I've spent much of today re-watching my favourite travel and adventure documentaries, in search of some inspiration for my own trip. As a big fan of the genre, I've grown up loving everything from Michael Palin's endearing supported-trips to Benedict Allen's eschewing of any crew, and from Werner Herzog's beautifully mad portrayals of peoples and cultures to the even more obscure expeditions that have only been shot on amateur cameras.
Undoubtedly though, my favourite documentary of all time is Cannibals and Crampons. For those of you that don't know it, it charts the expedition of two ex-army officers as they try to climb the south face of Mt Mandala in New Guinea. One is the adventurer Mark Anstice, and the second is explorer Bruce Parry, who went on to greater fame in the BBC shows 'Tribe' and 'Amazon.' Why's it so great? Well it's just a proper, proper adventure. They set off into deepest Indonesia, without permits, any form of support or any real knowledge of what might face them - just armed with the little research it was possible for them to do (given the lack of exploration of the area) 90kg packs of gear each and a heck of a lot of spirit. They film it themselves, and trek through the jungle for months before finally climbing the mountain (without any ropes.) They face, and overcomes things you wouldn't even dare to imagine, and to me they embody what true expeditioning is all about. It's very, very different from my trip obviously, but I hope I can draw some inspiration from their remarkable achievement.
So that's my favourite, a hard choice to make in such a exciting genre. What's your favourite? Anyone agree with my choice?
Hopefully those of you following my blog will have shared some of my anticipation, and maybe even nerves, about the appointment I had with the specialist yesterday. The topic was : Would I be fit to travel to New York this Monday, setting in motion the series of events that would lead to the eventual start of this expedition. The answer? No.
Never mind. Otherwise, the consultation was good - the operation seems to have been a success, and the muscles are healing well. It's just a case of more rest needed, and doctors order's are to remain in the UK for another 4 weeks so I can get some physio and they can monitor me. It was one of those classic situations of the worst actually happening...and then things not seeming so bad. Okay, so its really annoying. I'm 100% eager and raring to get going as soon as possible, but I know I'm not ready for it at the present time ( I can still only use one arm really, and I can forsee a few problems trying to ride a bike like that to be honest.) Plus the film work I'm doing in NYC won't be affected, AND it means I'll get to spend Christmas with my family. Other unexpected bonuses are that I'll see a lot more of my girlfriend before I go, and I'll be able to organise a few expedition related events in the UK. This is pretty exciting, as it means a potential launch party this side of the Atlantic, sometime in December. Watch this space.
So all my expected dates will shift about 1 month down the line - I'll post the final departure and arrival dates for the various countries at the end of this week. I'm returning to Canterbury tomorrow, which I guess is about the closest thing I've got to a permanent base at the minute. The reason you need to know this is because my film equipment is there, so I will finally have a video blog uploaded onto the site by Friday! You can hold me to that - I've got no job, I can't do any training...what else am I gonna do with my time!
Thats pretty much all the news for now. Summary I guess is that the news was not what I wanted to hear, but there's a lot of positives that can come out of the situation and the end result should mean that I arrive in New York fitter, stronger and better prepared than I would have been otherwise.
Roll on January!
Also, on a final note, thanks for the supportive messages I received from many of you- definitely helping my recovery!
So it's come to this - sitting in my house, mindlessly fidgeting and counting down the minutes. Till what? Well, tomorrow at 2.30pm I have my meeting with the specialist who operated on me, and he'll be the one who tells me whether or not I'm fit to travel to NYC on the 30th November. There's an awful lot resting on that one little meeting, and I'm finding it very hard to put out of my head.
In truth it's been a pretty crazy couple of weeks. First, the operation itself, proving that sometimes pushing yourself to the limit maybe isn't always best. Then a week of complete agony (which was actually okay because I was pretty drugged up so it just kinda passed me by) and since then a week and a half at my family home in Ireland. I've been gradually feeling better and stronger, but it's been hard to know what to do. After months of complaining that I was always too busy with never a minute to spare, I suddenly have all the free time in the world to catch up on my reading, writing and planning. For some reason though, motivation was distinctly lacking and lethargy took control. I really didn't make the most of being laid up at home which is quite disappointing. But hey, at least I've been getting a lot (a LOT) of rest, and in the last couple of days I've been feeling all the enthusiasm flood back into my system. It's like rediscovering the trip all over again, and perhaps what I needed what a couple of weeks away from the daily grind of preparation. That's the optomistic view I'm going to take anyway (but I'm still disappointed I didn't get more done.)
So anyway, now I'm on the road to recovery, whatever the specialist says tomorrow. Life feels good again. I got to thinking though, what if something like this happened when I'm on the road? Well, firstly, I'd be screwed. Straight up stuffed. It also brought into doubt the wisdom of attempting this on my own. I have numerous reasons for wanted to do this alone. Hopefully none of those reasons are just that I've got no mates! The main drive however is that this is MY personal trip - it's the route I want to do, the film I want to make, the charity I want to fundraise for and the goals I hope to achieve from it (I've blogged on this before, so I won't drag it out.) It also feels like a good old fashioned adventure, and for whatever reason I feel the need to test myself against all the challenges and obstacles that this sort of trip throws up. I think it will give me experiences I can draw on in later life to postive effect. I also harbour a (slightly idealistic) notion that the film I make will be so good it will catapult me into my dream career of expedition videographer. Who knows, but you gotta at least hope for these things, right?! So, after all that I decided that if this trip is worth doing, which of course it is, then it's worth doing on my own. Decision made - I will remain a loner!
