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Don’t you just love a good travel photo blogging competition?! Forget about winning or losing, I thrive on being able to sift through countless old pictures, reliving priceless memories in the pursuit of seeking out some of my favourite captures and snooping voyeuristically at the photos shared by fellow travellers, adding to my never-ending wishlist of destinations still to conquer.

Thomas Cook are challenging you one step further by asking you to select four photos that best reflect the elements, Fire, Air, Water and Earth as part of the #ExploretheElements challenge. And if you happen to impress, you’ll be in with a chance of winning a MacBook Air, a Fujifilm X-T1 camera, an I-phone 6 or even a Β£5000 travel fund!! Click here for full terms and conditions but remember, you only have 7 days left and don’t forget to nominate 5 fellow bloggers to take part and here’s my entry for a little inspiration!

FIRE

I had toyed with the idea of sharing a smouldering tropical sunset from Havana that radiated the Cuban skies last summer. I had wanted to introduce a motherly warmth into the gusty British blizzards by including a traditional log fire from a Cotswold cottage into this post but what stopped me was a childhood memory.

As much as fire provides light to those paralysed by darkness, fuel to the impoverished and warmth to those unshielded from the winter chills, it can also have more tragic consequences.Torres del Paine trees fire damageAs a child of six, I lived with my family in a block of flats in the Middle East and one humid day, the building caught fire. We were amongst the lucky ones, walking away unharmed with nothing but a singed curtain as evidence. I vividly remember the flats above us in hysteria, shrieking mothers, pandemonium, anxious crowds amassing outside. What was left in me was an etched imprint of fire’s destructive potential and sadly, many years later, our family lost a wonderful woman in a burns accident.

The Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is proclaimed by many to be the unofficial 8th wonder of the world with magnificent rugged terrain and mosaics of water and coloured soil. There was a time when the trees in this photo were enrobed in lush foliage, a far cry from the image above. Unfortunately, hectares of land at the park were damaged during a fire and in the affected region, these charcoal branches are the skeletons that remain. But they stand proud and somehow don’t deflect from the majestic views, reminding us all that despite the far-reaching consequences of fire, there is a resilience that lives on in the survivors.

WATER

My experience of water as an element during my travels took a voyage rather akin to a coming-of-age. Initially, I viewed it through the simplistic and childlike lens of warm chlorinated pools, of waves dragging forth shells for my collection, the glue needed for my sand castles. Over time, I learned more of its force, witnessing its vigour and wrath, the Devil’s Throat at Iguazu Falls immediately springing to mind. And where water surprised me most was when seeing how it evolves, taking on new forms, forming solid structures but retaining its lucent purity.Perito Moreno Glacier The water captured here at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina has coalesced and frozen, as if to take on a geological stupor. It does not pour the way I had first encountered water, it does not wash over my fingers. I cannot submerge my cold extremities in it. But its pulse is still evident in its continuing evolution with boulders breaking off and generating thunderous crashes as they plummet into the pristine waters below.

EARTH

It was not the undulating postcard-perfect landscape where the valleys converge in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains that drew me back to this photo time and again, nor was it the sheer breadth and magnitude of this Moroccan mountain range. I had previously been absorbed by the perfect contours of the Matterhorn in Switzerland and the snow-capped peaks throughout the Alps but it was these North African mountains that embodied the spirit of earth as an element for me.red iron soil Atlas mountains The sheer palette of colours (the iron-rich terracotta soil being the one I was most drawn to) buried within the ground is testament to the delicate fusion of scientific, geological and inadvertently artistic processes that go on in the soils beneath our feet, painstakingly slowly, drawing together over centuries to form this breathtaking panorama.

AIR

Selecting a photo that encapsulates the essence of air as an element posed the greatest challenge to me. It is upon the first fragile moments of our existence that we become exposed to air. We rely on it to take our first breaths. It fills our lungs as we expel our first cry. Our mothers exhale deeply into the air as we arrive, perhaps sighs of relief, perhaps apprehension, perhaps pain, perhaps joy.

Probably a prolonged sigh, flooded with all.

There is no limit to air; it is boundless, transcending political divisions and geographical markings. It has the same intangible breadth and kindness of a mother’s love. It is the ever-expanding love my Mother unfailingly shows me and the flawlessly consistent love her Mother showed her.mum and baby Selous safariI would find it one day in the remotest of places, at the Selous game reserve in Southern Tanzania, where the air was dry and humid, where man’s thumb-print was thankfully still minimal. I would spot this mother and baby seeking solace under the shade of a tree branch. I would sense the naivety of the infant as she was cradled in her Mother’s tired but nurturing trunk. In our most friable moments of vulnerability, perhaps this is the air we depend on?

Which one of these entries was your favourite?

Thank you so much to Char from Taylor Hearts Travel for nominating me. I’m now passing on the challenge to these great bloggers:

Anna – Slightly Astray

Upasna – Life on my Plate

Emily – The Cosy Traveller

Nita – Spilling the Beans

Allane – Packing my Suitcase