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News: Presenting at Overland Expo 2014

Commandeering a boda boda in Uganda

Commandeering a boda boda in Southwest Uganda

I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be a Presenter at this year’s Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona, 16th-18th May 2014.

As many of you know, I was there last year manning the Charley Boorman stand with my friend Billy Ward. I had a great time meeting lots of fellow overlanders, adventure motorcyclists and 4×4 enthusiasts, and really loved the adventurous spirit and camaraderie that filled the air over those three days at Mormon Lake, about 2 hours’ ride from Phoenix.

This time round, I’ll be doing a one-hour session about my recent three-month African Film Adventure in southwest Uganda, down by the border with the Congo and Rwanda. I’ll be showing some clips and photos from the trip, talking about some of the challenges of travelling and filming in this remote part of Africa, and fielding questions about how to combine overlanding adventures with volunteering. 

I’m a big advocate of doing good while travelling and have done a number of trips now which have combined adventure with “giving something back”, including my big Sahara trek with UNICEF Ambassador Russ Malkin in 2010. This year I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Africa (most recently Ghana) as a Journalist with Comic Relief to film and report on the many charity projects that are being funded by them there.

Exploring the Grand Canyon after the 2013 Overland Expo

Exploring the Grand Canyon after the 2013 Overland Expo

I’m really looking forward to sharing my experiences with the OX14 audience, not to mention hearing about everyone else’s adventures. It will be great to be back at the Expo, which is now one of the biggest overlanding/adventure events of the year. I can’t wait to be back in Arizona – last time, I borrowed a motorbike and toured Route 66 and the Grand Canyon; this time, well, let’s just say I’m going to be having another good look around!

Details about session times and venue for my talk at OX14 are still being firmed up by the organisers, but keep an eye on the Overland Expo website: http://www.overlandexpo.com. Hope to see you there!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Adventure Travel

 

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Ace Cafe: Overland & Adventure Bike Day

Steph and me, flanked by Ed March and Austin Vince

Steph and me, flanked by Ed March and Austin Vince

Well it’s a bright but chilly Sunday and I’m down here at the legendary Ace Cafe, hanging out with hundreds of other bikers who, like me, have come to wave off Steph “One Woman One Moto” Jeavons on her round-the-world bike adventure.

Despite the cold, the air’s been buzzing with the usual chatter that happens when you get a lot of adventure bikers in one place – talk of two-wheeled trips to far-flung places, exchange of notes on travel gear and bike bits, and, on this occasion, lots of envy about another biker setting off on another exciting round-the-world trip.

Steph waves goodbye to the crowds atop the Ace Cafe

Steph waves goodbye to the crowds from the Ace Cafe roof

Steph rode off on her epic journey a couple of hours ago now. I chatted to her just before she climbed onto her bike to head off. She was feeling a mixture of trepidation and excitement, and genuinely pleased at how many people had turned up to see her off. Austin Vince was there to give her a few final words of encouragement – and a “lucky” Mondo Sahara badge to wear on her travels. All around her, people pressed forward to get a good look at “Rhonda the Honda”, her CRF 250L, all packed up and ready to roll.

And she's off! Steph sets off with the cheers of the crowd behind her

And she’s off! Steph rides out with the cheers of the crowd behind her

After waving goodbye to the crowd from the Ace Cafe roof and hugging friends and family, she was off! I could only imagine what must have been going through her mind at that moment – probably something like, “Please don’t drop the bike!” or “Did I turn the oven off?” Whatever, Steph’s got a whole lot of adventure ahead of her and I for one will be following her all the way.

Sunday afternoon at the Ace Cafe

Sunday afternoon at the Ace Cafe

After the excitement of the send-off, the Ace Cafe is still buzzing here. I’ve been catching up with lots of familiar faces including the lovely Sam Manicom and Iain Harper, as well as ogling all the bikes that are parked up here. (Well, seems rude not to!). I’ve also had the opportunity to say a proper hello to Dom Giles and tell him how much I loved his book, Gone Riding. If you haven’t read it yet, jump on Amazon and get a copy right now: it’s the story of his 30,000-mile bike ride through 18 countries, including Panama to Alaska and Southern Africa. Today Dom told me he wrote it “from the heart” – and trust me, it really shows in his writing.

Well it’s freezing cold here at the Ace Cafe and I’m off in search for another hot coffee. It’s been a great day all round – and of course, good luck to Steph on her epic adventure!

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2014 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Adventure Travel Show 2014

Ready for new adventures!

Ready for new adventures!

Well, it’s a new year and it finds me flying into London after a couple months in beautiful Granada, to scope out new opportunities for the coming months.

