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Champagne Hiking; The Jewel of the Universe

Richard Juhlin

Richard Juhlin

There are many things and events in life that can make you go breathless from happiness: Watching a wedding couple glide up to the altar. Listening to David Gilmour, caressing the first notes of the Comfortably Numb guitar solo. Watching your team clinching the championship with a beautiful goal on extra time. Or witness your newborn baby draw its first breath. Such moments brings tears of happiness.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

I am talking about everyday events, situations that give you goose bumps or new insights when you least expect it. My dear father frequently mentions a casual jog among the cow pats at our country house, as one of the happiest moment of his life. A moment of unexpected and sudden euphoric understanding of how fortunate he was, having a wonderful family, strong legs that could carry him, healthy lungs that provided him with oxygen, and senses clear enough to perceive the lapwings swirling song and dance act beneath the eiderdown fluffy summer clouds in the blue sky.

Other times, it is not an event that evokes a breathtaking sense of total happiness, but the encounter with something so monumental it renders you speechless. A phenomenon or location so magnificent that time and space cease to exist. Imagine what the first settlers in America felt when they came to the Grand Canyon, or the emotions that filled astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when standing on the surface of the moon, watching our magnificent planet as it slowly turned. Possibly they experienced the same feelings as the tourist that reached the gorges of the Victoria Falls for the first time, or the paraglider using the thermal to circle Utah’s Zion National Park. The world religions have always played on our sense of insignificance. Huge and imposing places of worship have been created to silence the doubters. I am not a religious person in the traditional sense and watch in horror as religion is used as a cover for carrying out atrocities, but I believe in the order of nature, interaction, forces and a deeper meaning and content.

A way to understand our existence, the desire to belong to something greater is probably a part of human nature. How nice it is to get away from the stress and loud commercials, finding a place in nature and connecting to the inner voice. Paradoxically, there appear to be two divergent developments. On the one hand, a rapidly growing group of people with increased interest in nature and an understanding of the ecological way of thinking, on the other, a group of people so urban that they never leave the office, the computer or the concrete jungle, letting their natural instincts and senses languish. There are more bon vivants around as well, but all to often this lifestyle is viewed as a form of duty or is misinterpreted to mean a sad chasing of status symbols. I go crazy when it comes to quantifying things, and I am a slave to the childish urge to find the greatest, the best and the most beautiful settings in all possible contexts. All my life, I have been fascinated by spectacular buildings and magnificent nature. I have spent many hours losing myself in beautiful books given to me as Christmas gifts, where the images have sparked my imagination, and thus allowed me to visit the world’s most beautiful places. As a young boy I loved the jungle and had a dream of becoming a nature photographer, and to study the birdwing butterflies in the New Guinea rain forests. I had memorised all the capital cities of the world by the time I left intermediate compulsory school, and I am a little proud of my ability to locate the right place in the Google Earth-based quiz Geoguess. In a way, quite resembling the blind tasting of champagnes. To put it in plain text: I have always been, and will always be, a nature romantic and geography geek!

I would like to see the Earth from the Moon, I enjoy the northern lights, and I love spending a summer night on my back, looking at the embracing starry sky. In all honesty, I am not that interested in the intangible and impersonal mathematics of space. It is our habitat, Earth, and its diverse perfection that moves me deeply. That’s not to say that Earth, like the rest of the universe, is not a slave to the laws of nature. But since the Earth is the only place with perfect conditions for life, that we know of, we might as well take advantage. We don’t need to look to other worlds to witness fantastic spectacles. Thanks to the vibrant life, natural laws are often confronted with chance. In this fascinating clash, controlled chaos ensues. Given that humanity hit the jackpot in the lottery of the universe, I am horrified and dismayed that we seem hell-bent on destroying the planet in search of short-term, material profit. Humankind have tried, and partially managed, to master nature for our gain, but it won’t work in the long run. We need to realise that we should work with nature, not against it.

I hope I don’t come across as a convoluted, nature romantic revivalist when I say that this book, and all your upcoming Champagne Hiking experiences, should not only bring marvellous delight but also inspire an increased desire to preserve our planet – the gem of the universe.

RJ

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