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Dr. Jack Wheeler

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CLIMBING THE MATTERHORN AT AGE 14

jw-on-the-matterhornThe Matterhorn at 14,692 ft in the Swiss Alps is arguably the most famous mountain in the world. By extreme luck, I was able to reach its summit with my guide Alfons Franzen at age 14 (in 1958!). The summit is not a point but a ridge 100 feet or so long and only 2 feet wide, like a knife blade in the sky.

This was my formative great adventure that set me on my life path. For over forty years that path has been providing friends and clients with great adventures for their own lives. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #30 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE MATTERHORN OF THE HIMALAYAS

©2019 Jack WheelerThis is Ama Dablam – “Mother’s Necklace” in Sanskrit – famed by climbers and trekkers as the Matterhorn of the Himalayas.  Standing 22,349 ft, the favored climbing route is the southwest ridge, which you’re looking at face on.  It towers as sentinel above the Tengboche Monastery of Nyingma (Red Hat) Tibetan Buddhism, and the famous trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC).

We were at EBC this morning, and shortly later flew by Ama Dablam in our expedition AS350B3 helicopter at 20,000 ft.  It is from this altitude you can see the summit of Everest.  And yes, that’s Everest on the left of the photo.  In the shadow is Everest’s southwest face, in the sun the east face, the southeast ridge between them is the climber’s route to the summit.  Breathtaking only begins to hint of what it is like to experience such a sight. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #202 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – THE SHRINE OF SHAH-I-ZENDA

shrine-of-shah-i-zenda The Shrine of Shah-i-Zenda left an indelible memory upon me when I was first here on my first exploration of Central Asia in 1963.  It is one of the many medieval wonders of the ancient Silk Road Oasis of fabled Samarkand.  Preserved through the centuries, it is still here in all its glory.  Come with me this September to experience it and so much else, like the Pearls of Shing, the Mountains of Heaven, and camping with Kirghiz nomads, in the mysterious and magical heart of Central Asia.

(Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #201 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE SACRED MONKEY FOREST OF BALI

bali-monkeysNear the town of Ubud on Indonesia’s paradise island of Bali there is a Hindu sanctuary of spectacularly luxuriant rain forest providing a haven for over 1,000 Balinese long-tailed monkeys. Here’s one communing with a group of moss-covered monkey statues that dot the sanctuary.

This is a sacred place for the Balinese people, as it contains three temples over 600 years old, and is devoted to the Hindu principle of Tri Hata Karana – “three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being” -- harmony between people, harmony between people and nature, harmony between people and the Supreme God.

There is perhaps no place on earth in which to better experience the blissful harmony of Tri Hata Karana than Bali. It is a marvelous privilege to be here and experience it for yourself. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #106 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE WORLD’S MOST UNUSUAL GRAVES

toraja-gravesiteEast of Borneo in Indonesia is a large starfish-shaped Island called Sulawesi, where in the south-central mountains the Toraja people have created one of the most exotic cultures on earth. They bury their dead in caves carved out of vertical cliffs, with balconies at the entrances lined with clothed wooden effigies called a Tau Tau as guardians for the departed.

The Toraja live in villages composed of family long houses with enormous peaked roofs of wood and thatch, decorated with exquisite painted art and scores of buffalo horns. While Indonesia is predominantly Moslem, the Toraja are a blend of Christian-animist. They are a gentle, peaceful people, marvelously welcoming and friendly. It is a priceless privilege to spend time with them, as I was able to during the summer of 2016. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #49 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FISHING AT DAWN IN HA LONG BAY

ha-long-bay Ha Long Bay near Haiphong, Vietman – meaning Descending Dragon – is a World Heritage Site as one of our planet’s great scenic wonders, with thousands of limestone karst rock pinnacles, towers, and islets. The most beautiful time is dawn, peaceful and serene, with small fishing boats of local villagers out for the morning catch. A few days aboard a comfortable junk cruising Ha Long will do wonders for you. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #160 ©photo Jack Wheeler)

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THE STONE TURTLE OF GENGHIS KHAN

genghis-turtle800 hundred years ago in 1221, Genghis Khan established the capital of the Mongol Empire he created at a place called Karakorum in the grasslands of central Mongolia. It became a city of palaces, temples, and mansions of the Mongol nobility, a place of fabulous wealth that left Marco Polo in awe when he visited in in the 1270s.