If in doubt, I find getting together with like-minded, adventurous people always helps – and this weekend has been no exception! By chance, the Adventure Travel Show’s been on at Olympia – a great opportunity to hear some inspirational speakers and catch up with some UK-based adventurer friends.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes delights a punter at his book-signing

Sir Ranulph Fiennes delights a fan at his book-signing

And if I was looking for inspiration, I certainly found it after listening to some of the show’s speakers, who reminded me that life really is short and we have to make the most of every moment. Sir Ranulph Fiennes was definitely a highlight – talk about a guy who’s lived life to the full! Aged 70, he’s planning his next intrepid expedition! I love his attitude to life: no matter what obstacles you come across, there HAS to be a way to get where you want to go. His trademark sharp humour and no-nonsense approach had the packed auditorium well and truly captivated.

Finding peace at the Grand Canyon in 2013

Finding peace at the Grand Canyon in 2013

Dave Cornthwaite also got the audience going with his Say Yes More philosophy – another guy who doesn’t let difficulties stand in the way of a good idea! His determination to stay off the sofa and get out in the world on amazing, self-propelled adventures is truly infectious. And Russ Malkin – my former Sahara trek buddy! – gave a really interesting perspective on adventure travel as a form of meditation: an idea I absolutely subscribe to, as I find that travelling is when I feel most happy and at peace.

Hearing adventurers speaking on subjects as diverse as cycling a pedal bike thousands of miles round the world (Josie Dew) and scaling one of Antarctica’s most challenging peaks (Leo Houlding) has given me a much-needed boost to continue pursuing my own adventures this year.

Last year saw me having motorbike adventures in Australia and the US, setting up a community film initiative in Uganda, down by the Rwanda/Congo border, and re-discovering Spanish life in gorgeous Andalucía. Now I’m cooking up even bigger adventures for this year…Watch this space! :)

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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African Film Adventure: The Final Week

Well, here I am at Kigali Airport, Rwanda, looking back over my final week in Uganda with Film Africa. Yes, after an incredible three months in Rubuguri, the last week has gone in a flash – and what a week it’s been!

Film Africa's first graduation ceremony

L to R: James, Justus, Amos, Kobs – here I am with Film Africa’s first graduates!

My first four Ugandan film trainees graduated with flying colours, becoming Film Ambassadors who will spread skills throughout their local community, as well as making their own short films. I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved, and although it’s time for me to go, I’ll be remaining as Film Africa’s Project Director, so I can keep raising funds, equipment and awareness of the initiative, no matter where I am in the world!

In a second ceremony, the “stretcher groups” I’ve been teaching First Aid and disease prevention to also got their certificates. It was a wonderful community event and I felt so proud to have contributed something else in addition to the Film Africa work I’ve been doing – health education is desperately needed in this far-flung community and their appreciation of my teaching was so heartfelt. A wonderful day.

This fella was a natural poser for the camera!

This fella was a natural poser for the camera!

I also went gorilla tracking in the gorgeous Mgahinga National Park right on the border with DR Congo – another one of those life experiences I will never forget. Scrambling around in the steep muddy rainforest to find the gorillas, accompanied by trackers hacking their way through the foliage with machetes, was memorable enough (!) – but finally coming across the gorillas in their natural habitat was surreal. The group were sitting up in the trees feeding, including a huge silverback, and unbelievably they seemed happy to pose for photos while we just sat down below observing them. The physical exertion it took to find these amazing creatures was more Bear Grylls than David Attenborough, it has to be said – but wow, was it worth it!

Saying goodbye to some of the kids

Saying goodbye to some of the local children

All up, my three months in rural Uganda has been an incredible experience and the people I’ve met here – fellow volunteers and locals – have been wonderful to work with. Very sad to leave…but I know I’ll be back!

And so, what next? Well, the plan is to head to London Heathrow via Doha, pick up my motorbike gear, and then go back to beautiful Andalucia, southern Spain, to plan my next adventure… See you on the other side!!

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Adventures in Uganda

Got the keys to the company boda boda!

Got the keys to the company boda boda!

Hard to believe, but I’ve been out here in southwest Uganda for over 2 months now. And what an amazing eight weeks it’s been!

Living in the small town of Rubuguri, on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, has been an absolute eye-opener in terms of seeing the basic living conditions of the community here – few have running water, flushing toilets or electricity, and most live off the land, eating what they grow. Meat is a rarity – eaten only at Christmas or on very special occasions – and the shops (such as they are – little shacks on the side of the road) stock only the bare essentials. Luxuries like chocolate, wine and muesli are hard to come by – I’ve had to send out for supplies to the nearby town of Kisoro when the cravings have got too much!!

