Charlie Walker (Explorer & Author)

After finishing University, Charlie Walker set out on a different path. Cycling the World over four years reaching the furthest cape in each of Europe, Asia and Africa. We talk about the highs and lows of these Grand Adventures and times when failure has spurred him on. We speak about growing up in the countryside and how this way of life came to him at a late stage in life.

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Interview with Charlie Walker

[00:00:00] Interview with Charlie Walker: And before I knew it, I was just stumbling through shin, deep snow, kind of lost pushing my bicycle. the sort of the sensation was just receding from my fingertips and my feet felt like a pair of ice blocks kind of slotted into the tops of my wellies. I felt like I was walking on the sort of stumps at my ankles and, I genuinely thought I was going to.

Johnny for the first time.

hello and welcome to the modern adventurer podcast. I’m John Horsfall. And thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to the show. This podcast, we talk to explorers and adventurers from around the world who have made remarkable and daring journeys in [00:01:00] recent years from Everest climbers to polar explorers, world record holders, and many more.

We listen to the craziest stories from the expeditions and tragic losses and sacrifices they have made. My hope is that this podcast, sparks ideas and inspires you to go out and explore the world. My first guest has an incredible story to tell. He undertook a remarkable 43,000 mile bicycle ride around the world.

Covering the furthest keeps in each of Europe, Asia, and Africa. As well as the world’s first triathlon along the perceived Europe, Asia border, he’s a British Explorer and author. And I am delighted to introduce the show. Charlie Walker. Hi, I first heard about you probably when you were doing your [00:02:00] big cycling trip around the world.

Can you tell us a bit about that trip, how it sort of came about how did it start? What was the sort of beginnings of it? when I, the first summer after graduating from university, I, I booked a flight into Beijing and a flight out of in Mongolia and a little while, just to two months trip was going backpack essentially around China and Mongolia.

And when I, had booked the flights, I sort of thought after a little while, maybe it’d be more interesting to cycle from one to the other. I had done a sort of shorter cycling trip a year before in, in Nepal. And so I thought I’ll take my bike. it didn’t get off to the best start. So this is the summer of 2009 because, let me get this right.

About 10 days before [00:03:00] flying, I snapped one of my quadriceps. I didn’t terrorize clean snapped one of the four in my, Left leg, right. Like, sorry, sorry. I don’t entirely know, but there was alcohol involved sort of drunk. Someone probably knows, but I’ve never quite got to the bottom of it. so I, you know, kind of got to Beijing airport on one crutch.

And then on my first night in Beijing, I broke her wrist. Similar sort of acted in prey. I was I’m less. So now hopefully they’re more careful. Well, it will sensible maybe. anyway, so I, two weeks later finally sort of cut this cast off my wrist, bandaged up and started cycling and it was only two weeks to get from, there’s roughly a thousand miles sort of the second half across the Gobi desert.

And it was, it was pretty straightforward in the Gobi. There weren’t roads that were just kind of a bunch of tire tracks and trails, you know, sort of. Crisscrossing crossing away through the desert. and I didn’t really enjoy it at [00:04:00] all. To be honest, it was hard. So it was quite uncomfortable on my leg, hurt my wrist hurt.

But during that trip, I sort of saw the. The potential for bicycle travel. You know, I realized how it was incredibly cheap. It could get you really, really far a surprisingly nice rate. You know, you without really pushing yourself fat, hard, you can cover, you know, 60 miles a day, a hundred kilometers, and that’s.

You can do that in the morning. so that gives you the other half of every day in which to check out where you are or enjoy yourself or read or write or whatever it might be. so a few weeks after finishing that, I ended up driving a knackered old Mongol rally car back from Mongolia, sort of as a favor to a friend and went back to the UK.

