“The trouble is you think you have enough time.” – Buddha

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Man, real life is tougher than I thought it would be. Trying to make me sit down and stare at a screen for hours a day is fruitless. I will fidget, I will moan, I will become grumpy. I will rebel.

I try to get up but society puts its hand on my shoulders and pushes me back down. Like a dog, I am told to sit, stay, as they slowly back away, hands outstretched in an attempt to placate me, so I don’t make a run for it.

I really thought I was done this time, that I’d be happy to settle, to begin to build a life for myself. It wasn’t lies, but now I know, it’s not the way I was built. I can’t make you all happy. I can’t sit still. I must return to the open road again even if it destroys me. I must try, before time escapes my grasp.

Bicycle Adventure #2: Mizen to Malin Head (length of Ireland) by bike | camping at night | alone (unless I can convince my lovely Aunty Ann to accompany me, hint hint!)

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Cycling Vietnam: Logistics and Kit List.

If anyone is considering doing something similar (Hanoi to Ho Chi Min), here is our route, distance travelled each day and our kit list. If you need any more help or information, feel free to get in touch.

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Route:

Ho Chi Min Highway & A1 Highway

Distance:

Day 1: 92km – Destination: Hang Tram, maybe Hoa Binh?

Day 2: 69.5km – Destination: Roughly Lam Son

Day 3: 83km – Destination: somewhere near Thai Hoa

Day 4: 113km – Destination: near Phou Chau

Day 5: 83km – Destination: Huong Khe

Day 6: 132km – Destination: somewhere after Phuc Trach

Day 7: 59.5km – Destination: near Cam Lo

Day 8: 82km – Destination: Dong Ha

Day 9: 70km – Destination: Hue

Day 10: 100+km – Destination: Da Nang

Day 11: Rest Day

Day 12: 68km – Destination: Tam Ky

Day 13: Day off (sick)

Day 14: 98km – Destination: near Quang Nga

Day 15: 89km – somewhere on the highway

Day 16: 93km – Destination: Song Cau

Day 17: 132km – Destination: Dai Lan

Day 18: – Destination: Nha Trang

Day 19: Rest Day

Day 20: 92km – Destination: Phang Rang

Day 21: 82km – Destination: Phang Rang/Phang Thiet

Day 22: 77km – Destination: Phan Thien

Day 23: 75km – Destination: Long Khan

Day 24: 84km – Destination: near Bien Hoa

Day 25: – Destination: Ho Chi Min City

Kit List:

  • Unlocked IPhone with Vietnamese sim-card.
  • 2x panniers – (Oxford Low Rider Rear Panniers 36L)
  • 2x pairs of cycling shorts
  • 2x cycling t-shirts
  • 5x knickers/5x socks
  • Baseball cap
  • T-shirt and light pants for evening wear
  • Cycling boots with cleats (Shimano Gore-Tex Mountain bike boots & pedals)
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Canon 700D camera & Tripod
  • GoPro camera
  • 2x Waterbottles
  • Phone/camera chargers
  • Small towl
  • Shampoo/conditioner/hairbrush/suncream
  • Garmin Sat Nav
  • 4x bungee cords
  • Small pack of cable ties
  • 2x Touring bikes (bought on Ba Trieu Street, Hanoi)
  • 2x Buffs
  • 2x standard bike lights
  • Pump
  • 2x spare tubes
  • Chain link
  • Allen keys
  • Mileage clock
  • Water bottles
  • Medication: Immodium, parcetemol, motillium, insect repellent, amoxicillan, dioralyte, bandages, plasters, antiseptic cream.
  • 2x Helmets
  • Map of the entire country
  • Sunglasses

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

A train of thought… a stream of consciousness…

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I packed my bag and moved to Vietnam.

Everyone said how brave I was, moving to Vietnam alone.

Hear what she’s doing now. Wild.

But this wasn’t bravery.

This was just another stepping stone in the big plan. The plan to test myself little by little to see my capabilities, to see if I was cut out to do a real expedition.

But here I am, not three weeks in and I couldn’t be more comfortable. Too comfortable. It was all too easy, people were too nice, too helpful. I thought the world was supposed to be scary. But already, here I am, stuck in another routine, just a different backdrop.

Yes, it’s a world away from home, cracked tarmac, pressing heat, scooters everywhere in place of cars, noodles and rice instead of potatoes and pasta, markets on the side of the roads instead of in shops.

