Tag Archives: adventure

Out and About on a Postie Bike

It might not look like much, but I’ve had some great fun blatting round Sydney on this little motorbike I borrowed from a friend recently.

This trusty Honda CT110 is a bike you’ll see everywhere in this city – and indeed all over Australia – as it’s the bike the “posties” here have traditionally used to zip around on, delivering mail door to door.

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Although it’s only 105cc (aw, cute!), it’ll tackle the steep hills near where I live in Coogee with not so much as a splutter. And whilst style-wise it’s decidedly more “utility” than Ducati (!), I love its simplicity and ease of operation – auto-clutch, oh yes!

I’ve zipped around all over Sydney on this little gem, and am starting to understand why the likes of Nathan Millward and Ed March chose these pint-sized Hondas for their four-wheeled overlanding adventures: they are such fun to ride.

I have to give this little postie bike back soon, but maybe just one more ride out first… After all, it’s a gorgeous sunny Saturday afternoon here in Sydney and it’s a nice ride across town to the Deus Cafe…

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New Adventures in Australia

IMG_20170409_151113Well, it’s been a few months now since quitting London (again!) and arriving to start a new chapter in Sydney, Australia. Back in February, shivering through a dreary UK winter, I’d made the decision to return to sunnier climes, and happily “fate” provided just the opportunity I’d been looking for – a job offer from Amnesty International in Sydney, producing content for their digital team.

DSCN2147I should be used to international relocations by now (!), but the past few months have yet again been a kerfuffle of finding somewhere to live, starting a new job, making friends, and finding new places to hang out. Luckily, Australia is a very easy place to live (I lived in Melbourne for four years) and here in Sydney it all seems pleasingly familiar. Best of all, I’m beach-side, having found a beautiful recently-renovated studio apartment in Coogee, two minutes walk to the ocean and a gorgeous yellow-sand suburban beach.

I’m loving my work at Amnesty International. In just a few short months, I’ve already produced films and other digital content about all kinds of human rights themes – Global Ambassador Alicia Keys talking about her work with Amnesty, a series of films on child labour in the palm oil industry in Indonesia, a film with the Sydney Swans AFL footy team, and interviews with some amazing Indigenous rights campaigners right here in Australia. I’ve been setting up an in-house production unit, buying camera kit and all sorts of toys so we can film different kinds of projects as they arise. Very exciting!

Now I’m getting settled, thoughts are of course turning to buying a bike – yes, my next two-wheeled adventure isn’t far away, folks…. – and the maps are out once again to plan another Australasian jaunt. I’m longing to experience Aussie’s wide open roads once again and I’ve got my eye on the perfect bike to do it…

Right now, though, I’m enjoying a typical winter Sunday afternoon down at Coogee Beach – 20 degrees Celsius, glorious sunshine, and people out in force, enjoying beachside delights (in my case, that means a ginormous Italian-style gelato!). Yup, glad to be back in Oz. Very glad indeed. 🙂

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Syrian Stories: Filming Adventures In Jordan

Za'atari camp, Mafraq, Jordan

Za’atari camp, Mafraq, Jordan

I’m just back from my latest trip, filming a UNICEF/BBC documentary in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, near the border with Syria. Working with a small but perfectly-formed team, we spent time with a number of Syrian children and their families, getting their perspective on life in the camp and finding out first-hand what has made so many families like them flee their homes and homeland. As you might imagine, their stories were as heartbreaking as they were uplifting and I was continually touched at how warmly they welcomed us into their new abodes in the camp – containers with minimal furnishings, or basic rooms with tarpaulin roofs – and shared with us what little they had with huge smiles and unconditional generosity.

Filming during the sandstorm!

Filming during the sandstorm!

The trip itself was something of an adventure its own right. A couple of days into filming, the camp was hit by a sudden enormous sandstorm that descended on us like a tsunami. The sky went from yellow to black to blood-red in a matter of minutes, blocking out the sun, and we all had to run for cover as thick sand threatened to choke us as it engulfed the streets. Just a day later, there was a torrential rainstorm which resulted in water sluicing down the muddy streets and many of the refugee homes’ flimsy roofs caving in with the weight of rainwater. And then, just to keep things interesting, we ran into thick fog on the third day, which descended on the camp and its surrounds, enveloping everything in a chilly, eery grey cloak. For us, these were challenging conditions to film in – but it was a sobre reminder, too, that this is what over 80,000 people in Za’atari camp are having to deal with every single day. 

Meeting kids in one of UNICEF's Child-Friendly Spaces.

Meeting kids in one of UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Spaces.

