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The Entire World is a Family

- Maha Upanishad


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One Night on Earth

The below story is written by Dakota Arkin Cafourek.

A published writer and editor who is dedicated to a love of travel, storytelling, and the arts. The Outdoor Journal, will be publishing 3 of Dakota’s stories, and you can find links to each one at the bottom of this page.

Embraced in the unusual warmth of an autumn night, we stand four backpackers ready for a voyage, easily recognizable with oversized Ospreys saddled on our backs. I’m the sole female among our friends, but I can sip whiskey and pontificate hypothetical questions about killing my evil clone with the best of them.  

By Dakota Arkin Cafourek – Instagram @DakotaArkin

We’re at Büyük Otogar, the Grand Bus Terminal in Istanbul waiting for our 10 hour chariot to Cappadocia. The depot enormous, lined with buses destined across Asia and Europe in a “make your own rules” kind of chaos. Come morning, we will disembark amongst an entirely new terrain; a semi-arid wonderland penetrated by volcanic peaks.

Red-eyed on arrival in central Anatolia, locals invite us to tea and breakfast in their homes; a muslim custom set in the understanding that the prophet Muhammad was a traveler and anyone might carry his sacred spirit. It is a practice outside of our experience.

By Dakota Arkin Cafourek – Instagram @DakotaArkin

In a desert valley fringed by rugged cliffs shaded in golds and reds, the earth looks blindingly bright against clear blue skies. The village of Göreme is a pleasing string of artisans, restaurants and nargile bars. It’s no longer off the beaten path—a popular destination for trekkers and world travelers—but it feels like we are out of reach from the clasp of ordinary life.

Our rooms at the ShoeString Cave House Hostel are carved from stone and volcanic rock, edging a courtyard draped in greenery with flowers still in bloom. In the night, sitting on the terraced roof by the swimming pool closed for the winter, the four of us made sense of the world and choreographed the adventure that beckoned us in the sea of wild caves on the horizon.

The following days we would hike the Rose, Red and Devrent valleys; and when our legs trembled, we returned to draw in flavored smoke and play jenga at a local lounge.

Tonight, we are finally swapping our beds for sleeping bags and a ceiling of stars. The plan: set up camp among the 3,500 year-old cave dwellings that had been uninhabited since the early Christians of the Byzantine Empire. Built into the region’s unusual, tall and phallic-looking sediment pillars—volcanic deposits affectionately called fairy chimneys—were camouflaged cities, churches, and importantly, wine cellars.

We select our site before dusk with little food and liquid warmth in tow, a small climb from the trails to a stone enclosure with three walls to stifle the winds. I keep an eye on the lone cow and goat that seem to be joining us.

By Dakota Arkin Cafourek – Instagram @DakotaArkin

As the sun sinks in the west, so does the temperature. In the pitch black night, we crawl into our sleeping bags. Piercing moos and wails of animals whistle past in an eerie breeze, followed by silence. It was the first time it occurred to me that no one really knew where I was; a foolish risk or self-ruling determination that would be confirmed by morning. I looked at my three male comrades in deep slumber and let my own mind doze off.

Swoosh.

Boom. Crackle.

Strange hums and dragon-like snores echoed through our stonewalled cave, crescendoing and cajoling us alert. Shivering, my bones stiff from the cold inside of my sleeping bag, I maneuver myself upright. This was no strange dream nor a fabulous monster. The shining sun lay bare the mysteries of the night.

Outside our cave, we follow a narrow trail to a plateau to witness the sky fill with hot air balloons. Giant flames indeed breathed forth, swelling mammoth balloons into harvest moons you felt you could reach out and touch. Patched in hundreds of colors and patterns, they soared, becoming specks on the horizon. We stare out at the spectacle in wonder.

By Dakota Arkin Cafourek – Instagram @DakotaArkin

Our belongings packed and strapped to our backs, we leave the cave to sit empty once more. Perhaps another two millennia will pass before it’s used as a shelter again.  On our return trek to the village center, a mysterious red stream flowed downhill. It was blood and the streets turned crimson. What happened in the night, we wondered? What happened in the world we’d left behind for a mere evening? And there beside a cobblestone curb, I spotted my answer: the glistening white skin of a sacrificed cow.  It will be divided into three parts for the Feast of the Sacrifice, an Islamic holiday where one third of the sacrificed animal is given to the poor or those in need; one third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the remaining third is kept by the family. Men, women and children sit together to divvy up the meat. Indeed the globe had been spun and I stood where my finger had landed.

Dakota Arkin Cafourek is a published writer and editor. Dedicated to a love of travel, storytelling, and the arts, she serves cultural institutions in New York City and East Hampton, NY.

The Outdoor Journal has published more of Dakota’s work, such as Living Small: A Road Trip Across America and Idyll in the Highland Mountains.

You can find more of Dakota’s work on her website (iamdakota.me) or follow her adventures on Instagram @dakotaarkin.

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Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

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