Teaching local project co-ordinator Justice some camera basics

Teaching local project co-ordinator Justice some camera basics

The Film Africa project is hard work and a real challenge in such a basic environment. Oftentimes, I’ve been really frustrated at the lack of electricity and how basic our camera and editing equipment is. Nonetheless, what we’ve achieved here already is pretty wonderful, I think.

I’ve devised a training program to teach our four local project co-ordinators basic camera, directing and editing skills. They’re having a blast learning production techniques and the basics of storytelling, and I’ve already been using them as trainee cameramen to film local events, including the recent Uganda Independence Day celebrations and a local talent show featuring lots of amazing cultural performances – Best of Bwindi.

Kids steal the show (again!) at Uganda Independence Day celebrations

Kids steal the show (again!) at Uganda Independence Day celebrations

With four weeks to go, I have a big decision to make – whether to keep going with my work here at Film Africa (there’s so much to do!) or hit the road, possibly by motorbike, and head down through Africa towards the south in search of new adventures. Money’s a big issue – I’m already struggling to cover the costs of volunteering here with Film Africa – so that will undoubtedly sway my decision, ultimately. Right now, I can’t contemplate leaving all the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know in Rubuguri through my film work here. But having budgeted for only three months here, it could be time to move on.

So some tough decisions to make in the next week or so: watch this space…

If you’d like to support my volunteering endeavours here in Uganda, please consider donating to my fundraising page: http://www.gofundme.com/3tev04

Want to join us by volunteering at Film Africa? Please drop me a line via the CONTACT ME page on this website or get in touch with lizzie@bigbeyond.org for details on how YOU could make a difference here in Uganda!

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Uganda – The Adventure Begins

First boda boda ride from Kigali, Rwanda

First boda boda ride from Kigali, Rwanda

Well here I am in Rubuguri, southwest Uganda – a remote town near the border with Rwanda and DR Congo. It’s exactly three weeks since I came here overland from Kigali and I hardly know where to start in describing this place where I’m setting up a new film project for the local community.

It’s a dusty one-street town teeming with life and typical of many in remote, rural parts of Africa. Women carry all manner of items on their heads, picking their way slowly but surely along the sides of the road. Men drive goats and cows in front of them to distant mountain pastures, while others come off the land back to town, wielding huge lethal-looking machetes and sweating in the tropical heat. Kids with bare feet and dirty faces run along, calling out to me: “Mzungu, mzungu!” (“white person!”) and sometimes, “Give me money, give me pen!”

A music roadshow rolls into town and I'm caught up in the middle of it!

A music roadshow rolls into town and I’m caught up in the middle of it!

Motorbikes are the main form of transport here – cars are rare, apart from the odd 4×4 carrying tourists through town to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to go gorilla tracking. All bike riding is off-road here – there’s no tarmac for miles in any direction and the local boda drivers could certainly teach budding off-road motorcyclists a thing or too about handling bikes on rough, rocky, steep terrain! I’ve been using the boda bikes to commute to and from work so far, but I’ve got my eye on a sturdy little 125cc Suzuki I saw the other day…

Things are more basic here than even I imagined – limited electricity, patchy internet, and the shops (such as they are) stock very little other than basic foodstuffs and vodka sachets! The poverty here is quite confronting – and yet the local people are incredibly warm and friendly, some of the most welcoming I’ve ever met on my Africa travels.

Entertaining the local kids!

Entertaining the local kids! Photo courtesy of Louise Henry

It’s in this environment that I’m charged with the task of starting up Film Africa – a film project that will enable local people to use film to tell their own stories and spread vital health, conservation and education messages. With resources painfully limited, it’s going to take a lot of improvisation and a large dose of patience to get anything off the ground here, I think.

Armed with one small camcorder-style video camera (I desperately need a bigger one!), we’ve already made a start. On Friday, I filmed with the local Sunbeam Project, a music and dance project for orphaned and vulnerable kids. They were rehearsing for a performance at a local event and their sweet, perfectly in-tune voices filled the skies above with a rich, full sound that was unmistakeably Africa.

There are some big challenges ahead, but this place has already captured my heart. Happily, my work means I’ll have to integrate with the locals and I can’t wait to see Uganda through their eyes. And with a new set of wheels, I can’t wait to explore further afield – Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Victoria and the National Parks are already calling me! Yes, my African Film Adventure has truly begun…

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Hubb UK 2013

Hubb UK group photo © Horizons Unlimited

Group photo in aid of prostate cancer – I’m in there somewhere! © Horizons Unlimited

This past four days, I’ve replaced the heat and dust of Arizona with the more temperate (!) climate of Donington Park. I’m here at the annual Hubb event, the UK’s largest gathering of adventure motorcyclists, 4×4-ers and other overlanders of all descriptions. It’s been a packed few days, with a schedule featuring many of the great and good of the adventure travel world. And if ever there was an event to re-kindle old adventure dreams – and inspire new ones! – this is it.