Thankfully, UNICEF and other aid agencies are working tirelessly here to try and make things easier for the residents of Za’atari – families who have no idea how long they will have to be here and when they might be able to go home. I’m always humbled when I see first-hand the work that UNICEF does in the field and this trip was no exception – the schools, the Child-Friendly Spaces, and the recreational areas where kids can just be kids are all crucial in ensuring that these displaced children have a kind of “normality” in this strange place until – some day – they are able to go back home. 

The footage we filmed is now being edited and I hope to share news with you soon of when the documentary will air. I can’t say too much about it for now as it’s all under wraps (!) but watch this space… 🙂

A Weekend Of Adventure!

ATFF - starlight screening

Adventure Travel Film Festival – Starlight Screening

If you’re looking for inspiration for your next expedition, need tips on filming or writing about your latest trip, or just want to soak up exciting tales of the road from some adventure legends, then you should get yourself over to Mill Hill this weekend. Yes, it’s that time again – the UK Adventure Travel Film Festival kicks off on 14th August in an all-new venue in North London and, judging by the schedule, it’s going to be bigger and better than ever.

Austin and Lois, festival organisers extraordinaires!

Austin and Lois, festival organisers extraordinaires!

Hosted as always by its passionate organisers Lois Pryce and Austin Vince, it promises to be a triumph of films, workshops and talks designed for both the budding adventurer and seasoned expeditioner alike. I’ve known Austin and Lois for a number of years now and their unbridled enthusiasm for organising this event, entirely under their own steam, makes the festival pretty unique in this age of sponsorship and commercialisation. Their “DIY approach” and belief that adventure is not about the gear but about getting out there and experiencing the world with what you’ve got creates a very special atmosphere where adventurers of all shapes and sizes can mingle, exchange stories and dreams, and hatch plans for new experiences yet to come.

This year’s schedule promises loads of activities guaranteed to get the travel impulses racing. There are some great speakers including Anna McNuff, who’s just run the length of New Zealand (as you do), writer and adventure legend Jonny Bealby (I love his travel books!) and Chris Scott, adventure biker and author of the indispensable Adventure Motorcycle Handbook, the book that has spawned more than a few two-wheeled dreams.

There are workshops on everything from travel writing to adventure film-making (Austin’s take on how to make your own travel movie is a must-attend!). And did I mention the films? They’ve got another fabulous line-up, including one of my favourites, Somewhere Else Tomorrow – Daniel Rintz’s heartwarming film showing that travel isn’t just about the mileage, it’s about the people – and, new for 2015, Going The Distance, a film about a married couple, a Ural sidecar outfit and a snapshot of love and life across 20,000 miles.

So check out the trailer here for a taste of what you’re in for and grab one of the last few tickets left for this weekend! Your inner adventurer won’t regret it. 🙂

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

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Back To Oz

Sowilo Soul Centre - a little haven of loveliness

Sowilo Soul Centre – a little haven of loveliness

Hi, folks – and G’day from Down Under! It’s been a busy old month since leaving Spain at the end of October and heading east to the sunny climes of Western Australia. I’ve been involved in an adventure of a very different kind these past few weeks, helping my good friend Paula set up an exciting new business venture. Having secured a beautiful historic property in Fremantle, a gorgeous coastal town south of Perth, she needed a hand getting the place set up as a yoga and wellness centre. With the property in desperate need of some renovation and decoration, I decided to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in!

Out and about in Fremantle

Out and about in Fremantle

It’s been surprisingly fun – if bloody hard work! – ripping out old floors, digging and re-planting gardens, and running countless shopping errands to procure North African and Mediterranean-inspired furniture and furnishings for the place. I’ve discovered the wonders of Bunnings Warehouse – Oz’s answer to the UK’s Homebase store, not to mention the local IKEA and a myriad of wonderful family-run garden centres. It’s been exciting seeing the Sowilo Soul Centre taking shape, and the buzz around the place as passers-by and people round town get to hear what we’re up to leaves me in no doubt that my friend Paula is going to have a very successful and happy business here.

South Beach, Fremantle

South Beach, Fremantle

It’s not been all work, though. I’ve also been enjoying some of the beautiful beaches here – something for which Perth is renowned. Early-morning beach walks have been a regular feature since arriving and the fresh air and sunshine definitely feels good for the soul.