When Mongol rule over China ended a hundred years later, the Chinese rulers of the Ming Dynasty ordered Karakorum razed to the ground with all evidence of its existence obliterated. All that was left was this solitary stone turtle lying in mute witness to the glories of what was here once and is no more. Known as the Stone Turtle of Genghis Khan, it’s all there is for you to try and imagine the magnificence of the past amidst what is now an empty wilderness. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #149 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: THE TOMB OF CYRUS THE GREAT

jw-cyrus-the-great-tombIn the vast valley of Pasargadae there stands this simple tomb with nothing around it for miles and miles. It has been like this for many centuries, for it entombs the founder of Persia, Cyrus the Great (600-530BC). Revered as the liberator of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity in 539 BC, hailed by Herodotus for his humanity and wisdom, this small structure symbolizes the humility of an extraordinary man. Yet the tomb is a structure of engineering genius, the oldest built on principles of base-isolation withstanding the countless earthquakes Persia has suffered for the last 2500 years.

I was first here in 1973 when Persia (renamed Iran in 1933) flourished under the Shah. Here I am in 2014, when everyone I met expressed admiration for America and their contempt for the mullah tyranny they endured. I hope to return once more when the Land of Cyrus will be free again. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #146 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 04/22/22

Yes, my son Brandon was in Ukraine. Just as a Captain in the Marine Corps he was in Afghanistan protecting Afghans from Taliban terror, now he is protecting Ukrainians from Russian terror.

Last week, he took President Trump’s last Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, to Kiev, meeting with President Zelensky’s top generals.  Subsequently, Brandon and Chris were interviewed on the Jordan Harbinger podcast.

The podcast is 90 minutes long, which you can listen to via the link under the graphic above.  While there are lighter moments, like Brandon taking Harbinger aback telling him how his father once beat Putin in arm-wrestling, it is a serious discussion as befits an existential struggle between good and evil.

There are no words to express how proud I am of my son Brandon.

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THE ISLAND OF SARK

la-coupeeThere are five Channel Islands in the English Channel. Best known are Guernsey and Jersey. Least visited is Alderney, along with tiny Herm. Most fascinating is Sark, Europe’s only remaining feudal fiefdom. No motor vehicles are allowed, excepting a few farmers’ small tractors. The governor and chief constable is called the Seneschal. He rides to his office on his bicycle.

It’s an ancient office with a tradition of many centuries. When I was there in 2010, it was held by Reginald Guille, a very friendly fellow as all Sarkese are. We rode our bikes around the island, even along La Coupée, the connecting path along the razor sharp high isthmus connecting two parts of the island – it’s pictured above.

There are gorgeous pocket beaches here, and beautiful natural swimming pools. Flower gardens are everywhere, the island could not be safer, cleaner, calmer, and more exquisitely charming. A few days here will do wonders for you. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #131 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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PANTELLERIA’S MIRROR OF VENUS

pantellerias Between Sicily and Tunisia in the Mediterranean lies a secret hideaway of Europe’s rich and famous – the small Italian island of Pantelleria. Peaceful and quiet, the opposite of glitzy places like Ibiza, wealthy elite retreat here in luxurious yet very understated villas to get away from it all. It helps that the shoreline is all volcanic rock cliffs, which dissuades hordes of African “migrants” attempted to claim “asylum” in the EU welfare state by landing here.