Yeah. In two weeks, that was a real rush. but one night in a. Sort of Birch forest in Siberia, camped out with a little fire and some paint, stripping, Mongolian vodka. they got quite drunk and sort of. Came up with the idea of [00:05:00] this grand bicycle journey. and the idea was to cycle from home to home via the furthest point in each of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

And, but a year later I set off, it’s really actually, it’s kind of straightforward as that. I didn’t do great data planning or preparation. yeah, the amount of time I expected it’s take me. It was four years and the world changes a lot in four years. I mean, as it happened, the Arab spring happened about nine months after I left, which entirely changed the sort of geopolitics of, of, you know, well, yeah, just the bit that joins Europe, Asia, and Africa suddenly it was just completely changed.

so it’s pretty good. I didn’t get too bogged down with planning, but yeah, that, that, that was really it. And you know, the 1st of July, 2010, I started cycling and, and I was off. And what was the sort of furthest point because you left the UK, you went through Europe, you went, so the route in short was the three furthest points.

the first was North cap, which is the Northern most point of [00:06:00] Europe up in, the Norwegian Arctic tech. And to get there. It was quite straight forward, just up through Western Europe, through Sweden, the top of Norway. And there, the next point from there was Singapore, which was quite daunting, sort of turning my bike around at the top of Europe and thinking, right.

I got to get to the Southern most point of Asia. and that took, like, but 11 months, that leg, and that was down through Finland, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran. sadly, I had to fly over Pakistan. I couldn’t get a visa. India, Nepal, Tibet, South West China, and then Southeast Asia from there up to Mongolia.

Once again, through central Asia through the stones. through the middle East, back through Iran, Afghanistan, she, briefly in Turkish, sorry, Kurdish, Iraq, Turkey. And then down the East side of Africa to the bottom and up the West side and back home. [00:07:00] Nice. Yeah. Four years. Four. Yeah. In the end, I stopped for half year in Beijing, one winter to kind of earn a bit of money and, rest.

And I suppose with these sort of trips, you have your highs and your leaves. Tell us about some of the highs, the highs. I think the most idyllic part of that whole long journey was, when I got back to Mongolia, I bought a horse, a little Mungo pony for. Not very much 120 pounds or something. and he was tiny and useless and I actually went to, sort of check out some horses and I selected the horse I wanted, and it seemed like a good horse, right.

Sort of age, not too long in the tooth. a gelding. So you didn’t have his balls cut off. Wasn’t going to be too feisty. And so I went back to the Capitol to collect all my stuff, went back to take ownership of his horse. And it was just a completely different animal. [00:08:00] so I got, I got kind of done that.

so I didn’t rewrite a great deal. mostly it was just a pack horse, but I walked for two months, just through the grasslands and the forests at the top of Mongolia. And it was, it was just beautiful, you know, the w. Going for a long walk can be quite draining. I walked to Mongolia from China because I cycled it.

You know, the first time around this time, I hiked it from Beijing up to walking with a pack on your back. Particularly the Gobi, it was quite hard work and sort of wore me out. And then just the idea of walking without anything to wear you down and a horse to carry all the stuff and each night just making a fire and.

dog followed me for the second month. So I had a horse, a dog and me, and like make a little fire and the wolves would be howling, but had a fire. So I was safe. it was perfect. Yeah. And I could have, you know, felt like I could have been in any, any century. People are mad for, you know, the nomadic Mongol people living along the way were living more or less as their ancestors that lived for hundreds of years and were very friendly and welcoming.

And that way of life is completely different to us. [00:09:00] But yeah, there was. Plenty of common ground. And I just have a great time seeing the country getting to know the people that was, yeah, that was definitely a high, I didn’t feel any sort of rush. It was just a very nice paced, couple of months of walking 600 miles or something.

Do you, do you think you’ve always had these sort of big adventures in you from a young age? I mean, in terms of your, I wasn’t, I wasn’t, an especially sort of, Outgoing adventurous child. I grew up in a village. and so I was sort of in a small sense, outdoorsy, you know, we, I wasn’t a city kid by any means, but, yeah, we didn’t, we never went camping.

My family weren’t into outdoor pursuits at all. I tried to do Duke of Edinburgh at school and failed the bronze expedition when I was about 14. That was probably the last night I spent in a tent until I was 19 or 20. [00:10:00] so yeah, I, I, there was a big sort of hiatus where I would just have no interest already, but once, once, once I left school and started traveling a bit, then, you know, there’s sort of the bug bet.

