The Steppe of Misfortune - Photo by Jamie Maddison

The first on-foot crossing of the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert

In September this year, Untamed Border’s team member, Matt Traver, along with British-American photographer, Mark Woodward, headed out to Kazakhstan to document Jamie Maddison’s attempt to complete the first on-foot crossing of the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert. Jamie ran across the lower reaches of this sandy expanse – from the Ili to the Karatal Rivers – in under 30 hours. Across that time Jamie had to contend with 36ºC heat and soft sand dunes underfoot. You can read more about Jamie’s incredible expeditions at and check out Mark’s other work in the desert regions of New Mexico at A short film will be released early next year by Matt and Mark.


Help the first ever Afghan Winter Olympians

For the last five years, we have been working together with the Afghan Ski Challenge, enabling skiers to compete in Afghanistan’s first ski touring race.
What started as a spontaneous idea by its founder Christophe Zuercher has since grown into a veritable development project.
The race is operated by the Bamyan Ski Club, a non-profit association based in Zürich, this spring the Ski Challenge was held for the seventh time. Over the years, dozens of boys and girls have learned to ski with the Bamyan Ski Club ski school every February before the race. For two skiers, Ali Shah and Sajjad, the skiing developed into much more than just a fun new hobby.
Today, the Bamyan Ski Club is asking for support to be able to help Ali Shah and Sajjad represent Afghanistan at the Winter Olympics in February 2018 in South Korea where they will become the first ever Afghan Winter Olympians.
The sponsorship of the ski manufacturer Völkl, the commitment of the resort of St. Moritz and private donors have enabled Ali Shah and Sajjad to train in the Swiss mountains for the last three winters. The progress they have made is remarkable. In the qualifying races for the World Championships in St. Moritz last February, they reached the finish in both runs.
However, Ali Shah and Sajjad still need further points at qualifying races throughout Europe this winter.
The costs involved for travelling, support and material are however considerable, so far these costs aren’t covered.

Please do consider participating in the Bamyan Ski Club crowdfunding campaign and by spreading the word. From Thursday, 19 October, this link will take you directly to the campaign.  There are some great rewards for larger donations.

Martin Parnell - TED Talk - Life is a Relay

TED Talk by Untamed Borders guest, Martin Parnell

In 2016 Martin Parnell joined us for the 2nd ever Marathon of Afghanistan, inspired by a newspaper article he spotted in 2015 about the marathon and the first ever female Afghan to run it.  Martin had been hospitalised in early 2015 with a massive blood clot on his brain.  He became determined to participate in the marathon the following year and help support the women participating in the 2016 Marathon of Afghanistan.

On arrival at the Marathon, Martin became aware of a female runner being supported by an NGO, ‘Free to Run’, who work with women and girls in communities affected by war.

Martin has run over 330 marathons, 250 of which were in the space of one year.  Something for which he holds a Guinness World Record.  In fact, he has set 5 world records.

We are proud to be a part of Martin’s journey, his TED talk is certainly worth a watch…just be prepared to be inspired!

If you are interested in joining our package to the Marathon of Afghanistan, you can view more details here.

Elephant Rock Madain Saleh - Saudi Arabia

Join us in Saudi Arabia

In February 2018 we will be guiding a small group through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, taking in the sights and sounds of Jeddah, Abha, Riyadh and Al Ula. Witness ancient architecture, visit art museums and the local arts and crafts markets, traverse Mount Suda in a cable car and check out an abandoned village of Habala set into a cliff face.

You can view further details of the trip here. If you have questions or would like to book, please contact us.


Somaliland: leader in cashless payments?

Somalia is always full of surprises. None more so than the fact that more people make cashless payments there than anywhere else on earth. Check out this BBC article to see why and how.

Somaliland, featured in the article is also the location of the inaugural Somaliland Marathon in early 2018. We will be running packages for the event, you can view the itinerary here.

If you are keen to sign up then please contact us:


Nancy Hatch Dupree

RIP Nancy Hatch Dupree – ‘Grandmother of Afghanistan’

Nancy Hatch Dupree, affectionately known as the ‘Grandmother of Afghanistan’, passed away on Sunday 10th September at the age of 89.

Sharing a kebab and a cup of green tea with Nancy was always a highlight of a visit to Afghanistan. Always illuminating us with talks of her travels around the country. A personal hero of our founders James and Kausar, she was always very supportive of what we were doing in Afghanistan. That has always meant a lot to us.

Rest in Peace Nancy.



Visiting Socotra

In May we guided a small group to the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen. Described as the Galapagos of the middle east, the island is home to 700 plants endemic to the island.
Despite Yemen being in the middle of a tragic civil war, Socotra has escaped the violence.

You can see a few of their photos here

Pamir Mountain Lakes

Paul Salopek’s 21,000 mile, 10 year walking project

We are very proud to say that, in a very small way, we have been able to contribute as a consultant to Paul Salopek’s epic 21,000 mile, 10 year walking project following mankind’s migration route from the Rift Valley in Africa to Tierra del Fuego.

We were able to provide him and his team information about how to navigate the peaks of the Hindu Kush and Pamirs as he crosses from Central Asia to the subcontinent.

Runners at the Marathon of Afghanistan

One space available – Marathon of Afghanistan package

The Marathon of Afghanistan 2017 will take place this October. We only have one space left on our package to take part in Afghanistan’s only mixed gender sporting event. Get in touch with us at for more information and to sign up.

The rest is simple: run 26 miles and then celebrate your success in the shadow of the Great Buddha niche.

There is more information about the package we offer here.