Witness the dawn

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

IT’S THE SIMPLE THINGS: TAKE JUST AN HOUR TO STOP AND CONTEMPLATE THE INCREDIBLE BEAUTY OF THE EVERYDAY AND IT’S BOUND TO BE A MORNING TO REMEMBER

Strange things happen in the dead of night. Worries worsen, trivial troubles assume disastrous proportions and the mind plays tricks. Strange sounds and shadowy flickers morph into ghosts, ghouls and villains. And then the sun comes up; funnily enough, it happens every day, yet always has the power to astonish. It’s the combination of slow-burn build-up with sudden illumination – the anticipation with the guaranteed pay-off.
Picture this: you’re in the Nepalese Himalaya and up at stupid o’clock to trek through the cold, coal-black night to reach that perfect perch, 3193m up Poon Hill. From here, come first light, the entire Annapurna Range will spread in perfect panorama. You sit and huddle against the altitudinous chill, to wait for nature to do her thing. First the sky’s seams seem to tear, a fraying at the edge of the darkness. What was colourless turns off-black, then navy, then paler, paler blue. Purple-pinks begin to warm the horizon, a cheery backdrop for the jagged peaks. All around, rocks, boulders, faces begin to blush in the intensifying glow of pre- dawn. It is the golden hour, when the monsters of the night have slunk away and what lies ahead is enlightenment and fresh possibility.
And then, there it is – the sun itself bursts in. Once it’s reared its radiant head, there’s no stopping its speedy surge skywards. Golden becomes blazing – wakey, wakey, rise and shine. The world’s best alarm clock has rung quite definitively: it’s time to start a new day.

1. Gisborne, New Zealand
The North Island’s easternmost city is the first big hub to see the sun rise. It’s also within one of the few districts that permits ‘freedom camping’, so you can wild-camp away from the crowds to watch the new day dawn.

2. Mt Sinai, Egypt
Make a pre-dawn pilgrimage up this sacred mountain – where Moses allegedly received the Ten Commandments – to see the sun rise over the biblical landscape.

3. Dzibilchaltún, Mexico
At sunrise on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun shines directly between the doorposts of Dzibilchaltún’s Temple of the Seven Dolls – testament to the architectural mastery of the Maya.

4. Longyearbyen, Svalbard
Polar night – when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon – lasts for over four months on this Arctic archipelago. The first time the sun makes an appearance in the capital Longyearbyen (around 8 March) is special indeed.

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Extract taken from You Only Live Once (£22.99;  available in bookstores and on shop.lonelyplanet.com. The eBook is available via the iBookstore and Amazon Kindle.) Lonely Planet’s latest title presents experiences which last an hour, a day, a week, a month and even a year, so whether you’re looking for a life change or simply want to add some more excitement to their daily lives, there’s something for everyone. 

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