This month we embark on a fabulous journey taking in a canoe trek from Texas to Mexico, Buddhist retreats in Java, a Catholic pilgrimage in Portugal, mystical masks in West Africa, and fire-walking in Greece.
We begin with Christina Chang as she takes us to the Greek town of Serres for the annual fire-walking festival of the Anastenaria which commemorates a church fire in 1250. Legend tells that villagers heard the church icons groaning amid the flames and those who went in to rescue them emerged unscathed from the fire.
The fire walkers are therefore thought to have passed down to them protection from the fires. During the festival mystical music from lyres and drums are played and sheep are sacrificed for a later feast. Villagers pass through the church with their holy icons during the day. As evening approaches the villagers prepare themselves for the fire walking ritual.
Zay Harding embarks on a journey which takes him through the Rio Grande, America’s second largest river. Starting at Santa Elena Canyon, Zay paddles his canoe through Texas and into the Mexican city of Boquillas. The trip cuts through five canyons and 300 miles until finally ending in the Gulf of Mexico.
A must place to visit in West Africa, Dogon country boasts some amazing scenery stretching 100 miles from north to south and can sometimes take up to ten days to travel across. As Islam moved south through Africa, the Dogon people sought refuge here moving up through the plains nearly 700 years ago.
Each year during the months of April and May, the people of Dogon celebrate the Fêtes des Masques – a colourful and mystical display of music and dance celebrating the harvest and remembering the dead. Justine Shapiro gets into the spirit as dancers adorn various masks integral to Dogon culture, some of which signify the passing of knowledge and others which protect against vengeance. The Dogon remains one of West Africa’s most resilient cultures.
Next, we accompany Megan McCormick as she visits the famous pilgrimage town of Fatima in Portugal. Megan stumbles upon a supermarket for the religious trinket shopper and picks up a ‘Virgin Mary Snow Glow’ for her sins. Rather than finding a sleepy cosy little town, Megan is surprised by the commercial feel to the place. This is an especially holy place for Catholics and Megan passes pilgrims on their hands and knees as they make their way to the church steps.
The holy city of Borabadur on the Indonesian island of Java is where we join Megan on her next trip as she explores the meanings behind this huge Buddhist retreat. Nestled within a glorious rainforest, Borabadur is inlaid with thousands of beautiful carvings depicting the Buddha’s life and his travels from the physical to the spiritual.
Andrew Daddo goes to northern Botswana to join the start of the safari season in Chobe National Park. With the help of a guide, Andrew goes in hot pursuit of the elusive animal by investigating lion tracks. They finally manage to catch sight of the magnificent beast rounding off a memorable day and a truly fantastic month to travel the world.
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