As readers of this site will know, a couple of years ago I walked 3000 miles from Mongolia to Hong Kong with my friend Rob Lilwall. The intention was to see China at ground level; to watch how a country, people and landscape change at human speed. Moving so slowly undoubtedly offers a unique (if occasionally miserable) insight into a place. I have since become quite a fan of exploring on foot (see more thoughts on that here.)
The idea for the journey came from Rob - he and his wife Christine had just moved to Hong Kong, and part of his motivation for exploring China in such a way was to forge a deeper connection with their new home. Rob, clearly, was also just someone drawn to the wilds of the world, to adventures and travel and challenges and everything that lies therein. He had lived for three years on a bicycle, pedalling from Siberia to London, and had spent countless days and nights on dusty roads in foreign lands and in tiny tents tucked away in unknown landscapes. He had an enviable wealth of experience 'out there' in the world, but still wanted more.
Rob wasn't looking for passing, transitory incidents to form the basis of future anecdotes at dinner-parties - he wanted to really dig deep and learn what he could about China. The culture, the history, the language, the humour; every piece of knowledge gleaned would be a deepening of the relationship with his newly-adopted country.
As a special incentive for Christmas, I'm offering cheap-as-chips deals on my two new DVDs - Into The Empty Quarter and Walking Home From Mongolia (for more info, click on the highlighted names.)
If you fancy sharing a bit of adventure this Christmas, then these shows might be just the ticket. They're equally a pretty good stocking filler for 'the person who has everything' (you know who you are...)
I'm happy to put in some personalised Christmas greetings too, in an effort to spread Christmas cheer and make this a one-stop present-sorting shop!
Here's what's on offer:
For UK customers only, there is a free HD download!
For those of you further afield, you can still buy the DVD here for £9.99 + postage, although time is running out to get delivery in time for Christmas, so please do so very soon!
Postage will be added on at checkout.
The trailer for "Into The Empty Quarter," and a scene from "Walking Home From Mongolia"
Some praise for Into The Empty Quarter:
A beautifully shot film of a bravely executed journey. Brings Thesiger’s journey bang up to date — laughs, tears and all. The most pointless adventure I’ve ever had the pleasure of following.
- Tom Allen, award-winning film-maker
Beautifully honest, funny and riddled with grit.
- Dave Cornthwaite, Adventurer
Congrats on an amazing and challenging expedition, and for sharing it so effectively through the film. I swear I could almost feel the grit and sand!
- Roz Savage, World Record Breaking Ocean Rower
Very much enjoyed 'into the empty quarter’ an engaging and inspiring old school british adventure - nice work!
@samuelsnow via Twitter
Just saw @al_humphreys & leonmccarron's epic, beautiful film 'Into The Empty Quarter'. Brilliant! Perfect xmas gift
@georgemahood via Twitter
#intotheemptyquarter Enjoyed your film guys, something a little different to the norm, nice cart!
@ToftM via Twitter
-For more reviews on Twitter and Facebook, search using the hashtag #intotheemptyquarter
-Read Al Humphrey's interview with The Telegraph about the trip here
1. You will move slowly. This gives time to appreciate the world around you; to feel how a country, a culture and a landscape changes and develops beneath your feet.
2. It will often be miserable. This is good! Adventures are all about misery - enduring and then retrospectively enjoying. No-one wants to go off and have a lovely time all the time, right? Misery is brilliant. Walking provides it in bucketloads.
3. You are at your most vulnerable. This, too, is mostly a good thing - it will encourage people much more inclined to be kind and hospitable towards you, and will immediately break down many of the barriers of the 'rich foreigner' should you be travelling far from home.
4. You can carry everything you need on your back. The old 'tortoise effect' - your life upon your shoulders. With no more than a 15-20kg load you can carry a tent, sleeping bag, gas stove, spare clothes (even for cold weather) and all the expedition knick-knacks we tend to accumulate (notebooks, compass, penknife, map, whisky etc.) There's something deeply gratifying about being so self-sufficient. For remote journeys you can try pulling a large cart filled with worldly possessions and food/water supplies (just try making a better one that Al and I did in the Empty Quarter...)
5. You can get to places impossible to reach by any other method of transport. I'm not just talking about plane or trains or automobiles here; even my all-time favourite, the bicycle, has limitations. On foot you can scramble up a hill, over a hedge, swim across a river (maybe), through a shopping mall, into a sewer...the possibilities are endless!