Anyway, that said, it's always nice to have company, and I'm definitely not adverse to the idea of being joined by people for some sections of the journey. A couple of people have already expressed interest in doing just this, and even my Dad is considering cycling some of New Zealand with me! But I'd like to now extend an open invite to any of you who like the idea - come ride with me! If there's somewhere in particular along my route you really like the idea of cycling, just get in touch and maybe we can work something out. Some of the sections I'm most excited about are the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, some of the Canadian Rockies sections around Banff, and basically anywhere along the Pacific Coast from Vancouver to LA - any of those would be good for someone to join up.
So let me know what you think on the travelling along versus with a companion debate, and do feel free to email me if you want to join in the cycling fun.
More news on when I can go to NYC tomorrow - fingers crossing time...
Firstly, apologies for the lack of activity on my website recently. This has been majorly due to an unfortunately timed operation on a muscle in my chest, leading to an unscheduled 6 days in hospital! Not exactly how I planned to spend my few days 'holiday' in Ireland, and the whole thing has thrown my subsequent plans into disarray. The most disappointing outcome by far was the fact that this weekend I am missing the Explore 2009 conference at the Royal Geographic Society. I've blogged on this a couple of times before, but it really was incredible last year, and I hope the folks this year are having as good a time.
Anyway, these things happen I suppose, and I've decided that I should be thankful for the time to rest and recuperate, and I can aim to come back fitter and stronger than before. Hopefully within another 2 weeks I'll be up and about properly again, and with 5 weeks I should be able to start running and cycling, no doubt desperately trying to regain the fitness that I'll have lost!
So that's the bad news.
The good news is that of my bike sponsor - I'm delighted to announce that I will be riding out from New York on a Santos Travelmaster. Santos (www.santosbikes.com) are a Dutch company for those of you that haven't heard of them, and they really do make the best touring bikes around. They're starting to make big waves in the UK, having sponsored recent riders like James Bowthorpe (Round The World Record Holder) and currently Oli Broom (Cycling to the Ashes), as well as numerous other well-known and exciting tourists worldwide.
The lovely (and extremely knowledgable) folks at MSG Bikes in Lancing, Sussex, provided me with a superb ergonomic bike fitting in-store, and I got word last Friday that my bike has been made, sent, and is now waiting with them! The next stage is another visit to the shop, where they will do a second fitting session with me to tailor the bike perfectly to my needs. What Alasdair and Shelagh at MSG don't know about bikes isn't worth knowing, and it's a real pleasure to have people like that taking care of me and my biking needs.
A few other new sponsors have also got on board - check them out via the sponsorship section here. So, what next? Well, now all I've got to do is get well enough to get a flight back to England so I can sort out the rest of my stuff there, and crucially, pick up my Santos! It's gonna be touch and go, because at the minute I'm still pretty incapacitated. Delaying my flight from London to New York would cost a LOT of money - which rules out that option.
My plane to NYC leaves in 15 days, the race is on...
There always seems to be a lot of discussion about what 'luxury item' to take on an expedition, and it must be one of the most frequently asked questions to adventurers during interviews. As I've been planning what to take with me on my trip, it's inevitably been quite hard to separate what I really need from the things that I think would just be handy to have along. I've always been a bit of a hoarder; collecting things 'just in case'. I don't know where I got it from but I happily store things on the off chance they'll be useful one day (and to be honest, they never are, ever!)
It's been a quite cathartic experience so far whittling down my exisiting possessions as I've moved between houses in the build up to my departure. I say cathartic, I of course mean horrible. At least it was initially - having to give away or dump my precious belongings, but I can safely say I'm winning the battle with senimentality! It's amazing how little of what I owned I actually needed, and it feels very liberating to be (relatively) free of clutter. So that's another plus point for my expedition; it should teach me the value of moderation and efficiency, as well as the importance of wise decision-making.
With this in mind, I'll come back to the luxury item, and what I deem worthy as my one truely unnecessary, burdensom indulgence. Its not music - that doesn't count as luxury, it's essential for my sanity. Books are the same, I must be able to read in my tent at night (the only other option is spending even more time in my own company. and that's not good for either of us...)
So, the winning item is...a mandolin! Okay, so I cheated a bit, and a mandolin is certainly not a small luxury. But hey, it's me that's gotta carry it all, right?! As a guitarist it distressed me a bit that I wouldn't be able to play for my whole journey, but there seemed no way round it. Until my long-ignored mandolin in the corner obviously made it's way into my subconscious to the extent that, a few weeks back, I awoke at 3am from a deep sleep to hear myself say 'I could bring my mandolin on the bike trailer!' So this is what I'll do - who am I to argue with a vague, dream-induced suggestion? Hopefully it'll help to keep me amusing during long nights alone in my tent, and perhaps I can even busk along the way - there's gotta be a market for a bearded, unwashed, mandolin-wielding Irishman on a bike somewhere in the world, right?!
Any thoughts on my decision? Has anyone else got suggestions/stories from experience of their item of luxury? Feedback is encouraged!