Everyone stopping to stare at the blonde haired, white girl walking amongst them.

Definitely a certain rustic beauty to the poverty.

But it was way too easy to find my place amongst them, to settle.

That’s not what I wanted.

I wanted hardship.

I wanted sweat, tears, and failure.

I wanted laughter and triumph against all odds.

I wanted an Epic.

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But now I’ve glimpsed real hardship, in the lives that most live here and all I feel is selfish, so selfish for always wanting more, when what I have is already pretty great.

Yet, in poverty it seems they have found what I seek.

With poverty it seems there comes a certain freedom. People are happier, freer then those of us from the western world. They have nothing; a whole family squashed together in a tiny room with no panes in their windows, their bikes and animals lying in the same room as their bed and kitchen, no fan or air conditioning to cool them in the relentless heat. Yet all they have, they share, they give all they can to others, to me, the ‘rich’ foreigner.

It would appear that I have everything they would want/need, yet I am not as happy, not as free as them. I am restless, yearning to see a change in the world, to see a change in myself. I thought my life was difficult, but it’s all relative. My life is not difficult, not by comparisons.

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I think my desire for adventure is connected with money and trappings of it. If I have nothing and all my worries day to day are not of how bad my skin is, how fat my thighs are, or how people perceive me. Adventure is when all of that fades into the background, into insignificance and the worries are instead focused on survival. The days spent pushing your body, mind and soul to its limit, seeing what you are capable of, seeing the world as it really is, not the tourist flashy version, but the real world.

I am tired of being restless.

I’ve always known what I want to do, I’ve just always been afraid to go ahead and do it.

Perhaps I am finally ready to step it up a gear or two, to say fuck the stepping stones and throw caution to the wind.

I am already nervous of the decision I have yet to make, of the not yet fully formed  idea in my mind. But it is there. It’s always been there. Growing stronger each passing day.  I will commit to doing something or forever will I be exiled  to this incomplete state of yearning, of always aching for more, of always failing to live in the moment.

When will my soul finally settle?

I’ve known the answer for quite a while. I just never had that extra push that it takes to commit and initiate the process.

Maybe moving here was too easy, but perhaps it was exactly what I needed to do to get the wheels in motion, to make me take that first and hardest of steps.

I know now I have to do an expedition/ a big adventure or forever I will live with a regret weighing on my shoulders.

Now…”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver, The Summer Day.

Interview with Angelo Wilkie-Page of Expedition 720°

An expedition of daunting magnitude, a time frame of eight years, this is a story that will inspire a generation of people who are already beginning to make their way into the wild, to venture even further, to worry less and rage against the limitations they have bound themselves in. Twenty nine year old Angelo Wilkie-Page’s is soon to embark on an expedition to circumnavigate the globe from East to West and Pole to Pole, crossing all lines of latitude and longitude, using only human power. I got the opportunity to ask him a few question before he sets off on Expedition 720° in just over a month’s time.

Courtesy of Expedition 720°
Courtesy of Expedition 720°

1. Eight years without a home, without staying still, without your family and friends around you. Is that an issue for you or are you looking forward to that escape?

Fortunately this is not a non-stop circumnavigation. The route is designed in 2 parts east to west and pole-to-pole, each part is broken up into 4 legs. I have no problem spending time on my own; in fact I enjoy it. I’m not married and don’t have kids. If I did have children I don’t think that I would attempt a project of this nature. I am looking forward to physically starting Expedition 720°.

2.You are 29 years old, what makes now the right time to embark on something like this?

I would say now is the right time for me personally at 29, as all my life experiences have led and partly prepared me for this expedition. I don’t think I would have been ready for this 3 years ago, and I don’t want to leave it till later in life. The timing is right for it now.

3. How is your head dealing with the sheer scale of the expedition? How will you keep your mind in check so as not to become overwhelmed?

I only concentrate on the stage or leg ahead of me; there is no point stressing about leg 6 when I’m on leg 1. I feel it’s important to be adaptable, as there are some many outside factors that can influence the expedition. Best thing I find is to look a few steps ahead but focus on the present.

4.The expedition will require a lot of equipment for it’s different stages, will it all be pre set up (boat, bike etc)?

Each leg is very unique and equipment will adapt as per individual leg requirements. At this point I am fully equipped for the first cycle leg from Los Angeles to Anchorage, but I will use a different bike setup for Siberia and Mongolia. The Atlantic rowing boat is currently being constructed, along with the ocean kayak that will be used for the Bearing straight crossing.