Ed March takes a well-earned break after an entertaining presentation

Ed March takes a well-earned break after his hilarious talk

Hubb UK campground - a great atmosphere!

Hubb UK campground – a great atmosphere!

Here we have a fantastic mix of hardened overlanders who’ve seen the world (some many times over!), those about to head off on big trips, and those still fantasising about taking off somewhere. And the huge variety of speakers here means that, no matter where in the world you want to go or how you want to travel, there’s someone to inspire you to get out there and do it.

I’ve been particularly inspired by the small-bike travellers. Ed March gave a couple of hilarious presentations on tackling the world (including the Arctic!) on his Honda C90 – his video snippets of oddities he’s seen on the road included a tractor going along a road in India with a wheel missing and an eye-watering tanker crash that happened right in front of him! Nathan Millward was equally entertaining about his travels from Sydney to London to the USA on his trusty postie bike – his stories about how little his bike cost to repair along the way (£280 for a complete rebuild in SE Asia!) must have made many a BMW owner’s eyes water!

Clare Elsdon talks about crossing Africa on a DRZ

Clare Elsdon talks about crossing Africa on a DRZ

The ladies have been well-represented here, too. I loved hearing Jupiter’s Traveller Clare Elsdon talking about crossing Africa solo on her DRZ (something I still hope to do in the near future). And Jacqui Furneaux gave a fascinating presentation about travelling the world on her 500cc Enfield Bullet – she even rode her bike right into the presentation hall so we could all pore over it afterwards. In both cases, I was inspired by their courage to throw up lives/jobs that were making them unhappy and venture out into the world in search of excitement and fulfillment – which, happily, seems to have happened to both of them.

On the 4×4 front, Toby Savage gave a really insightful talk about his adventures taking two 70-year-old jeeps across the Sahara desert. He showed some brilliant footage of an interview with war veteran Arthur, one of the original jeep drivers, which gave real context and history to the whole presentation.

Ted Simon talks about his new photobook

Ted Simon talks about his new photobook

An inevitable highlight of Hubb UK was hearing the great Ted Simon speak again – this time about his new photobook Jupiter’s Travels In Camera, a wonderful collection of stills taken on his many travels over the years. He also talked about the work of the Ted Simon Foundation, which supports adventure travel that aims to open people’s eyes to what is happening across the globe – a worthy cause indeed.

It was also, predictably, a packed house for Austin Vince who was here to talk about his latest Mondo Sahara adventures. As usual, he captivated the crowd with his trademark humour and enthusiasm. I’d actually heard him do this talk at the Overland Expo in Arizona – but it was just as enjoyable second time round, I have to say!

These are just a few highlights of what has been a great event. Hats off to Susan and Grant Johnson for their ongoing work with Horizons Unlimited and the Hubb website. And congrats to Sam Manicom and Iain Harper, the Hubb event organisers, who were flying around the entire time making sure everything ran smoothly – your hard work has paid off, guys, thank you!

And as we all disperse to our various corners of the country – and indeed, the world! – it’s obvious that yet more dreams are already being hatched and realised as a result of the last few days. My list of places I want to see in the world just got a whole lot longer…! :)

Hubb UK 2013

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Overland Expo 2013

Manning the Charley Boorman stand

Manning the Charley Boorman stand

Well after a busy weekend at the Overland Expo, just south of Flagstaff AZ, I’m back in Phoenix and about to head for LA – so just time to pen a quick update on the weekend’s highlights! Manning the Charley Boorman stand with the incorrigible Billy Ward proved to be great fun with never a dull moment. We were promoting Charley’s tours in Africa and Australia and were joined at various times on the stand by some of the American and Canadian participants from previous tours. Their anecdotes and hilarity certainly went a long way towards entertaining potential future trip participants at the stand!

Meet "Moto Hank"

Meet “Moto Hank”, the half a million mile guy!