It’s quite funny. Cause my sort of trip, like my memory of camping when I was younger. Was one sort of being down and there was sort of almost like a storm in the night and the metal poles like smashed me in the head and that’s my only memory growing up of like proper campaign. And then sort of when I got into it, I didn’t, I suppose you almost go with a sort of naive expectation.

You’re just like, yeah. Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’ll be great. Which is sort of like how I started as well. It’s just this almost naive. Yeah, let’s just see what happens take each day as it comes and work from there was that the sort of mentality you had pretty much. I mean, there’s a lot of hubris in how I sort of got into that big trip on the bicycle, for example, because I just, [00:11:00] I was sort of young and, Wanted to, there’s definitely some ego in it, which is pretty, it’s pretty much gone now.

Now I know my own true inaptitude, but back then, I kind of thought, you know, I wanted to make my Mark in the world or something go off and do some big grand dramatic, you know, chaotic adventure and kind of, you know, see what I was capable of. And I thought it’d be all exciting and, you know, romantic and.

Then very quickly, once it got going, I realized that much of this four year slog was going to be just day in, day out, schlepping along roads on bicycles and sleeping in sort of Woodlands on the fringes of, villages. and I was essentially, I kind of glorified itinerant hobo for. For years, without kind of friends or family, it’s a very unusual thing to do with your life.

yeah, I know. Yeah. It’s it’s usually sort of when you hit 21, [00:12:00] everyone’s like, right. So what’s next after university or, you know, look, what’s your big job. And suppose it takes, always takes people by surprise. When you say, Oh, I’m going to go and do this. Yeah. How did your family sort of take it? They were pretty young.

The standing, I mean, by the time I decided to do that, I, you know, I’ve been getting slightly more Intrepid each time or going off and doing something. I’ve got three siblings, which probably made it a bit easier on my parents as a third. So maybe it’s classic middle child, wanting to stand out. but no, there were, there were there.

Get it. Yeah. I knew that I wanted to, I wanted to be a writer and that I wasn’t just going off on, you know, on a, on a log. I was, I was wanting to travel and see and learn and experience things and that, and to kind of relate those things via written word later and yeah. With a blogger on the wave. and yeah, I think they kind of bought into it with some [00:13:00] trepidation.

Yeah. I think they, they always there. And of course, with these big trips, you have your ups, you will have your downs, but there are many that you can recount. Yeah. For the four and a half years. I mean the worst was probably about six months in. I found myself cycling up onto the Tibetan plateau. but it was mid January.

and so, I mean, when I left CashCo in China, in Jinjiang province, to start cycling kind of South across the Western tip of the tackler McCann, and then up into the mountains, it was minus 33. In, shin, Jang, I didn’t have anything, any specialists here really? I had a sort of a half decent sleep mag.

I’d sort of, you know, winter’s, he, Meghan I’ve picked up in Katmandu, but not up to that standard. And I had, [00:14:00] a big coat that was kind of too big or was it a cheap, fake, you know, rip off North face job, which was sort of. I mean, I, I was always gonna be warm during the day. but when you’re cycling, you actually kind of generate heat.

It was the night that it was a problem. And, and just for hands and feet during the days, I was just wearing a bunch of pairs of socks and Wellington boots. I don’t know why we need to boost the, not at all, you know, insulating as my feet got really, really cold and my hands with not good quality gloves.

I mean, I got fresh frostbitten in the end. but, just. Quite, I mean, I haven’t lost any of my fingers. but you know, I had these blisters that sort of came up and to them, you know, every day for about three weeks until I got off the plateau and they were just absolutely agony, you know, like the fingers were the tips of the fingers with dad, but yeah, I haven’t had to kind of thing off, they are more sensitive to cold [00:15:00] temperatures now and I get pins and needles more often, but, there was one particular sort of blizzard that I got sort of lost in.

And, and this road I’m following is I believe it’s now paved, but this is nine years ago. And it was really, really not here. It was, it was, it was, I think probably still is one of the most remote and least traveled roads in the world. the Western sort of gateway to Tibet. On a good day, there’d be a vehicle going one way or the other, but often there were two or three days with no vehicles at all.

And I wasn’t able to be out there either. Like I cut a hole in a Chinese military base fence and snuck in to get into Japan because I ended up permits to travel that you can’t travel independently down on a bicycle. so I was having to hide the whole time and I, you know, I couldn’t get enough food.

