Friday, 26 October 2007

Nearly home

rob and baker
Three years ago, after cycling through Siberia with Rob, we went our separate ways. I wanted to ride home in a fairly straight line. Rob wanted to wander further. So far, in fact, that only now is he about to get home! His ride, of more than 3 years, included a Siberian winter and rides through Afghanistan and Iran.
As he prepares to return home, and all that that entails, I wonder whether I should have stayed with him and extended my ride by a couple of years... Certainly he has had more exciting, worthwhile, meaningful and fun times than I have had back home. He has spent less money and, in doing so, made far more of the last two years than I have.
I suspect that what awaits Rob, after the excitement and pride has worn off, will be much the same feelings that I am still going through: delighted to be home, frustrated to be home, not wanting to devote similar chunks of our life to the draining demands of the open road, yet also not at all satisfied with the other alternatives.
"What next?" has gone from being the exciting, challenging question that made waking every morning an exciting pleasure to the millstone round my neck that worries how the next 40 years of my life can possibly match up to the last 4. It is up to me to ensure that they do. And that begins next Saturday, when I get married and Rob will stand as my Best Man.
Welcome home, Rob! Have a read of his latest missive below, or visit his
which is raising funds and awareness for the
. He is just £2000 short of his target of £20,000.

“Yet how good it is to come
Home at last, home, home!
… Tired of wild, uncertain lands, strange faces, faint hands.
Has the wondrous world gone cold?
Am I growing old, old?
Grey and weary . . .
let me dream, glide on the tranquil stream.
Oh, what joyous days I've had, full, fervid, gay, glad!
Yet there comes a subtle change, let the stripling rove, range.
From sweet roving comes sweet rest, after all, home's best”

- Robert Service, The Rover


Current Location: Brussels

Number of days since I flew to Siberia: 1136

Number of days ride from home: 2


It seems strange to write it, but I am almost home.


Later today I will set off from Brussels and cycle for the remaining few hours daylight, before camping in a Belgian field (behind a tree). It is getting dark early and getting chilly at night, but there is not much more wild living to endure.


Tomorrow I will ride to Dunkerque and catch a ferry to Dover and then camp in English field (behind a tree).


And on Sunday I will cross the Thames, and ride past Big Ben, down the familiar backstreets of Notting Hill, and finally up to my parents front door. I imagine it like a dream.


The last 2 months riding through Europe have been fleeting. I chose to take quite a “classical” route through my home continent – Istanbul, Greece, Rome… then on through the Alps to Geneva and finally skirting the eastern side of France up to Belgium. I feel I know much less about my own continent than I do Asia, but the sense of history and development in Europe is mind blowing.


For much of this final leg I had company - 3 different visitors joined me on the road. Firstly, for 700 miles through Turkey to Istanbul, Olly the doctor : Olly taught me to cook risotto on a camping stove and made me jealous with his sleek lycra outfits.


Then Nate from America joined me from Greece to Rome. I was grateful to spend time traveling with someone so brilliantly enthusiastic – Nate reminded me how to appreciate the epic landscapes we were seeing and the privilege of living wild.


And finally from Italy to Switzerland, my cousin Richard joined me for a wind beaten brawl of a ride over the Great St Bernards Pass in the Alps – and who afterwards told me that if I ever chose to set up a travel company, I should name it “non-stop agony tours”!


All three of my companions proved tough and impressively non-complaining. It is great to see old friends again.


Whilst in Italy I passed my 3rd year anniversary since setting off - I think the last year has been the hardest of the trip… a year ago I was just leaving Australia by boat to Singapore… and over the following 12 months and 10,000 miles I cycled through the humid hills of Vietnam, the icy passes of Tibet, the crowds of India, the security panics of Afghanistan, and the dry winds of Iran. I also made 2 emotional trips home.


By the time I got to Switzerland I was exhausted, and so pedaling on past Lake Lemon I headed for a Christian retreat centre in the French village of Taize. Taize is a great place to just stop being hectic, and to practice being still… no emailing, no cycling, and no writing – just compulsory stillness. I was exhausted, and wanted to spend a little bit of time just reflecting before entering the busyness of British life again.


Last week I arrived in Brussels for a final pitstop, staying with a friend who works with the EU. Christine came over to visit for a few days from London so it was great to see her again and I am immensely grateful to her for putting up with a “faraway, bearded wildman” boyfriend these past 2 years. It will be good to see her more often from now on!