With so many adventure motorcyclists in one place (about 6,000, I heard!), it was inevitable I would meet people who’d fuel my own wanderlust. One such guy was “Moto Hank”, who’s put nearly half a million miles on his GS – talking to him was like turning the pages of an atlas! Once again, Lisa and Simon Thomas of 2RideTheWorld gave a great presentation about their ongoing travels (they’ve been on the road 10 years now!), including tales of two big accidents they had in Borneo and Bolivia which had everyone admiring their stamina and resilience (not to mention the strength of their marriage!). And an encounter with the lovely Ted Simon absolutely made my weekend – such a gentle-mannered man, so humble and abashed about the fact that he has inspired so many to go out on their own motorcycle adventures: a true adventure legend.

Austin fills in for Charley Boorman on the stand!

Austin fills in for Charley on the stand!

Another highlight was the world premiere of Austin Vince’s new film Mondo Sahara, which proved a very worthy successor to his Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa movies. All the usual DIY motorcycle mayhem ensued, followed by an equally lively Q&A after the screening. Having been involved in the Aussie Adventure Travel Film Festival earlier this year, I was eager to see how the US one shaped up and it didn’t disappoint. In particular, a rare 1950s film by the Iranian Omidvar brothers left a lasting impression – it showed some extraordinary footage of their travels in “darkest Africa”, including some very memorable scenes of child-throwing and tooth-sharpening!

Billy almost bought this Honda

Billy almost bought this Honda

Amidst the Expo’s adventure motorcycling melée, it was very hard to resist the urge to ride – and indeed buy! – some bikes. Billy came close to coughing up cash for a Honda CRF250L that Chris Scott (the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook author) was selling. As for me, I contented myself with ogling various Triumph Bonnevilles and Scramblers kitted out for long-distance riding, as well as going for a ride in a Ural sidecar (first time in a sidecar, great fun!). With Beemers at every turn, I also decided to try a few for size – but don’t worry, I’ve not been converted: I’m still a small-bike girl! :)

Just trying it for size...

Just trying it for size…

So it was truly a weekend filled with adventure. Trouble is, it’s made me get my maps out all over again, hatching new plans for even bigger, better journeys. My bank manager’s going to hate me. But hey, as so many people I met at the Expo said, life’s too short not to get out there and explore. And I for one intend to do just that.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Ride To The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Well here I am at one of the Great Wonders of the World – and wow, what a wonder it is! My whole life, I’ve wanted to see Arizona’s Grand Canyon but nothing prepared me for just how beautiful – and how BIG! – it really is.

The ride up from Flagstaff was in itself an experience. I took the long way round – historic Route 66, then up Interstate 89 to Cameron, then westwards on the I-64, along Desert View Road, approaching the canyon from the east. At first the land was volcanic, with the San Francisco Peaks, still capped with snow, visible in the wing mirror for miles. Then the landscape turned to arid reddish-brown desert – it really reminded me of Namibia and immediately called to mind my journeys to the Fish River Canyon, which is second in size only to the Grand Canyon.

Look what I borrowed! :)

Look what I borrowed!

Oh and when I say “ride”, as luck would have it, on arriving in Flagstaff, I got chatting to a lovely guy who, it turned out, had a lovely bronze-coloured Honda Rebel gathering dust in the garage. Hearing about my plans to head for the Canyon, he immediately suggested I take the bike. It was an offer too good to resist and so, alongside all the ubiquitous Harley Davidson riders plying Route 66, here I am on a small-but-perfectly-formed Honda Rebel, tearing up the landscape with the best of ‘em! :)

The first views of the mighty Canyon from the Desert View lookouts were absolutely breathtaking. I have to admit, a shed a little tear: I could barely believe I was here after so long dreaming about coming one day. The vast expanses of deep red, brown, cream and pale green rock, the intricately-chiselled cliff edges, and the sheer drops down the side of the canyon (it’s a mile deep!) left me breathless with wonder. At certain points I could see the rapids of the Colorado River gushing through the canyon far below, while up above condors circled and swooped, surveying the massive gash in the earth underneath them. I’ve seen many natural wonders in the world, but this has to be one of the most awe-inspiring, truly.

Contemplating the scenery...

Contemplating the Canyon…

I’ve been here a few days now, staying in a lodge (Yavapai) buried deep in sweet-smelling pine forest. I’ve hiked many different trails, breathless in the searing heat (101ºF) and altitude (7,000ft). And anywhere I could ride to enjoy yet another vista, believe me, I’ve ridden there!

I leave tomorrow with a happy heart – and some brilliant photos. And more adventures await! Next I’m off to the Overland Expo just south of Flagstaff (via the scenic route, of course!) to mingle with the great and good of the adventure motorcycle and 4×4 overlanding world. Before then, I’ve got a bit more riding to do… :)

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Adventures In Arizona

Route 66 at Flagstaff, Arizona

Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ

Well after a few months of good living in Andalucía, I decided it was time to get on the road again. And where better to do a classic road trip than Arizona, home of the Grand Canyon, spectacular desert and mountain landscapes, and bisected by the infamous Route 66?

