New Book in the Pipeline (March 2019)

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Celebrating 18 years of travel and adventure, the Raven Brothers’ new book is a collection of articles and travel stories detailing some of their favorite journeys, hikes and journalistic investigations from countries as diverse as Colombia, India, Russia, Macedonia and deepest Peru.

With their unique brand of humor, hilariously truthful observations and in-depth journalism, the Raven brothers have been noted by Lonely Planet for their talent to portray an “accurate view of what to expect”.

Publishing date: March 2019

 

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Rowing the Ganges: A boat, a goat & three chickens

During one of India’s greatest festivals I embarked on a River Ganges adventure to Varanasi in a little wooden boatwith a goat and three chickens.

me11_bwBy Chris Raven

It’s a beautiful day in St Tropez and I’m relaxing on the deck of my luxury Benetti super yacht named Serenity. Today sees the last regatta of the season on the French Riviera and I have a sneaky suspicion it will kick off in style this year. Les Voiles d’Automne is a demanding, high level competition for ultra talented sailors so I will be a very skilled spectator.

My girlfriend Cinderella appears carrying a small tray of fresh bread, cheese and a bottle of Romanée Conti red wine from Cote de Nuits in Burgundy. A former Playboy bunny and successful model from St Tropez, Cinderella’s striking features resembles that of a young Brigitte Bardot. I noticed her three days ago at the opening of the new restaurant at Le Byblos, while I was eating Bouillabaisse and talking travel with a bearded man from Aruba. It was love at first…

…my eyes flick open. I’m lying on a bed fully clothed in a dark room in Allahabad. The sweet smell of apple molasses is heavy in the air and I can hear the busy street life outside the window.

‘Time to go!’ My brother Simon sings, throwing his rucksack over his shoulder.

‘Go where?’ I mumble, rubbing my tired eyes.

‘To find a boat. To row to Varanasi!’ Continue reading “Rowing the Ganges: A boat, a goat & three chickens”

On Assignment

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NOVEMBER, 2017

Rio de Janeiro to New York City

MAY, 2017

SPAIN

Extremadura

From Cáceres to Mérida: A Little Walk Along The Silver Way

The Silver Way (Via de la Plata) is the longest of the pilgrim routes in Spain, and runs along an ancient path founded by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Starting from Seville in Andalucia, it runs northwards through the provinces of Extremadura and Castilla y Leon to Salamanca and Zamora.

MAY – JUNE, 2017

MOROCCO

Bus Journey from Chefchaouen to Al Hoceima – One of Morocco’s most memorable mountain road journeys.

Hiking in the Riff Mountains and the Talassemtane National Park – Morocco’s last secret gem.

Tangier – Meknes – Fes – Rabat – Casablanca – Marrakech

 

JANUARY, 2017

PRAGUE – BUDAPEST

Aug-Sept, 2016

BERLIN

HAMBURG – A walk along Hamburg’s River Elbe – from the Airbus factory to the Old Warehouse District of The Speicherstadt

July 2016

ANDALUSIA, SPAIN

Tabernas Desert

May 2016

INDIA

 

LATEST TRAVEL BOOK BY CHRIS RAVEN & SIMON RAVEN

“BLACK SEA CIRCUIT” – An Adventure Through the Caucasus

Continue reading “On Assignment”

Road to Damascus in a $500 Ford Escort

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Simon Raven (L) and Chris Raven (R) on the Road to Damascus

In the summer of 2007, my brother and I drove from the UK to Damascus. Four years after our road trip, Syria was plunged into Civil War. Our hearts go out to all the men, women and children who have lost their lives and affected by this armed conflict, and to the beautiful people we met along the way.

Written by Chris Raven

I wake at sunrise outside of the gates to the Göreme Museum in Cappadocia. In the distance a hot air balloon slowly drifts above the strange volcanic mushroom-shaped rock formations named fairy chimneys. There is a roaring sound and then a bright glow of a flame, followed by another burst of hot air as it disappears over the horizon. Slipping on my sunglasses, I admire the holes dotted across the rocks where ancient civilizations have carved windows and doorways into these natural dwellings and Byzantines have made chapels with paintings during the spread of Early Christianity.