The most beautiful spot on Pantelleria is this volcano crater lake known as “The Mirror of Venus” – of such magic color that, the legend goes, the goddess Venus would admire herself in its reflection. Come here for a tranquil escape of your own. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #164 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE LAND OF THE DRAGON’S BLOOD TREE

dragons-blood-treeThis is the Dragon’s Blood Tree, Dracaena cinnabari. It can be found in only one place on earth, a remote island called a Lost World for its uniqueness, the “most alien-looking place on our planet.”

Although it’s known as the most alien, strangest, weirdest, and bizarre place you can go to, it’s also completely safe and incredibly beautiful. Anybody who comes here returns saying, “You have to see it to believe it.” What is this place?

It’s the World Heritage Site of the island of Socotra, the “Galapagos of the Indian Ocean,” 240 miles off the coast of Yemen and now secured by the UAE. It’s hidden, remote, and far away.

We were there in 2014, and it’s been almost impossible to get to ever since. But we’ll be back next April of 2023. Let me know if you’d like to be with us. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #34 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE DANCING FOREST ON THE CURONIAN SPIT

curonian-spit The Curonian Spit is a 60 mile-long and skinny stretch of sand separating the 625 square-mile Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. It is jointly shared by Lithuania and Kaliningrad. The trees of one section of the pine forests covering the spit are weirdly twisted and distorted by some unknown force of nature. Their bizarre undulations have earned it the sobriquet, “The Dancing Forest.” It’s one of the as-yet unexplained mysteries of life on our planet, and a wondrous one to see. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #200 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – THE LOST CITY OF KUELAP

rh-at-kuelap10,000 feet high in the Amazon cloud forests of northern Peru is a mysterious lost city built by an unknown people many centuries before the Incas existed. Known as Kuelap by villagers in the lowlands below, the Incas called the people who built it Chachapoyas, “Cloud Warriors.” I led an expedition here in 1994, climbing high up into the Amazon Andes to come upon gigantic stone walls 60 feet high surrounding hundreds of stone structures. Here you see Rebel among them. We’ll be here again in a year or two in another exploration of Peru. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #153, photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 04/15/22

On the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, February 24, the 19 Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the tiny Black Sea islet of Snake Island were ordered to surrender by a Russian warship – their response made world headlines.  On March 14, Ukraine commemorated their heroism by issuing a postage stamp of a Snake Island soldier presenting the bird to the warship:

f-off

But the real payback came a few minutes past midnight night before last (4/14).  Does that ship in the stamp look familiar?  It should, for you likely have seen photos of it all over the internet now.  Yes, it’s (or was) Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva now lying on the ocean floor with its captain and hundreds of its crew.

Here’s the story of how this happened…

Now, no peeking, but there’s a mind-blow Easter surprise in this HFR that’s a genuine personal life-saver. So read on.

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SLOVENIA’S VINTGAR GORGE

vintgar-gorge In a hidden corner of Europe, the Radovna River pours off the Julian Alps to carve out the Vintgar Gorge with crystal clear water. A mile-long walkway with towering limestone cliffs on either side is your access.

Nearby is the gorgeous Lake Bled, with Bled Castle suspended atop a shoreline cliff. The medieval village of Piran, built on a spit of land projecting into the Adriatic Sea and encircled by a white sand beach is a short drive away. Ljubljana is one of Europe’s most utterly charming capital cities.

Most people have only heard of Slovenia as the birthplace of First Lady Melania Trump, but those who have been here understand it is one of the most entrancing countries on the European continent – pristine beauty, spotless environment, friendly and hospitable people, safe and very well-run. Whenever your next visit to Europe may be, try to include a few days or week or so here. You’ll never run out of fascinating things to do. A stroll through the Vintgar Gorge is an example out of so many. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #19 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE BEAUTY OF BANGLADESH

jw-at-shuvalong-falls Most people consider Bangladesh a basket case country – all crowded overpopulated poverty constantly flooding etc. Yet I found it to be extraordinarily beautiful. The Shuvalong Falls here is just one example. It’s in the Chittagong Hills near the border with Burma. You’ll find Hindu shrines, massive mountain top Buddhist temples, small Moslem mosques, and a Christian church in almost every village