As I write this, I’ve just arrived in Flagstaff, dubbed the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”, after a spectacular drive up from Phoenix, climbing gradually higher through some amazing rugged mountain and forest scenery to an eventual altitude of 7,000ft. After an afternoon exploring Flagstaff’s historic downtown – which is littered with picturesque 1890s buildings and a notable number of tattoo parlours! - I’ve just checked into a motel that makes Bates Motel look positively homely! It’s right on Route 66 and slap-bang next to the railway line, so all in all it looks like I’m in for a fun night!

Railroad at Flagstaff

Railroad at Flagstaff – just outside my motel room window!

I’m very excited as tomorrow I’ll be heading up to the Grand Canyon National Park to spend a few days exploring the “big hole in the ground”. I’m going to stay actually in the park so I can really soak up the landscape, do some hiking down into the canyon, go dirt-biking, and hopefully try one of the famed mule rides along the Colorado River.

There are Harleys everywhere in Flagstaff - but this is more my style!

There are Harleys everywhere in Flagstaff – but this is more my style!

Then I’ll be heading to the Overland Expo – a huge gathering of motorcycle and 4×4 adventurers, a 3-day event encompassing heaps of adventure travel lectures, workshops, presentations and other activities for overlanders of all shapes and sizes. There’s an impressive list of VIP speakers and guests, including the legendary Ted Simon who I can’t wait to meet. I’m helping run Charley Boorman‘s stand at the Expo, to promote his motorbike tours and TV series, so that should be fun. Plus the Expo incorporates the Southwest USA Adventure Travel Film Festival and, having helped organise the Aussie one earlier this year, I’m really keen to see how the American one shapes up: it will be great to see Lois Pryce and Austin Vince again too, of course!

So lots to look forward to here in the good old US of A. It’s great to be on the road again… :)

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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The Road To Spain

Yes please! I want to ride through these mountains just outside Granada

The mountains near Granada – can’t wait to ride my bike through here!

Well, the clock is ticking now till I hand back the keys to my Melbourne apartment, and in the nick of time I’ve booked some flights: yes, all roads lead to Spain!

Plan A – ride Volty across Oz – was in the end a non-starter, alas. Even doing things cheaply, prices here in Australia seem to be escalating by the day, making long-term travel a bit of a no-no in terms of stretching my dollar to the max. (I was chatting to Austin and Lois at the Adventure Travel Film Festival this weekend and they said their latest trip here is woefully short because everything’s so expensive). Add to that the vast distances (huge tracts of nothingness) between places in Australia and the fact that all the most interesting areas are  hundreds of clicks off-road, and I finally had to admit that my 250cc Suzuki road bike just isn’t cut out for the kind of trip I really want to do.

Good to go - my bike gear, ready to be packed for new adventures!

Good to go – my bike gear, ready to be packed for new adventures!

So, long story short – Plan B! Head to Europe and look at picking up a Suzuki VanVan or similar to go touring through Europe, North Africa and beyond. And, well, that’s all the plan there is. With the money pocketed from selling my possessions and my beloved Volty (sob! I can’t talk about it, it was a wrench!), I’m heading first to Granada in southern Spain. I’ll base myself there at least to start with, and start checking out bikes and potential routes while living as frugally as I possibly can. I was there a couple of times last year and couldn’t believe how cheap it was to live. A good friend has a house in the Moorish part of town – the Albaicín – so I’ll head there and figure things out as I go.

My Spanish is rusty as f*** (I did a degree in Spanish and French and used to be fluent), but hopefully it’ll come back as I mingle with the locals again. Obviously the money’s a worry longer-term but I’ll work that out on the fly – hopefully by doing a bit of freelance TV work in Europe and using my TEFL certificates to get some casual teaching work. Oh and then there’s the writing, of course.

Yup, they even have GSes in Granada!

Yup, they even have GS-es in Granada!

So there it is. I keep calling it the “Non-Plan” because it’s a plan that isn’t really a plan. And I must say, I’m rather liking it so far!

I’m now in a final frenzy of cleaning, packing, selling my last items on Gumtree, and generally winding things up ready to hit Melbourne Airport Tuesday afternoon. Then it’s all change as I head to Spain to start a whole new chapter.

Let’s see how it goes, eh…? :)

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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Aussie Adventure Travel Film Festival 2013

Yes, our limited edition ATFF T-shirts were on sale!

Yes, our limited edition ATFF T-shirts sold like hot cakes!