5. Aside from raising money for charity and conducting research, what is your motivation for doing this? Have you never found something to hold you in the 9-5 world?

I worked as a commodities trader for three years before leaving to work in the yachting industry. I can’t see myself going back to a corporate 9-5. Attempting a project of this magnitude one needs to be 100% committed, I can’t have any doubts about going to back to corporate. Expedition 720° is my 9-5! I’m all in.

6. I know this is a childish question but will it be any fun or all hard grit?

I hope it will be more fun than hard grit, I expect to meet, see and experience some wonderful people and places along the route. I will make sure to take time out for enjoyment and the odd beer. It’s a once in a lifetime expedition, doing what I love so to answer your question more fun than hard grit.

7. With it been a world first, is failure something you’ve considered?

I have been told that I can be rather stubborn, I don’t give up easily. The thing about an expedition of this nature is that there are so many external elements that could play a role in the success or failure of the expedition. Elements such as shifting ice, rough waves, being hit by a car, visa’s, consistent campaigning, extreme weather conditions, health these are a few factors that could get in the way of the project. My strategy is to complete one kilometer at a time and be as safe as possible.

8. The expedition could take up to eight years, that means you will be 38 when you finish. I know I am getting ahead of myself here but have you considered how will you adjust to normal life after that?

If I complete this project I would have achieved a lifelong dream. Ill cross that bridge when the time comes. Adjusting I’m sure would not be easy and might take a while.

Follow every step of Wilkie-Page’s expedition on his website, Facebook or Twitter page.

Courtesy of Expedition 720°
Courtesy of Expedition 720°

Interview with Derek Cullen – Cycling solo across Africa

Tired of the monotony of everyday life, 32 year old Irishman Derek Cullen mounted an old bike and began an epic unsupported cycle across Africa. It is a story with the potential to inspire the ordinary person, to break down the very shackles that we confine ourselves to.  I, myself really wanted to interview him, as I am well short of a few Irish adventurers to look up to. And he is every bit the stereotype (the good one) :  the pale skin, the ginger beard, the easy warm character, the sense of humour and of course he is much more modest than he needs to be. This interview, I hope, will make you smile, as it did to me,  and maybe plant a tiny thought into your mind; if he can do it, then why can I not do it too?

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1.What is your current location?

Arusha, Tanzania – exactly half way between the start point Cape Town & Cairo.

2.What type of bike are you ridding?

Trek820 – it’s nothing fancy, 13 years old, has 23 gears and god knows how many previous owners.

3.What have you packed in your panniers?

Clothes, cooking gear, sleeping bag, tent, cameras, water – anything you’d need to survive a wilderness area.

4.What books have you brought with you to entertain you in the evenings?

Arabian Sands, Adrift, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air – are you seeing the trend? Mostly adventure stories about ridiculously lonesome journeys!

5.How are you navigating?

Map and compass, to be honest it would be harder to go the wrong way – there’s not many roads down here. I’ve got the distance wrong several times but who cares, I just pitch the tent behind a bush and carry on the next morning.

6.What distance are you covering each day?

Usually between 60 – 100km. The most covered in a day was 160km, the least 20km (exhausted). I travel very slowly even against bicycle standards, I like to spend more time anywhere that’s cool.

7.What does your diet consist of on the road?

On the bike – bananas, chocolate, biscuits, water, water, water. Off the bike – two minute noodles, beans, rice, heaps of local food (god knows what some of the meat really is). You eat like a horse doing this and literally give up being fussy.

8.What was your cycling experience like before you embarked on this massive trip?

Believe it or not – none. I was never a fan of cycling as strange as that may sound – it’s just the mode in which I seek adventure! My brother likes to tell people about how I struggled to cycle to his house last year in Ireland, I barely made it home – it was a 10km ride.

9.Have you discovered anything about your character, about who you are as a person?

Yeah completely, I realised the world didn’t revolve around me for a start – that was disappointing! It has changed me in ways I never thought imaginable, facing fears and taking on such a big challenge has brought huge confidence and a lot of humility. I genuinely feel a much “better person” now than ever before.

10.Does the joy outweigh the suffering on the road?

Every. Single. Time.

There are pretty depressing times, especially the aspect of being alone so long, for so often – but you get over that. Three words – Cycling with Giraffes.  I can’t forget that people are living hard lives back home, I’m very lucky to be where I am.