So my, in the months, six weeks that I was up there. my body weight dropped by 25%, which is okay. Quiet. maybe not in a good way. And then I’ve got this one particular visit. [00:16:00] I mean, there were a bunch, but this one was the worst. I got caught out in it. And the wind picked up really, really quickly until it was too strong, too fast in consider trying to put up my tent.

And this tent was a one man. Basic tent that was sort of job. You just play away and yeah, it was not. Yeah, it was not for season two, season 10. it wasn’t sturdy. It wasn’t like a geodesic dome or bubble or tunnel or any of this stuff. It was a really, it was a lightweight, it weighed less than a kilogram sort of thing that people use.

If they’re like walking the Appalachian trail in summer. Yeah. so I can get that out and the sky was white and the lamb was white and I’d lost, you know, visibility went way down and I couldn’t see, you know, 10 meters ahead, 20 meters ahead, perhaps. I lost the road or the track. and before I knew it, I was just stumbling through shin deep snow.

Kind of lost pushing my bicycle. the sort of sensation was just receding from my fingers. My feet felt [00:17:00] like a pair of ice blocks kind of slotted into the tops of my wellies. I felt like I was walking on the sort of stumps at my ankles and, I genuinely thought I was going to die for first time in my life.

You know, I didn’t have a phone. I, if I did it wouldn’t have worked. That was, who knows where the nearest person was. So, after your big trip, how, how do you think it sort of changed you? you’d go, you’d left the UK for four and a half years later. You returned, I mean then they’re the sort of monotony of day-to-day life would have been.

It is difficult. I would have thought. Yeah. I mean, it’s hard to give a sort of an exact science it’s that as opposed, because when I left, I was 22. When I came back, I was 27 and I’m sure we all change enormously in that sort of, you know, mid twenties period. but I certainly, [00:18:00] by the time I came back, I was much more.

I’m sold on the idea of doing these things, you know, for if possible, for a living. and I felt fairly, I suppose, emboldened having, I both learned my. Sort of limits as well as my capabilities. And I had so many times during that four year journey, I had come close to real disaster. You know, the, the sort of the near brushes were fairly countless, but at the same time, I developed a better sense of how to avoid things like that.

And I think my sort of survival instincts were much, much sharper than they had been before. So I felt. I suppose I was left with the self-confidence to be able to try much more sort of ambitious things. so I mean, the next journey that I did was the next sort of big journey, [00:19:00] started with a three month ski through a really remote area of.

Arctic Russia, sort of Siberia in, in winter, with even cold temperatures then in Tibet during that previous winter. And, yeah, going a month ago, time without seeing a person or a building, apart from the expedition partner I took with me, As yeah, the, the, that’s the main thing that changed. I felt able to sort of take things on and put in part of that confidence probably stems from the realization that, that sort of kindness and health, and this is the global default, pretty much wherever I went in the world people’s initial instinct was to help me or to look after me as opposed to take advantage of me or Rob me or whatever else.

So I, I overwhelmingly had incredibly positive experiences with people. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I know a lot of people listening, you know, who may be thinking of going on these big, big adventures. And [00:20:00] I imagine a lot of them are always terrified to go alone because you’re sort of one fifth of the five places people you surround.

And if those people aren’t sort of into these big trips and you deep down are, and you’re sort of craving this adventure, this sort of excitement in your life. I know a lot of people always put off by being alone. so I mean, Speaking from experience, you know, it is always the 99 cent to a good, it’s always the rare who, are the ones you hear about.

I always find, would you say that’s the same in your trips? I mean, absolutely. and you know, 1%. It’s much less than that even. and go, yeah. Traveling with someone is, is, is fantastic. You know, you have a, you have a friend, a companion, a confidence. You have someone to share the bad times as well as the goods, obviously.

[00:21:00] Yeah. But, going by oneself is, is a lot more formative. not just do you get approached more, are more bye people wherever you happen to be traveling to just being by yourself, you appear vulnerable. And that brings out the, the, you know, the kindness that good nature and people broadly speaking. but also you just, you have all that time in your head and you can’t default to, you know, comfortable, familiar company.