The charming main town of Rangamati is bustling with friendly energy. A boat ride on serene Kaptai Lake is soul-soothing. Everyone has a smile for you. It’s a place of captivating serendipity. A wonderful experience you might want for yourself. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #154, photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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AFRICAN FLATDOGS

flat-dog-croc Here in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa, crocodiles are nicknamed “Flatdogs.” You can see why. They spend much of their lives lying flat on the mud bank of a pond or river. Yet when on the hunt they can attack with astounding speed and surprise, leaping unseen from muddy water upon an unsuspecting target twenty feet away in an instant. This happened to a young boy fishing along the Luangwa River near our encampment just days ago. Africa is unforgiving of the unwary. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #142 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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BACK TO THE DUCHY OF MUSCOVY

muscovy-predictionBack in the 1990s, I wrote Back to the Duchy of Muscovy, describing how the centuries of Russia’s relentless expansion from the small area around Moscow to a geographical behemoth – see A Short History of Russia – may well work in reverse.

A relentless shrinking would occur, I surmised, with one region after another breaking apart from the Kremlin’s grasp if Russia did not embrace freedom and democracy but continued its authoritarian ways after the extinction of the Soviet Union.

Alas, my Back to… article is gone with the wind of a quarter-century ago.  Then along comes Sergej Sumlenny, a Russian scholar of Russia’s history with its conquered people and neighbors.  Here is a spectacularly informative YouTube interview of him explaining how Russia could soon be on its way back to the Duchy of Muscovy.    Enjoy!

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COURTSHIP IN THE GALAPAGOS

frigatebirdThe male Magnificent Frigatebird has a flap of loose bright red skin on his neck called a “gular sac.”  During mating season, they huff and puff, filling it with air to blow it up like a balloon.  They then parade around showing off for the ladies, for the bigger the red balloon, the more the ladies are aroused.  Size matters, even in the Galapagos.

This is only one of many courtship displays among the birds and animals of these extraordinary islands. No wonder the Galapagos are called “evolution’s laboratory.” (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #199 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – THE CRUSADER FORTRESS IN THE CAUCASUS

This is the fortress town of Shatili in an extremely remote Caucasus region in Georgia called Khevsureti. It was built by the Crusaders 1,000 years ago. The Khevsur people who live here trace their ancestry back to these Crusaders and until the 1930s still wore chain mail in feud-battles with other towns. I took this picture in 1991.

American traveler Richard Halliburton (1900–1939) saw and recorded the customs of the Khevsurs in 1935. The Khevsur men, dressed in chain mail and armed with broadswords, wore garments full of decoration made up of crosses and icons. They don’t do that anymore, but they proudly retain their Crusader Christian heritage – for Georgia adopted Christianity in the 4th century AD. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #85 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 04/08/22

Russian war crime scene, Bucha, Ukraine, April 5, 2022

Russian war crime scene, Bucha, Ukraine, April 5, 2022

The Russian soldiers who did this to five innocent civilian Ukrainians, two men, two women, one child, can no longer be considered human, but subhuman barbarian monsters.  Their goal – now a common sentiment expressed by many Russians on the Internet – is the complete physical extinction of the Ukrainian people.

Their Final Solution for Ukraine is the same as Nazi Germany’s for the Jews.  Denial of one is just as morally depraved as denial of the other.

Survivors of the Bucha Massacre remain in a state of shock with no answer to their question, “Why do the Russians hate us so much?”  It may be an unanswerable question just as why did the Nazi Germans hate Jews so much.  Right now the answer doesn’t matter. All that matters is the defeat of such genocidal insanity.

For it’s not just Bucha – it’s what’s found in any place liberated by Ukrainian forces from Russian occupation.