Well its been another busy and exciting time at this year’s Adventure Travel Film Festival in Victoria’s beautiful Alpine region. Despite the threat of bush fires, which have been ravaging the land barely 25km down the road, here in Bright our only worries have been keeping hydrated and sun-creamed up in the searing heat!

Jon Muir signs books after his talk

Jon Muir signs books after his talk

Our festival organiser Rupert did us proud this year with a superb line-up of speakers. TIm Cope and Jon Muir returned for a second year to jam-pack the big (sweaty!) marquee with those eager to hear more of their incredible exploits. Tim’s stories of his time living with locals in Mongolia were truly mesmerising, and Jon’s tales of walking solo across the Aussie Outback and wanting to push himself to the limits of endurance had me marvelling all over again at the sheer balls of the guy!

Lisa and Simon enjoying a cold beer in the Brewery

Lisa and Simon enjoying a cold beer in the Brewery

2RideTheWorld Brit motorcyclists Lisa and Simon Thomas were probably my favourite speakers this year, giving a really entertaining insight into life on the road as a motorcycling couple. They’re both really down to earth, no pretensions, and their “anyone-can-do-it” story really did endear them to the crowds, I think. It was great poring over their bike, wondering where each little dent and mud-splatter might have happened… Still can’t believe they’ve ridden over 400,000kms through 77 countries. Brilliant stuff.

I also loved hearing Kate Leeming talk about her epic cycle across Africa from West to East through the Congo – a tale of true daring if ever there was one. And Melbourne-born Eric Phillips is proof that you really don’t have to come from a freezing cold country to be a polar explorer extraordinaire – his talk was also fascinating.

Kate Leeming and Eric Phillips outside the marquee

Kate Leeming and Eric Phillips outside the marquee

And the adventure travel films really were top-notch this year again – too many to list, but my personal favourites were the golden oldie 1933 epic solo motorcycle adventure Twice Upon A Caravan and Congo kayaking epic Mazungu (both shown as starlight screenings out in the balmy open air, wonderful).

Austin and Lois at the registration tent

Austin and Lois welcome punters at the registration tent

As ever, the festival was hosted by the affable Lois Pryce and Austin Vince who once again lent their special brand of informality and good humour to stamp this event with its unique trademark. They’ve curated all this year’s films and have a genuine and excitable enthusiasm about each and every one, which is truly infectious, I can tell you.

And that’s the key to the success of the Adventure Travel Film Festival, I think. This year, I was the Aussie festival’s chief “spruiker” (Lois will love me for using that word!), drumming up press and publicity for an event which last year had me so excited as an attendee, as I mingled with like-minded adventurous types, sharing stories of the road and planning new ones over lashings of cold beer. I’ve really enjoyed being involved this time round and I’m already thinking hard about how I can wangle it so I can attend the UK one in August! :)

Adventure Travel Film Festival UK, 16-18 August 2013:

http://www.adventuretravelfilmfestival.com/uk-festival/

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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A Fork In The Road

Hey, hey. Well a week since my last post, it’s been all systems go as I start packing up my Melbourne apartment, ready to move on. Life’s become a whirlwind of op shop runs, Cash Converters dashes, and other cross-city errands to sell, trade or otherwise offload the vast majority of my material possessions. Furniture, car, household goods…all are gradually being “re-located” to new owners. And all I can think is: How the hell did I end up with so much stuff?!

Which way next?

Which way next?

Happily, Volty’s been keeping me sane – regular daily rides down the coast are my “Happy Pill”, as I feel the sea breeze through my helmet and riding jacket, and enjoy the sensation of freedom on the road all over again.

I’m making the most of these rides. I’m still undecided about whether to do a cross-Oz trip on the bike or head to Spain to cook up a whole new two-wheeled adventure exploring Europe and Africa. But right now, it has to be said, Europe’s looking like the more viable – and cost-effective – option. And that being the case… it means I’ll have to sell my beloved Suzuki in a couple of weeks. This is of course gutting – regular readers will know how much I love my TU250X – but having looked into shipping/freighting options, I just don’t think I can afford to take the bike with me. :(

On the up-side, once I’m in Andalucía I’ll hopefully be able to buy the new bike I’ve already got my eye on – the sturdy, characterful Suzuki Van Van – which hopefully will be the start of lots of new moto adventures! :)

At this fork in the road, I’m excited about what’s to come but also rather trepidatious about which road to take. It’ll be another week or so before I finally make up my mind – I’m going to enjoy the Adventure Travel Film Festival next weekend and then see how I feel after mingling with the great and good of the adventure world!