You’re forced to put yourself out there to try and sort of, integrate more into wherever you are. You pick up more language. and yet, like you said, there’s so few people who are trying to do any harm. I mean, They’re out there. And over the years I’ve been spat at and stoned and beaten and had guns pointed at me and knives held to my throat and these things can happen, but those are, you know, like a couple, a couple of dozen encounters out of tens [00:22:00] of thousands.

so they are absolutely not the, the rules that, the exception that proves the rule. Absolutely. and out of all this sort of countries, did you have a particular favorite? You sort of seem to spend a lot of time around sort of Mongolia, Mongolia. I love it’s. It’s so ripe for adventure. It’s it’s just a sort of mass wilderness, which yeah.

It’s the most sparsely populated country on earth. it’s. Big, and then Spain, France, and Germany combined, but they have just over 3 million people, roughly half of who live in the capsule and the country just has no fences. It’s boundless. So you boundaryless. So you can just go through desert and forest and step and mountain and you know, just this huge wilderness and you can just bro, wherever you want.

So that’s fantastic. I also love Iran. I spent. fair amount of time in Iran and it’s besides being genuinely the friendliest place I’ve ever been to. [00:23:00] it’s it’s I mean, you’ve been, yeah, it’s exhausting and overwhelming and wonderful. How. Often and how tirelessly people will throw their, their kindness of volume, you know, it’s, you can cross her on and not spend the night in a tent, not by design, just that’s what happens.

People are always trying to take you in and look after you. And it was just incredible. And then the history of the country is really interesting. And as well as the modern history, it’s, it’s a very, very, ancient, fascinating, and yet troubled place. So I really, really enjoyed, Tom and Ron, yeah, I always remember in sort of central Asia, they always sort of just say, Oh, come in, come in, come and have a cup of tea, come and do this.

And like, I think we’re on a Mount, our rats and Turkey. And we went up and sending this family, these sort of shepherds, but come on in, come on in and gave us foods eggs. I mean, we were not expecting it to, and he was just like, [00:24:00] why, why. Because it’s very difficult, especially I think in the UK, because it’s very sort of difficult, but I think it does happen.

I remember one of my trips up to Edinburgh cycling and people were genuinely incredibly friendly. Yeah. It happens here as well. It’s just broadly speaking in the UK. We live our lives slightly more sort of. Gated. Yeah. Yeah. We’re a bit more sectioned off and partitioned from one another. But if you, you know, if you’re wandering through the Highlands, for example, and you pass someone’s cottage and you stop to ask for water or they see you out the window, that’s a good chance.

They’ll ask what you’re up to or, or, you know, give you a food or want to spend the evening drinking whiskey with you. And you know, it, it it’s, it is human nature. It’s, people often say that we’re too egocentric and sort of. Cynical in, in the West, whenever that might be. And I already don’t think it’s the case.

I think it’s just the, the, the, if you look out the window now and. [00:25:00] Acton in West London and see, someone’s cycling past with panniers. You don’t know if they’ve come from China and on their way to Mexico, or if they just carry a lot on their commute, it’s kind of hard to tell. so there’s not the same sort of sense of cycling past a year.

It’s in, you know, in a, in a mountain Valley. Yeah, exactly. And you will see that this world first triathlon, across, well, the perceived border of Asia and Europe, what was the sort of mindset and what sort of inspired you to do this particular trip? The, the, the impetus for that trip was that the, I think spurious idea of a continental Viper in Europe and Asia, cause it, it doesn’t take a genius to look at a map and realize that Europe and Asia are one continent.

And, it doesn’t, it’s not a problem to have different [00:26:00] regions of a landmass given different. Names, you know, you can refer to the Indian subcontinent, but there’s this, there’s this particular gravity that is given to the respective ideas of European Asia by Europeans, really, frankly. And this goes back two and a half thousand years, like all their back to the ancient Greeks who thought that Asians were barbarians.

and that, that idea of the border in Europe and Asia is the, the birth of what is today, geographically. Consider the board at Bordeaux in Europe and Asia, but it it’s completely, you know, manmade and I mean, you often, it, it wouldn’t, or shouldn’t be problematic if it wasn’t used as a lazy trope often by people with an agenda, you know, you’ll hear someone who is trying to denigrate the concept of Asian people.