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11. As you make progress, has the fear and anxiety you have mentioned before become more manageable or are you still dealing with it on a daily basis?

It may sound too good to be true but the anxiety has all but disappeared.  I spent a lot of time worrying at the beginning but the anxieties proved to be “false concerns” every time – I literally stopped bothering to worry about what never seemed to happen anyway! I still feel the fear of course, that’s a healthy concern to have and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the worry of having Hyenas or lions around my tent.

12. How are you finding using social media and a blog to document your trip? Is it a motivator not to quit or does it take away a little from the adventure?

A lot of work goes into it for sure but it’s worth it for the chance of sharing this experience with someone. Also, writing fills a lot of spare time that is usually spent alone.

13. I am allowed stereotype you here because I am also Irish, but how are you not burnt alive with the heat?!

Yeah it’s kinda hot alright, I got heat exhaustion in the lower Namibia Desert which involved not having the energy to roll over and two days of falling asleep. That was enough reason to be careful in the future. I wear a wide brimmed hat (which looks stupid, I know) and keep putting sun cream on the arms – everything else stays covered while cycling. Yes, I have a farmers tan.

Speaking of stereotypes, I’ve had less than 15 bottles of beer in 7 months – beat that Ireland!

14. How do you make yourself get up and ride again the next day after having a shit day (aka how are you keeping your head in the right place)?

That’s been difficult, I doubt anyone could properly understand just how hard this gets when you spend so much time alone. I keep mentioning being alone but it’s the most influential factor of the trip each day and for staying motivated. The answer is, some days I just do and some days I just don’t – I just stay where I am until the mood has passed.

In general, I keep my head together by finding meaning in everything that happens. No matter how bad it gets, there is always a positive way to look at it. Looking down from the top of a mountain with the bicycle is an empowering feeling but it never feels like that at the time of cycling uphill to get there.

15. Is the journey harder than you thought, or is it living up to your expectations?

Harder yes but not for the reasons I would have thought prior. Physically, it is tough but manageable. Mentally, it can be a right battle. The trip has exceeded anything I could have imagined, it is the single most profound experience in my thirty two years and has definitely changed my outlook on life.

16. Is the stereotypical image of Africa of a poverty stricken and dangerous continent holding true?

Poverty, yes at times but what many people don’t realise is that most Africans are happy with their conditions – they still live traditionally and get by with what they have. It’s wrong of the western world to think of Africans as unprivileged for not having the same standard of living. If you ask me, the simple life being led in these parts has resulted in a community that is much richer and far more content than the complicated world we live in. Mobile phones are everywhere you go now, it disappoints me to see this in Africa too.

Africa is no more dangerous than London, New York, Dublin or Rome. If anything people here are more friendly. The danger associated with Africa is derived from western media and peoples natural feeling to fear the unknown.

17. Why are you doing it, what was the trigger?

My life was crap!!

I was so bored, I wasn’t happy with work, my social life was average, I felt I wasn’t growing or doing what I really wanted to do. Nobody needs to feel this way, it’s a choice really.

I genuinely thought if there was any real meaning to life, it had to be out there to experience but I needed to “go out there” first in order to find out.

18. How are you coping with being alone for so many hours each day?

It can be quite depressing but mostly a great experience. You learn to be your best friend in a situation like this – I really needed that, to gain a better opinion and respect for myself.

19. You are obviously fit by now – 6,000km in. Is the actual physical cycle itself no longer the hard part?

Yes and no. Physically, it gets harder over time with the constant strain on the body but by then you have learnt to just get on with it so it cancels it out somewhat. Being alone and keeping a sane mental state is by far the biggest challenge.

20. What are the descents/downhill’s like?

Elation – to the point of feeling crazy and screaming random words before realising the locals are watching….and continuing on anyway!

Along with “being tied down” and having kids (thinking ahead!) I’ve already no doubt they will be the happiest memories I will ever have – it’s been worth the risk.

Follow Derek’s journey via his website, Twitter or Facebook page.

Video: Eleutheromania

So this is it.

Four years of university. Four years in Edinburgh. Done.

Years of being broke, of trying to fit in, then trying to stand out. Years of craving to escape Ireland, then crying from homesickness and calling up Mammy on the phone to let me come home. Four years of crappy jobs, of acne, of tears but also four years of making the most brilliant of friends, of dancing, of surfing, of laughing. Four hard but brilliant years. And it all comes down to this. It is decision making time.