Whichever path I choose, I can’t wait to be out in the world again, exploring new places, meeting new people, and soaking up lots of fresh life experiences. Bring it on! 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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New Year, New Adventures…

So here’s the thing. Christmas Day, I’m sitting at home staring down the barrel of yet another year spent thinking about lots of adventures I desperately want to do but can’t afford. Maybe it’s the rather nice Spanish jerez I’m sculling, but from somewhere very deep within something suddenly clicks: Fuck it, life’s too short. If you keep waiting till you have enough money, you’ll be sitting here till Doomsday! Within the week, I’ve handed in notice on my TV job (much to the chagrin of my employer!), on my rented Bayshore apartment…in short, on four years of life in Melbourne. That’s it – I’m off!

So what’s the plan, I hear you cry?! Well…Let’s just say it’s evolving by the day. No, really. First task is to drastically “downsize”. That means clearing out the contents of my flat, putting personal items into storage, selling the car, the furniture, getting rid of the cat… (oh hang on a minute, scrub that last one – I don’t have a cat!).

Plan #1: Head off across Oz on Volty?

Plan #1: Head off across Australia on Volty?

Then, somewhere swirling in the back of my brain – as yet not fully formed – is “The Plan”. Well, it’s two plans, actually. First is to take off with minimal luggage on my beloved Volty – yes, the Suzuki TU250X that has been my absolute joy and salvation since I purchased it a few months ago. I’ve put nearly 5,000kms on it from new so it’s well and truly run in, and I’ve got this idea of a kind of “last gasp Australia”, in which I’ll head across the country for an indeterminate amount of time and actually experience some of this vast continent I’ve been living in for the last few years.

Plan #2: Head across Europe on a Suzuki Van Van?

Plan #2: Explore Europe and beyond on a Suzuki Van Van              Photo ⓒ Suzuki (promotional)

Then again… After such a long time in Oz, I’ve a real hankering to head east for a while, to Europe. I’m craving history, culture, old buildings, speaking foreign languages, joie de vivre! After a couple of trips to Andalucía last year, I’m thinking of going back to hatch a plan that – surprise, surprise – also involves una moto! I’ve been looking at a particular motorbike there – the Suzuki Van Van – and reading about people crossing the Alps, Mongolia and other far-flung places on just such a bike. It looks like a kind of “off-road” version of Volty, with chunkier wheels and a more rugged set-up, and I’m thinking what an adventure it would be to buy one and ride through Europe, North Africa and beyond…

So there it is. I’d love to tell you the plan is more formed than it actually is, but there’s something rather delicious (if bloody scary!) about making it up as I go. Which plan I’ll plump for (or maybe I’ll do both!), I have no idea just now. All I know is, 26th Feb I have to vacate my apartment and hand back the keys once and for all – so I guess I’d better make my mind up by then, eh?! Maybe you guys can help me decide…

PS For anyone who’s wondering, yes I will still be at the Adventure Travel Film Festival 15-17 Feb! I’ve been working hard on the press and PR for it and wouldn’t miss it for the world! Come join us for a weekend of adventure and cold beer! :)

http://www.adventuretravelfilmfestival.com/australian-festival/

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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A Place To Hatch New Adventures

Mondo Enduro’s Austin Vince regaling the crowds at the 2012 Festival

As many of you know, in recent months I’ve been helping set up the 2013 Australian Adventure Travel Film Festival. I went to the inaugural Festival in Bright, Victoria, earlier this year and had the best time mingling with the great and good of the Aussie and international adventuring world and watching some truly inspiring adventure travel films:

http://jeaniedavison.com/2012/02/26/adventure-travel-film-festival-2012/

Well, I enjoyed it so much that when asked if I’d lend a hand with the next one, I was only too keen! Brit motorbike adventurers Austin Vince and Lois Pryce, curators of the Festival, are coming back to Oz again 15-17 February 2013 – and this time the line-up of films and speakers is going to be even better, oh yes! Just take a look at who’s already confirmed:

http://www.adventuretravelfilmfestival.com/australian-festival/added-attractions/

I can’t think of a better way to spend a long weekend than soaking up some amazing scenery, hanging out with motorbikers and adventurers of all persuasions, watching great adventure travel films, swapping adventure stories and generally getting inspired to dream up new plans. Plus it all centres around the Bright Brewery – which is actually being refurbished and enlarged this year, just for us! – a suitable watering-hole indeed for such a glorious gathering.

Tickets are on sale now and selling like hot cakes already. So don’t delay – when they’re gone, they’re gone! http://www.adventuretravelfilmfestival.com/australian-festival/buy-tickets/

Hope to see you there, folks! Come say hello. :)

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Adventure Travel, Motorcycling

 

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