On the news or on question time or something, and they will refer lazy to Asian people. And what they mean by that [00:27:00] normally is some yeah. That they’re using that lazy sort of, wide ranging term. And really what they mean is, you know, problematic fundamentalist, extremist groups or something like that.

But how can you take referring to one person as an entire it’s lazy and it can be used, accidentally or maliciously, incorrectly or misleading me. I mean, Asia encompasses, you know, the Chikaka peninsula in far East Russia and Palestine and Japan and Sri Lanka. And. Lau and Georgia and, and, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and just all these incredibly diverse places that have no single through line, no thread apart from the fact that European people consider them Asian or some European people who do.

And I always thought that was a, a sort of a problem. So the, the trip came. Fundamentally from that. But my [00:28:00] idea was to travel the length of this perceived divide, which is about, 5,000 miles and, ask people living along that border, what they thought of the border, if anything, or even if they were aware of it, you know, that if you cross this river, you’re crossing from Europe to Asia, or if you crossed this mountain watershed, you’re doing the same.

and my, my hope, my goal was to, you know, Finish this journey, which took eight months and by the end being a good position to put forward a sort of fairly convincing case, in a longer form than we have time to go into here for doing away with that idea. And just talking about Eurasia as one. Yeah.

concept, and you know, along the border. Yeah. These people either thought of it as a sort of a novelty or a joke or weren’t aware of it. So really that, yeah. It, the trip. So, so, sorry. Purpose, but it was also a fascinating journey along the way, you know, the, the remote sort of wastelands of, and former ghoulag towns of, of [00:29:00] Arctic Russia and the, the sort of tiny villages lost on the sweltering, the heart, step in Kazakhstan, it was a really diverse bunch of places.

This journey took us through. Yeah, it was great. skiing, kayaking, cycling. That was the three legs of the triathlon. And you did a line again. No, I did it with a, an American, sort of ski, Mountaineer, Kelly Moore, Gino, who I met in Pakistan when I was on that previous bicycle journey. She was also cycling across Asia the other direction.

yeah. So the two of us, just about didn’t kill each other for the, for the eight months of, one-on-one. Yeah. and so the sort of mindset did you try? Like, I suppose a lot of people have this idea that you just go and do it. Is that how it works or do you train. For it, I’m not a big one for training or preparation, [00:30:00] rarely.

I mean, for that journey, I, I don’t ski, I’m not only knows how to ski, but ski touring is really it’s ski track. It’s just walking on skis. You know, I, I have all the skills, it requires to walk to the South pole on skis, but then again, so. Anyone can walk, which I appreciate isn’t everyone, but then all sorts of people with different, you know, disabilities have got themselves to the South pole, for example.

But, it was, it was quite straightforward. Ski walk on skis and then kayak, paddling is very straightforward. You can’t really go wrong. And then, and then cycling and I’ve been riding a bike since I was. Three or something. so yeah, there was no, there was no real prep. I’m actually not, I’m not great at sort of elaborating on mindset.

It’s not something I’ve spent a huge amount of time sort of considering. I suppose I’ve always been of the persuasion that you throw yourself in something and figure it out as you go. And, but [00:31:00] that is perhaps my mindset. I am someone who’s willing to take risks and to adapt quickly along the way, but I don’t really have.

Brain techniques or visualization, you know, brain training, things like that. I’m maybe too, impatient for, for such things. Well, I suppose the sort of mindset it’s more on like, you know, when times get hard, I mean, sounds from your expeditions, you’ve done them, you’ve completed them. And probably from someone just sort of hearing about it may make it sound quite easier apart from your few sort of.

Hairy moments. I mean, has there been a time in the last sort of 10 years while doing this, where you’ve decided to do an expedition, you planned it? And it’s sort of just failed in its concept. You sort of, S sort of, yeah. Well, the, I perhaps mentioned two things the first week of that ski of an Arctic Russia.

we set off, [00:32:00] we haven’t yet got to our start line because the coast where we wanted to start before skiing South, Up into the rural mountains. the coast was 120 miles from the nearest town, which we took a train to, but there are no roads in or out of that town. This is the end of the line, 45 hours on a train from Moscow.