Si drives south to the town of Nevşehir in the heart of Cappadocia, and we follow fields of yellow sunflowers all the way to the agricultural city of Nigde. The windows are down and there is an open road in front of us as we cruise the High Taurus; a mountain range brimming with important chromium deposits and other minerals such as silver, copper, iron, lignite and zinc. We climb the breathtaking Kolsuz Pass in the Niğde Province at an altitude of 1,490 metres (4,890 ft), and slowly make our way down towards Adana that produces grapes, cotton, wheat and barley. From the Levant region up into Turkey, the farming revolution began here 8,000 years ago creating a hub where farmers are first thought to have spread into Europe. We arrive on the Mediterranean coast at the port town of İskenderun. There is not much to see so we park up overlooking the port. Si rummages through the trunk and fishes out a saucepan and the gas stove. We cook a tin of meatballs with spaghetti, and I take the opportunity to have a shave using the hot spaghetti water.

Up the Etna

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The Raven brothers spark up their Rover 214 and head for Sicily in their quest to drive to the top of Mt Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

By Chris Raven

Sicily, the largest of the beautiful Italian islands, has a rich Phoenician and Arab ancestry and rivals Greece for ancient Greek architecture (The Valley of the Temples). It is famous for the Mafia (Cosa Nostra and the Coppola), tasty desserts (cassata), the Sonnet, sea monsters, Palermo’s Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele – the largest opera house in Italy, great street food (arancini – Sicilian rice balls with a choice of meat or bacon, new-wave of wine-growers, Archimedes ‘Eureka!’ and skiing down a volcano (Mt Etna).

Our Mission: To drive up Mt Etna on the island of Sicily to Refugio Sapienza, elevation 6,500 feet.

Vehicle: Rover 214 GSi, silver, bought for $500 in cash on eBay. Assembled at the Longbridge car plant in Birmingham, UK, in the year the Iraqi forces invaded and conquered Kuwait. Margaret Thatcher, the iron lady, resigned as UK Prime Minister. The movie Dances with Wolves with Kevin Costner was a big hit and Something Happened On The Way To Heaven by Phil Collins was blaring out of every Pioneer LP turntable/record player music station around the world. Yep, the car was born in the year 1990. OK, so it was a rather old (almost a classic) vehicle, with fake wooden upholstery and a well thought out coin tray for your loose change, genius idea. The seats are comfy, music comes out of the radio, it has an electric sunroof, electric windows, and the brakes work, which is important, the engine looks like a proper engine and all of the four wheels roll. What more do we need?

Continue reading “Up the Etna”

A Little Walk to Europe’s northernmost point (71°11’08’’)

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Chris Raven on the Knivskjellodden trail. (Photo © Simon Raven)

Chris Raven is in Norway with a mission to walk the Knivskjellodden trail. 

5555By Chris Raven

I have always been intrigued to know what lies at the top of Norway, five hundred miles beyond the Arctic Circle and at the very top of northern Europe. So, here I am at the start of the Knivskjellodden trail and waiting patiently for a storm to pass by. I occupy myself by munching on salty licorice, and having an animated discussion with my brother about polar bears. “Hang on, polar bears and penguins don’t live together in the wild?” I nod, and explain to Simon that polar bears have never even seen a penguin before. “They’re poles apart!” I laugh, flicking a Dunder Salt ball into my mouth. “The polar bear lives in the northern hemisphere and penguins live in the southern hemisphere.” The conversation then focuses on the chances of being mauled by one of these huge carnivores. I pull up my collars and peer out into the mist, half expecting a bear to suddenly appear at my window with its sharp teeth dripping with saliva, but I confidently smile knowing they are 470 miles away on Svalbard.

The road to Nordkapp (Photo by Chris Raven)

Destination: Norway. A beautiful country in Scandinavia famous for the Fjords, the midnight sun, oil, the cheese slicer, the paper clip, Nobel Peace Prize, Vikings, Edvard Munch Expressionist painter – painted The Scream, lefse, a flat bread, fish and A-HA – Famous Norwegian band from the 80’s.

Mission: To walk the Knivskjellodden trail (18km return – starting point just off Highway E69).

Location: Magerøya Island, Finnmark, North Cape, Norway – 3,330 km from London – 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 1,306.3 miles from the North Pole – 71°11’08″ latitude.