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AGIOS LAZAROS

agios-lazarosWe’re all familiar with the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead four days after his entombment in John 11:1-44. But what happened to Lazarus afterwards – what did he do with the rest of his (second) life?

He left Judea to live on the island of Cyprus. There he met Paul the Apostle and his evangelizing partner Barnabas who was a Cypriot. They appointed him the first Bishop of Kition (present day Lanarca), where he lived for another 30 years, then upon his second death was buried for the last time.

A church was built over his marble sarcophagus which has undergone many resurrections itself over the last two millennia. But here it stands today after all those ravages of time, Agios Lazaros, the Church of St. Lazarus, over his still-preserved sarcophagus. On every Lazarus Saturday (eight says before Easter), an icon of St. Lazarus is taken in procession through the streets of Lanarca. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #165 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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NEGOTIABLE AFFECTION IN SKAGWAY

the-brass-picWhen gold was discovered in the Klondike of Canada’s Yukon in 1896, the fastest way to get there was a tiny hamlet at the end of a long inlet of Alaska’s Inland Passage coast called Skagway.  By 1898, Skagway was a lawless Wild West boomtown flooded with prospectors who needed entertainment and release from the arduous travails of gold searching – and ladies who would provide it for a price.

The Brass Pic (as in a miner’s pic & shovel) was one of many Houses of Negotiable Affection in Skagway that flourished until the gold panned out in 1900.  It’s preserved as a museum today in fond memory of those days of commercially consensual delight.  Skagway is a terrific place to experience, drawing over a million visitors a year.  Come here to see what draws them.  (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #198 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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DEAD VLEI, NAMIBIA

dead-vleiMany consider this the most surrealistic place on earth. The clarity of the air turns the sky deep cobalt blue, the dunes are so old they’ve rusted red, combining with the white clay floor to give the skeletal trees a scene out of a Dali painting or a science fiction movie. But it’s real.

A thousand years ago the river watering these trees dried up, leaving a white clay pan amidst red sand dunes almost as tall as the Empire State Building. It’s so dry here these acacia trees can’t decompose, their skeletons standing scorched in the sun for ten centuries.

Dead Vlei is in a region of enormous dunes called Sossusvlei. It’s a mind-boggling experience to float over Sossusvlei in a hot air balloon. Namibia, in fact, is full of such experiences – the largest fur seal colony anywhere at Cape Cross, the marvelous abundance of African wildlife at the Etosha Pan, the dramatic shipwrecks dotting the Skeleton Coast, traditional people living untouched by the modern world like the Himbas.

Plus it’s one of the safest and best-run countries in all Africa – certainly worth consideration for your bucket list. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #47 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE CASTLE PRISON OF RICHARD THE LIONHEART

durnstein-castleThis is Durnstein Castle, perched on a precipice high above the Danube River in Austria some 60 miles upriver from Vienna. Built in the early 1100s, here is where King of England Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned, having been captured by his enemy Leopold V of Austria on his return from the Third Crusade in the Holy Land.

The story is well known of how Richard’s brother John had usurped the throne and impeded paying Richard’s ransom – and the legend of Robin Hood raising the money pilfering it from thieving nobles.  The ransom was finally paid in 1194, with Richard returning to be crowned King of England once again.  The castle fell into disrepair, uninhabitable since the late 1600s.  It is an eerie journey back into history to explore it today. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #197 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – TAKING YOUR KIDS ON A GREAT ADVENTURE

zanskar-whitewater-raftingWhen he was 10 years old, I took my son Brandon to Indian Tibet for one of the great whitewater experiences on the planet, running the Zanskar River through the crest of the Himalayas. That was 27 years ago and he’s never forgotten it to this day.

Taking your kids on a great adventure not only bonds you with them in a deep and unique way, it opens the world to them as a place of magic, excitement, and wonder that stays with them for the rest of their lives. And for the rest of your life too.