So we got to that town and the only way he got the coast was to ski. So we hadn’t even got to a start line. And after about four days, I had such, intensely bad blisters on my feet that I could. Basically not walk and we have to turn back and I sort of limped for, you know, three days or so back into a blizzard.

Finally got back to that town. and, and it was a week for, I could walk properly again, at which point we set off again. and I had sort of altered my boots and made them fit better and it was then going to be all right. And we managed to eventually get a lift from someone in a tank. To get to the coast, which was quicker.

so that was, you know, sort of a false start and a failure there. And then the lesson was, you know, obviously get your boots fitting and try these things out. And, and yeah, that served me right. And there are certain things that you sh you know, you are, you [00:33:00] should do to prepare, but the other was, last year in Papua New Guinea, I w I went with the goal to climb the three highest mountains in the country.

And the highest two are claimed semi-regularly as kind of a trail to the top. They’re not very high. They’re, you know, they’re sort of 4,300, 4,500 meters, but the third highest was this sort of basically unknown mountain. It didn’t really even have a name. and it’d been climbed once before I managed to find out by a team of, sweets, I think what Swedes and Danes, who had claimed it over three-week period with a huge party of sort of guides importers this kind of assault style.

Yeah, take on the mountain from the North side. And I turned up on the South side just with a backpack and some boots and sort of found some guys in the village and said, should we go? And yeah. Great. And after. Three or four days of walking. I was so beat up by the jungle, so covered in leach bites. So worn out, so washed out by the monsoon, and just cut and scratched ever.

And my [00:34:00] palms were covered in every time I slept, which I was doing all the time, every few minutes, I’d reach out and grab something and it was inevitably covenant thorn. So I was just completely ragged. and we got sort of, as far as we could go before, we’d have to start literally cutting a trail through the jungle.

You know, the footpath ran out at which point. With hindsight, thankfully, the, the kind of, couple of guys who I took with me said, right, well, any higher than here, I’d say we’re probably at, two days from the top. Any higher than here and the spirits don’t like us going there. So let’s go back by that point, I was thinking, well, I’m not just going to cut my way and get lost.

And they have cussing by myself. It would have taken me ages, AJ, wasn’t up to it. So that was, that was one sort of decided failure, you know, and I came, that was, that was the F I flown for 40 hours to get to PNG. I spent one night in a, in a. sort of guesthouse on arrival and then went straight to this village and started climbing this mountain.

And I was, you know, I was [00:35:00] pale, I’d broken my foot about six weeks, seven weeks earlier and 10 weeks earlier, perhaps, but I was, I was not in good shape asshole. And I was happy with hindsight to sort of write that off as a lesson and the other two moms and I got much easier. And then when it came to a bit later in that journey, much more intense, dense, remote.

Jungle. I was much better prepared than, than I would’ve been without that sort of, yeah. I think, learn learning through failure is always quite important. So this is the part of the show where we ask every guest the same five questions, quickfire, quickfire questions. mm. On your trip. What’s the most like bizarre thing that you like crave or miss while you’re on these expeditions around the world?

I can’t think of anything bizarre, but. chairs. Yeah. When, when you’re out in the wild, you spent so long sitting on your ass, on the floor, you know, eating with your head next to your feet, you know, and [00:36:00] maybe it’s a sign of age. I just, I just long for a stool or a chair. And it sounds the, because yeah, you’re out and there’s wonderful places and you know, no one’s gonna bring a chair.

but I, I. Particularly with the bicycle for years, I was just sitting in a tent or hunched over eating my dinner each night and my breakfast each morning. and, and I love the concept of a chair and a table. It’s incredibly vanilla is not very bizarre, but you know, on any of these given trips, if I could have some sort of magic weightless item that was inexhaustible, I wouldn’t take good red wine or chocolate or cheese or, or, or whatever.

I’d take a chair. yeah. What was your favorite adventure book? Right? I there’s a, travel rights called Redmond. O’Hanlon he’s a sort of Oxford, Don and an ornithologist, and he is the total antithesis of what we think of as the, kind of the, you know, Victorian [00:37:00] bearded Explorer, adventurer type, here’s this kind of bumbling.