Fellow adventurer joining the mission: Simon Raven – a passionate explorer with exceptionally long piano fingers.

Arctic Experience: A little (I once built an igloo in the garden when I was seven).

Clothing & equipment: Scarf, hooded top, walking boots, gloves, binoculars, umbrella and one dollar plastic ponchos (forgot to bring a waterproof coat).

Risk factor: Medium/high (may trip over rock, stray off trail, fall off a cliff or get eaten by a reindeer).

Reindeers on the move. (Photo © Chris Raven)

Continue reading “A Little Walk to Europe’s northernmost point (71°11’08’’)”

“Mountain of the Gods” Climbing Mount Olympus

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Chris Raven climbing Mount Olympus. (Photo © Simon Raven)

The Raven brothers drive to Greece in their quest to climb to the top of Mount Olympus, the home of Zeus.

By Chris Raven

I have only climbed two mountains in my life. The first was Ben More on the Isle of Mull in Scotland at the tender age of fifteen. There I was an adolescent teenager with a bumfluff moustache and skinny legs, battling through the whipping rain on an adventure to the summit. My second mountain was one in the Himalayas in Nepal. At twenty-four I was stronger, wiser, and I knew how to pierce a blister with a pair of scissors. An old Dutchman in our shelter that cold, dark night told me, “In the mountains there are only two grades.’ The old man stopped talking, the orange glow from a candle flickered on his weather-beaten face. He then dropped his smile and leaned forward. “You can either do it, or you can’t”.

I’m in Greece, the Hellenic Republic to be exact. It’s my first visit to this beautiful Mediterranean country famous for feta cheese, baklava, moussaka, Philosophy, Mythology, Plato, Alexander the Great, Homer, Socrates, Aristotle and Easy Jet’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou, archaeological museums, the capital city of Athens (one of the oldest cities in Europe), sea sponges from kalymnos, the Olympic Games, quite a big national debit, early retirement, 9,000 miles of coastline, 2,000 islands, Mount Olympus, Parthenon (438 BC, dedicated to the maiden goddess Athena), Greek tragedies (Ajax), and the largest maritime fleet in the world.

The mission: To climb to the Mytikas summit with my brother Simon.

Altitude: 10,000 feet (3,000 metres).

Location: Olympus Range on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, about 100 kilometres (62 mi) away from Thessaloniki.

Equipment and Supplies: Walking boots, energy drink, sun protective cream, sunglasses, cheese sandwiches, binoculars, plasters, packets of crisps, water, warm clothes and bananas.

Risk factor: High altitude, indigestion from eating too many cheese sandwiches, falling off a cliff, being attacked by a wild goat or being trampled to death by a mule train.

Mount Olympus was the most worshipped mountain in ancient Greece, and has been the setting for many Greek mythical stories. Great battles were fought up here in the misty summit, with Olympian Gods booting the Titans off the rugged slopes. With their new kingdom all furnished and the blood and bodies removed, the gods would snack and drink nectar and discuss the fate of the world and the poor mortals living on it. But it wasn’t all roses in the kingdom of the Olympus gods. Should a god break an oath, he would be cursed to live nine years away from Mount Olympus and banned from taking part in any of the gods’ parties and fun gatherings. So cruel.

Our journey begins in the pretty little town of Litochoro, just 5 km from the sea at the foothills of Mount Olympus. It’s six o’clock in the morning and I feel wide-wake. Making our way to the central square, we wander through the quiet lanes and admire the old wooden courtyard doors and gabled roofs belonging to the traditional Macedonian houses. After filling up our water bottles from a public fountain, we begin our accent on the beautiful country roads that lead us through the UNESCO Mount Olympus National Park. As we climb higher and higher, our attention is diverted away from the strange blowing noise coming from under the hood and is now focused on the truly breathtaking views. We pull over and gaze out across the calm Aegean Sea, and watch a sailing boat kiss the horizon against the rising fireball. It is so magical. If the views are this dramatic here, I can’t imagine what they’ll be like from the summit. We eventually reach Prionia, the highest point up the mountain that you can drive to by car.