I have, of course, been dying to jump on a motorbike and go exploring – but for the moment I’ve hired four wheels instead of two, as a Toyota is infinitely more useful than a bike for hauling furniture, tools and garden stuff around town! Having said that, I do have my eye on a great little Suzuki TU250 that’s just been advertised on Gumtree, so let’s just see what happens, shall we? 😉

 

 

No Fixed Abode: 18 Months Living Out Of A Suitcase

Soaking up the sun in Andalucia

Soaking up the sun in Andalucia, southern Spain

As many of you know, in March 2013 I left Melbourne – quit my job and my rented apartment, sold all my stuff including my car and beloved Suzuki motorbike – and, with no “Grand Plan” or itinerary in mind, threw myself, for better or worse, into the big wide world. Armed with a suitcase and some savings, my self-appointed remit was simply “to live a little”. Eighteen months on, I’m sitting here in a little cafe on the sunny Andalucian coast, sipping an Americano and looking back on what a year and a half it’s been.

Gorgeous Granada

Gorgeous Granada

I kicked things off last year with a couple of months in beautiful Granada, soaking up its gorgeous Moorish architecture and ambience, indulging in tapas and southern Spanish wines, and generally living la vida loca for a bit. All very nice – but soon I was itching to DO something and, after heading to London in the hope of scoring some casual work with a charity such as UNICEF, I found just the challenge I’d been looking for…

Getting to grips with a Ugandan boda boda!

Getting to grips with a Ugandan boda boda!

Bring on 4 months in the farthest reaches of Uganda and Rwanda, near the border with the Congo, working with a small British NGO to set up a community film initiative for local people, teaching them video skills to enable them to tell their own stories about their lives, culture and key issues like health and education. I was plunged into a surreal and challenging life in a remote town with no running water or electricity. I filmed with a local pygmy tribe, had a heap of adventures involving 125cc Chinese motorbikes and some of the roughest terrain I’ve ever been on, and helped pioneer “pedal power cinema” (screening films in remote areas where, in the absence of electricity, you use a common or garden pushbike attached to a dynamo to generate power to run a DVD player!). Not to mention spending time with gorillas…

With the Comic Relief crew in Ghana

With the Comic Relief crew in Ghana

Coming back into “civilisation” after all that made me all the more appreciative of the simple things in life (light switches, showers, internet, Suzuki motorbikes…) and Christmas back in Granada saw me making the most of all these things and more! Early in the New Year, I landed some freelance work at Comic Relief‘s London HQ – and barely a week into the job, they posted me out to Ghana to oversee some vloggers making YouTube films about some of the charities Comic Relief funds in the capital, Accra, and in remote Tamale, near the Guinea border. I was the proverbial “pig in shit”, loving being back in Africa so soon and enjoying, once again, being able to act as a mentor, this time to two young film-makers.

Standing simultaneously in 4 states - Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona!

Standing simultaneously in 4 states – Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona!

After some work on the Sport Relief 2014 campaign and a few months overseeing, amongst other things, a documentary about the Street Child World Cup, shot in Brazil, India and Tanzania, it was time to hit the road again – this time in the good old US of A, yeeha! I’d been invited to be a presenter at the Overland Expo in Arizona, speaking about my Uganda/Rwanda Film Adventure, and decided to combine this with a road trip through some of the surrounding states for a few weeks. After a great time catching up with fellow travellers at the Expo, I spent some time hiking through the mighty Grand Canyon before hitting the road to travel through Utah, Colorado and New Mexico and some of the most memorable and challenging scenery I’ve ever encountered.

On location with the Zambian TV crew

On location with the Zambian TV crew

All too soon, my money was starting to run out again and it was time to look for some more work. Back in London, though, work was proving pretty tough to find – until yet again, the travel gods smiled, and a contact at the BBC emailed me about an opportunity to consultant produce on a series of documentaries being made in Zambia. Again, this was an offer too good to miss –  I found myself winging my way to Lusaka for a few weeks to work with a local Zambian documentary team on a UK Aid/DFID-funded film. It was very challenging work but after delivering a first film that “exceeded expectations”, they asked me back to oversee a second documentary – so back I went to Zambia!

Jeanie at Grand Canyon 2013

There’s adventure out there somewhere…

All of which brings things pretty much up to date and finds me here in Spain, sitting by the Mediterranean Sea, contemplating what’s going to happen next. Looking back on the last year and a half, it’s been a roller-coaster of unforeseen opportunities and adventures that I could not have imagined before leaving Australia last March. I won’t lie, though – as a wise man (or woman?!) once said, “you can’t have the ups without the downs”: there have been more than a few hairy moments when I’ve had to stretch my money to the max and tighten the old belt considerably to make ends meet. Plus, living out of a suitcase as I have been – staying with friends, in cheap B&Bs, remote African village with no amenities (!), calling home “wherever I lay my hat” – is not always as glamorous and fancy-free as it sounds: sometimes you just want to be “home” somewhere, surrounded by all your own “stuff” again. But as all you long-term travellers out there well know, once you get a taste for “life on the road” – the freedom, the feeling of being truly “alive”, the chance that there’ll be another adventure just round the next corner – it’s pretty addictive.