It is quite hard to reflect on what the point of the past 1139 days have been about or for… and I think further reflection on the common questions of “how have you changed?”, “why did you do it?” and (dauntingly) “what next?” will have to wait until I have actually got back. I think I can say it has been harder and better than I ever imagined. And I think it was worth the time and effort and work that I had to put into it...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

What Africa needs is Leadership

A very
(17 mins) and a lot of common sense spoken about corruption, weak system, poor leadership:
Patrick Awuah left a comfortable life in Seattle to return to Ghana and co-found, against the odds, a liberal arts college. Why? Because he believes that Ghana's failures in leadership stem from a university system that fails to train real leaders. He explains how a true liberal arts education steeped in critical thinking, idealism, and public service can produce the quick-thinking, ethical leaders needed to move his country forward.


Wilderness Lectures

Screenshot_5 If you happen to live near Bristol I really recommend the Wilderness Lectures. I went along last week and it was great: a full house and a very friendly audience. Coming up in the next weeks is a truly juicy cornucopia of vicarious living, including-
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent and Jo Huxter
Helena Drysdale
Steve Berry
Mick Fowler
Jennifer Murray
Susan Conway
Daniel Moylan
Debra Searle
Jason Lewis
Alistair Carley-Smith
Brian Thompson

Start 'em young

home_main I first saw these bikes when I rode through Milan. They are such an improvement on dodgy stabilisers and a really great way to learn to ride.

The Long Way Down (and Round)

I am not really into motorbikes or giant media expeditions, but I shall be watching Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor's
on BBC 2 in the autumn, beginning this Sunday. Video captures the atmosphere of a place in a different way to books or film and I will enjoy seeing again the roads that I rode.
I tried to get Ewan McGregor to write the foreword for my second book but I couldn't get past his 'people'. Great trip though.

Long Way Down is the most recent motorbike adventure with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. Leaving on 12 May 2007, they travelled through Europe, and then Africa – from Tunisia to South Africa, via countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia - a total of 15,000 miles. The team arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on 4 August 2007. It is a follow-up to the Long Way Round trip in 2004, where the pair rode their motorbikes from London to New York, travelling east across Europe, Russia and the United States. As on Long Way Round, they were accompanied by Executive Producers/Directors Russ Malkin and David Alexanian.
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are best mates, and passionate motorcyclists. As well as undertaking Long Way Round and Long Way Down, they ran a motorcross team together for years, and Charley took on the Dakar Rally in 2006.
Ewan and Charley supported UNICEF on Long Way Round and continued to do so on Long Way Down. They visited various UNICEF projects along the way.

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Wednesday, 24 October 2007

LeJog in 6 days?

Looking for a challenge? Want to raise a bit of cash for charity? Don't have much time to spare? Then how about riding from Land's End to John O'Groats... in a week?! It took me 9 days to do that ride so I'm impressed.
Click here to visit the Race Against Time site.

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flier The Bhopal Disaster, one of the worst ever industrial accidents, has somehow bypassed my attention for my entire life. How could an explosion of pesticide that killed over 20,000 Indians have slipped my notice? Is it because the victims were poor and Indian? I am shocked at my ignorance and delighted that a charity bike ride will be pedalling through India to Bhopal to raise funds and awareness for this tragically ignored tragedy. Visit their website here.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Into the Wild

Into the Wild is a film I am really curious to see.

"I want to buy you a new car." His Dad kindly offers.
"Why would I want a new car? The Datsun runs great. I don't want any
." is the reply.

Later on Christopher muses, "I read somewhere how important it was not necessarily to
strong, but to
strong. To measure yourself at least once."
"If you want something in life, reach out and grab it."

A young man is disillusioned with life. He walks off into the wild in an attempt to answer some of his questions...
You can read a fascinating account of this gripping tale here. How I feel about his story and how you feel are perhaps very different. But I am sure it makes you feel something. And in our too-often anaesthetised routine-driven lives that is no bad thing.

Watch the trailer here:


Pause for thought 2

I have a choice, the same choice that faces every man. I can live a frivolous life, trying to impress others with the house I live in, the clothes I wear, the car I drive. I can strive to be a success in the way of the world, seeking the admiration of others, reveling in their jealousy. I can seek domination over my family and fellow workers in a vain attempt to hide my own deficiencies. I can seek fame, which is the most elusive pursuit of all, for it has no substance and soon vanishes in the air.
I can indulge in endless prattle about my friends and neighbours, dissipating my life's energy a little at a time. I can wallow in self-pity, refusing to accept responsibility for my own circumstances. I can manipulate others into taking care of me, which is the way of all petty tyrants. I can complain about boredom, as if it were up to those around me to inject excitement into my day.
These are the patterns of the living dead, people who have forsaken life, who are willing to squander their most precious gift, because they refuse to face up to the reality of death. If they wanted to live, truly wanted to live, they would rise up in a resurrection of their own making and commit themselves to the life they have.
- Richard Bode. Beachcombing at Miramar


Thursday, 18 October 2007

Wilfred Thesiger

Wilfred Thesiger: explorer, ascete, hard man. Also a beautiful photographer in the days when every photo in your film really counted and there was no Photoshop to fall back on. He carried his camera in a goatskin bag and rationed a handful of films over many months of expedition. See some rare pics here, at my favourite museum in the world.