Within ten minutes of slipping on our walking boots, we find ourselves on the trail and knee-deep in thick forest and Greek strawberry trees. There appears to be no one around, and the feeling of having the trail all to ourselves puts a skip in our step. Thirty-two species of mammals roam the forests in the national park from the chamois, deer, ferret, wolf, bear and lynx, and over 108 species of bird. The entire area was declared Greece’s first national park in 1937 and consists of eight peaks including the “Throne of Zeus” at 2,909 metres and Mytikas which has the highest summit at 2,919 metres.

The trail becomes steeper as it weaves through the beautiful, sweet-smelling forest. My trusty staff (or, moss covered branch) helps me along the way. A yellow sign nailed to a pine tree let’s us know we’re now 1,750 metres above sea level, and that it’s a three hour trek to refuge ‘A’. Hearing cow bells clanking further down the trail, we quickly perch ourselves on a large boulder and wait in anticipation for the mule train to pass by. I spot the big ears of the first mule slide into view, followed by seven others trailing behind, all of them ladened down with sacks tied to their saddles. We both exchange smiles with the guy and the girl riding on the first and third mule. With his long black hair and beard and her leather jacket and biker boots, I can’t help thinking they both look more suited to cruising down an open highway on a big Harley Davidson, rather than riding on the back of a lolloping floppy-eared mule.

A middle-aged guy grasping ski poles appears from out of the trees and walks up close behind the mule train. He’s in his late fifties and wearing full trekking gear. He looks agitated and is annoyed to be trapped behind these dumb animals that are affecting his pace. “For god’s sake, even in the wilderness there are traffic jams!”, I can hear him cry. The impatient guy strides past us at speed, with only a quick nod to express his good morning. Making a daring move, he sees an opportunity to overtake and leaps down the grass bank. He runs like an athlete alongside the mules, and just about manages to jump back onto the small trail in front of them before disappearing into the forest. Why are some people in such a rush?

Before long we arrive at the refuge at 2,100 metres, and slump into a couple of chairs on a balcony. Si orders the cold drinks, while I whip off my walking boots and feed fresh air to my sore feet. My calf muscles feel like they are about to explode. I ask the young guy running the refuge if many tourists stay the night, and he explains that tourism this year is at an all time low. He blames the recent protests in Athens and the economic problems in Greece that have been dominating the headlines all summer.

After a good rest, Si suggests we continue with our mission to walk to the summit and hang out with the gods. We set off once more and pass a spooky charred tree that wouldn’t look out of place in one of Tim Burton’s quirky, dark Gothic movies. At around 2,300 metres, we say goodbye to the trees and enter alpine terrain. I begin to feel rather breathless at this altitude. Up ahead we see a group of people sat down beside the trail. We stop and say hello to three gentlemen, who are taking time out from their journey down the mountain. One of the men is from France, near Paris. He’s hunched over and looks exhausted. The second guy seems a little friendlier. He has a slight quiff, and we find out he was born in Athens, but now lives in Toronto. A local guide accompanying them beams. He looks as fresh as the morning dew.

“Much further to the top?’ Si puffs.

“Only a few hours,” the guide smiles. “Be careful of the ridge.”

Appreciative of the advance warning, we continue on our way and soon approach a heavily misted area. Walking cautiously through the mist along a narrow path, we peer over the side and can see shale disappearing into white cloud. One foot wrong and it’s over the edge we go into Zeus’s steaming cooking pot. Stone steps lead us up closer to the summits of Skala and Mytikas, and we see markers on the rocks pointing us in the right direction. It’s very rocky and barren with mist clinging tightly around the two peaks. A chamois pops its head up over the shale horizon. It looks at us and then leaps off. The steep trail soon hits another ridge, and after three hours it opens up to a wide flat grassland area and an unpaved track. We’ve reached the high plateau called ‘Musses’ at an altitude of 2,450 metres.

Once on the Skala peak (2,866 metres), we are rewarded by amazing views of the dominating rocky tower of Mytikas. Red markings lead the way, as we walk higher and higher along the route called Kakoskala (bad steps). With my legs turning to jelly and my knee joints on fire, we finally arrive at Mytikas. We had made it to the top of Greece’s highest mountain. We had made it to the home of Zeus. I open my arms out wide and absorb the energy of the surrounding peaks. A Greek flag dances in the breeze and sitting down on a rock, we snack on cheese sandwiches in celebration, drink nectar (well, Red Bull) and discuss the fate of the world like two Greek gods.