James Parry has written numerous books about the landscapes and history of his remote travels. Having visited such places as Borneo, the Empty Quarter of Arabia and Djibouti it’s fair to say James is partial to more demanding environments. Hopefully James didn’t find our 7 Wonders Questions too challenging!
1) I wonder, when looking at the airport departure board, where have you thought, ‘I really would like to go there someday’, and why?
Top of my list at the moment is Georgia – as in ex-soviet union Georgia, rather than the American state! It’s got all the things I enjoy: great landscapes, fantastic wildlife, and interesting cultural history. It’s also one of the original wine-producing regions, so that’s got to be good too. I’m also really up for visiting Kaliningrad, ex-Königsberg. I’m totally fascinated by places that are past their best and full of lost memories and decaying glories.
2) I wonder if you travel by guidebook or trust your instinct and simply explore.
It’s a bit of both, really. I do a fair amount of research before I go anywhere, but never need much persuading to go off piste. Some of my best moments travelling have been impromptu visits or last-minute changes of plan. With wildlife watching in particular you always need a lot of flexibility in case animals don’t show, move somewhere else or the weather is bad. I’d like to think I have good instincts, but I once spent four hours staking out a waterhole waiting in vain for a pack of African wild dogs only to learn that they’d trotted merrily past the camp while I was gone… Everyone else saw them whilst enjoying their lunch, which didn’t seem fair.
3) I wonder from your travels, what is the favourite photo you’ve taken and the story behind it?
One of the most amazing places I’ve been is Lake Assal in Djibouti. It’s the second lowest place on the planet and an unbelievably hostile environment. Dropping down to it from the rift valley ridge is phenomenal, and the salt encrusted flats around the lake are quite spell-binding. Nothing has changed there for hundreds of years.
4) I wonder whilst travelling, what is the one thing you can’t live without?
My binoculars. There’s nothing more frustrating than spotting a distant bird or animal and not having my bins with me. They’re usually round my neck, but there have been some dreadful moments when the rarest of beasts has appeared in front of me and my bins have been buried at the bottom of a rucksack or left in the vehicle.
5) I wonder what’s the most effort you’ve taken to travel somewhere…… And was it worth it?
When researching my rainforest book I travelled to the Tapichalaca Reserve in Ecuador, a fantastic cloud forest full of species barely known to science. It took ages to get there and rained almost non-stop. Everything was drenched and my usual glass-half-full attitude was under severe pressure, but it was smiles all round when a Jocotoco Antpitta – a bizarre bird known only from this one place – hopped out in front of us. Not many people have seen this species, so it was a very special moment.
6) I wonder if I could ask you, why deserts?
I’ve always had a thing about deserts. I remember as a kid reading the accounts of early explorers to the Middle East, and always wanted to go there myself. I really thrive in open places with huge views – savannah, deserts, and hilltops. I also really like the way in which desert wildlife has adapted to cope with the harsh conditions. They need great resourcefulness to survive.
7) I wonder what you have planned next and where can people find out more about you?
I’m actually planning on spending the summer in the UK and doing some butterfly-spotting! I’m off to Skye in June, my first visit there, and hoping for some good seabird watching and lots of eagles. There’s more about me at jamesvparry.com.
Be sure to check out James’s stunning book The Desert (click on the book cover) for fascinating insights into the ecosystems, wildlife and diverse features that make deserts such exciting places to visit.