It seems only fair that I also include:
This morning I was gathering together some photos to accompany an article I had written about walking across China. Just as I was about to send the pictures off to the magazine publisher, I came across one I didn't remember. Next to it was another I had no recollection of - not until I stared at it for nearly 30 seconds, wracking my brain for a memory hook. It's amazing how some of these experiences get away from us. I suppose that is one of the nice things about taking photos on a journey, and especially making a film of these types of expeditions - a visual memory bank, freezing a spot in time and space and capturing it as it was then and may never be again.
Before I knew it I'd spent the next couple of hours drifting off down memory lane, flicking through photographs. Lots of them made me smile, or shiver, or just bathe in the nostalgia, but what I always find time and time again is that the most evocative pictures are always those of people - the characters that really make these trips such wonderful and unique experiences.
It is now over a year since I returned home from Hong Kong after a 3000 mile walk across China. It was quite a journey! During the expedition Rob Lilwall and I filmed our experiences extensively with a view to ultimately creating a 4 part TV series for National Geographic Channels. I am now delighted to say that the show has aired in Asia, and will be available to buy on DVD in the rest of the world imminently!
If you would like information on how to see the show for yourself and when the exact release date will be, please fill in your details below and I'll send you an email with how you can view it.
I hope it's been worth the wait!
This coming Sunday (12th May) I'll be talking about my walk across China at the London Eco Film Festival.
There's plenty of exciting things happening all day - the festival is split into themes, with a different screen for each (such as Conservation & Environment, Expeditions & Adventures etc.)
Highlights (I reckon) will be cameraman Doug Allan talking about his 30 years of wildlife filmmaking, and the screenings of Tom Allen's feature-length cycling odyssey 'Janapar', and Dave Cornthwaite's short, 'Swim 1000.'
I'll be speaking at 12.30pm, in Vibe Bar Screen 2 (Brick Lane.) Check out the full programme here, and come along to say Hi if you're free on Sunday!
Sidetracked is the coolest adventure magazine around on the web at the minute, in my opinion. If you haven't yet heard of it, then you're in for a fantastic surprise! Each new edition is published monthly (this latest is the ninth,) packed with fantastically written and illustrated stories from around the globe.
I'm delighted that this month, amongst the many other very cool tales of adventure, my own story of trekking from Mongolia to Hong Kong also makes an appearance.
Do check it out by following the link below- I hope you enjoy it, and remember to take some time out of your schedule to read through the rest of the articles!
If I could change one thing about myself, it would be to cast off my tendency to often be wishing I were somewhere else. (That, or I’d make myself super-handsome and muscly, but this is a better blog post.)
Since returning from my latest expedition in Mongolia and China, I’ve been living in London. I live in a lovely little flat just minutes away from Hampstead Heath in the north of the city. I’ve always felt that if I must live in a big city (and for now I must!) then I need to be near large green spaces. Hampstead Heath with its trees, hills, ponds and trails fits the bill perfectly.
This is certainly a little late, but worth blogging about even after the fact. On the 3rd June (just 1 day after returning to the UK from expedition in China) I was extremely honoured to run with the Olympic Torch along the stunning North Coast of Northern Ireland.
I'd first found out about my nomination at the start of the year,whilst still in the mountains of Northern China. A teacher has put my name forward after I gave a tour of Belfast schools, encouraging kids to get outside and get active. I must admit that initially I felt quite detached from the whole thing. The email came through while I was sitting by a roadside in a remote area of Shanxi province watching snow cling stubbornly to the few brave (and bare) trees that dotted the hillside. I was less than a quarter of the way through the toughest journey of my life, and the idea that in a few months I would be jogging through a small Irish village carrying a flaming hunk of metal while hundreds of people cheered seemed remarkably alien. At that stage I didn't even know about the white jumpsuit, but I imagine I would equally have struggled with that.
As the months passed however and I happily found myself still alive on the other side of a rough winter, news of the build up for the Olympics filtered through, and I had time to ponder the whole thing. I'd be carrying a flame which would pass through the hands (not literally) of 8000 inspirational people, travelling the length and breadth of the UK and ending up in the Olympic Stadium to mark the start of one of the biggest moments ever in British Sport. That, I figured, was pretty cool.
Rucksacks: 2 x Osprey Argon 85 litre. Comfortable, large, and had a cool pouch on the back and side which we kept the video camera and tripod in. We also took the raincover for the summer which was excellent. The Osprey Hydraform Reservoir was great for keeping us hydrated, especially in the summer.
Tents: 2 x Hilleberg Soulo (we decided to carry one tent each to give ourselves personal space in the evenings.) These were superb in all weather. As the weather got warmer, we saved weight by switched to the Hillberg bivanorak which was just an incredible bit of kit – possibly our favourite of all!