Where do I go from here? Here I sit, yearning for freedom, for the life of an adventurer, but been held back by two empty bank accounts,  by the fear of sleeping wild in a tent alone. By the fear of failing and having to start again. The fear of mean people. The fear that the people who keep telling me, that as a girl I must beware of certain things, will be proved right. The fear of rejection. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of always wanting more. But most of all, the fear of taking the easy way out and shoving all those dreams down for the comfortable life, just for now, in the hope that one day I won’t be afraid. The ever elusive one day.

I leave you with my final university assignment, a ten minute documentary entitled; Eleutheromania; which denotes an irresistible desire for freedom. It is far from perfect, poor Alastair Humphreys looks a little blue due to my failure to check the white balance, and the brilliant Em Bell is a bit blurry at times and Jamie Bunchuk is looking at the camera instead of at me (again my fault). But bear with me, I am still learning, I am still raw and unpolished, still finding my way, still tripping up regularly, but I am on the way. Be kind, I know my faults. Just bear with me on this journey, I only promise that it will be worth it.

One day…

Interview with David of the 5000 mile Project

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David and Katharine are 13months into running the length of South America. 5000miles through rainforest and mountains to raise both money and awareness for the environment. I got in contact with Dave when he emerged from the rainforest for a brief spell to hear about their amazing story so far.

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1.You ran to raise awareness and get people passionate about nature again, do you think it has been working?

Ha, that’s a tough one to start with! I think it depends on what level. Locally, when we stop at a school midway through our running day it is a fantastic opportunity to inspire – it’s easy! We are there with people, we are enthusing about the natural world around us, we have images and video and feathers we find by the road to identify and the feedback is immediate, people are psyched! From afar, who knows?!

People are used to sporting events been used to raise money for cancer or other human-related causes, not wildlife. The publics reaction can depend on class and country, but generally speaking most people are resistant to anything that they see as an attack on their current way of life – it’s the human condition. We are saying, “look out the window, the natural world is utterly amazing”, people are hearing, “these guys are greenies trying to make it more difficult for me to have a big car!”

Also, depending on the media,  feedback isn’t immediate, in fact with some forms of media e.g. radio, you never receive it! So its hard to tell.

2.What do people need to do to help?

It’s easy, have an affair with nature! People of any physical condition can do it – go out, be in the real world, be amazed by the complex natural systems that support human life, ask questions, investigate, learn that we are part of nature, not above it! We are passionate that so long as people know more about the natural world’s secrets, there is a chance that we can reverse the damage we are currently inflicting on out planets life support systems.

To help people find tangible actions that suit their lifestyle, we’ve set up a campaign with ‘DoNation’ which anyone can join and help do cool things for the planet. We’re also raising money for Birdlife and Armonia and Conservatcion Patagonica.

3.What running experience did you have before this?

We are both keen recreational runners, no more than that, with the odd longer competition under our belt. Kath has ran the 45 mile ‘4 INNS’ race several times. I have enjoyed the Scottish Islands Peaks Race, and Northumberlands Castles and Islands, both sailing/running events, but mainly we run for the fun of being outside in all weather.  Nothing better for de-stressing!

4.How are your feet withstanding this?

Really good, I haven’t had a single blister! We have a nice combination of shoes for running with the trailer and running free, plus we go barefoot about 10% of the miles now – its great for training your running style and hardening the feet a little.

5.What distance do you cover on average per day?

Our average running day is now 23miles. We used to find 20 was enough, given the 80kg trailer we run with, and given the fact an injury could end our dream, but now we can smell the finish we are looking to take a few more risks to squeeze a little more out!

6.How do you keep your mind focused and your spirits high after so long on the road?

It’s better not to consider the overall distance remaining – just deal with each shift as it comes, each half hour, each mile, each step if it’s a really tough climb! Each step makes a difference, and we have taken close to 10,000,000. It´s a nice metaphor for the steps people are taking to protect the planet too, 1 in 7bn is daunting, but there is no silver bullet, each small, seemingly insignificant step is making a difference!

7.Any stories of good deeds or amazing people you’ve met along the way?

Many! We are alone a lot, but never far from human kindness. One thing I would say is that the place in which we received the most charity by the roadside; food, drinks, shelter, banter, is Bolivia. What is interesting is that Bolivia is the poorest country in South America!