Grey mutton chopped, you know, academic from the dreaming spires of Oxford who knows all about birds and is totally inept and out of shape and physically unable. But his books are the funniest things I’ve read while at the same time being fascinating, impressive journeys, in particular Congo journey.

it’s not, it’s not a great title in my opinion, but the book is fantastic. He goes in the nineties to. What is now the Republic of Congo, but back then was the Marxist Leninist people’s Republic of Congo. And he goes with some mad Congolese, zoologist in search of air. A crypto saw essentially like an congos Loch ness monster at some remote local Lake, deep, deep in the jungle.

And he just loses his mind throughout that journey slowly kind of goes mad. And it’s so funny. So Intrepid, and I, I love that. He’s not. The [00:38:00] archetypal, you know, explore it. I think it’s great. Did you have an inspirational figure growing up? I, I read it, I suppose, because I was here’s the first, Explorer I was introduced to or came across was Ronald fines.

He came to talk at my school when I was about. Eight. And I just remember this kind of mad man with no fingers talking about walking around some big, cold, icy place and thinking he was insane and funny and impressive. And so I suppose that was kind of my earliest memory of someone doing these sorts of, yeah.

I think rhino find is probably a big one greener. And what is like your favorite travel or motivational quote? Motivational quotes, Benedict Allen, once wrote, if you go with a map, all [00:39:00] you’ll come back with is a more detailed version of that same map, which in essence means, you know, just don’t.

Don’t bring your ideas to impose on a place you go as, as open-minded as possible, you will come back with so much more rather than going with your preconceived idea of someplace and trying to sort of mold it into what you already know. and I think that’s, that’s great. Also I’ve often just not had a map by, by lack of preparation and that’s been quite good.

My first trip, everyone thought I was mad because I just basically woke up each morning. It’s like right. West is that way. Yeah. That’s looks like a right wake up each morning and not want to cycle into the sun. So just go West, just go away. a lot of people listening are always keen to go on these big trips and grand adventures.

What’s the one thing you would recommend to get them started. I suppose start small. I mean, unless you, you have it, unless you [00:40:00] feel bold enough to just take on some massive journey, some big challenge, you don’t need to do that start small. And that might just be, you know, turning up to some weird and wonderful place and going for a long walk or, or, you know, it depends on everyone’s kind of, Scope of experience, but you know, it could just be going for a short hike and a camp, you know, around where you live or going via just doing something new really.

I don’t think people need to get to, I think a lot of people reads. Adventure books and travel books and get disheartened thinking where I can never go and do, you know, whatever these people are doing and that might or might not be true, but it’s also irrelevant. Yeah. There are a tiny proportion of people who do these sort of big, long.

Journeys. And they might or might not be in their right mind while they’re doing them. But, they’re all the same sort of things. All the same benefits that you can get from those journeys are also to be had just from doing [00:41:00] shorter. Yeah. I mean your trip or your triathlon. You’re not a triathlete. Are you.

Mm, no. And I mean, so as rewarding as going off on some long journey, I mean, this summer I’ve been to the Pete district a couple of times for a week, just in a tent, camping and climbing rock climbing and that’s, to me, that’s, you know, I, I get as much out of that as I do going for a six month bike ride.

It’s just doing what you can when you can. And, where can people find you? my, Instagram is probably where I most often post things that’s at CW explore, my website, and I’ve written a couple of books, through sand and snow and on roads, the echo, which people can find on my website or Amazon Kindle, audible.

And as your trip. cycling the world. Yes. Those two books together make up that four year bicycle ride. Wow. [00:42:00] Amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on and, as I’m sure everyone wondering what’s next. I I’m hoping to get back to Papua New Guinea, once the COVID situation allows, and to get sort of further and deeper into the, into the remote areas of jungle, probably in the West of the Highlands.

and, so yeah, watch this space and thanks very much, but I broke my neck playing the game seven. And a bit years ago. and as a result of that, I was told I couldn’t play the play the game any longer. And the result of that loss and that loss of routine discipline, loss of identity. I struggled with depression, that brought on alcoholism. [00:43:00]

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