Failure hurts

As I work my way slowly into the mindset required to train, to suffer, to thrive, to accept, to embrace and to enjoy the time and effort required to train for the Marathon des Sables, I have been browsing the web looking for advice and inspiration.
This first entry is pretty powerful, thought-provoking stuff. A brave man who dedicated a decade of his life to try to qualify for the Olympic Games. A man who failed and was brave enough and honest enough to accept that his dream was over and that he had failed. Good reading.

Revolution Baby

When I was cycling towards Central Asia I received an email from Saffia Farr inviting me to come and stay when I reached Bishkek. I had a great time with Saff, husband Matt and baby Thomas. Now back in Bristol Saff has just published her first book, the intriguingly titled "Revolution Baby: Motherhood and Anarchy in Kyrgyzstan". You can read the first chapter of this unusual, fun slant on travel literature at and buy the book in time for Christmas!


Thursday, 11 October 2007

Cycle Show

I'm talking at the Cycle Show in Earl's Court this weekend: come along for a chat if you can...

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Expedition Photography

Ten years from now, if I worked fanatically, I wish that I could begin to be taking expedition photographs as stunning as Martin's.

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Sunday, 7 October 2007

My homework

I have just begun a photography course. I'm really excited about learning to make the most of my camera. I have come to feel that my ambition has come to exceed my knowledge or the capacity of aiming my tiny digital camera and snapping away in automatic mode. Our first assignment was to photograph our postcode. Here is a little bit of SW9:


Saturday, 6 October 2007

RIDE: Images from the Road

Screenshot_4 About a year ago I decided to try to put together a collaborative book of photography to raise awareness for Hope and Homes for Children. Generous people, impressive photographers, veteran travellers: so many people have chipped in to help and share their photographs for this book.
Here is a brief sneak preview of the book. I intend it to be a compact, affordable book that will inspire people to get out on the road and ride. It will be ready in time for Christmas...

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One of the greatest ever expeditions

Yesterday fellow Yorkshireman Jason Lewis finished an incredible journey. He has travelled round the world, a journey of 46,000 miles [the same as mine interestingly]. But his journey took him THIRTEEN years and he used human power alone, crossing the oceans with a hi-tech pedalo!
I am full of admiration for his journey, for the educational angle of his mission and for his determination. I will look with great interest at what he does next. After almost two years home I still do not know what to do with the rest of my life. I wish him well. Well done, Jason: amazing! Visit his website here. Read an article in the Times about his journey here.


Thursday, 4 October 2007

Cool Business Cards

I just got some business cards made by and they really are cool. Not too pricey either...



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Central Asia

Chris Herwig.

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Liberia's Wheelbarrow Boys

Chris Herwig.

"All day, every day, they come streaming across the Monserrado bridge in both directions, carrying everything from fresh baked goods to soggy trash. Policemen direct the wheelbarrow traffic like cars. One wheelbarrow rolls by with a load of bras of all sizes, hawked by a young male entrepreneur talking on his hands-free mobile phone. An older teenager pushes a load of dried bushmeat, the legs and arms of small furry animals sticking out in all directions. One guy has decorated his rig with an old telephone and walkie-talkie, and a row of cheerful stuffed animals.
The use of the 'wheel', as its known among operators, is by no means unique to Liberia's capital, but nowhere else are wheelbarrows so plentiful, and so much a part of the economic life of the city. "


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Tired of Tulips?

Tired of tulips?

"If, like me, you're tired of macro flower pictures, lonely landscapes, gross borders, photoshop art, and realize this stuff is a terrible influence on new photographers, here is your remedy. 
Tired of Tulips is tightly curated, and offers a majority of the best CANDID imagery of PEOPLE anywhere on Flickr."


On the Road

Hard Choices

Nicolai, another RTW cyclist, is having trouble selecting just 12 photos for a calendar from the thousands he has taken so far. You can help him out by looking at his narrowed-down selection here.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Moods of Future Joys

MoFJ new cover_small

Now you can read ALL of 'Moods of Future Joys' here. Free and easy... Click here or, if that does not work on your computer click on this: MoFJ Complete Text.

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Download my MdS flier

If you would be willing/able to download my Marathon des Sables flier to distribute, that would be great! Click here...