naples, Florence, Solerno and Island of Ischia.

Jordan, Mount Nebo, Tell Mar Elias, Mukawer and Amman Citadel. 

Morocco: Quarzazate, Sahara Desert, Oued Amsailikh, Tagounite and Atlas Mountains. 

Mexico: Chihuahua, Sierra Madre Occidental and Barrancas Del Cobre

New Zealand: North Island, South Island, Southern Alps, Mt. Cockayne, Lake Catherine, Lake Coleridge, Black Hill, Glenfalloch, Potts River. Mt. Peel, Forest Creek and Lake Tekapo.

Russia: Moscow, Murmansk, Severmorsk and Barrents Sea Artic Circle. 

Scotland: Edinburgh, Inverness, Orkney Islands, St. Andrews Highlands.

Turkey: Istanbul, Van, Doğubayazıt, Tabriz, and Erzurum.

Excerpt from Cue The Camels, Chapter Eight, Dog Biscuit and Noah’s Ark 

We waited another half an hour after the Turkish patrol had disappeared out of sight before we hauled ass off the apron of Mt. Ararat and on to flat ground. My knees were shot and my feet were thrashed. We crossed numerous gullies, sliding down their drops then trudging back up their inclines, which rapidly depleted our Mt.Ararat-On plainremaining energy reserves. 

Stumbling forward, my boots scraped against the rolling rocks as I repeatedly stabbed with the ski poles for an opening between the rocks to right myself. The flare must have burned out because it became dark again. I faltered a number of times but kept an eye on my fellow climbers Cronuck and Stublich and watched them move at a steady pace towards the faint yellow and white lights of Doğubayazıt on the horizon – which I affectionately call Dog Biscuit

My feet felt warm and soggy which was a sure sign of blood. 

Mt.Ararat-2nd paragraph-BlogIt was at this point – stemming from many things, such as dehydration and sheer exhaustion – that I fell into mild delirium and David Byrnes of Talking Heads became my chaperones. 

‘And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may ask yourself: well, how did I get here?’

‘You know, David, you’re holding me hostage with that broken record. I mean, I can appreciate your words but after a while it gets a little old. Know what I mean?’

I didn’t get a straight answer from David; instead, he gave me his advice. ‘The sound of gunfire, off in the distance, I’m getting used to it now…’

                 At that moment, a second flare burst in the night sky. It was a couple of seconds later that we heard the low boom of the flare gun, which meant there was a good distance between us and the Turkish military. I made it to the edge of the stone field; Cornuke and Stublich stopped long enough to ask me if I was okay. My lips were cracked, my tongue was swollen and all my saliva had evaporated. I could only answer with a nod and a whisper: ‘I’m okay.’

Ahead, I could hear Dick slapping the iridium satellite phone repeatedly, trying to get enough charge out of the dead battery to make a call to Micah, our Kurdish fixer, so that he could meet us at the predetermined rendezvous point.

George grumbled. ‘This is fucking stupid. Let’s go to the main highway and catch a ride to town.’

Mt. Ararat  3rd Paragraph Sepia-BlogDick stopped smacking the sat-phone and directed all his attention towards George. ‘Shut the fuck up, George. The Turkish military use that road all the time. What do you think they’ll assume if they come across us on that highway with all our gear?’

George didn’t listen and relentlessly argued his point as the sound of the dogs’ howls grew louder. There was a gunshot in the distance followed by the hiss of another parachute flare. That was all the motivation we needed; the five of us turned and hauled ourselves across the plain. David followed nearby. ‘We make a pretty good team. Don’t get exhausted; I’ll do some driving. You ought to get some sleep.’Mt.Ararat-003-Blog copy

‘You know, David, it must be Mercury in retrograde with all the hurdles we’ve had to clear,’ I muttered.

There was no response.

We’d been tramping about in the darkness for hours and we were spent, physically and emotionally. We walked on autopilot, using the light of Dog Biscuit as our beacon.

‘You know, David, I could’ve stayed in L.A. picking up work shooting a mindless sitcom and watching a celebrity with two soft, protruding organs give us the local weather report. I could have, but I wouldn’t have had this wonderful field trip to remember. Know what I mean?’