This coming August, we’ll explore Indian Tibet again – the remote Himalayan regions of Lahaul, Spiti, Ladakh, and Zanskar – where traditional Tibetan culture still flourishes as it no longer does across the border in Chinese Tibet. I am proud to say that Brandon will be leading the expedition. I’ll just be along for the ride. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #64 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 04/01/22

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Welcome to the April Fools HFR.  It’s a contest between Vlad the Mad and F. Joe Biden as to who the biggest fool on earth is today.  We’ll get to Pootie later.  Let’s talk about FJB.

As recounted by Skye yesterday, what happened at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday (3/29) was revelatory in the extreme: Gaetz Enters Hunter Biden Laptop Data Into Congressional Record.

Skye concludes this is very persuasive evidence that “Xiden’s puppeteers have decided that Sloppy Joe has got to go, and go before the midterms wipe out their control of Congress.”  It’s a conclusion hard to avoid. But what do they really gain by doing that?

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THE MOST BRITISH ISLES

anglican-christ-church-cathedral This is the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands, consecrated in 1892. In front is its famous Whale Bone Arch, made from the jaw bones of two blue whales (the largest creature to have ever lived, bigger than any dinosaur, and still swimming in our oceans today).

The Falklands are in far southern Atlantic some 300 miles east of the tip of South America. Claimed by Britain in 1782, an ongoing dispute first with Spain then Argentine resulted in Britain declaring it a Crown Colony and establishing a settlement, Stanley, in 1840. In 1982, after constantly claiming the islands were theirs, Argentina militarily invaded. The Falklands War was won by Margaret Thatcher ordering the British Navy, Army, and Royal Marines to take the islands back at gunpoint.

Today, Falklanders are the most patriotic people of all British possessions. They are wonderfully cheerful and friendly. There’s no more British place on earth. Don’t ever pass a chance to come here. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #167 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE POLISH SAVIOR OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

king-jan-iii-sobieski-of-polandOn September 12, 1683, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet IV as the Caliph of all Islam was on the verge of realizing the great Moslem dream of conquering all of Christian Europe for the glory of Allah. The great obstacle in his way – the city of Vienna – was about to be overwhelmed by the Sultan’s gigantic army of 140,000 Islamic Taliban of their day.

On the Kahlenberg hilltop above Vienna, the commander of the Christian forces, King Jan III Sobieski of Poland, gave the order to attack. Twenty thousand armed horsemen galloped down the slopes of Kahlenberg, the largest cavalry charge in history, with the Polish King and his Winged Hussars in the lead. The cavalry trampled the Ottomans and made straight for their camps.

Ottoman commander Kara Mustafa fled out of his tent and barely escaped with his life (it didn’t last long – the Sultan ordered him strangled). With the Christian victory at The Battle of Vienna, the Moslem threat to Europe was over. Sobieski wrote a letter to Pope Innocent XI, paraphrasing Julius Caesar:

Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit” – “We came, We saw, God conquered.”

In turn, the Pope hailed Sobieski as “The Savior of Western Christendom.” Indeed he was, and still is so revered by the Polish people to this day – with no apology.

For the people of Poland stand out among those of all Europe for their pride in being part of Western Civilization – symbolized for them by this statue of their Hero King trampling the Ottomans in the beautiful Royal Baths Park in Warsaw. They will make sure visitors to the statue note that underneath the right forearm of the fallen Turkish soldier is a book – the Koran.

You owe it to yourself to visit Poland and meet the Polish champions of Christian liberty, having freed themselves from the Ottomans, the Russians, and the Soviets. We need more like them today. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #159 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLOWER HIGHWAYS, FLOWER TRAILS

azores-islands-flowers

For miles and miles, the roads in the Azores Islands are lined with flowers on both sides. Even the foot paths and trails are strewn with flowers.

maderia-azores-paradise

As you know, I’ve been to every country in the world. I know of no place on earth more beautiful, more flower strewn, more peaceful, serene, and safe than Portugal’s island paradises of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic.

