Designing the most spectacularly beautiful drive in Western China

The magical roads of Yunnan and Sichuan offer some of the best driving adventures in Asia - particularly in late Autumn and early Winter when the days are universally sunny and the mountain foliage is bursting with a kaleidoscope of rusty oranges, deep reds and bright yellows.

In November 2016, based on our own extensive drives across western China, we designed a spectacular 10 day route (for a family of four) through the mountains and valleys of Kham that showcased the region's awe-inspiring landscapes and incorporated a number of the esoteric Tibetan Buddhist festivals that typically take place during this time. Here are some images, kindly shared, from that trip.

A Family Adventure With The Eagle Hunters Of Western Mongolia.

The fabled eagle hunters of western Mongolia have captured the imagination of intrepid travellers for years. To this day, the close relationship between man and raptor seems to touch a deep desire in many of us for a closer connection with nature. Their nomadic home range, in the large glacial valleys and snowy peaks of the Altai mountains also remains one of the last untouched frontiers in Asia.

And it is this spectacular wilderness that provides the backdrop for our newly-launched expeditions designed specifically for adventurous families.The trips are an amazing combination of moderate wilderness hiking, horse-riding (optional), comfortable ger-stays (or camping) and exploratory visits to ancient petroglyphs. Oh, and there's an immersive family-stay with the eagle hunters of course.

The family excursions are tailored to suit you and your family and so vary in price depending on your exact schedule and the number of people in your group. The best months for the private trips are June through to September and the optimal length of stay is between 10 and 15 days in total.

A customized festival & photography trip in Kham, eastern Tibet.

The historical eastern Tibetan region of Kham (the other being Amdo) now incorporates both areas of the T.A.R. and large parts of modern-day northern Yunnan and western Sichuan. The attraction of the latter regions, is that they are much more accessible to western travellers (not requiring a Tibetan permit to visit), and still maintain a plethora of authentic Tibetan cultural and religious festivals - if you know where and when to visit.

In early 2015, I was asked  by a group of Hong Kong based photographers whether it was possible to arrange a trip to document some of the esoteric Cham dancing and horse-racing festivals that take place every summer throughout western Sichuan. Knowing where and when such events take place is something of a trade secret and rather opaque to outsiders as the dates typically have to both reference the Tibetan calender and be sanctioned by local lamas.

So, in June of that year, we designed a trip to visit a couple of three day festivals that were scheduled to take place in Ganzi prefecture and experienced a number of beautifully rich cultural events. Better still, we were the only outsiders there. Below are some of the photos taken during that trip.

It is also woth noting that, after an absence of almost 10 years, the annual Litang horse-racing festival took place again in August 2016 and, as far as we know, is once again scheduled for 2017.

A flower-hunting expedition to find and photograph Himalayan blue poppies in the wilds of Tibet.

The blue poppy is one of the most fabled of all Himalayan flowers. It is also one of the most elusive.

In 2012, while originally researching and designing a new trekking route around the three sacred peaks of Yading, in eastern Tibet, I spotted flashes of unambiguous blue on a rocky outcrop near where we had stopped to rest. Already at 4300m, I scambled breathlessly up the hillside and there, looking far too delicate to survive in such a rugged environment, were several Himalayan blue poppies - meconopsis horridula (excuse the Latin) to be exact.

Little did I know that the pictures I later posted caused a bit of a stir in far off Germany, which eventually snowballed into plans for a private group of very hardy enthusiasts to head back to the region and hunt for more flowers. So in June 2014, we lead an expedition into the wilds of Yading and eventually discovered four separate clusters of blue poppies, all in different locations and all at altitudes of between 4000 and 4500m.

It is worth noting, that the region to the south of Mt Jempalyang and Mt Chanadorjee in particular, above the Nyakshi Valley, is also a treasure trove of other beautiful 'Alpine' flowers and rhododendrons.

A private trek to Lugu Lake in northern Yunnan with the Swiss Club of Singapore.

Many of our Asia trekking adventures take place quietly, behind the scenes, and are custom-designed for specific private groups. One such trip was a bespoke trek that we organized for the Swiss Club of Singapore. Our brief was to design a relatively challenging (but not overly strenuous) adventure that would be accessible to most reasonably fit members and could be completed within 9 days (including getting there and back). The preference was also, wherever possible, to stay in local farmhouses rather than to camp in tents.

So - we designed and personally lead a wonderful off-the-beaten track expedition, supported by mules, that trekked from the ancient walled-village of Shitoucheng, in the Upper Yangste River Valley, to Lugu Lake - home of the fabled matriarchical Musuo tribe. Along the way we stayed in local Naxi and Lisu farmhouses and successfully negotiated the short section of vertigo-inducing trail high above the river on the way to Liu Qing.

It is worth noting that the first part of this trek from Shitoucheng to Liu Qing can also be combined with a trip to the stunningly beautiful Black Sea Lake on Haba Snow Mountain and - for the more intrepid - an attempt at climbing the 5400m non-technical summit.

A private expedition to document the treehouses of the Korowai tribe, West Papua, Indonesia.

In April 2016, myself and Phyllis Hischier, a keen anthropologist and collector of Papuan art, lead an expedition deep into the remote jungle home of the Stone Korowai tribe in Indonesian New Guinea. There, we documented a tribe struggling with their own cultural direction as they are 'encouraged' - often with false promises of money, schooling and clinics -  to swap their remarkable towering treehouses for rows of rustic wooden shacks in government-sponsored settlements.

Towering treehouses are the Stone Korowai's calling card. For decades, hidden behind a curtain of thick jungle, the tribe were in an almost constant state of conflict,: among themselves, against other Korowai clans and with the neighbouring Kopayap tribe. The fighting effectively kept all outsiders (including proselytizing missionaries and agrawood traders) at bay until the late 1970's and provided the rationale for the Korowai's vertigo-inducing arboreal homes, some of which stand 35 metres off ground.

I wrote a piece, published by Action Asia magazine, which recounts the expedition in more detail and can be read by CLICKING HERE but for now -  it's all about the treehouses.