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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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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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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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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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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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