REMOTE: The evolution of luxury

When Danish aristocrat Karen Blixen arrived in Kenya in 1914, at age 28, in all likelihood she felt as being in a remote place, thousands of kilometers away from her native Denmark and light years distant in terms of culture, traditions, language and landscapes to the ohne that ad been part of her imaginary until that moment. She had to change the corset and dresses for trousers and high boots, learn to handle a rifle and be able to create a home in a hidden place, surrounded by wild nature and indigenous people whom she did not understand

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Throughout history, hinterland has always strongly influenced generations of travelers and explorers who, adding kilometers in between, have launched themselves onto the magical adventure of exploration and self discovering from within distant forests, virgin islands, unsurmountable mountains, unexplored seas, hidden cities and cultures, ethnicities and unknown traditions.

The concept of remote itself has evolved over time and, if previously it was usually related to very long distances and unreachable places, today remoteness has become something associated with experiencing the pleasures of authenticity.

It is not necessary to travel to the other side of the world to live a remote experience. We can feel that unspeakable and unforgettable sensation that brings remoteness in a place that is close but unreachable, hidden, unknown to most, unsettled by mass tourism. Destinations were the authentic, the down-to-earth and sustainable call the shots. In remoteness, you can imagine a distant island, but also an unexplored forest, a local luxury hotel or an authentic experience. In our globalized and interconnected XXI century’ world in which there seems to be nothing left to discover, we can also associate the concept of remoteness with the offline and dare to live the luxury of disconnecting to reconnect with our essence and self consciousness. 

The remote and distant, the mysterious and magical, the authentic and unexplored, the exotic and hidden… all these are some of the adjectives that come to mind when defining the island concept. These small or large portions of land surrounded by sea, fragile and strong at the same time, many of them custodians of ancient legends of gods, myths, shipwrecks, explorers, pirates contain an energy that makes them attractive for travelers looking for joy in  remote places coming from the authentic side of nature.

In the middle of the Indian Ocean there is an island called Muravandhoo, in the Raa atoll, north of Maldives. Infinite white sand beaches, lined with coconut palms and a seabed full of coral reefs make this island an ideal destination to loosen oneself and live guided by the rhythm of the tides, the Sun and nature. Without time constraints, without obligations, without routines, in communion with the remoteness of the place that ironically brings us closer to the deepest part of ourselves.

On that island, one of Joali’s priorities is to preserve the fragile natural balance of the Maldives. In this ecosystem, from the smallest insect to the largest palm, each species plays an important role in the balance of this earthly paradise. Therefore, the construction of Joali was carried out with a philosophy of low impact, building the villas around the trees to avoid any felling and conserve the 1,000 trees that are now part of the development. Today, sea acidification begins to be one of the biggest causes of coral loss, and Joali has a marine biologist who is currently leading a coral reef recovery program.

Deserts have always been associated with inhospitable and remote, distant and impenetrable places. The Uyuni salt flat is the largest salt desert in the world, with an area of 10,582 km². It is located about 3,650 meters in the southwest of Bolivia and at the foot of the Tunupa volcano. The Uyuni salt flat is the largest lithium reserve in the world with 50-70% of the world’s lithium, also has significant amounts of potassium, boron and magnesium.

It is estimated that Uyuni contains 10 billion tons of salt, 25,000 of which extracted every year. In the past, thousands of years ago, the salt flat was covered twice by water: first by Lake Minchín some 40,000 years ago and once again by Lake Tauka some 12,000 years ago. 

Water evaporation gave rise to extensive layers of solidified salt that give this remote place the appearance of a lunar white desert. The only inhabitants of this enigmatic area are the giant cacti, flamingos and communities of villages such as Jirira.

In the middle of that salt desert, Kachi Lodge, an original ecological lodge composed of a set of geodesic-style domes surprise us. The lodge feeds on solar energy, practices a 0% plastic policy and even the cover of the domes are recyclable.

Another way to enter the infinite white sea of salt is via a house on a slope in an adapted airstream with a comfortable double room, full bathroom, and a 4×4 to freely explore the salt flat. In addition, a chef accompanies you all the time to enjoy a gastronomy full of local features.

Between mid-January and end February –and in some cases even through March- the salt flat is flooded collecting water from all the small torrents that flow into its plain. This produces a flood of a few centimeters throughout the salt flat, showing a mirror effect on which you can drive by car creating an opportunity to take incredible photographs.

The ancient Greeks used the name “Ultima Thule” to describe the unknown kingdom that was beyond the northern limits of their maps.

Long before European settlers came to Alaska, local Athabascan tribes sent exploration expeditions to this valley. Those expeditions never returned. Even today, Glenallen’s elders explain that their people believed that the valley was enchanted and, for that reason, they never settled here.

Nevertheless, in 1958, John Claus, a researcher passionate about nature and aviation, flew over this area for the first time and fell in love with a plot of land near the Chitina River. The government granted him 5 acres and, armed only with axes, John and two Eskimos built the first log cabin on the banks of the Chitina.

Over the years, the river was flooded twice and the settlement moved towards the mountainside. Since then, Ultima Thule has grown and now offers all the luxury and hospitality of civilization to travelers in one of Alaska’s deepest and most inhospitable natural areas.

In 1982, John’s son, Paul, along with his family made this land his permanent home and began to build this exclusive lodge, located 160 kilometers from the nearest road, in the largest reservoir protected on the planet, the National Wrangell-Saint Elias of Alaska. Ultima Thule is only accessible by plane and family Claus ensures this is one of the areas in the planet where one can visit places where n no human being has ever been before. 

British explorer and missionary doctor David Livingstone entered for the first time, along with his wife and children, in the Kalahari desert in 1849, where he found out Lake Ngami, in Botswana, and reached the Zambeze River two years later.

The desire to explore and map the most remote places of the African continent led to a genuine stream of European expeditions in the late nineteenth century. Almost two centuries have passed and Africa continues to maintain that magnetism and all the magic of the remote, attracting travelers eager for exclusive and authentic experiences in distant places of surprising and unparalleled beauty.

The writer Ernest Hemingway once said: “I never knew of a morning in Africa not been happy upon awakening.” The same might have experienced Jack Bousfield, a legendary crocodile hunter and safari specialist, who installed a safari camp in the 60s in salt flats area Makgadikgadi, at Kalahari Desert heart, northeast of Botswana. Jack died in 1992 in a plane crash and his son Ralph founded in memory of his father Jack’s Camp, one of the most iconic, exclusive and elegant camps in Africa.

One of the main attractions of this camp is its 40-year-old safari tents, with colonial-style furniture, Persian rugs, Victorian fabrics and antiques. Safaris, landscape, sunsets and silence are amazing in this luxurious faraway point of the most genuine Africa.

Why do we travel to distant sites?

To test our adventurous spirit or to explain stories about amazing things?

We do it to feel alone among friends and to find ourselves in an uninhabited land.

George Leigh Mallory, British climber. 

(He was a member of the first three tours that suggested  climbing the Everest).

 

Fotos: Elefant Travel

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