So plan on joining me, Rebel, and your fellow TTPers on our exploration of Atlantic Paradises, June 24 to July 2. Make this beauty and serenity a part of your life. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #196 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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TWO COOL MOUNTAIN TAJIK KIDS AT THE FIRST PEARL OF SHING

tajik-kidsThe high hidden Valley of Shing in western Tajikistan holds, as we learned in Glimpse #52, a series of seven stepping-stone lakes called the Seven Pearls of Shing. The valley is dotted with tiny villages of Mountain Tajiks, descendants of the ancient Sogdians who fought Alexander the Great.

Alexander fell in love with and married a Sogdian princess named Roxanna – and the girls of Shing are often named Roxanna to this day. The Mountain Tajiks of the Shing are a special people – strong, independent and free. They are also warm and welcoming. The kids – the girls just like the boys – grow up vibrant and confidant. These two young brothers exemplify that.

Each of the seven pearls have a unique breathless beauty, for they are of different colors and change according to the time of day. We are here at Mijnon (Eyelash), the first pearl, followed by Soya (Shade), Hushnor (Vigilance), Nophin (Navel), Khurdak (Little One), Marguzor (Blossoming), and Hazor Chasma (Thousand Springs). Towering above us are snow-laced mountains 18,000 feet high.

Perhaps you’d like to join your fellow TTPers to make the Seven Pearls, and so much else, a part of your life? Let me know! (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #53 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – BRANDON AT LAMAYURU

brandon-at-lamayuru High in the Himalayas of India in the remote moonscape of Tibetan Ladakh is the gompa (Tibetan monastery) of Lamayuru. It is older than Tibetan Buddhism, for it was originally a gompa for the lama monks of Bön, the ancient animist religion of Tibet. I took my son Brandon here on an expedition through Tibetan India in 1993. Brandon had his 10th birthday here. Behind him is the enormous statue of blue-eyed Sakyamuni Buddha in the central prayer hall.

Brandon has never forgotten Lamayuru as anyone who has been here never does. We’ll be here again this August – and Brandon will be leading the expedition (Glimpses of our breathtaking world #151 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 03/25/22

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This uncannily prescient monologue was delivered a year ago – April 11, 2021 – by Russian journalist and former member of the Duma (Russia’s Parliament) Alexander Nevzorov for his 1.64 million subscribers to his YouTube channel.

Now that his astoundingly accurate predictions are coming true, Reuters reported ereyesterday (3/23) that the Kremlin wants him in jail: Top Russian Journalist Defiant in Face of Fake News Investigation.

But before a sitrep on how catastrophically bad the Russian military is doing in Ukraine, I need to tell you a story.  And no worries, this HFR will be about lots of other stuff, not just Ukraine.  Now let’s relax and settle in, it’s storytime.

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HOW CLOSE CAN YOU GET TO A BABY SPERM WHALE?

baby-sperm-whaleThis close – if you’re at the right place at the right time in the right boat.  That would be the Canal do Faial channel between the islands of Faial and Pico in the Azores, populated by more spawning sperm whales that just about anywhere else.  It’s also a haven for many other whale and dolphin species on their migratory route between the North and South Atlantic.

In June, this is one of the world’s best whale-watching sites – and we’ll be right there on our exploration of Atlantic Paradises June 24-July 2.

You won’t believe how truly paradisical Madeira and the Azores are.  Not just the weather and the beauty, but how safe, calm, and serene they are, how friendly everyone is – so friendly because everyone here is at peace with themselves.  You’ll discover your inner peace here too.  While never being bored as there’s always something exciting to see and do.  Like being this close to a baby sperm whale.

You owe it to yourself to make these Atlantic Paradises a part of your life. (Glimpses of our breathtaking world #195).