8.What advantage have the barefoot shoes given you?

They are great. The idea is always to run as naturally as possible at all times. On certain road conditions (or with the trailer!) you simply can not do it with bare feet. The gravel makes you wince or you have road debris, or the asphalt is so hot it sticks to your skin. We slip on the barefoot shoes and we are back on, running lightly with a quick cadence. We change our shoes a lot!

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9.Have you came up with an effective way to treat blisters yet?

Yes! Our INOV-8 race socks have basically all but eliminated them. We are not paid-up athletes so are not obliged to say this, but they work. They are single skin socks and with our INOV-8 and VIVOBAREFOOT. I  have not had a problem in over 5000miles of running in rain, wind, and snow. Barefoot running probably helps too as it hardens your feet.

10.How have you seen your fitness change?

I have no idea when these calves arrived, but they did! We have improved greatly fitness wise, but still there is never an easy 23-mile day running whilst pulling a heavy trailer, sandwiched between other longer running days!

11.How much food and water do you carry on you?

Good question, it varies wildly. We carry the minimum possible whilst making sure we never go hungry. In the more populated areas that could be 2 days worth, maybe 3kg. On the wild stretches (we have carried food for 21 days)probably 100kg! We eat local food and do not use bizarre packet foods which are expensive and unavailable, and seem to me to just taste of stock cubes.

Water, again depends on the territory. We drink a lot, usually 10L each per day, so that’s 20kg water per day on the trailer when we are in dry areas. Good to remember that dehydration is a major cause of running injuries so not to be messed with. In Chile and here in the rainforest we can carry very little as it always available. In Argentina water was the limiting factor, and at times we carried over 30 litres. We use a LifeSaverSystems water filter to pump and clean wild water where it feels like we need to, but this does take valuable running time (and calories!).

12.You have been running for over twelve months, when is the expected date of completion?

20th October 2013, not a day later!

Courtesy of Miky Dubrowsky of www.mediamza.com
Courtesy of Miky Dubrowsky of http://www.mediamza.com

14. What is the coolest animal you’ve seen on route?

I love Guanacos, it´s like a sexy version of a camel with long eyelashes! Best bird moment? An Amazona Parrot landed on Katharine´s shoulder a few days ago whilst we were running past the rainforest. Sounds silly, but we asked it what it was called and it said “Laura”. It’s true! Mind you, it said Laura to everything, whilst nibbling Katharine’s ear.

15. What are you using to navigate?

Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS watch plus google satellite images. Each charge lasts us two days now, and we can charge it with the PowerMonkey solar panel easily in an hour. It’s very good, but I wouldn´t swim with it on as the seals are going, we are really using our equipment!

16.What are you finding the toughest to cope with?

Living by the roadside – it´s sort of a mix between local celebrity and being a tramp! We try to hide as best we can when we are not running but it can be really tough, not having somewhere to call home.

17.How are you getting on with each other after so long in each others pockets?

Can you imagine it?!  We are friends as well as husband and wife, and running partners, but at times we flare up!Sometimes the whole of South America wouldn’t be big enough, and we yell in the wind! Naah, like all relationships we tend to focus our angst on the ones  closest (especially given there is nobody else who speaks your language within 5000miles!), especially when hungry and tired, but we are normally too tired to remember what the thing was all about! What normally happens is some wildlife moment or other gets in the way of our mood, and we end up saying ¨wow, what the hell was that?!¨.

18. What’s the best piece of gear you have brought?

INOV-8 wrags! It is a little piece of fabric that we cannot live without! They protect us from the sun, wind, dust, rubs in a myriad of places best left undisclosed!!

Follow the pairs journey on their website, twitter or facebook page.

Polarbears and Paddleboards

First published on Sidetracked online.

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Ideas for unique adventures to embark on are becoming increasingly difficult to unearth. However, we think we’ve come across such a one. A team of ten will attempt to Stand Up Paddleboard up the Sermilik Fjord in Greenland to reach the towering Helheim Glacier. A 100km journey that has never been attempted before. Sidetracked caught up with team member Phil Sayers to find out how they intend to pull off this feat.

Sidetracked: So how did you get involved in all of this?

