Tag Archives: Flagstaff

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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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… 🙂

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… 🙂