Michael Cook, Producer

Mike was responsible for logistics, including arranging talent, negotiating with governments and other suppliers, and organizing ground and air operations.

What animals did you find to be the most interesting?

Each place had at least one species I found interesting. We saw oryx--large African antelopes--in Namibia and watched a pack of wild dogs in the Okavango Delta. We were able to interact quite a lot with the macaws of the Amazon and also with many of the lemurs we encountered in Madagascar. Tibet has shaggy yaks, Greenland has powerful sled dogs and Iguazu Falls has agoutis--short-eared rodents that are a little like rabbits.

How was the sky different in these places?

"The sky is the daily bread of the eyes." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Greenland: Stayed light until 11 p.m.

  Madagascar: Skies varied a lot from the desert to the rain forest.

  Chang Tang Plateau: Crystal-clear sky; half the atmosphere was below our feet.

Iguazu Falls: Lots of rain clouds.

Amazon River: Thunderheads built up every afternoon.

Namib Desert: Sky was a very pale blue from all the dust.

Okavango Delta: Long, classical "African" sunsets.

What was your favorite location?

Tibet. Each place was great in its own way--that’s why we selected these places--but Tibet really stands out from the others because its people are so special. The Tibetan nomads are among the warmest, most smiling, and seemingly happiest people I have ever encountered. Tibet also had incredible physical and geographic sights. The Okavango Delta was another favorite of mine for its abundant wildlife and incredible sunsets.

What types of foods did you eat?

Mostly we ate a Western diet. Tibet was the most exotic, and that's why we all lost weight while we were there! I lost 18 pounds in Tibet. I think the bestexotic food was in Namibia, because the chef at our hotel in Swakopmund was a hunter and brought fresh gemsbok, springbok, ostrich, and unusual ocean fish to the table.

What image or impression of each place comes immediately to your mind when it is named?

  Greenland: 1,800-foot-high icebergs that are 90 percent underwater.

  Madagascar: Great lemurs.

  Chang Tang Plateau: Struggling, but truly happy people.

  Iguazu Falls: People on the opposite economic scale of the Tibetans.

  Amazon River: Colorful birds, green rain forest, hot, buggy.

  Namib Desert: Stunning, solid waves of sand.

Okavango Delta: Spectacular wildlife.

What was the scariest moment you experienced?

Being lost late at night after going upstream for eight hours on a tributary of the Amazon River with a boat driver who didn’t know the way! I knew we had limited fuel, and I kept watching the global positioning system (GPS) screen show we were going in circles.

Another scary experience was when I woke up in the middle of the night at 15,000 feet in Tibet, gasping for breath. The high altitude makes it hard to breathe, and you’re always aware of the possibility of getting altitude sickness. The only thing you can do then is get down to a lower altitude.

What did you notice that was different or the same about the people of each place?

Much of the world lives in villages where people care about the welfare and well-being of their neighbors and extended family. They don't have the same modern or technological conveniences that we do, but they do have a deep compassion, kindness, and concern that many Western societies have lost over the years. Outsiders are welcomed into their world.

Did anything strike you about how the native people of each place interact with their geography?

Because there is so much more water than land in the Amazon, many of the villages are literally inthe river. People live in homes on stilts up above the water, and canoes are the commuter vehicle of choice.

It was also interesting to observe how dependent the Tibetan nomads are on their land: Almost everything they have comes directly from the land; they have virtually no trade or need for contact with the outside world.

Has your relationship to your place changed by having been to these greatest places?

I'd often been told that I live in the greatest country in the world. The more I travel, the more I believe this to be true. Seeing new places and people is wonderful, but it's always nice to come home again. It gives me a fresh outlook. I don't take anything for granted anymore.

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