Tag Archives: Charley Boorman

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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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.

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… 🙂

Ambassadors & Royal Enfields

With preps and fundraising for our UNICEF India Adventure well underway, this weekend I’ve been reading up about the cars and bikes we’ll be using on our epic 1,000-km roadtrip. As both a car and bike enthusiast, one of the key drawcards of this particular adventure was the chance to be part of a rally of classic motorbikes and motor cars – and by all accounts, the Enfields and Ambassadors are as classic as they come.

Cruising India astride a Royal Enfield Bullet

Some of the team, including Charley and Marc, will be riding 350cc Royal Enfield Bullets. Originally launched in the UK in 1949, the Bullet came to be used by the Indian government from 1955 as a bike for its police and army to patrol its country’s rugged border areas. Now based in Chennai, Royal Enfield is the oldest motorbike brand in the world still in production. The Bullet’s excellent pedigree bodes well for some of the more challenging parts of our route across Southern India – and for Charley, it will certainly be a very different kind of ride from his more customary 1200 Beemer GS!

The trusty Ambassador on the road in India

The rest of the team will be driving 1950s-style Hindustan Ambassadors. Originally based on the British Morris Oxford III model (1948), the “Ambi” (as it’s fondly known) is now considered a quintessentially Indian car, dubbed “the king of Indian roads”. Although they look quite sturdy, their engines are only apparently capable of 37 horsepower and their handling is generally thought to be “temperamental” at best – so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare in some of the mountainous and unpredictable terrain we’ll encounter in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
                                                                                                          Reading up about these brilliant cars and bikes, I can’t wait to be on the road in India to see how these classic vehicles – not to mention their riders/drivers – hold up! It seems pretty inevitable that we’re going to have some challenges along the way, given the ever-changing terrain and the unique handling styles needed for these cars and bikes – but hey, that’s all part of the adventure!
                                                                                                                             

Gearing Up For India

Filming the UNICEF Sahara Trek in 2010

As you’ll know from my last post, I had a great time in London and I’ve returned to Melbourne with lots of excitement about our India Adventure. This has been tempered by the inevitable anecdotes from people about how crazy the roads are in India – not to mention tales of near-misses or crashes in cars and on bikes that seem to be par for the course in that part of the world. So I’m approaching our roadtrip with a healthy mix of anticipation and trepidation – well it is an adventure, after all!

After get-togethers with Charley and UNICEF in the UK, I’ve realised there’s actually quite a lot of prep – not to mention fundraising! – to do in the next few months. So I’m making the most of a long weekend here in Oz to start hatching plans for wrangling gear for the trip and getting support from companies who may be able to help me out with the things that we need.

Right now I’m compiling a kit list – potential equipment, including camera (video and stills), tripods, GoProsⓇ and so on for filming and otherwise documenting the adventure. During my rendezvous with Charley, we compared notes about various filming techniques and ideas – including using Spot Tracker GPS or similar on the trip, so that people can follow our journey as it unfolds on the ground in India.

It’s always a trade-off between taking enough gear to properly cover the event and not getting bogged down with stacks of fancy kit. I’ll be stowing it all in the back of an old Ambassador, which isn’t renowned for its huge luggage space, so I’ll need to be clever about what I end up taking.

Setting up for a shot of Team UNICEF tackling a steep ridge in Morocco (as my trusty porter Mohamed looks on!)

Plus, there are particular challenges on this trip that didn’t come up when I filmed our last UNICEF adventure in the Sahara Desert. On that trip, with everyone trekking on foot within a relatively short distance, it wasn’t too tricky to film – I could see the entire group and catch up with particular individuals and happenings at any given moment. This time, we’ll be a convoy of cars and motorbikes potentially strung out over a fair distance (albeit contained by a leader vehicle, sweepers, support crew etc) – and, of course, moving vehicles always require particular tricks and techniques when it comes to filming. I just need to make sure I’ve got a plan of action and the kit to cover it all, so I don’t miss all the good stuff!

So, lots to plan – but it’s all good. Half the fun of any adventure is the preparation, eh? 🙂

London Calling

Union Jacks flying over Covent Garden Market – London’s awash with them right now!

Well it’s been an exciting week here in London! With just seven days in the UK capital, it’s been a whirlwind visit combining catching up with old friends, soaking up some of the pre-Jubilee vibe, and having meetings to kick off plans for my upcoming India Adventure with Charley Boorman and UNICEF – which I’ve already dubbed Long Way Across India!

It was great to meet Alyrene and Francesca at the UNICEF UK HQ in Farringdon this week. I’m liaising with them on how I’ll cover the India trip, and we got very excited talking about possibilities for filming, photographing, blogging and Tweeting at various stages of the adventure. As I heard more about what the trip would involve – the challenging terrain across Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, details about how the Royal Enfield bikes and Ambassador cars will handle on the road, and the wide variety of people who will make up the team – I felt myself getting that familiar buzz: the buzz of a new adventure just beginning!

That buzz grew still more when I met up with the lovely Charley Boorman at his SW London home. At the kitchen table, over a nice cup of tea and biscuits (thank you Ollie!), we started hatching plans for filming the adventure. We agreed that we really want to capture everything that happens as fully as we possibly can, not just for those taking part but for everyone who’s sponsoring and supporting our trip and will be keen to see how it unfolds. Although it’s still six months away, there’s a lot to think about in terms of logistics and equipment and it was great to get Charley’s input at this early stage and feel his enthusiasm about the trip itself.

As my London stint comes to an end, I’ve just been over to Stanfords Travel Bookshop in Long Acre and stocked up on a little light reading for my long plane journey back to Melbourne – road maps and books about South India that I know will render my excitement complete.

The trip may still be six months away, but preparation is half the fun of it and there’s lots to do. So stay tuned for more very soon about our preps and other news about the adventure.

Classic Indian Adventure with Charley Boorman

Jeanie Davison, Producer
Sahara Trek, 2010

Back in 2010, Long Way Round producer Russ Malkin and I took part in a trek across the Sahara Desert on the Morocco-Algeria border to raise money for UNICEF. I filmed, photographed and blogged about the adventure for the charity and had a brilliant time doing it.

So more than a year on, I’m excited to announce my next UNICEF adventure. On 30th November 2012, I’ll be undertaking a 1,000-km journey across Southern India. There’ll be a group of us, including the indefatigable Charley Boorman (Long Way Round, By Any Means, Extreme Frontiers) and Motor Cycle News editor Marc Potter, riding Royal Enfield motorbikes and driving classic 1950s Ambassador motor cars.

Starting in Port Kochi, we’ll head north along Kerala’s coast and then inland to Mysore on a challenging route that will see us tackling everything from dense tiger-infested jungle, hairy switchback mountain roads, chaotic villages, and incredible tropical backwaters. We’ll also be visiting a UNICEF project or two along the way, to see how the money we raise is being put to good use delivering life-saving projects for children in India.

Charley Boorman, UNICEF Ambassador
ⓒ By Any Means/Big Earth, with thanks

Once again, I’ll be filming, photographing, blogging and Tweeting about the adventure for UNICEF, including plenty of updates and insights from Charley and Marc. For me, this is a huge undertaking – not just to plan the coverage and wrangle kit for the event, but also to find sponsors, both individual and corporate. This time, I’ve pledged to raise around £4,500 before we set off.

Looking forward to sharing this adventure with you all. India awaits!

Jeanie