David paused then caught up with me. ‘You may ask yourself: well, how did I get here? You may ask yourself: where does that highway lead to? You may ask yourself: am I right; am I wrong? You may say to yourself: my God, what have I done?’

In mountaineering, there is a phenomenon known as ‘Summit Fever’ in which the heightened anticipation of summiting out weighs all reasoning. It is a step into the Twilight Zone where one’s critical faculties take a leave of absence and reckless decision making begins. The boiling frog story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to perceive significant changes that occur gradually –  the premise is that if a frog is placed  in cold water that is slowly heated, the animal will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

In Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air,  he describes climbers so intoxicated by the drive to get to the summit that the common sense of survival gets discarded even when exhaustion, dehydration and  bad weather becomes overwhelmingly evident – not to mention the absence of  fellow climbers who have met their death.  

Summit fever is not only limited to the tallest peaks in the world but can be found anywhere the human spirit is challenged- including the Sahara Desert. 

It has been called the toughest footrace on earth, The Marathon des Sables. Competitors have described the event as running on the surface of the sun. The  race is  held each year in Morocco over six-days covering  254 km which is the equivalent to six regular  marathons. Competitors must carry all personal belongings and food for the entire event in their backpacks. Water, tents and medical support are supplied by the race organizers. During the 1994 race,  Carabinieri (Italian police officer) Mauro Properi lost his way during a sand storm. Not wishing to endure a long drawn out death of dehydration, Mauro attempted to commit suicide in an abandoned mosque by cutting his wrists. The attempt failed – lack of water had caused Mauro’s blood to congeal the wound before the blood could escape his emaciated body. Nine days later he was found by a nomadic family and taken to an Algerian military camp. Mauro was nearly 200 miles off route.

Whether in the mountains, oceans or deserts for many adventurers the ultimate goal is to finish – at any cost. 

” I think that if you see me crawling I might be in trouble, but until then I think I’m okay.” Triathlete Felicia Wilkerson, competitor # 378, Marathon des Sables.

 

 

 

 

Unknown-1“I wanted to witness things that very few people in the world get to experience and to test myself, to discover what I could endure seeing, what kinds of craziness I could survive and still be able to record images and pass them on.It was a lifestyle choice as opposed to a profession or thinking of it as work.” – Jason P. Howe

Back in the day, went I would return from the Middle East or Afghanistan I was often asked by friends, ” Dave, are you some kind of adrenaline junkie?”
I would reply, “No, but the importance of documenting history is why I take the risk.” Photojournalist James Nachtwey who put in terms that you (society) can best understand the importance of conflict photography, “The free flow of information represented by journalism, specifically visual journalism, can bring into focus both the benefits and the cost of political policies. It can give credit to sound decision-making, adding momentum to success. In the face of poor political judgment or political inaction, it becomes a kind of intervention, assessing the damage and asking us to reassess our behavior. It puts a human face on issues which from afar can appear abstract or ideological or monumental in their global impact. What happens at ground level, far from the halls of power, happens to ordinary citizens one by one.” This documentary which represents the virtue of risk for many men and women who sole motive is to record history so that society won’t repeat it.

I slid my right boot then my left boot into the hole leading to the tomb’s tunnel. There was the soft, muffed sound of my pants sliding against the rough stone as my feet fell into the tomb. My knees passed and my thighs followed – which was as far as I got. I was stuck between two worlds. My companions started laughing before cheering me on. “Push! Push, Dave”. There was a scraping noise as my 34 waist and belt buckle tried to shimmy. I’ve been told in the past, during romantic endeavors, that I have ‘a booty like a black man’ – something I’ve always thought of as an attractive asset, but which, in this instance, was a real liability. ‘I think I’m too big, guys,’ I told my audience, ‘I’m wedged in!’ as giggles grew louder and escaped from the darkness of the tomb. I too began to chuckle, which was uncomfortable considering the added pressure of stone against my waist.

When I returned to the States and the Tonight Show, I shared my big ass adventure with one of the comedy writers for the show, Larry Jacobson. We both had a good chuckle when Larry added. “You know Dave, if you were Kim Kardashian you’d still be stuck in that tomb.