So what next? Well, like I said at the beginning, there’s no itinerary and no “Grand Plan.” The next chapter is, quite literally, waiting to be written. What I can say is that it will take just one phone call, one chance email, or one random encounter, to set me on the road to the next adventure. Can’t wait to see how it’s gonna turn out…! 🙂

Assignment: Zambia

Beautiful Zambia: the "smoke that thunders"

Beautiful Zambia: the “Smoke That Thunders”, Victoria Falls

Well, no sooner was I back from my wonderful road trip in the States than I got a call from a BBC contact about a new assignment – in Zambia! With barely a week in the UK – and most of my stuff still packed in my suitcase! – I was suddenly skidding back to Heathrow and flying south towards Jo’burg, then on to Lusaka.

My last trip to Zambia, maybe 3 years ago, was an unforgettable journey, entering the country’s western border via Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and driving up through Livingstone with a stop-off to gaze in awe at the mighty Victoria Falls before exploring the endless delights of the Zambezi River. Coming back to Zambia, this time for work, has been an altogether different kind of experience – though no less memorable!

On location with the Zambian TV crew

On location: shooting with the Zambian TV crew

I’ve been working as Consultant Producer on a UK AID/DFID-funded documentary being made by a Zambian documentary crew. I’ve had the privilege of working with this small team of local film-makers, seeing how they work and advising them on technical and creative aspects of the production. I can assure you, it’s been a learning curve for all of us! And working with them has once again afforded me the chance to see a country in a different way from your average tourist or traveller.

Filming in all kinds of locations from remote maize farms to local downtown markets and back-street nshima (Zambia’s staple dish) restaurants, we’ve met an amazing cross-section of people in a very short space of time. As ever, I’ve been struck by how little people survive on here in Africa, but how happy they are regardless – and wondered at the poverty that still exists, even in the heart of big developed cities like Lusaka.

Exploring Lusaka on two wheels

Exploring Lusaka on two wheels: not for the faint-hearted!

And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper trip without some forays out on two wheels. On my weekends off, I’ve been exploring under my own steam on a little Chinese-made 125cc bike that goes like a bomb and is great for dodging Lusaka’s burgeoning traffic – though nerves of steel and lightning-quick reflexes have been required on many an occasion: the combination of sudden pot-holes and things you wouldn’t expect to see shuffling across the tarmac (where did that one-legged woman come from?!) certainly made me feel well and truly alive out there on the road!

So it’s been work combined with a little bit of pleasure and, all too soon, my three-week stint here is coming to an end. I have a feeling I’ll be back here very soon, though. One way or another, Africa just keeps a-calling! 🙂

US Adventure – The Grand Circle

Monument Valley - like a huge movie set!

Monument Valley – like a huge movie set!

Well what an amazing time I’ve had on my latest adventure here in the United States! Five days hiking the Grand Canyon in Arizona, a few days down at the 2014 Overland Expo – presenting my African Film Adventure and taking part in a couple of roundtable sessions, talking all things adventure – and ten days on the road touring “The Grand Circle” in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

Hiking the Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

As ever, it was great to hook up with adventurous friends old and new at the Overland Expo. I had a blast presenting my African Film Adventure (last year’s Uganda expedition) – the session was pleasingly well-attended and it was such a boost to get positive feedback and questions from folks afterwards. Moderating the Africa/Middle East roundtable was also great fun, corralling speakers including Rene Cormier, Ron and Viv Moon and Fred Cook, as well as participating in the How To Integrate Travel Into Your Daily Life session (my key piece of advice, as it turned out, was “F*** it, just get out there!” which caused much mirth from the assembled crowd!). Huge thanks to the organisers for another fantastic event, and for inviting me to speak.

Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in southern Colorado

Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in southern Colorado

Hitting the road after the Expo was what I’d been craving. I’ve always wanted to explore “The Grand Circle”, which apparently has the USA’s highest concentration of National Parks – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I covered well over 1,500 miles and although every day presented a new and amazing vista, stand-outs for me were Monument Valley (Thelma and Louise country!), Utah’s Grand Staircase (which was like crossing a vast, empty alien planet), and Mesa Verde in Colorado, an archaeologist’s dream containing hundreds of amazingly-preserved Ancestral Puebloan villages dating from c.1200 AD. Incredible, all of it. 

Standing simultaneously in 4 states - Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona!

Standing simultaneously in 4 states – Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona!