Phil Sayers: Paul Hyman and Justin Miles originally came up with the concept of taking Paddleboarding to an extreme and remote location like the Arctic to prove how safe and accessible Stand Up Paddleboarding is. The idea for the project evolved over the following months and once they mentioned the project to me I knew that this was an adventure of a lifetime and immediately said that I would love to be a part of it. The expedition is an opportunity to visit one of the most stunning landscapes on the planet; the project also has the potential to help change lives through the charities we are supporting and introduce new people to this exciting new water sport that we are all so passionate about.

Have you been trying to replicate the conditions of Greenland in your training? E.g. going out on your board in speedos so you can get used to the cold?

The UK weather has come up trumps over the last few months for providing conditions similar to what we are expecting to find in Greenland. We anticipate the water temperature in August to be around freezing and the air temperature to be between 5-10 degrees, so the extended winter conditions have been ideal.

SUP is quite an exposed way of travelling, what gear will you be wearing in case you fall in to the water?

We are currently testing a variety of clothing and equipment to take on the expedition including; dry suits, base layers, wetsuits, wetsuit socks, dry boots and various gloves and mitts. The main factors that we need to consider are: keeping our feet warm as these will be in contact with the water for the majority of time; and selecting clothing that will prevent us becoming too hot while paddling, but at the same time ensuring we are protected in case we fall into the freezing water. The training and expedition will give us the opportunity to find out what water sports kit works well in cold conditions and if there is a need for developing new clothing and equipment to ensure people are able to paddle all year round. We will be working closely with manufacturers to help develop equipment specifically for the SUP market.

Read the full interview on Sidetracked’s website here.

Interview with Cycle Africa’s Loretta White

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Loretta White along with three others completed an unsupported journey by bike from London, England to Cape Town, South Africa in 2012 to raise awareness of the reality of  children who are surviving on the streets of Africa.

1.Did your sponsors provide all the kit?

We were lucky enough to be provided with some of our kit free of charge from our sponsors.  Vaude were particularly generous and donated us panniers and tents.  The rest of our kit we were able to gain corporate sponsorship to pay for, though we had to haggle hard to get good discounts and keep the cost as cheap as possible.

2.What proved to be the best piece of gear you brought?

My favourite piece of equipment was our tent, Vaude ferret 3, as no matter where we were we could zip ourselves into it at night and have our own little home!

3.How did you decide on your chosen route?

Our route through Africa was decided through a mixture of countries we wanted to visit, spending time near the coast, and where our charity partners had projects we could visit.  We decided to take the long way through Europe as an extended training ride leading up to the Middle East and Africa where we could test our equipment and get used to the road without being too far from home.

4.What training did you do beforehand?

All of us were pretty fit already but I wasn’t a cyclist.  Before the trip as a group we managed four weekend training rides though these all took us longer than we imagined and inevitably involved a big pub lunch which wasn’t great for an afternoon of riding!

5.How much money did you raise in the end?

In total the whole expedition raised £50,000 which all went to street child charities.  These were Street Action, Retrak, Street Child Africa, Railway Children, and Action for Children in Conflict.

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6.How long did the expedition take to plan?

Craig had the idea to cycle from London to Cape Town around 7 years before we started the trip though thought this was just a pipe dream.  We properly started planning for the trip about two years before we started though most of this planning was getting sponsorship and setting up the charity Cycle Africa.

7.How was it returning to work after taking a year out of it to do this?

For me this has been the hardest thing of the whole expedition as you realise that there is an incredible world out there and that you can do incredible things with your life so that when you come home it is hard to fit back into the 9-5 box.  I’m still working on this but don’t think I’ll ever be totally happy just having a normal life again and I’m sure there will be another adventure on the cards!

10.What made you commit to a journey of that scale – 10,000miles?

To be honest I didn’t really think of the miles I just thought of what an amazing achievement it would be to cycle to South Africa and of all those incredible countries we could visit on the way.  I also thought about how the bicycle is such a classless way of travelling letting you get closer to local people without looking like a ‘rich tourist’ and travel through villages that you wouldn’t originally have visited.

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11.Any plans for future expeditions?

No definite plans yet but watch this space…

12. What were you using to navigate your route, document the journey and upload content online?

We went old school and just used paper maps to plan the route and the advice of local people.  We carried an iPad between us which we used to manage our website, upload photos and write blogs etc.  Everything could be done off line and then uploaded when we got wifi access in the bigger cities.

13. What was the daily routine on the road?

We would wake up early with the sun around 6-7am.  Get ready, pack up, have breakfast and be on the road by 8am.  Cycle around 30kms and then stop for a snack, then another 30kms and stop for lunch, then another 20-30kms and find somewhere to pitch our tent, have dinner and chill out.

