Cultural Crossroads

During his lifetime Idries Shah promoted contacts and connections between different traditions around the world, believing this to be an important element in the advancement of human culture.

In this spirit, The Idries Shah Foundation has created ‘Cultural Crossroads’, a website forum where people from many walks of life are invited to talk about their own experiences crossing cultural boundaries, and the lessons that they have learned as a result.

You can find the full series here:


Hugh Thomson is a writer and film-maker who believes strongly that the world is not as explored as we like to suppose. In his new book, One Man And A Mule, Hugh Thomson brings together his interests from his previous work by having what he calls ‘a South American adventure in England’. He makes the coast-to-coast crossing from the Lake District to the Yorkshire Moors with his trusty mule, Jethro, acting as a pack animal, much in the way Hugh has been used to travelling in the Andes.


Q1: You’ve become the world’s leading explorer of ancient Incan ruins- is there still much to be found out there in the remote jungles?

Always a difficult question as by definition we don’t know – but I would certainly suspect that we will find much more in the cloud forest in the Andes as archaeological techniques like lidar improve.

Q2: In Cochineal Red (published as A Sacred Landscape in the States) you show how ancient people wove their surroundings into their lives at every level – have we lost something in the utilitarian way we approach the land in the developed world?

Yes and I was always very impressed by something I was told in Peru which is that ‘it makes you more comfortable as a human being to have different parts of the landscape within you’.

Q3: What is a lesson you’ve learned while hunting for lost cities?

There’s an old explorer’s maxim that ‘you only ever find what you’re looking for,’ most notably evidenced by Christopher Columbus who died believing he had reached Asia, and one which can be very dangerous. You need to have a very open mind as to what it is you might have found.

Q4: If you had limitless time and money what expedition would you mount?

I would try to use lidar around the Vilcabamba near Machu Picchu.