 Dave-and-John-ScotlandMaybe, just maybe the deja vu that I experienced was stamped on my DNA from the lineage of my ancient past. In all my travels, I have never felt more at home then I did while in Scotland. The mystic heather-clad hills of green, the quality of air and light and the faces of Highlanders that looked all to familiar. Perhaps this lineage explains why I took up bagpipe lessons several years ago or when the song Amazing Grace is played on pipes my chest swells with emotions as I try to fight back the tears – which we men try so hard to hide.
On this trip, I learned that my family name (Banks) was first recorded in the 17th century on the Orkney Islands which lies off the northern tip of Scotland. It is where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet and has the fearful reputation as a haven for witches and warlocks. Which may explain when I reached puberty I had a huge crush on Yvonne De Carlo as Lily in the TV show The Munster’s or  Carolyn Jones as Morticia in the Addams Family. Blonde witches just don’t do  it for me, so the attraction must be something in my recorded DNA.                                           Tuir 1
Witches WebFor a week, home was a 200-year-old Scottish Manor Tigh an Tuir in the village of Strathtay
which sits in the heart to Highland Perthshire. On the last evening of my stay in Scotland, I gave myself permission to wear the kilt now that I had Geno connection to Scotland. To the surprise of family and friends my new friend John and I made a grand entrance with a lone piper playing Scotland the Brave. In spite of feeling somewhat awkward in Dave's kneesa kilt bearing my knobby knees, our family and friends seem to enjoy the opportunity to see John and I in skirts. Now, traditionally the kilts is worn without undergarments since their use as part of Scottish military uniform, leading to the creation of such expressions as “going regimental” or “going commando.” During the First World War some Sergeant Majors reportedly had mirrors tied to the end of golf clubs to inspect up and under the kilt at parade inspection. So, a “True Scotsman” is a humorous term used in Scotland for a man wearing a kilt with out underwear but in my case on this very cool evening and with the possibility of serious shrinkage I worn my Calvin Klein. As for my friend John, John and Kyra #2 don’t ask, don’t tell, but I’m sure his wife Kyra will know what wee mysteries lies underneath John’s kilt. Till the morn, guild cheerio the now ! (Till we meet again , good bye!)

Dave-Image047 There was a time in my professional life that the tools of my trade required 13 anvil cases, patients, and throw away paper underwear. The demands for international travel as a documentary filmmaker was like an assault on climbing Mt. Everest. Months of preparation are involved along with logistics, scheduling, and risk management. Once at the point of entry in a foreign country the arduous task of clearing customs begins with lots of patients as every item in the anvil cases are cross referenced to see that the serial numbers match the Carnet.  For those not familiar, a Carnet is analogous to a passport for equipment. It is an import/export document, which allows property to pass across borders without hindrance. Free passage is assured by the guarantee that imported property will be reliably exported again after a set period of time. However, the documents Whitewater Westmust be scrupulously prepared and every item’s serial number on the Carnet. The Carnet must be recorded through customs on entering a country and then checked out again on exiting. Any errors or omissions can cause the delay of the entire shipment unless you have Baksheesh which is tipping or as some may call it charitable giving. I call it outright bribery.
That was then and this is now, I can now wear brown socks with white tennis shoes, plaid Bermuda shorts and a “Go Dodgers “ tank top and travel as a tourist. Today, I travel “Light and Fast”  which is an alpine mountaineering approach to traditional mountaineering that seeks to leave behind everything but the minimum gear required to reach the 252617_3880792791286_1338272699_nobjective and allowing the climber to summit faster. An experienced mountaineer will jettison gear that was not used on previous climbs and go “Light and Fast”. With that in mind and since I’m not tackling Mt. Everest but Scotland I have downsized my gear to an carry on bag.
This is my equipment list today:Travel Gear
  1. Canon 5D Mark II, 17mm – 40mm Lens, for stills and HD video w/Sennheiser short shotgun mic, headphones.
  2. Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm Lens
  3. GoPro Camera
  4. Macbook Pro
  5. Portable battery charger
  6. External hard drive
  7. 3 thumb drives
  8. 4 Report’s Notebooks
  9. Composition Notebook
  10. 5 pencils
  11. 10 copies of Cue The Camels
  12. 100 business cards