14.Any stand out moments that made all the pain worthwhile?

Lots but the most stand out moments for me weren’t the huge sights like seeing the pyramids it was the intimate local experiences like camping in the garden of the village chief or sleeping under the stars in the desert in Sudan.  Reaching Cape Town was also an incredible high!

15.Did you ever feel like throwing in the towel and going home?

Absolutely!!!  I felt like this properly about three times in total.  Once at the beginning when I lay in my tent shattered from the cycling thinking I can’t even get through France let alone to Africa.  Once when I had just said goodbye to my parents in Kenya and I had dysentery so was feeling pretty miserable.  And the final one surprisingly in South Africa as we had made the final country though still had a long way to cycle and I was just feeling really tired.

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16.How has life changed since? Has your perspective on how you see the world altered?

Due to lots of family stuff life has had its ups and downs since coming home though it has taught me to make the most of every single minute and to keep an open mind as people and places might just surprise you.

17. How long did it take you to recover after?

Physically it probably took a few months though mentally I still am recovering in that I am still longing the outdoors an the open road.

18.You were the only girl amongst four boys – did you ever feel like you were slowing them down or were you just as strong as them on and off the bike? (I ask this because it’s what I’m afraid of as a female wanting to do these things.)

At the beginning I gained fitness really quickly so didn’t feel like I was slowling people down, though from about Kenya I had a few  episodes of  illness and after that I felt that I’d reached the peak of my cycling fitness while the guys were still gaining strength.  At this point the pressure of pushing myself constantly and feeling slow just wasn’t very enjoyable and so we split up into two groups.  I stayed with Craig and we were able to relax again and take it at our pace.

19. What did you look for when choosing spots to wild camp?

At the beginning we looked for idyllic spots next to the Danube river where we could have a fire and wash though in Africa we just looked for places the were pretty close to the road but that we couldn’t be seen easily and could be well hidden.  We often asked if we could camp in the compounds of local people’s houses and were only turned down once.

20. Do you know how much the trip ended up costing?

We paid for all our own spending money during the trip and costs on the trip so all in all it probably cost about £7,000 for the year away.  I am sure you could do this cheaper but we had a few nice treats along the way and a holiday with my parents in Kenya.

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21.Did you book all visas before you left?

We only had two visas before we left – Egypt and Jordan.  The rest we got pretty easily either at the border or in the capital city of the country before.  Sudan is supposed to be a tricky one to get but we had a letter from a university sponsor endorsing what we we doing and this seemed to work.

22.Is the stereotypical Africa we see in the media true?

It depends on what your stereotype is I suppose!  The Africa we experienced though was one of incredible beauty and kindness.

Interview with Adventurer Alastair Humphreys

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Credit: Alastair Humphreys
Credit: Alastair Humphreys

Published on OutDare Adventures, read the full interview here.

Q: Did you ever drink and party and live the ‘student life’?

A: Ya definitely, I was a completely normal student; I did all of that stuff!
Q: You’ve never received sponsorship; you just save up and then do cheap trips. That’s freedom in one sense but does it mean you’ll never be financially free because you have to spend so much of your own money?

A: The row the Atlantic was a sponsored trip so I am starting to head down that way. But if I can possibly afford to do it myself then I like to maintain the independence, the simplicity and just to be my own boss and that’s worth quite a lot of money. Most of the trips that appeal to me really aren’t very expensive, so I just save for it.

Q: Do you think it’s just as safe for women as it is for men to go on solo adventures/expeditions?

A: I think that 99 percent of the time yes it is or perhaps even safer because people are nicer to you, but I also think there is that slight, elemental, potential risk that at times you’re a women on your own in the middle of somewhere, it can get a bit scary.
Q: What do you look for when choosing a suitable place to set up camp?

A: Running water, so near a river would be good and nice soft grass.
Q: Do you get any criticism over not having a traditional job? – How do you prevent that from disheartening you?

A: A little bit, people often say things like oh it’s alright for you, or you’re lucky, or it’s easy for you. Mostly I think, well I chose to do this, I’m no superman, I’m not a genius. Anyone could have done what I have; it’s just a choice I made. It slightly annoys me when people sneer a little bit and say oh when are you going to get a proper job. I’m earning enough money to live the life I love. So it doesn’t really bother me, mostly I think it’s just envy.

Read the full Interview here.