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ONE PICTURE, FOUR COUNTRIES, AND A SURPRISE

wakhan-corridorThis is the Wakhan Corridor traversed by Marco Polo on his way to China in 1273. The river is the Amu Darya, known to Alexander the Great and the ancient Greeks as the Oxus. The Wakhan is the finger of northeast Afghanistan designed in the late 19th century to prevent the Russian Empire in Central Asia from touching the British Empire in India. It now separates Tajikistan from Pakistan with its fingertip the only border Afghanistan has with China.

Thus you’re looking at four countries. The river forms the Tajik-Afghan border – Tajikistan is on the left, Afghanistan on the right, in the center distance are the Hindu Kush mountains of Pakistan, while in the far distance are the Karakorum mountains of China. This is a fabulously exotic remote part of our world with people living here tracing their ancestry to the troops of Alexander. Oh – and the surprise? I’ll tell you soon. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #77 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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INDIAN TIBET

ladakhThere is a part of Tibet the British kept from China and is now a part of India. The region is called Ladakh and this is its capital of Leh. It’s the Upper Indus river valley after it flows out of Chinese Tibet and before it reaches the Line of Control with Pakistan.

Ladakh is geographically and culturally Tibetan, where Tibetan culture still flourishes. Here the great gompas (monasteries) of Thikse and Hemis are active, and where you are welcome in hidden mysterious gompas like Lamayuru over a thousand years old.

There is an ultra-remote part of Ladakh called Zanskar where the Zanskar River flows through the crest of the Himalayas to reach the Upper Indus. Running the Zanskar is one of the world’s greatest whitewater experiences. We’ll see and do all of this next August on our Indian Tibet Expedition. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #120 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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MONTEZUMA’S CASTLE

montezumas-castle When American explorers came upon this extraordinary cliff dwelling in 1860s Arizona, they dubbed it “Montezuma’s Castle” on a whim. The Aztec ruler had nothing to do with it, of course. The Anasazi people built a number of these marvelous structures in the Southwest, high up on cliffs above a river that seasonally flooded.

For hundreds of years the Anasazi flourished, skilled agriculturalists and brilliant at constructing vast irrigation systems. Yet it all came to naught with a devastating megadrought with no rain for many decades, culminating in the collapse of the Anasazi culture and abandonment of their cliff dwellings by the early 1500s.

Another lesson that it is nature that control’s the Earth’s climate, not us. You’ll find Montezuma’s Castle above Beaver Creek south of Sedona. It’s a marvel not to be missed. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #194 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: AFGHAN MUJAHADDIN?

jw-the-mujahaddinWhen my son Brandon was a cadet at Virginia Military Academy, his professor teaching Modern Military History gave a lecture on the 1980s War in Afghanistan fought by Afghan Mujahaddin against the Soviet Red Army occupation of their country. One of the pictures he showed was the one above of “three typical Mujahaddin fighters.”

Brandon raised his hand. “Yes, Cadet Wheeler,” the professor called on him. “Actually, Professor,” Brandon said, “only the man in the center with the white beard is one. The man on the right is United States Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, while the man on the left is my father.”

The professor was stunned while the rest of the class stifled laughter. “Are you quite sure of that, Cadet Wheeler?” stammered the professor. “Oh, yes sir,” Brandon replied. “I recognize my own father. That photo is framed in my father’s study. It was taken in November 1988. The Afghan Commander’s name is Moli Shakur. I have known Congressman Rohrabacher all my life.”

The cadets all applauded in appreciation. To this day, this remains one of Brandon’s fondest college memories. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #145 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 03/18/22

russ-in-ukr-waters

A TTPer is in Ukraine now, who tells me the latest joke on Ukrainian lips is, “Everyone thought that Russia had the #2 army in the world. Turns out, that it has the #2 army in Ukraine."

The Russian Titanic has hit the Ukrainian Iceberg and is sinking.  Here are the latest (3/16-17) updates from British Military Intelligence:

intelupdate-on-ukr

Our TTPer on the ground confirms this.  I was asked on the TTP Forum this morning, “Jack, what’s your take on the end game in Ukraine?”  My reply: “China feeding on the carcass of Russia.”

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