As usual, I could have kept going forever – there’s something about being on the road, just travelling where you feel like from day to day, that’s incredibly freeing. But with just a few days of my trip left, it’s time to turn my wheels around and head back to Phoenix, and then I’m London-bound.

Once again, the US has delivered those wide open spaces I was seeking – and a whole lot more besides. I’ll be back soon, I’m sure of it. 🙂

 

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!

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!

Adventures With Comic Relief

Capturing a story in Africa

Capturing a story in Africa

After coming back to the UK for a couple of weeks to consider my next move, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse: six weeks working as a Freelance Journalist for Comic Relief. This high-profile charity supports projects in the UK and overseas, mainly in Africa, and my job in the coming weeks is to gather stories from some of those projects to show how fundraisers’ money is being spent.

With Comic Relief’s Sport Relief 2014 campaign coming up (21st-23rd March), it’s a great opportunity to get some “good news stories” out there and I’m excited at the chance to be part of it.

My Comic Relief coffee mug :)

My regulation Comic Relief coffee mug 🙂

My first week has already been fantastically busy. I’ve interviewed a Ghanaian woman from a remote African village who pulled herself out of poverty to become President of one of the most successful Fairtrade cocoa farming co-operatives in Africa. I’ve covered a story about women being saved from the Nairobi slums by a project that promotes boxing as a way to combat social problems. And I’ve talked to a doctor in Ghana who’s at the forefront of delivering life-saving vaccines to remote village communities via the “cold chain” process. (Remember Ewan McGregor’s recent UNICEF Cold Chain Mission documentary on the BBC? It’s the same kind of thing.) Diverse work indeed – and I’m loving it!

After my 4 months in Uganda setting up Film Africa, a community film project for local people to share their stories using video, it’s fascinating seeing charity work from a different perspective and realising what’s involved, not just in the projects themselves, but in promoting awareness of their work. And as someone with a passion for Africa, I’m pleased to see so many people there benefitting from Comic Relief-funded programs.

So I’m throwing myself into the next few weeks. Apart from anything else, it’s a good opportunity to put some money in my pocket to help fund my next adventures. Because yes, as ever I’m cooking up some more overlanding exploits for 2014: more on that to come very soon… 🙂

To find out more about what Comic Relief does and see how you can get involved in this year’s Sport Relief campaign: http://www.comicrelief.com.

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! 🙂

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!!

African Film Adventure 2013

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

The magical landscape of Uganda

Well after a few weeks back in the UK, I’m now excited to reveal the details of my next adventure! It will star Africa, volcanoes and great lakes, rare mountain gorillas, a rural village tribe called the Batwa, and yes…motorbikes!

On August 15th – yes, in just over a week’s time – I’m flying into Kigali, Rwanda, then heading overland into the southwest corner of Uganda. I’m joining a small international team there to help get a new filming initiative off the ground that will tackle conservation, health, education and cultural issues.

For three months, I’ll be immersing myself in a tiny village in the Great Rift Valley near the border with the Congo and Rwanda, filming local stories and development issues, the rare mountain gorillas in the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and training the locals to get behind the camera themselves and make their own films. I’ll also be part of a pioneering project to bring mobile cinema (via “pedal power”!) to the region.

Filming in Africa

Filming in Africa

Living conditions will be basic – no electricity or running water, everything runs on solar power – and the location couldn’t be more remote, on the edge of dense jungle in the very heart of rural East Africa. But I can’t wait to be on the ground, bonding with my new team, getting to know the locals, and tackling the challenges of setting up a filming initiative in a far-flung but fascinating part of the world.

Those who’ve followed my UNICEF adventures will know how much I enjoy projects that combine adventure, amazing locations, and the chance to give something back. This expedition, spearheaded by a fantastic grassroots organisation called Big Beyond, really caught my eye as an experience that would supply all three!

As well as bringing my TV/media skills to the project (on a completely voluntary basis), I’ll also be mucking in with many other daily tasks in the village. And I’ll be doing my best to learn the local language, Rukiga, a form of Bantu – I’ve already got my first word: Agandi! Hello! Motorbikes (or boda boda, as they locals call them – my second useful word!) are the key form of transport here and I hope to use them not just for work but also for exploring the terrain in any free time I have. By all accounts, it’s an absolutely beautiful region, so I can’t wait to get on two wheels and explore further afield as soon as I can.

It’s a daunting challenge, but one I’m definitely ready for. With barely a week to prepare, I’m now in a whirlwind of packing and planning. Once again, I’m excited to say: Africa awaits…

For more details and to show your support for the African Film Adventure 2013 expedition:

http://www.gofundme.com/3tev04

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.