Here is space, a calming silence without clutter, where senses feel sharper and the mind can soar. The air is cold and sharp. The light, golden and silver, presides over a sea of undulating and ever changing grassland. Maybe this is what it feels like to be an eagle or a wolf — to feel truly free is to feel you can reach out and touch the horizon, and that if you could rise up and fly across the immensity before you, you would never reach the end. Forever more would be cleansing wild planes and never would to return to the petty world of men.
However, for all the savage beauty of the wilderness I am but a small, pale, vulnerable blob that needs warmth and comfort; both in the form of shelter and human contact, to be sustained in such a place, any place.
The atmosphere was intimate, exciting and safe, in this the cosiest of homes, a ger (a traditional portable Mongolian felt home). I, a young British guy, travelling with an Alaskan guy and a British couple sat in one camp, on the other side sat a Mongolian family of nomadic herders, from the old and stately to the young and bright eyed. All of us were perplexed and transfixed by the others. Clearly from different worlds; the fascination emanating from us all could almost be seen in the dim light, like a crackling static energy.
The Mongolian family offered me cheese. Rotten, rock-hard, chalky cheese. Mmm. Not nice at all. Oh thanks, more?!? I’ll just put this in my pocket for later. After generously being offered this strange chalky teeth-braking substance referred to as cheese, it was my turn to offer back mysterious food from a far away place, a tin of peach slices.
And so followed the most curious and unexpected scenario I can imagine that involves peach slices. You see, Mongolians don’t really do fruits and vegetables. Not much grows in Mongolia. As a result the diet consists mostly of sheep and horse milk. So, imagine aliens came to your house for tea and produce a sweet syrupy soup full of brightly coloured segments that look and smell nothing like either dead sheep or horse milk, what would you make of it?
The open tin and its exotic contents were passed around with trepidation as if maybe this was some cleverly disguised bomb. One younger and bolder took the initiative, tentatively placing a segment in his mouth but not totally committing, letting it sit there half in and half out. This seemed like a sensible precaution and the others followed his lead, until slowly the most striking and deeply humorous scene I will probably ever see formed before my eyes. I saw several generations, a whole family sitting there, with curious and slightly worried faces, as a peach slice sits precariously from every mouth and in unison, they look up to us for confirmation and reassurance. It was a picture of humanity, of cultures connecting over food, of family and of people braving new horizons, be it discovering the beauty of the Mongolian steppe, the delights of Mongolian cheese or the contents of a tin of peach slices.
When I was a we nipper I was fascinated by, well everything. I suppose all kids are curious, but I’ve never changed. I’ve always wanted to know what’s around the corner. I grew up in Oxford, then Devon, then in Nottingham and in Oxford again. This has led me to be a restless person unable to settle. After scraping through school and college I felt thoroughly disappointed and resentful of the education system. Dam bastards stealing the best years of my life! So I undertook the first of many joyous gap years.
Daniels obsession with travel has taken him to India, Albania, Shetland, an overland trip from Oxford to Indonesia via the Trans Siberian and an English teaching stint in China, amongst countless smaller trips.
His most recent odyssey was an overland trip to West Africa that he attempted to film, photograph, draw and write about.
Daniel is currently living in Bristol writing comics, working on illustration projects and trying to organise an exhibition and other collaborative art projects, as well as travel writing.