Micro-adventure: Hiking, Hitching & Packrafting The Highlands (Part 1)

In my naivety I always expected that my first big bicycle adventure would be about blood, sweat and tears; about grit and grime, toughness and endurance. But I was wrong. First and foremost, it would be a journey amongst people. Chance encounters with individuals from all walks of life formed my strongest impressions and my most treasured memories.

Exactly the same thing happened last week. I travelled up to Inverness on an £8 Megabus ticket to meet fellow post-long-distance-cyclist Fearghal (of Revolution Cycle fame), expecting a week-long slog in the rain with a moment of elation at the end as the payoff. But once again it was the eclectic cast of characters I met on the way who shaped the character of this trip, and ultimately brought out the best in the experience.


Gear Reviews

Exped DownMat 7 Pump Camping Mattress Review For Cycle Touring

Full disclosure: Lyon Equipment, Exped’s UK distributor, provided my original DownMat 7 under their Expedition Award scheme. As with all such arrangements, I’m not obliged to write favourably about products — just honestly.

I’ve long used the DownMat 7 mattress by Swiss company Exped. DownMats are a serious alternative to the established Therm-a-Rest, and are designed with extreme comfort and all-weather use in mind: the name comes from the fact that the mats have a down filling in addition to the air padding. I’ve used two DownMats since 2007, most recently the DownMat 7 Pump during my Arctic bike trip.

Camping in the snow

My original DownMat 7 served me wonderfully throughout my travels, providing a luxurious sleeping surface in African and Arabian deserts, as well as in freezing Caucasian winters and everything in between, in a surprisingly lightweight and compact package — the benefit of the 700 fill-power white goose down filling.

The Film

Film Blog: The Big, Scary World Of Independent Filmmaking

James Newton is the same age as I am. While I’ve spent years galavanting off on cycling jaunts, he has forged his way into a cushty, enviable freelance existence making factual programmes for prime-time British TV, many shows of which are household names in the UK.

But today he’s chosen to spend his time doing something that has already cost him thousands, and is unlikely to make a penny of profit. That thing, of course, is producing an independent feature film.

And the film, somewhat cringeworthily, is about me!

Me posing cheesily in Sudan

Seriously — who’d want to make a film about this idiot?!?


8 Handy Bits Of Software For Travellers & Adventurers

If you’ve ignored all my advice to go on low-tech adventures and are packing a laptop and mobile net connection alongside your merino-wool boxer shorts and solar panels, you might find these bits of software make your precious time at the battery-powered screen a bit easier, safer and more productive. (And 7 out of the 8 are free.)

Stunning view in Jebel Akhdar, Oman

Mongolia 2010 Websites

Adventures Off The Map In Outer Mongolia

It was on the sixth day after leaving Hatgal that the trail petered out. In its place, a tangle of tiny channels began to eat its way westwards down a long valley floor, paved by fist-sized, weather-rounded stones. On either side of the river basin rose steep, jagged walls of rock enthusiastically smothered in green by the spring’s new growth of larch and pine. A whopping green trout flashed past beneath the clear waters that trickled and filtered down from the lofty whitewashed crags.

Down the valley

But for all its unspoiled splendour, the landscape was accompanied by no soaring Hollywood overture, no epic camera-swoop across the path of a silhouetted hero. All lay still and silent. This was the kind of wilderness that turned a man into a tiny speck, his unseen travails rendered vain and pointless. There was no romance in the thought of spending days passing amongst these pristine peaks. Like much of so-called adventure travel, it was simply a job that had to be done. Smiles and satisfaction would come later.